Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

tame and insipid thing, when placed alongside with politics, and the summum bonum of human ambition is inseparably linked with the advancement of a favourite measure, or the predominance of a favourite party.

Among the leading characters in the life of Falkland, Monckton, the worthless steward, holds a prominent place. Defeated in his plans of fraud, and in danger of a criminal prosecution, he has the policy -to leave the country, and to fly to a foreign land; but before doing so, and when in the very hottest of his conflict with the son and successor of his constituent, this worthless man suddenly becomes a zealous professor of religion, and in bis correspondence with honest Sturdy, attempts to gain on the feelings of his prosecutor, by a sprinkling of religious phraseology. We are at some loss to know on what principle our author declines ranking this man among the class of hypocrites. If ever there was a hypocrite at all, this was one. The garb of piety was obviously assumed to compass a mercenary end, and the hollow-heartedness of the profession was incontrovertibly established by the fact, that, so far from wishing to restore his ill-gotten gain, the profession was taken up evidently for the purpose of securing a more effectual grasp of it. With regard to the principles of the new Secession, as embraced by Monckton, we shall merely say, that if not decidedly Antinomian, they have at least a very strong tinge of Antinomianism. A slight comparison of the writings of these Seceders with those of Crisp, and others of the last century, must convince any competent judge, that their style of doctrinal statement is unscriptural, and that their scheme does look with a very cold and suspicious eye on the claims and the precepts of practical morality.

VOL. XXI. NO. XI.

The following short statement of our author on this subject we cordially approve:

"What gave him," Falkland," the greatest uneasiness in the review of this new sect, was, the dangerous practical tendency' of some of their doctrines. To treat almost exclusively of the privileges of Christianity, and to neglect the enforcement of its duties, whatever influence it might have on the preachers themselves, it was pretty evident, he thought, must be at tended with the most imminent danger to their flocks in general. He very justly thought, indeed, that to withhold any of the truths of Scripture, because the sagacity of man has discovered they may be productive of bad effects, was a presumption little consistent with our limited and

fallen capacities, and scarcely less than a direct libel on the sacred Scriptures. At the same time, he could not but perceive in the divine aliment prepared for us, there were both food for the ordinary state of the soul, and cordials when it was in a state of depression, and the indiscriminate use of the latter he could not but view as having a tendency to produce disinclination for more ordinary sustenance, and to engender and impress in the mind a feverish and dangerous degree of excitement." Vol. ii. p. 18.

Our author (vol. i. p. 298, &c.) enters into a defence of the Calvinistic system, particularly the doctrine of election. The statements are, on the whole, fair and Scriptural; but we question the expediency of their introduction in such a place, and in such a species of Those who composition as this. already accord with them, do not need to be reminded of them in such a connection; and those who do not, are not likely to be thus gained over to the cause. Moreover, we have long been of opinion that the real origin of that hostility. which men of the world manifest to evangelical doctrine and preaching, is not to be traced so much to the peculiarities of Calvinism, as to the practical nature of its principles. We have seen the leading features of Calvinism, considered as an abstract and metaphysical system

5 G

embraced by men of all creeds, and of no creed in other respects; and so long as we view it in the light of a philosophical speculation, we need fear no opposition from the men of the world. Only keep out of view the doctrine of grace, regeneration, conversion, and the influence of the Spirit as the source of all holiness, and you will render the most rigid Calvinism exceedingly palatable. Here lies the grand cause of difference. On the one hand, religion is held to consist in being baptized, professing the faith of the Gospel, and leading a sober and decent life. On the other hand, all this is held to be good for nothing, except in so far as it is associated with the renewal of the heart, the indwelling of the spirit, and the cordial reception of salvation by the cross. Now, all these may be held, and have been held by many who do not hold the peculiarities of what is commonly termed Calvinism. The truth of the matter is, however, that this is really the Calvinism that is most fiercely opposed; and so long as no practical difference is visible, the Evangelical and the Calvinistic ministers will be held by the votaries of the lax morality of the world,

as convertible terms.

