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siah ; or was it accommodated by some pious teachers in the Jew. ish church, to illustrate the sublime connexion between the Son of God and bis church, as the domestic relation of Sarah and Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael, do that of the two covenants ?” p. 392.
In answering this query, I sball put a few others to him, and to the reader.
First : If tbere be no spiritual intention in this poem, wherein consists its excellence as the Song of Songs; and has it any right to a place in the oracles of God?
Secondly: If it have no right there, by what evidence, except what is merely internal, can it be proved that several other book's have any right there ; those especially to which no express reference is made in the New Testament?
Thirdly: If it have no right there, it had none in the time of our Saviour and his apostles. That it was there at that time, is, I believe, denied by none : but if the Old Testament scriptures then contained a book which had nothing spiritual or divine in it. How came they to appeal to them as being all given by inspiration of God, and profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness, &c. Why, especially, did they whose work it was to finish the canon of scripture, leave in it a book uninspired of God, and of no spiritual use?
Fourtbly : What reason can be given for questioning the divine". authority of Solomon's Song, which does not apply with equal force to the forty-fifth Psalm, which in the New Testament is ex. pressly applied to the Son of God ?
Fifthly : Is not the insinuation concerning pious teachers, who are supposed to have invented the spiritual meaning of this song, designed to detract from their wisdom; and while it detracts from theirs, does it not contain an unworthy reflection upon the apostle Paul ?
Whether I can understand the meaning of every part of this divine Song or not; or whether it has ever been rightly interpreted, is no part of the question; all I am concerned about al present is, that its divine authority should not be called in question.
THE NECESSITY OF SEEKING THOSE THINGS FIRST,
WHICH ARE OF THE FIRST IMPORTANCE.
A GREAT part of the evil which prevails in the world, consists in an entire neglect of what God commands, or in doing what he has expressly forbidden ; but not the whole of it. There may be an attachment to many things, which in themselves are right, and yet the whole may be rendered worse than void by the want of order, or a regard to things according to their importance. Our Lord did not censure the Pharisees for attending to the lesser matters of the law, but for attending to them to the neglect of the greater. If we pursue things as primary, which ought to occupy only a secondary or subordinate place in the system, we subvert the whole, and employ ourselves in doing what is worse than nothing.
I think I see the operation of this principle among us, and that to a wide extent. I see it among the unconverted, among the converted, and anong different parties or denominations of Christians.
First: It is by this that great numbers who lay their accounts with obtaining the kingdom of heaven will be found to have deceiv. ed themselves. It may be too much to say of them, that they do not seek the kingdom of God; but they seek it not as a first or primary object. The world is their chief good, and the kingdom of God only occupies a secondary place in their affections. They wish to attend to their everlasting concerns ; but they cannot spare time. Now, we can commonly spare time for that which we love best. The sensualist can find time for bis pleasures, and the man of the world for getting money. They can think of these things when sitting in the house, or walking in the way; and every thing else is made to bend, or give way to them. The result is, this preposterous conduct mars the whole ; for God and religion must be supreme, or nothing. There are certain relations, even among us, in which it is impossible to be contented wild a secondary place. If a wife give ber heart to another than her husband
and aims only to oblige him so far as to keep him in tolerably good humour, it is what cannot be endured ; he must be first, or nothing; and such is the claim of heaven.
Secondly: It is owing to this, among other causes, that many Christians go from year to year in doubt, with respect to their interest in Christ and spiritual blessings.—It is very desirable to have clear and satisfactory views on this subject. To live in suspense on a matter of such importance, must, if we be not sunk in insensibility, be miserable. How is it that so much of this prevails among us ; when, if we look into the New Testament, we shall scarcely see an instance of it among the primitive Christians ? Shall we cast off all such characters as unbelievers ? Some have done so, alleging that it is impossible for a person to be a believer without being conscious of it. Surely this is too much ; for if the grace of God within us, whatever be its degree, must needs be self-evident to us, why are we directed to keep his commandments as the means of knowing that we know him? The primitive Christians, however, had but little of this fear; and the reason of it was, they had more of that perfect love to Christ, to the gospel, and to the suceess of it, than we have, which tended to cast out fear. If we make our personal comfort the first object of our pursuit, (and many attend the means of grace as if they did,) God will make it the last of bis : for it is a general principle in the divine administration, He that honoureth me, I will honour; but he that despiseth me shall be lightly esteemed. If we seek the honour of God, we shall find our own peace and comfort in it: but if we make light of him, he will make light of us, and leave us to pass our days in darkness and suspense.
