« AnteriorContinuar »
right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee. Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. Put off the old man, which is corrupt according to deceit fal lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Be ye holy, for I am holy." Now, dear brother, are men of high birth and education, men of fashion and opulence released from the obligation of these holy precepts? Does the whole burden lie upon the unlearned, the poor, the retired, the afflicted? Or has time exhausted the force of precepts, which once had power to bind all, so that they must now be considered as laws repealed, or fallen into disuse ?
What strange inquiries are these? Yet they are naturally suggested by the fashionable opinions of the day. Let us remember, then, that the rule of duty is unyielding and immutable. Proceeding from God, it cannot conform to the taste of the times; it cannot be accommodated to the corrupt inclinations of the heart. No man may add to it, or take from it. And if the rule of duty, the standard of religion, is always the same, then religion is always the same. For two things essentially different from each other cannot be conformed to the same standard.
We are further taught, that religious affection, or conformity of heart to the doctrines and precepts of revelation, is the effect of divine efficiency. Hence we infer that it is, substantially, the same in all ages. It is a supposition inconsistent with the immutability of him, who workethall in all, that he should in one age produce religious affections essentially different from those, which he produces in another; that virtue and piety, always the fruit of his Spirit should vary
their essential features according to the state of science and manners.
That the terms of salvation are always the same is another proof of the immutability of religion. The gospel addresses mankind, as being sinners. Christ declares that his undertaking respects sinners only. Therefore he proposes salvation to all upon the same conditions. Repentance and faith are constantly represented to be absolutely necessary to salvation. Christ and his apostles gave no in→ timation, that it could ever be obtained on any lower terms. They made no allowance in favour of men possessed of high literary advantages, and distinguished by the suavity of their manners, and the exterior fairness of their character. Repent, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, is the solemn language, which the gospel addresses to all men; or if it makes any distinction, it is by declaring the uncommon difficulties, which impede the salvation of the wealthy, the learned, the selfrighteous; and by suggesting the greater divine power and mercy, which in their case are needful.
What, then, shall we say to these things? Is not saving religion the same in all ages? Are not regeneration, repentance, and faith the same things now, as they were in the first period of christianity, and in the devout ages of New England? In short, is it not, in all times and circumstances, the same thing to obey the gospel of Jesus Christ?
You may derive another argument for the immutability of relig ion from the sameness of its evidence. The evidence of religion more directly belongs to its doctrines, or those things which are the objects of faith. Now the same evidence, which primitive christians had of the divinity of the gos.
pel, and of its particular truths, is, in substance, transmitted to us. Improved reason and philosophy have discovered nothing to invali date that evidence, which satisfied primitive believers respecting the peculiar tenets of revelation. If they had sufficient evidence, that by the offence of Adam his posterity were made sinners; that all are by nature dead in trespasses and sins, and so the children of wrath; that Christ was set forth as a propitia tion for sin; that none can be received into heaven without regeneration; that they, who are called, are called of God according to his eternal purpose; that they who repent and believe, owe their repentance, their faith, and their consequent salvation to grace; if they had sufficient evidence of these positions, so have we. If they had such evidence of Christ's divinity, as rendered it proper for them to consider him, as God, and to address him as the suitable object of divine worship; then we have such evidence, as renders the same proper for us. There was no consideration to justify Thomas in calling Jesus, his Lord, and his God, and dying Stephen in offering prayer to the ascended Saviour, which does not warrant and require believers now to honour him with the same
religious worship. The same might be said of every christian doctrine. As truth is unchangeable in its nature, its evidence remains the same. To ancient believers sufficient evidence was satisfactory. It ought to be so to us. I am your ever affectionate broth CONSTANS. [To be continued.]
From the Christian Observer.
"WHEN there is a struggle in the mind between right and wrong,
how may it be known whether this struggle arises from the checks of natural conscience in an unrenewed mind, or from a principle of grace in the soul?" If the following thoughts on the subject seem likely to afford any satisfaction to the Querist, they are at his and your service.