"There is," says our author, "something particularly baffling in the inquiry. A man may maintain and openly profess a thorough belief in most of the revealed truths of Christianity, and if he be a clergyman, or advanced in years, he may sometimes in conversation, but only on important occasions, and these very briefly, draw out those truths into their practical consequences, and still remain within the pale of rational and gentlemanly Christianity. But if he make the doctrines of the Gospel not only the object of speculative belief, but the principle of his life and conduct; if he advert, in the pulpit, or in conversation, to those grand distinguishing features of Christianity, which the apostles were so vehement in maintaining, and so cautious in guarding against misconception; above all, if he feel, or even profess, any undue

[blocks in formation]

IT is a very interesting fact, among other phenomena of the present age, that the multiplication of materials for reading appears to keep pace with the progress of the. art itself. In this we see the work

ing of that sure principle known in article is always regulated by the trade, by which the supply of any demand. But though this be true, it must not be forgotten, that many principles which hold good in ordinary things are entirely reversed when we come to matters in which religious concerns are involved. In common life, the greatest demand generally exists for the best and most beneficial articles; but wide as the circulation of religious books unquestionably now is, those books are still in most request which have. nothing at all to do with religion, which is by far the most important concern of human beings. They who are acquainted with the real character of man can be at no loss to account for this fact; but the

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

consideration of it ought certainly to lead us, amidst our zeal for the diffusion of education, to endeavour, at the same time, to give a right current and direction to the power which we impart. For the art of reading is like a sluice of water, which, if conducted in a safe course to its proper end, is an instrument of the mightiest power in promoting objects of the greatest utility; but, if turned from its appropriate channel, may become the cause of most extensive mischief.

This ought especially to be kept in mind in reference to those who move in the humbler walks of life, and whose occupations leave but a very scanty portion of their time to be employed in reading. Their natural inclinations prompt them to give such fragments of time to the perusal of works which have too often a pernicious tendency, or which are at the least useless, (and every thing that is useless is pernicious,) and yet, what they thus read becomes, in a great measure, the elements of their ordinary thoughts and opinions, and contributes to give a complexion to their whole character. While, therefore, there are so many worthless publications continually presented, in a cheap and inviting form, to solicit the notice of the lower classes of society, and calculated to meet, and gratify, and strengthen, the evil propensities of their nature, we would urge it as the imperative duty of Christians, vigorously to prosecute the war in favour of the bet ter description of books, and to give the widest circulation possible to those which, dealing with men as fallen and sinful creatures, are fitted to convey to them the solid instruction which they require, and to engage them to the consider ation of those things which belong to their everlasting peace.

We know of no little work better adapted for this purpose than that

of which we have here prefixed the title; which was originally published in the year 1796, and has passed through several editions in this country, and been reprinted in America. The instruction it contains, the principles which it is its aim to form, and the moral and religious character illustrated in the course of it, are exactly those which men require to render them truly happy. Could its substance be but carried into the breasts of the mass of our people, and come forth in the visible shape of their daily walk and conversation, what a change would take place upon the face of society! O what a new and blessed world would arise!

When we assure our readers that it is executed in the best possible manner within the limits prescrib ed, a very short statement of the plan of this treatise will, we trust, be the best means we can employ for recommending it to the notice of every real friend of religion and of the people. It was professedly and of purpose drawn up with the view of " alleviating the anxieties, and increasing the happiness, of the labouring poor." It commences with a concise statement of the great principles of religionthe character of God-the condi tion and prospects of man—the remedy provided for human guilt and depravity-the means by which men are prepared for the kingdom of heaven-and the doctrine of a state of retribution beyond the grave. The second chapter is upon the experience of religion; and setting out with the principle that all real piety has its seat in the heart, treats of the question, how the truths of Scripture affect the mind when savingly applied by the Holy Spirit; which is done, we think, in a manner the most simple and intelligible. In the third chapter, a view of the practical influence of religion is exhibited; and,

