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quainted with the state of society | a similar cause? God has given
in our cities, towns, and villages, that does not know, from the ignorance which exists, and the dissipation which prevails, that a large proportion of our countrymen are still labouring under the most fatal of all diseases, namely, a carnal mind, which is enmity against God, and which is not subject to his law, neither indeed can be? Jehovah is saying in his word, respecting the state of so ciety in England, as well as of Israel, "I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright; no man repented of his wickedness, saying, What have I done?" Instead of a spirit of contrition and self-condemnation, does there not evidently prevail, even among those who would be classed with the disciples of the Saviour, a spirit of presumption and selfjustification? Is there not reason to apprehend, that very many persons who hear evangelical preachers, are still unconverted and unsanctified? To all such it may be said, in the impassioned language of the weeping prophet, "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people reco
them his word, and ministers to publish the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to declare the unparalleled sufficiency of his blood to take away the guilt and pollution of sin. Does not the fault lie wholly in the patients themselves, who refuse to submit to the prescription? Is not the blood of Christ more sufficient to heal the wounded conscience, and the distempered heart, than any medicines to cure the diseases of the body? Why then are not sinners healed? The Saviour himself, the great Physician, answers the question-"They will not come unto me that they may have life."
Among these are many who, notwithstanding the plain declaration that "all flesh have corrupted their way," nevertheless deem themselves whole, and insist upon it that they "need not the Physician." Ignorant of God's righteousness, they go about to establish their own righteousness; and thus all the awful denunciations of the law of God are lost upon them. They have no conception that they are the "wicked, with whom God is angry every day;" that their prayer is an abomination to the Lord; that they are the proud whom the Lord abhors. Hence, through the pride of their countenance, they do not seek after God; nor repent of their wickedness; nor inquire what they shall do to be saved; nor bathe in the fountain which is open for sin and unclean
The interrogation supposes that the continued maladies of Israel arose from infidelity. "God had sent prophets," says Bishop Lowth, as so 66 as so many spiritual physicians; and they had given them the best advice; but the fault lay wholly in the patients themselves, who refused to sub-ness; nor apply to the balm in mit to their prescriptions." And may not the unsuccessfulness of the means of spiritual instruction, for the renovation of the heart, and the sanctification of the life, of those who are hearers of the gospel of Christ, be attributed to
Gilead, and the Physician there. There are persons so bewildered with erroneous views of their own character, that the skill of the great Physician is utterly unknown to them. The God of this world has blinded their eyes, lest the
light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine upon them. It is to them as if there were no Saviour, nor Sanctifier. They trust in themselves that they are righteous, and expect heaven without faith, regeneration, or holiness of heart and life. Of this class, it is to be feared, are many of the children of Christian parents; they have the form of godliness, but know nothing of its power; they consider themselves safe for eternity, while they are neglecting the great salvation. Is it at all wonderful, that with such a state of mind, the hurt of sinners is not healed?
Besides these, there are persons of another description. They attend an evangelical ministry, and have constantly heard that they are sinners, exposed to the just condemnation of the law of God; and they feel tormenting fears from the exercises of mind which a "spirit of bondage" excites. They have a "wounded spirit." The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, has pricked them to the heart. They are desirous of obtaining eternal life, and they aim to do some good thing, in order that they may inherit it. They think it is not for them to receive the atonement, not understanding that "God justifieth the ungodly, who believeth in Jesus;" and not comprehending that he who "worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly," is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law. Many of these, it may be presumed, are not aware, that they are secretly encouraging an unbelieving and pharisaical spirit, which prevents them from "submitting to the righteousness of God," and from depending upon Christ, who is the end of the law for righteousness to every
one that believeth. Is it therefore any wonder that, while they are substituting other means of cure, and other methods of recovery, for those which God has appointed, their malady remains? If an ignorant person should resolve to be his own physician, and should refuse all medicines but those of his own prescribing, would any one be surprised if his disorder was not healed? And if sinners, instead of "coming to Christ" according to his most free and gracious invitation, seek salvation as it were by the works of the law, do they not, as it might be expected, spend their money upon unskilful physicians, and grow worse rather than better? A heart-felt sense of the guilt of sin is a disease too deeply seated to be reached by any other remedy than the blood of sprinkling. An application of this, and of this only, will purge the conscience." When faith appropriates and applies the blood of Christ, that sovereign balm heals the wounds of a guilty conscience, and the mind finds ease and refreshment. An elegant writer has thus expressed himself, for the encouragement of sinners, under a sense of guilt, to depend upon the promises of Christ in the gospel: "Can the thirsty soul taste of the running water, and not find refreshment; since God, who created water, has ordained it to refresh the thirsty? Can weary limbs lie down on a bed, and not find ease; since a bed is made to give ease and rest to the weary? Can a fainting creature drink a divine cordial, appointed to give life, and yet feel no revival? No more can a guilty, distressed, and penitent sinner believe the truths of the gospel, and trust in Jesus the Saviour, and yet find no relief; for it is the
will and settled law of the God of heaven, that peace and holiness shall be obtained in this way.
