Page images
PDF
EPUB

mercy; but of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing? Let us not then receive the grace of God in vain; but may the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory through Jesus Christ, perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle us, in his faith, fear, and love: to whom be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

To the Editor of the Christian Observer. THOUGH I have to thank you for improving the style of my letter (admitted into your number for October), yet I must beg leave to remonstrate against an alteration made (perhaps not intentionally) in its spirit and design. Allow me to state my meaning more perspicuously.

When persons are so far affected by a faithful ministry as to become doubtful of their present safety, and disposed to receive instructions for their future conduct; if then they are led to suppose that salvation is unconditionally a free gift, and that, therefore, no works of their own will be of any avail in procuring it, neither is any power previous to conversion given to that end; though these intimations should be "accompanied by the most pointed and impressive exhortations to labour, to run, to strive, &c.;"-they will certainly, sooner or later, weaken, if not destroy, the force of such exhortations. It is impossible that two contradictory propositions can be equally believed at the same time, by the same person. The mind indeed has a power of so dividing its attention in this case, as to receive only a confused idea from each; and then both may be admitted, because neither is understood. But the conclusions arising from premises so unconnected, must necessarily be weak and inefficacious, because indistinct. With some they remain so during life; with others they vary, as the mind inclines sometimes to the belief that nothing can be done, or

sometmies is roused to the apprehension that something is required. Such are by turns Necessarians and Pelagians; and hence their progress (if any is made) must be greatly impeded.

These observations may serve to explain my assertion that, many persons use a Gospel ministry as the means of quieting themselves in a worldly course of life." The persons I allude to are far from rejecting the word of exhortation (for those who do so seek a ministry which discards it). On the contrary, their approval of it gives themselves and others the chief hope of their state: they will admire those ser. mons which are most severe, and which are usually termed searching, notwithstanding their consciousness that at present they fall short of the characters prescribed, and withhold the sacrifices insisted upon. The truth is, they have a shield which returns every arrow. They have learnt, that when God converts the heart the bias of the affections is changed; that things before delighted in become insipid, because new objects and new pleasures occupy the soul: hence they justly conclude, the sacrifies called for will then be easily made. But since they feel their own unrenewed efforts (as they term them), to be not only painful, but also apprehend them to be useless, they are well content to omit them, and to wait for the fulness of power, which is contained in the grace they have been taught to consider as unconditional, and efficacious of itself. Now, Sir, such persons need to be told, that though God can, and sometimes does in the beginning, give the delectation of love with the light of conviction, yet his more ordinary method is, to bestow the former as the reward of faithful obedience to the latter: and that if we will make the munificence of his Sovereignty the standard of our expectations, instead of submitting to the terms and discipline of his covenant, we may fall under the rod of justice, while we are waiting to touch the sceptre of mercy.

To conclude: I would observe If we seek to build the word of exhortation on the sands of Pelagian self-sufficiency, we may rationally expect its effect to fail when most Beeded. But because sand is a bad foundation, must we therefore attempt to build castles in the air?

Ought we not carefully to examine into this matter? Is it not worthy of the most serious investigation? With this view I submit the above statement to the candour and impartiality of the Christian Observer, and remain, &c.

SOPATER,

MISCELLANEOUS.

To the Editor of the Christian Observer. Taz sentiments advanced in this paper will, in all likelihood, be unfavourably interpreted, or misunderstood, by the individuals they chiefly concern. If they are canvassed and corrected, all parties will gain in the end. The writer's wish is to glance at some current notions on the subject of religious persecution.

I set out with the settled convic tion of the impossibility of finding any neutral ground between the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and this world. We are all under the absolute necessity of choosing a side; and when the choice is once deliberately made, the quicksightedness of our own party will soon discover and claim our services.

As matters actually stand, in respect to the religious public, many persons seem to be hurrying from the Tanks of the world to join those whom the world surveys with surprise or scorn, as no longer belonging to them.-I say, hurrying; because the desertion of the proselytes in question, looks more like a hasty and improvident effort to get rid of some inconvenience, than the thoughtful and steady pursuit of an advantage well inquired into, and seriously weighed against the difficulty incurred in reaching it. To disentangle the subject from this half metaphoric representation:-some men are too eager to be called professors of religion, and wish to have the

fession, as soon as they have turned credit (whatever it be) of their protheir backs upon what their new associates term the manners of the world. Among converts thus formed, a circumstance occasionally takes place, which surely must startle a near observer of mankind; namely, an apparent forwardness to get themselves marked by the world as belonging to a set, so that they seem to woo and coax the people of the town, village, or hamlet, where they live, to brand them with a distinctive nickname; of which, and similar indications of popular mislike, they talk with the same length of insignificant detail, and shew of selfimportance, as a recruit, who has seen from an eminence an affair of outposts, swells the skirmish into a general engagement, long and bloody; and seizes the occasion to display the powers of military pedantry.

