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poses to which these acquire ments were applied, after his call to the apostolical ministry, abundantly appear from his his. tory and his writings.
But however useful in its proper place human learning may be, it can do nothing for reliev ing the troubles of the soul. Of this fact Dr. Owen had, in his own experience, the most convincing, though painful proof. Profound erudition, elaborate reasonings, the ornaments of style, the charms of eloquence, can neither remove guilt from the conscience, nor fill the heart with peace and joy. But the testimony of Jesus, delivered in all its simplicity, even by the feeblest instrument, is mighty through the power of God to the pulling down of strong holds, and healing the broken hearted. Had relief been obtained in consequence of hearing Dr. Calamy, or any other of the renowned preachers of the day, there might perhaps have been some danger of appreciating too highly the power of the instru-. ment. But the preacher is so, obscure, that he cannot be found out. "The treasure is in earthen vessels, that the excellency and power may be of God."
Let no faithful minister of the gospel be despised or discour aged, however obscure his station in the church, or however inferior in gifts to many of his brethren. The great Lord gives talents to his servants according to his own good pleasure, and assigns to each of them his proper place. The services of all are necessary; and the most un. likely instruments may be remarkably blessed. An Owen may be profited by the labors
of a man far inferior in talents to himself. Let no faithful min. ister decline a fair and regular opportunity of preaching the gospel. Certainly it is not duty obstrusively to interfere with the province of another. Discretion and conscience must decide in particular circumstances, as to the propriety of the call. But when a just occasion offers, let it not be declined. On circumstances apparently insignificant and casual, important consequences often depend. The relation of events to one another, though unperceived by us, is perceived and determined by God. His counsel shall stand, nor can his gracious purposes be frustrated by men. But if a minister, through love of ease, or any other improper motive, neg. lect an opportunity of usefulness which he might have improv. ed, precious souls shall be convinced, converted, comforted, or confirmed, but no share of instrumentality in accomplishing these blessed effects shall be his. Let no faithful minister be un. duly discouraged because he per. ceives not the immediate visible fruits of his ministerial labors. It is certainly desirable in a high degree to observe the effects of a divine power accompanying the ministrations of the gospel; but the minister who studies to ap. prove himself to God, has good reason to hope, that he shall not run nor labor in vain. It is probable, that some, perhaps many, are growing up in knowl. edge, and faith, and holiness, and comfort, and meetness for eternal life; and that like the honored servant of Christ, who preached in Aldermanbury church, on the occasion to which these reflections
refer, he shall meet with some in the world of glory, whom he never knew on earth, who shall
be to him for his glory and crown of rejoicing, throughout the ages of eternity.
THE NATURE AND OBLIGATION OF RELIGIOUS Vows.
(Continued from page 171.)
THE nature and obligation of religious vows were considered in my last number. The serious addresses to several classes of persons who are under solemn vows to God, promised as an application of this subject, follow. I begin with those, who have vowed to GoD in the highest sense, I mean, complete Christian professors and communicants. Besides your early baptismal dedication, in which you were passive, you have personally put your hands and seals to the obligation; you have done it in the face of day, in the presence of God, an. gels, and men; to all of whom you have practically appealed, as witnesses of the transaction. Accordingly, the articles of this Covenant between you and your Maker have been registered, so to speak, among the standing records of heaven and earth, to be produced either for or against you in the day of judgment. If it shall then appear that any of you were induced to a religious profession and attendance on Christian ordinances by a regard to custom and reputation, ɔr to Worldly convenience and terest, by the mere influence of surrounding example or solicitation; that you took shelter in the visible church merely as a refuge from present remorse, or future pun
