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"AND THERE WAS SILENCE IN HEAVEN."
Tothe Editorofthe Christian Observer.
WE read, that when the Lamb had opened the seventh seal, "there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour." I wish earnestly to recommend this angelic precedent to some among us, who are hourly venting their vague and rash speculations upon prophecy; the interpretation of to-day being contradicted by that of to-morrow, and to-morrow's by the succeeding, till truth, Scripture, and common sense, are confounded in one vast chaos of incoherence. If, during the late war, some of our speculatists had kept "silence for half an hour," where had been their crude, and now forgotten theories? If those of your own correspondents, Mr. Editor, who, as you informed us, saw so much about the battle of Navarino and its results in the book of the Revelations, and degraded prophecy to a gazetteer to passing events, had waited their half-hour, would they not have discovered their mistake? and must they not be thankful that you did not commit yourself and them by inserting their prophecies? Let Mr. Addis, also, whose work you notice in your last Number, wait his half hour of patient thought, and prayer, and study, and he will tell us no more of finding "the ninth of January 1828," in the visions of St. John*. In short, sir, while I would discourage no person from the serious and religious study of the prophecies of holy writ, and while we ought to
A correspondent, who signs himself ORTHODOX, remarks: "I agree with you respecting the fatuity of making the 9th January 1828, the number of the Apocalyptic beast; but I wish that you would inform your readers, that there are objec. tions to Mr. Addis's book far more grave than this; for, among many other grievous errors in theology and church-government, he deniesthe orthodox doctrine of the Trinity and the eternity of future punishments.'
be very grateful to those pious and deeply-learned men who have addicted their minds to this high pursuit; I would urge all to remember, that, when the seventh seal was opened, there was no rash and sudden disputation; no hasty guesses and conjectures: but there was calm meditation, silent adoration, patient attention, slowness of decision; there was the intellect of archangels, with far more than the humility of the meekest of men.
A PROPHETIC STUDENT,
NOTE ON THE HISTORY OF JOSEPH.
Tothe Editorofthe Christian Observer.
IN reading that ever-new and everdelightful inspired narrative, the history of Joseph, I have thought it not unlikely that one cause of the reluctance felt by Jacob to sending Benjamin with his brethren, was a suspicion that they might sell him for a slave. It is possible that, considering the circumstances of the times, the iniquitous character of some of his sons, and the dislike that the elder bore to the children of Rachel, that he had some suspicions that such had been the fate of Joseph; and when he found that another son, Simeon, had been left behind, and the money which ought to have been paid for the corn brought back, he might conjecture that Simeon also had been sold, and that this was the price of his blood; it appearing a very improbable story that the money had been put by stealth into their sacks. They may have been heard in their unguarded moments to threaten his favourite Benjamin with the fate of his brother Joseph; and both Jacob's intimation that evil might happen to him in the way in which they were going, and Reuben's offer to give his two sons as hostages for his safe return, may seem to corroborate the above conjecture. There
Tothe Editorofthe Christian Observer.
Is there any sanction from antiquity for celebrating the churching of women and baptisms-or rather, I should say, receiving the baptized into the Christian church-in private houses? I am inclined to think, that the prevalence of these practices among us arose at the Interregnum, when the members of the Episcopal community were obliged to practise the rites of their church by stealth in their own dwellings? Is not the custom preposterous; and ought it not to be abolished, except in cases of extreme necessity?
understood, from the circumstance that there exists a widely-spread idea, that the two parties (if parties they must be called) have of late, by mutual concessions, approximated towards each other.
