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Are Christians to learn from the conduct of idolatrous governments towards their gods ? Or are they to flee from all that resembles those services of Satan?
These two extracts shew the character of the means which Mr. M`Neile wished to bring into the service of “ Church Extension.” In the first we saw how entirely a system of human expedients is to be introduced to carry on the things of God; in the second, that the appeal which is made to the government to Christianise England is only on the same principle on which, if the government were Buddhist, they might be called on to fulfil their “duty," of upholding the worship of Buddha, without restriction or diminution. If the local government of Hindostan were in the hands of its own natives, or in those of idol-serving Europeans, of course, on Mr. M'Neile's principles, it would be their “duty" to uphold the theology of the Brahmins, and all their cruel and disgusting rites.
Perhaps, according to Mr. M'Neile's principles, the conduct of the Anglo-Indian government in support of Idolatry is only fulfilling “a duty." Why should he question the Governor-General's “ sincerity ?" If he goes to idol temples, why should he not join in the offerings ?
If an Infidel government were to labour in the propagation of infidelity, would Mr. M'Neile affirm that they were not fulfilling their duty, by observing the “ same sincerity” which idolaters of old felt ?*
Of course in the narrative in Dan. iii., Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilling his “duty". to the golden image ; Mr. M`Neile ought not to question his “sincerity.” Now, upon these principles, his “duty" led him to throw Shadrach and his companions into the furnace; it is true that Christians believe that it was their “duty" not to worship the image, but to obey God rather than man, and to suffer the consequences; and it is to us a new instruction, that Nebuchadnezzar is the example for Christians, instead of the three, who, by yielding their bodies, obtained a good report through faith, and “ quenched the violence of fire" (Heb. xi. 34).
Oh! sad that any professedly Christian object should be taken up on such grounds, and in such a manner; and yet this is the way in which those who defend the Establishment on political grounds argue and act.
It is pleasant to turn away from such statements, so fearful in their character of consistency. We have yet to speak of those Christians who seek “church extension " in order to meet spiritual destitution, and who deem the Establishment to be the most efficient means of meeting the need. We will on this subject refer to the application of the Hon. Baptist W. Noel, to Viscount Melbourne, for two thousand ó churches."
Mr. B. W. Noel casts his eyes around on England and sees (that which every child of God must see) the ignorance of the Gospel of God's grace which prevails on every side. Millions of unconverted men meet his eye who yet call themselves, and are called, “ Christians." He desires that this destitution might be met, and that means might be taken for bringing the knowledge of the power and preciousness of the blood of Jesus unto the souls of the myriads of our fellow-countrymen who are thronging, aye, jostling one another, in the broad road that leadeth to destruction.
We are thankful that the Holy Ghost thus leads any of the saints of God to care for the name of Jesus—to prefer His service to the following out of their own little interests and concerns. In a day of lukewarmness and high profession such as this is, true Christian feeling is that for which we are bound to give thanks wherever it may be found.
The mind of a saint walking in communion with God will assuredly be led to seek the glory of Jesus our blessed Lord : that which he sees dishonouring Him cannot be looked on as of small moment by such an one.
We believe that it has been thus with Mr. Noel; he sees the dishonour cast upon the name of Christ, and he seeks to remedy it. But here the question instantly occurs, By what means does he seek this ? For it is not enough that the end proposed be good, but the means likewise ought to be such as the Spirit of God can sanction.
* But were Idolatrous governments so sincere? Did not they often use their worsbip to keep the people tranquil? Was Artaxerxes (see Ezra vii. 26) a Jew ?
Now, in Mr. Noel's letter to Lord Melbourne, there are many topics of great importance and interest touched upon, many in which a Christian might find subjects for solemn reflection ; but that on which we trust that it may be profitable to make a few remarks, is the means to which Mr. N. has recourse : they resolve themselves simply into these two heads, Ist, Agency; and, 2d, Instrumentulity.
As to the first, the appeal is made to Lord Melbourne as being the minister of the crown; he appeals to him as holding a place of worldly priority in this country. He speaks to him of the spiritual destitution of the country, and appeals to him on grounds which could find no responses save in the heart of a Christian. The perishing of souls, and the glory of the Lord, are things into which none but a saint can enter aright.
But Mr. Noel does not appeal to Lord Melbourne on the ground of his being a Christian ; it is simply as having worldly power in his hands that he calls on him ;
“What better or nobler use can you make of the power which Divine Providence has placed in your hands?”
