« AnteriorContinuar »
his sight, and of your desire in all things to please him? If your heart be not right with God, but estranged from him; if other objects be supreme in your affections, and you be not upright before him; no wonder that you cease to feel zeal in his cause; but O! consider how awful is your state, and the account you will have to give of yourselves to him hereafter. May you turn to him with all your hearts.
4. Are you setting God always before you, and acknowledging him in all your ways? Do you cherish and live under a sense of the Divine presence, viewing the hand of God in all the events and occurrences of your lives, putting your whole confidence in him, and cheerfully resigning yourselves to his will? Do you cultivate a devotional frame of mind, and seek to have your thoughts raised to God, and your hearts lifted up to him, with pious affections, on all occasions? If such be your state, you cannot be cold-hearted and indifferent in the cause of God and truth.
5. Are you attentive to the private instrumental duties of religion, such as reading, meditation, prayer and thanksgiving, self-examination, the keeping of your hearts with all diligence, watching over the door of your mouths, and pondering the path of your feet? A steady and persevering attention to these things will make you exemplary Christians, and prepare you to be useful in whatever sphere you are called to act, and will render you the better qualified to promote the edification of the church, and the cause of true religion. The neglect of these things may lead to lukewarmness in the Christian profession.
6. Are you cultivating the spirit of Christ, the mind which was in him, his disposition? It is in this spirit that every thing in Christianity must be done, and that his cause must be promoted. If you act in a different spirit, you will dishonour him, and injure his cause, rather than promote it, whatever may be your views and intentions.
7. Are you living according to the gospel? You can neither be edified, nor edify others, nor promote the cause of pure and undefiled religion, any further than you live according to the gospel.
This letter, my Brethren, is designed to remind you of instructions which I gave you in days that are past, and to impress on your minds what is essential to the revival and prosperity of the good cause among you; for it can be
revived only so far as the good work is revived in you as individuals, and be made to prosper only as your souls prosper in what is truly Christian.
The brief remarks here made, are submitted to your consideration, and I beg of you to give them your most serious attention. Ever faithfully and affectionately, yours, &c. R. WRIGHT.
History honest with regard to Deceased Princes.
THE adulation and homage with which kings are approached and spoken of in their life-time, make us blush for human nature and feel the degradation of our species. But Death, sometimes styled the great Leveller, is also the great Reformer. Dead kings are immediately consigned to History, which deals faithfully with them, and in this, as in many other respects, the proverb is verified that "Truth is the Daughter of Time."
Living princes often shew that they are not insensible to their posthumous responsibility. Were they more mindful of the judgment of survivors, they would be more careful of their momentous duties; but it is not easy to calculate how much worse they would be, had they no foresight of the trial which, like the Egyptian monarchs, they are doomed to undergo, as soon as the breath is out of their bodies, before the bar of Public Opinion.
This train of thought has been suggested by the perusal of the following remarks in the Times newspaper of March 21, on the recent death of John VI., King of Portugal, and Emperor (by courtesy) of Brazil. Distance of place has nearly the same influence, in dispelling prejudice as distance of time; and the criticism of an English newspaper on the character of a deceased Portuguese sovereign, may be pronounced equivalent to the judgment of History.
"He appears to have been a Prince of small attainments ingrafted on mean endowments, and therefore with nothing intellectual or moral to distinguish him from the herd of crowned instruments, who remain passive amidst mighty changes, and are used like so many notched sticks, whereon we register the vicissitudes of nations. The chief animal propensity of the defunct Emperor and King, was one in which the demise of Louis XVIII. of France, left his Most Faithful Majesty without a rival in Christendom- -so exclusive, but so remarkable, was the energy of his royal
stomach. An interest, however, which never could have been associated with the name or character of John VI., while living, his death has excited for the kingdom over which he nominally ruled."
Dr. Middleton's Remarks on the Story concerning St. John, the Evangelist, and Cerinthus, the Heretic. [Concluded from p. 138.]
FROM these remarks upon the story, I shall proceed to the lesson which is drawn from it by the two Doctors above-mentioned, and shew,
2ndly, That though we allow the fact to be true, it will not justify the use to which they have applied it.
Now the constant use which is made of this story, is to demonstrate the duty of shunning and affronting Heretics; of denying them the common offices of civility; treating them as persons excommunicated, and detestable in the eyes of God and man: and this pressed upon all Christians by the authority and example of St. John!
