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These are days of extraordinary re- which presents little or no difficulty ; ligious privileges; days in which it and when the temporary impression becomes every member of the visible has worn away, - when stumblingChurch to consider seriously his indi- blocks are placed or when difficulties vidual circumstances, the nature of arise, -return again visibly to that his religious opportunities, the effects world which in fact they had never which they produce upon him, and left. Many also in the present day the account which he must one day remain associated with the Christian give before the tribunal of God. In Church, who walk irregularly and inmany respects these are days of pe- consistently, having the understandculiar enlargement and liberty. The ing little enlightened, the judgment religion of Jesus is generally regarded not strengthened, and of whom it canwith respect. We lose nothing really not be said that they are established in the eye of the world, by a certain in the faith, nor rooted and grounded measure of religious profession; the in real christian principle and afbeneficent character of our religion is fection : but led on by sympathy raacknowledged, and its suitability to ther than by knowledge, they take an the wants of afflicted, diseased, and active and over-prominent part in the dying men,-its fitness as a refuge christian community, and tend graduwhen every other refuge fails,-is ad- ally, by their eccentric and unstable mitted. And the moral change upon conduct, to give the character of vacivilized society, especially in later riableness, and uncertainty, and want years, is so directly and manifestly of prudence and quietness, to the reattributable to the christian religion, ligious world. All this needs corthat she has risen from the dust into rection. It needs on all hands the which infidelity had humbled her, quiet, sedate, and serious administraand our churches are again crowded tion of pastoral advice; that if paswith willing hearers.
toral instruction has any weight at all, But there are also many evils at- it may be applied with delicacy and tendant upon this state of things. The with consistent firmness, to point out, multitude of those who appear to fa- and to remove as far as may be, the your religion is much more mixed spot which so seriously disfigures the than it used formerly to be. Many Church of Christ in the days of her come to the ordinances of religion advancement and her glory. with little definite knowledge of their We would, then, address ourselves own motives, or of the reasons why to those who do really and seriously they should come. Many are drawn consider that they are placed under to christian assemblies by motives al- the pastoral care of the Church; those together inconsistent with pure and who, not looking for anything new, undefiled religion; and many, yielding extravagant, or extraordinary in the to their feelings, and to transitory im- 'ministration of the word of life,-feel pressions, walk for a time in a course that they can conscientiously give
their attendance and worship regu- others. We will proceed, therefore, larly in the communion of our Church. to state summarily on what grounds For the benefit of such, we would we believe the religion of the Scripenter generally upon some remarks tures to be Divine ? and the one main on the subject of Hearing the Word. reason is that we believe the writThere is much important matter con- ings which inculcate it to be Divine; nected with this subject, which we we regard them on satisfactory grounds ought to consider, and which, by the to be a revelation mercifully vouchblessing of God, may be useful to us. safed from God to His creature, man; The subject, taken in a large and ge- and if we can make out this point,
will enable us to branch then the reasonableness of observing out into four different subjects, on this religion will necessarily follow, each of which we may succinctly on the ground that it is expressly endwell. It will lead us to make some joined by God Himself. observations as to Why we hear? We proceed then to show why we What we hear, How we hear, and accept the Scriptures as a revelation Where we hear.
from God. May the Spirit of God cause His And, First, we would observe that blessed influence to descend upon all it is certainly highly probable that șincere and conscientious pastoral in- there is, somewhere in the world, a struction; and make it useful to the revelation of the will of God. It is souls of men, and to the glory of the quite evident that man in his natural great God and our Saviour Jesus state does not know God as he ought. Christ.