1. The struggle which arises from the checks of natural conscience in an unrenewed mind, will generally be found to be partial as to its object, having respect only to some particular sin or sins, which may appear more heinous in their nature, or more dangerous in their consequences, than others. The conflict, in this case, is not with what the scriptures term the body of sin: whereas the struggle that originates in a principle of grace is against sin universally its object is that the old man (i. e. the old nature altogether) may be put off with his deeds. It is far from being a mere strug gle against prominent vices; it is an opposition which prompts the true christian to search out and pursue the foe, and wherein the severest conflicts are with the latent eviis of the heart, such as pride, unbelief, selfrighteousness, want of submission to the divine will, &c. There is no hypocrisy, allowed deceit, or indulgence of any sin whatever, in the true spiritual warfare.
2. The struggle between passion and conscience in the breast of a natural man is generally unsteady and variable. At certain seasons it is vigorous and strong; at other times faint and feeble; and then again, for perhaps a long season, altogether suspended: whereas the conflict between nature and grace, between the flesh and the Spirit, is more steady, regular, and uniform. The true seliever, communing daily with
his own heart, and difcovering with pain the fecret workings of evil, gains increafing conviction of the importance of perfevering oppofition in patience, vigilance, faith, and prayer. His applications to the Throne of Grace are daily renewed, and thus, ftrengthened with power and might from above, he is enabled to maintain the good fight, not prefuming to lay down his arms till the days of his warfare (Job riv. 14.) are ended.
3. The ordinary ftruggle in an unrenewed mind originates chiefly in fear, and is ftronger in proportion as the apprehenfion of danger is excited. It is, in fact, a struggle between the judgment and the inclination, the one pointing out the confequences; while the other covets the pleasures, of fin; the one preffing the importance and neceffity, while the other fhrinks from the performance of acknowledged duties. There is nothing in this ftruggle, which fhews either hatred of fin, or love of the divine law. The truth is, the heart is not divorced from evil habits and attachments, and is therefore fecretly offended at the strictness, spirituality, and extent of that law, which condemns them: there is a latent displeasure in the foul, becaufe fin and happiness are not made compatible. Now the confict in a spifitual mind is ever attended with a hatred of fin, as a thing evil in its nature, as well as pernicious in its confequences. Not only the judgment condemns, but the will oppofes, and the affections are withdrawn from it. The law of God, which in the other cafe is matter of offence, is here not only acknowledged as holy and juft, but approved as good: it is the delight of the inwardman:
and the grief of a fincere chriftian is to find in himself fo many way ward tempers and difpofitions not duly fubjected to its righteous and falutary control. Against these he maintains an habitual and serious conflict, and not merely to avoid the condemnation, but also the pollution of fin; no fimply wishing to fecure future happiness, but labouring to perfect holiness in the fear of God. In the ordinary ftruggle, when the better principle feems for the moment to prevail, and the duty preffed upon the confcience is performed, the obedience is only like that of Saul, when he forced himself to offer a burnt offering. When the folicitation to fin is denied, it is but like the refufal of Balaam to go with the meffengers of Balak, when he gladly would have accompanied them had he dared to do it. In fhort, to borrow a comparison, which I have fomewhere feen, whatever ftruggles an unrenewed man may have, fin is to him like precious wares in the ship, which are only thrown over board (and that as fparingly as poffible) in a ftorm: but to one of a fpiritual mind it is as the stagnant and offenfive water in the vessel, which the good mariner is affiduous to pump out and clear away daily.
4. Where the struggle between right and wrong arifes only from the checks of natural confcience, it is conducted, or carried on, by the mere exertion of natural power the fubject of it oppofes folicitations to evil, with purposes and refolutions formed entirely in his own ftrength: whereas, in the conflict between the flesh and the spirit, in a renewed mind, the combatant is ftrong in the grace that is in Chrift Jefus. By the acting of faith, from time to time renewed, on the Saviour to whom he is by that vital
dially hated, and its oppofition to the new man more acutely and painfully felt. It is not therefore a fair inference from the complaints alluded to, that sin is not mortified or weakened. The believer may expect the oppofition of the enemy, and count upon the continuance of the conflict, till the happy period fhall arrive when he will receive the end of his faith, even the M. T. H. falvation of his foul.
principle united, he derives renew ed fupplies of that fpirit of power and might, whereby alone he can effectually be ftrengthened in the inner man, to fight the good fight, and to crucify the flesh with its affections and lufts.
