« AnteriorContinuar »
but the actions of others cannot, in these respects, at all injure us. After persons have been separated from the church, and the cause of the separation be removed, they should again return to its communion; whereas, in some instances, they have remained at a distance from it for many years, and in others have never returned to it at all. This may have been owing, either to their want of serious consideration, or to their shyness, in consequence of real or supposed neglect by the brethren. They should have been admonished in the spirit of love; and then they might have been restored to their places, with advantage to themselves and to the church. To give this admonition is the duty of its leading members, especially of the deacons, who in many cases may be better able to do it than the minister himself. Deacons should always be ready to seek that which was lost, and to bring again that which was driven away; to bind up that which was broken, and to strengthen that which was sick. Persons that have been separated from the church should be careful lest they indulge resentment against it, or against any of its members. In these cases, a spirit of self-justification has been too often observed; but even admitting that they were unjustly separated, a spirit of resentment is wrong; and it has often happened, that those who have been most forward to justify themselves, have been inost guilty. They ought to have forgiven what was done improperly. “If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses.” Sheep are always most secure from beasts of prey when folded together under the eye of the shepherd; and if any one of them will break from the fold without just cause, even
though it were only to go from one fold to another, it may meet with some enemy on the way. Persons in whom God has wrought by his Spirit to bring them to himself, but who are not joined to the church, should remember, that though baptism and the Lord's supper be not essential to their salvation, they are necessary for their comfort. Such persons may in some instances omit to give themselves to the Lord, and to his people according to his will, through fear lest they be not proper subjects for church connection, and also lest, after so public a declaration of their faith in Christ, they should be suffered to dishonour religion. We would not too severely censure these fearful apprehensions, yet we hesitate not to pronounce them wrong. If we are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, it will be in the use of means; and it is a strange mistake to imagine that this power will more readily be displayed on our behalf if we neglect those means, than if we comply with them. Besides, the spring of human conduct often lies deep ; under pretence of fear lest we should dishonour religion, pride and self-righteousness, shame of Christ and fear of man, may be concealed. It is therefore necessary closely to examine our hearts, bearing in mind that our reason to hope we are the children of God, can only be in proportion to our obedience to his will. It is an awful delusion to suppose that we are included in the decree of eternal and personal election, if we omit to comply with known duty; and only to perform those services for God which we judge essential to our own safety, is to perform nothing at all for him. It is, indeed to be a rebel against him; and indicates that our profession of religion originates in a selfish principle. It is possible to admit this truth in reference to others, and yet to neglect its application to ourselves; man is often blind to his own imperfections. We may be ingenious in devising excuses and apologies to extenuate, if not to annihilate, the guilt of our own omissions, while we deem those of others highly criminal. But let us not deceive ourselves; God is no respecter of persons: his language to us, as well as to others, is, “My son, give me thy heart.” The whole heart and soul must be surrendered to him, that he may set up his kingdom within us, and reign Lord of our affections. It is remarked of Caleb and Joshua, that they wholly followed the Lord; and nothing short of this can characterize the Christian. “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I say ?” There is no propriety in saying that a man is a Baptist, or that he contends for the necessity of Christians commemorating the love of Christ at his table, while he himself complies with neither the one nor the other. Can a man be a good soldier who takes the king's bounty, and wanders about, but never joins the regiment, or who, after he has joined it, becomes a deserter Or is a man reckoned a patriot, because he extols the constitution, if he be known to defraud the revenue ! Principles in religion are operative causes, producing their genuine effects; Christianity is thinking right and acting right; and it matters not what a man thinks, if he act not agreeably to God's will. If we be not planted in the house of the Lord, how can we flourish in the courts of our God It is a
