« AnteriorContinuar »
recovery of their souls, let us give glory to God for having kept us from falling, and pray that our hearts may be more and more established with grace; and if others are able to testify that the blood of Jesus “cleanseth them from all sin;" and that, through Christ strengthening them, they " have learned, in whatsoever state" they are placed by the all-wise providence of God," therewith to be content," let us, while we glorify God in them, and rejoice in their joy, pray that He would “cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of His Holy Spirit, that we,” also, “may perfectly love Him, and worthily magnify His holy name.” When we leave the place of meeting, if possible let us retire in silence, guarding the good impressions made on us, meditating on the instructions received, and purposing, in the strength of God, to secure the privileges which have been set before us. If we thus reverently and regularly keep op the communion of saints, worship God in the great congregation, and show forth our Lord's death in the sacrament of the Supper, our profiting" will appear unto all; for we shall "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” But if we forsake the "assembling of ourselves together," slight the ministry of the Word, and neglect the Table of the Lord, we shall grieve the Holy Spirit of God, fall from grace, become stumbling-blocks to others, and probably make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience.
To those who sincerely desire to save their souls and find their way to heaven, and who are not in actual fellowship with any other Church, we would say, “We are journeying unto the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you. Come with us, and we will do you good : for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel.” Membership with the Church does not necessarily imply acceptance with God; neither does it render final salvation certain. The fig. tree, though in the vineyard, may remain barren; and those who put their hand to the plough, by looking back may become no longer “fit for the kingdom of God." Personal acceptance depends on personal faith in Christ; and final salvation hinges on our abiding in Christ and working righteousness to the close of life. But though union with the Church does not of itself save, it is a Divinely-appointed means of salvation. God hath spoken good concerning His Israel, and He has made it her privilege to do good to those who from right motives join her militant host. To all who come out from among the ungodly, and refuse to "touch the unclean thing," He says, “I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My song and daughters." Union with the Church gives a right to all the ordinances of the Gospel, brings us into fellowship with the excellent of the earth, saves from worldly friendships and corrupting alliances, and secures an interest in the sympathies and prayers of those who have power with God. It has been the design of the Most High, from the beginning, to have a people in the earth, and by uniting with His congregation we promote that design ; whereas those who stand aloof from the followers of Christ do what in them lies to thwart it. The wise and good of all ages have lived and died in fellowship with the Church of God, and we tread in their steps when we unite with His people. The “holy place " in the Tabernacle was the type of the Church on earth, the "holy of holies” of the Church in heaven; and even the High Priest could not enter the second without passing through the first. Union with one or other of the tribes of God's Israel is an obvious duty, and a high privilege; and it is no less foolish than presumptuous, in those who desire to enter Canaan, to decline joining the camp. To think that men can live as holy, and die as safe, out of the Church, as by living and dying in its communion, is mere delusion. It is in effect to assert, that men can lead holy lives and die triumphant deaths, though they disobey the Divine law, neglect duty, slight ordinances, are wise above what is written, and prefer the friendship of the world to the fellowship of saints.
The Christian Church is a Divine institution, which has Christ for its Head; and, under Him, and through Him, salvation for its end. He is its defence and Guide, and the glory in the midst of it; and those who would find Him must seek Him in its ordinances.
We do not, as the manner of some is, call ourselves “the Church," as if all who are not within our pale were heretics, left to the uncovenanted mercies of God: we are a branch of the catholic, or universal Church, which is composed of all believers. Our organization, as a distinct community, is comparatively recent; but our doctrines, and the great principles of our polity, are drawn from the Holy Scriptures, the fountain of truth. Our ministers are converted men, who have been moved to enter on the work of the Christian ministry by the Holy Ghost, who has attested the genuineness of their call by giving them “souls for their hire, and seals to their ministry.” We do not pretend that our people are all as holy as they should be ; but, as a body, they have left spiritual Egypt, set their faces Zionward, and are journeying to the place of which God hath said, “I will give it you.” Our discipline is strict; but not stricter than that of the primitive Churches. Our social means of grace are, in substance and design, the same which existed among the first Christians; and the blessing which attends their use, proves that they are sanctioned of God. We owe our existence as a Church, not to human policy, or Acts of Parliament, but to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the faithful preaching of salvation by faith in a crucified Redeemer, and the over-ruling providence of God. Though we have not "wrought such deliverance” in the earth as we might have done, yet God has honoured us by making us a blessing to the nation, a means of quick. ening to the Protestant Churches in the land; and, what we account our special glory, He has made us conspicuous in the great Missionary movement, by which Protestantism is now attempting the conversion of the heathen world to Christ.
