Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the pretensions they often make to eminent godliness-that they "serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly"-their own private ends. And he points out one of the main engines which they employed, for disturbing the real unity of the Christian church; "by good words and fair speeches, they deceive the hearts of the simple."

It is at this day needful to warn Christians against such characters and their seductive arts: for the generation of them is not extinct; and never will be extinct, as long as Satan is allowed to exert his oppositjon against the Church of God. It would not answer the purpose of the father of lies, to employ no instruments but profane and open infidels in order to corrupt the Gospel, and substitute for it something that is not the Gospel, but seems very like it: he must employ various classes of pious religionists; whose sincerity of attachment to their respective systems of infidelity I do not mean at all to question. And they make use of the same engine in his service at this day, that they used in the days of the Apostles;-good words and fair speeches-to" deceive the hearts of the simple."

A

It would be an interesting and profitable inquiry, to examine the va rious good words, to which they have given a bad currency, in various ages of the church. Bnt perhaps there is none that they more successfully use at this day, than that which I have mentioned, (p. 279.) HEART-RELIGION. It is a good word indeed, when rightly applied; for it will express the inward reality of true religion, in opposition to the hypocrisy of mere outward profession. But by a dexterous management of this good word, some of the most successful opposition is given at present to the Gospel. When the truths of God are asserted, and asserted so that the enemies of them have no other answer; they contrive to put down the subject, with the good word, HEART-RELIGION. They set this in opposition to the BELIEF of the TRUTH; to which they give the contemptuous name of HEAD KNOWLEDGE. They put themselves forward as the champions of the former; and insinuate that the asserters of the latter are enemies to heart-religion; or at least contending for some speculative notions that, in comparison of it, are of little consequence. And thus their work is done. Their zeal for heart-religion is admired; their followers are increased; the hearts of the simple are deceived; the glorious truths of the Gospel-(the hearty belief of which alone produces true religion)—are rejected with contempt as unimportant; professors of the Apostolic Gospel are decried, as raising a strife about words without profit; and the blinded multitude follow their admired guides in the pursuit of a mystic something, which they call HEART RELIGION; satisfied that the doctrine which they are taught must be the Gospel, because it is dressed up with evangelical names; and deterred from examining into the scriptural meaning of these names, because they are taught to think that such an inquiry is calculated to give them only, what their learners call-HEAD-KNOWLEDGE, and to turn them aside from HEART-RELIGION.

From the Recorder and Telegraph.

EXEGESIS OF THE 3d V. OF THE 9th CHAP. OF ROMANS. "For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ, for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”

My purpose is to "try" to do away the expositions of several eminent commentators; and after removing some objections, to endeavor to establish what seems to be the true import of this passage.

The original word, rendered in our version "accursed," is, as most readers know, "anathema;" and this occurs four times; I believe no more in other parts of this Apostle's writings. In the I. Cor. 12th chap. 3d v. we read, “No man, speaking by the Spirit of God, calleth Jesus accursed," (anathema.") I need hardly remark that "accursed” does not mean to be "hanged on a tree;" since, as Christ had been crucified, one might in this sense call him "anathema" with truth, which Paul himself (using a different word) has elsewhere done.

Again in the I Cor. xvi. 22. "If any one love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema, maran-atha." In this passage to render "anathema" "hanged on a tree," would be to charge the Apostle with the guilt of directing his Corinthian brethren to crucify those, who were not Christians.

We also find in Gal. i. 8. "But though we or an angel from heaven preach another gospel unto you, than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed,” (“ anathema;”) and in the 9v. “As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed (“anathema.”)

This word takes not the sense above named in either of these cases, unless St. Paul would have false teachers crucified, which I presume no one will admit. I believe "anathema" is found in no other part of this Apostle's writings. And now, reader, having clearly shown that it does not, in any of these cases, mean "hanged on a tree," which you probably knew before, I ask whether you think he turned aside to this meaning, in the passage under consideration? How could St. Paul have supposed his readers would be able to understand him, if he gave the term a signification in this place, so different from its meaning in other parts of his writings? Can we think the Apostle, who was speaking "the truth in Christ," as he had just before expressed himself, used this important word so unsteadily?

Another evidence against this interpretation is, that where St. Paul says Christ became "a curse" by being hanged on a tree, he has not used “anathema" to express this curse, but "epicatatos." A third reason why this seems not to be the sense of the word "accursed" in Romans-which ought to satisfy every man, who knows the consequences of altering God's word—is, that in order to establish this interpretation, recourse is had to an unauthorized change of the phrase "from Christ," into that of "according to the example of Christ."

With so much against it, will any one still contend for this rendering! Believing I have convinced the reader that this is not the meaning of the term in Romans, I will conclude I have done away one exposition of the passage under consideration.

A second interpretation given to "accursed" is "excommunication from the visible church," which is certainly a more probable signification. By returning to St. Paul's use of this word, we may throw some light upon this point.

In the first case cited above, where the Apostle says, "No man speaking by the Spirit of God, calleth Jesus accursed,” (“ anathema,”) it is at once evident to every mind that " excommunication" is not its signification. I therefore, pass to the next, where we read, "If any one love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema." Does not the reader immediately see that this rendering is not admissible here? Observe, "If any one," be he church-member or not; Jew or Gentile; any person. But it would be quite absurd to talk of cutting off those, who had never been in fellowship. Indeed while reading this passage, one perceives, as it were intuitively, that " excommunication" is not the signification of the word "anathema," but that it is that awful doom, which awaits every man who "loves not the Lord Jesus Christ."

