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give, and the fruitlessness of things of which he was ashamed, instead of drawing them together by presenting them with their idol in a novel form, the form of the Church. Being acquainted with the nature of the present dispensation, we perceive that one, who would wisely use the amount of power and influence given to him, must use it according to the way in which the Spirit of God is now working.
The Church was at first gathered by individual conversion, through the power of the Holy Ghost accompanying the preaching of the Gospel : it was increased by the communication of the truth from one to another : and the Lord added to it daily such as should be saved. But the Church itself became impatient of this slow process; and, by degrees, man added to it multitudes that were not born of God, till it became what it was in the reign of Constantine. Now, all that a believer can do for the benefit of unbelievers, whether it be the ruler for his people, the master for his servants, or the father for his children, is to remove the stumbling-blocks, to take away the hindrances that they might put in their way to Christ, and to instruct them in the truth. According to the words of Christ,“ Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come unto me.” He did not say, make them come to me, or teach them to profess themselves to be mine. But some will say, the human heart is so hard—so dull—so stupid, that mere instruction will not do; hearing is not enough, they must have words put into their mouths; they must be constrained to take upon themselves the service of Christ.
We reply, it is the working of such thoughts as these, fair as they appear, that has introduced “the form of godliness without the power.” We have no warrant in Scripture,—no example in the Acts of the Apostles, of using any other means than the manifestation of the truth to the conscience of every man, both by word and deed. It is this that God blessesthe preaching of the truth accompanied with the doing of the truth : and we cannot but observe the anxiety of the apostle, that the faith of those whom he addressed should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
We have no single example in the New Testament history that creeds or other formula—baptism, or the Lord's supper-were used as instruments of conversion or salvation; and we do not find that such means were thought of till Christianity was made 270
IGNORANCE OF THE PAGANS.
an outward profession; till the clergy pretended to stand in the place of God to the people, and practically denied the power of the Holy Ghost. A sound form of words is very valuable; but only that which is found in the Scriptures can be perfect. The Nicene doctors might draw up a creed which was good, as far as it agreed with the word of God; but it was of no value to those who repeated it, except they were taught by the Holy Spirit, and their faith was “ in the power of God.” For even this, as a mere creed, or formal expression of the belief of the understanding, caused such bitter strife and contention, and hatred, between the two parties, that one of themselves remarked, that the kingdom of God was become like a chaos, or like hell itself.
Again, if Constantine had been a nursing-father to the Church, as some have said, he would not have united it with its worst enemy, the world. If he had known the mind of God, he would have awaited patiently the progress of the Gospel, instead of cloaking devil-worship, and veiling the abounding iniquity with forms so transparent. He would have been convinced that it was only his part to provide the best instruction that he could, and not to make worshippers; for “God is a spirit, and they who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
The number of Christians at Rome was very large, and the bishop, who lived in great magnificence, was the chief in power and wealth among the clergy: but that ancient city, so long the mother and nurse of idolatry, was not likely willingly to receive this new religion, especially as it was patronized by a prince who had deprived it of its privileges as the metropolis of the world. Four deputations, consisting of the chief men of Rome, went successively to the imperial court to represent the grievances of the Senate and priesthood, and especially to plead for the restoration of the altar of the goddess Victoria, which had been thrown down. Symmachus, the orator, undertook to plead for the ancient religion, and to relate all the advantages that had been obtained by it. He affirmed that Hannibal and the Gauls, &c. had been driven away from the capital by the sacrifices now forbidden, and passionately added, “ Were my grey hairs reserved for this intolerable disgrace! I am ignorant of the new system I am required to adopt,” &c. Indeed, it appears they were generally ignorant, for the right means had not been
THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD.
used to instruct them. There was, it is true, the cross in the forefront of the battle, instead of the eagle : there were new temples, almost as glittering as their own : there were new priests and new ceremonies; but those who could have instructed them in the nature of Christianity, were either selfishly enjoying the sunshine of worldly prosperity, or engaged in disputes with each other. And those who were more spiritual, or professed to be so, were so astonished and disturbed by the changes around them, that they retired from the busy scene altogether.
