Imatges de pàgina
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cited no alarm on the part of the Roman emperors, who did not depart from their usual maxims of toleration, till they began to understand the magnitude of its pretensions, and the unlooked for success which attended them.

67. In the course of a very few years, after its first promulgation, it drew down upon it the hostility of the Roman government; and the fact is undoubted, that some of its first teachers, who announced themselves to be the companions of our Saviour, and the eye-witnesses of all the remarkable events in his history, suffered martyrdom for their adherence to the religion which they taught.

68. The disposition of the Jews to the religion of Jesus was no less hostile ; and it manifested itself at a still earlier stage of the business. The causes of this hostility are obvious to all, who are in the slightest degree conversant with the history of those times. It is true that the Jews did not at all times

possess

the

power of life and death, nor was it competent for them to bring the Christians to execution by the exercise of legal authority. Still, however, their powers of mischief were considerable. Their wishes had always a certain controul over the measures of the Roman governor ; and we know that it was this controul which was the means of extorting from Pilate the unrighteous sentence, by which the very first teacher of our religion was brought to a cruel and ignominious death. We also know, that under Herod Agrippa, the power of life and death was vested in a Jewish sovereign, and that this power was actually exerted against the most distinguished Christians of that time. Add to this, that the Jews had, at all times, the power of inflicting the lesser punishments. They could whip, they could imprison. Besides all this, the Christians had to brave the frenzy of an enraged multiJude; and some of them actually suffered martyrdom in the viatence of the popular commotions.

69. Nothing is more evident than the utter disgrace which was annexed by the world at large to the profession of Christianity at that period. Tacitus calls it “ superstitio exiliabilis,'! and accuses the Christians of enmity to mankind. By Epictetus and others, their heroism is termed obstinacy, and it was generally treated by the Roman governors as the infatuation of a, miserable and despised people. There was none of that glory annexed to it which blazes around the martyrdom of a patriot or a philosopher. That constancy, which, in another cause, would

have made them illustrious, was held to be a contemptible folly, which only exposed them to the derision and insolence of the multitude. A nanre and a reputation in the world might sustain the dying moments of Socrates or Regulus, but what earthly principles can account for the intrepidity of those poor and miserable outcasts, who consigned themselves to a voluntary martyrdom in the cause of their religion ?

70. Having premised these observations, we offer the following alternative to the mind of every candid enquirer. The first Christians either delivered a sincere testimony, or they imposed a story upon the world which they knew to be a fabrication.

71. The persecutions to which the first Christians voluntarily exposed themselves, compel us to adopt the first part of the alternative. It is not to be conceived, that a man would resign fortune, and character, and life, in the assertion of what he knew to be a falsehood. The first Christians must have be. lieved their story to be true ; and it only remains to prove, that if they believed it to be true, it must be true indeed.

72. A voluntary martyrdom must be looked upon as the highest possible evidence which it is in the power of man to give of his sincerity. The martyrdom of Socrates has never been questioned, as an undeniable proof of the sincere devotion of his mind to the principles of that philosophy for which he suffered. The death of Archbishop Cranmer will be allowed by all, to be a decisive evidence of his sincere rejection of what he conceived to be the errors of Popery, and his thorough conviction in the truth of the opposite system. When the council of Geneva burnt Servetus, no one will question the sincerity of the latter's belief, however much he may question the truth of it. Now, in all these cases, the proof goes no further, than to establish the sincerity of the martyr's belief. It goes but a little way, indeed, in establishing the justness of it. This is a different

question. A man may be mistaken, though he is sincere. His errors, if they are not seen to be such, will exercise all the influence and authority of truth over him. Martyrs have bled on the opposite sides of the question. It is impossible, then, to rest on this circumstance, as an argument for the truth of either system, but the argument is always deemed incontrovertible, in as far as it goes to establish the sincerity of each of the parties, and that both died in the firm conviction of the doctrines which they professed:

73. Now the martyrdom of the first Christians stands distinguished from all other examples by this circumstance, that it not merely proves the sincerity of the martyr's belief; but it also proves,

that what he believed was true. In other cases of martyrdom, the sufferer, when he lays down his life, gives his testimony to the truth of an opinion. In the case of the Christians, when they laid down their lives, they gave their testimony to the truth of a fact, of which they affirmed themselves to be the eye and the ear witnesses. The sincerity of both testimonies is unquestionable ; but it is only in the latter case, that the truth of the testimony follows as a necessary consequence of its sincerity. An opinion comes under the cognizance of the understanding, ever liable, as we all know, to error and delusion. A fact comes under the cognizance of the senses, which have ever been esteemed as infallible, when they give their testimony to such plain, and obvious, and palpable appearances, as those which make up the evangelical story. We are still at liberty to question the philosophy of Socrates, or the orthodoxy of Cranmer and Servetus ; but if we were told by a Christian teacher, in the solemnity of his dying hour, and with the dreadful apparatus of martyrdom before him, that he saw Jesus after he had risen from the dead; that he conversed with him many days; that he put his hand into the print of his sides ; and, in the ardour of his joyful conviction, exclaimed, “ My Lord, and my God!" we should feel that there was no truth in the world, if this language and this testimony could deceive us.