Before going farther, we would express our hearty concurrence in the prayer of Mr. Noel for Lord Melbourne :-“through the merits of Christ, I trust you will find happiness beyond the grave.” Earnestly do we desire the same thing, remembering the command, that prayers should be made for all that are in authority; and whilst we utterly reprobate that “speaking evil of dignities” which is now so common, we are constrained in truth to say, that we have no reason to suppose that Lord Melbourne knows the grace of the Gospel; but while we say this, we know that the same blood which has availed for our own salvation, will give to him, or to any other, peace with God by believing therein. If our voice could reach him, or, farther than him, to the Queen, whom we are bound to honour as “the ordinance of God,” it would be, not to set before them how they ought to use the power of the world, but to testify of that Saviour by whom all who believe are justified, and who will give in that day a crown of life (not an earthly crown) to all who love His appearing.
We believe that Mr. Noel has gone astray in the very first step of his means for meeting the spiritual need: he has appealed to the power of the world, simply as such. For this he has no sanction in the New Testament. We are told to obey the powers that be—and this we will do, the Lord enabling us; but unless some warrant, some precedent be shewn us, resting on the authority of our Lord and His Apostles, we must look on such an appeal as being simply that with which no Christian ought to have any thing to do. “ Whatever is not of faith is sin ;” nothing which rests upon our own thoughts about expediency can possibly be “ of faith," and therefore it must (as the Holy Ghost says) be sin.
The Agency being altogether unchristian, the Instrumentality must, of necessity, be so likewise. It is impossible for that which is of the world to use aright any thing which is of God. God may, overrule the working of evil agents, but this does not change their character: because He can interfere in sovereign mercy, it is no reason why we should feel complacency in seeing the powers of the world made the agents for carrying on some instrumentality intended to work for the glory of God.
But even if this preliminary question were waived, and it were conceded for a moment that the instrumentality proposed is to be looked at as in itself apart from circumstances, we believe that even then it would be found just as inefficient in the service of God, as would be the agency resorted to.
Mr. Noel's plan is to build two thousand " Churches;” now if this last word were taken in its proper sense of living stones, builded on Christ the living Stone, and cemented by the Holy Ghost, we would only say that it would be a very desirable and blessed object, although we may remark that it is one in which Lord Melbourne could render no assistance; but this is not the sense in which Mr. Noel has used the word “ Church,” he means an edifice of stone or brick, builded on this earth, and cemented together by mortar ; but how two thousand or two hundred thousand of such buildings could mend the present state of unconverted, Romanizing England, we cannot conceive. In how small a proportion of the buildings called “Churches" is the Gospel preached ! Is there one in four in which any thing like an approximation to the Gospel is to be heard? We do not believe that there is : and this presents the spirit-saddening sight of more than three-fourths (we think this to be a
great understatement] of these buildings used as places for the spread of that which is not the Gospel ; and thus, not only are the souls of sinners left without having the truth brought before them, but they are fed with error, and the example and countenance of holy men tends to uphold the delusion; for the establishment is one, and whoever upholds it, must practically sanction it as it is.
We judge unhesitatingly, that the establishment ought to be looked at as it is in itself before God, in its principles and in its constitution, and not according to what may be said about its “ usefulness as a moral engine,” &c. But if an instance were wanted to shew how inefficient “ Churches” are in spreading the Gospel, we would ask any one to look over the fair villages of Suffolk. There they stand, each with its white steeple picturesquely surrounded with trees, the “ Churches” regularly attended, and every thing externally beautiful. , But what is the real state of things? just this: that these regular attenders at “ Church” go on all their lives without once hearing the truth of the Gospel; in infancy they were “ baptized" and declared “regenerate,” this sentence the Bishop confirms," thanking God “ that He has given them forgiveness of all their sins,"—they are married as servants of God, who trust in Šim,"—they are constantly addressed as being Christians,—they are absolved in the service every week,—and when they die, they are buried “in sure and certain hope of a blessed resurrection," all this without their knowing anything or having heard any thing of the Gospel of God's grace. This no overdrawn picture ; and there are other parts to which we could point, which are just as much of “ whited sepulchres” as are the pretty and pleasant parishes of Suffolk.