good and a pleasant thing for brethren to dwell together in unity; together, not separate. Those who neglect the ordinances of Christ, and yet wish to share in the benefits of his redemption, ought to consider that were all Christians to act as they do, we should have no churches at all; the whole of God's people would be separate individuals, and the principle of adhesion found in Christianity would, to a great degree, lose its effect. Union is strength. Christians walking together in the fear of the Lord, enjoy the comfort of the Holy Ghost, and are multiplied. Divide and devour is a maxim of the enemy. If those duties performed by Christians in their individual capacity be important, those are not less so which can be performed only in church connection. Churches are the means, through the divine blessing, of perpetuating the Gospel ministry, and of keeping the ordinances as they were delivered unto us. If pastors and members of churches were to become isolated individuals, there would be no golden candlesticks for Christ to walk among; nor stars for him to hold in his right hand. Such a state of things is to be deprecated as an awful judgment; what then must be the criminality of that conduct which evidently has this tendency God can do without our help, but we cannot do without his : if he condescend to allow us the privilege of being united to those who as lively stones are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to him through Jesus Christ, we ought not to neglect that privilege. If, in the present state the church have its spots and blemishes, we also have ours; and if it cost something to maintain the cause of religion, all we have is the Lord's, and it would only be of his own that we should give him. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy % Are we stronger than he Let Christians yield themselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and the members of their bodies as instruments of righteousness unto holiness. Then will their peace be as a river, and the Spirit of God will witness with their spirits, that they are his children. Then the church shall look forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners. G—N. PAstor AL SKETCHEs. No. III. Antinomianism.
HUMAN life is diversified. It has its joys and its sorrows, its hopes and its fears, its gratifications and its disappointments. And such is the Christian ministry. The devoted pastor sets out on his career .P labour and of usefulness, with high expectations and cheering prospects; he possesses the vigour of health, enjoys the affections of his people, zeal animates his exertions, and he anticipates a long and successful discharge of his duties. We would not damp his ardour, nor discourage his labours; he will soon discover that as he is opposed to error, to sin, and to satan, so they are opposed to him. He will surely find that his bed is not composed of roses, that his comforts are not free from alloy, and that even the church is not purified from error. He will be placed in circumstances in which he will only derive comfort from the words of his great Master, and the approbation of his own conscience.
Much is said in the present day
about the spread of Antinomianism. It is greatly to be feared that some good men are charged with its errors, who are as much opposed to it as are those who are incessantly crying out against it. There may be, and there is, among man excellent men, (and would to God that their number was larger!) a high regard for those doctrines that peculiarly distinguish the gospel, —doctrines that ensure the divine honour in connexion with the believer's salvation, where there is no disposition to lessen the divine authority, or weaken the bonds of human obligation. It is worthy the enquiry, whether some ministers may not neglect the doctrinal part of the New Testament, as much as some others its practical requirements; and the prayer becomes us all, “Lead me in the midst of the paths of judgment.” But while some persons may be improperly charged with the detestable heresy to which we are now directing the attention of our readers, it must not be forgotten that the error does exist; and that its pestilential effects are too often felt. The relation of circumstances that shall now be placed before the reader, are not the creation of the imagination, but are real facts. They are not designed to caricature events, but “are the words of truth and soberness.” About eight years ago a young minister was settled over a newly formed Baptist Church, within eighty miles of the metropolis. The congregation had been recently collected, with the exception indeed of a very few persons who had left a congregation in the neighbourhood, and who unhappily were deeply infected with the moral disease which invariably produces spiritual pride, or a conviction that they know more than any other—leads them to act as though they were infallible, and to despise all whose minds are otherwise moulded, or whose education has taught them to view some things differently from themselves. The anxious concern of the newly settled pastor, was to promote the salvation of sinners, and advance the glory of God. His labours were constant, and, accompanied with holy influence, successful. His plain and forcible statements of divine truth, his scriptural entreaties to sinners to be reconciled to God, and his unlimited invitations to transgressors of every class, to come to the Lord Jesus for salvation, cannot be supposed to have met the approbation of the class of persons to whom we have alluded. But, as is commonly the case, while he was yet comparatively a stranger, they professed the warmest attachment to his person and labours, and zealously contributed to his support. The cause seemed to prosper, the congregation increased, sinners were converted, the church was greatly enlarged, and the neighbouring Christians rejoiced as they looked on and said,
