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« There are Three that bear record in heaven, the FATHER, the WORD, and the HOLY
GHOST: and these Three are One." 1 John T. 7.
■ Earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.' Jmte 3 •
(For the Spiritual Magazine. J
TIME, like an ever-running stream, is rapidly bearing mortals into the ocean of eternity. So few are the days of man, that mortal life is compared to a vapour, that appeareth for a little, and then vanisheth away. Yet steady time is daily unfolding the divine purposes, and bringing to the view of mortals fresh scenes, which claim our serious attention as our fleeting moments run. It becomes the christian to be attentive to the voice of his God and Father in the visible signs of the limes; as well as in the volume of inspiration; , and although we should not attempt curiously to pry into the secret counsels of heaven, yet we should attentively watch the operations of divine providence, which gradually reveals his sovereign will.
Great is the number of professors who are very active, and whose attention is called to a great variety of institutions, whose professed object is to facilitate the progress of the gospel, and to enlarge the visible kingdom of.Christ on earth. Much property has been exr pended towards accomplishing this object, and much enterprizing zeal has been and still is displayed, while doubtless some good has been the result. I love to see an holy zeal for the promulgation of the gospel of our Lord, in the use of all scriptural means, believing, as 1 do, that he works by the use of those means which he has sovereignly ordained, to accomplish his own purposes of grace. But I have reason to believe that this is not kept in view as it ought to be, while the professing world is thus-in action. Much is attributed
Vol. IV.—No. 48. 2 U
to man, which only God can and doth effect; and the instrument too frequently receives the praise which is only due to the agent. Various are the motives from which mankind are found acting; it is well when human efforts are made with a single eye to God's glory, while self-applause, self-seeking, self-sufficiency, and self-righteousness are cast into the back ground, and divine sovereignty alone is exalted. All human systems are defective, and every society, however commendable its object, has shades which more or less becloud the beauty of its design. I would be far from indulging an uncharitable spirit, by attaching blame to those whose sincere desire is to do good; but sure I am, the great principles of the gospel of Christ are not sufficiently kept in view, nor properly regarded as the only basis of christian exertion. Nothing can be more certain than the accomplishment of scripture prophecy, and it is equally certain that it will be accomplished by the use of means; but still it does not follow that all means employed are approved of God.
Our glorious Immanuel to whom the Father gave the heathen, received them with all the chosen seed of Abraham as his inheritance, even the one heritage in whom he delights. (Ps. ii. 8. Mic. vii. 18. Isaiah lxii. 2—4.) As his heritage they are the objects of eternal choice, redeemed by the price of his precious blood, and equally interested in the love of the Spirit. Jehovah thus being engaged by covenant for their salvation, has ordained most certainly the means by which, and the time and way in which he will reveal that salvation to their hearts, in their effectual calling and conversion to himself. Notwithstanding all that has been done by missionary exertions, &c. it doth not appear that ancient prophecy, relative to the universal spread of the gospel, is so near its accomplishment as many good-meaning people think it is. Many, indeed, are running to and fro, and external knowledge is increasing: some have glad tidings to publish as commissioned of God, while others, like Ahimaaz, will run, whether they have tidings or not!
The time is not yet come which David predicted, saying, "The Lord gave the word: great was the company (or army) of those that published it. Kings of armies did flee apace, and she that tarried at home divided the spoil." (Psalm lxviii. 11, 12.) Should it be asked, what is the word which the Lord is said to give? I answer, I believe it to be the written word, or volume of inspired truth, and with it a vast number of faithful gospel ministers, who shall fearlessly go forth and demolish the strong holds of sin and satan. Not only shall the branches of antichrist be broken off, but the axe will be laid to the root. False doctrine in all its various forms will be detected and exposed; all its lurking places searched out, and every fair-looking disguise torn off. The flimsy religion of the formalist shall not then pass for the religion of Christ, nor mere morality be substituted for practical godliness, as it is too much the case in this day of great profession. Then shall the doctrines of sovereign, discriminating grace be sincerely loved, consistently maintained, and openly exemplified. The standard of liberty will be universally erected in this land of sin and slavery, and Zion's happy converts exceed in number the drops of dew from the womb of the morning.
But is the dawn of this day fast approaching? Is divine truth thus received, thus proclaimed, and thus maintained, by those who shew the greatest zeal for the spread of the gospel? Alas! the contrary is too evident; for instead of truth thus spreading, is there not reason to fear it is declining? External profession passes for real conversion, and mere morality for the fruits of the Spirit. If the truths of the gospel are mentioned, it is -with cold indifference, and their glory so veiled with conditions, offers, and tenders, that it is impossible to tell, by all that is proclaimed, whether salvation is of works, or of grace. The law is preached as the means of obtaining the blessings of salvation, rather than as " the ministration of condemnation, " and the gospel is preached as offering the terms of faith and repentance upon which salvation is to be obtained, rather than as " the ministration of
While things are confounded together which God has commanded to be kept distinct, discrimination of character is also disregarded; and the regenerate and unregenerate are addressed in the same general terms, though he has said, " If thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth." (Jer. xv. 19.) The self-righteous can sit under it, and not feel his pride offended, nor his false confidence shaken, and the nominal professor remains satisfied with a name to live while in fact he is dead; while the real believer takes up the lamentation, saying, " My leanness! my leanness! the treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously with me." The doctrines of antichrist are finding their way into many of our churches, and are rapidly spreading, under the specious colouring of truth. The popish doctrine of conditional redemption, man's free will, and human merit, are terms too glaring now: the sentiment is retained in terms of a more evangelical sound. The generally prevailing sentiments are these,—saving faith the duty of all men, universal sufficiency of the atonement, and the offer of salvation to all mankind indiscriminately. These absurdities are now held by many churches which, but a few years ago, would have spurned them with deserved contempt, and are gaining a general reception in the professing world.
