« AnteriorContinuar »
judgment." Eccles. 8:5. In this way, without affectation, indelicacy, disorder, or ill manners, the wisdom and the usefulness of christians might be augmented ten fold, to the infinite benefit of the world! For God will bless ordinarily wherever and whatever he approves. The way to get good, is to do good; the way to increase and retain personal religion, is to communicate and dispense what we have. * And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them!" Numb. 11 : 29. And no one knows how much good may sometimes result from "a word fitly spoken."
In all such converse, it were well to observe certain rules and principles, as perhaps the following ; 1. Speak wisely and to the point, or not at all. 2. Time things well and consider the characteristics of those
address. Sometimes silence is eloquence; and leaving the company, the best refutation. 3. If you would reprove, endeavor to do it so as to make the party reprove himself. 4. Regard ultimate more than proximate effects; what will be thought to-morrow or long afterward, of what you now aver; and what reflection will attest, when sensation has utterly subsided. 5. In teaching, take care to tell only what you know. David would use none but the armor he had “proved.” Some subjects may be new to you; or plainly superior to your attainments; or they may require an investigation and a library not at your command; or involve a difficulty which you see no way of solving: in such cases never attempt presumptuous solutions or arrogate a clearness of vision which you do not possess. Acknowledge the difficulty, and your own ignorance; as well as your persuasion that it is not insuperable, but with proper helps might be and doubtless has been often and fully explained. This will commend your ingenuousness, as well as evince your confidence in christianity. 6. Beware of wrong motives. Right ones are the eloquence and the unction and almost the effect. “Let love through all your actions run.” Still, care rather to profit than to please : and respect God more than man. If you really love the soul, you will show it, incidentally is in no other way; and in proportion as this temper is seen, it will also be felt and honored, at least in the privacy of conscience, where the effect is often wonderful and astounding! Besides, every man has a conscience; every man thinks more and feels more, occasionally, on the supreme subject, than he is willing to confess even to himself. And God uses the wise efforts of his people. They are the chosen sub-agents of his own glorious action, in conciliating souls. Thus he replenishes the empire of his grace. Hence, faith acquires a kind of omnipotence, by availing itself of the resources of God! " In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy land: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper either this or that,
or whether they both shall be alike good.” Eccles. 11:6. And what service possible to men, can for a moment be compared to this, for “glory, and honor, and immortality ;" or for certainty and richness of reward ? The laurels and stars of vulgar ambition are here demonstrated puerile and contemptible; while the grandeur and worth of such subserviency can be impoverished or reduced by no competition, nor by any increase or success of numbers. The cause is common, unique, eternal. The more the happier. Each contributes to the riches of all; and all rejoice in the successes of each. The tender female here becomes a champion ; the contest and the victory alike exercise the goodness and improve the character : Heaven is enjoyed and Christ is glorified in two worlds, one of them without end !"
The author is happy in the acquaintance of many excellent and “ elect ladies” among his countrywomen, not restrictively those of his parochial charge, whose example is luminous and beneficent in an eminent degree; and with whom, as living "epistles of Christ," and amiable specimens of the religion of his gospel, the unchanging principles of truth and grace, are discernible in their truly refining efficacy; commended to the approbation of the world in kindred fellowship with the softness and the sympathy, the instinctive purity and the tender attraction, of the female character. “A virtuous woman; her price is far above rubies! She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is tho law of kindness. Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain : but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.” Prov. 31 : 10, 26, 30.
7. See Blackstone, vol. 1, pp. 301 and 441, et alia.
8." He thought he saw an unusual blaze of light fall on the book while he was reading, which he at first imagined might happen by some accident in the candle. But lifting up his eyes, he apprehended, to his extreme amazement, that there was before him, as it were suspended in the air, a visible representation of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross, surrounded on all sides with a glory; and was impressed, as if a voice, or something equivalent to a voice, had come to him, to this effect, (for he was not confident as to the very words,) O sinner, did I suffer this for thee, and are these the returns ?" Lise of Col. Gardiner, by Dr. Doddridge, p. 25. The influence may be genuine, divine, saving; and yet our imagination and judgment may be erring and extravagant, in what they attribute to it. The luminous quality may be all in the mind, and the images or representations be there only delineated and enstamped.
9. But this feeling of the preacher was not peculiar to him. Fox was the primate of their whole system of sympathies as well as sentiments. "I was moved also to cry against all sorts of music”-“But the black
earthly spirit of the priests wounded my life: and when I heard the bell toll to call people together to the steeple-house, it struck at my life; for it was like a market-bell to gather people together, that the priest might set forth his ware to sale." Journal, vol. 1. pp. 114 and 115. In England, it is well known, that a steeple always indicates a church of the establishment: the dissenters having none, according to law, and their places of worship being called chapels or meeting-houses. The antipathy of early Friends against “ steeple-houses” became one of their characteristics. It was a signal of the justly odious tithe system, and a rem mbrancer of their own frequent amercement.
10. This, and some other parts of this volume, were written as early as 1824 ; before the schism, and while its main occasion was yet alive. He is now no more in this world. Where he is, in that wbich is to come, I am very far from deciding even in the privacy of thought. God knows what to do, and will do what is gloriously right, with each one of us and with all men. In the text I mean only—that I am now relieved from any sensible obligation to account for his errors on the supposition of his genuine christian piety. Equally cautious would I be in resign ing wholly and always, to the arbitration of the Great God, the destiny of individuals or persons; as courageous in the treatment of principles, whatever their application to myself or others, and in the confession of the truth, whatever the consequences to be apprehended. I desire here to assure the reader, that with me the idea of denouncing persons as absolutely graceless, or passing judgment on the eternal condition of any individual of the mighty congregation of the dead on whom scripture hath not expressly passed the judgment of God, is both alien and awful! I denounce only--a system. It is one of the most happy cogitations of my life, that I know not concretely or in reference to particular individuals, who may not be pardoned and saved in spite of his errors and his sins! or who may not be brought to repentance and faith in Christ, before he leaves the world? There are several things in the characters of Fox and Barclay that I very sincerely respect and even admire-and far enough should I be from daring to say of either of them-He is lost forever! No man knows any such thing in fact! and my soul is very very far from wishing it-I need not declare !
