« AnteriorContinuar »
As all authority derives from God as its source, and is the visible image of his dominion, I conceive it to be our duty to attend to every intimation we find in Scripture on this subject, which may assist our habitual conduct. There are few persons but what possess some kind and degree of authority, however limited or temporary: in proportion as they consider it a part of the image of the divine government, they may learn to tremble, lest they abuse and deface it. Murder is declared the greatest of social crimes, “ because in the image of God made he man.” All sins derive their degree of turpitude as they terminate in offence to God. It may further be considered, that very few persous in the world are exempted by their station from some obedience, and it is evident that the same view which is necessary to a conscientious, will alone constitute a a right, submission. This may apologize for my troubling you with the present inquiry, which, after all, you may judge to contain nothing worthy a place in your miscellany. If so, I must entreat your pardon for the intrusion, being, with real respect, Sir, Your’s, MARIA.
ignorant of the Gospel; and in con: sequence I take the liberty of troubling you with a few remarks upon the subject, which have occurred to my own mind, especially as the papers already published seem to require some farther expla: nation.—Your correspondent, Academicus, contends “that no Christian minister can safely blench, for a single week, from a full and un: equivocal statement of the genuine doctrines of the Gospel;” and he supports his position by a very so. lemn consideration. O, Sir, we who preach can never sufficiently keep in view that we are dying Men speaking to dying men. We preside over the same congregation for years; but seldom, perhaps, do we address an audience in which there is not some individual who never heard us before, who never will hear us again, and who, per haps, is an utter stranger to the truth as it is in Jesus. Surely, Sir with this consideration before us, we should say with the pious pro: fessor Franck, “The design and drift of every sermon should be such, that if a person should happen to hear the preacher but once in all his life, he might even, by means of that one sermon, get some no. tion of the one thing needful, and be just entered at least into the way of salvation *!” But your corres. pondent, N–S, seems in some respects to differ from Academicus. lie thinks, that “the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel cannot be plainly, familiarly, and broadly preached among a people unaccustomed to them, without exciting virulent opposition and bitter prejudice;” that, therefore, the new incumbent “should preach and act at first with caution, avoid shewing any invidious distinction between himself and his brethren; and be careful, while endeavouring to conciliate his flock by shewing how far he and they agree, not for a
*See Franck's most useful way of preach. ing, printed for Button, price 6d.
moment to betray those grand and fundamental points which he rightly conceives to be the basis of all true religion.” “The Gospel message, however, is still to be delivered in all its purity, with all its unbend. ing firmness; but it is to be couched in terms which may render its acceptance more probable; it is to be proposed in a manner which may, if possible, render its outward form less disgusting.” Now these passages, I confess, I do not clearly understand; nay, they appear to me somewhat inconsistent, for I cannot comprehend how the Gospel message is to be delivered in all its purity, unless its peculiar doctrines are plainly, familiarly, and broadly preached. If, however, all that is meant is, that while the Gospel message is to be delivered, the preacher is to guard against giving unnecessary offence, by grossness, by rash assertions, by unfounded assumptions, by ill-demonstrated propositions, &c., all will concede the propriety of the remark; but it is evident that N–X means something more than this, and that some peculiar doctrines are for a season to be kept- in the back ground. Nascitur, therefore, may well inquire what these doctrines are ; and when his friend will be justified in bringing them forwards? He may also ask, are they essential or non-essential to salvation ? And if they are found to be essential, Academicus will doubtless wish to know what is the condition of those who die before “the disposition of the people to hear grows stronger ?” Far be it from me, Mr. 12ditor, to assert “that prudence is but another name for indifference, and caution but another word for fear;” but I would just hint, that our prudence and our caution may be carried too far—and, if carried too far, may lead to consequences equally ruinous with carelessness and rashness. Perhaps, this is the 1most dangerous symptom of the present day. The youngest of us Christ. Qassay... No. 117.
can point out the imprudences of a Whitfield, or the mistakes of a Fletcher; but where can we find that love, that zeal, that impassioned warmth, that never-ceasing activity, which made them offer up themselves for the sacrifice and service of the church of God 2 In attempting to answer the question proposed by Nascitur, it ma be expedient to suppose a particular case, and it may not be improper, to consider that which appears to me the most difficult. Let then the predecessor of our young incumbent have been one of that class which is usually termed respectable ;-a moral, regular, benévolent, literary character; a man, who, while he preached the doctrine of justification by works, endeavoured to prove his belief in that doctrine by encouraging every useful and beneficent undertaking. Suppose, for instance, he was exactly such a character as the late Honourable and Reverend Mr. Cadogan, when first he settled at Reading. How, in such a case, is our young incumbent to preach He will probably reason with himself somewhat in this way. “These people are trusting to themselves that they are righteous, because they understand not what true righteousness is: they know not the nature and the extent of the law of God: unless they are taught what this is, they will never welcome the doctrine of salvation by faith in the merits of a crucified Redeemer. They are not aware of their ignorance and their weakness; and until they know this, they will never earnestly seek for the teaching and the strengthening of God's Holy Spirit. They are not sufficiently impressed with the threatenings of God's word; and until this is the case, they will not flee from the wrath to come: and yet they are so thoroughly wrapped up in their own opinions, that, without the special assistance of Divine grace, I shall never succeed in con4 B
vincing them of their danger, and pointing out their remedy. Induced by these considerations, he will probably begin, as N–X intimates, with some generally acknowledged principle ; for instance, that as the Bible is the word of God, to it all appeals must be made, &c. But without stopping in limine to prove this point, he will, perhaps, rather wish immediately to bring his hearers to this conclusion; if the Bible is right, we are wrong; and, therefore, we need the mercy which the Bible offers to sinners. This effect he will probably attempt to produce, by setting before his hearers the extensive nature of God’s law, the spirituality of its . that it calls upon us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and mind, and soul, and strength, and our neighbour as ourselves; that every §. short of this is sin; and that every sin will assuredly be punished, unless paidoned through the Redeemer's blood. Here he will probably bring in the remedy; that “ the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life;” that “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be saved ;” and that “God will give his Holy Spirit to them that ask it.” A discourse embracing these points may doubtless be varied and modified in many different ways, and different proportions; but if these doctrines,—that man is a condemned sinner, that Christ is the only and all-sufficient Saviour, that justification is by faith alone; which faith invariably produces, and is distinguished by, holiness of life,—be not in a greater or a less degree inculcated, I think we cannot say that “the Gospel message is delivered in all its purity.” I must contend that every sermon in which these all-important truths are not advanced, is defective; and the more ignorant any congregation is, the more necessity I conceive there exists for their being plainly, familiarly, and broadly preached.
