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salvation of sinners;" and such general declarations as, "I hope to be saved through Christ," &c. are sufficient to warrant a Christian church to receive those who make them; it must be objected, that such expressions do not afford the necessary evidence in the confession of the mouth, of the "knowledge of God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent."
and prevailing error among them to receive persons without a due trial of their knowledge of Christ. It is admitted, that if this error were generally corrected, the number added to the churches would be much reduced; but it would be attended with the great advantages of increased purity of communion; advanced conformity to the divine will; and fewer instances of exclusion from Christian communion.
My own experience has afforded me abundant proof, that this objection is well founded. In the course of the last twenty-five years, I have been applied to for church fellowship by some scores of persons, who, though they freely declare their faith and hope in such general expressions as the above, yet, upon being particularly questioned, proved their utter ignorance of the divinity of the Redeemer, and the great design of his death in making atonement for sin. I was, some years past, applied to by a person who had been ten years a member of a Baptist church near to London, but who wished, on account of a change in the place of her residence, to remove to the church of which I was then a Pastor; and though she could declare her faith in Christ in general terms, yet she was altogether ignorant of the manifestation of divine justice in the pardon of sin through the death of Christ.. It has ever appeared to me, since my connection with a Christian church, that in every instance of saving faith, from its very commencement, there must be some knowledge of Christ as "God manifest in the flesh," and some scriptural knowledge of the death of Christ, as an atonement for sin, as a satisfaction to divine justice, and a manifestation of the divine righteousness in the forgiveness of sin: as, with out this, it does not appear as possible, that there can be any hope in the divine mercy on a scriptural ground. Upon this principle I have ever acted, in conversing with persons with a view to admission into the church: and the consequence has been, a refusal to propose for communion a considerable number that have made application. It does not appear to me, that, upon this subject, the predominant error in the churches is that of being too cautious in the reception of applicants for communion; for they are, generally, too intent upon having great additions to their number, to fall into any considerable error in that direction; but I fear it is a general
It would have been very agreeable to me, in attempting to answer your cor respondent's query, to have found my self at liberty to quiet at once his fears, by assuring him, that no one can be the subject of such desires as he has pointed out, but those who shall ultimately be made partakers of the salvation that is through Christ Jesus with eternal glory; and of course to have drawn the natural conclusion. That as he has been the subject of these desires, his state is safe, and his relationship to God clearly as certained. This, I say, Sir, would have been very agreeable; but I am afraid, that if the task he has imposed, be faithfully discharged, the result will be far otherwise than what he appears to me to be anticipating.
I think it would have been better had he sought for peace to his own mind in another way, than by instituting an enquiry into such a mysterious subject. But as he proposed it, it is not likely that he would be satisfied with any answer to his query, which did not embrace the subject he has pointed out.
But even in closing with the subject, intend to touch but slightly upon that branch of it which the question more immediately requires as an answer; and to avoid entirely, as a matter that is too high for me, that most inexplicable
In p. 75 of the number of your Magazine for March, a Query, subscribed “A Constant Reader," is proposed by one of your correspondents, which de serves some attention; as it appears that the Querist has not been led to put it for the mere sake of provoking a discussion upon a very perplexing subject, but rather in the hope that the result of the discussion, will tend to clear up his doubts in regard to the safety of his own state: a circumstance, certainly, of very considerable moment.
ON THE GROUNDS OF CHRISTIAN CONFIDENCE.
-169 present evidence, as he may have cause to be satisfied that he was sincere. But the profession made by those who afterwards fall away, was real as far as it went, and left no room for suspicion either to observers, or perhaps to the individuals themselves, that there was any real difference in the nature of their faith from that of others, who gave proof of its genuineness, by their continuing to endure to the end. To suppose otherwise, would be to admit, that the apostle had conjured up a case, which had, in fact, no reality, merely for the sake of terrifying others; a kind of conduct that none should impute to the apostle.
Your correspondent then may see, not only the impossibility of his attaining to solid peace, if he seek it in this way, but that there is a danger of it involving him in greater perplexity. For if, as has been shown, others besides those who shall ultimately inherit eternal life, may be the subjects of the gracious influences of the Spirit of God: how can he, or any professing Christian in his situation, arrive at a comfortable assurance of the safety of his state, merely from the circumstance that he once enjoyed the supernatural influences of the Spirit of God? His faith may not have been of that kind, to which the promise of salvation is annexed-his enjoyments may not have been the enjoyments of the real people of God; but of the nature of those, of whom it is said, that they believed only for a while, for when temptation or persecution because of the word arose, they fell away.
