Page images
PDF
EPUB

son.

him that it is not a matter of indifference to which he does come—that the interests of his soul, and of other souls connected with him, are at stake—and that the question to be determined is, in all probability, one of the most momentous, that will ever come before him on this side the

grave. 2. It appears, from what has been said, that each of the two systems which have been compared may be consistent with itself. Admit certain first principles, and each follows very naturally and consistently. Admit, for example, that man is by nature what the liberal system represents him to be, and he needs no other remedy than what this system provides. And if the remedy provided be what this system represents, then the present reception or rejection of it cannot involve consequences of sufficient moment very deeply to affect any per

But on supposition that man is naturally what the evangelical system represents ; he obviously needs a very different application; and on his reception or rejection of this application, consequences infinite and unutterable must depend.

In order to see the subject thus presented in its true light, let us suppose the different parts of the two systems transferred, so that the one may come into the place of the other. Suppose man to be, not a fallen, but only an erring being, with nothing in the way of his forgiveness but the lack of repentance, and with no difficulty in the way of his repenting, which he may not easily overcome, --so that he is in no great danger as he is, and only needs some additional light and motives in order to his complete salvation ;--and were we now to see all heaven interested for him; the Father moved to send the Son to die for him; the Son consenting to come down for this painful purpose ; the Holy Spirit issuing forth to renew and sanctify bim; and holy angels becoming his ministering servants ;-should we see all this stupendous display of feeling and provision ; we could hardly help imagining that here was much ado about nothing'--that there was no occasion for all this interest, effort, and sacrifice--that every thing which was needed might have been accomplished with much less expense.

Suppose, on the other hand, that man is, (what the evangelical system represents him to be a fallen, guilty, ruined creature; holden for a debt which he can never pay, and exposed to a punishment from which there is no escape; with no disposition to repent, and no possibility of pardon even if he does repent; with nothing behind him but mountains of incurred guilt, and nothing before him but a fearful looking for of judgment;--suppose him placed in such a situation, with his eyes all open to see it, and his heart alive to feel it ; and tell him now that God loves him, and has sent an inspired messenger to teach him, and set before him a good example; and he will say at once 'Why, this is to mock me ! What can a mere teacher do with a heart such as mine! What can be do with the guilt I have already incurred ! What can he do with the worm that is gnawing within me; and with the dreadful sentence which hangs impending over me; and with the devouring flames already kindled to consume me! No, tell me not of an inspired teacher! Mock me not with a provision such as this! He caa do nothing for me that I need, and why should I hear of him more?

The foundation of the two diflerent systems of religion is laid in the different views given by each respecting the natural state and character of man. Those who adopt the liberal view on this subject, will be likely to adopt it on every other. But those who adopt the evangelical view in regard to this great subject, and open, not only their eyes, but their heart to it, will scarcely fail of being led into all necessary truth. Their dreadful fall, and guilt, and ruin will show them their need of an Almighty Saviour and an Almighty Sanctifier, and will lead them to flee for refuge to the hope that is fet before them. It is easy to cure men of their errors on most religious subjects, if we can but make them acquainted with their true character and state. For the moment they see this, they will see what they need ; and they will then be satisfied with nothing less than the full provision of the gospel.

3. From the comparison which has been instituted between the two different systems of religion, it is easy to account for their different effects.

It has been a standing complaint of the liberal system, both among friends and foes, that it fails to excite a deep, a general, and an 'abiding interest. Dr. Priestly uttered this complaint many years ago, and it has been reiterated by liberalists on the other side of the water, from his days to the present. And not without sufficient reason : for it is a well known fact, that their preaching has scattered some of the best Dissenting congregations, and emptied not a few of the oldest and largest Dissenting meeting houses in the mother country. The same complaint is also heard on this side of the water. With the exception of a few of the more distinguished preachers, those who hold and teach the liberal doctrines are known to excite but litile interest on the subject of religion. They may excite interest on other subjects, and subjects of importance to the community; but on the subject of religion, they are known to excite but little interest. And why should they? The difficulty is not in the men--not at all; but in the system which they preach. What is there in this system, taken by itself and standing upon its own merits, calculated to excite a thrilling and an abiding interest? Look into every part of it—the views it exhibits of the natural state and character of man, the provision made for him, and the consequences of embracing or rejecting this provision-and see if there is any thing calculated to excite much joy or grief, hope or fear, or deep emotions of any kind. See if there is any thing so wonderful as to draw the attention of heaven, and excite the angels to desire to look into it;-any thing so mysterious and unfathomable, as to call forth an exclamation like that of the Apostle, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out !"