We can still say with Wesley, “ the best of all is, God is with us." By His rich grace our ministry is evangelical, our sanctuaries are multiplied, our pastures are green, we have peace in all our borders, and are hoping for “prosperity ” in all our "palaces." We pretend to no monopoly of the "great and precious promises ;” but neither do we admit that any Church on earth has a better right to these promises than we ourselves possess. Our reliance for future prosperity is not on numbers, nor wealth, nor past success, nor on rites and ceremonies; but on the promised presence of Christ in our public and private means of grace, and on a richer effusion of the Holy Spirit, in connexion with the proclamation of a present, a free, and a full salvation, through faith in Jesus's name. Our commission is to every creature, and especially to those for whose souls no man cares.
To you, tberefore, who feel your guilt, who see your danger, and sho are willing to be saved by grace, through faith, we say, in humble reliance on the Holy Spirit's aid, “Come with us, and we will do you good.” If you are ignorant we will instruct you; if unpar. doned, we will lead you to Jesus, in whom you will obtain redemption, the forgiveness of your sins ; if sick or sorrowful, we will visit and comfort you; if perplexed, we will give you counsel; if you err, or fall into temptation, or be “overtaken in a fault," we will admonish and restore you " in the spirit of meekness.” If you give yourself to God, and to us, by the will of God, we shall joy in your joys, grieve with you in your griefs, lift up your hands when they hang down, and stimulate your zeal when you are in danger of growing weary in welldoing. As your talents improve, and your piety deepens, as your knowledge expands, and your graces ripen, we shall aid you in your endeavours to serve God and your generation. “In all labour there is profit;” and whether you devote yourself to the instruction of the young, tbe visitation of the sick, or the reclaiming of the profligate, God is sure to bless you, and we will rejoice in your success. Solitary conversions are rare, and yours may be the first of many. If you abide in Christ, walk in love, and live for eternity, some one or more of your relatives and acquaintances, when they see the change God has wrought in you, will in all probability yield themselves to Him, saying, " Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” And thus you will be made instrumental in “ saving souls from death," and of " hiding a multitude of sins."
MOSES MAIMONIDES. This celebrated man, who is called Maimonides, from his being the son of Maimon, is also styled Moses the Egyptian, from his long residence in Egypt, and Rambam, from the initial letters of his full name, Rabbi Moses bar Maimon. He was born at Cordova, on the eve of the Passover, in the year 1131 ; his mother, who was the daughter of a butcher, having died in giving him birth. At the same time, he was a descendant of Rabbi Judah the Holy, the compiler of the Mishnah, and thence by the female line a branch of the royal house of Judah. Young Rambam was in his boyhood of such an unpromising genius, and so little disposed to study, that he was often received with harsh words and blows by his father, and surnamed in anger “the son of a butcher.” At last, the son of the butcher's daughter was driven from his father's house. Reduced to extremity, the young man betook himself to a synagogue, where he had a refreshing sleep, and remained over the night: on awaking, Maimonides found himself a new man; the emergency, no doubt, quickened the latent genius of the youth; and He who directs the minutest circumstances of our lot, had now brought him to the turning point of his earthly existence. Rambam fled from the face of his father, and, repairing to another city, put himself under the tuition of Rabbi Joseph ben Megas, under whose instructions he laid the foundation of those acquirements which afterwards attained so wonderful a height. When many years had transpired, he returned to Cordova; he kept aloof from his father's house; he harangued the synagogue on a Sabbath, when the audience was seized with admiration and astonishment; his father and relations did him honour, and received him with affection and gratitude; the son of the butcher's daughter, who had formerly been considered remarkable only for his slowness and stupidity, had now become a learned Rabbi, and an accomplished orator.
