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mation from which the preceding have other parts of the world, by David been sketched, has been derived princi- Benedict,” an enlarged edition of pally from “A General History of the which was published last year in New Baptist Denomination in America and York.
THE STATE OF RELIGION.
To the Editor of the Baptist Magazine.
SIR,-I have been favoured to read the Baptist Magazine from its commencement, and also the Baptist Register which preceded it. But my contributions to their pages, for various reasons, which I forbear to specify, have been short and few. For some time past it has pleased the great and wise Head of the church to lay me aside from all public labour, and to confine me to the chamber of pain and weakness. In this state I have been employing my pen on different subjects connected with personal godliness, and the prosperity of the church of our beloved Lord.
Some papers in your late Magazines have induced me to transcribe and send the subsequent observations which are at your service for insertion.
JAMES LISTER. 56 Falkner Street, Liverpool, November 21, 1848.
The state of true religion in the pre- | Africa, in Asia, and in various islands sent day may be viewed under two of the ocean. Their beneficial working aspects, the favourable symptoms, and at home, in our many town the unfavourable.
missions and rural itinerancies, must Many are of opinion that personal not be overlooked. and vital religion is not only not declin 4th. What can be more cheering than ing, but is on the increase ; and refer our Sunday schools, covering all parts to the following and similar evidences. of our country, and scarcely wanting in
1st. The British and Foreign Bible any locality, or absent from any place Society; the operations of which show of worship? the extent and power of religious prin- 5th. Surely true religion must be on ciple, and furnish that great instrument the advance, say many, if proof can be by which the Spirit effects the conver- afforded by the rapid increase of sion and salvation of men. What an churches, chapels, and meeting houses amount of Christian love and energy is for public worship. brought into action by its agents, 6th. Does not the literature of the auxiliaries, associations, contributors, day bear testimony also to the fact ? which spread over so many portions of Within these few years a great change Christendom !
has occurred in the publications of every 2nd. The London Tract Society stands class and order. Formerly there was, next to it as an engine for the advance- at least, a want of gospel truth and ment of Christianity.
Christian spirit in some leading peri3rd. Above all are Christian missions, odicals, while too many popular works which, like the two former, are of recent were constructed on principles which origin in our land, but are now found, were a grief to pious minds. I believe, in every department of the 7th. Infidelity, before the close of the Christian church. Look at their number, last century and at the beginning of their supporters, their agents, their this, was, at least, in a different position stations, on the continent of Europe, in from its present. Then, the higher and
middle classes, and even royal person indicates the state of the heart towards ages, were to be found among its de- Christ and God. fenders, and patrons of its defenders. 3rd. The real state of Sunday school For some time it has lost such ascend- teachers. Can we fairly estimate all of ancy, and seems to have made its way them as having first devoted themselves more among the lower and lowest to the Saviour ? Far be it from me, classes. And does not such a change Mr. Editor, to put this down as a qualimanifest the progress and power of fication necessary to admit one to the gospel truth?
office. Churches and friends must often 8th. A new and widely extending do as they can. But we cannot expect organization, founded on the great the conversion of children when their principles of vital Christianity, “ The teachers are unrenewed. Evangelical Alliance," to unite Chris 4th. Candidates for the ministry. It tians in love and reciprocal avowal, and is very evident that in the present state in co-operation for the common cause, of British society, as impregnated widely is, perhaps with many, a most satisfac- with talents, and education, and science, tory fruit and test of the progress and among all orders, that candidates for power of true godliness in the present the sacred office should be generally day.
men eminent for gifts, piety, zeal, beA consideration of these and similar nevolence, and exemplary habits and cheering symptoms leads many to this conduct, from every rank of the Chrisconclusion. And it would be ungracious tian profession. Is such a just expectato submit these symptoms to a severe tion warranted by facts ? This is a and harsh examination, influenced by a very tender subject, and details could censorious or desponding spirit. Let do no good. But facts cannot be set them have their full weight. They did, aside. Is our ministry what it should and could only, originate, I am per- be? There are pastors throughout the suaded, in true Christian and philan- land, each in his own charge, whose thropic principles, and can only be heart and powers are with Christ ; who carried on or extended by them. read, study, speak, visit, and preach, for
But let us look to the symptoms of a Christ ; whose all of time, and of what different complexion.