But, further, if I understand the doctrine of the word of God aright, there is no state of attainment in the Christian life, on arriving at which the Christian may say, "Now my state is beyond the possibility of being changed, for I have arrived at that state of Christian perfection, which renders it impossible that any circumstance can subvert my mind, shake my faith, or undermine my hope." Such language, according to my view of the doctrine of the Scriptures, would be at once presumptuous and opposite to fact. The many alarming admonitions given in the word of God against departing from the faith, proceed upon the same supposition, namely, that there is no state at which a Christian can arrive, that places him beyond the influence of temptations; and if still exposed to temptations while in the body, his safety lies, not in congratulating himself that
branch of it which involves the question, "How the will of man can counteract the agency of that Being, the operations of whose Spirit are found to be so efficacious."
The question, you will observe, is, "Whether it be possible for the unrenewed mind, under any circumstances (such as illumination, conviction of sin, &c. &c.) to be the subject of real desire after spiritual blessings, or to desire holiness or conformity to the law of God, from an apprehension of its moral beauty or excellency?" Now, Sir, it appears to me from the whole complexion of this case, that the only answer which would serve your correspondent, while he looks for relief to his mind from the solution of this perplexing subject, is an answer that would be in the negative. But if we answer in the negative; if we say, That it is not possible for any but a real believer, a true child of God, to be the subject of real desire after spiritual blessings, or to desire holiness or conformity to the law of God, from an apprehension of its moral beauty or excellency, what are we to make of those parts of the word of God that seem to admit it? In that word, cautions against apostatizing from the faith are numerous. And it will not avail your correspondent to allege, that the probability is, that those who apostatized from the faith were never really renewed; for what better evidence can your correspondent have of his own mind having been renewed, than those gave, whom the Apostle Paul, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, supposes may fall away. They are said to have been enlightened, and to have tasted of the heavenly gift, made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted of the good word of God, and of the powers of the world to come. For your correspondent then, or any other professed Christian, to trust to their mind having been renewed as an evidence of the safety of their state, when they have fallen into sin, or when the truth, from whatever cause, has lost its influence over their hearts and affections, is a most dangerous course, and calculated to lull the mind into the most fatal security.
Did apostacy from the faith consist in laying aside a profession that is merely assumed, and known to be so by those who had assumed it, then your correspondent might be safe in trusting to his former impressions, in the absence of
he possesses such and such marks, | he experiences the Gospel producing its
genuine effects upon him.
or that he has been the subject of this or the other change, but in holding fast the beginning of the confidence, and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end; and like the Apostle Paul, in forgetting the things that are behind, and pressing forward to the things that are before. In short, it lies not in any past attainments, but in enduring to the end. Hence, the same apostle exhorts, "Let us, therefore, fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it." And it must be kept in view, that exhortations of this nature were not addressed merely to such believers, as had not attained unto great eminence, or whose standing in the Christian life had been short; but exhortations of a similar nature were addressed by the apostles of Christ unto all classes of believers. Thus the apostle Paul in addressing Timothy, (a person, the greatness of whose attainments there is no room left for us to doubt) warns him, "To flee youthful lusts, and to fight the good fight of faith, that he might lay hold on eternal life." And the motive that led the apostle to speak in this manner to a person possessing Timothy's character, could be no other, than that the most advanced Christian is liable to be subverted, and to come short of the prize of the high calling of God, that is in Christ Jesus.
Our objection, then, does not lie against every use that may be made of past experience; it is only pointed against substituting it in the room of that truth, which alone can inspire either the newly awakened sinner, or the backsliding believer with good hope, when his sins have separated him from his God, and when he has lost the conscious sense of his interest in Christ.
Had your correspondent then, instead of the course he has adopted, betaken himself to that foundation, which the Gospel lays for the hope of the guilty, for a renewal of his peace, he would have acted a wiser part, and have kept the prescribed course. But if what has been said should convince him of his error (for I am jealous that he has a hankering after a delusive doctrine,) the door of mercy is open, the accents of the Gospel sound thus in his ears"Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."-"Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters." And, aggra vated as his case may appear to himself to be, on account of his sins being committed against the light, provision still is made for such; for it ever remains a truth, that "if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, who is also the propitiation for our sins."