“This is the finger of God.”—
The fairest prospects may be soon blighted, and the brightest hopes destroyed. Perhaps a spirit of self-confidence might obtain possession of the pastor's heart, and like Job he might be ready in that confidence, to say, “I shall die in my nest;” and for this, the ravages of error might be permitted to try him. He had often grieved at the spirit too frequently manifested by those with whom he was called to act. It was not uncommon to hear the idea of instruction being given to children in Sabbath Schools ridiculed ; he had to grapple with the awful delusion that sinners are not to be
blamed for the omission of duties that need the possession of a holy |principle for their proper discharge; and when reproving the children of the professedly pious for their improprieties, he would meet with the remark from their parents, that better conduct could not be expected unlcss God would change their hearts, and that, till then, all instruction and restraint were in vain. But in the exercise of meekness, he endeavoured to instruct those who opposed themselves; and hoped, in due time, to see these dangerous errors supplanted by the diffusion of scriptural truths. The ray of hope seemed to brighten, and confidence was felt that this spirit, so much opposed to that of the Lord Jesus was not spreading; but alas ! dense and dark clouds soon overspread the horizon, and the storm which scattered desolation and ruin around soon fell. The ways of God often appear to us mysterious ; but they always tend to the promotion of his glory. When his ministers or his churches begin to imagine themselves of importance, he generally takes an effectual method to shew them he can carry on his designs without them; and that, deprived of his favour, they are useless. The young minister to whom we have referred was, amidst the circumstances we have stated, laid aside by illness. His life was threatened by the chastising providence, his pulpit became vacant, and his congregation in a state of confusion. The individuals to whom reference has been made, embraced the opportunity thus afforded them, of introducing a series of supplies, who preached one part of the truth to the exclusion of the other, made injudicious end unscriptural statements of the doctrines of the gospel, wrought on the feelings, in
the human heart, to make the most ignorant wise in their own conceit, and to impart false comfort to the man indulging in sin, that it cannot be wondered at if the bait caught and allured many to danger.
The consequences may be easily guessed at. After a season, the young pastor began to recover, and hoped yet to live many years in the discharge of his duties, and there to die in the bosom of his charge; but he soon found that the discovery had been made that he had never preached the gospel: that the most ignorant of his congregation were wiser than himself—and that all the duties enjoined in the gospel were perform: ed for his people by the Lord Jesus Christ. A spirit of the most determined rancour had suddenly taken possession of the hearts of a few of the leading persons of the congregation; the church itself ceased to have power; and, unable to contend with such a faction, the pastor resigned. It was not long before they had another more to their taste, the Sunday School was abandoned, the voice of warning to the sinner is no longer proclaimed from the pulpit; and every hearer, however vile his conduct, is led to infer his interest in the divine favour. The blessing of heaven has been withheld, Christians have wept, while infidels have triumphed.
This is a brief sketch of the effects of this dangerous system of enror in one place; and many such sketches might be easily given. Is it not easily seen that a spirit of opposition to the freeness of the gospel—that allows of pride and rancour being indulged, that encourages contempt towards the ministers of Christ, that makes excuses for sin, and discourages efforts for the promotion of the cause of Jesus—cannot be of God? Look at the character of Jesus, at the conduct of the apostles, at the zeal of the martyrs, and say did they shew these feelings, and manifest this spirit 2 No; they loved holy conduct as well as holy doctrine: the doctrines of sovereign grace fed their zeal, and, feeling their obligations to Jesus, they wished their children to know and to serve him.
The design of our sketches is to instruct. Let us hope that our readers will learn, from this statement of facts, to value the bible, and regard all its contents—to encourage a spirit of humility, and a concern to be found obeying Christ in all things—to avoid a litigious, disputing spirit, and to receive the truths of Revelation in the teachable and simple spirit of little children. Let the members of Christian churches cultivate a de
votional, and affectionate disposi
tion; let them watch against every