can be spared of their income, is conse1st. Amidst the machinery at opera- crated to Christ and to his cause. tion, examine the results in conversions, Would that all were such ! “ The Lord so far as they come before us in acces of the harvest send forth labourers into sions to the churches. Statistics of his harvest !" different denominations here, and in 5th. Examine the management of America, India, and Asia, have been secular business with professors. Few published ; and all concur in the de- of the highest ranks are called. Many pressing fact of decrease, at least not of of the lowest ranks are abandoned to increase. For some years past these indifference and incredulity. The authentic statements have been gradu- strength of the churches generally conally approaching (with exceptions) to sists of the intermediate links of the this painful conclusion.
social chain. Merchants, tradesmen, 2nd. Let spiritual experimental con- shopkeepers, professional men, artists, verse among professing Christians be workmen of all descriptions, are found viewed as another test. Talking about in our audiences, and among our combooks, schools, missions, ministers, can- municants. Compare their traffic and not be included in such communion as business with those of merelyworldly men.
Here I must pause. The comparison, feared, would be put in a low part of I fear, would prove of no honour to the scale. Christianity. Eagerness after gain, 8th. I must not enter on another speculation to excess, extravagance of branch of what appears to me a sympexpenditure, or mean hoarding, injus- tom of decline in spirituality. The tice, untruthfulness, employment of the great interest taken in politics by prowhole time and all the energies of the fessors, and by professors eminent for mind and body to business, exclusive of character and for influence in the church Christ's service, will be found. And of God. I cannot reconcile this warm not a few worldly men will appear su part in all political matters which is perior to Christian professors in all the taken and openly defended, with the excellencies of honourable trading and spirit of Christ's kingdom, which is not the substantials of morality.
of this world, nor with the true position 6th. Of one matter where exertions of Christians as strangers and pilgrims are judged to be great, and where so on earth. Nor have I ever seen one cieties are brought into comparison, i.e., example in which devotedness to polithe amount of income for missionary tics did not injure the spirituality and purposes, let a candid survey be taken. piety of the individual. And this The Bible Society, the Church Mission statement is the fruit of observation ary Society, and others, have £100,000, and experience during a life of conmore or less, annually. And, doubtless, siderable length. If there be a declencontributions from the poor to the sion of true religion, the question may auxiliaries and associations for these in- be put, what is the remedy? What is stitutions, are a sacrifice to them, and to be done? It is a question affecting honour their profession. But what is each of us. And the question, if we £100,000 a year from thousands who be in earnest, will lead to this inquiry, are wealthy? If contributions be the Am I converted ? Am I a Christian, test of our Christian love and zeal, love and a new creature? This is the beand zeal are faint.
ginning, the gate into the narrow way, 7th. Another feature in our day is for which there is no substitute in mere the little amount of working by pro- knowledge, or morality, or profession. fessors in doing good. Few who are
" Except ye be converted, ye cannot above want refuse to give money for enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matt. a benevolent purpose, but time and xviii. 3. labour are mostly withheld, and contributions from such motives are no sacri What is conversion deserves a serious fice. By this test many professors, it is reply.
A NEW YEAR'S ADDRESS TO THE ALMOST CHRISTIAN.
BY THE REV. CORNELIUS ELVEN.
THAT was a remarkable concession to , “ Almost !” not quite! O fatal indethe faithfulness and verity of Paul's cision! A noble vessel was driven by preaching, when his royal hearer ex the fury of the storm against a rock, claimed, “ Almost thou persuadest me and, ribbed and barred as it was with to be a Christian," Acts xxvi. 28. oak and iron, it was crushed like a nut
shell. Oh, it was an awful night ; the / we tremble to think you may also designals of distress were hoisted, and a ceive yourselves. You have compunclife-boat was launched upon the foamy tions of conscience, tender emotions, billows. It reached the wreck, and one kindly feelings, and have observed after another stepped into it and were external religious duties; and, we fear, saved. But one poor sailor, lingering that this sort of pseudo-religious expebehind the rest to get something from rience may help you to evade the point the shattered vessel, the boat had put and edge of the most discriminating off for the shore, and although he made ministry. For example, when we insist an effort to reach it, and actually got upon the absolute necessity of repentone hand upon it, and was almost saved, ance, you revert to your natural conyet losing his hold, he plunged into the victions, which, although they have briny deep, and was lost ! And many never led you as weeping penitents to of you who have constantly assembled the cross, you set down for the "fruit with the people of God during the past of the Spirit.” year, are in the same state of indecision If the inward conflict of the believer as you were at its commencement, still is described, because you cannot sin so lingering between the wreck and the cheap as others who have no light, and life-boat-the world and Christ.
