« AnteriorContinuar »
Messings. This discovery is spoken of in the Epistles, as " the mystery hid from ages and generations."
Previously, however, to their being enlightened in this mystery, they were to receive a preparation for their mission by the efjuitm of the Holy Sfiirit. It seems that their first apprehensions of the extent of their commission were, that, after beginning at Jerusalem, they should go into all nations, but confine their ministry to the Jews dispersed in these nations. Christ had promised his disciples the presence of the Holy Spirit under the appellation ot The Comforter, or, as the word imports, an inward monitor or invigorater; and his influence upon them on the memorable day of Pentecost was not only of that extraordinary kind, which was peculiar to the first preaching of the Gospel, and whereby he endued them with the knowledge of tongues, which they had never learned, and with the occasional power of discerning spirits and of working miracles, but. it partook also of that ordinary influence which is common to all Christians, though carried, in the case of the apostles, to a higher degree than common, because their circumstances required it. Light burst in upon their mindsj the Scriptures of the Old Testament were seen to bear one uniform testimony to the spirit, the character, and the kingdom of ihcir ascended Master; his own words, which were forgotten or misunderstood, or not comprehended at all, were called to mind, and, in general, fully apprehended; fears, and doubts, and reluctances were removed, and fortitude, boldness, love, and an ardent zeal for the interests of Christ and the salvation of their brethren, fired their breasts. They lost their prejudices respecting a temporal kingdom; they acquired a deep sense of their own depravity and helplessness, and of their infinite obligations to redeeming mercy; and, with affections set on things above, and an ardent desire to follow their Master to a better world, they went forth to exhibit a pattern of simplicity and godly zeal to all their followers m the Christian ministry to the latest age. Little had they understood of the expected influence of the Holy Spirit. Some indistinct ideas they had, no doubt, by this time acquired, of the true nature and intent of his effusion; but it is highly probable that ■wldly hopes and expectations still occupied their minds; but, as "diey continued in prayer and supplication" for the promised sing, it was not long withheld.
The progress of the Gospel in Jerusalem, after this effusion of t Spirit, was great and rapid. Such were the effects of this extraordinary effusion upon the apostles, that, while some wondered the miracle, others mocked them as intoxicated with wine. But Peter directed them to the prophet Joel for an explanation of iiat they saw and heard. In his interesting discourse upon this "casion, which is recorded in Acts ii. he labours to convince his hearers of sin, and, the divine blessing accompanying the word, "itudes being pricked in their hearts cried out, in the spirit of Jjtte penitents, " Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Theapos'I* replies as a minister of reconciliation, in fulfilment of what his Master had declared to be his purpose, " that repentance and remission of sins should be preached to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." (Luke xxiv. 47.) Three thousand souls were added to the Church. From a miracle wrought by Peter and John upon a lame man, Peter took occasion again to preach repentance and remission of sins. The Church was increased to 5000. The apostles being brought before the Sanhedrim, Peter with undaunted courage charged upon them the death of Christ, and asserted the great truths which he had before testified to the people. The assembly enjoined silence upon the apostles, but they boldly urged the superiour authority under which they acted; and, returning to their companions, united with them in fervent prayer for courage and success. And their prayers were answered. The falsehood of Ananias and Sapphira was an occasion of impressing the Church with reverence and godly fear. Signs and wondets were wrought in great numbers by the apostles, " in the name of the holy child Jesus," and great multitudes were added to the Church. The apostles were committed to prison, and again brought before the Sanhedrim, and this opportunity was seized by St. Peter of again boldly declaring Christ to the great council of the nation. How much is the effect of divine grace upon the mind of this apostle to be admired! He who dared not to avow his Master in the face of a simple maid, now boldly charges home the murder of him upon an enraged assembly, and attests that there is salvation in no other name! The Sanhedrim would have proceeded to violence, but were diverted by the wise counsel of Gamaliel, and contented themselves with causing the apostles to be beaten, and dismissing them with a charge to speak no more in the name of Jesus. "And they departed," says the sacred historian, " from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ." (Acts v. 41, 42.)