by the manner in which the particulars under this head are illustrated, the writer has discovered an intimate acquaintance with the real circumstances of those whose benefit he was so anxious to promote, and an accurate knowledge of their besetting sins and temptations, and of the way in which religion is brought to bear upon their character and habits. The fourth section considers the importance of religion to the usefulness and happiness of the common people; and addresses them, first, in their personal character, as immortal and accountable beings; and then, in their relative capacity, as servants, as husbands and wives, as parents and heads of families, and as citizens. In the fifth chapter, the means best calculated for promoting the knowledge and spirit of religion amongst the common people are stated and recommended-the diligent reading of the Scriptures a regular attendance on the preaching of the word-devout meditation-and secret prayer. And the work concludes with a most earnest address to parents and masters.

It is not so easy to fix upon a few, as to find a great many, passages in this little work which may serve to convey an idea of its ge. peral substance and character. The two following may be regarded as faithful witnesses to the sound practical instruction it contains, and the spirit of animated devotion which it breathes throughout.

"There is a wide difference between these self-abasing convictions of the spirit, which are connected with salvation, and the remonstrances of a natural conscience in unrenewed men. The latter are chiefly excited by the commission of gross or of outward sins, which subject the transgressor to present inconvenience, disgrace, or disThe former are promoted by a discovery of the opposition which the heart feels to the authority of God, its insensibility to his infinite amiableness, and its ingratitude for his unmerited goodness; they

tress.

lead us to review our past life with grief and contrition; they excite unfeigned solicitude for reconciliation with an offended God; and, while they constrain us to confess, that we deserve to perish, they make us willing to be saved in whatever manner a holy and gracious God shall be pleased to appoint.

"The blessed Spirit of illumination and grace, having humbled these awakened men under the mighty hand of God, next leads them to a believing, joyful acceptance of the mercy offered in the Gospel; he gives them to know, that God is in Christ he hath set forth Jesus as a propitiation for reconciling a guilty world to himself; that the remission of sins; that there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ; and that whosoever will may take of the waters of life freely. Now God appears not only glorious in holiness, but rich in mercy; 3 just God and Saviour; a God in Christ, justifying the ungodly who believe, and saying in their behalf, Deliver from going down to the pit, I have found a ransom. in the mind of the awakened sinner. 11Now the cheering dawnings of hope arise luminated by the Spirit, I see a fountain opened for my many iniquities; and I am assured that Jesus died, the just for the unjust, to bring sinners unto God. His blood cleanseth from all guilt; his power saves to the uttermost; his invitations are free and unlimited; and his promise tells me, that he will in no wise cast out. Now arrives the solemn and memorable hour, of infinite importance to these awakened men, when, through the great Mediator, they approach the throne of the God of peace, when they deliver up the weapons of their rebellion, when they unfeignedly surrender themselves to the grace and the government of the Almighty King of Zion, and entrust the everlasting interests of their immortal souls to this all-sufficient Saviour. And now it is, they are made the happy partakers of that faith which is by the operation of the Spirit; they receive the record which God hath given of his own Son; they rely on the great atonement for the pardon of their guilt; they depend on the perfect righteousness of Christ for their justification in the sight of an offended and infinitely holy God; they plead the experience of his quickening, sanctifying grace; and they lay hold on the covenant of promise, as their security for the enjoyment of all spiritual blessings. So soon as men are thus led to rely on the Saviour for righteousness and redemption, they become new creatures in Christ; old things are done away, and the time past seems far more than sufficient to have wrought the will of the flesh; the high imaginations are laid low, and the af