(To be continued.)

OF THE METHODIST DOCTRINES.

From the London Methodist Magazine. I have lately been taking a view of the origin of Methodism; and of the manner in which it has pleased God so graciously to carry on that great work, which has proved a source of good to hundreds of thousands of precious souls; and which still continues so graciously to prevail.

When it pleased God to raise up the Rev. John Wesley, to be the founder of Methodism; he resolved, through Divine help, to make the Bible his only guide, in all the important doctrines Vol. I.

27

man.

which he embraced ; and which he faithfully delivered to the people. His own language was, “I design plain truth for plain people; therefore, of set purpose; I abstain from all nice and philosophical speculations ; from all perplexed and intricate reasonings ; and, as far as possible, from even the show of learning, unless in sometimes citing the original Scriptures.” The following sentiments are also truly worthy of that great

“ I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air ; I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God, just hovering over the great gulf; till a few moments hence I am no more seen! I drop inte an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing, the way to heaven, how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach the

way ;
for this

very

end he came down from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price give me the book of God! I have it, here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri.

Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone, only God is here. In his presence I open, I read his book; for this end, to find the way to heaven. Is there a doubt concerning the meaning of what I read? Does any thing appear dark and intricate ? I list up my heart to the Father of lights. Lord is it not thy word, “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God.' Thou givest liberally, and upbraidest not.' Thou hast said, “If any be willing to do thy will, he shall know. I am willing to do, let me know thy will. I then search aster, and consider parallel passages of Scripture ; comparing spiritual things with spiritual, I meditate thereon with all the attention and earnestness of which my mind is capable. If any doubt still remain, I consult those who are experienced in the things of God; and then, the writings, whereby being dead, they yet speak, and what I thus learn, that I teach."

It was in the same spirit that the first Methodist preachers examined into the doctrines of the book of God. When the first Conference was held, at which was present, the Rev. John Wesley, the Rev, Charles Wesley, the Rev. John Hodges, rector of Wenyo, and several others, it is evident that they entered on the subject of Christian doctrine, in that spirit which was likely to draw down the Divine blessing on their consultations. They resolved that all things should be considered as in the immediale presence of God. That every point which was proposed should be examined to the foundation; and that every question which might arise, should be thoroughly debated and seuled.

Having entered on their work in that blessed spirit, and with a single eye to the glory of God, we may reasonably expect, that they would be led into all truth, The truths which they thus learned, they faithfully preached. Divine power accompaniod the word, thousands of persons were awakened to a sense of their guilt, and of their danger; and being directed to the Lord Jesus Christ, as their only, but all-sufficient Saviour, they found redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of their sins ; their lives became holy and happy, and many of the first Methodists are now safely landed on the heavenly shore.

Through the peculiar providence of God, Mr. Wesley was long spared as a father to the growing societies; and at various times, was led to write on almost every subject connected with Divinity. His Notes on the New Testament, though concise, are clear and full. His Sermons are probably unrivalled for a clear statement of Divine truth, and a practical and powerful application of that truth. His controversial pieces are on some of the most important truths of the Bible, which are defended in a masterly manner. In them truth is triumphant. His hymns, with those of his brother Charles, and a selection from some other authors, form a volume which, for real excellence, is probably the first in the English language. The whole of his works taken collectively, form a full statement of scriptura! truths, properly explained, and practically applied. On the ground which was laid during his life, Methodism his continued to prosper in an extraordinary manner, and hitherto has suffered no decay. On the present system of sound doctrine and proper discipline, we have reason to expect that it will continue to prcvail till the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God.-Yea, till suns shall rise and set no more.

As a member of the Methodist body, I feel anxious that we may ever preserve the purity, both of our doctrine, and our discipline; and the purport of my addressing you, especially at this time, is, to state the peculiar necessity of our continuing to abide by our former truths, and of guarding the sacred deposit, which God has committed to our care.

There are two theories that have been advanced, which appear to militate against our views of the important doctrine of regene.

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