The effects of the evangelical system, where it is faithfully exhibited and urged, are also manifest. They are manifest in the concessions, not to say the accusations, of its opposers. In the sudden awakenings and conversions which accompany it; in flowing tears and grief of heart for sin ; in terrors and distresses in prospect of impending judgment ; in high hopes and joys, and abounding consolations; in revivals of religion, affecting whole communities, and shaking them as with a rushing wind; in arousing the careless, reclaiming the vicious, withdrawing the worldly from the pursuits of earth, and fixing their thoughts and hearts on heaven ;—in all these and similar ways, the effects of the evangelical system are exhibited to the world. They certainly are great effects-often very astounding to those who have no sympathy with evangelical doctrines; but is there not, under God, a sufficient cause for them? May they not be easily and satisfactorily accounted for? They do not arise from the eloquence or the art of preachers—not at all; but in these evangelical docrines, when accompanied by the influence of the Holy Spirit, there is a grandeur, an interest, a pathos, a power, which render them altogether resistless. They show the sinner what he is, and where he is, and what is before him, and what is to become of him; and he is agitated, distressed, alarmed. They show him what Heaven has felt, and done, and is doing for him; and he is overwhelmed. They set before him life and death, blessing and cursing, unending joy or unending woe, as depending on a decision to be made by himself; and with trembling haste, he presses towards the narrow gate, and flees from the wrath to come. T'he effects of these heart-stirring doctrines, when accompanied by the strivings of the Holy Spirit, are precisely what we might suppose they would be. They are not disproportionate to their cause, but are its appropriate and legitimate effects.

And now, reader, are not these powerful doctrines the doctrines of the Apo:tles and primitive Christians? Are they not the doctrines of Paul ? Did not he preach the fallen, guilty, ruined state of man? Did not he preach redemption by the blood of Christ, and sanctification by the power of the Holy Ghost ? Did not he represent sinners as in a most fearful, critical situation, and urge them to flee from the wrath to come? And were not the effects of his preaching similar to those which now follow the preaching of evangelical doctrines ? Felix hears him, trembles, and makes promises. Agrippa hears him, is wrought upon, and almost persuaded. Lydia's heart is opened, and she is suddenly converted. The jailer is anxious, and inquires, “What must I do to be saved” ? Revivals of religion follow him wherever he goes, and the moral wilderness blooms around him. Who does not see, in the siunilarity of these effects to those of faithful evangelical preaching in our own times, that the doctrines taught must be the same? And if they are the same; then are not the doctrines of the evangelical system the truth of Godthat truth which is to stand forever? And if these doctrines are the truth of God; then those who reject them do it at their peril.

In rejecting these doctrines, we reject the counsel of God against ourselves. We put out the only light which has ever been given us, to guide our wandering feet through this dark world to the celestial paradise. We reject the only means which heaven has ever provided, or ever will provide, for our sanctification or salvation.-But if we embrace these truths, we einbrace the gospel ;-with its precious promises and abounding consolations, we embrace the gospel. We embrace that which will be our light in darknesss, our joy in sorrow, and our only support when heart and flesh shall fail. We embrace that which will be as the bread and the water of life to our hungry and thirsty souls.

P.

REVIEWS.

THE YOUNG CHRISTIAN: or a Familiar Illustration of

the Principles of Christian Duty. By JACOB ABBOTT, Principal of the Mt. Vernon Female School, Boston. Boston : Peirce & Parker, 1832. pp. 323.

12 mo.

This work, though recently published, is already too well known to need any analysis of its contents, or any delineation of its character ; but it so happily exemplifies a highly useful mode of instruction, that we take this occasion of calling the attention of our readers to the subject.

We can show by example, better than by description, what we mean by the method of instruction here recommended. It did not originate with our author ; it is as old as wisdom herself; and the most perfect specimens of it are to be found in the writings of those “who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," and in the instructions of Him who taught as never man taught. It addresses the reason through the senses, the memory and the imagination. It teaches not by speculation, but by facts; not by cold and barren generalities, but by practical details, distinct, pertinent, and fitted to rouse and enchain attention ; not by vague abstractions, intelligible only to deep and disciplined thinkers, but by particulars, level to the humblest minds, lying in the range of their familiar observation, and calculated to rivet conviction or impression, by leaving them to work out their own conclusion. Should we consider this mode of instruction as employing illustrations, facts, and narrations, we might find an example of each in the sacred volume.

Take an example of teaching by illustration. With what beauty and force does our Saviour urge the example of God's providing for the fowls of the air, and clothing the lillies of the field, to dissuade from solicitude respecting the supply of our daily wants ! " Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air : for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns ; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they ? And why take ye thought for raiment ? Consider the lillies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin ;

30

VOL. VI--NO VI.

« PreviousContinue »