A solitary voice, here and there, was occasionally lifted up against the prevailing corruptions, and there was not a single error that escaped attack at some time or other : but these would-be Reformers either spoiled their testimony by errors peculiar to themselves, or were charged with such by their opponents. The Mystics, of whom we read much at different periods, seem to have been originally persons who saw from the Scriptures that there should be a marked difference between the people of God and the world; and took, as they thought, the best way of representing this to the outward senses. But their self-imposed hardships, and lives of indolent contemplation, were, after all, but a mischievous imitation of real spirituality and holiness : and sin, in new and strange forms, quickly reigned over mystics, and hermits, and monks.
It now remains for us to consider the guilt and loss of the Church in entering into such a close union with the world.
It was carrying out, on a large scale, the sin of union between believers and unbelievers, so clearly pointed out by the apostle (2 Cor. vi. 14). It is an unequal yoke, a vain effort to produce fellowship between righteousness and unrighteousness,—to mingle light with darkness,—to unite Christ and Belial,--and to make the temple of God agree with idols. We can no more justify the failure of the Church in accepting the alliance, than we can excuse the disobedience of the believer in uniting herself with an unbeliever. Such a connection, either on the small or large scale, could not be formed suddenly: the woman is a backslider in heart when she begins to enjoy the society of a worldly man: the Church, as we have seen, was long declining before it could profess an open friendship with the world.
The improvement of the world does not efface the apostasy
of Christ : and it is my desire to lead you through the dark ages of the Church and the World, to that Reformation in the sixteenth century, the benefit of which has extended to our own days. For the present, my dear young readers, I shall bid you farewell, only reminding you in faithful love, that, though you were born in Christendom, and are numbered among the Christian inhabitants of this land, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven except you are born again. The mere water of baptism can no more convey the quickening power of the Holy Spirit, than the mere wine at the Lord's supper can commu. nicate the atoning power of the blood of Christ. Do not err, my beloved children, every good gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Many are now teaching that God gives his Spirit to infants at their baptism, and calls them to be his children, yet at last they may die in their sins : but thus it is written, “ the gifts and calling of God are without repentance ;" therefore, that sinful course of life, which is falsely said to lead to the withdrawal of those good gifts, simply proves they have never been received. At the last day it will be worse than useless to have borne the thrice blessed name of God, if you are found strangers to the Father's love, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost.
ESTABLISHMENT OF CHRISTIANITY.
less dangerous than their protection; and it is the latter that now comes into exercise : for Satan, having failed to destroy the religion of Christ, supported the mockery of it with all his might (Rev. xii. 3 ; xvii. 3). The mystery which excited the Apostle John's wonder, the mystery of iniquity, of which the Apostle Paul saw the first working, was now unfolded and set up by the adversary in opposition to God's mystery. It seemed as if Satan had grown weary of fruitless attempts to hinder the progress of Christianity by open violence, for the last persecution had exhausted the powers of tormenting, and the enemy now began to work more mightily within the Church.
But He who is “over all, God blessed for ever,” will finally destroy the devil and all his works : and, in the meantime, all whom the Father hath given to the Son have been coming to Him, and still come, in spite of every obstacle. Let us never, then, imagine that God's purposes can be rendered ineffectual by man's sin, or Satan's devices. All the false glitter and outward show of nominal Christianity could not hinder the extension of God's salvation to whom He would, from one end of the earth to the other. In these days it is well also to remember that the lowly follower of the Lord Jesus, with a right understanding of his Master's mind, ought to have no fellowship with those who would violently overthrow existing establishments. An establishment is among the things that were, under the Jewish dispensation, and among the things that will be in the Millennium dispensation, by the will of God. An establishment that would secure sound Christian instruction could not at any period be opposed to the mind of God; but an establishment which gives the world the name and the form of the Church, as in the days of Constantine, and makes provision as if there were a nation of worshippers, appears to be entirely contrary to the spirit of the present dispensation.
Nevertheless, the children of God, who would refrain from supporting anything which their Father does not authorize, ought, in the same manner, to shrink from overturning by an arm of flesh that which their Father permits; always remembering that the Lord Jesus is quickly coming to take to himself his great power and reign, and then all will be set right.
The continuation of my Work will embrace the history of Christendom, or that part of the world which bears the name