Some of your readers may perhaps startle at this doctrine, and be ready to ask, what are the uses to which the past experience of the Christian are applicable; or are there any uses at all, to which they can with propriety be applied? I answer, many. Christian at
Edinburgh, Dec. 12, 1789.
tainments, while they continue to exist, MR. ARCHIBALD M'LEAN TO MR. are to be considered as evidences, both RICHARDS, OF LYNN. to the possessors themselves, and to LETTER IV. others, of their happy state; for undoubtedly there are things which accompany salvation. "We know," says the Apostle John, "that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." They are evidences of their calling and election. Hence the believers were exhorted to make this sure, by adding to their faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, and charity. Real Christian experience then is of the greatest use; it is an evidence to the believer's own mind, that it is the true grace of God wherein he stands, while
Let your correspondent, then, call to mind that which at first inspired him with good hope toward God.
I am, Sir, respectfully,
MY DEAR SIR,
I received your letter by Capt. West, together with the guinea and pamphlet, for which I return you my thanks. I have been anxious to know of your affairs for a long while past, but have got no account, excepting once a hint from T. Sherraton. I have been twice at London and twice at Hull since our correspondence has dropt, and would have doubtless taken the route of Lynn, if you had not signified that the visit would not be very acceptable as matters stood. Perhaps my coming might have
LETTER FROM MR. M'LEAN TO MR. RICHARDS.
brought matters to a speedier issue, and | hesitate about the washing of the saints' saved you a good deal of fruitless labour feet. I cannot conceive why any humand vexation; but that would have de- ble simple-minded Christian should pended much upon your own concur- hesitate a moment upon this point, after rence; and in such matters I never seriously reading John xiii. 3-11. (See choose to interfere without being ex- my Note, Commission, p. 269, 270.) If pressly called thereto. Nothing, how- neither Christ's example, nor his most ever, can be more romantic than an express and pointed injunction, can deattempt to reform a society, gathered termine the judgment, it cannot be supand constituted upon the usual plan, posed that I can say any thing to make into the union and order of an apostolic the matter any clearer. I do not think church. This has often been tried, but that any of Christ's commands are local I never heard of one instance wherein it or temporary rites, or to be explained succeeded. Various causes may be as- away by our knowledge of foreign clisigned for this, such as men's attach- mates, or ancient customs and dress. ment to, and conceit of their former way This precept, in particular, is founded in as a society-the affront which it offers the very genius and spirit of his religion; to their pride, to suppose that they have and is a striking expression of humility, been essentially wrong in their consti- condescension, and brotherly love; ob tution, union, and order as a church-jections to it, therefore, must arise from their aversion to being thought fluctuat- some deficiency in these. We do not ing and changeable-their not perceiving look upon it as a rite at all, but as a the importance of the apostolic order and beneficial act of kindness, when needful; discipline, as being absolutely necessary and we know very well how refreshing to their union in the truth as a body, it is after a journey on foot; yet we conand inseparably connected with their sider it as a religious appointment, for walking in love, and continuing stedfast though it is not an act of religious worin the faith and obedience of the Gospel ship, yet it is an appointment of Christ; their want of a due regard to the and when we do it to his disciples beauthority of God in his word, which cause they belong to him, and because leads them to set aside some of his com- he hath commanded it, then we do it mands, under the idea that they were religiously, or from a religious principle, local and temporary, and others of them even as we feed the hungry and clothe as trifling and indifferent, if not alto- the naked from the same principle, and gether inexpedient and improper-their are enjoined in whatsoever we do, to do regard to the opinions and practices of all to the glory of God, 1 Cor. x. 31. As modern professors, which weighs more to 1 Tim. v. 10. it does not show that it with many, than the sayings and exam- ought not to have been universally obple of Christ and his apostles, &c. &c. served when needful. We may as well Now when the greater part of a society argue, that because the widow to be are of this complexion, they cannot as a taken into the number, was to be well body be reduced to the primitive plan. reported of for good works, to have In order to this, the children of God, lodged strangers, relieved the afflicted, who tremble at his word, must abandon and to have diligently followed every such a connexion as unscriptural, and good work, that these things were not unite among themselves upon the pro- universally observed among Christians, fession of the one faith, and their full and therefore must be now laid aside! purpose of heart to cleave unto the The first Christians were not all alike Lord and one another, in observing all attentive to their duty; but it is the law things whatsoever Christ hath com- of Christ, and not their neglect that must manded, receiving none into their fel- be our rule. lowship, however near and dear unto them, but such as make the same profession. Nor is this all, the faithful and impartial use of the Scripture discipline must be kept up, otherwise the purest and best constituted society will soon grow corrupt in their communion.
