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This book is a collection of one hundred and fifty poems, partly lyric and partly didactic, from various authors, and from various times; and in respect to it we can only state, as matter of history, that it was gradually made for the use of the singers in the temple service, and was increased from time to time.
Among the writers of these poems were Moses, David, Asaph, Heman, and Ethan. It is not known who wrote some of them; and the superscriptions that occur are not always correct. They were, for the most part, inserted by a later hand. David stands forth as the great master of Israelitish song, and the pattern for many contemporary and succeeding poets. Many of the superscriptions have reference to the music of the Hebrews, and consequently are, in part, quite unintelligible to us; for we are unacquainted with their music. See over Ps. ix.; xvi. ; xxii. ; and lviii.
In order to understand many of the Psalms completely, we must be well acquainted with the history of the time. For they often allude to particular events and circumstances, and, as it were, take it for granted that these are known.
The Psalms bear the general stamp of the period in which they were written and of the national religion. Some of them are martial and triumphal songs, and must be judged of in this view, and not upon the principles of Christian refinement. In some, David speaks, not as a private individual, but in his official character. One part of them is, in respect to their contents, altogether national; another is more personal; another is prophetic; and another inculcates morality and religion in a more general inanner. These are full of instruction and consolation, and are adapted in the highest degree to awaken the mind for God, and truth, and holiness. According to their respective objects, then, we must determine their use for later readers.
The Psalms have had a great and happy influence on the sacred poetry of many nations.
The writings of Solomon: The Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, The Song
of Songs. David's most celebrated son was also a poet. See 1 Kings iv, 32. Under his name there are in the Old Testament three poetic books, two of which are didactic, and one is lyric.
It may be proper to divide the Proverbs into six sections: c. I -9; c. 10—24; c. 25–29; c. 30; c. 31: 1–9; and c. 31 : 10–31. They were collected at different times; (see c. 25:1.) and still later were united into a whole. The most suitable way of using them is, for the most part, to view them separately, to lay them up in the mind, to think them over, and apply them as occurrences present themselves. Many of them are uncommonly instructive.
Ecclesiastes will be the most easily understood by readers who have had much experience. They will not mistake the spirit and truth in the reasoning on the changes and vanities of all human things; on the sufferings and joys of life; on what it has that is true, enduring, and only worthy of effort ; and they will recognize their own discoveries in those of the author. See c. 4:1; c. 7: 2-6; c. 8:6; c. 12: 13, 14.
The apparent contradictions may be reconciled the best, when we consider the different parts as exhibiting the thoughts that naturally arise, at different periods and in different situations, on Providence, virtue and vice, wisdom and folly, death and life.
The Song of Solomon is a lyric poem, in which love and fidelity are celebrated, and opposed to base and changeful passion. Many Jewish and Christian expositors found it difficult to consider this as the object of a sacred book, and hence fell upon partly allegorical and partly mystical explanations, by which they hoped to remove the objections arising from much of the painting that is adapted to strike the senses. But these objections, perhaps, are the most fairly and the most effectually removed by a reference to the nature of the subject, and to the oriental taste. The well disciplined and experienced, who have accustomed themselves always to associate the moral with the beautiful, in their imaginations, will contemplate these flowers of eastern poetry with safety and with profit. But for others they are neither designed nor adapted.
It may not be uninteresting to your numerous readers, to learn that a person was sprinkled the second time, in Greensboro', Georgia, in 1828. He is the son of an elder in the Presbyterian church, and a respectable and wealthy merchant of that town, having been sprinkled in infancy. The administrator of the ceremony was an aged and very learned doctor of divinity. At first, he was unwilling; but he complied after repeated solicitations. The candidate did not certainly know that he had been sprinkled in infancy, (and who could, as it is practised by Pedobaptists ?) though two or three older sisters and a brother had assured him it was the case; and it is understood, that inasmuch as he did not know it, the doctor consented to perform the ceremony! The candidate had no doubt of his having been once sprinkled; but he thought it was proper, as he had lately become a believer, that it should be done after belief, and as a public testimony of his renouncing the world. One would suppose that such a Presbyterian will not have his own children sprinkled. Indeed, many are questioning the propriety of
Let the light of truth become more and more bright, and we shall have no more of that relic of the dark ages.
A Dissuasive from Controversy, respecting the Mode of Baptism.
A Sermon on the Mode of Baptism. By G. C. BeckwitH, Pastor of a Church in Lowell, Mass. Andover, 1828.
One of these titles is on the cover of the pamphlet; the other is on the regular title page. After carefully reading the discourse, we were impelled to look again at the "explanatory notice” prefixed to it, of which the following is an extract:
“The reader ought to be assured that nothing but necessity could have forced me before even my own people on such a subject as the mere form of a ceremony. During a prosperous revival of religion, and at the very time of its greatest power and prosperity, the mode of baptism became all at once a topic of conversation from one end of my parish to the other. It checked, and threatened ere long to stop the work of God. Many of my people importuned me to say something; but I adhered to my usual maxim of silence for the sake of peace, until I saw the revival brought to the very brink of total declension. I then consulted my fathers in the ministry, and at length consented, not indeed to dispute, but barely to dissuade my own people, whatever others might do, from agitating such a subject of controversy. The crisis was met, and the blessing of God on a very humble effort gave a new and lasting impulse to the revival. My church requested me to publish the discourse ; this request has often been urgently repeated by individuals; but with the hope of its being unnecessary, I have delayed until I find that among a people so transient and so peculiarly exposed, I must either preach often, or publish.'