But what sort of sufficiency is that which eventually does not suffice? And what gospel is that which makes it the duty of Judas, "who went to his own place," to have believed precisely the same as Paul, who fought the good fight, kept the faith, and received the crown?—and which makes it the duty of those who have perished, to have believed when on earth what they know by awful experience they must now for ever disbelieve? What gospel is that which offers salvation to rebellious man, on condition of faith and repentance? It is not the gospel of Christ; that gives, not offers, gifts to man, even to the rebellious. It must, therefore, be " another gospel;" or, as a worthy divine (now with God) has termed it, "a yea and nay gospel."
The holy law of God contains the whole duty of man towards his Creator, and the condemnation of sinners will be in consequence of transgression ; not the non-possession of the blessings of the covenant of grace, though without them there can be no salvation. Condemnation is justly merited by crime committed; salvation is freely imparted by the God of all grace. That faith which unites the heart to Christ in holy love is a blessing of the covenant of grace, wrought in the hearts of his chosen by the Holy Ghost, and is no more a duty of man than is election, adoption, or justification. Nor is an offered salvation any salvation at all; but the gospel bringeth salvation, or it would be for ever impossible. Yet these are the sentiments generally received by the great host of professors of the present day, and are spreading in our congregations which heretofore have boldly rejected them.
Let ministers of the gospel, and congregations too, take care lest they be found preparing the way for the spread of popery. The external form of popery may be rejected, while sentiments are held quite in unison with the doctrine of Rome; and because they do not pass under the same name, they are not suspected as being pernicious, but considered as harmless. But, let it be remembered, Jehovah is still jealous for the honour of his name, as displayed in the glorious gospel of his grace. He will have his sovereign right maintained, and his certain salvation published, and even in Sardis a few shall be found who shall not fear to do so, even in times of greatest declension from the truth. The general aim of professors (ministers and people) in the present day is, to do away the separation between the church and the world, and deem every thing, useless distinction, that is at all discriminating. If a minister but preach the truth fully, maintain it firmly, and discriminate closely, he will be sure to fall under the censure of modern professors, and perhaps be called an antinomian, notwithstanding his unblameable walk and conversation ; which shews that truth has not so many real friends on earth as many zealous people think it has. Let Zion's watchmen, therefore, awake and sound the alarm! let their voices be lift up like a trumpet, and shew to Israel their sin. The signs of the times are such as call upon the friends of truth to stand upon their watch tower, lest the night of arminian or popish darkness steal in upon us, and we be founri sleeping.
May the Lord Jesus pour upon his church the healthful spirit of his grace! May his truth be more extensively known, more powerfully felt, sincerely loved, and firmly maintained, and all who love the Lord in sincerity be filled with holy zeal for the honour of his great name.
(For the Spiritual Magazine.J
iZEKIEL XXXIV. 29.
When' the glorious Lord our God is pleased to make known thi riches of his grace, in calling those from darkness to light whom b hath loved with an everlasting love, what amazing wonders they behold! They discover this world, on which their affections were set, to be only as an heap of stubble, which must when fully dry, at God's appointed time, be set on fire by the flames of his wrath, and be consumed before his majestic presence! But the new-born child of God is not left to sink in despair at this awful sight presented to his view; for the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, who gives him eyes to see inscribed on the pillars of the universe, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity," gives him also to see Jesus as the " ehiefest among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely." He finds him in whom his heaven-born soul delighteth, and enjoys that peace in believing, which can only flow from the rich experience of having "the love of Christ shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost." Rom. v. 5.
The ransomed heir of glory, being thus brought out of the wilderness of nature, takes his seat in the school of Jesus; and, although it be on the lowest form, yet he finds sweet delight in turning over the pages of the divine volume, searching for that dear name which is as "ointment poured forth,"—for that dear Friend who "came to seek and to save those that were lost,"—for that " high tower," who is the refuge of all the mourning doves in the clift of the rock, —for that refulgent " Sun of righteousness," who is the glory of heaven, the bliss of angels, and the joy of the heaven-bound fleet which shall assuredly enter the haven of eternal rest by the enlightening beams of the " bright and morning Star," and be for ever moored in the harbour of covenant love,—there to be satisfied when they awake up in the likeness of Christ who is "all and in all." Col. iii. 11. - May the blessed Spirit, who is the glorifier of Jesus, make our meditation of him sweet, while we contemplate our adored Immanuel under the precious title of the " plant of renown."
1. Let us view him in the purposes of God. There we behold him as Mediator, and the life-giving head of his elect body the church, according to his own declaration by Solomon, "I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was." Prov. viii. 23. There he was set by the hand of his heavenly Father in the paradise of eternal love,—in the plan of his eternal grace,—in the covenant of his eternal mercy, when every elect saint of God was " chosen in him before the foundation of the world." Eph. i. 4. In the eternal ages this glorious " plant of renown" possessed all that spiritual life, which all his mystical members should afterwards receive. He is expressly called, " our life," Col. iii. 4. because every living branch in this true vine receiveth their spiritual life from him, he being the grand and original stock, from whence every member of his body receiveth that life which is "hid with Christ in God." Col. iii. 3.— a life which can never be lost nor extinguished, because the tree of life for ever stands in the midst of the paradise of God, to supply from his own fulness all the empty versels of mercy. O believers, lift up your songs of triumph, and spread the fame of this glorious "plant of renown," who was set up in the eternal purposes of God