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questioned, but unhesitatingly condemned, which refuses to admit the above as the genuine operations of the spirit, and cannot boast of his having been regenerated in the same mysterious way.
In relation to this subject we shall now ask the following plain questions, which will at once show what the scriptures teach, and what we are required to believe. The first inquiry we make is : Whether the extraordinary influence of the spirit, accompanying the preaching of the apostles, did not cease with the apostles?
This question must at once be answered in the affirmative; unless we believe that the power to work miracles, such as healing the sick, curing all manner of infirmities, restoring the dead to life, and the power of imparting extraordinary gifts of the spirit, such as by the spirit, prophesying as did God's servants of old and speaking and teaching in unknown tongues as was witnessed on the day of pentecost, Acts ii 4 and 17, 18 verses; we say unless we are prepared to contend that ministers of the gospel still posses all this power, the above notion of extra-influences of the spirit must be given up. But this idea is of course not held; and if now and then some wild and fanatic person should lay claim to any thing of the kind, his presumption will only go to show his ignorance of scripture and his total want of piety.
With the power of working miracles, such influences of the spirit then have also gone by: and as these were given and in the apostle's day, employed for special purposes, which did not afterwards exist, nothing like the miraculous work following the apostle Peter's preaching, since his day, has been witnessed, nor will we witness any thing more than the ordinary effect of the preached gospel, which has been appointed as "the power of God and the wisdom of God to the salvation of all who believe it." To hold therefore the one idea of the spirit's irresistible influence, and reject the other is an inconsistency which the advocates of this notion, will not find it easy to reconcile. But again we ask :
Whether, whilst the spirit operates differently with different indivi duals, to effect their conversion, it is not still in his ordinary way.
That in God's providence different means are employed with different individuals to bring them to a knowledge of the truth, none we hope will deny. But it by no means necessarily follows that these different and often powerful efforts of the spirit are beyond the ordinary way of God's operating with the sinner, or argue that any extraordinary influence of the spirit was given for the special conversion of an incorrigible sinner. But on the contrary it clearly proves, that as God's spirit and grace are always given and at work with the sinner, if he continues obstinate, and refuses receive and obey the truth, in the ordinary way in which it is brought home to his mind and pressed upon him by the spirit, he will be left in darkness, and in the end be a fit subject for everlasting burnings.
But if God must depart from his ordinary and appointed means of operating in order to accomplish the conversion of a sinner, this would at once prove that infinite wisdom has appointed means of grace insufficient for the work they are to accomplish, thus making
Jehovah a changeable, short-sighted and imperfect being; and if he resorts to extraordinary means for the sake of one impenitent and rebellious sinner, why would he not do so for all, and why are all Lot thus arrested in sin by the omnipotence of God, and irresistibly converted the truth. The whole mistake lies in supposing, that because, one means of grace proves successful with one sinner, which was not the case with others, God has here departed from his ordinary way of working, instead of considering that this effect was owing to the peculiar circumstances of that individual's case, and that this truth, was the one suited particularly to his case; thus shewing us the true meaning of the Apostle, when he says he became all things to all men, that thereby he might win some. Not mearing that he joined them in sin, but that he adapted his preaching and reasoning to the circumstances of those among whom he laboured, nor is any rule of greater importance, to the minister who wishes to be highly useful in his preaching. But again we ask :
Whether the present is not as much as any other period, the day of the Lord's power in which the sinner's conversion may be effected.
Not to admit this would be to suppose that the Almighty has set apart for himself peculiar seasons, when he manifests his grace and his great power in a way which cannot be resisted. To say the least of this, we should truly pity those who unhappily lived and died during one of those periods when God refused to be gracious, and because his ear was deaf that it could not, or would not hear, were compelled to die in their sins and perish without the hope of mercy.
This is however a favorite idea and expression with many, and without seeking its true meaning, they settle down in the absurd idea, that when once the day of God's power comes, the dry bones will be revived, and obstinate sinners will be made to bow and humble themselves, whether they will or not. But again :
Are not John iii 8 and the different events of St. Paul's conversion given in the 9th and 26th chapters of Acts, extraordinary cases, and such as were not to be looked for after the Apostles day?
Surely nothing is more plain than this; and hence no such conversions and miraculous gifts of the spirit are recorded as occuring since that period. But the above passages, as instances of the irresistible work of the spirit are constantly referred to as proof on this subject; and because they are found within the lids of the bible, many good but less informed christians say, "here is proof enough, and that all conversions must be of the same order." As well might we say that as the apostles possessed the extraordinary gifts of healing &c. the same powers ministers must now possess ; and that if we are without them, this is proof sufficient we are not called to the work,
But if weak minded christians should thus judge, where is the apology for their spiritual guides who should know better, and teach a proper understanding of such, and other scriptures which are thus mistaken, and made the foundation of notions and practices in religion, which nothing but ignorance and error sanction, and which
when once indulged the highest authority of scripture is scarcely able to remove. Again :
If the spirit as one of the trinity, and in reference to the doctrines of the trinity is confessedly a mystery and above our comprehension, is that a reason for making his influence with the sinner a mystery.