Thirdly : It is owing, if I mistake not, to the same cause that various denominations of Christians, who at some periods have been greatly blessed of God, have declined as to their spiritual prosperity. Several of our religious denominations have arisen from a conscientious desire to restore Christianity to its primitive purity. From this motive acted, I believe, the greater part of the Reformers, the Puritans, the Non-conformists, and the Baptists. I do not know that any one of these denominations were
censurable for the separations which they made from other professing Christians. It may be alleged, that they bave torn the church of Christ into parties, and so occasioned much evil : yet some of them did not separate from the church of Christ, but from a worldly community calling itself by that name; and those who did, pretended not to be the only people of God in the world, but considered themselves merely as withdrawing from brethren who walked disorderly. It is a melancholy fact, however that no sooper have a people formed themselves into a new denomination, than they are in the utmost danger of concentrating almost all their strength, influence, zeal, prayers, and endeavours, for its sapport; not as a part of Christ's visible kingdom, wishing all good to other parts, in so far as they follow Christ, but as though it were the whole of it, and as though all true religion were cir. cumscribed within its hallowed pale. This is the essence of a sectarian spirit, and the bane of Christianity.
I am a Dissenter, and a Baptist. If I confine my remarks to the faults of these denominations, it is not because I consider them as greater sinners in this way than all others, but because I wish more especially to correct the evils of my own connexions.
If we wish to promote the dissenting interest, it must not be by expending our principal zeal in endeavouring to make men dissenters, but in making dissenters and others, Christians. The principles of digsent, however just and important, are not to be compared with the glorious gospel of the blessed God ; and if inculcated at the expense of it, it is no better than tithing mint and cummin, to the omitting of the weightier matters of the law. Such endeavours will be blasted, and made to defeat their own end. Those dissenters among wbom the doctrines of the Puritans and Non-conformists have fallen into disrepute, are generally distinguished by this species of zeal ; and it is principally from such quarters that complaints are heard of "the decline of the dissenting interest.” Where they are believed and taught, and their progress, whether among dissenters or others, viewed with satisfaction, we hear of -no sucha complaints. It is a curious fact, that while a certain description af digsenters are inquiring into the causes of the decline of the dissenting interest, a certain description of the established clergy are inquiring into the causes of its increase !
If we wish to see the Baptist denomination prosper, we must not expend our zeal so much in endeavouring to make men Baptists, as in labouring to make Baptists and others, Christians. If we lay out ourselves in the common cause of Christianity, the Lord will bless and increase us. By rejoicing in the prosperity of every other denomination, in so far as they accord with the mind of Christ, we shall promote the best interests of our own. But if we be more concerned to make proselytes to a party than con- . verts to Christ, we shall defeat our own end; and however just our sentiments may be with respect to the subjects and mode of baptism, we shall be found symbolizing with the pharisees, who were employed in tithing mint and cummin, to the neglect of judg. ment, mercy, and the love of God.
QUERIES RELATIVE TO ORDINATION.
It having been the practice of some dissenting ministers to receive ordination but once, it became a question at a meeting lately held in the country, whether a pastor, removing to another
church should be re-ordained? The ministers about to engage in on such a service, considering ordination not as a designation to the
work of the ministry, (of which they find no examples in the New Testament,) but as a solemn appointment to office in a Christian church, were of opinion that a previous ordination had no influence on an appointment to office in another church. They allow