fections captivated to the love of Christ; his love constrains them; the influence of sin is opposed; God is supremely delighted in; and the things of time, however joyous, are counted as the small dust of the balance, when compared with the pleasures which are at God's right hand. This astonishing change, which, in the hour of reconciliation, passes upon their minds, is styled, the renewing of the Holy Ghost, and the blessed effects of it are, growing comfort and holiness; and both of these, in all their gradual progress to perfection, are invariably attributed to the residence of the Spirit in the souls of the regenerated. He fills them with peace and with joy, by bearing witDess that God hath accepted them through his beloved Son; that his anger is turned away; that he hath adopted them into his family, and given them, not only the hoDourable title, but all the inestimable privileges of children. That the hope of glory may accompany the joy of believing, the Spirit farther testifies, that if children, then we are heirs, heirs of an inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading, which God, who cannot lie, hath promised, and which is reserved in heaven for all who love the Saviour. Thus, through views of God as a reconciled Father, through the prospect of immortal joys, and through a noble elevation above this miserable world, they go on their way rejoicing. But these comfortable influences of the Spirit, are diminished or withdrawn when the people of God indulge in sinful conformity to the world; when they act an undutiful part to their heavenly Father, or fail to adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour. Hence it is evident, that the sanctifying influences of grace are as necessary to our peace and comfort, as the most satisfying assurances of our interest in the divine favour. Sanctification means the continuance and progress of that spiritual life which was begun in believers, when renewed in the spirit of their mind.

An infant of a day hath all the parts and faculties which he shall enjoy when he arrives at manhood; but these, while in infancy, are imperfect and feeble: they grow with his growth, and strengthen with his years. Thus is it with the man of God; sanctification confers no new principles, capacities, and pursuits: but it invigorates those which the new creature already possesses, and cherishes them gradually, until he arrives at the fulness of the stature of a man in Christ. Being renewed in his mind, he sets his affections on things above; he presses forward for the prize of his high calling; he lives under the power of the world to come; he loves the Saviour with all the ardour of supreme

delight, and consecrates his talents to the honour of God. In filial submission, he resigns his interests to the divine disposal, saying, Father, not my will, but thine be done. He studies, through grace, to walk humbly with God; and it is his daily endeavour to enjoy nearer and more constant fellowship with the Father and the Son, through the Spirit. This delightful inter course, while it elevates his views to heaven, neither leads to presumption nor fills with arrogance; on the contrary, it promotes the sincerest humility, under lively impressions of his unworthiness, and excites to watchful circumspection, lest he provoke the Holy One of Israel to withdraw his gra cious communications. Such is the gra dual progress of the work of grace on the hearts of believers, and such are the feelings of the soul when led by the Spirit; they do unite the ardour of triumphant joy in God, with deepest humiliation for past offences; the confidence of children, with the reverence of godly fear; the comfort of pleasing God, with the conflicts of selfdenial; the hope of glory to be revealed, with the fear of seeming to stop short in the heavenly journey. O happy, though hidden life! May I live the life of the righteous! May I daily experience their abhorrence of sin, their gratitude for redeeming love, their joy in the Saviour, their fearfulness of offending, their jealousy over themselves, their mortification of earthly affections, their eagerness to glorify God, their esteem of the saints, their elevation above the world, and their ardent longings for heaven! Your hearts reply, Amen; let us also delight ourselves in God." Pp. 53-58.

"Hence arises another important Christian duty, that, namely, of invigorating and cherishing these heavenly plants by means of religious ordinances. Thus, believers are described in Scripture as trees of righteousness planted by the rivers of water, which bring forth fruit in their season, and are flourishing even in old age, when others fade. The word of God, the sanctuary and its impressive solemnities, the secret devotions of the closet and family, these are the peaceful streams which water the vineyard of the Lord, and these are the sacred chan. nels through which the Almighty Spirit conveys to believers renewed supplies of life, and strength, and fruitfulness. The word of God is their counsellor in straits, and companion in the pilgrimage of life; and many in every age can say with the Psalmist, When our sorrows abounded, we would have perished, unless we had found comfort in thy most perfect word." By the prayer of faith they are strengthened with all might in the inner man, and kept

« VorigeDoorgaan »