ishment, and have employed its external ceremonies as a substitute for inward holiness, as a veil or compensation for habitual neg. lect and disobedience in other respects; or that you have, on the whole, proved unfaithful to your solemn vows; in either of these cases what aggravated confusion must cover your faces ! That holy name, which you have hypocritically profaned; that table of the Lord which you have polluted and disgraced, that heavenly religion, which you have exposed to contempt, the church of Christ, whose interest and honor you have wounded; those sincere Christians whom you have grieved, and those ene. mies of righteousness whom you have hardened by your unfaithfulness; all these will combine their testimony to convict and condemn you. If you would escape so dreadful a condemnation, and appear with boldness before the Judge of the world, resolve to pay your vows in future in a better manner than heretofore. Be persuaded to this by all the temporal and spiritual mercies you have received; by the dis tinguishing privileges and obliga. tions, which result from your covenant relation, and frequent sacramental opportunities. Let these cords of love bind your
hearts to your infinite Benefactor, and engage you to renewed zeal and activity in his service. Aspire, to be distinguished from the world by a holy and edifying conversation, as much as ye are by your sacred profession and privileges. Especially distinguish yourselves by that noble badge of Christ's disciples, brotherly love, by cherishing a tender sensibility, and ardent zeal for each others welfare; by readily giving and receiving fraternal in. struction and counsel, reproof and admonition; by laying aside every appearance of an envious, vindictive, censorious, and slande rous Spirit; by executing in a gentle, yet resolute, manner, the prescribed laws and discipline of Christ's kingdom in their fullest extent. By such a conduct we shall honor GOD, religion, and ourselves; strengthen and beau. tify the church of Christ, and be ripening for a blessed union with the church of the first-born in heaven.
Let me now address the subject to those who have recognized their baptismal dedication, and yet neglect the dying command of their professed Master and Sovereign.*
I would ask such persons, have you not publicly chosen Christ for your King, his laws for your rule, and his atone ment for your salvation? Was not this the language of that sol
* The writer of this communication, we presume, supposed that the Panoplist and Magazine, would fall into the hands of many to whom the following address would be applicable. For the sake of such of our readers we admit it, without intending, however, to convey any opinion of our own, either for or against, the practice, which renders such an address appropriate. In respect to this practice there is a diversity of opinions in our churches, with which we wish not, at present,to intermeddle. EDITORS.
emn transaction, in which you publicly announced your faith in, and obedience to Christ ? And yet you all neglect one of his plainest and most interesting precepts. Yea, there is reason to fear that not a few, who make this profession, live in the general neglect of religion in their clos ets, families, and daily conversation, and that they employ what is styled the baptismal covenant merely as an instrument of ob. taining baptism for their children, that they may avoid the disgrace. ful imputation of singularity, and of heathenism in a Christian land. Thus they sacrifice the holy name of Jesus to the idol of private honor! Is it not a tremen. dous spectacle, to see a rational creature solemnly vowing allegiance to Christ; while he uniform. ly refuses to obey him? GOD and your own consciences can best tell, whether your neglect of the ordinance of the Lord's Sup. per, proceeds from careless in. difference, or serious, distressing scruples of conscience. If the former, it is plain that your pretended covenant with GoD, was but an empty compliment; and that it would have been far better never to have vowed, than thus to sport with solemn engagements. At best, religious promises of such persons as you are, were the offspring of short-lived, serious impressions, which have vanished as the morning cloud and the early dew, and have left your minds more hardened than ever; or of sudden, inconsiderate and self-confident resolutions, which hurried you, like the foolish builder, to engage in a relig ious profession, without first counting the cost, and without heartily seeking and securing
that stock of divine grace, which is necessary to your finishing the spiritual fabric. Let me therefore exhort you to remember the awful doom which the Bible denounces upon those, who put their hands to the plough and look back, who seem to begin in the spirit, but end in the flesh, who draw back from hopeful beginnings into a cold and perhaps contemptuous neglect of christianity; remember the terri. ble language of the King of Zion to the Laodicean professors for being lukewarm, or indifferent in their spiritual concerns. short, consider that your unfeel. ing and indolent spirit, which prevents your obeying Christ in all his instructions, is itself a very criminal and dangerous state of mind, that it affords no excuse for neglecting any divine command; that it unfits you to perform any duty acceptably, and especially to meet an aproach ing death and judgment with confidence and peace. And can you rest in such a condition? Can you quiet your consciences with such an excuse? Olay these considerations to heart; awake from your stupor; give to GoD the fervent affections of your souls, and then be honest.
