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FEBRUARY, in his light. John was austere in his manners, and eminently faithful in ministry; yet the expressions of being pleased with him and his preaching, which we find on record, are much more numerous, than those of a contrary nature. The scribes and pharisees were displeased ; but the common people, the great mass of the nation, though unconverted, were very much in his favor.
They were pleased also with the Lord Jesus Christ. Great multitudes followed him, and pressed upon him to hear him, so that he was frequently so thronged as not to find time to take food or rest. The scribes and pharisees were displeased, but“ the common people heard him gladly” He taught in the synagogues of Galilee,“ being glorified of all.” According to our author, there must have been something wrong in his preaching. Which was it, “ defective in matter, or defective in manner ?” When he passed over the sea to the country of the Gadarenes, the people of the other side waited for his return, and received him gladly. On one occasion, he was compelled to withdraw from the multitudes, to prevent their taking him by force and making him a king. When he came openly to Jerusalem, for the last time, “much people that were come to the feast, took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him and cried, Hosannah ; blessed is the king of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.” And when the pharisees saw it, they said among themselves, “Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing ? behold, the world is gone after him.” We read, very often, that the chief priests and scribes sought how they might take him by subtlety, and put him to death; and were in great difficulty how to accomplish it, for fear of the people.
“But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.” So strongly were the great mass of the people, though a race of impenitent sinners, prepossessed in his favor, that his enemies were obliged to hire Judas to betray bim in the night, in the absence of the multitude, and then to fasten upon him the charge of blasphemy, before the chief priests, and obtain the consent of the Roman governor to his death. How is all this to be accounted for? Had he been unfaithful in his dealing with the common people? Had he walked with them, or they with him, because they were agreed in their moral character? No. Yet the number of those that were pleased appears to have been much greater than the number of those that were displeased. And it was only by craft and subtlety, and false accusations, that his enemies could find how to accomplish their designs.
The same appears to be true of the Apostles, and of their ministry. Read the Acts of the Apostles through, and you will find abundant evidence of this. In all cases of persecution against them, it was stirred up by the few; while the many, if they had been let alone, were inclined to favor them, or at least to treat them with respect The revival on the day of Pentecost overcame all opposition, for a time; so that it is written of the disciples," and they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” When on the occasion of the healing of the lame man, Peter and John were apprehended, and brought before the rulers, they did not dare to punish them, “because of the people.” When they were apprehended again, the officers were afraid to offer any violence to them, lest they themselves should have been stoned by the multitude. There was no danger of their being stoned by those who were converted, but by those who were unconverted, who were strongly inclined to favor and protect the Apostles against their persecuting rulers. In several places where Paul and his companions suffered persecution, they were favorably received and well treated by the multitude, till certain designing individuals came from other places, and by their intrigues raised a persecution against them. Paul abode on the island of Melita three months, without the least appearance of opposition that we read of, but, on the contrary, was " honored with many honors."
Do these things prove that John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and the Apostles, walked, in all these cases, with the ungodly, or the ungodly with them, because they were agreed in their moral character? No; it cannot be pretended.
Perhaps an apology is necessary for giving to this discourse a Review of such a length. Neither the talents nor standing of the author, nor any thing in the discourse itself, if it had been published under ordinary circumstances, would have induced me to bestow so much attention upon it. But, the system of measures with which it is connected, and of which it is a defence, is so calamitous in its tendency, and is urged on by its advocates with so much ardor and perseverance, the discourse from the semblance of truth which it wears, and the different interpretations which may be given it, when objected to, is so well adapted to produce the impression intended on the minds of those who follow their feelings more than their judgment, and has been multiplied and circulated with so much zeal, that there appears to me to be great cause of alarm. Though professedly a discourse upon the subject of Christian experience and revivals of religion, it is so destitute of any correct distinctions, and so well adapted to justify false zeal, false affections, and spurious conversions, and so capable of being applied to sanction every species and degree of enthusiasm and fanaticism, and to condemn all sober revivals, and all those measures for promoting revivals which have stood the test of ages, that the importance of the subject appears to me to justify, and call for still more attention than has been paid to it. And if such a discourse
shall be circulated by thousands in every direction, and be admired by many, and the Watchman of Israel should regard it with apathy, I should consider it as a most alarming indication that false religion and spurious revivals were about to have a far wider spread than our country has ever witnessed.
I cannot think, however, that the author of this discourse can obtain the countenance and support of ministers and Christians generally, and especially of the friends of revivals, till he shall publicly retract the erroneous sentiments it contains, and make a confession before the world for the injurious charges it labors to establish against all who disapprove of the new measures; and especially for giving such advice to “shake off their sleepy ministers," as all disorganizers will consider a full warrant for any disorderly meaşures they may be inclined to pursue to accomplish that end. And I believe the Christian public must and will hold responsible for these errors any who shall continue to give the author their countenance and support, so long as he shall refuse to make such a retraction.
In conclusion, I cannot do justice to my own feelings without solemnly calling upon the author of this discourse to re-examine his own experience, and see whether there is any thing in it of a different nature from what he here urges upon others. When a man preaches and publishes a sermon upon a subject so highly experimental as this, it is to be expected, that, if he understands himself, he will disclose the nature of his own experience, and require that of others to be as good as his own. But, if there is nothing in the experience of the author, better than what appears in this discourse, I cannot but have the most serious fears that he has deceived himself, and will find, at last, that he has made a fatal mistake, and that for eternity.
