Imágenes de páginas

They persisted in their unbelief, and “wondered, and perished."* This partiality for falsehood sealed their condemnation. The Truth became to them “the savour of death unto death ;"and their opposition drew down the condemnation, that if “works had not” been “done among them,” which had never been done before, 66 they had not had sin,''# but that it would now be “more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah,”|| than for them.

As to those who believed, it was not the miracle of tongues, that produced saving faith ; but a light beaming on their minds, from the subject-matter of the testimony. They listened to the “ prophecy,” or exposition of Christian doctrine; and they found in it an evidence of divination beyond the power of man. The Truth was made manifest to their consciences; and they recognised a superhuman accordance between what they read and what they felt. Each was the subject of a separate divination; and the whole force of the evidence fell, with a powerful and permanent impression, on the conscience of each.

But these gifted teachers not only spoke to the men of their own age; they also wrote for the men of other ages. Their testimony is placed on imperis hable record; and it is an interesting question, whether, on its being transmitted in writing, the same evidence is transmitted along with it. May we, in reading, gather the same evidence of its truth, as those who heard it? Has the evidence descended? Can it do by itself now, what they did by themselves then? An unlettered man cannot trace its external evidence through the dark interval of eighteen hundred years; may he fetch a proof from the book itself? Is there any thing, by which it announces its own authority, and throws light on its own evidence ? Does there emanate from the record any virtue to arrest and carry conviction; so as to make it the messenger, not only of its own contents, but also of its own credentials; and to evince the celestial character it bears, and the celestial origin it owns ?

We are now only on the margin of a vast and untrodden field. Though it may not be possible to resolve every doubt, we believe there is no proposition more strongly established, than the self-evidencing power of the Gospel. The evidence which first convinces a man is generally the fact, that the inward experience of his own heart, and its outward description in the Bible, evince the same correspondence as that between a cipher and the thing decipbered. No doctrine is more frequently and strenuously insisted on, than the general depravity of our race; and if a man unwarped by prejudice looks within, he sees it to be so. He sees that he is devoid of the main principle of righteousness, allegiance to God; that the full bent of his affections is toward the creature, and not the Creator; and that he is thus setting up an idol in his heart. Contrasting His forgetfulness of God, and indifference to Him, with all his obligations to Him who gave him being, and who upholds him continually, he sees how the withholding of the heart from God is practical rebellion. The same lesson which he reads in his own person, he sees distinctly and vigorously engraved on the Bible. And is it, after all this, a mystery, if he proffer his respect to a Volume, that tells him what no other volume does, and what he perceives to be true? Shall we feel doubt or amazement, if he is overpowered by the wisdom and force of such a divination? The very offer of such a Saviour as makes his conscience feel at peace, is an act of divination. When he compares its declarations of the aversion of the heart being made to give place to love, with the charm which he now feels in what he once recoiled from with nausea and antipathy; all this is a proof of divination. Such proofs accumulate on the awakened man at every step. He feels that he has no moral strength; that he cannot love God. Then he sees in the Gospel every thing to tranquillise his fears, to bring him near to God; and as he feels the influence of the peace-speaking blood, he is persuaded that what was so suitable for God to bestow, could have come only from Him. Conviction is rivetted at every step of his history; and as the Christians of early days believed that God was in the apostles " of a truth,” so do Christians of the present day believe that He is in the truth which the apostles left behind.

This internal evidenee, so far from precluding the testimony of the Spirit, is

* Acts xiii. 41.

+ 2 Corinthians ii. 16.

John xv. 21.

|| Matthew x. 15.



the very evidence brought before us by the Spirit, in the exercise of His ministrations. The Spirit of God adds nothing to the Word of God : He only uses it as an instrument.

There is, no doubt, an internal evidence, different from that which we have just expounded ; and much in vogue with those, who suppose what they see in the Bible, and what they imagine of the ways of Deity, to be accordant. But ours comes nearer home; and is more in union with the modesty of true philosophy.