There is something in the picture which the first chapters of the Acts of the Apostles draw of die rising church, upon which the mind dwells with singular satisfaction. The simplicity of her doctrines, the faithfulness of her pastors, the subordination of her members, the strictness of their unity, the fervour of their charity, and the purity of their conversation, exhibit the true naturfe of Christianity. If the scoffer reproach us with the divisions, and disorders, and corruptions of the Church and her members, wc will refer him back to this account of what Christianity once was; and we will boldly assert, that this it still is and ever will be, so far as it is in reality received. Our own minds may be perplexed and confounded when we enter into the subtle and endless wranglings of after times, and our own hearts sicken at the prostitution of sacred things to every wicked inclination of man, bui we will revive ourselves by turning back to drink at the pure fountain of truth and holiness.
The means of propagating the faith have ever been the same The history of the Church demonstrates, that success has accompanied die preaching of the Gospel, in proportion as the ministers of the Church have held forth the doctrine of the Cross with fidelity and fervour, and her members have adorned it by their charity and purity. And if " the kingdoms of this world" are to become " the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ," we must expect it will be accomplished in the same manner. The true obstacle to the spread of the Gospel is the state of the Church; and out of her present state of discord and defilement, she, perhaps, is not to be brought but by " the spirit of judgment, and the spirit of burning." (Is. iv. 4.) But whatever may be necessary to prepare her as a fit instrument for evangelizing the world, and whatever her true members may suffer while she is in the furnace of trial, still they will continue daily and earnestly to pray, " Thy kingdom come."
FROM THE SAME.
HEBREW NAMES PECULIARLY DESCRIPTIVE OF PROPERTIES
IT is a remarkable peculiarity in the Hebrew language, that the names of things are frequently descriptive of their properties. The names of persons also, in that language, are frequently, either memorials of the circumstances that attended their birth, or prophetical of their character, and of the events which befell them or their posterity. This is evident, from the names of the Jewish patriarchs; of David, the beloved; of Solomon, whose reign was typical of the peace that will attend the church triumphant; and of Samuel, who was asked of God in earnest prayer. The name of the first man, Adam, implies that he was formed of the ground; and the 25th verse of the 4th chapter of Genesis, and the 29th verse of the 5 th chapter, assign the reasons for giving the names of Seth and Noah. The name of Enoch, who walked with God, signifies dedicated, or instructed; that is, as Parkhurst observes, instructed in the religion and worship of the true God. But in the 5th chapter of Genesis, a still more extraordinary circumstance is observable. For the names of the ten antediluvian patriarchs, taken in succession, express the two grand truths contained in Scripture; the natural misery of man, and his restoration by the death of Jesus Christ. The names, when literally translated, form the following sentence: "Man made subject to death lamented, the glorious God descending instructed: His death sent to the afflicted, consolation." The first part of the name Mahalaleel, which I translate «the glorious God," is derived from a word that in one sense signifies to shine, or irradiate; and it seems peculiarly applicable to the Son of God, who, in the language of St. Paul, was the " brightness of his glory." It is impossible to believe that the names of the patriarchs were given by chance;' and if the preceding translation of their names is correct, it will be impossible not to believe, that they were given with a prophetical view. If the translation is incorrect, I hope some of your learned correspondents will point out the errour; and possibly many of them may discover simiiar instances or prophecy, recorded in a succession of scriptural names.
FROM THE SAME.