But, in truth, do not these two classes of persons differ widely, and not merely in feeling, as some assert, but in doctrine also; not only in practice, but in principle? Can then streams, which are so different, spring from the same source? It is true, both have the word of God to apply to, but it is viewed through a different medium; and, consequently, the construction placed upon it is dissimilar. Do they, for example, form the same opinion of the depravity of human nature; equally feeling that they are utterly incapable of thinking even a good thought, without the aid of the Holy Spirit, which they ought at all times to call for by diligent prayer. Both alike, indeed, Both alike, indeed, confess with their lips, in our most beautiful form of worship, that they are miserable sinners; but apply the question to many who call themselves orthodox, and they will tell you that their hearts are not bad; that they seldom do that which is very wrong; and that they perform many good actions. I am aware, and am most glad to admit, that the great body of what are called the orthodox clergy, would indignantly disclaim such palliations, as well as other errors which I am about to notice ; and I am far from wishing to impute doctrines which the general extension of religious knowledge has gone far to banish from our pulpits, at least in their more direct form: but if we turn from formal theological discourses and publications, to the ordinary colloquial intercourse of life, I fear I do not exaggerate in stating, that the unscriptural ideas to which I advert are too prevalent among a large class of those who esteem themselves orthodox members of our church. Too many of them do not, in fact, rely solely and entirely 2 G
upon the atonement of their Redeemer for pardon, justification, and eternal life. They do not, in their almsgivings and moral observances, make love to God the motive and principle, and his will the end and aim, of their actions. Their faith is not shewn by universal love and benevolence towards their fellowcreatures, striving especially to benefit their souls; nor is it an active faith realizing the promises of Scripture; setting before them a lively hope of the glories laid up for them through the merits of their Redeemer; and practically shewing them the vanity and folly of fixing their hearts upon the things of the present world. They would, indeed, be astonished at the charge that their views of human guilt, of the atonement, the influence of the Holy Spirit, of faith and good works, do not accord with Scripture; yet do not their actions and their casual remarks confirm it? And are they not deficient as respects complete devotedness to God, Christian humility, tenderness of conscience, ardent religious zeal, and spirituality of mind? Far be it from me to wish to widen the breach in our church, or to sow discord among those who ought to dwell together in unity and love: but truth is charity; and sincerity and plain-dealing in the spirit of peace and meekness will not, or at least ought not, to give offence. I do not impute the errors I have mentioned to those who seriously disclaim them; but will they not admit that there are others, and those not a few, who, calling themselves orthodox, practically admit them?
AN INQUIRER INTO TRUTH.
READING WITH DISCRETION.
Tothe Editorofthe Christian Observer.
THE advice given in your Number for January (p. 41), "to read with discretion," is of high importance;
and never more so than in the present day, when reading has become very general, when frequently it is carried to excess, and when on every subject there is an immense accumulation of books; and on no subject is the advice of greater importance than on that respecting which it was given. Why can we not be content to walk in "the good old paths?" Why can we not be satisfied with the moderate and scriptural doctrines of the Church of England, as stated in her Articles and Homilies, and beautifully developed in her services? If we have a small portion of leisure to bestow upon the perusal of other religious writings, do not the works of standard value, of which we possess such a rich abundance, first deserve our attention? And even if we have more enlarged abilities and opportunities for study, is there not still ample room for our minds to expatiate in the truly evangelical writings of such men as Hall, Beveridge, Watts, Doddridge, Thomas Scott, and many excellent authors of the present day, especially those of the Church of England, of similar sentiments, without either resorting to the lean pastures of Arminianism, or venturing amidst the rocks and quicksands of supra-Calvinism?Let us follow the advice of our church, and receive the promises of God in such wise as they are generally set forth to us in holy Scripture, and follow that will of God which we have especially declared to us in his word.
That the doctrines of Scripture are "doctrines of grace," is most true, and is asserted by all Evangelical writers: but if by that expression is intended exclusively the peculiarities of Calvinism; and if it is further meant that these only can maintain the love of God in the heart, that they are essential to salvation, or that they are necessary to peace of soul and consistency of life; experience proves the contrary. As a single example, does there appear to have been no settled
Tothe Editorofthe Christian Observer.
ST. PAUL says, 1 Tim. i. 13, "Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious; but I ob tained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief." It is commonly supposed, that the Apostle, having recorded the fact of his having "obtained mercy," subjoins the reason why; namely, because that when he was "a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious," he acted in ignorance and unbelief. I would propose another interpretation of the passage, and my reasons for it. I am of opinion, that the words, "but I obtained mercy," are parenthetic, and have no connexion with the other members of the sentence, further than as tending to direct our passing attention to the "breadth and length and depth and height" of that love of God through which salvation was extended to so great a sinner, "a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious; that, consequently, the word "because" has no reference at all to the fact that St. Paul "obtained mercy," but is to be considered as pointing to the origin and cause of his blasphemy and persecution, which he declares originated in his ignorance and unbelief. The sense thus will run: "I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor, and injurious; for I acted ignorantly in unbelief; but by the grace of God I obtained mercy."