This evidence might be felt by an unlettered workman, though he might not be able to communicate it to others; and his sober conviction might therefore be called 'madness,' and the soundest philosophy branded as 'methodism.' One thing cannot fail to impress us— What is the evidence on which men become Christians, even in Christendom ? Speak to ministers, and ask what accomplishes that mighty change in the individuals of their congregation ? From what quarter did the light of truth beam on the understanding ? Did it lie in any thing external or in the subject-matter of the testimony itself? Was it while they were combating atheism, or while they were making the Truth manifest to the conscience? It was not done by descending into the earth, and fighting the battles of the faith with the dark spectres of geology; or by ascending into the heavens, to fetch down some wondrous illustration ; but by bringing “the Word nigh," even to their hearts." *

We must bere remark, that a powerful argument is thus furnished for Bible and Missionary societies. The Bible is found to be the most powerful instrument for converting our neighbours ; why, then, may it not be carried to others ? The distance may be widened, but the mode need not be changed ; and if adapted for the last man in Christendom, tell me why it is not adapted for the first man beyond it? In what do they differ ? Both have a mental constitution alienated from God; both have the same fears; and the hearts of both beat responsive to the representations of the Gospel, though one may live in a more northern latitude than the other. And if you go to a single man on these grounds, on the very same grounds is the whole world open to the Bible and Missionary Societies. There is no man, who does not carry in his heart an accordance with the representations of the Bible, as strict as that of a die with its mould; and the evidence of the Bible is as portable as the Bible itself ; which ought to circulate among the species, till it does not leave a single tribe unvisited.

If this were not the case, how could the Bible make any converts among our own population ? Take away the self-evidencing power of the Bible, and you take away the religion of our cottages. That evidence failing, where are our toilworn children of poverty to find it ? Must they learn to balance the testimonies of other days? It would be passing an obliterating sponge over the Christianity of the land. It might still be talked of in cloistered solitudes; but the common people would understand no more of it, than of any other question of the schools.t


"When the thousand drains of selfishness are cut off, the cause of Christ will easily find an abundance from His friends, and will leave an abundance to them all. When every man brings his all to Christ, every man will be able to take away with him again an ample supply for his most comfortable subsistence. When every fresh convert to Christ becomes a willing supporter of His interest, the accession of numbers will increase its supplies more rapidly than its wants.-Mammon. Mr. Editor,—By your permission, I would venture once more, according to promise, to resume my plumy sword, for the purpose of having another combat with the foe of Truth : the same antagonist with whom I have had some little altercation in your last three numbers. And now I would be distinctly understood here, that error is the enemy I attack. And with that I am broadly at variance; especially the kind of error which is specified in the heading of my article. And we may speak of this as a very insinuating evil, and an evil which is not a little congenial with our old corrupt nature. It diffuses itself far and wide; extending both to doctrine and practice: therefore we shall have to assail it on each of these grounds, in the course of this antidotal war. Ard we may safely assert, in this place, that error in doctrine is a sure promoter, more or less, of that in practice. But should it happen, by a strange anomaly, to obtain first an usurpation over that department we call practice, then it invariably predisposes the mind to embrace the same in doctrine also; for the sake of procuring any kind of refuge for self against the painful accusations of conscience and of truth. And every sincere Christian, who is in any way conversant with himself, and who in some degree is acquainted with the stratagems of the arch adversary, will readily acknowledge the accuracy and force of these remarks.

* See Romans x. 6 to 8. + See Dr. Chalmers's “ Introductory Essay to The Christian's defence against infidelity ;' pub. lished in Collins's “ Series of Christian Authors ;” and also the thirteenth volume of his works ; page 278 to 302.

However, to prevent a misapprehension arising in the reader's mind, we would here record very briefly a seasonable caution, which is as follows:-Be it ever remembered, that in the writer's opinion, there is an essential distinction between a Calvinist and an Antinomian. It is true, in some respects this may not be very perceptible ; in others, it becomes evident enough. Now there is a considerable difference between a human body, animated, beautified, and ennobled with a rational, intelligent and quickening soul, and a dull, dead corpse; the outward frame certainly is in both cases; but the vital principle, manifesting itself in actions and motions in the one, and the total absence of this in the other, form a material distinctives. There is also a great difference, between a living babe or a comely child and a wax-work imitation of the same; although we may trace in those objects some undeniable resemblance, both in form and features, yet, on close examination, the latter will be found hollow and lifeless, while the former, with its glowing smiles and its lovely innocency, inspires the heart with genuine pleasure, and makes the bosom to swell with the tenderest emotions of parental affection. Yes; the difference between a Calvinist and an Antinomian, is as great as that which may be found between a vital religionist and a formalist-between a holy saint and a decent sinner--between the praying Publican and the proud Pharisee. The latter of these characters may hold all the tenets of an Antinomian, and still remain unchanged and unrenewed--(and alas ! in many instances we have known it to be the case, converting those tenets, as they do, into a downy pillow, on which they lull their souls into a deep sleep of sinful presumption and security) : while the former, holding those of Calvin-or, if you please, those of the Bible-are stimulated to a holy and increased activity, piety and prayer.