slavish fear sometimes disturbs
your All the year long have Christian self-complacency, although it never leads ministers and friends been regarding you to “wrestle against flesh and blood,” you with intense and prayerful anxiety. like the true soldiers of Jesus Christ, Many of you are amiable in your out- there is danger of your classing yourward conduct, estimable for your natural self among them. kindness, your constant attendance on Or, if we urge the necessity of love the ministry of the word, your co-ope to the saints, as an evidence of grace, ration with the people of God in Sunday then, because you have a feeling of reschools, distributing tracts, and con- spect and esteem for the “excellent of tributing to the cause of Christ. Yet the earth,” you mistake this for spiritual you have not given your hearts to him. affection. Oh, the innumerable coils of It is recorded of Redwald, king of the the heart's deception, who shall unroll East Saxons, that in the same church them, and show the rottenness at the he had different apartments, in which core ? borderers on Immanuel's there was one altar for the Christian land, your repentance is not unto religion, and another for the heathens. life;" you may have to struggle with And thus, we fear, you would fain divide your convictions, but you know nothing the rooms of your hearts, so as to have of the "holy war.” You may fancy an altar of Christ, if you might also you love the people of God, but you are have a shrine for mammon. But all for quite as happy with the men of the all is a righteous rule, and all or none world ; you seem Christians in the comis the requirement of God. Son, give pany of Christians, and are equally me thine heart.” And oh, that you agreeable companions in the society of would say at once,
the worldly. You resemble those of
whom the prophet complained, who "Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
spake half in the speech of Ashdod, Seal it from thy courts above.",
and could not speak in the Jews' lanSome of you have so much that guage, but according to the language of resembles religion, that while you per- each people,” Neh. xii. 24. plex us with alternate hopes and fears, possess many pleasing qualities, but
there is “one thing" you lack, and that written, “If any man love not the Lord is, supreme love to Christ; you have not Jesus Christ, let him be accursed,” 1 cordially exclaimed,
Cor. xvi. 22. Oh that at the beginning * O Christ, I freely have from thee,
of this new year you would choose " the Thyself, and all that's thine ;
good part which shall not be taken away And justly thou requir’st of me,
from you." Thousands, like you, have Myself, and all that's mine."
tampered with religion, and trifled with It may be true, then, that you are salvation, till years have slipped impernot swearers, or drunkards, or perse- ceptibly away, and the end of their cutors, or open sabbath breakers or almost Christianity has been eternal adulterers, but you are not lovers of death! “Oh that men were wise, that Christ, and that seals your character, they understood this, that they would and will seal your doom, for it is consider their latter end."
Bury St. Edmunds.
THE HAPPINESS OF THE MERCIFUL.
BY THE REV. JOHN JORDAN DAVIES.
“Blessed are the merciful.” The merciful are happy. Apart from splendour and for pleasure which seem to the promise which is given to them, divide between them the empire of the and which will assuredly be fulfilled, world. Men are far more ready, also, they are blessed in themselves ; the for the most part, to listen to the voice disposition which they cherish is a of passion, and to obey the dictates of perennial spring of felicity, a source of revenge, than they are to subdue their deep tranquillity and holy joy.
angry feelings, and to yield to the influThat Jesus should pronounce the ence of mercy. But Jesus always merciful happy, will not appear strange taught the way of God in truth : the to us if we have listened to his words merciful are blessed. in the former part of this discourse, for This is true of mercy to the guilty we have already heard him pronounce and the injurious. If some have said “the poor in spirit,” and “those who that “revenge is sweet," they have said mourn," and "those who hunger and it ignorantly, and under the influence thirst after righteousness,” happy ; and of a guilty and wretched infatuation many who would think such assertions It may appear sweet for a moment, but strange and paradoxical, not unfre- afterwards it is bitter as gall, and venoquently admire and commend the mous as the serpent's sting. Unerring benevolent and philanthropic. The wisdom has decided that he who "ruleth sentiment expressed by our Lord in his spirit is better,” in every respect these words is, nevertheless, not in better and happier, “than he that accordance with the practice or with taketh a city.” Anger, envy, hatred, the language of the world. Those who malice, revenge, all the feelings and listen to the dictates of mercy, who act passions which are opposed to a merciful as they are prompted by a spirit of true spirit, are excessively cruel, and nece: benevolence, must disregard that love sarily destructive of the peace and of wealth and power, and that taste for happiness of him who indulges them ;
VOL XII..--FOURTH SERIES.