« VorigeDoorgaan »
For we are before the eyes of him, who is Lord and God, and all must stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and every one give an account of himself. Wherefore let us serve him with all fear and reverence, as he himself has commanded us, and as the Apostles have preached and taught us, and the Prophets who foreshewed the coming of our Lord. Be zealous of that which is good, abstaining from offences and false brethren, and those who bear the name of the Lord in hypocricy, who seduce and deceive vain men. For every one, that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is Anti-christ; and he who doth not acknowledge the martyrdom of the cross, is of the devil, and whoever shall pervert the oracles of the Lord to his private lusts, and shall say, that there is neither resurrection nor judgment to come, that man is the first-born of Satan. Leaving therefore the vanity of many, and their false doctrines, let us return to that doctrine, that from the beginning was delivered to us: let us be watchful in prayers, persevering in fasting, and supplications, beseeching the all-seeing God that he would not lead us into temptation; as the Lord has said, the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Let us unweariedly and constantly adhere to Jesus Christ, who is our hope and the pledge of our righteousness, who bare our sins in his own body on the tree, who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth, but endured all things for our sakes, that we might live through him. Let us then imitate his patience, and if we suffer for his name, we glorify him; for such a pattern he set us in himself, and thus we have believed and entertained.
I trust that ye are well exercised in the holy scriptures, and that nothing is hid from you; a thing as yet not granted to me. As it is said in these places, be angry and sin not; and let not the sun go down upon your wrath. Blessed is he that is mindful of these things, which I believe you are. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and Christ Jesus the eternal High-Priest, and Son of God, build you up in faith and truth, and in all meekness that you may be without anger, in patience, forbearance, long-suffering, and chastity, and give you a portion and inheritance amongst his saints, and to us together with you, and to all under heaven, who shall believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, and in his Father, who raised him from the dead. Pray for all saints. Pray also for kings, magistrates, and princes, and even for them that hate and persecute you, and for the enemies of the cross, that your fruit may be manifest in all, that you may be complete in him.
Ye wrote unto me, both ye and Ignatius, that if any one go into Syria, he might carry your letters along with him: which I will do so soon as I shall have a convenient opportunity, either myself, or by some other, whom I will send upon your errand. According. to your request we have sent you those epistles of Ignatius, which he wrote to us, and as many others of his as we had by us, which are annexed to this epistle, by which ye may be greatly profited. For they contain in them faith, and patience, and whatever else is necessary to build you up in our Lord. Send us word what you certainly know both concerning Ignatius himself, and his companions. These things have I written unto you by Crescens, whom I have hitherto commend
ed to you, and do still recommend. For he has unblameably conversed among us, as also I believe amongst you. His sister also ye shall have recommended, when she shall come unto Be ye safe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with you all.
FOR THE CHURCHMAN'S MAGAZINE.
A SERIOUS QUESTION.
ARE YOU A CHRISTIAN? Yes-you will doubtless reply. What reasons have you to think so? You will perhaps say, I have been baptized, and thereby admitted into Christ's Church. Good. If by your own desire, since you came to years of discretion, you have been baptized, you did right. If it was done by the procurement of others, in infancy or childhood, when you was incapable of presenting yourself, they did for you what was very right, and agreeable to the will of God. But have you ever once considered, since you was baptized, the nature of that transaction? Do you know any thing of the benefits thereby conferred upon you, and the obligations under which you was laid? Do you know any thing what it is to be regenerated in heart and life? To have put off the old man with his deeds, and to have put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Have you not rested satisfied with that regeneration which is outward in the flesh, by the washing of water, without any care for that which is inward in the spirit? Being enlisted under the banner of Christ, have you taken any care to see that you bear true and faithful allegiance to his authority? Yes, you doubtless say: I remain a member of the true ' Church, that Church into which I was baptized. I admit her doctrines and discipline to be conformable to the mind and will of Christ. Good again. But do you ever rightly consider what it is to be a true and faithful member of Christ's visible Church? Do you take all due care to promote peace and harmony, unity and Christian fellowship? Are you zealous for the prosperity of Zion? Do you seek to promote true religion and vital piety among