The grace of God in Christ Jesus is set forth in Scripture as the sole cause of mercy to sinners. It was when we were "dead in trespasses and sins," that "God, who is rich in
mercy, for His great love wherewith he loved us, quickened us; by grace we are saved." Nor is there any thing in one man above his fellow that can commend him as a fit object for the favour of God. The words of Moses, although addressed in the first instance to the children of Israel, are applicable to all men at all times: "Speak not thou in thine heart, saying, For my righteousness the Lord hath brought me in to possess the land: not for thy righteousness or for the uprightness of thine heart dost thou go to possess their land, but-that he may perform the word which the Lord sware unto thy fathers." And in accordance with this, says the Apostle concerning salvation," not of works,lest any man should boast." Must we not hesitate, then, before we can suppose that this very Apostle mentions the uprightness of his heart as the cause of his obtaining the mercy of God? Nay, does he not demonstrate, Rom. i. 18, &c., that ignorance of the will of God may not be alleged as an excuse for the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men; since their ignorance is but the judicial consequence of the despite done to that knowledge of Him which they once possessed? "They are without excuse, because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." (Rom. i. 21.) And again, ver. 28: "And even as they did not like to retain God in their know. ledge, he gave them over to a mind void of judgment." Ignorance then, resulting from sin, does itself be. come sinful; and offences committed in such a state of culpable ignorance may justly be brought into judgment: just as by the law of our land the drunkard, who by his own wilful act has reduced himself to a state of unconsciousness, is not only liable to be punished for his drunkenness, but also for all acts against the law which he shall unknowingly commit.
There is, indeed, a passage of Scripture, John ix. 41, which might appear to some persons to imply that there may be a blindness or ignorance which shall be accounted as an apology for sin. But this passage has, in reality, a totally different application. There were present on that occasion some of the Pharisees, who considered themselves wise, and acquainted with the true import of the Scriptures concerning the Messiah: they said, "We see," and have need of nothing, and knew not that they were blind: they therefore sought not to be enlightened; and, consequently, "their sin remained;" they continued in unbelief, and in ignorance of the Gospel. But had they been convinced of their blindness, they would have come to Him who could have given them sight. He would have opened their eyes, and they should no longer have had their sin.
But again: that St. Paul cannot mean that he obtained mercy and received forgiveness because his ignorance and unbelief were an excuse for him, I am led to believe, from a consideration of the context in the following verses; in which, so far from endeavouring to excuse himself, he confesses, as it seems to me, in the fifteenth verse, that on account of these very sins, he was the chief of sinners. For in what respect, if not in this, did his conscience so accuse him? With reference to the demands of the righteousness of the law under which he lived, he declares himself to be 'blameless." Why then did he consider his guilt of so extraordinary a dye, but because his ignorance and unbelief being culpable, they furnished no excuse for his transgressions. In fact, both in relation to the free grace of God, through which alone he was saved, and to his own guilt as persecuting the church, we have his own sentence upon himself, 1 Cor. xv. 9, 10: "For I am the least of the Apostles, that am not meet to be called an
Apostle, because I persecuted the church of God; but by the grace) of God I am what I am." And again, in Ephes. iii., speaking of the hidden mystery, "that the Gen tiles should be fellow-heirs and of the same body, and partakers of God's promise in Christ by the Gospel," he adds, "whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power, unto me who am less than the least of all saints."
Upon the whole, then, I am led to the following conclusion. The Apostle having, in the eleventh verse, mentioned "the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to his trust," takes occasion to direct attention to the circumstances which attended his calling, that in the ages to come might be shewn the exceeding riches of the grace of God in his kindness towards him through Jesus Christ. While he desired to give thanks to Christ Jesus his Lord, that " He had enabled him:" that is, imparted to him wisdom to understand, and strength to apprehend, the Gospel; and also because he had counted him, when thus strengthened by his grace, to be trustworthy; and as one to whom should be committed the ministry of the word of reconciliation; heat the same time confessed that formerly, because of his ignorance and unbelief, when his eyes were blinded that he could not see the light of the glorious Gospel, he had been a blasphemer and a persecutor and injurious. He then, with a further desire of magnifying the riches of the grace of God, again reverts to the fact, that, notwithstanding sin did so exceedingly abound in him, being manifested in his blasphemy and persecution of the church, yet the grace of God was much more exceedingly abund ant in saving him. And in a spirit of the deepest humility he proceeds to declare, in the fifteenth and sixteenth verses, what humanly speaking he conceives would be, in respect