I fully agree with N–2, that the young incumbent should care. fully avoid shewing any invidious distinction between himself and his brethren. Supposing, for instance, he has been in the habit of preaching from notes, it may be expedient for him to adopt for a time written discourses; nor do I conceive it necessary that he should manifest apar. tiality for either the Calvinistic or Arminian systems; nor should I recommend him to inveigh very kud. ly against cards, or dancing, or the other censurable amusements which may exist in his neighbourhood, until he has had frequent opportu. nities of bringing forwards doctrine and establishing principles of essential importance. Yet still it appear to me that there is some danges, lest, under the name of invidios distinction, we should condemn all distinction. I know not how to preach one sermon upon any on." point of faith or practice, so as to discharge my conscience to God and my people, without differing * much, both in matter and in mannel, from many of the clergy aroun me, as must inevitably be termed an invidious distinction by any por: son in the least prejudiced–L* our young incumbent try the expo riment. Let him take, for instano the Fourth Commandment for his text; and in the course of tho following week, I have little doo but somewhat will be said in hi’ parish, if not in his hearing, abov; preciseness. “Our old parson o to take a walk or a ride, and call his neighbours, or have a few frien, to see him, on a Sunday; but this young man does not know what." would be at.” In fact, the cro" of Christ was to the Jew a stum” bling block, and to the Greek foolishness, and so it is yet. As so * we conceal or fritter away its do trines, ignorant men will go " us; but the moment we bring tho' forwards with due prominence, to will be offended. “Some ind have thought, that by a nice o ment of their phrases, habits, *
connections, they might maintain the truth and yet escape the term *. I pity from my heart an honest man making such fruitless attempts. He is another Sisyphus. He may be wise, but he is not wise enough: he does not see, that so far as he is of the world, the world will love its own, and no further.” I am fully aware that N–X has no idea of eventually concealing the offensive doctrines of the Gospel, and that, therefore, the above quotation is inapplicable to him; it apPears, however, to contain at least a salutary caution, and as such is deserving of serious consideration. It may indeed be objected, that the very writer of that passage, Mr. Cecil, when entering on his ministry at St. John's, adopted the cautious measures which N–2 recommends; but it should also be remembered, that, while we are told generally that he was cautious, we have no data by which we may estimate how far that caution was carried. His being condemned of unfaithfulness by some, proves nothing; since to omit the doctrine of election, may be, in some instances, an unpardonable transgression. It may also be added, that the peculiar character of Mr. Cecil, and the peculiar circumstances of that congregation, were such as to render the precedent almost entirely inapplicable to any other case; and that, notwithstanding his great ultimate success, some very wise and good men, even of his most intimate friends and companions, entertain doubts whether his conduct was, in this instance, altogether justifiable. Indeed, I am not quite certain that it is expedient for the inhabitants of a parish ignorant of the Gospel to suppose, even for one single week, that their new and their old incumbent are of the same opinion. On the contrary, I am inclined to think that a modest and temperate statement of the truth, well supported *Msrnoorst. See Cecil's Works, vol, I. p. 27. Life of Cadogan.
by scriptural arguments, carefully guarded from erroneous inferences, and clearly and plainly discriminating between true and salse doctrine, in such language as to make the difference intelligible even to the lowest of the people, would, if evidently delivered with an affectionate spirit, produce most beneficial effects. It might awaken prejudice, but it would also excite attention; and attention is of infinite importance,—sor, in fact, the most difficult part of our work is to bring men to think. And the very circumstance of a minister's differing from his predecessor, is so calculated to excite curiosity, that many persons will probably be brought to the house of God in order to know what these new doctrines are: so that perhaps the loss sustained by prejudice may be abundantly compensated by curiosity. Nor should it be forgotten, that, in parishes where the Gospel is not preached, the congregations are usually so very small that no great number can withdraw through prejudice, and probably the greater part of them may be conciliated by judicious private attentions. Here, however, I would just inquire, are we not apt to indulge too great regard for the characters, and too great delicacy for the feelings, of ministers who preach not the Gospel? And are we not, in consequence, too remiss in attempting to awaken those who have fallen asleep under their ministrations, from their death-like condition ? We are apt to speak of amiable and respectable clergymen, though they do not enter into right views of Christianity. Is this correct? As men they may be amiable or respectable, but as ministers, unless they preach the truth as it is in Jesus, they have no claim to these titles: they are “false witnesses,” and “blind leaders of the blind.” They must stand, and, may I add, ought always to be placed, in the same class with a physician administering poison instead of medicine, since
every excuse which can apply to
language. Possibly it was with re-