Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

[The following is a copy of a letter from companied with hope, founded on

the Rev. Tho's. I. Biddulph, minis- those promises, wherein God has enter of St. James' church, Bristol, gaged to afford the relief which is deEng. to his friend Mr. Tho's. Jarman, sired. It is in scripture language, in answer to Mr. Jarman's letter to bim, in which he had asked, “how

“ spiritual hunger and thirst; and tha: prevailing spirit of prayer (which it is to this spiritual hunger and thirst, is alone of any value) is to be acquir- that the promises are made. You ed." Mr. Biddulph had preached on ask, “how is this to be acquired ?" St. Luke, 11th, verses cist and 22d, It appears to me, that although di" When a strong man armed keepeth vine grace is preventing, and the hunhis palace, &c.”—and had said in

ger which capacitates for receiving the course of his sermon, that all the (as well as the bread of life that sattions, &c.) which were made while isfies,) is the gift of God, yet that the strong one had possession of the means are prescribed to us, and that palace were mere delusions. Mr. Jar- it is our duty to use them, and that man asked how the strong one was to consequently, a neglect of appointed be dispossessed ; and anticipated that means is criminal, and a just cause of Mr. Biddulph would say--" by exclusion from the benefit. What prayer—"; but as the spirit of those means are, I will endeavour prayer is the gift of God, how is presently to state, but first I would that to be acquired ?--The annexed letter is bis answer. Mr. Jarman is

confirm the obligation we are under on a visit to his friends in this coun

to use them. try; and by his kindness we are en

Man is certainly a responsible creaabled to present Mr. Biddulph's let- ture—-responsible not only as the ter to our readers.]

creature of God, created originally Bristol, 4th March, 1812.

with a power of fulfilling the condi

tions of the covenant of works, but MY DEAR SIR,

also as a sallen creature placed withYour kind favour, received yester- in sight and reach of the “wells of day,(for which I have not been able till salvation." Hence the exhortations this evening, to return you my sincere and threatenings of the gospel, as thanks) gave me, I assure you, unfeign- distinguished from the law of works. ed pleasure. I can honestly say, that the inability which we ascribe to there is no one in my parish, whom I man as a fallen creature is not natushould rejoice more to see settled in ral, but moral ;-not want of power, his religious principles, and enjoying but want of will;—not the loss of reathe solid comforts of christianity, than son, but the misapplication or abuse yourself. I never wished more ear of it. It is not the inability of a lame nestly for that heavenly wisdom, man to walk, or of a pauper to give which the execution of the gospel alms, but it is the inability of a slugministry requires, than I do now; in gard to be industrious. Hence, while order that I might be able, in answer

our Lord

says, to your inquiries, to direct you to the

unto me, except the Father, who hath Fountain of living water. And though sent me draw him;" he also says, I know myself to be very “unskillful ye will not come unto me, that ye in the word of righteousness,” I shall might have life.” The hindrance aventure to lay before you, what oc rising from indisposition, is indeed as curs to my mind, on the case you real and insurmountable, (except by a have stated.

change of heart,) in the latter case as You ask, “ how is that prevailing in the former; but it is a bindrance spirit of prayer, which (as you justly that forms no excuse for unbelief. observe) is alone of value, to be ac But though we are unconscious of quired ?"- This prevailing prayer is those feelings of want, desire and exan awakened sense of want, exciting pectation, which we know to be esdesire after relief of that want ; ac- sential io conversion, and constituent.