A comparison of the religious opinions Now the first point proposed for in- and habits of all the different tribes quiry is, Why we hear? Why we come of the earth, sufficiently shows this; up on the seventh day to the general for the notions of God entertained by assembly of the people, to hear instruc- far the larger portion of the earth, are tion founded on the Scriptures? And nothing but a series of absurdities and to this the general answer may be at monstrosities, degrading both to God once given, that we believe the sys- and man; and the very contradictatem of religion which those Scriptures riness of their several notions, proves inculcate, to be a dispensation of the that they do not know God. It does great God; the only real means of not, however, seem in the least likely knowing Him, of obtaining His fa- that the Almighty, having made man vour, and serving Him acceptably. a rational being,—with a moral naSuch would be the answer of every ture and a conscience, with a certain one who had in any degree considered impression of the existence of his God, why they come to worship in a chris- and of his own responsibility towards tian church. But here the knowledge Him,--should then leave him destiof many terminates; and if they were tute of all means of knowing Him, and pressed for the grounds of that con- consequently liable to take up these viction, they would find that it rested false conceptions of his Maker, withvery much on the opinions of others, out any means whatever of correcting or on common custom, or on certain them. It is altogether improbable general notions which they could not that the Almighty should leave his explain satisfactorily to themselves or rational and moral creature to the
awful and unavoidable darkness and folly of worshipping an idol. Besides, delusion of worshipping the planetary if we refer to the experience of our bodies, or the brute animals, or the own minds, we shall find that, indemonstrous conceptions of his own ima- pendently of Scripture illumination, gination—the work of his own hands, we have no means of discovering God, the powers
of evil and destruction, or His will. Go to those portions of whose agency is so visible around him. our own country where scriptural With our natural notions of a benevo- teaching has been scanty, and see lent First Cause, we cannot conceive there what are men's views of God. that God would have created a world Go to a neighbouring country, who of moral beings in such a state; ne- threw aside the Scriptures and treated cessarily ignorant of the Great Author them as a human composition, and of all good, and necessarily open to see what was the immediate result of such a gross misconception on these that rejection, and what sad consepoints,—to every variety of monstrous quences are still discoverable. And
go to the infidel men of our own enAnd it is no satisfactory explanation lightened country, and strip them of of the matter, to say that the tribes of all the accurate and wise notions the earth, to which we refer, are in a which they have insensibly imbibed state of ignorance from want of edu- from the Scriptures, and reduce their cation, and that if they would use
creed to their own unaided conceptheir natural powers, they would at- tions, and then judge by the tenor of tain to the knowledge of God; their lives, what is the practical infludo not find this is the case. At this ence of their notions of God. All this moment, large tracts of country, an
will tend to show that the human mind cient and civilized empires, and a has no power of discovering God, and polished people,—India, China, Bur- setting Him adequately before it. mah, &c., are, with all their know- And let us turn in upon ourselves, ledge for this world, still in the gross- and recall the state of our own minds est darkness on the subject of the with reference to God, before we stunature of God,
And other very ex- died the Scriptures, and we shall find tensive portions of the globe, the that they were fearfully dark upon Mohammedan nations, are the dupes the point;that we had no influential of a system which is known histori- notion of God whatever; except so cally to be an imposture, as certainly far as the twilight of Scripture had as we know the fact of the reign of glanced upon us, through parental inany king of our own country, or any struction, or cursory reading, or the other fact of our history. It is evident general light of nominally christian then that the advantages of civiliza- society; and that if, in fact, we could tion and letters are not sufficient to have thrown off all the incidental disclose to us the knowledge of God; knowledge derived, thus indirectly, for they do not enable men to detect from the Scriptures, our minds would a comparatively recent imposture of have been as dark as any heathen the grossest kind, and to say, “Is mind whatever. there not a lie in my right hand ?” Now it appears very improbable nor does the science and literature of that the great Moral Governor of India enable a Brahmin to see the the world would have left His creatures in this state of ignorance. Had may name the fact, that, as far as we He meant to deal with them altoge- can trace any rational account in the ther in wrath, as an avenger, they early traditions of the nations of the would soon have known Him in the earth, it goes powerfully to establish terrors of His power; but dealing as the statements of the earlier ScripHe evidently does deal with this tures; and even their fabulous and world, in kindness-not leaving Him- distorted statements are founded upon self altogether without a witness, in and have their more simple origin in that He does us good, giving rain scriptural truths; and it is found that from heaven and fruitful seasons, the more accurately learned men have filling our hearts with food and glad- been enabled to trace up the different ness,-it does seem highly probable nations of the earth to their original that to the fact of His providential founders, they have discovered the acgovernment, he would add some au- count totally with the account which the thoritative declaration or revelation book of Genesis gives of the branches of His will, that men might have the of the family of Noah, and their setopportunity, if they would seek it, of tlement in different parts of the world. knowing the mind of God respecting And to this we must add, that in no them, -of knowing what is likely to nation of the earth is there any acbe hereafter,--and what is the rule count or tradition worthy of regard, by which they ought to guide their which reaches beyond the scriptural conduct here, and by which they are date of the deluge, that in almost to be judged hereafter.
