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no difference between the holy and profane."* Thus is the conduct of those priests condemned, who considered all persons, if circumcised, as standing on the same level.
When the God of Israel revealed to Ezekiel in vision, the new city and temple, which are thought to be emblematical of the millennial times, he declared the altered conduct of the priests : “ They shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane.”+ What can more strikingly show the duty of ministers to take forth the precious from the vile.
If Circumcision was to the Jewish Church, what Baptism is to the Christian, an iniatory rite, abounding with New Covenant blessings, precious privileges, and promises to those who rightly received it: and if the Jewish priests were condemned by the Almighty for making no difference between the holy and profane members of their church ; must it not be equally blameable if Christian ministers abstain from dividing the mass of baptised persons into those who serve God, and those who serve him not ?
After delivering his beautiful sermon on the Mount, our Lord divided his hearers into two classes, by the striking parable of the two builders. Those who heard his word and kept it, built upon a rock. Those who heard and disregarded it, built upon the sand.
“ It is therefore of great importance in preaching the gospel, to discriminate between the different characters to whom the message is delivered, and to separate the precious from the vile. If this be neglected, the wicked will hold fast their delusions, and the righteous continue in bondage to their fears; but, if ministers be faithful in the discharge of this part of their duty, those among whom they minister will be led to a knowledge of their own proper character and condition.”I
+ Ezek. xliv. 23. * Simeon.
* Ezek. xxii. 26.
The Church of Rome accounts all those to be her faithful children, who are baptised into the Holy Mother Church; who celebrate the mass; make confession to, and obtain absolution from, the priest ; who rigidly observe the fasts; and blindly obey her dictates. "To such she extends her soothing power, even in their dying moments, by administering the extreme unction, and promising that prayers shall be offered up for their departed souls! The Church is every thing. The Priest is all in all.
Is this Christianity ?
O! that our Protestant Churches may ever guard against the fatal error of thus quieting the conscience, by the mere observance of external rites, crying peace, peace, when there is no peace. Would not this be opening a by-path into the Church of Rome? Would it not be a descent into the darknesses of Papal superstition? Is there no danger of such a descent ? Nothing but sovereign grace can keep us from apostatising from the truth.
As soon as we leave the plain path of Scripture, we get into the labyrinth of error. It is humbling to think how tenaciously some cleave to error, because it is silvered with age.
Our Lord condemned the Jewish rulers, because they taught for doctrines the commandments of men ;* thus setting at nought the commandments of God by their traditions.
It is the arrogant pretensions of the Church of Rome, that her unwritten traditions, and the decrees of her councils, are as binding on the consciences of her members as the revealed written word of God, even though some of those decrees contradict that word. This she founds on her Infallibility.+
Matt. xv. 9. ; Mark vii. 7. + The Rev. Dr. Milner, the Roman Catholic Bishop, in his Sixth Letter to James Brown, Esq., says, “The Catholic rule of faith is not merely the written word of God,' but the whole word of God, both written and unwritten; in other words, Scripture and Tradition, and these propounded and explained by the Catholic Church. This implies that we have a two-fold rule or law, and that we have an interpreter,
By some Protestants it is now received, that Catholic tradition is the only true interpreter of Scripture, even though it is well known that many of the ancient fathers, being uninspired, and therefore fallible men, were dark in some of their views of Gospel truth. Councils and Churches have erred. Where then is infallibility to be found ? No where, but in the unerring word of the living God, the Scriptures of truth. Where is light to be obtained? Only from the promised Spirit of truth, who will guide us into all truth,* if we implore his teaching through the merits of Christ.
To appreciate the labours of good men, and especially of those who lived nearest to the times of the Apostles, is what every right-minded Christian would do. But to make them his STANDARD for doctrine and practice, is what every enlightened Christian could not do. He will follow them, while they follow Christ ; but when they deviate from the revealed path, he dare not tread in the steps even of the immediate successors of the Apostles. * He calls no man, Master, upon earth. He has one Master, even Christ, whose inspired word is his only RULE
Truly we live in sifting times. The mere form of godliness will profit nothing. The true believer must not only dare to be singular in his conduct before the world, by the holiness of his walk, but he must dare to be bold in the confession of his faith,
or judge to explain it, and to decide upon it in all doubtful points.” From the Fifth Letter.-—“Supposing the divine authority of the sacred books themselves to be established; how do you know that the copies of them translated and printed in your Bible are authentic ?” “Manifold is the cause of the obscurity of holy writ.”
The object of the Bishop is summed up in the words of St. Vincent of Lirens :- “ The children of the Church,......must carefully observe the rule laid down by the holy men referred to...... They are to interpret the divine text according to the Tradition of the Catholic Church.”
John xvi. 13.
before those who are masters in Israel. Much courage will be required to maintain his ground, much humility to keep him dependent on divine teaching, much love to preserve him from bitterness of spirit, or uncharitable judging of others. O! that the glorious doctrines of grace may
be living principles in our hearts, humbling our souls before God under deep views of sin ; inspiring us with faith, while beholding the precious Saviour ; kindling our love towards him, who so marvellously loved us; and creating a hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and that renewal of the soul, without which faith is dead, and religion an empty name.
0! Almighty and all-quickening Spirit, make me thy temple. Take away the love and power of sin. Fill me with gracious and heavenly desires, with holy longings after Christ, my beloved and my friend. I want to feel my soul to be all on fire, the fire of celestial love; my affections to be all in motion, ever on the wing towards Christ; my will to be ever inclined to choose his law, to bear his yoke, and to prefer the most arduous duties, the most self-denying commands, for his sake, rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. But where can I find strength sufficient for these things ? Not in myself, for in my flesh dwelleth no good thing. Not from the best of men, for they cannot communicate grace to others. I will look unto the hills whence cometh my help. 0! blessed Saviour, all my fresh springs are in thee.
Without thee I can do nothing. In thee dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodilyfulness of wisdom, power, and love. Replenish my longing soul out of thy fulness. Pour into my heart those living streams which make glad the city of God. Remembering that “God is a Spirit,” may I ever worship thee in spirit and in truth. Preserve me from the dangerous error of resting in the form, instead of seeking after the power of godliness. Make me sincere in all my intentions, and fruitful in every good word and work, till my vile body shall be made like unto thy glorious body, and my soul be perfected in thy presence, according to the working of thy mighty power, whereby thou art able to subdue even all things unto thyself.
XLIV.—THE BLESSINGS FLOWING FROM THE
COVENANT OF GRACE.
“He will ever be mindful of his covenant.”—Psa. cxi. 5.
In the Covenant of Grace, entered into by the three Divine persons in the one Jehovah, before the world began, is treasured up every blessing. Sinners are redeemed “ with the precious blood of Christ......... Who verily was fore-ordained before the foundation of the world."* “The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”+ 66 He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world."* God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." Such are the inspired declarations of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Paul.
The first blessing which the God of all grace bestows upon a ruined world is, THE GIFT OF HIS Son. “God so loved the world, that he gave his onlybegotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." ||
The second blessing which flows to us through the Son is, THE GIFT OF THE Holy Ghost. "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with
for ever ; even the Spirit of Truth."**
The third blessing which is imparted to us through the Holy Ghost is, THE GIFT OF THE SCRIP
“ All Scripture is given by inspiration of ' 1 Pet. i. 19, 20. + Rev. xiii. 8. & Eph. i. 4. § 2 Thess. ii. 13. | John iii. 16.
** John xiv. 16, 17.