The one is a speculative subject, the latter practical and in which our salvation is much more concerned. As well might we ascribe mystery to God in all his dealings with man. On the same ground we may make religion an incomprehensible something altogether; and with all our piety will thus be left to question, until the judg ment, whether we shall be saved or perish; thus robbing ourselves of all the comfort and satisfaction religion was designed to give its possessors on this important point. If this were so the religion of the bible would be but little raised above the old systems of Grecian philosophy, and do but little good; why we should therefore strive to make it all a mystery is only owing to the errors and delusions we have now been correcting. All this is not only without the sanction of the bible, but far from being expedient or a gain, to religion. Let those therefore who thus set up their fanciful notions instead of God's word as our guide in religion, take care how they not only deceive themselves, but thousands of others. Let them inquire whether they are prepared to take upon themselves the heavy responsibility, the doctrine that God by his spirit miraculously converts whom he will, whilst others are left to strive in vain, necessarily imposes; whilst the above inquiries it is hoped will show in what light the subject of irresistible spiritual influences, should be viewed, and correct the idea, that whatever men profess to experience in their miraculous conversions must be received as scriptural, and that theirs is the standard by which the piety of all must be judged, however much it may be destitute of any authority, but their own fanciful experience. L. E. R.
We have repeatedly been asked, to express our opinion upon the custom of reading sermons, instead of delivering them without the aid of notes, or at least with but a skeleton lying before the speaker. Discovering a difference of opinion among the Clergy as well as among Lay-men, and having a press of other matter to attend to, we did not feel it our duty to touch the subject earlier.
The people whose Minister is a talented, industrious and pious man, can certainly be edified though he reads his sermons and if he employs the week, in composing and writing them, they will receive truths, expressed in language correct and handsome. We do therefore very sincerely approve of the plan which has been ad
opted in districts, not supplied with a Minister, to appoint a pious Lay-man as a reader of approved sermons. And we would earnestly admonish all our people, who are visited by their Minister but once in a month, to appoint a member of known piety and that reads distinctly, to read one or more sermons in their church, every Sunday, rather than to keep it closed and be content with one or two sermons delivered by their Minister every third or fourth Sundayin the month.
But although reading sermons, can be profitable to hearers, and although upon particular occasions, they should be read, yet it is in our opinion a custom less calculated to interest an audience and to rouse sinners, than extempore speaking. We do not mean to say, that a minister is to appear before his audience without premeditation, and we admit, that want of system, vulgar, uncouth and incorrect language, must disgust enlightened hearers, and prevent the most important truths from having an effect. Every Minister should study his subject well, before he brings it before his people, and if he has time, let him write his sermon. If he has not borrowed too much, he can commit it to memory without much difficulty, and then he can deliver it feelingly. Such is the temperament of most persons, that, unless they believe that he who addresses them, feels what he says, they will not feel. An extempore speaker only, can cause his hearers to believe that he feels himself, the force of what he says. A General may read the most excellent composition, setting forth the necessity of the citizens, to arm themselves and to forsake their fire-sides, to engage the enemy of their country, without rousing them to action. They will speak of his scholarship, admire his rhetorical acquirements, and remain at home. But, when a General, carefully viewed the state of things, is master of his subject, and feels its importance intense. ly, and then comes before his fellow-citizens, declaring what he knows and feels, the people are roused and fired-old men and young men exempt by law, hasten to the scene of action. Thus do we believe, are different effects produced by Ministers. The Reader, will be admired and respected for his attainments, though he reads no better than a school boy, who often feels the weight of his teachers band for his deficiency, whilst the Speaker, rouses his hearers and enlists them to fight under the banners of a crucified Saviour.
Our opinion is, that the constant practice of reading sermons, by
Ministers, shonld be discountenanced by our people, and although they will no doubt bear with a young man for a while, yet the Council of the church ought by all means to urge him, to prepare himself in his closet, in order that he may at an early day, be enabled to speak to them, as from the moment.
It may not be amiss, to give Cowper's description of a preacher. If Ministers and hearers reflect duly upon it, they will all profit.
Would I describe a preacher, such as Paul,
The following is an extract from an article published in the Commercial Advertiser. We met with it, in a late number of the Christian Advocate and Journal, and we think with the Editor, that, without offending any one, it may be instructive and amusing.
"After the singing was concluded, the minister made a very decent prayer. In it he sought the Lord to lay plentifully to his hands of the food of souls, &c. Now, thinks I, we will have a preaching. Well, his prayer finished, without a blush on his face, he pulls from his pocket a roll of black leather, in form of a tobacco pouch. From this he unrolls about a sheet of paper, and without ever opening the Bible reads a text from the head of the sheet, and so reads on till he comes to Amen, at the end of the sheet. I wondered at the indecency (to call it no worse) of the man. Did he think he was addressing a stock or a stone that did not hear him? Did he suppose his Maker did not know that all the food he was about to deal out to the hungry souls before him was in his pocket? I have heard this same mode of prayer used by reading ministers in New-York. I hope, hereafter, they will pray for the blessing of light, and eye sight, and the use of their tongues; for