From Spain, Maimonides passed into Egypt, induced, it would appear, from the state of the country that gave him birth. Mohammedanism was, at this period, rife in the Peninsula ; and Jews and Christians were compelled to make a profession of Islamism. In these circumstances, Rabbi Moses repaired to Cairo, supported himself by the traffic of jewels, and gave himself to the study of medicine. He, at the same time, assiduously cultivated the Hebrew and Arabic langnages, and added an extensive knowledge of the Chaldee, Turkish, and Median. He was in fact possessed of the most varied and accurate erudition; he was an accomplished mathematician, and thoroughly acquainted with the whole body of the civil and canon law of the Jews; and in his treatise, entitled, Yad ha-hhazakah that is, “The Strong Hand," he has reduced the whole system, as huddled together in the Talmud, out of a dialect complicated and variable, and from a condition the most intricate and confused, into a code of exact order, and trans. lucent aphorisms, contained in fourteen books, expressed in a flowing and easy style, and written in the purest and most elegant Hebrew. In these circumstances, from selling jewels of mineralogy, he now
began to sell jewels of wisdom and literature. He opened a school in Egypt, in which he taught philosophy and the Jewish law, with great popularity and applause, his prelections being attended by students from different countries. His friend the Cadi, Al.Phadel Abdol Rakem aben ali Al-Baissaini, patronized the academy; and when Abdol Rakem was raised to the sovereignty, Maimonides was appointed physician to the conrt. This was the earthly pin nacle of the Rabbi's career.
It would appear from a letter to his intimate friend, Rabbi Samuel Tybbon, that Rambam's official duties as medical adviser were no sinecure. He lived in Egypt, and the sovereign resided in Al-Kairo, a distance of two Sabbath-days' journeys, whither he had to travel every day; and when he returned, he was so oppressed and overwhelmed with attending and prescribing to a crowd of patients of all classes, consisting of Gentiles and Jews, nobles and artisans, judges and tax. gatherers, friends and foes, that sometimes he fell asleep from excess of labour, and was so worn out that he could scarcely speak. His professional labours, however, did not prevent him from sending forth to the light a series of works of extensive and accomplished author. ship. A perfect master of Arabic and Hebrew, he composed in both languages, in a style of remarkable purity and ease. And his writings are so characterized by manly sense, and depth and originality of thought, that they constitute a new era in the literature of his nation. He died in Egypt, in the year 1204, and was buried in the Holy Land; but whether in the city of Hebron or that of Tiberias, bas not been ascertained : the Jews in Jerusalem proclaimed a public fast in all their synagogues, and the Mohammedans followed his bier during two days of its progress, and bewailed his loss as that of a common friend.
Maimonides wrote both on medicine and theology; but his great work is bis Moreh Nebuchim, that is, “The Expounder of doubtful and obscure Passages of the Hebrew Scriptures.” The author esteemed it to be his chief work, and learned men of all creeds and countries have ever held it in the highest estimation. Its expositions proceed, not upon the occult sciences of the Cabbala, or the mazy labyrinths of the Talmud, but are founded on the Scripture itself, and supported by a well-directed reason and a sound philosophy. Another work of the same nature, and built upon the same principles, is his Maddah, or, * Knowledge.”
Immediately on the publication of these works, succeeded a sensation in the synagogne, such as burst amidst the papacy on Jansen's production of his “Augustinus," or when Pascal scattered his Pro. vincial Letters among the swarms of the Jesuits. A yell of despera. tion and bigotry arose from the Rabbis of Montpellier ; it excommuni. eated all the readers of the Moreh and the Madduh ; it kindled the flames that consumed the books in the market-place; it flew across the waters of the Mediterranean; it denounced the author as a heretic; it pursued him even to the grave, and erased the inscription from his tombstone, "The choicest of men," and substituted in its place, “ The accursed and the heretic.” The Rabbis of the province of Narbonne espoused the cause of Maimonides, and excommunicated those of