If the latter, if your neglect of the Lord's Supper proceeds from serious scruples of conscience, I shall only say, those who are scrupulously afraid of coming to the table of Christ, lest they should incur guilt and danger by unworthy receiving, ought at least, to be equally afraid of bringing guilt and danger upon their souls, by sinfully neglecting it; for those who have the most humbling and tender sense of their own unfitness
and unworthiness, are, generally speaking, the very persons, who have the best qualifications for, as well as the most need of this comforting sacrament, and may expect the most sensible relief and benefit from it. Let such fear. ful souls, therefore, impartially inquire, whether amid all their humble complaints, they have not a real and steady desire to honor their Master, and to be conformed to his example and will; whether sin be not their greatest burden, and duty their greatest delight; whether an in. terest in the holy salvation of the gospel be not the object of their supreme concern and pursuit ? If so, let them resolve to dismiss their old excuses and delays, and to complete the payment of their Christian vows. Let me then urge those, who have thus far vowed to GOD, to take this great subject into their immediate and mature consideration, and to dismiss their old excuses and delays and complete the performance of their vows of Christian engagements.
Permit me in the next place to descend a step lower, and to call upon all baptized persons to recognize and fulfil their baptismal obligations. By this initiating rite, you were visibly marked and set apart for God, and entered into his family. the infants of God's profess. ing people under former dispen. sations, were always admitted into his covenant and church
with their parents, and as circumcision was then a bond upon both to keep the whole law; so under the Christian dispensation the promise is still to us and our children; and baptism is equally a bond upon both to observe
the whole gospel. As Christian infants are capable subjects of covenant obligations and privi. leges, equally with Jewish; so the evangelical dispensation no where repeals the ancient charter in this particular, but implicity, if not expressly, confirms it. The right of parents to lay their children under civil engagements to men has never been disputed; much more then have they author. ity to bind them to GoD, who has a previous and absolute property in, and dominion over them, as his own reasonable creatures. I may add that many children have undoubtedly been consecrated to Jehovah by the private act of their parents, though the latter have been hin. dered by their religious principles or fears from presenting them to the baptismal ordinance. Let me then beseech those who have been early dedicated to God, especially children and youth, to consider seriously both the duties and privileges which result from their early consecration and covenant relation to their Creator. Can you bear the thought of slighting and defeating the condescending grace and tenderness of GoD and your Redeemer towards you, in admitting you to this near and comforting relation; of frustrating the peculiar engage. ments, labors, and prayers of the church, of your parents and min. ister, for your everlasting salvation, and of breaking asunder the very special and sacred bonds, which oblige you to be good and happy? Can you hear Christ saying, suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, without feeling yourselves allured into his arms; without replying, "To whom shall we go
but unto the blessed Jesus, for thou hast the words of eternal life." Let all these considera. tions, my young friends, alluré and constrain you to give your personal consent to the covenant of GoD, into which you have been baptized, and to distinguish yourselves from the children of pagans and infidels, by an early and striking display of Christian virtue and piety. Can you bear to think that such favored chil. dren, as you are, should be little or no better than those wretched young creatures, who either know nothing of GoD and Christ, or who are early taught to deny or blaspheme these glorious names? Do you not feel thankful that you were not born and educated in a country where Christian sabbaths and sermons, ministers and ordinances, are either unknown or wholly slighted? If your Christian baptism and education are privileges, will not God call you to account for your improvement of them? And will it not be far worse in the day of judgment for careless and wicked children of godly parents, and of Christ's visible church, than for those of ignorant heathens and unbelievers?
Those parents who have devoted their children to GoD, are likewise called upon to fulfil their vows, for favoring their consecrated offspring with the best instructions and government, examples and prayers. This is a debt which they owe to God, to the church, to the world, to unborn posterity, to their own souls, as well as to their beloved children! To bind parents to the payment of it is one principal design and advantage of infant baptism. If this debt were