It was wise in one who said, to his circle of christian companions ; If any or all of us shall actually arrive in heaven at last, we shall see THREE wonders there: first, many whom we never expected to meet there; second, many not there whom we did expect to find; and third, the greatest wonder to find-OURSELVES there!
In treating of truth and principles, however, I know not how to do justice to the subjects of revelation without free thought and unrestrained argument. If this wounds, lacerates, or even injures some, I can only say-I know of no alternative! truth will never surrender to error; and truth will hurt some spirits, and only hurt them, world without end!
“ The keen vibration of bright truth, is hell.” The sword of the Spirit is sharp, refulgent, piercing.
11. Remarkably characteristic and Quakerian! I have often been asked by others, “How do they get over such and such passages ?" Answer—You know nothing of their way, or you would not ask the inapposite question. A man who carries about with him a light within which is PARAMOUNT to reason and the oracles of God, can nullify at pleasure, and that as easily as by“ turning over the leaf,” WHATEVER it may have pleased “the eternal Spirit” to reveal and record "for our learning.” The confession, made in great simplicity, is a most important development. It reveals, I think, purely, what is more valuable because indeliberate, the character of the sect, the nature of their inward luminary, and the connection that exists between their views and evidence. It shows the way which some have of pleading conscience, when they wish to escape responsibility or do what they dare not allow to be inspected: and reminds me of an anecdote that I have somewhere known, of a certain miserable and ignorant man, who, having done a reprehensible action publicly in church, was arraigned for it before his ecclesiastical superiors, where he pleaded that he was conscientious in it all. “ And pray,” said one of his judges, “What is conscience ? or what do you mean by it, if you mean any thing or know what you mean ?" He answered, “O yes! I know, very well. Conscience is something," putting his hand significantly on his stomach, "something down here that says, every now and then, I wont !" Humor apart, I sincerely suspect that Barclay's"little small thing" that“ boasteth” such “great things,” is not only resident in the same locality, but is very much of one identity with the famous definition of conscience above recited. It is the conscience of NULLIFICATION-a principle that might, for aught I know, have "originated in heaven:" but sure I am it did not long remain there.
12. Respecting predestination, without discussing a subject so extensive, so “sinned against ”--not sinning, and so glorious and fundamental, I would affectionately suggest the following things: 1. It is both foolish and unfair to charge its alleged difficulties, as is often done in this country, on presbyterianism or calvinism. Before either of these existed, the very difficulties—which are wholly relative and result from our ignorance and folly and unbelief alone-existed and were amply known. The premises of the doctrine are fully contained in Barclay's Apology: since they are ultimately resolvable into the attributes of the INFINITE God. Omniscience--who can deny?-eternally knows all things, and anticipates them infallibly, in a system over which God presides, which he created and constantly upholds. For “although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pase immediately and infallibly, yet, by the same providence, he ordereth them to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.” Presbyterian Confession of Faith. Chap. 5, sect. 2. No absolute contingency exists; yet all relative contingencies, such to us, (and the world is full of them,) are infallibly and economically foreknown in the system, and most wisely ordered and overruled by the eternal Owner of all things. The means and the end of every related series are reciprocally connected and mutually dependant in the constitution of God. He has no purpose, for example, to fill a barn with the fruits of autumn, that does not as well imply his purpose of antecedent toil, forecast, perseverance, care, and skill, on the part of the husbandman. A correct view of this subject is not only noble and philosophical, expansive to the mind and salutary in an infinite degree to the heart; but, it rectifies the conduct, is the best cure of the natural fatalism of men, the wisest corrective in the world of the whole doctrine of fate, and moreover—IT IS ETERNAL TRUTH ! God knows all events, with just as much precision and exactitude, and knows them just as HISTORICALLY, as he knows those of yesterday and earlier in infinite preterition. He knows you, reader, and all your voluntary conduct, perfectly and from everlasting. It is indeed to me a wonder of difficult solution (much more difficult than the revealed doctrine of predestination) that any man of sense and honesty can at once believe the Bible, and read it, and doubt the doctrine. If not contained in Romans, 9, 10, 11, nor in Ephesians, 1, 2, I am sure it is to be found alMOST EVERY WHERE ELSE, expressly or by implication, in the whole Bible. If somewhat medicinal and painful, it is still a mosT SALUTARY doctrine. 2. Our moral relation to it is siMPLE, ENCOURAGING AND ENTIRELY PRACTICAL-whence our duty is to submit to it believingly and to believe it affectionately, to the glory of the eternal and infinitely benevolent Founder of the system. To do this, is just AS Easy as it is to love God or cordially to say, “ Thy will be done." Without such unqualified submission, we are, however disguised, only the enemies of God-because we wickedly choose to be! With it-we are his friends, his children, his elect for ever. The doctrine can be easily ABUSED, however, by any one so minded. Hence 3. There is no proper difficulty PRACTICALLY, or just repulsion, in the doctrine. If we can love God sincerely at all, why hate him because of the infinite sovereignty in which he describes himself as “declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, MY COUNSEL SHALL STAND