Imágenes de página


become to us identified, in whole or in part, with the truth of revelation ? as if whatever may be necessary to the perfection of the church, were equally necessary to the visibility of the church! as if every thing that a christian ought to be, is that without which a christian is not! as if what belongs to growth and accomplishment, were indispensable in the same degree to existence itself! These monstrous suppositions could not be sustained in argument, and are perhaps very rarely affirmed in practice. But are they as rarely implied? Are they never couched covertly in our sentiments; insensibly in our conduct; devastatingly in our influence ? How easily is the brand of heretic, or the impeachment of unsound, or the suspicion of innovating, or the whisper of erroneous, admitted or applied !32 And to whom? Men, whose piety perhaps has been long and well demonstrated; with whom “ the spirit of truth,” and not “the spirit of error,” holds manifest communion ; who are, and have ever been, “in labors more abundant,” it may be, than most others, their allies or oppugners; and whose success in the ministry, both in conversions multiplied and fruits unequivocal, has been the palpable seal of God on their commission as his own ambassadors. I know it is objected here, with something possibly of wisdom, in show or in reality, that success is not the criterion ! Grant it-Is it not still a criterion, and a tolerably good one? one which any man would plead or consider in his own case, but simply for the reason--that there it has no applicability probably? Yes! says the objector, but success attends many a hereriasch, many a fanatic, many a heathen corrupter. Look at Mohammed ; look at Peter the hermit; look at George Fox. I answer, all this is true. But what is the inference ? that success is only of one kind? or that successs in mischief is all ? or that success in “winning souls” to Christ, and “turning many to righteousness," proves nothing? Not a christian on earth, nor an angel in heaven, believes any such extravagance of folly! I repeat it ; no good man soberly believes any such thing. Do heretics and schismatics and heathen corrupters, ever appropriately succeed in converting men to holiness, to the faith of Christ, and “ the blessed hope ” of the gospel ? “By their fruits ye shall know them.” We estimate fruits, I think, first by the quality; and then by the quantity. Suppose they are good and numerous—are we to infer that they grew in the devil's garden and resulted from the culture of his emissaries? They are not “ the grapes of Sodom ;'' they are not “ the clusters of Gomorrah.” This will be generally admitted on all sides. Is success in rearing such fruit, no demonstration of an alliance with the master of the grounds ? with the giver of the increase? How then are his allies to be known? By imperious indolence? by arrogant denunciation ? by an everlasting clamor or insinuation of their heterodoxy who do all the work, who brave all the dangers, who meet all the questions, and who bear all the “evil report” of “the master of the house ?" by such an outcry raised or nourished by men, it may be, who never were success

[ocr errors]

ful in the ministry? who never had a revival of religion probably under all their preaching? who dwell in libraries and abstractions; and know little experimentally of contact with the rude million, in a way that brooks their boorishness, and encounters their very reviling, for the sake of showing them the love of Christ and the way of salvation through his blood! The heartlessness with wbich the success of a preacher in the credible conversion of souls to God, is sometimes philosophized away to nothing; and the nothingness of their success who thus reason, as sometimes exalted into a foil of their glorious orthodoxy while they thus pervert the argument, and to their consolation it may be who have cause rather to be humiliated and ashamed before God and man at their own official barrenness ; are equally melancholly and portentous ! Success is better estimated in heaven; where “they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever. For what is our hope, our joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and our joy."

A man cannot be right by conformity, though he may be by conviction. It is evidence, not dogmatism, that corrects him. The force of great names and the

power of uninspired authority, are not only less than the power of the gospel ; they are different in nature too. They are also as much inferior, as they are different, in the influence they exert. They may make partisans; but they will never make christians : nor is it mainly by such means that God makes christians. “ The word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is THE ONLY RULE TO DIRECT US HOW WE MAY GLORIFY AND ENJOY HIM." He honors his own word; he respects the laws of mind; he violates nothing but sin. He so effectually and tenderly persuades, whom he converts, that duty is seen as privilege and service relished as enjoyment. The love of the Savior invests all the legislation of the king; and the grace of salvation facilitates all the mandates of righteousness. Ought we not to proceed in a way similar, when our end is corresponding? Is it not safe to copy an example so illustrious and superhuman? Good reason is there to suppose that such a way is that of your common desire; and that you all approve, as I do, the following sentiments. “I have endeavored,” says Dr. Woods, “to guard against any mixture of bigotry, being fully aware that this tends to produce narrowness of feeling, and to prevent improvement. Most HEARTILY WOULD I WELCOME EVERY RAY OF NEW LIGHT WHICH MAY SHINE UPON THE GREAT SUBJECTS OF REVELATION.

For WHILE I REGARD THE UNCHANGEABLE WORD OF GOD AS A PERFECT AND INFALLIBLE RULE OF FAITH AND PRACTICE, I BELIEVE THAT OUR PERCEPTION OF ITS TRUTHS, AND OUR MANNER OF EXPLAINING AND ENFORCING THEM, ADMIT OF VAST IMPROVEMENT. And although, in the extent of their knowledge of christianity, and their ability to defend and illustrate its doctrinal and practical principles, the

[ocr errors]

older divines seem to me far superior to the ge-
nerality of late theological writers, whether in
Europe or America; I cannot but think that some
real progress has been made during the last cen-
tury in the right understanding of the christian
religion, and in the right mode of setting forth its
truths, for the conversion of sinners and the spread
of the gospel. And it is my persuasion, though
some may regard it as partiality or weakness, that
this progress is chiefly owing to the labors of those
whom we call New-England divines; and I am
supported in this persuasion by some of the ablest
advocates of divine truth in Great Britain. But
while I say this, I am ready to deplore whatever
has been among us of erroneous opinion, and of
unchristian feeling and practice. I cherish the
pleasing hope, that the multitude of young men
who have recently entered the ministry, or are now
preparing for it, will seek and obtain larger mea-
sures of divine illumination, than their predecessors,
and that in the happy results of their studies and
labors, they will exceed all former generations.” In
this extract, I have taken no other liberty than to
capitalize two sentences, that deserve to be written
permanently on conscious tablets of the heart.
To the estimate of the author, respecting the theo-
logians of New England, I can fully subscribe ;
without any imputation of indelicate praise, as I
am neither a native nor a resident of that distin-
guished district. To them do I confess the indebt-
edness of the country and especially of the church.
I wish indeed that here we could be unqualified,

« AnteriorContinuar »