With regard to the translating of my book into Welsh, I cheerfully agree, provided you think an edition of it could be disposed of in that part of the kingdom. There are some corrections which I have made upon it, which, in that case ought to be transmitted to you. I ins tend, if the Lord will, to be at London sometime next Spring, to look after a translation of it into French, which I
I am happy to hear that a number of you have united together in a social connexion. Some of them, you say,
TENCE OF DEITY.
hear is now finished. As I intend to | ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE OMNIPO,
I think I have heard of Winchester at London, and have conversed with some in his way, who I think are under a most dangerous delusion, but never saw his lectures on unfulfilled prophecies. Neither have I heard any thing of Purvis's publication, but I know the man, and that he is an Arian. The prospect at London and Hull is not very great. At London they have decreased a few these two years past by removal of members, death and otherwise. Their principal exhorter, an amiable young man, died lately. At Hull, I think they are about ten in number. I have taken no notice of Pirie's scurrilous performance, nor do I intend to do it. He is a clergyman, and was first an Antiburgher Seceder, then a Burgher Seceder, after that a Relief minister, then he had a separate party of his own; but having differed with all the foregoing successive connexions, he at last set up an Independent Meeting at Newburgh, a small country village, where he continued ever since, but his congregation has dwindled almost to nothing. Dr. Walker, I believe, is pretty well, though I scarcely ever see him.
[From Mr. Dick's Christian Philosopher.]
OMNIPOTENCE is that attribute of the Divine Being, by which he can accomplish every thing that does not imply a contradiction-however far it may transcend the comprehension of finite minds. By his power the vast system of univer sal nature was called from nothing into existence, and is continually supported, in all its movements, from age to age. In elucidating this perfection of God, we might derive some striking illustra tions from the records of his dispensa tions towards man, in the early ages of the world-when he overwhelmed the earth with the deluge, which covered the tops of the highest mountains, and swept the crowded population of the ancient world into a watery gravewhen he demolished Sodom and Gomor rah, and the cities around them, with fire from heaven-when he slew all the first-born of Egypt, and turned their rivers into blood when he divided the Red Sea, and the waters of Jordan before the tribes of Israel-when he made thé earth to open its jaws and swallow up Korah and all his company-and when he caused mount Sinai to smoke and tremble at his presence. But these and similar events, however awful, astonishing, and worthy of remembrance, were only transitory exertions of divine power, and are not calculated, and were never intended, to impress the mind in so powerful a manner, as those displays of Omnipotence which are exhibited in the material universe.
We have no hesitation in asserting, that, with regard to this attribute of the Divinity, there is a more grand and impressive display in the Works of Nature, than in all the events recorded in the Sacred History. Nor ought this remark to be considered as throwing the least reflection on the fulness and sufficiency of the Scripture revelation; for that revelation, as having a special reference to a moral economy, has for its object, to give a more particular display of the moral than of the natural perfections of God. The mira cles to which we have now referred, and every other supernatural fact recorded in the Bible, were not intended so much Deity, as to bear testimony to the to display the plenitude of the power of Divine mission of particular messengers,
I shewed your letter to my colleagues, Mr. Braidwood and Mr. Inglis, and we are all of opinion, that, if you are heartily resolved to follow out the apostolic order, and to adhere strictly and unreservedly to the word of God wherever it may lead you, and whatever may be the consequences as to this world, it might be of some advantage both to you and us, that you should pay us a visit, if possible, and bring Mr. Durrant along with you. This might tend much to our mutual satisfaction, and lead to that close and intimate connection, which ought to subsist among brethren embarked in one common cause. You may think of this; meantime they desire to be affectionately remembered to you. That the Lord may encourage your heart and strengthen your hands in his work, and that he may give you that zeal, resolution and faithfulness, which the importance of his cause requires, is the earnest request of,
Your affectionate and sincere friend,