no man can come

ingredients in saving faith, yet are we ly required to form a just estimate, not to sit still, and be at ease. We wbich, even in its present beclouded act not thus in our temporal affairs; state, it is capable of forming. for instance, in time of sickness, we Then, efforts should be made to inknow that life and death, the continu- terest the affections, as well as to conance of health while we possess it, vince the judgement. We should try and the restoration of it when lost, “so to number our days, as to apply are all of God, under the control ab our hearts unto wisdom.” On these solutely of bis Providence, and at His subjects, there are, in every man's unresisted disposal, and that no bosom, (those only excepted who are means for its recovery when lost, can given up to a reprobate mind,) feelavail without his blessing; but not- ings at times, wbich he is bound to withstanding this conviction, though cherish, --convictions to which he we cannot insure the success of medic should yield. These convictions are cine, we have recourse to it, hoping the strivings of the gracious Spirit of that its use may be accompanied with God, for the rejection or encourage a divine blessing. We are alive to ment of which, he will be made rethe value of health, and know how to sponsible. But a conviction of huappreciate its loss; and we ac: accor man mortality, and even a consciousdingly, though there is no divine ness of the insufficiency of every promise in the case of using means thing earthly to satisfy the soul, will for the restoration of bodily health, not of themselves produce spiritual as there is in the case of salvation, hunger and thirst. They must proto insure success~-yet we should duce unhappiness, but will not necescharge a man with enthusiasm, (the sarily lead to the tree of life. Conperversion of reason, if not the desti- victions of sinfulness and guilt are also tution of it,) who should say,“ health indispensable to this end. What: is the gift of God, and therefore I will means then should be used for the use no means to preserve it while I production of these? In order to rehave it, or to recover it when I have duce myself to a state of humiliation lost it. The same mode of reason- for sin committed, and of self despair, ing may be applied to our conduct in a comparison of my own state,—the every worldly pursuit, particularly in state of my heart and the conduct of those occupations, the success of my life, with the holy law of God, which depends more evidently on the seems to be the prescribed means, blessing of Providence, such as those 6th Romans 20th 21st verses : 7th of husbandry in all its branches.- chapter 7th, 8th, 9th verses :-In What then are those means which making this comparison, I am to conare calculated to produce the convic- sider that the law is spiritual;" tion of want, in which all religion that its principal requisition is uncommences ? First, I would men- feigned, unchanging and supreme love tion the use of natural reason, the in- to God, and that the essence of sin, tellectual faculty in reference to the consists in alienation of heart, from comparative value and importance of Him. I conceive that a want of this the two worlds, with which we stand view of the law is the grand mean of connected, as inhabitants of the one, keeping us from Christ, and the and expectants of the other; of time ground of all our errors, on evangelicand eternity; of the body and the al subjects. Alienation from God, and soul-I mean the application of natu- enmity to Him, are the radical evils ral reason to the questions of our charged on us, and this is common to Lord: “What is a man profited, if he unconverted christians, with heathens gain the whole world, and lose his to the decent formalist, with the own soul ?” or, “what shall a man profane sinner. In this, sin began give, in exchange for his soul?” On in Paradise, and in this, it ends in these subjects, reason should be stern- Tophet. This is the radical defect

com

of the “ corrupt tree,” while acts of nothing in it, more than in any other transgression are to be considered as book, that was adapted to afford him its fruits and may be more or fewer in what he wanted; he closed the number, more or less acrid in quality, book, and laid it aside, as a medicine while the tree itself remains the same. of po efficacy ; but his distress origHence the necessity of regeneration, inating in a worldly loss, continuing of conversion—the new creation in and increasing, after a long interval Christ Jesus. The removal of this he opened the precious volume again, alienation, and the implantation of when a flood of divine light flowing divine love in the heart is the essence into his mind, he at once saw and of conversion, the preparation for believed ; and if there is a happy Heaven. This alienation is the chief man now on earth, the Rev. Richard count in the indictment, on which the Whalley, of Chelwood, is that man. sentence of condemnation is founded, In humility and sanctity of heart and and the proof of its existence in the life, he is waiting for the summons to day of judgement, will be a sufficient a better world. If any man will justification of the sentence of exclu- do his will, he shall know of the docsion from God and happivess. And trine, &c.” indeed its existence must be a

Auother essential mean of grace, plete disqualification for the enjoy. (I say essential, if attainable is a ment and presence of God. Such a constant attendance on appointed orcomparison as that which I have men- dinances. “ Faith cometh by hearing, tioned, which reason is capable of and hearing by the word of God." forming from the external revelation, “It pleases God, by the foolishness of must produce a conviction that I am preaching,” (an instrument which in guilty, unholy, helpless, condemned the eye of carnal reason, appears to and undone.