“ But are there no Evangelical Clergymen amongst them ?" Yes, a few interspersed, but they are limited each one to his own parish, he is the pastor of his own flock, and he may not labour for Christ beyond the certain limits of rivulet, quick-set hedge, or green sward which have been marked out for him. And not only do such deem it to be irregular for them to labour among sinners
, who live out of their parishes (as on the principles of the “ Establishment” it is); but when any Christians who have no commission from man, seek to gather the lost unto Christ, in obedience to His word, and in the energy of His Spirit,--they are the first to cry out against the infringement of what they call “ order.” Truly, in this, there is an order," but it is not God's order; it is the “ order" in which the powers of darkness are marshalled against the Lord of Glory.. Thus do holy men help to do the work of Satan, by not standing simply on the side of Christ at all hazards.
But suppose the two thousand “ Churches” built, and even if we could suppose that in five hundred of them the Gospel were preached, it would leave the lamentable majority of one thousand five hundred places for the preaching of that which is not God's gospel. Would this increase or lessen the spiritual destitution ? Would it not be an increasedly systematic scheme for deluding souls in the lie and error of Satan? Is it not a matter of common complaint that new “ Churches” are constantly becoming nuclei for the dissemination of Puseyistic doctrine ?
We believe that Mr. Noel has felt that which God would have His children to feel, as to the need that there is of testimony to the blood of Jesus; but we cannot but think that the means which He proposes are of man and not of God.
We would that in the sense of need, the souls of God's children were every where deeply interested; but instead of applying to Lord Melbourne for two thousand “ Churches,” let them look to God Himself that Ile may work for the glory of his Son, raising up and sending forth by His Spirit many who shall labour in testimony, and through the blessing of God gather many sinners unto Jesus.
If the aid of the world be sought, or relied on, we may be quite sure that there will be that brought about which Satan will use for his ends; we may think that we are acting wisely, but it will not be the wisdom of the Spirit of God; the wisdom which cometh from above is first pure, and thus it cannot lead to the contamination of allowing the world to co-operate in the carrying on of the things of God.
The influence, power, and money of the world are not of the Father, but of the world, and he that will be the friend of the world is the enemy of God. Let us remember this, and that for preaching the Gospel to the perishing millions around us, we need none of these things. We have the Iloly Ghost, and although it may be said that He does not now manifest Ilimself in miracles, yet Ile gives the power of testimony to the Lord Jesus. “ Let him that heareth say Come,”
__" We also
believe and therefore speak”—are scripture warrants for the preaching of the Gospel; and on these let those act who desire souls to be quickened to Christ. It matters not how men object, if we are found obedient to God.
“ The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that He may send forth labourers into His harvest."
TO THE EDITOR OF
A TRANSLATION OF JOIN III. 8.
THE INQUIRER.” The following translation of John iji. 8, is proposed as being the true version of that passage, and is submitted to the judgment of believers instead of the old version, for the subsequent reasons : “ The Spirit breathes where He pleases, and thou hearest His voice, but thou knowest not whence He comes nor whither He goes; thus is every one born of the Spirit.”
1. To avevpa is the word rendered “wind” at the beginning of this verse in the old translation, though it is rendered “the Spirit” at the end of the very same verse, and both immediately before and after it is uniformly rendered “ Spirit.”
2. This translation is such a violation of consistency in translating, as was never met with elsewhere, and if it be correct, it is the only instance of our Lord's using the same word in the same sentence in two different senses; for, on this supposition, both immediately before and after, he uses to aveva in the sense of “Spirit," and here, without any mark or announcement of a comparison, he uses it to signify “the wind.”. Consistency and plainness of speech seem to require that another word should have been used, unless a play upon words was intended a supposition altogether out of the question.
3. To avevpa never has the sense of wind" in the New Testament, and is never so rendered, except in this instance; and where the action of the Spirit is compared to that of the mind, in Acts ii. 2, 3, the comparison is made evident by a word announcing a comparison, and the word avevpa used alone for the Spirit, and another word, rivon, used for the wind; and in John vi. 18, where the blowing of the wind is spoken of, the expression is avępov peyalov TvEOVłoç, and also every where besides either avɛpos or some other word is used to express wind, and never to avevpa.
4. Dwvn is rightly rendered voice, and not sound, Mark i 3:“ φωνη βοωντος εν ty epnug,” and many other passages prove.
5. The wind does not blow where it pleases, but where God pleases, and will" is never attributed to the winds; on the contrary, they are declared to be obedient to the will of God, fulfilling his word (Ps. cxl. viii. 8), and of Christ himself, who is made in this passage to attribute this power to the wind. It was said with astonishment, as we read in another passage, “ that even the winds and the seas obeyed Him.”