But I would ask, whether a behaviour of this sort be agreeable to the ordinary temper aud spirit of the gospel, or of that Jesus, who came into the world as a physician to the sick; aud in that character sought out the publican and the sinner, for the opportunity of healing them; and preferred the heretical Sadducee and the schismatical Samaritan, to the fierce Zealot and the orthodox Pharisee? No, it is so far from being conformable to the ordinary rules of Christian duty, that it was copied, as Dr. Berriman himself owns, from the Jewish institutes: as if it flowed from that principle by which this same Apostle, while yet raw and unacquainted with the benevolent temper of his new religion, was calling down fire from heaven on the Samaritans, after the example of Elias, and was reproved accordingly by our Lord, for not knowing what manner of spirit he was of.
If I should ask these gentlemen also what it is that they mean by the word Heretic, we should find in the end, that they meant nothing more by it, than one who differed from them in any article of religion which they held to be important. Dr. Waterland calls him, an open impugner of fundamentals, and labours to prove, that we ought not to hold communion with any of that character. And should we ask once more, what are these fundamentals ? he would
refer us without doubt in the first place to the doctrine of the Trinity whence I have drawn the testimonies above ascribed to him; the importance of which makes the subject of that very book: and this doctrine indeed is held so fundamental by the Papists, that the disbelief of it, though but secretly entertained by a priest, is declared to annul the whole efficacy of his ministry, and of the sacraments themselves, not only to himself, but to all others, how innocent soever, to whom he should happen to administer them. But among Protestants, the distinction of fundamentals has been constantly applied to those doctrines alone which are clearly and precisely delivered in the holy Scriptures and how far this character will suit with the doctrine of the Trinity, I leave to others to determine: yet this, I think, we need not scruple to say, that it is no where expressly declared by any of the earliest fathers; and, as the most learned among the Papists assert, was never affirmed or taught by the church before the council of Nice.
Irenæus, speaking of the Mosaic distinction of animals into clean and unclean, says, "The law foretold all these things figuratively, by animals denoting men: those which divide the hoof and chew the cud, it pronounces clean those which do neither, unclean. Who then are clean? Those who go on firmly, believing in the Father and in the Son. For this is the firmness of those who have the double hoof." Hence we see, that the fundamental doctrine, or the firmness of the Christian faith, in this early age was, to believe in the Father and in the Son. In the ages next following, many different opinions successively prevailed, and were held orthodox in their turns: but as soon as the Arian controversy began to disturb the peace of the Church, Constantine the Great wrote a letter in common to Arius and Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, the opposite chiefs in the dispute, in which he treats the whole question "as vain, foolish, and impertinent; as a dispute of words without sense, which none could explain, nor any comprehend; as the fruit of idleness and leisure misemployed, which no way affected the sum of religion; and that to quarrel about such trifies and subtleties, was childish, and below the gravity of Priests; wherefore, he earnestly exhorts them to put an end to so silly a contest, productive of nothing but quarrels and blasphemies among the people; and to
return to their former friendship and communion with each other."
This letter was sent by Hosius, a learned and venerable bishop, chiefly intrusted by the Emperor in the affairs of the Church, and is commended both by Eusebius and Socrates, as excellent, admirable, and full of wisdom; which shews what was the opinion both of the Church and the State with regard to this question, or parting point, as Dr. Waterland calls it, before the council of Nice.
But to return to our story of St. John and Cerinthus. If we allow it to be true, the conduct of St. John cannot be considered in any other light, than as an extraordinary case, or the effect of that divine power which was peculiar to the apostles, and ceased with the apostolic age; by which they were enabled to penetrate the hearts of men and discern the secret motives that actuated those early corrupters of the Christian faith. Epiphanius, as I have already intimated, declares it to have been suggested by a special inspiration. It is absurd, therefore, to propose an act directed by an extraordinary commission from heaven, as a rule of proceeding in ordinary cases: and it would make wild work among us, for weak and fallible men to revive and exercise a discipline which was grounded on infallibility; and to pretend to judge, with an apostolic authority, of the hearts and spirits of their fellow-christians, without the apostolic gift of discerning those spirits; yet this is one of the principal points which is pressed by Dr. Waterland, through his whole treatise on the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity.
The same doctor, however, on a different occasion, where he is vindicating the morality of certain acts related of the ancient prophets and other pious men in the Old Testament, declares, "that such facts of an extraordinary kind, which were the immediate effects of a divine impulse, are not recorded as examples of common practice, nor to be warranted in common men, unless specially authorized in the same manner as those prophets were.' The case is the same with regard to the apostles: the severe censures which they sometimes passed on Heretics and other wicked men, being the suggestions of a divine spirit, ought not to be drawn into precedent, but by the direction of the same spirit for otherwise the peace of the church would necessarily be disturbed by perpetual schisms and quarrels, and