be inadequate to the end proposed, But what subordinate means are and the efficacy of which depends not to be used for the purpose of produc- on moral suasion, but on divine demoning this conviction? . I mean subor- stration,)“ to save them that believe." dinate to the proper exercise of rea Such is the divine plan, such the orson, and the strivings of God's holy dinance of God. And we must conSpirit. Among these I specify the form to God's appointments if we indispensable duty of private prayer, would partake of his salvation.as you have suggested in your note. Would not the Israelites have perishIf I cannot excite in myself the feel- ed justly, had they objected to, and ings of desire and hope, the spirit of refused a compliance with God's prayer, I can use the posture, and the ordinance of looking to a brazen serwords of prayer, and I must pray to pent, for recovery from the bite of the be enabled to pray; equally indispen- fiery serpents, however inefficacious sable is the duty of reading the scrip- in its own nature, that ordinance tures; as "the Word of God;" they might appear. I need not dwell on are to be taken in their literal, gram- the supreme importance, assigned to matical sense; we must judge of the principle of faith in the scriptures. their meaning for ourselves, only re- By it, instrumentally, we are pardonmembering that it is the province of doned, sanctified and saved; by it, we reason not to make a revelation, but receive all holy comfort here, and to understand that which is made; maintain the hope of everlasting life ; pot to prescribe what God should say, this faith evidently implies, some but to understand and apply what He ground on which it builds, some warhas said. I have a friend who in time rant for the persuasion it implies, some of the deepest distress for the loss of testimony, to which it gives credit. a wise, and previously destitute of Now it is the office of reason, to gather any acquaintance with the gospel sal- from the scriptures, what the ground vation, had recourse to the bible for of comfort, the warrant of persuasion, comfort, -he read, but could find the testimony of truth is; and to this

enquiry, reason is bound to apply all holiness and happiness. Scriptural her energies, because the subject is sentiments constitute the object of (reason herself being the judge or faith, even that "faith which workumpire,) supremely momentous. eth by love," purifies the heart, and This testimony relates to the doctrine “is the substance of things hoped for, of the law, and that of the gospel; the the evidence of things not seen," and natural state of man, and the provis- though they are not the criterion of ions of grace; the sentence of con- conversion, since a sound head may demnation for sin, and the acquittal be accompanied by an unsanctified through grace. Here is employment heart, yet they are the essential antefor natural reason, and if she neglects cedents of a state of salvation, since the proper office, it is no wonder if an unsound creed is incompatible that principle which is super-natural with renewed affections. Among the be withheld, even the faith which is essentials of bible principles, I acof the operation of God.

knowledge the doctrine of the fall, Now, my dear sir, to apply all this and that of redemption ; but on these to the conscience, have we used those points in all their bearings, let reameans which are within our power ? son simple and unbiassed, form her means that are usually called means owo judgement on scripture premises. of grace? because, they lead to the I am persuaded you will pardon the acquisition of that grace which bring- length to which I have, without preeth salvation. I am aware that by vious design, drawn out these obserusing those means, we cannot lay the vations, and the liberty I have taken Author of grace under any obligation in them. I must adopt the language of debt to confer his benefits upon us; of a celebrated preacher, " ì had but He himself hath in His word, and not time to be shorter," the motive by His mere mercy, engaged to be- must apologize for so great an intrustow those benefits upon those who sion on your attention. The subject conscientiously use the means. And is incomparably important; 1 only I am satisfied from the word of God, wish the discussion had fallen into that no one ever persevered in the use better hands. But God can work by of those means which are in every whatever instruments he pleases, and man's power, who was finally disap- often glorifies his own power, by empointed of his hope. I have no in- ploying the weakest. ' In his hand formation, my dear sir, as to the the adaptation of the means to the end present state of your creed, which is a matter of no consequence. has, in times past, differed from my Believe me, dear sir, with sentiown; this I consider to be a matter ments of sincere regard, to be your of the highest importance; I need obliged and obedient friend and sernot say that opinions lie at the root vant, of both experience and practice, of

