« PreviousContinue »
however mysterious in our view. Our various afflictions are administered by his band ; and it will be right to look through all secondary causes, to behold and to acknowledge it. In the midst of your mourning, my friend, strive to think of your mercies: though one is taken, you have many left. Some parents, you know, are left childless; others have been frequently visited by the messenger Death ; - and then call to mind those seasons in which you have solemnly surrendered yourself to God. Have you not, in the exercise of faith and prayer, said, “ Lord! I am thine ; all that I have is thine ; do with us as seemeth good in thy sight?" You have thus dedicated all to God, from a persuasion that he is infinitely wise and gracious ; he can do nothing but what is just and righteous : the God in whom you trust is still the same; and every stroke you feel is given by his band. I know you will in this trial eye bis hand. O hearken then to the voice of your Heavenly Father; consider it as a call from him to sit loose from the world ; to set your affections on things above; to be more unreservedly devoted to the God you love; and I trust, though your trials abound, your consolations will abound also. May you be enabled to cast all your care upon him, and in your affliction be favoured with à sacred calin in
a peace that passeth all understanding! - This is the wish of your sincere and sympathizing friend, &c.
ON THE EXCELLENCY OF THE SCRIPTURES.
Man needs a revelation from God. Sin has so darkened his understanding, that he can hardly attain to any tolerable degree of certainty, even in the knowledge of 'natural things. There is much ingenious conjecture, but little real science or spiritual things he is quite ignorant; sin has totally blinded him; therefore “the world by wisdom knew not God.” With an inestimable revelation God has favoured him; copious, yet concise ; sublime, yet simple; containing all needful information, and abundantly sntficient to make him “ wise unto salvation." Let us brieily examine the style and contents of the Bible, which only requires to be examined in order to its being admired.
1. The sublimest truths, the deepest mysteries are brought to the level of the meanest capacities and most uncultivated minds. A solune of wisdom is comprized in a short sentence; spiritual truths are embodied in parables; and illustrated and enforced by the objects with which our senses are conversant.
2. The doctrines revealed are of infinite importance. Salvation depends on the cordial reception of thein. With what ainazing energy are they stated! what close and powerful addresses are made to the understanding! - what pathetic and persuasible appeals to the passions what solemn and alarming applications to the conscience! The one thing needful is insisted on with more than huipan eloquence. In the Gospel, Mercy invites, in a voice sweeter than Gabriel's ; in the Law, Justice threatens, in a tone terrible as the last trumpet,
3. Our memories are short, and need to be frequently refreshed. However strong they may be to retain that which pollates and defiles, they easily let spiritual things escape: important truths are therefore liberally scattered through the Bible; so that wherever we open it, we meet with something which it highly concerns us to recollect.
4. Our diligence in searching the scriptures needs spurs; they do not, therefore, consist of regular treatises on religious, subjects. In order to our making high attainments in evangea lical knowledge, we must minutely search for, and carefully collect and compare the doctrines, precepts, promises, threatenings, &c. which are promiscuously strewed along the sacred pages.
5. A proper degree of importance is given to every doctrine, precept, promise, threatening, &c. Every truth is declared, repeated, and incuļcated plainly, frequently, and earnestly, according to its intrinsic excellency, the beneficial effecis it is calculated to produce, and our liability to forget or disregard it.
6. Another principal excellency of the Bible is, that it certainly reveals that only which we are concerned to know; and draws an impenetrable veil over that which is merely calculated to please, not to profil. Man is prone to speculate ; he delights rather to acquire knowledge, than to reduce to practice the knowledge he has acquird. Speculation gratities pride, whereas true wisdom promotes humility. Speculative kuoise ledge satisfies many a conscience; it is frequently unistaken for gospel grace; the sinner is contented with it, and never comes to Christ: and it weakens devotion in the Christian, by diverting his mind from the essentials of religion to uninportant subjects; and in proportion as an undue consequence is attached to points of inferior moment, the fundamentals arę robbed of the respect which is their due. The Bible is not designed to gratify curiosity, but to save and sanctity the sbul. The esseotials of Christianity lie in a narrow compass; and we shall not err, neither lose sight of them, if we merely take the scriptures for our guide ; but, it we attempt to be wise above what is written, we shall be presently involved in as much uncertainty and error as heathens and infidels.
From these observations we may learn,
1. A lesson of humility. How vain are the boasts of philosophy! how impotent the effects of genius! - the learned and the anlearned must sit together at the feet of Jesus, and equally receive from him the very first rudiments of Gospel-knowledge: and he who is most deeply sensible of the necessity of divine teaching, has the greatest capacity to learn.
2. To check vain curiosity. Superiority of talents and learning do not qualify a man to discover more than God has revealed. When great talents and learning are employed in unprofitable speculation, they generally lead the enquirer farther from the truth. If a person study the Bible to gratify curiosity, not to mend the heart, he is in danger of becoming an infidel.
3. There is encouragement for the ignorant and illiterate to study the Scriptures. There is not a truth which we are coneerned to know, so mysterious and sublime, but the meanest capacity may apprehend it, under the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Aptitude to receive divine truth, consists in holiness of heart, rather than in brightness of intellect; wherefore the unlettered peasant frequently excels the laborious scholar in Bible knowledge.