every ancient nation some tradition Allowing, then, the probability that of the deluge has been found; and God would communicate His will to that now, as a fact, in natural history, man,-on looking round for that reve- the truth of an universal deluge at lation, we find the book which we some time or other, at no very distant call the Bible. The latter division of period, has been proved beyond all which has been written eighteen hun- question. dred years, and at a time almost co- And this authentic and ancient temporaneous with the events which record, which, forundoubted antiquity, it records ; and the former part, at stands alone, and altogether unrivalled different periods, much earlier, so as in the world ; and which speaks not to constitute it unquestionably the in an obscure mystic way like the most ancient book in the world. The heathen poets, but in the simplest former part, or Old Testament, was possible language ;-this book, in its placed from the very first under the earliest pages, and down to its latest jealous care of a whole nation,
page, speaks worthily of Godpeople separated by their peculiar speaks of Him in a way which no habits from the whole world,-a peo- other book on earth does, except as ple who it appears were possessed of such books can be shewn to have letters before all other nations, and been derived from it; but yet in such the formation of the alphabets of a way as at once commends itself to other nations may be traced to theirs. our common sense, as truth, wisdom, The reasons for receiving this book and righteousness. And when we as genuine and authentic, are ample; bring our mind to consider the God and among the proofs of its truth we of the Scriptures, the self-existent Jehovah, the God of justice, holiness, true books in the world put together; purity, and mercy, revealed to us, by —unless it is such a forgery, then the His word, and in the providential story of Noah and the deluge, of dealings which His word records, – Abraham and his descendants, of and yet in no respect lowered and Moses and the Exodus, of Israel and degraded to a human standard,-but the prophets, of Christ and His aposwhile He communicates with man, tles, is true ; and if it is true, then we still infinitely above him,—when we have the plain and palpable agency look through the whole volume, the of the Great Jehovah set before us accumulation as it is of forty cen- visibly in the world, in such a way as turies, written by different men, at to intimate to us His near and intendifferent times, and recording the tional association with the events dealings of God with men of different which that book records, and with periods, nations, and circumstances,- the gradual development and estaband find the Lord spoken of by them lishment of that system of religion all, to be the same conscious Being which it recommends. In fact, we who acted in the earliest days, and have the truth of the God of heaven with the same immaculate principles coming forth in visible glory on mount of truth, purity, justice, and mercy, Sinai, to deliver His laws to the peoso that not in the whole history is ple whom He had miraculously rethere one discrepancy of character, deemed, -and to establish that plan one departure from these principles;- of formal and typical worship which we feel compelled to admit that this the Jews maintained for so many is a revealed declaration to us of the years, and of which every point has character of that God, whom naturally now been shewn to have a bearing we did not know. We feel that it upon and a reference to a more spipresents an idea of the character of ritual mode of worship, which was God, which we could not have con- afterwards to be developed. And in ceived; but when it comes before us, this way the most distant parts of the we perceive its excellency and beauty, system are so linked together, that if and receive it with reverence and de- the Bible be a true and authentic light.
historical record, then the Christian Thirdly. We find this book, which religion is true and Divine; and that we have reason to believe authentic if the Christian religion be true and and genuine, and which is the only Divine, of which we have other proof book that gives us right views of God, of the most satisfactory kind, then -records a series of facts of God's the scriptural statements of God's especial interference and manifest manifest agency upon earth are true agency in the concerns of this world. also. We must believe the visible, Unless the book is a forgery, in the unquestionable, supernatural agency face of all our ample evidence to of that God whose character the prove it true, forgery by the best Scriptures reveal. And then it follows, men of all ages,
a forgery to teach that if the Scriptures be a true and us holiness and truth, and the reve- authentic account of facts which did rence and the love of God,-a forgery take place, then these same Scriptures which has more of excellence in one come to us as of Divine authority. of its pages than all the genuine and They are evidently, upon their own