your neighbours? You say that you are a member of the true Church. Now have you ever taken any pains to understand what is the nature of that Church-what are its appointed laws and ordinances? Certainly, you say: I hold that Jesus Christ founded his Church on the Apostles, and gave them power to appoint successors, and they others, and so on to the end of the world. All this is very right. But have you considered also the spiritual nature of this Church; how it is intended for the communication of spiritual blessings to men, in union and fellowship with one another? Do you understand any thing of that spiritual communion, or endeavour to practise it in your heart? You will no doubt again reply in the affirmative, and say you go to Church, and attend, at all appointed times, upon the sacred ordinances-the worship of God, and the holy eucharist. All very good again. But here a great many questions present themselves, more than I have room to ask, or, it is feared, than you can satisfactorily answer. When you are repairing to the house of
God, what is the state of your mind? Do you go with the same light and trivial thoughts as you would carry with you to a scene of amusement-a house of merriment? Or do you dwell in contemplation on that awful majesty, 'whose peculiar honour dwells where you are going? Do you consider what a heinous sin you will commit by trifling in his more immediate presence; and that you must give account for every idle thought you indulge on so solemn an occasion? And when you have taken your place, how is your mind employed? Have you any reverence for him in whose presence you are any sense of what you come about? Do you think at all of the worship due to the great King of Heaven, the sovereign Lord of the universe? Or is your mind wandering on your worldly business or pleasures? Do you not act as though you came there merely to be seen; or at best, out of idle curiosity to hear or see something new? No, you reply: I join my voice in the public service of the Church, where required so to do? True perhaps; but where is your heart all the time? Is it humbled to a deep sense of unworthiness, when you confess your sins? Does it ascend with ardent longing towards heaven, when you utter petitions for spiritual and temporal blessings? Is it lifted up in grateful emotions, when you praise God with your lips? Is it warmed with a holy flame, when with your voice you ascribe unto God blessing, and honour, and power, and everlasting dominion. And while his holy word is reading, are you attentive to catch instruction? Do you with humility and reverence listen to the dictates of eternal truth? Is, in short, the whole frame and bent of your thoughts such as bespeaks a sense of your dependance on the power and goodness of God, for every blessing you hope to enjoy in this life or the life to come? Does a sacred awe seize your whole soul? Do veneration and reverence command all your senses, and make you wholly attentive to the business you are about? Unless this is the case, permit me to tell you, you are not what you profess to be: You are not a Christian: You are but mocking God. While you draw near to him with your lips, your heart is far from him. You are making him vain oblations which he will not accept. Your incense is an abomination, even the solemn offering. Your prayers reach not the court of heaven, but fall back to your own condemnation. Your heartless praise dies upon the tongue, and shall redound to your ruin.
But you say you attend all the solemn ordinances of the Church. I hope you do. You come then to the Lord's table; and you come in a reverend and decent manner, no doubt; for we never see any do it otherwise, so far at least as concerns the external appearance. And are you therefore a Christian? Stop a little before you pronounce sentence in your own favour. What is the internal frame and temper of your heart on this solemn occasion? Do you feel any real love and gratitude to God? Are your affections warmed and elevated under a sense of his goodness? When the consecrated bread is broken, does it lead you to contemplate your dying Saviour's body broken on the cross? And when the wine is poured out, do you look up and behold his sacred blood streaming from his wounded side, and trickling from the nail prints? Do you consider, that it
was for your sins he was thus wounded-to wash away your defilement, his blood thus streamed from the tree on which he hungthat your sins helped to point each nail; and drive to his wounded heart the soldier's spear? For you he bled! for you he died! O boundless love! O goodness infinite! No tongue can tell, no heart conceive the wondrous mercy of our God! In these and such like meditations, do you wait absorbed, for the spirit of God, by the instrumentality of his holy ordinance, to be shed abroad in your heart, to fill you with love divine-to purge out the old leaven, the leaven of malice-to warm and quicken your affections for divine things, rendered cold and sluggish by sin; to make you holy, harmJess, and undefiled before God, that in the end you may sit down at his table in heaven? All these are characteristic marks of the true Christian; and if you have them not, you have no right to claim the sacred title. Search then your own heart-look and see if you do not comply with the ordinances of religion merely for form's sake. Is it not all a