We cannot withhold the expression of our surprise that any minister of Christ should prefix such a notice to such a sermon. There is something in the notice itself, which appears suspicious. It savors very little of the spirit of apostolical example to manifest so much reluctance-express so many regrets—be at last forced, with so much difficulty, to speak the truth. We had always understood, that the commission-yea, the injunction of the gospel to all its heralds forbade their shunning to declare the whole counsel of God. If, therefore, it had been the only purpose of Mr Beckwith to exhibit“ before his own people,” not what men's wisdom, or men's tradition teaches, but what the Holy Ghost, by the pen of inspiration, teaches--there would surely be no necessity for this labored prefatory apology to the published sermon-and no justification for this backwardness to deliver it, which yielded to nothing, we are told, but the advice of “his fathers in the ministry.”
We have another objection to this notice. The very point and pith of it, so far as important matters of fact are involved, is error. We are unwilling to suppose that the author of this sermon, whom we have understood to be a young man, of less prejudice and intolerance than some farther advanced in life-we are unwilling to suppose that such a man has intentionally made a misrepresentation.
It is not for us to judge him. Of his motives and his own impressions we say nothing. We know that, sometimes, prejudice and excited feelings lead even good men to see what in reality does not exist, and to fail of seeing what in reality is before the eye; and the longer we live, the more are we impressed with the importance of speaking cautiously and tenderly in regard to the secret intentions of our fellow men. But certain facts have come to our knowledge which we feel bound not to withhold. At the very time when the author's "explanatory notice” represents this prosperous revival brought to the very brink of total declension, by the MODE of baptism becoming a topic of conversation from one end of his parish to the other, checking and threatening ere long to stop the work of God,-at that very time, as his assistant in the ministry has been heard to assert, the number of anxious inquirers in his society was about sixty. That the revival generally, through the town, was in a prosperous state, is confirmed by the testimony of witnesses whose opportunities of information, and whose perfect integrity are unquestionable. The following statements will show that we do not speak at random.
* Lowell, Aug. 20, 1829. 'I beg you will pardon my long, too long delay in answering yours of the 18th of April. I cannot, and therefore will not attempt to offer reasons for it; but acknowledging my fault, will proceed to reply, as well as records and recollection will enable me; and which, in all important particulars, will be true to a word, and in all respects correct in substance.
· The state of religious attention in Lowell generally, in the months of February, March, and April, 1828, was deeply interesting; and I believe more so than for the same length of time at any period since. And in fact, I do not recollect any former term of three months, in which more interest was evinced than during the abore time.
'So far was the revival from “ the brink of total declension” in the Baptist society, that it was considered by our brethren, as much or more than ever encouraging. The average number of real inquirers in our society during this time was about twenty-two; and the number added to the Baptist church in five weeks, ending the last of March, 1828, was thirty-two.
* As to the state of the work in the other societies, I recollect to have heard nothing discouraging, till Mr Beckwith appointed to preach on the subject of baptism to his church. It was in March that he preached. I heard the sermon, which, with alterations and omissions, is now before the public, and is the one under consideration. I do not recollect any expression in the sermon, as he delivered it, which betrayed the thought that he believed the revival had already come the “ brink of total decle n;" but he warned the people of the danger of declension, if they did not drive the thoughts of Baptism from their minds. Among others, he made this remark, which I noted : 'I tell you, keep your minds away from baptism.'
'I am not able to say what additions were made to the Congregational church at this time, but all reports from them agreed that they were very large—much larger than to ours.
Mr S. who was Mr Beckwith's assistant, called on me the week after a short review of Mr Beckwith’s “explanatory notice” appeared in the Watchman, to inquire who was the author of it. I asked why he wished to know the author. Ile said the statements in it were not true. I asked what was false. He replied, that part which denied that the revival had come to the brink of total declension. I remarked that at the time referred to, (February and March,) members of their own church declared that a hundred inquirers attended their weekly inquiry meetings, and therefore we felt warranted in publicly stating that the revival had not then come to the brink of total declension. Mr S. then denied having a hundred in their inquiry meetings at that time. Well, then, said I, pray how many
had * About sixty,' was his answer; upon which I remarked, I cannot easily conceive how a revival can be considered to be on the brink of total declension in a Society where sixty are inquiring what they shall do to be saved. To which he did not reply, but added—You ought to have called on Mr Beckwith with your objections, and not to have made the matter so public.' I answered, that as Mr Beckwithi's statement had been made public, we felt under a sort of obligation, as publicly to correct it, that the "plaster might be as large as the sore.”
Leaving this part of the subject, Mr S. complained that the reviewer had made a misstatement in his “ note” in the Watchman respecting a vote of the church to immerse any person wishing to unite with them who should be desirous of receiving baptism in that "mode." I replied, that statement was founded also on the testimony of members of Mr Beckwith’s church, who affirmed that that vote was unanimously passed in full church meeting, and publicly announced from the desk in the hearing of the whole congregation on Lord's day. Mr S. denied all this, or rather denied its being made public; but on the day following he called and candidly confessed that what was published was true, but that he was not aware of the vote's being made public, till he had inquired and found that it was so.
J. C. MORRILL.' * The undersigned were well situated for knowing the state of affairs in Lowell at the time referred to in the preceding letter; one of us heard the conversation with Mr S. concerning the number of inquirers; and we believe that the letter exhibits a true account of the matters of which it treats. E. W. FREEMAN.
WILLIAM D. MASON. It is painful to us as Christians, to place these things on record. But the alternative is forced upon us, either of suffering the evil consequences of misrepresentations to proceed, or of contributing our mite towards arresting their progress by a plain statement of facts. Had the call, which was distinctly and publicly made for the proof of the assertion in the explanatory notice, when it first apOct. 1826.