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PRESENT SITUATION OF PROTESTANTS IN FRANCE.
Translated from the “ Archives du Christianisme,” for September.
A new era has commenced for France in general, and for Protestant France in particular; new hopes are presented to our churches, new duties are imposed upon them. It is a subject we propose treating successively in all its aspects; we confine ourselves at present to some general reflections. The Roman Catholic religion is still that of the majority of the French, if we are to credit the new Charter; but what will be, in a half a century, the religion of the majority of the French ? Will the declaration in the new article (6th) remain long true. We know not, and it is not what ought to occupy us at this time ; our own position, and our own duties as disciples of Jesus Christ, at present command all our attention The revolution which has just occurred, has placed religious liberty among realities. It opens a wide door for evangelical preaching in all our towns, in all our villages; the ill-will of a mayor or of a procurator of the king, will no longer suffice to dissolve religious assemblies, or to cause tribunals to pass condemnation on inoffensive men, guilty of having met together in numbers exceeding twenty, to read the Bible and to sing the praises of God. No longer shall a priest, aided by law and supported by civil authority, attempt to dissolve meetings for worship that belong not to his church. Wherever authority shall be found, the Gospel can be publicly and freely proclaimed—the Bible distributed without restraint, among Catholics as among Protestants-primary instruction no longer opposed. Grand obstacles to the progress of the Gospel are thus overthrown ; the point is now for the evangelical church to profit by this position of things, with fidelity and zeal, as well as with prudence and charity ; the barrier which shut the entrance to the field is broken down; the duty now is, to sow, to water, and to beg the increase of God, who alone can give it. Let us not however, be unjust, nor regardless of what the government that has just fallen, has done for our churches ; let us not forget the numbers of repaired or new temples constructed during the last fifteen ycars, nor of the many new openings made for pastors, nor of the very important progress our churches have been able to make under that government. We cite facts, we refer not to motives and intentions. But on the other hand what intrigues have we had to detect, what conflicts to sustain, what gloomy and continued vexations to endure, what hostile trials to bear? Suffice to mention the names of Nerac, Anieres, Sainte-Consorce, and the law.suits in behalf of religion. Article 5th is impious in the eyes of our ultramontanes; as they have said and repeated in their jour. nals. The enmity, too, which they bore in their hearts to the Protestant religion, manifested itself more and more, in proportion as their power extended; and if the ordinances of the 25th of July had been executed, an active persecution, however disguised in the begin. ning, would infallibly have been organized against our churches,
and God alone knows where it would have ended, when they found themselves sufficiently strong to throw off the mask of hypocrisy. This is no misrepresentation.
We know that, after having had to combat with superstition and bypocrisy, we shall have to encounter, in our attempts to spread the Gospel, a new and formidable adversary, infidelity, but it is better to fight with unbelief than hypocrisy, because we better know on what ground we stand. We are still afflicted and alarmed for the future destiny of France, when we consider, that after a revolution, in which the hand of God has been plainly manifested, after a deliverance so sudden and so signal, there has not appeared in the journals which boast of this great and unlooked for event, nor in the addresses presented to the throne, nor in the Chambers, nor, in fine, through any of the organs of public opinion, any sense of obligation to God the author of their deliverance, and acknowledgment of Divine favor, any expression of gratitude, or any proof that they confide on a higher power than this sublunary world affords. It seems as if they feared to utter the name of God at this memorable crisis, and that the idea of a Providence, which rules and governs every event on earth, is unknown to all those who have concurred to overthrow the empire of superstition and fanaticism, and who, in various, ways, may he considered as the representatives of the sentiment of this nation. There is in this fact, we repeat a manifestation as sorrowful as appalling of the religious indifference, to say nothing more, which characterizes the present generation of our countrymen. There is not perbaps in the wbole world another people, who, under similar circumstances, would have presented such a spectacle. To subdue this sad disposition of heart and mind, there is but one weapon, the Gospel; the Gospel in its purity, majesty, and divine simplicity, the entire