Laftly. From the struggles occafioned by the mere checks of natural confcience no extenfive or permanent good effects enfue. However temptation may occafionally be refifted with effect, the power of the enemy is not broken or fubdued; nor is there produced in the mind any habitual vigilance, circumfpection, godly jealoufy, fear, or abhorrence of evil. Sin, in fome form or other, ftill reigns in the mortal body, and is obeyed
in the lufts thereof. But in the
From the Religious Monitor.* THERE are many in the chriftian world, who confine their reflections on religion almost entire. ly to its moral precepts; while its doctrines are difregarded, as comparatively of little confequence, By fome, these are entirely overlooked, as if they had been intended only for the study of the profeffed Theologian; and as if the belief of them had no connection with the happiness of a future ftate. By others, difcuffions concerning the real import of particular paffages of fcripture, and the nature of the doctrines deducible from them, are little attended to; these being con fidered as points, in the decifion of which, the private christian is not materially interefted. According felves any fyftem of opinions conly, if these men form for themcerning the meaning of the doctrines of feripture, they profefs to have no defire to convert others to the belief of their peculiar fentiments. They leave every man to be guided by the conviction of his own mind; and defpife, as the bigots of a party, thofe who maintain the neceflity of believing, as the only true doctrines, one class of religious tenets.
It is hardly neceffary to say any * A Periodical Work published at Edinburgh,
thing in refutation of the first of thefe opinions. He, who can deny man's obligation to believe the doctrines of the gofpel; who can reject, as useless, thofe truths, which conftitute the very effence of chrift ianity; and who can deprive its morals of their only pure and efficient motives, deferves not the name of chriftian. He defpifes the authority of God, andrefufes, with daring ingratitude, the beft bleffings of revelation; the comforts and hopes, which its doctrines infpire. The fecond opinion however, in which it is maintained, that every man may fafely adopt his own views of the doctrines of fcripture, whether they actually accord with its real intention or not, deferves our more ferious confideration. This is an opinion, common to many profeffors of chriftianity. It has the appearance of much liberality and candour; and will certainly be approved of by every one, who takes only a fuperficial view of the subject; when attentively examined, however, it will appear to be founded on the following fuppofition alfo. That the language of fcripture on many of the effential doctrines of chriftianity is ambiguous, that its import cannot be politively afcertained by the candid inquirer, and that no interpretation of it, and no explanation of the meaning of its doctrines can be regarded, as exclufively true. If, therefore, we can fhew that this fuppofition is unfupported, the opinion, built upon it, must fall to the ground. By denying such affertions, however, we must not be understood to affirm, that the meaning of every part of fcripture is plain and obvious. Many paffages are neceffarily obfcure, from our imperfect knowledge of the language and manners of the period, in which the facred books were written; and
there are fome things, which God hath feen fit to reveal to us only in part. But we fhall endeavour to prove that all, who allow christianity to be a divine revelation, mußt acknowledge that the grand char acteristick doctrines of the gospel, original fin, the divinity and atonement of Chrift, juftification through faith, and the other effential points, connected with thefe, in as far as they are neceffary for enabling us to apprehend them, are promulgat ed in clear and unequivocal terms.
Before the gospel was preached, mankind were involved in the most deplorable darkness and uncertainty with regard to every particular, which concerned their prefent hopes and future happiness. Every thing was obfcure, and much was entire ly concealed. The placability of God, the efficacy of repentance, and the existence of a future ftate, were all doubted, even by the wif eft and most enlightened heathens. Compaffionating men wretched condition, God pleafed to bring life and immor tality to light by the gospel; to fhew them in a manner which could not be misunderstood, the fources of confolation, and the rule of duty; to point out the way of accefs to him, and to direct their views to an eternal inheritance beyond the grave. If, however, thefe effential truths were not plainly. difcovered; if the language, in which they are expreffed, even after all the inveftigations of the learned, be full of ambiguity; where are the advantages of reve lation? What light hath it shed on a benighted world? What fure confolation, what good hope hath it given to the fearful mind of guilty man? It hath declared to us indeed God's willingness to pardon; but hath left us, as before, in total uncertainty about