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REMARKS UPON A MISSIONARY'S REPORT.
In a Report of the Trustees of the Massachusetts Missionary Society, made at the Annual Meeting in Boston, May 29th, 1810, is found the following quotation from the Rev. John Sawyer's Journal of his labours upon the Kennebeck and Penobscot rivers.
"My labours were greatly lightened and made pleasant by the evident displays of distinguishing grace upon the people in Townships No. 3, and No. 4. It pleased God to awaken and hopefully convert some open despisers of his name; despisers of his word, people, and Sabbaths of God. There was the greatest solemnity I ever witnessed in any assemblies. There appeared a general conviction that God was present. Universalists were confounded-opposition was silenced; and a most pleasing stillness and solemn attention were conspicuous."
However unpleasant it may seem to the feelings of sensibility, it is nevertheless conceived to be the duty of those who are set for the defence of the gospel, faithfully to point out those injurious errors which tend to obscure the light of divine truth. The more particularly unpleasant the above task may be on account of the respectability of the learned gentlemen who are to be corrected by it, the greater is the necessity of faithfulness in the performance, and that on account of the influence which this respectability has on the public mind.
As charity forbids us to suppose that either the Rev. Mr. Sawyer or the learned Trustees would willingly misrepresent the sentiments of others, we are under the necessity of suggesting that they must be unacquainted with the most essential ideas in Universalism, one of which is, that the all-sufficient grace of God, manifested in Christ, is fully adequate for the conviction and conversion of the chief of sinners.
In the quotation above we find open despisers of God's name; despisers of his word, people, and sabbaths of God, made the subjects of hopeful conversion, which is perfectly consistent with the above essential idea in Universalism.
As all consistent Universalists believe in both the necessity and certainty of the conversion of such characters as above described, any manifestation of divine grace, effective in such a work, is so far from confounding a believer, it is sufficient to confirm and establish him, even if he were in doubts before.
Could those who stand in opposition to Universalism produce a single case in which divine grace had unsuccessfully exercised its utmost power for the conversion of sinners, it would
necessarily confound one of the most celebrated writers on the system, who ventured to say, "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save Sinners, of whom I am chief."
ON THE INFLUENCE OF POPULARITY UPON
Though reason, like natural light which it resembles, is an active and powerful principle, it has always been acknowledged by all philosophers, that many obstacles exist which for a time impede and obstruct the progi ess of truth. We have reference here to truth in general, the discovery of which is ever aided and accelerated by reason. The foregoing will readily be acknowledged a fact, at least as far as the observation applies to natural things, and to systems and theories that have a relation to mathematical or philosophical truth. In these cases, histo ry proves that the mere ipse dixit of ignorant monks, priests and cardinals, has gone farther than the lucid demonstrations of the most profound enquirers into nature. But in religious affairs, most men are not prepared so readily to grant the propriety of these remarks. What is the cause? It is, that in divine and spiritual things, reason is commonly supposed to be out of the question; so far at least, that to her decisions no credit is to be attached. When this destructive error becomes popular; when great and respectable men openly avow such a doctrine; when their opinions are considered, as they necessarily must be in such a case, as the standard of orthodoxy, then popularity is enlisted on the side of error, and has a mighty influence upon religious opinion..
When a stupid and ignorant conclave denounced the doctrine of the earth's rotundity and revolution, the doctrine adverted to must of course be unpopular. Reason and demonstration were shut out, and every part of the noble theory which then presented for examination and belief, was made to bend to the clamors and denunciations of dull stupidity and enraged superstition. Thus circumstanced, had some man whose mind was otherwise active and susceptible of correct impressions, been made to hear the new doctrine, and to observe some experiments that demonstrated its truth, and was asked his opinion about it; he would have referred the enquirer to the late decision of the conclave against it, would have said, “trouble
me not with your new-fangled theories; it is sufficient for me to believe as the church believes;" perhaps without a moment's reflection upon the delight and satisfaction arising from "searching after knowledge," and "digging for wisdom as for hidden treasures," he would have further said, "if the new system be true, which is very unlikely, I shall derive all the benefit from it that you will who believe it; the earth will maintain her rotundity, and perform the revolution you ascribe to her, whether I believe it or not; besides, I find such a faith is very unpopular."
The truth as it is in Jesus, has met with the same fate, more or less in every age, and for the same reasons. When Christ appeared upon earth, his doctrine was new, not in its principles, which are eternal, but in its manifestation. The leaders of the people at once knew, that if his doctrine were to gain ground, in the same proportion theirs must lose. What was to be done in such a crisis? There was but one method to be taken, which was to improve the servile love of a popular system, which the people possessed, to their own exclusive advantage. Christ and his humble followers must be stigmatized. Ecclesiastical edicts must be issued, by virtue of which, if any confessed Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. The emissaries and officers of such men must be like their employers, and use every exertion to keep alive the spirit of the people. The Pharisees are not remiss in the important business. They ask with much earnestness, "have any of the rulers believed on him?" And to answer their own and every other question, they conclude, "but this people, who knoweth not the law, are cursed."