cold, heartless, and unmeaning formality? Or what is worse, is it not the disguise of hypocricy, the better to impose on the world, and pass for righteous, while you enjoy the pleasures and advantages of sin? To this question I expect you will reply, No. Nay, and on the whole, I am willing to give you credit for sincerity, that you really think as you say. I am willing to hear you further say, that you carry your religion into your life and actions— that you endeavour to be true and just in all your dealings-charitable and kind to those who need-sober and temperate in your enjoyments-peaceable and quiet in your behaviour towards all menand that you endeavour to comply with our Lord's golden rule, by doing to others as you would they should do unto you. All this is very well: But then many a heathen hath done this, to as great a degree of perfection as perhaps you will dare to pretend. Is this then any certain proof that you are a Christian? With what motives and views do you do these things? Is it not to gain and pre serve a good reputation among men? Is it not to promote your own profit and advantage in the present life? Or have you any view to the glory of God? God has commanded you to perform these good works, and the command is sanctioned by the severest penalties, even everlasting destruction from his presence, and from all joy. Now do you not obey from fear, from a slavish dread of punishment, without any love to his holy will? Do you not expect-have you not a secret lurking notion, that by your own strength you can assuage his wrath, and purchase an interest in his favour? Is there not remaining in your heart a seed of pride-a root of bitterness, which would arrogate a power belonging only to God, a power to expiate sin against his divine majesty? A Christian, and yet think to be profitable unto God, as a man unto his neighbour! A Christian, and yet think to merit aught at the hand of your Creator!
Here comes a question, in answering which you will need search well every corner of your own heart, or you are in danger of deceiving yourself. Are you not already deceived by the delusive reasonings of pride, which will not bow before God? Have you well considered that you are a fallen and depraved creature? That you have no power
of yourself to help yourself? That you are ruined, lost, undone, and absolutely without help in yourself? That you are naked, and blind, and destitute? And that you must forever perish, but for the mighty power of that Saviour, who came into the world and died to redeem you from all iniquity-to give you a clean heart, and renew within you a right spirit? If you do not see and really feel this to be the case with you; whatever you may pretend, you are no Christian. You may be one in form, but not in essence and power. You may have partaken of the external regeneration in the flesh by baptism, which indeed brought you into a condition to partake, according to promise, of the covenanted aids of God's Holy Spirit. But it seems you have not profited withal. You are not really and truly regenerated in heart and affections. And hence you are not bringing forth the fruits of the spirit. You have not fled unto your only ark of safety, the atoning blood of your saviour. The supreme love of him dwells not in your heart, to establish your faith upon immoveable foundations; and to render you steadfast, always abounding in the work of the Lord. You do not renounce dependance on yourself, and look unto him, in whom alone you can have acceptance with God; and therefore you do not render to him the service he requires. You see not the absolute need of a Saviour, and therefore your faith is wavering. You feel not yourself interested that it should be strong; and therefore it is weak: Incapable to withstand the assaults of temptation, and unable to buoy you, with comfort, above the evils of this transitory state. You feel not the infinite importance of religion to your soul's everlasting welfare, and therefore your zeal is luke-warm; your service of Almighty God is cold and languid; it comes not from the heart; and you have no relish; you take no delight in coming before God with homage and praise. Prevaricate not with yourself, but answer to your own heart truly; is not this the reason why you have so much of the form, and so little of the spirit of Christianity? Do you halt between two opinions in such a case? Then permit me to tell you, you hesitate whether you are a Christian or a heathen! For here lies the fundamental point of distinction between the two. The real Christian sees and feels that he is a fallen and depraved creature ; and therefore that he stands in need of a Saviour. By faith he sees that a Saviour is offered in Jesus Christ, and in him he puts his trust for acceptance with God. Here we have something radically distinct from mere morality, which may be explained and enforced by reason only-something worthy the immediate intervention of God. Throw away these things, and you at once sink into nothing more than a heathen. Entertain them coldly-but half believe them, and what are you better? Do you then feel the truth and infinite importance of these points of faith? If you do not, claim no more the character you have assumed. If you do, go on in the spirit and power of your faith, and God shall give you strength to resist temptations; and finally land you in a future world of glory.