The word “ Antinomian” in itself implies its own signification ; being a compound of anti and nomos--one a Greek preposition, and the other a noun in the same language, meaning conjointly against-the-law; that is, lawless. Then judge ye what such a character must be, in the esteem of any one who feels in his bosom the glow of loyalty to the King of kings and the Lord'of Lords. The term “ Calvinist," is merely a reference to the tenets of a holy man, from whose name that word is derived; who well understood the doctrines of the Holy Scriptures, and who condensed them into what we may call a creed; but who proved to demonstration both in his life and writings, that those doctrines are not properly received unless they practically manifest themselves in changing the heart and adorning the walk and conversation with the beauty of holiness and of truth. Hence none will take umbrage, I hope, at my remarks, except those to whom the offence lawfully belongs ; and oh ! let it be, even in that case, such as will stimulate to a holy and radical amendment; and such as will yield a quickening influence that will rouse the soul from its slumbers, to lay out all its energies in Christian activity, and in showing forth the untold glory of our Redeemer God.

Moreover, before I proceed to state the next error, for which an antidote is about



[ocr errors]

to be proposed in this essay, and as I intend this sheet to be but an introduction
to some future sections, I shall take the liberty of prescribing a simple
and a wholesome preventive in this place, as I am herein a gratuitous dealer in an-
tidotes : or, if you please, I shall attempt to make a statement or two that may
amount to a seasonable premunition. And first of all, I would humbly express my
sincere hope, that your readers will kindly favour me with their Christian indul-
gence, while fearlessly I shall be endeavouring to pursue, with very little or no he-
sitancy, this polemical and bloodless warfare. And should I occasionally seem to
them to be wielding my weapon (the pen) with all the force and energy my arm
possesses, so as to make it fall with too much apparent violence and edge on my
presumed foe, let each and all bear this courteously in mind, that the writer is fully
conscious of the temperament of the enemy he has to contend with. He knows
well, that he is such an one as will not admit of any laxity whatever on his part,
else he is beaten from the vantage ground which the advocate of truth ought to
maintain, and never to surrender on any condition,

Besides, let it be borne in mind as further reasons, that the writer is aware
also that his foe is an old and experienoed warrior, who has made
too many successful skirmishes on Zion's pilgrims who has been lying in
ambush from ages immemorial near the king's highway to the celestial city, attack-
ing and, for a time, overcoming many of the travellers thereon-and who assumes
a formidable gait, making great and bold pretensions to high origin and Scripture
support. Hence he is not to be conquered (if conquered at all), but by being vi.
gorously and strenuously assailed with a strong and sharp instrument, steeled with
genuine Truth, and tempered with that fire that came from the altar of heaven.
And hence, the writer is truly sensible, that it is highly necessary for him to whet
his sword with the best of hones, and to render it as keen as he possibly can, inas-
much as he has such an hideous antagonist to oppose one that may be classed
among monsters of the most terrific kind; whose hide may be esteemed as almost
invulnerable, having grown, by frequent brunts and old age, tougher than that of any
other of the species ; at least, than any that lies within the range of his knowledge.
However, hereby he would console himself, that the pointed arrows of Truth, if ac-
companied with Divine energy, may pierce “ the scales even of the proudest levia-
than, though they may be shut up together as with a close seal,” (as the Scripture
speaks of that monster of the deep,) " and one is so near to another that no air can
come between them, and though they may be joined one to another, and stick to-
gether that they cannot be sundered.” Nay, if the sword of the Spirit is rightly
wielded, it can be made to approach and wound even a Behemoth in wickedness,
"though his bones" (as it is said of the prototype) “ are as strong pieces of brass,
and though they may be as bars of iron." Yea, if God will condescend to teach the
fingers of a stripling to war, the victory is sure; or if He pleases to be with His
servant when he slings his stone, even the forehead of another Goliath will be cer-
tainly perforated, though he may be more monstrous than the blaspheming Philis-
tine, who dared, in days of yore, to insult the armies of the living God. Oh ! that
such may be the merciful result of this humble effort, that those poor victims who
are held fast in the fangs of my opponent, may be delivered from their prison, and
brought to the full liberty of the Gospel and of Truth. Grant, O Lord, that this
may be the case, for Thy goodness and Thy mercy's sake. Amen.