IT is usual with mathematicians, and some others, who, on every occasion, affect a more than common accuracy, to set out in their inquiries with a list of definitions and axioms. The nature of this paper allows, and indeed demands, an easier mode of composition; not cramped with such rigid formalities, but free to expatiate on its subject in a copious and popular way; though, should it be thought needful, it may be permitted to draw up its forces in the close, compacted form of demonstration. He who would combat such mutable things as vice and errour, that, Proteus like, are perpetually revolving into new shapes, will often find it necessary to change his method of assault. It may not be improper, on the entrance of our present speculation, to lay down the following definition of a free-thinker, with a few words of illustration: I do not mean as the term may be generally understood in the world, but according to a more exact consideration of things themselves. A free-thinker, then, is one who can think as he fileases, or according to the determinations of his will. This definition seems perfectly agreeable to common sense, and to speak for itself. If a man's thoughts be always obedient to his pleasure, or the order of his will, he certainly thinks as freely as it is possible to conceive any one to do: nay, he only thinks freely so far as this is the case; for either he thinks conformably to his will or pleasure, or in contrariety to them, or without any will or pleasure at all, or finally, in a manner compounded of the three together. Now, if a man think in contrariety to his will or pleasure, he certainly is not a freethinker, unless he be so who has lost the government of his thoughts, which for a while are deaf, as it were, to all the commands and orders of his will; and if he think without any determination of his will or pleasure, (if it may be called thinking,) and be only a mere passive subject of ideas and perceptions, he is just as free as a mirrour that reflects a variety of transient images: it therefore evidently follows, that a man is only so far a free-thinker as his thoughts flow in agreement with his will or pleasure. I believe, in the present state, our thinking is of a mixed nature, made up of the three kinds above specified; but yet it is only/rre in proportion as it partakes of the first, viz. as it corresponds with th» determinations of our will.
It will appear from the above remarks, that free-thinking, acvording to the moral disposition of the person, may be good oc ill; as a man's pleasure may be to think wrong and wickedly, as well as otherwise. It is not the freeness of our thoughts, which alone is sufficient to constitute them virtuous; something more is requisite to tills purpose. A band of robbers, hid in the dark retreats of a forest, may consult very freely how to seize some rich booty they have in prospect; perhaps more so tiian a cabinet council, when the great concerns of a kingdom claim their consideration; and there is a kind of intellectual banditti, joined in close confederacy, up and down the world, to plunder the weak and unsettled of all their little remaining stock of reason and virtue, who, in such inglorious schemes, I doubt not, exert their small talents with all the freedom of the greatest philosophers.
A wicked being, or one whose will and pleasure is corrupt, and who naturally delights in what is vile and hurtful, is the more to be dreaded in proportion as his freedom of thought and action is increased. It is happy when the faculties of such a being are clogged in their exercise, chilled with terrours, shackled with fears, or fail in their effect by a want of skill adequate to the malignity of intention. On the other hand, a good being, whose taste and pleasure is truly virtuous, becomes still better and more lovely by how much his exercises are more free and disencumbered. The opposite motions of each will be the swifter as impediments are removed; the one still rising to higher degrees of virtue and felicity, the other plunging deeper in iniquity and wretchedness.
A man possessed of great abilities, without a virtuous disposition of heart, is one of the most dangerous creatures in the world. In private life, he is fitted to create suspicion and terrour; as every one connected with him must live under perpetual apprehension, of being duped by his policy or oppressed by his injustice. In the state, he is apt and qualified to be a powerful instrument of tyranny, or, on the other hand, to be a popular incendiary; in secret cabals, to blow the coals of sedition, and then, like Nero on the top of his palace, to view with infernal triumph the conflagration he has kindled. Such are his pastimes in the affairs of the present life, and these may be styled the innocent sports of hi.s genius, compared with the dreadful evils that mark his steps when he has once set his foot on sacred ground, whether he advance with the gravity of an old philosopher, or with the engaging art and manner of a fine gentleman; for the devil has emissaries of all characters, to suit the various casts and humours of the world.
It is not then a mere freedom of thought, simply considered, which has in it any thing valuable, or which confers any virtue or dignity on the possessour: on the contrary, if the person be of an »l l moral character, such a freedom can only serve to render him *e more base and detestable: it adds wings, as it were, to his im
Vc*. I.-,nq, I. q