THOMAS T. BIDDULPH.

miscellaneous. For the Christian Spectator. in part.” An inquiry arises respecOn the imperfection of our religious ting this description of the limitation knowledge in the present world.

of our religious knowledge, highly in

teresting in its relation to practice, The knowledge vouchsafed to man whether the apostle has reference to in the present state of probation, has the opinions which men are able to been characterized, as limited in its form on religious subjects, from their estent, by the apostle, in these words: means of knowledge, compared with “We know in part, and we prophesy the reality; or, which they are able

to form from their means of knowl- bave no correct and certain know). edge compared with the vast extent edge on religious subjects ? of the objects of knowledge.

Secondly; Paul uniformly speaks, Is the defect merely in the opinions on the religious subjects of which he which men are able to derive from treats, with the decision of absolute the means they possess of knowledge ? knowledge. Does the apostle mean to affirm that “ They that are in the flesh cannot there is no such thing in the present please God.”

6 The natural man state as arriving at certainty of know- receiveth not the things of the Spirit ledge on religious subjects ? that the of God.” Here is no doubt. Here Atheist, the Deist, the Pagan, the is no uncertainty. The apostle asJew, the Papist, the Mahometan, the serts something which he knows to Socinian, the Christian, are all mere be true. Predestinated according learners, without having yet come to

to the

purpose of him, who worketh the certain knowledge of any religious all things after the counsel of his own truth? that we are all as men, neces

will. He hath chosen us in him sitated alike, to be in uncertainty a before the foundation of the world.” bout religious truths, whatever are “ He hath mercy on whom he will our means of knowledge? Do we all have mercy, and whom he will he so “know in part," that we cannot hardeneth. There is no indecision be decided, that we have a certain bere. The apostle knows that he knowledge on any one religious truth? is asserting what is true. “By him Is this the meaning of the apostle? [Christ Jesus] were all things cre

We will allow the apostle himself ated that are in heaven and in earth." to speak on this question.

What doubt is here? What is there First, then, the apostle claims to of ignorance? “Who shall be punhimself the infallible knowledge of ished with everlasting destruction from an inspired teacher of religious the presence of the Lord.” Here truth. “I certify you, brethren, all is light. All is certainty. Can that the gospel which was preached it be then that such a mau ever made of me is not after man. For I nei- the assertion, that he had no correct ther received it of man, neither was I and certain religious knowledge whattaught it, but by the revelation of Je ever? sus Christ.” “Paul, an apostle of Thirdly. Paul urges definite opinJesus Christ, by the will of God.” ions on his fellow men as religious " The truth of Christ is in me.” “We certainties. The very office he per. have the mind of Christ.” “We formed of preaching to others, imhave received the Spirit which is of plies that he communicated to them God, that we might know the things truths, which he esteemed it important that are freely given to us of God.” for them to understand and believe.

Now, since Christ had promised to The appeal however is made to his give his disciples the Spirit to guide declarations. “By revelation he made them into the truth, and since Paul, known unto me the mystery; as I who makes these claims to the infali- wrote afore in few words; whereby, bility of an inspired teacher of Christ, when ye read, ye may understand my wrought abundantly," the signs of an knowledge in the mystery of Christ.” apostle,” it must be conceded that “If any man preach any other gospel his claims to infallible knowledge unto you than that ye have received, are just. Paul then, at least for one, let him be accursed.” He certainly koew some religious truths with abso- esteemed his fellow-men capable of unlute certainty. Can it be believed derstanding the opinions he taught, then that such a man as Paul meant, and most solemnly bound, too, to adin the declaration we are examining, mit them as religious truths. Can it to class himself with his fellow-men, be then, that he should have declared or his fellow-christians, and say, we to those fellow-christians whom he

« AnteriorContinuar »