are to every good work reprobate," is, they hate the Physician, and his means of cure. That their heart therefore is not healed is very easily to be accounted for: they love the disease of sin better than the salvation of Christ, because their deeds are evil. Such persons are to be found where the doctrines of grace are preached speculatively, and not experimentally and practically. Of such ministers it may be said, "They have healed the heart of the daughter of my peo
was the minister of sin ;" and that, instead of giving himself for us, to cleanse us from all iniquity, It is to be feared there are per- and to purify to himself a pecusons of a third class, who attend liar people zealous of good the preaching of the gospel with- works, he had shed his blood, out any intention to receive the that people with religion in their truth, and to obtain the cure of mouths, and the love of sin in their souls from the contagion of their hearts, might have the pecusin. They act as if they were in liar privilege of crucifying the love with their disease; convert- Son of God afresh, and of putting ing the means which are pre-him to an open shame. The fact scribed as an antidote against sin, respecting such ungodly men, who into an encouragement of vice"know not the truth, and who and uncleanness, thereby proving that their very mind and conscience are defiled. They turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, and derive aliment for their Justs, from that flood from which believers receive the life of their souls. To silence the upbraidings of conscience, which they sometimes hear, they deny that they are free agents, and that they voluntarily choose the way of wickedness, and affect to believe that they are impelled by an involuntary necessity to the commission of sin. Thus, in direct opposi-ple slightly, saying, Peace, peace, tion to the injunction of the apostle, they say that they are tempted of God, and endeavour to stifle the voice of conscience, which tells them that " they are drawn away by their own lust, and enticed." Or, from having listened to the instruction which has caused them to err, they have concluded that their presumptuous confidence of safety is "the feeble assurance of hope," and they ward off the arrows of truth with the shield of a system, which teaches them that conviction of sin is no part of the Holy Spirit's work, but the working of a legal spirit, and the exercise of unbelief. To judge of the genius of the gospel from the sentiments and conduct of such men, the conclusion would be, that" Christ
when there is no peace." And concerning such professors it may be said, "Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush; therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord."
What an awful responsibility attaches to them who preach the gospel! Happy are they who are able to say, "We are a sweet savour of Christ in them that are saved, and in them that perish: to the one we are a savour of death unto death, and to the other a savour of life unto life; and who is sufficient for these things?"
deem Christians, and performing
PROTESTANT DISSENTERS. by yourselves the rites of divine
You have not to learn that youth is the season best adapted for instilling into the mind religious principles, and forming it to habits of piety and benevolence. But while, in the general, with laudable diligence you train up your children in the way wherein they should go, are you not deficient in one point, namely, in inculcating on their minds the principles by which you are distinguished as Dissenters? These principles, it is granted, are of far less importance than the truths common to sincere Christians of all denominations. Yet, while I would discourage as much as possible sectarian feelings, I cannot forbear entreating you to instruct your children more thoroughly in those views which you entertain as Protestant Dissenters.
When Moses commanded the Israelites to keep the passover, he supposed that, in the lapse of time, their children might be desirous to know the origin of that rite; he therefore taught them to say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord's passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And is there not something in you which will equally excite the curiosity of your children? Will they not wonder, since the disciples of Christ ought to constitute one body in ance as well as in reality, they being all branches of the same tree, at your separating from those persons in the established church whom there is reason to
Exod. xii. 27.
worship? Will they not think you guilty of violating the unity of the church, of interrupting the fraternal intercourse that ought to prevail among Christians, and of establishing an interest hostile to the communion of saints? What answer will you give to their inquiries, and how will you justify a procedure, which appears at first sight so little consonant with the maxims of scripture, and the practice of the purest ages of the church? Surely you ought to explain to them the necessity in which dissent originated, and by which it is still justified. In order that your ancestors may not be considered as the authors, and yourselves as the abettors, of a wanton and detestable schism, it behoves you to state the grounds on which you think yourselves obliged to form a religious community by yourselves.
It would tend to correct your remissness in this particular, if you were to pay attention to the zeal and diligence of churchmen, With them the excellence of their church is an incessant theme of panegyric. The evangelical purity of its doctrine, its apostolical constitution, its primitive discipline, its decorous ceremonies, and its charitable spirit, are the topics of innumerable charges and orations. The accusations which they bring against Dissenters, of diversity of opinion, of imperfection in their mode of worship, and of a needless and therefore criminal separation from the most pure and most primitive of churches, furnish them with matter for copious declamation, strengthen the attachment of their adherents to the national church, and aggravate their abhorrence of dissent. To counteract these effects, and
clergy being restrained by the
to prevent these representations them; the intolerance of the from imposing on your children, is it not necessary to tell them again and again, that there was no religious establishment until nearly the middle of the fourth century; that the Christian church became greatly corrupted soon after that dreadful event; that believers ought not to be yoked together with unbelievers; and that therefore every religious establishment is necessarily wrong and antiscriptural? When you have deep-children, you will seem ungrateful
ly laid this foundation, you may then proceed to state to them, as minor considerations, your objections to the general frame and constitution of the church of England; to its officers; to its liturgy; to its ceremonies; to its impositions; to its discipline; to the forcing of ministers upon the people without their choice; to its spiritual courts; to its tithes ;* &c. &c. It may also not be amiss to furnish them with a history of the Nonconformists, and of their sufferings in the cause of religious dissent.
churchmen are there who begrudge you the exercise of the privileges with which you are by the laws invested! In this state of things, it surely becomes you to transmit to your offspring the legacy of noble and generous principles, which you inherited. If you take not pains to instil them into the minds of your
to your ancestors, who maintained them at the risk of liberty, fortune, and life. Let it not be imagined that you have relinquished those exalted sentiments to which this nation owes its fame, its security, and its happiness.
You think the views which you entertain of the constitution and discipline of the Christian church consonant to the scripture, and to the practice of the first ages, Of course, you must suppose the prevalence of them connected in a degree with the purity and vigour of the Christian religion. While you teach your children the doctrines which you hold in common with other Christians, can you be satisfied, as if you had discharged your duty, if you explain not to them the opinions which distinguish you as Dissenters?
The existence of Dissenters, too, is beneficial to the church itself. When their doctrines are illustrated by practice, it has a great influence on the church. It checks the extravagant pretensions in which her members are prone to indulge; it lays a restraint on her corruptions and abuses; it promotes among her clergy learning and decorum of manners; and it excites their zeal, and stimulates them to a