REVIEW ARTICLE IV. THE NATURE OF SIN-A Sermon delivered in Newark,
N. J. by Rev. John Ford, A. M. Pastor of the Church at Parsippany, N. J.-Newark, W. Tuttle & Co. 1827. pp. 19. Svo.
The numerous calls” for this Sermon, before it was printed, and the numerous commendations of it, since it issued from the press, in addition to the importance of the subject which it aims to illustrate, entitle it to special notice.
The Text is, 1. John, iž. 4.-"Sin is the transgression of the law.”
The Preacher begins with asking the question, to which his Text is a direct answer, “What is sin?” For the Reasons which he assigns, as well as for others, we assent to his next sentence, that " a correct answer to this question, is of incalculable moment.” But we have some doubt, whether "the opinions” of “the best and wisest of men" upon this subject, are so "wide apart," as he seems to imagine; at least, he does not, in our view, make this appear, in his statement of their opinions. He says, “Some suppose that sin consists in our actions ; some, in our motives; some in our exercises; some in previous propensity or disposition; and some, in the essence of the soul itself.” In this statement, opinions are set "apart,” which are thought to have no difference, except in name. When some say, that sin consists in our actions, they do not generally mean by actions, external motions merely, but internal affections and volitions, which others choose to call mo
lives ; by which they mean, not the external objects of choice, but E choice itself, or the desires, designs and intentions of the man; and
these are precisely what others call exercises. These three classes, then, instead of being “wide apart,” are very near together. As to those, who place sin, in previous propensity, or disposition;" if, by this phrase, they mean something previous to all affections and exercises, something altogether dormant and passive ; we would hope that they are not very numerous; while we admit that they are as wide from the classes before-mentioned, as they are from the truth; but we should hesitate to concede, that either they, if such there be, or those who place sin in “the essence of the soul,” ought to be acknowledged as “the best and wisest of men.”
In our author's brief ExPLANATION of the Doctrine before him, we think he has clearly shown, that the proposition of the Apostle in the text, is designed to be strictly & definition, and not a mere description of sin—to teach what sin is, and not merely what it does : but we are unable to see how this militates at all with the sentiment, that there is “ right and wrong in the nature of things," and that “God commands certain things, because they are right, and forbids others because they are wrong ;" if, as Mr. F. justly observes, in the Proof of his Doctrine,“ the Divine law covers the whole territory of moral agency, commanding all that is right, and forbidding all that is wrong.” But while we agree with Mr. F. in considering the text as a definition, we are not prepared to adopt precisely his sense of the terms of it. If the term law should here be read without the article, we see not why it should not be so read in the preceding clause of the verse ; but we perceive no necessity of reading it so, in either clause. By law, the Apostle evidently means, the law of God, in distinction from human laws--and the moral law, in distinction from ceremonial laws, and positive institutions. Though the moral law requires obedience to all ritual and positive laws; yet it is distinct from them. Millions of sins have been committed, which transgressed no ceremonial or positive law; but no sin was ever committed, which did not transgress the moral law. This does not imply, that there are diverse moral, Divine laws; for there is but one, which is promulgated, or made known, in various ways—sometimes by the dictates of Conscience only—and sometimes by a written revelation.
But the sense which Mr. F. gives to the term transgression in the Text, seems more objectionable, than that which he gives to the term law. He says, p. 4. “The word here rendered transgression, has both a positive and negative signification.” That the term has a negative, as well as positive signification, he barely asserts, without offering a word to prove. But we are unable to see, how the Divine law, which, as summed up by the Divine Teacher, requires nothing but true love to God and our neighbor-can be transgressed by “mere non-conformity,” or “a want of conformity.” As men are always active, and have constantly some affections and volitions ; so, whenever they do not exercise that love which the law requires, they exercise an opposite affection, in which their transgression consists. If the Divine law requires disinterested love, as it demonstrably does; then that, which transgresses it must be selfishness. In this, all transgression, and consequently all sin, essentially consists. That men omit those external actions to which true love would prompt them, and perform those external actions from which true love would restrain them, is because they are lovers of their own selves, and seek their own things.' The idea of negative transgression, is just as absurd, as the idea of negative obedience. Sin is the opposite of holiness, and not the want of it; and the one has as positive an existence, as the other. “ As all holiness must consist in doing the will of God, all sin must in contravening it,” or in doing contrary to it. p. 5. “Wickedness is wrong feeling, wrong doing, &c. in itself considered; sin the same thing considered in relation to law.” p. 6.
Mr. F.'s Proof of his Doctrine, is concise, but conclusive. We think, however, he should not have allowed, that when the Apostle says, “Sin is not imputed where there is no law," the meaning might be, that sin is “not reckoned sin ;" for we are persuaded, that He, by whom actions are weighed, always means sin to be, what it is.
(TO BE CONCLUDED.]
FOR THE HOPKINSIAN MAGAZINE.
PRACTICAL RELIGION. * True religion lessens nothing but our cares, perplexities, anxieties, and fears. It bids us cast all our care upon God, who careth for us; and to trust in him, who hath promised never to leave nor forsake us. It bids us, according to our station, to attend to the duty of every day, in its day; and, while we employ every prudent precaution, to take no anxious thought for the morrow. It teaches us, to regard the Almighty, as our Friend, and Father; our constant protector against every danger; our support, under every trial and temptation; our counsellor, to whom we are always to repair, in every difficulty ; our comforter,under every trouble ; and our help, in every struggle. This is religion.
“ It calls off from vanity and vice; but it gives us things so much better, that we no sooner taste them, than we lose our relish for those