Could the Christians of the apostolic age appear among us, and require a formal description of the persecutions of the nineteenth century, might not they be referred to a sarcasm, a calumny, a contemptuous paragraph in a newspaper, an article in a magazine, an occasional reproach in a sermon, and (oh," teil it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon!") a series of accusations in a charge? However, resolve these persecutions into what you please, let their effect be ascer tained. Is their effect then so fear

ful, as to deter either a pusillanimous or a resolute character from venturing to join the injured party? I know indeed, that in distinct instances, much, and very much, has been lost by a steady devotion to the service of Jesus Christ. Influence, credit, wealth, personal attachment, domestic affection, local importance, popularity, all these favourite objects of human esteem, have been forfeited by individuals whom I could name, and with whose private his tory I am familiar. These sufferers have literally been compelled "to forsake brethren, sisters, father, mother;" or rather, these relations have forsaken them; and, as I most seriously believe," for His name's sake and the Gospel's." But in the examples alluded to, the loss has not obviously been discerned to be formally the consequence of the individual's entrance upon a religious life, so as that every one who knew the party could affirm,-" This man has lost a certain estate, or a certain piece of preferment, or is estranged from his family, because he is gone over to the Christian side:"-and I state this by way of obviating an idea entertained by some persons, that in these times, a man who professes religion must, in a worldly sense, be a loser. That the Christians above mentioned, and many others too, are losers, is a fact; but it is not a fact, that they are all known to be losers. I believe that many guesses upon this subject are entirely erroneous.

My position is, that the effect generally to be expected from what is called persecution, is not by any means so serious as to alarm a person who has sufficient independence of mind to think for himself on any disputed point whatever; such, for example, as the character and political measures of a statesman, or a theory in physical science. Various reasons might be advanced tending to explain the absence of a more formidable effect. One of these is that characteristic of an indolent and indifferent age, which permits every man to think what he pleases." Gal

lio cared for none of these things." A large majority of such as give the languid attention of the times, whenever moral objects pass before them, cannot, of course, awaken in themselves even that degree of inquiry, which would enable them to see, that of two religious parties, each grounding its tenets on the common basis of the Scriptures, yet each arriving at opposite conclusions, one must be mistaken. These sleepy lookers-on will indeed vouchsafe a forced smile at the fact of this contrariety, and then retire to their own stations, adopting the intelligible decision of the Roman officer." If it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it: for I will be no judge of such matters."

Had indeed the objects of Gallio's indifference (the Apostles) converted their doctrine into an instrument of sedition, or had they directly charg ed him with some specified guilt; in either case his jealousy would not have slumbered. The Gospel would have been called personally injúrious, insulting, insufferable. And if the Gallios of this day could see, what is undeniably the fact, that every sermon of a pious clergyman, and every effect of such sermon in the life of a pious layman, tend, whatever be the degree, to overturn their systems of sensual and intellectual depravity, some of them might awake as giants refreshed with wine. At present they are secure, because the danger is not discerned; or, if dimly seen, it is too obscure and too distant to create apprehension.

Do you, Sir, or does any thinking man imagine, that a votary of pleasure, or a devotee to science, or even an abstracted metaphysician, would refuse professedly to hold the doctrines of Luther or Leo the Tenth, of Bishop Horsley or Dr. Priestley, on a formal condition, that the libertine should retain every atom of his pleasures, the philosopher con tinue to be immersed in theories and apparatus, and the metaphysician enjoy his ontology? I suppose not.

1

Each of these hunters after happiness would hastily dismiss you with, -"So long as you will let us do as we please, we leave the rest to you. Be satisfied, and depart."

The irritation discovered by men of the world, when pressed to embrace the genuine doctrines of the Gospel, arises, either from their resenting the interference of another person, such interference indirectly implying their error, ignorance, partiality, or want of inquiry; or, secondly and chiefly, from their perceiving, that if they embrace those doctrines, they will be required to alter their lives;-they are calculating upon the amputation of the right hand, the excision of the right eye, and shrink from the idea of Heaven itself, if they are to enter it "halt and maimed." Like certain characters on record, they exclaim, "This is a hard saying, who can

hear it!"

tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about, destitute, afflicted, tormented (of whom the world was not worthy): they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth*."