4. That bigotry is the offspring of pride. The essentials of religion are clearly revealed in the gospel, and are infallibly taught by the Holy Spirit: on these points, therefore, all Christians are agreed. The non-essentials are not so clearly revealed, nor do they constitute a part of the instruction which the Holy Spirit gives to the believer :-- on these larter subjects, therefore, Christians are liable to differ in opinion. Humility dictates, then, that while we exercise the right of private judgment, we should allow the same right to our brother; and Charity requires that we should give liim full credit for the purity of his motives,
5. To estimate truths according to the standard of the Bible. When disposed to investigate a religious question, we should begin with such enquiries as these: "Does the Bible afford certain information on the subject? What influence will it have upon my sanctification :" Time, which is employed in forming conjectures; time, wbich is not improved to the amendment of the heart, is entirely lost.
6. That the eminence of a Christian is to be measured, not by the degree of doctrinal knowledge in the head, but of sanctifying grace in the heari. “ With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” Great gifts may be found in hypocrites and in Christians of low stature; and great grace is frequently seen almost, if not altogether, anattended by gifts. God estimates characters, not by the honours and talents he has conferred on them, but by the grace he has wrought in them. Birmingham.
ON BROTHERLY LOVE,
My friend Jonathan received his first serious impressions about twenty years ago. Since that period he has undergone a great variety of exercises peculiar to the Christian life. Not being properly restrained in the days of his youth, he fell an easy prey to a snare, which has proved to him what the apostle calls í an easy besetting sin.” This became a fruitful source of much guilt, consequent sorrow, an occasion for renewed repentance, and continual application to the blood of sprinkling.
Those persons who are unacquainted with the plague of the heart, and the strength of reinaining corruption in the renewed soul, may suppose that, in so many years, a complete victory over this beserting evil might have been gained. Jonathan, to his grief, found it otherwise ; for, not long since, the Hydra-headed monster Sin, broke forth in the particular before alluded to, with greater strength than it bad ever done before ; insomuch, that his conduct, in several instances, was unbecoming the Christian character; and was observed, with grief, by Christian friends. It was at this time that old Discipulus undertook to reprove him ; but his address was so abrupt and uncouth, that he proved himself unqualified to administer reproof with success; or, in other words, the one had not grace enough to give, nor the other to receive, reproof; for however well meant his admonition might be, it was not well received, as not savouring of that brotherly love which is neelful to restore a backsliding brother.
At length Jonathan's situation reached the ears of his beloved friend David, and deeply affected bis heart. Various sensations arose in his mind :- - At first, he suspected that his friend might be calunniated; then he feared that the report inight be founded in fact : he felt, as if he had a fire in his bones, brotherly love; and a jealous concern for the honour of God and religion were kindled within. David could not refraiu from just reproof, - love and duty compelled him to undertake the difficult work. Being situated at a distance, he writes an affectionate letter to his fallen brother; in which he says but little on the affecting subject ; but it is enough to reach Jonathan's heart. He no sooner reads it than he discovers the pure spring from whence it flowed; and though his heart was knit to David, by several years Christian intercourse, he then felt him tenfold 'more dear to him than before ; proving the truth of Solomon's assertion, “ Faithtul are the wounds of a friend * ;" and of David's, “ Let the righteous smite me, and it shall be a kindness," &@,
• Prov. xxvii. 6.
He is now led to scrious reflection, and much watchfulness and prayer ;- is feelingly convinced that, without Christ, be can do nothing; and that, without the interposition of Almighty Power, Satan would overcome and destroy hun.
Now the time, the set time, to favour his soul is come: the snare is broken, and he is delivered! God manifests his
power to save, so that he now is lead to his former be. setting sin; and is enabled to pluck out a right eye, and to ent oti' a right arm. Satan is kept at a distance, and is not permitted to harrass him as heretofore. A delightful intercourse is re-opened between God and his soul; and the sweetest moments of his life are spent in the closet, reading the sacred Scriptures, and pouring out his soul in prayer. He now walks humbly witli God, enjoying such sensations as he was an entire stranger to before"; and is looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of his great God and Saviour, who will come and finish the work he has graciously begun.
Three motives have induced me to send you the above: 1st, A desire to promote the honour of God: vornewhat, perhaps, like that of David, when he said, “ Come hither, all ye that fear God, and I will tell you what he hath done for my soul." For it is certain, that what hath been wrought for Jonathan, God did it; and he shall have the praise.
2dly, As an encouragement to those who may be in similar circumstances, to look to an Almighty Saviour for deliverance. Every Christian has bis peculiar infirinities and temptations; and there may be some who will read this paper, that have been conflicting with inbred lusts and corruptions for more than twenty years, and have concluded that victory would never be theirs. Despond not, backsliding pilgrim; look up, pray to, trust in, the Sinner's Friend, Jesus; and, in his appointed time and way, thou shalt find himn answering to his dear name, by saving thee from thy sins.
3dly, To reprove those who are not careful to evince their brotherly love in this way, particularly the ininisters of the gospel, a part of whose sole:nn work it is to reprove. Perhaps there never was a day in which love to the brethren is mani. fested so little, in giving suitable reproof. This duty is shamefully neglected by some, whose awful province it is to watch for souls ; aud probably it inay be owing to this, in some measure, that so many members of Christian Societies indulge an improper conduct. To suel I would say, in the words of St. Paul, “ Brethren, if i man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering this ll, lest thou also be tempted.”
If all, or either, of that'st designs should be answered, the writer's highest wishes will be gratified.