Gospel, such as a God of mercy has given to our fallen and condemned race, to raise and save it. We should propose to ourselves like Saint Paul, “not to know any thing among men, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” It is the preaching of the cross that has regenerated and saved every man's soul that has been regenerated and sared during the last eighteen centuries; the preaching of the cross can alone regenerate, and save the present generation. This preaching we know is "foolishness” to one class, and “a stumblingblock” to another; but it is the power of God, and the wisdom of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” Our speech and our preaching should not be with the enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of me, but in the power of God.” The Gospel must not be moulded to the people, but the people to the Gospel.It is not, as says one of our most faithful preachers, that “God is to conform himself to man, but man is to conform himself to God.” What a new and extensive career opens to our pastors, to our religious societies, to our Protestant journals, to every one who has at heart the spread of the Gospel and the safety of his fellow creatures. God expects that each one, in the sphere of action which he has allotted lim, should faithfully, christianly, and courageously fulfil the vast and responsible duties imposed on him. God turns the total overthrow of political parties to the increase and establishment of the kingdom of grace, and ot a living faith in Jesus Christ, “for there is none other name under heaven given amongst men whereby we must be saved.". Acts iv 12.-N. Y. Observer:
There are some people, who profess to have a full assurance of their salvation. Without entering into a long and tedious course of reasoning on this subject, it is a sufficient confutation of this doctrine, to make it appear, that it is perfectly unscriptural. The scriptures contain no unconditional declaration, that mine, or any other man's sins, are forgiven. It therefore cannot be termed a divine faith ; for its objects are not revealed in the scriptures. I may believe it, as a matter of my own experience; but then it is a knowledge, derived from my own imperfect experience, which may possibly deceive me ; and not a conviction, founded upon a divine communication, which alone is infallible. I do not say, that there is no person that can say, I have every reason to believe that my sins are forgiven me: but I do say, that no person can say, I am perfectly assured of my salva-, tion. The scriptures authorize no such bold and presumptuous decla.. ration; and no individual, however perfect, can have this full assurance, because the best christians may fall from a justified state, and by that means, be finally and totally lost.
St. Paul never considered himself authorised to believe, that his salvation was perfectly secure. He never had this full assurance, to which modern enthusiasts so often pretend. After having escaped from so many dangers, surmounted so many difficulties, and overcome so many temptations, he felt himself constrained to declare, "not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect, but I follow after it; I count not myself to have apprehended, I press toward the mark.” He never considered those, whom he had been the means of converting, as free from every danger of falling from grace. He constantly exhorts them to stand fast in the faith," al, leging, that “if after they have once escaped the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse than the beginning." He tells them, that “it had been better for them, never to have known the ways of righteousness, than aster to have known them, to turn away from the holy commandment.” He exhorts the Romans, “who were engrafted in and partook of the root and the fatness of the olive tree, not to be high minded, but constant. , ly in fear, least they should be broken off.” He accuses the Galatians, "who had put on Christ-received the spirit of adoption,” and “ran well” of being soon removed from him who had called them." He encourages the Hebrews, “to hold the beginning of their confidence steadfast unto the end," assuring them, that it was impossible
for them, who were once enlightened, and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were partakers of the holy ghost, and have tasted of the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, if they should fall away, to be renewed to repentance.” He charges T nothy, his beloved disciple, to beware, lest he be led away after the vicious example of lymeneus and Philetus, two apostate teachers, who, as he expressly allirms, have erred from the truth, and made shipwreck concerning the faith.” These men were once in a justified state. They had their sins remitted unto them in baptism, and received a conditional promise of their perseverance in faith; but they turned away from the faith ; they apostatized from the truth; they seli from ; race; and by these means they lost their justified states and incurred the penalty due to this aggravated sin.-Lutheran Mag.
EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANITY. We cannot too highly says the Editor of the Lutheran Magazine, appreciate our privileges and blessings, as Evangelical Christians:We enjoy religious liberty. We are not compelled to believe or do any thing against the word of God, or the dictates of our consciences. No man, or set of men, have the power of imposing upon us their religious creeds, without our approbation and consent. In this country, we owe no allegiance to an established church. In no ecclesiastical authority, do we acknowledge the right of dictating to us, what we shall believe or do, in order to be saved. The word of God is our only rule of faith and practice. To this infallible standard we, as Lutherans, hold the Augsburgh Confession, and every other symbol of our church, subservient. And although we venerate the names of Luther and his co-adjutors, in this glorious work of the reformation, and establishment of our church ; we venerate them as men merely, who deserve our respect and confidence, but not our blind adherance to whatever they may have proposed. We consider ourselves subject to no authority, in religious matters, but the authority of the gospel. In our spiritual concerns, we are to exercise our judgment and satisfy our consciences. This we believe to be the will of God, and the unalienable right of every protestant christian.
But how are these privileges and blessings improved ? How have we, Evangelical Lutherans, used our religious liberty ? Have we all entered into the liberty of children of God? Do we enjoy the spiritual liberty of real evangelical christians ? Has the Son madeus free? We venerate the names of those devoted servants of God, who have laboured diligently and suffered faithfully in the cause of trie Christianity. But how do we follow their example ? Do we know what true christianity is? Have we ever experienced it? Have we ever seriously enquired into it? Do we possess that faith, for which our forefathers so earnestly and zealously contended ? We honor the character of those fearless advocates of the truth, who ren
dered every sacrifice for the salvation of their souls ; but what sacri. fices have we ever rendered ? Have we faced danger, and encountered temptations, and overcome obstacles, and surmounted difficulties, so as to exhibit our moral courage, and display our christian devotion ? What have we done to deserve the approbation of the age in which we live, and establish our claims to the gratitude of posterity? These questions we solemnly urge ripon the consciences of all Evangelical Lutherans, and we humbly trust, they may be seriously and devoutly considered.
We enjoy the privilege of reading the word of God, and exercising our own judgment in religious matters. This, indeed, is a great privilege.-There was a time, when the circulation of the Bible was prolibited by an order of the Supreme Head of the church ; when the reading of the Scriptures was considered a pernicious encroachment on the authority, and a flagrant offence against the dignity of
delusion and darkness has passed the pride of the beast has been humbled, and Babylon has fallen. We live at a time, when the bible may not only be generally read, but when it is universally distributed. We inhabit a country, aad belong to a church, in which the treasures of the Gospel are richly unfolded to us.-We enjoy every opportunity of becoming enlightened in the principles and duties of Evangelical Christians. But are we thus truly enlightened ? Do we dili, ently read the word of God? Have we ever ex erienced its enlightening infiuence on the mind ? Do we faithfully attend the preaching of the gospel ? And if so, have we every ielt its renovating power ? For it is a fact, which by many is not sufficiently realized, that we
ledge of God. We may attend to the preaching of the Gospel, and yet place all our hopes of salvation upon forms and ceremonies, which have been handed down from one generation to another, and are of themselves wholly insufficient for the salvation of the soul.
In cur church, we are permitted to worship God according to the directions of his word, and the dictates of our consciences. In our derotional exercises, we are not bound to observe a tedious succession of rules and ceremonies, which dazzle the eye, and please the imagination, without enlightening the understanding, improving the heart, and benefitting the soul. Our system of doctrine and forms of worship are consistent with the word of God. We are directed to worship God in spirit and in truth to dedicate our hearts to his service, and glorify his name in our daily walk and conversation.-This is what the Lord requires of every one who would worship him, in an acceptable manner. Have we rendered this reasonable service?
llave we ever presented our hodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, unto God? We profess to be free from the dominion of Romish ignorance and superstition—but is not the very ignorance which we so readily condemn in the adherents of the Pope, the foundation, on which too many of the professed disciples of Luther build their religious hopes and prospects ? Do not many who call themselves evangelical christians evince, by their daily walk and conversa