Compare now, with these vivid pictures of the primitive martyrs, the actual state of Christians in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; and let living confessors contrast their actual freedom from personal violence, with the varied and accumulated wrongs of the first ages. When did they hunger and thirst, when cause they belonged to Christ? Have were they deprived of raiment, bethey literally been scourged, and driven from their habitations? What individual can affirm, "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus?"> Who has been imprisoned, stoned, sawn asunder, or delivered over to the pains of an ignominious death? In what solitudes have any

persons been compelled to wander? To what caverns and fastnesses have they fled from the the pursuit of the sword?-On the contrary, have not professors of Christianity had full liberty, if they so pleased, to eat, drink, and be merry? Might they not have said to their souls," Take your ease?" Could their enemies. have prevented them from being sumptuously?" If their persons were "clothed in fine linen, and faring insulted, if their houses were attacked, the magistrate was their protection. Who dared to thrust them into prison? Who could have ventured even to meditate their death?

I pass on, from this digression, to the descriptions given by the early Christians of the positive sufferings, or persecutions, endured by them for their practical conformity to Jesus Christ. "I think," says St. Paul," that God hath set forth us the Apostles last, as it were appointed to death. For we are made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and men. We are fools for Christ's sake: weak, despised. Even tato this present hour we both hunger and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; and labour, working with our own hands; reviled, persecuted, defamed, made as the filth of the world, and are the off-scouring troubled on every side; perplexed, contend with the greatness of the of all things unto this day. We are persecuted, cast down; always bear subject. Hear St. Paul asserting, ing about in the body the dying of "If in this life only we have hope in the Lord Jesus, always delivered Christ, then we are of all men most

unto death for Jesus's sake.

In stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Others

language of inspiration itself, when In the case of the Apostles, the describing their sufferings, seems to

miserable!" His details of sorrow, a
considerable part of which were ex-

had trial of cruel mockings, and brews, particularly refers to the martyrs and
Scourgings; yea, moreover, of bonds confessors of the ancient church; but it may
and imprisonment. They were ston- with perfect propriety be transferred to the
ed, they were sawn asunder, were

* This extract from the Epistle to the IIe

Christians of the early centuries.

ful, as to deter either a pusillanimous or a resolute character from venturing to join the injured party? I know indeed, that in distinct instances, much, and very much, has been lost by a steady devotion to the service of Jesus Christ. Influence, credit, wealth, personal attachment, domestic affection, local importance, popularity, all these favourite objects of human esteem, have been forfeited by individuals whom I could name, and with whose private his tory I am familiar. These sufferers have literally been compelled "to forsake brethren, sisters, father, mother;" or rather, these relations have forsaken them; and, as I most seriously believe," for His name's sake and the Gospel's." But in the exam. ples alluded to, the loss has not obviously been discerned to be formally the consequence of the individual's entrance upon a religious life, so as that every one who knew the party could affirm,—" This man has lost a certain estate, or a certain piece of preferment, or is estranged from his family, because he is gone over to the Christian side:"-and I state this by way of obviating an idea entertained by some persons, that in these times, a man who professes religion must, in a worldly sense, be a loser. That the Christians above mentioned, and many others too, are losers, is a fact; but it is not a fact, that they are all known to be losers. I believe that many guesses upon this subject are entirely erroneous.

My position is, that the effect generally to be expected from what is called persecution, is not by any means so serious as to alarm a person who has sufficient independence of mind to think for himself on any disputed point whatever; such, for example, as the character and political measures of a statesman, or a theory in physical science. Various reasons might be advanced tending to explain the absence of a more formidable effect. One of these is that characteristic of an indolent and indifferent age, which permits every man to think what he pleases." Gal

lio cared for none of these things." A large majority of such as give the languid attention of the times, whenever moral objects pass before them, cannot, of course, awaken in themselves even that degree of inquiry, which would enable them to see, that of two religious parties, each grounding its tenets on the common basis of the Scriptures, yet each arriving at opposite conclusions, one must be mistaken. These sleepy lookers-on will indeed vouchsafe a forced smile at the fact of this contrariety, and then retire to their own stations, adopting the intelligible decision of the Roman officer." If it be a question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it: for I will be no judge of such matters."

Had indeed the objects of Gallio's indifference (the Apostles) converted their doctrine into an instrument of sedition, or had they directly charg ed him with some specified guilt, in either case his jealousy would not have slumbered. The Gospel would have been called personally injurious, insulting, insufferable. And if the Gallios of this day could see, what is undeniably the fact, that every sermon of a pious clergyman, and every effect of such sermon in the life of a pious layman, tend, whatever be the degree, to overturn their systems of sensual and intel lectual depravity, some of them might awake as giants refreshed with wine. At present they are secure, because the danger is not discerned; or, if dimly seen, it is too obscure and too distant to create apprehension.

Do you, Sir, or does any thinking man imagine, that a votary of pleasure, or a devotee to science, or even an abstracted metaphysician, would refuse professedly to hold the doctrines of Luther or Leo the Tenth, of Bishop Horsley or Dr. Priestley, on a formal condition, that the libertine should retain every atom of his pleasures, the philosopher continue to be immersed in theories and apparatus, and the metaphysician enjoy his ontology? I suppose not.

« PreviousContinue »