Now we must hasten to state the error, which herein we would fain to remedy, and for which we would propose a very powerful and effective antidote. And it would not be amiss, perhaps, to mention in this place, the chief and almost the only ingredient of it, which is none other than the Word of God--the Holy Bible. But, remember, you must take it all as it is, completely embracing it with simplicity of mind, and perusing it throughout with an heart unbiassed to this or that opinion. An unprejudiced soul, reading the Bible attentively thus, and praying seriously and earnestly for the light of the Divine Spirit upon its holy page, can never fail of success; and succeeding therein, will prove efficient to banish the sole cause of all error from the mind, which is nothing less nor more than what we understand by this humbling term, ignorance. This is the prolific source of all misapprehensions in Scripture doctrine. How necessary is it, then, for us to ,ac

[ocr errors]

quaint ourselves fully with the Word of God! And doing so, who knows but that the Holy Spirit would accompany such an effort with His enlightening influences, to remove entirely all error from the heart, and from the practice too; assisting us to live holily, righteously, and godly in the present life, and thus ripening us day by day for the everlasting enjoyment of that which is to come ?

The error that is to occupy our attention in the sections that shall follow, is to this effect: Antinomians prohibit Gospel ministers to urge upon sinners evangelical repentance, citing in support of the futile sentiment contained in such a prohibition, that passage of Holy Writ wherein it is said of our blessed Redeemer, “ Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour for to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins”-(Acts v. 31). This is dealing certainly with those plain words, just as the original speaker of them predicted of the manner in which others would have dealt with the writings of his beloved brother Paul, when he (Peter) by Divine inspiration, reviewed very briefly that apostle's works. “In which” (he said) “are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction"-(2 Pet. iii. 16). And as to the case in hand, we would say, that if this is not done to their own destruction, surely it is done vastly to their own discredit, and their own discomfort too. And we must not mince our sentiment here, nor conceal the matter, that although there may be, as we have already acknowledged, some good and pious persons among those who go under the name Antinomians, yet there we only discover this truth, that sovereign grace can triumph over error; but be it clearly understood, that such a fact after all does not wipe away any of the deep odium that inevitably attaches itself to the ism herein alluded to. Oh! no; not any more than a few grains of wheat found in a heap of chaff would go to prove that the whole mass was wheaten and precious. Nor can such a fact be set forth as an argument in favour of error, any more than the moderate participation of opium as an anodyne would go to prove that that drug is not benumbing and even destructive in its properties; or the fact that the medical profession sometimes use in the composition of some healing draughts the extracts of hemlock or nightshade, would serve as an argument to prove that nelther of those noxious herbs are poisonous and extremely fatal. Hence I would say, that as there is considerable risk and danger in the latter cases, so there is much peril in parleying with error; yea, infinitely more than there can be in quaffing those streams that may have been mixed with the most somnific drops, or impregnated with the deadliest poison. Then, O my soul, buy the truth, and sell it not; and pray for the Spirit of Truth to guide thee into all wisdom and direct thy feet in the way of righteousness and peace for ever and ever. Amen.

CELATUS, (To be continued.)


“ There is a wide difference between selfishness and legitimate self-love. This is a principle necessary to all sentient existence. In man, it is the principle which impels him to preserve his own life, and promote his own happiness. Not only is it consistent with piety, it is the stock on which all piety, in lapsed man, is grafted. Piety is only the principle of self-love carried out in the right direction, and seeking its supreme happiness in God. It is the act or habit of a man who so loves himself that he gives himself to God. Selfishness is fallen self-love. It is self-love in excess, blind to the existence and excellence of God, and seeking its happiness in inferior objects by aiming to subdue them to its own purposes."'--Mammon.

« AnteriorContinuar »