The same art which has been so effectually tried upon the members of Christ, to the cxclusion of faith and profession, was once, though unsuccessfully, exerted upon the head of every man. The devil, having our Saviour upon an exceeding high mountain, showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and said unto him, all these things will I give thee if thou wilt fall down and worship me. This account embraces much important matter. A few remarks upon it may be of use to guard us against temptation. Satan could not mean to insinuate that he was an object worthy of worship, nor does he give such an intimation. The drift of his pompous speech seems to be, that he valued but little what is known and believed, if so be he obtains the outward homage. For though it may be urged that the devil chooses to have his subjects totally in possession, both in faith and practice, yet
when he can do no better, he sometimes consents to a compromise; and what is lost in one way, is more than gained in another. What he loses in the internal act of the mind, it being against him, he gains by an act of hypocrisy, when the mind will servilely follow where popularity leads, and thus oppose indirectly, the truth it believes. His language to Christ, and to all whom he tempts in this way, is, "You may believe what you please; I shall not quarrel about that; but why will you leave my worship for that of another, especially when attended with so many difficulties? Have I not crowds of worshippers? Whereas, observe my rival, surrounded with a despicable number, small when compared with mine. Then reflect upon the rewards I give, while on the other hand you get nothing but reproach and shame. I give my votaries the kingdoms of this world and their glory; why, therefore, on such conditions, will you refuse me the outward homage which I require ?"
Nothing can exceed the effect which such insinuations have upon the weak and unwary, while the mind is led captive by Satan, at his will. The only means to extricate such out of the snare, is to impress upon the mind the worth and excellency of truth; to arouse all the native powers of the soul to action and independency. In doing this, it is not sufficient merely to prove the value of truth with respect to things to come. No, her present worth must be exhibited, and men must be taught to appreciate it. We must know that her price is far above rubies. We must ascertain the satisfaction that arises from every active exertion to obtain the object, in which we always gain sufficient to reward present labor, and increase our hopes and brighten our expectations for the future. Then will the world and its empty parade, its gaudy trappings and ostentatious show, when brought into comparison with divine truth, in the love of it, appear as less than nothing and vanity.Loosed from former bondage, the mind will soar above every subordinate object, exulting in the language of the poet,
"Heav'n is my home, and I must use my wings;
And all their little glitt'ring things;
I have a soul was made for infinite desires.
The gold that binds my brows could ne'er my soul confine.',
SIR RICHARD STEELE'S LETTER TO THE POPE.
We shall occasionally occupy a few pages of this work with an interesting epistle from Sir Richard Steele to Pope Clement XI. This letter, which was written almost or quite a century ago, will shew our readers, in what light the writer viewed the popish doctrines and practices; while it will also be found that those absurdities, which in the view of most protestants, have disgraced the professors of the Romish faith, have not been wholly unknown, nor left unpractised in the protestant communion. The writer of this letter is severe, but his discipline is wholesome and salutary: he writes without reserve, but having exposed error, he gives the best advice, which is, to relinquish it. From the manner in which this learned gentleman makes his comparison between Popery and other religions, the reader will make the observation, that if Rome, be the "mother of harlots," an epithet which protestants have long given her, that she has many daughters, who greatly resemble their parent, and that Sir Richard Steele, with a happy facility has pointed out the family resemblance.
TO HIS HOLINESS CLEMENT XI.
Your Holiness will be surprised at so uncommon a thing as an Address of this nature, from one who is, in your account, and in the language of your Church, a Schismatic, Heretick and Infidel. But as I think it my duty to make this public restitution of the following Treatise, which was at first taken from your friends by force of arms; so, I will restore it fourfold, with all possible advantage to you and your Church,
I find that all the infallibility with which your Holiness is illuminated, doth not disdain the help of human information; and that your accounts of the religious, as well as civil state of this kingdom, are in a particular manner defective: And therefore I have resolved to act the part of a generous adversary, and without reserve to lay before you, out of the fullness of my heart, such things as will give you a juster information of the state we of these nations are in, than any of your predecessors in the Holy See ever enjoyed; and this, without any further ceremony, just in the order in which they shall arise in my own mind.
Your Holiness is not perhaps aware, how near the Churches of us Protestants have at length come to those privileges and perfections which you boast of as peculiar to your own. So