6. On the other hand, "will" is attributed to the Spirit (1 Cor. xii. 11): “ But all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit dividing to every man severally as he will."
7. The affirmation concerning the wind, that a man " knows not whence it comes nor whither it goes,” is by no means probable, for perhaps we know nothing better.
8. This affirmation Christ does make concerning himself in another place (John viii. 14), “ Ye cannot tell whence I come, nor whither I go;" and his heavenly descent and his future return and ascent to the Father, as we read in this same Gospel, were the doctrines of all others most offensive to the Jews, and those which our Lord in his discourses there recorded most frequently laboured to establish.
9. The passage, as it stands in our Bibles, if it be not strained, does not illustrate, but darken, the true doctrine of the operations of the Spirit; and if it be taken in its simple and obvious sense, establishes the false doctrine, that a man born of the Spirit is in darkness, and does not know whence the Spirit comes nor whither he goes; so that he might as well not be born of the Spirit, nor receive any spiritual communications at this rate. And this is the sense in which many take it, and fatter themselves that they may be born of the Spirit, though they have no evidence. But how false this doctrine is, the following, out of many passages, will be enough to shew ::-1 John iii. 24 ; v. 10; John x. 4, 5, 6; 1 John ii. 20—27 ; iv. 6 ; 2 Cor. v. 17.
In the expression, “ Thus is every one that is born of the Spirit,” our Lord seems to affirm, that as he himself was not known, in like manner every one born of the same Spirit would be unknown; and this is a doctrine declared elsewhere (1 John iii. 1): “ Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not.” (1 Cor. ii. 14).
What could lead the translators to render this passage as they did, is not easy to conceive, unless it was either the word ave joined with to a vevua, though that action is attributed to the Spirit of God elsewhere, and Christ himself exemplifies it (John xx. 22; 2 Tim. iii. 16; Isa. xl. 7), or unless it was what follows in John iii. 12, “If I have told you earthly things (Emriyala) and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things (etrovpavia) ?" It is possible that this mention of earthly things led the translators to look back for some earthly things to which our Lord referred, and could find none unless they made him to speak of the wind in the 8th verse. But the word “ earthly” is not a correct translation, unless it be understood that the things here called earthly are not called so in respect of their nature, but in respect of the place of their occurrence ; for the word eniyala means things not of an earthly nature, but things having place in the earth; and the things to which our Lord refers were evidently not earthly but spiritual things occurring on the earth. The correct translation of this verse would be so as to obviate the ambiguity. “If I have told you of things (not usual) on earth, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of things in heaven?”. So that there was no reason on this account to translate to avevpa “ the wind.” Again, if in this chapter TO FvEvua could anywhere have been rendered “ wind,” with any semblance of reason and propriety, it should have been done so in the 5th verse, “ Verily I say unto you, except ye be born of water and wind, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of God;" for “the water” immediately preceding might naturally have suggested the other element. Moreover, it may be observed, that the first mention of avevpa is without the article in the 5th verse, and yet the translators have rendered it “the Spirit;" but afterwards, in the 6th, and in both places where it occurs in the 8th verse, the article is prefixed, which ascertains the avevpa to be the same as that before spoken of, and is another additional reason why it ought therefore to have been rendered “the Spirit” and not “the wind.”
THE PRIESTLY SENTIMENTS OF DISSENT
It is instructive to obs from time to time, the collision of sentiment amongst the correspondents of the Congregational Magazine on the question of ministerial authority. Amongst the Dissenting ministers there are two distinct parties, the High Church, and the Low Church; the high Presbyterians and the low Brownists; the one insisting on the necessity of a regular ordained ministry, and a very clear distinction between clergy and laity, and between priests and people; the other thinking very lightly of ordination, and having no settled opinion at all about the ministerial authority.
Strange it is, that at this day, the Dissenting ministers should not yet have come to any decision on a question of this high importance, and that the scales should be kept vihrating with rapid movements, according
as the weight of popery is cast in by one
sence with his Ministers.
(To the Editor.) " Avoiding Scylla we often fall into Charybdis; and never have we been in greater danger of doing so than at the present time. I may be mistaken, but I have
my fears that the far-famed Oxford Tracts will do almost as much injury to ourselves, though in a different way, as to our Brethren of the Church by law established. Not that we shall ever preach baptismal regeneration, auricular confession, or apostolic succession (why not ?], or that if we should, our people
, or the children instructed in our Sabbath-schools, could be so easily mis