In the third and fourth cases, where the reading is, "Though we or or angel," &c. the "accursed" (" anathema") cannot without some violence be rendered " excommunication," because it is said of an angel, "let him be accursed," the impropriety of which, admitting the sense contended against, is apparent. I grant there can be analogies brought to show that there is no such impropriety, as I have named, in this case; but, if any one think the reasoning inconclusive, I simply ask him whether in reading this passage, his impressions are, that false teachers were to be barely "set aloof" by the Galatians, or whether they, thus removed, were to be considered devoted to that tremendous retribution, which will at last fall upon the heads of all false teachers.

These conclusions are strengthened by the fact that St. Paul, in giving directions concerning the "excommunication" of disorderl y members, has in no instance used "anathema ;" and still more by the consideration that it is made to signify a cutting off from church community, in no case in the New Testament. Supported by this weight of evidence, I think we may not unreasonably conclude, such is not St. Paul's meaning in the passage at the head of this paper. In order that "anathema," in Romans may mean excommunication, the phrase "from Christ" must be made to signify "from the church;" or a Greek word for church must be understood. In my mind, this circumstance not a little favours my conclusion; though it must be confessed that either of these can be supported by analogies.

I pass to a few objections. The first which occurs to me is, that

[ocr errors]

L

"If St. Paul was willing to be damned, he went beyond Christ in benevolence" This is wholly without foundation.

In the first place it was not necessary that Christ should suffer eternally. His tasting death for every man, was sufficient. We cannot, therefore, know how much he was willing to suffer. If our salvation had required more, who is permitted to say he had not the benevolence to endure more?

To show that this objection is wholly without foundation, I remark, that, as Christ was a perfectly benevolent being, loving his neighbour equally as himself, he would choose the greater good in any case, even though the difference were much less than two against one. But so far was St. Paul from doing this, admitting what I am contending for, that he simply chose the greater good where the difference was hundreds of thousands-the whole Jewish people against himself.

A second objection is, that “If St. Paul was willing to be damned, he was willing to hate God." In this conclusion there is a great error. Let us first carefully define the curse pronounced by God upon the sinner. This curse does not include in itself a hatred of God and his Law, as many eminent divines have said; but it is a consequence of that hatred; and its substance is personal loss and personal suffering the loss of the happiness of heaven, and the suffering of the pains of hell. I repeat, this curse is a consequence of hatred towards God and his law, and is entirely distinct from this hatred. Now let this distinction be carefully maintained, and we shall see that St. Paul, so far from being willing to hate God, admitting the literal reading of the passage before us-did not so much as think of such a thing, but had regard to his personal loss, and his personal suffering. Yes, so ardently did he love his brethren, that as it concerned himself, he was willing to lose the happiness of heaven and endure the pains of hell, provided his kingmen in the flesh might be saved by such a sacrifice.

Must we not conclude the word "accursed" signifies "cast off of God?" This is the first impression of all who read the passage; and this continues till we, I fear," getting wise above what is written," pronounce it "inconsistent with reason," and consequently go to the passage determined to find some other meaning.

But why should this expression of the great Apostle stagger us so much? He felt nothing but the spirit of benevolence. "Love thy neighbour as thyself," is the command; and this principle St. Paul exercised in an eminent degree. If one, loving his neighbour equally as himself, were asked, whose salvation he should prefer, another's or his own, he could not decide, because each is an equal good. Suppose then, there are two put against him, and the same question is asked. He now has a choice; because benevolence chooses the greater good. If these two are increased to fifty, or a thousand, much more has he a choice; because the increase of the good is as the increase of the greater number, the other remaining the same.

That St. Paul could be willing to be damned, astonishes us in our cold meditations; but let us make trial of our benevolence. Suppose it were decreed that you or your neighbour should die, both being innocent, and it were left to you to say which should be the victim. You would hesitate long between benevolence and self-love before you could decide. If fifty are put in the place of this one, and you must say whether they all shall die or yourself-what is your conclusion now! Will you purchase your life with the blood of fifty? This fifty are increased to a million, or a great people, as the Jews-what now? Will you live at this expense of lives? Shall the blood of these hundreds of thousands buy you a few more years of time?—No, you would die.— There are few men in Christendom, who would not, under such circumstances, die. Now suppose this great multitude are to go to hell, or you must. Tell me, Christian, do you say, Let them be damned? Let these hundreds of thousands burn forever, that I, an individual, may live? Would you, could you, under such circumstances decide? You would be dumb. You could never decide against them, though you were ever unwilling to sacrifice yourself. If then you feel so much, what might not St. Paul feel? Consider what he actually sacrificed for his brethren; how he loved and how he groaned for them, remembering that his capacious soul was eminently enlarged, and you will not be surprised that, while his heart was overwhelmed with a view of what this great people would endure in another world, he rising in the strength of his benevolence, exclaimed; While I meditated upon this great and appalling subject, " I was wishing that myself were accursed from Christ, for my brethren according to the flesh," if by the sacrifice of my own happiness they might be saved. J.

WORKS OF FICTION.

Fully as I can enter into the beauties of fiction, I exceedingly dread their tendency. The utmost caution is requisite in meddling with them. The novelist I unequivocally proscribe, and many of the poets and their poems, which are only nets to catch young minds in the maze of Satan. It is a maxim in regard to books, as well as companions, that what does not improve, invariably injures. Few things in this world are merely negative and harmless. They either do us good, when sanctified by the Spirit; or they do us harm, by stealing our hearts from God. Even the beauties and wonders of nature, in an unsanctified mind, excite nothing beyond natural affections-pleasure and surprise. If Christ is not sought for in them, we rise no higher than mere tourists, rhymists, and painters. Whether we eat or drink, or travel, or read, or converse, or philosophise-all, all must be done to the glory of God.-Rev. Legh Richmond to his Daughter.

2456-5-4

+1 66

END OF VOLUME THREE.

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »