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ON THE CAUSES OF THE REJECTION OF THE GOSPEL.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. In reference to an article in your Number for June, "on the causes of men's rejecting the offers of the Gospel," I fully agree in opinion with H. C. that there is nothing that can be called system in the minds of the generality of those who refuse or neglect the offers of the Gospel. The doctrines of grace, standing connected with self-denial, spirituality of mind, and all that is repugnant to the unregenerate man, must appear unlovely in his eyes; and the narrow path which he is invited to pursue, seems dark and gloomy. If the acknowledgment of the Gospel doctrines involved no necessity for a change of life if we might serve God and mammon toomit is probable that few persons (comparatively speaking) would refuse to give them their assent; but when that hard saying follows, “Sell all that thou hast, and follow me,” many, alas! “go away sorrowful."
These remarks have reference to those who have had anxious thoughts on the subject of salvation ; who have heard the Gospel, and to a certain degree understood it; and yet have continued to follow the course of this evil world : for the present, at least, they have therefore rejected it. far greater number rather neglect than reject the Gospel, and, I believe, chiefly from the causes assigned by H. C.-namely, “ The lowness of their desires after any salvation at all, and their want of acquaintance with its necessity.” There is such a depth of levity in the heart, that a serious impression, if such has been for a moment produced, is quickly effaced ; and the world has such a hold over the senses, that eternity, and all the awful considerations included in that word, are seldom present to the mind; or if for a moment a thought of death and its consequences may occur, it is quickly banished by the more important concerns of time, “ What shall we eat, and what shall we drink,” &c. &c.
There are likewise some (as the Scripture has told us, and probably our own experience), whose proud self-righteous hearts refuse to admit the humbling doctrines of the Cross. Blind as they are, and ignorant of their own depravity, and the true nature of sin, they melt not with gratitude at the offers of mercy and forgiveness, for they feel not the need of a Saviour; and the preaching of the cross is foolishness to them. But I would not say such men acted from system, any more than the careless multitude; for system supposes a plan, and I believe that all who are not renewed in heart simply follow the bent of their own inclinations which are all sinful, however varied they may be ; and all originate from the same source, alienation, yea, enmity of heart towards their Creator—and their end must be utter ruin, except prevented and arrested in their fearful course by the all-powerful Spirit of grace and truth. I would not have a preacher spend his own time, or that of his hearers, in attempts to trace out, or confute, the supposed prejudices of man against the revealed Word of God: it is their part, first, to declare the Gospel, in all its fulness, grandeur, and simplicity; and next, to expound the Scriptures to the unlearned, as God shall enable them, with all wisdom. Let them “ reason of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come,” and Felix will tremble. Knowing the terrors of the Lord, let them persuade men to flee from the wrath to come ---for now is the accepted time. And, because “ God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” let them, as ambassadors of God, beseech men, “ Be ye reconciled unto God.”
It may be a subject for curiosity, but not, I think, for edification, to dive into the secret workings of man's rebellious heart: it is sufficient to
bring to his charge the one grand accusation, to which few will refuse to plead guilty, That the Almighty God is not in all his thoughts, and that he loves the creature more than the Creator. And there (as I said before) lies the root of the whole evil,—the natural heart is at enmity with God. The various Parables, which are familiar to all who live in a land where the Bible is read, contain all that can be said to illustrate or explain the mysterious fact why men reject the Gospel; and to every man's own conscience I would leave the application.
ON ASSOCIATING WITH WORLDLY-MINDED PERSONS.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. It has occurred to me, more than once, to hear the question debated, “ how far a Christian is justified in mixing among the unregenerate." Among my religious acquaintance, some carry their ideas on this point so far as to say they will go no where except where all the family are serious, and where they are likely to meet none but Christians. Others take a different view of the subject, and, without entering into any of the gaieties of the world (to which, of course, I do not allude), endeavour to recommend religion by their cheerful piety; and at times visit some who are not to be called serious Christians, but to whom, by their conversation and example, they may hope, through God's blessing, to be useful. I am myself so circumstanced as seldom—very seldom to be able to enjoy the society of the Lord's people; and at the same time, being under the controul of others, I am frequently obliged to associate with the worldly-minded. This, you will readily believe, affords me no gratification, but is rather a cross than otherwise. Perhaps some of your correspondents will give me their opinion on the subject, and tell me whether I should be justified (were it in my power) to give up entirely all “ those who are without,” but to whom I may have been attached, from family connections or other causes, before it pleased the Lord to reveal himself unto me.
J. L. E.*
ON THE DEFECT OF PASTORAL VISITS.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer, I ADDRESS you, as one of the supporters of our revered Establishment, upon a subject of much interest to its welfare-namely, the paucity of pastoral visits to the middle classes of society ;-an evil which is much lamented in the large town wherein I reside, and which is detaching many from the
• The questions proposed in the above paper have been more than once discussed by our Correspondents; but as new readers are constantly rising into life, to whom they are of great importance and interest, we readily admit J. L. E.'s queries. We would, however, seriously ask the writer, why it is that he (query, from the penmanship, she ?) adopts a system of phraseology, which we will not call by an offensive term, but which is far removed from simplicity and plain English. We would urge religious persons who addict themselves to this singular style, to consider whether they are not increasing the prejudices of worldly-minded men against scriptural truth, by raising offences of diction, which are not of necessity the offence of the cross of Christ. This style bas not always the recommendation of being copied from our vernacular translation of the Bible -(we do not, for example, read of the disciples being first called " serious Christians” at Antioch)-but even when it professes to be so copied, it may often happen that a phrase torn from its context, and introduced as the writer's own dialect, instead of as a scriptural quotation, may be greatly misapplied. Nothing is more generally distasteful than a certain knowingness of style, which some persons affect in speaking on religious subjects, and which renders it requisite to translate their words into a new dialect before their meaning can be popularly understood.
Church ; as family afflictions open the road for the Dissenting minister, in consequence of the systematic absence of their appointed shepherd; whom they love for his faithful preaching, but whom they seldom or never see in the private walks of pastoral intercourse. Our religious societies also are upon the decline; for the coolness (I feel I use a strong term) of the minister to the personal concerns of his people has a contagious character, so that little of Christian communion is perceivable among us; or if a few of the middle ranks of society unite to keep alive their mutual zeal for the heathen, their ministers have too many engagements to be with them, and it would be contrary to order to meet without them. Our young people, too, know nothing of a minister's friendly admonition; so that, if their hearts appear opening to religious impression, there is no man that is anxious and able to direct them aright. I have known, in days gone by, the benefits arising from a happier state of things, when, if I had not found an adviser in my Clergyman, I should scarcely have had one on earth. We are social beings, and pastoral visits will often effect what neither books nor sermons can accomplish. How painful is it to hear it said by regular communicants, “I know not how your minister acts, but mine has not called upon me, to participate either in my joys or sorrows, for the last three years.” Is it, then, to be wondered at “if grievous wolves enter in, not sparing the flock?”
I hope that those in whose name I write fail not in prayer for those who are set over us.
ONE OF THE SUBSCRIBERS TO THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER
Our Correspondent has touched upon an afflicting topic, and we shall rejoice if his expostulation should prove the means of stirring up any of our Clerical Readers to a more diligent discharge of the important duty of pastoral visiting.. We believe he is quite correct in his statement, that the middle classes of society, including a large number of pious and regular communicants, seldom or never see their minister at their own babitation, except he is expressly sent for in the hour of sickness; and that in this respect persons of this description are far more neglected than the very poor, or the children of our National and Sunday Schools. But, then, our Correspondent should, in candour, consider whether the privation arises altogether, as he supposes, from negligence on the part of the Clergyman; or whether in too many cases it is not from mournful necessity-from the physical impossibility of his doing what he earnestly wishes but cannot achieve. "We cannot reconcile to our minds a “ systematic" neglect of this duty with really “faithful preaching.” It may be that the pastor does not all that he might do, with greater zeal, exertion, self-denial, and redemption of time; and it may be, also, that he has not considered sufficiently the importance of this particular means of usefulness, or that he has been too easily deterred by difficulties from prosecuting it more vigilantly; but to neglect a known duty "systematically,” involves guilt of so heinous a character that we would not impute it without very conclusive evidence. We know not to what place our correspondent alludes, but he says that it is a "large town;" and we are acquainted with large towns in which pious and faithful clergymen, who are working far beyond their strength, find it impossible to keep pace with the many claims upon them; and who, while sinking under their burden, find the greatest aggravation of it in the consciousness that what they do bears but a small proportion to what they are obliged to leave undone. Thus circumstanced, in the midst of a dense population, and with daily demands upon them far beyond what they can comply with, so far from being able to volunteer frequent pastoral visits, as they would gladly do, to all their communicants, they cannot keep up as fully as they desire their visits even to the poor and the ignorant, the sick and the dying. We say not this to excuse culpable negligence, or to prevent the due effect of our correspondent's remonstrance, where appropriate ; but in order that we may not bring an unjust accusation, or make the heart of the righteous sad, whom God has not made sad.” In the present condition of many of our large parishes, adequate pastoral visiting from house to house is utterly impracticable : this is indeed no excuse for not doing what is within a minister's competency; but it ought to cause his labours to be looked upon, to say the least, with an indulgent eye. His parishioners cannot tell in what manner he spends every hour; and though not with them personally as much as he wishes, he may be not the less engaged in their service. It is, however, an unanswerable reason for dividing large parishes into convenient pastoral districts; and, till this is done, for encouraging visiting societies, to supply in part the clergyman's inevitable lack of service.
ON EXPOUNDING THE CHURCH LESSONS.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. Will you be good enough to inform me if there exists any canon or law forbidding expounding the Lessons for the day, or any difficult passage in them? A short exposition, or paraphrase, would greatly assist the unlearned in some things hard to be understood ;” but if there be any prohibitory statute, "Obedience is better than sacrifice.”
MEMORIALS OF PIOUS NEGROES:-CORNELIUS OF
ST. CROIX. A very interesting Moravian missionary station for more than a hundred years has been that of St.Croix, one of the Danish West-Indian islands, which was captured by Great Britain in the year 1801. We might relate many remarkable facts relative to this mission and its pious and zealous conductors; one of whose greatest afflictions was to witness the barbarities exercised
upon the Negroes, many of whom suffered bonds and imprisonment and stripes for their adherence to the Gospel. But, passing by these general narratives, we turn our attention for the present to the edifying life of a humble convert, once a poor degraded slave, but even then Christ's freeman ; and now an inhabitant of that blessed world where oppression is unknown, and sorrow and sighing have for ever fled away. The following is the account left upon record of him, in the Annals of the Moravian Missions.
“ Towards the close of the year 1801 the mission in St. Croix was deprived of one of the most intelligent and useful native assistants, who for more than fifty years had walked worthily of his calling by the Gospel namely, the Negro Cornelius. This man was in many respects distinguished among his countrymen, which will render the following brief sketch of his life interesting.
“ Above fifty years ago he became concerned for the salvation of his soul, and felt a strong impulse to attend the preaching of our missionaries, and their private instructions. However, he could not at once forsake his heathenish customs. It happened once that he attended the merrymaking of his countrymen. Even into this house of riot the good Shepherd followed this poor straying sheep. The late brother Frederic Martin passing by, and being made attentive to the uproar, looked in at the door,
* If Epenetus means expounding from the pulpit, he is unquestionably at full liberty to do so, and much benefit would arise from the practice : but if he means from the desk, in the course of the appointed services for the day, he is not so permitted, as he then acts as the organ of the Church, and cannot utter a sentence beyond what is appointed, not even to publish an unprescribed notice, without the express permission of the Ordinary. When he ascends the pulpit, he usually lays aside the surplice, the official vestment of the Church, and addresses the congregation in what ought to be his own ordinary dress—his cassock, and the gown appropriate to his degree-as if to shew, that, although licensed by the Bishop to preach, he does not speak from the pulpit in the same capacity as from the desk. We merely state the fact, that exposition from the desk is irregular and unauthorized ; but we believe that an interjected comment would often be highly useful; and some clergymen have adopted the practice of offering a few explanatory remarks on the Lessons, Epistle, or Gospel, from the pulpit, where they appeared specially to require it, before commencing their regular discourse. This plan might, perhaps, answer the purpose of our correspondent.
and immediately espied his scholar Cornelius. He beckoned to him to come out, and, in a friendly but serious and emphatic address, represented to him, that it was not becoming for one who had declared that he would give his heart to our Saviour, to attend such meetings as these. 'Here,' said the missionary, 'the devil has his work, and you have assured me that you will not be his slave. But now I discover that your heart is still in his power; for you love the vanities of the world, and the company of the children of disobedience, in whom he rules. It would therefore be better that you left off coming to our meetings, and to the school.' This offended him greatly, and he thought, “What is that to the White man, and what do I care for him?' However, his amusement was spoiled for that time; he went home much displeased, and resolved never more to visit the missionaries, or attend their meetings. But his heart was not at rest, and his convictions grew so strong that he could not sleep at night. The address of the missionary sounded continually in his ears, and made so strong an impression upon him that he altered his mind and visited him. Being received, not, as he feared, with displeasure, but with great cordiality, he was exceedingly affected, and with tears described the distress of his mind during the preceding days.
“ In 1749 he was baptized, and ever after remained faithful to the grace conferred on him. He had an humbling and growing sense of the depravity of his heart, but he also made daily progress in the knowledge and grace of his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
“God had blessed him with a good natural understanding. He had learned the business of a mason well
, and had the appointment of mastermason to the royal buildings, in which employment he was esteemed by all who knew him, as a clever, upright, and disinterested man. He laid the foundation of each of the six chapels belonging to our mission in these islands. He was able to write and speak the Creol, Dutch, Danish, German, and English languages; which gave him a great advantage above the other Negroes. Till 1767 he was a slave in the royal plantation, which afterwards belonged to Count Schimmelman. He first purchased the freedom of his wife, and then laboured hard to gain his own liberty, which, after much entreaty, and the payment of a considerable ransom, he effected. God blessed him and the work of his bands in such a manner, that he could also by degrees purchase the emancipation of his six children.
“ In 1754 he was appointed assistant in the mission. After his emancipation, he greatly exerted himself in the service of the Lord, especially among the people of his own colour, and spent whole days, and often whole nights, in visiting them on the different plantations. He possessed a peculiar talent for expressing his ideas with great clearness, which rendered his discourses pleasing and edifying, as well to White people as to Negroes. Yet he was by no means elated by the talents he possessed. His character was that of an humble servant of Christ, who thought too meanly of himself to treat others with contempt. To distribute to the indigent and assist the feeble was the delight of his heart, and they always found in him a generous and sympathizing friend and faithful adviser.
“While thus zealously exerting himself in promoting the salvation of his countrymen, he did not neglect the concerns of his family. We have already seen how sedulously he cared for their temporal prosperity, in working hard to purchase their freedom. But he was more solicitous for the welfare of their souls. God blessed his instructions, and he had the joy of seeing his whole family share in the salvation of the Lord. Being found faithful, they were employed as assistants in the mission.