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illustrating this part of his subject, he makes the following pertinent observations:
“Permit me, therefore, to repeat that divine love, as exercised toward sinners, did not originate in any real or supposed comparative excellence in any of its objects, but in the good pleasure and sovereignty of God. Men were viewed as depraved and guilty; as altogether unworthy; and so circumstanced that all, if such had been the divine will, might have been justly left to perish in their sins. Grace, therefore, as a sovereign, had an undoubted right to communicate its blessings to this notorious transgressor or to that: to the com
letely vicious, or the comparatively virtuous: to the infant of a day, or to the #. head bending to the grave. It looks for no moral qualifications on which to bestow its favours; but confers them on the guilty, the wretched, and the damnable. . It delights in extending relief to the miserable—in supplying the wants of the unworthy. It triumphs in delivering its favourite from the depths of calamity; knowing that where much is forgiven, much will also be gratefully returned. It seems, indeed, from many examples left on record in the Bible, that divine goodness purposely sought for objects the most undeserving on which to exercise beneficence: that in ages to come, God might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness towards us through Jesus Christ; and that, for the encouragement of the indigent supplicant at his throne, it might appear, in every generation, that the ...i. riches of his grace are treasures which no poverty can exhaust, and which divine fidelity itself stands pledged never to withhold.
“‘Such was the beneficent design of God, and such is the salutary genius of the gospel.—Delightful, ravishing truth!, enough, one would think, to make the brow of melancholy wear a smile. The blessings of grace were never designed to distinguish the worthy, or to reward merit; but to relieve the wretched, and save the desperate. These are the patentees in the heavenly grant. Yea, they have an exclusive right. For, as to all those who imagine themselves to be the better sort of people; who depend on their own duties; and plead their own worthiness; who are not willing to stand on a level with publicans and harlots; Christ has nothing to do with them, nor the gospel any thing to say to them. As they are too proud to live upon alms, or to be entirely beholden to sovereign §. for all their salvation; so they must not take it amiss, if they have not the least assistance from that quarter. They appeal to the law, and by it they must stand or fall.’”—Page 174, 175.
In a subsequent part of the letter, we find the following judicious caution, exhibiting the channel in which divine love flows to sinners :
“Let it, however, be remembered, that the love of God, freely exercised towards his elect, is never to be viewed as detached from their head and surety, the Lord Jesus Christ. In him they were chosen; in his comeliness they are comely; in his righteousness they are righteous; in him shall they be blessed; and in him shall they glory. In them personally considered dwelleth no good thing. But they were chosen in him to grace and holiness here, and to glory hereafter. He, as the head, they as the members: they are one with him, and where he is, there shall they be also. As mediator of the covenant, he is the Father's elect, in whom he is well pleased; and the love of the divine Father to sinners, is abundantly manifest in his choosing them in him as their head— in making a covenant with him on their behalf—in afterwards quickening them by his Spirit—in the bestowment of grace, and in causing all things to work together for their good till he bring them to glory. “Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.’ ”—Page 185.
Having illustrated the entire freeness of divine grace, and perfect sovereignty of divine love, the author presses the importance of applying to Christ with a promptness and confidence becoming the gracious invitations and encouraging promises held out in the gospel:
“Now the sinner, whose conscience is burdened with guilt and alarmed with danger, is not to hesitate—not to question whether his sins be too many or too great to be pardoned: because this would tacitly impeach the divine veracity; but to view the exhortation and the promise made to faith—to look instantly to Jesus, as the stung Israelite did to the brazen serpent, nothing doubting— viewing him as the only means appointed for relief, and firmly persuaded, because God hath said it, that whosoever looketh to him, or believeth in him, shall receive remission of sins.
“Thus to believe, and thus to act, is to put honour on the head of Jesus— is to treat him as a Saviour—to regard his atonement as worthy of all acceptation—his blood as cleansing from all sin: and is, in fact, a renunciation of all personal worth as being in any degree the ground of forgiveness. It is a practical declaration, that in the Lord only we have righteousness and strength, peace and assurance for ever—that besides him there is no Saviour.” —Page 190, 191.
“One reason why we are so perplexed with doubts and fears respecting the safety of our state, is the weakness of our faith. We look more to our sins than to the Saviour: and by imagining that they are too many and too great to be pardoned, depreciate his all-sufficient atonement. We are not aware, perhaps, that by this conduct we are in fact saying, in opposition to scripture and experience, that the blood of Christ doth not cleanse from all sin—that his righteousness doth not justify from all iniquity—that he is not able to save to the uttermost—that he will cast out some that come to him. The truth is, we do not habitually live under a deep conviction of our absolute unworthiness of divine mercy; of our constant need of forgiveness; of our utter helplessness in the affair of salvation, and the necessity there is of continual dependance on divine aid to carry on the work of faith with power, and also to keep us from falling a prey to perpetual dejection.”—Page 196.
To the above quotations from this letter, we cannot forbear subjoining the following just remarks, as well calculated to remove the difficulties, that unbelief so often throws in the way of a sinner's application to Christ:
“Now, instead of attending entirely to these encouraging declarations, the self-condemned sinner is apt to contemplate the magnitude of his guilt—to stand questioning whether it be not too enormous to be . or, on the other hand, whether, if pardonable, he be sufficiently humbled to receive the astonishing favour. But this is to act the part of Peter—to look at sin and its guilt (as he did at the wind and the waves) instead of the Saviour—to regard the suggestions of unbelief more than the invitation and the promise. The question in this case is not, whether my sins be great, or comparatively small— not whether I have attained a certain degree of humiliation, and am conscious that my compunction is proportioned to my guilt; but whether Christ have not unequivocally declared, without any reference to the depth of my contrition, or the magnitude of my sin, “Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out?—Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die—Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life—he shall never perish.” Now, if this be true; if Jesus have made these infinitely gracious declarations, the trembling sinner is not to hesitate, but confidently to believe the soul-cheering testimony—to come to him as a vile sinner—as a wretch that deserves to perish—and without looking into himself for any prerequisites in order to the reception of mercy, to cast his burden of guilt upon Christ as a sin-bearing Saviour, looking to his atonement as
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the only ground of forgiveness; knowing and believing, that what he hath said, he will most assuredly perform. This is to receive by faith the testimony of God concerning his son, rather than that of man—than of Satan—than of the clamorous accusations of a guilty conscience; and to give glory to the expiation of Him that once suffered for sin—the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.”—Page 203,204.
In his last letter, the author gives us the following intelligence, that Lavinia was rejoicing in the hope of the gospel.Writing to her in this delightful state of mind, he felt it to be his duty to remind her, that in this life Christians are but pilgrims, and that as pilgrims they ought to expect to meet with afflictions on their way to their Father's kingdom in Heaven. He, however, shows her that the gospel has opened to us ample sources of consolations under afflictions, and teaches us how we may be supported under every trial.
He closes his correspondence with his female friend, by leading her to contemplate that heavenly world where Christians shall rest from every trial and affliction, and by exhorting her to persevere in the noble contest in which she had engaged, till “the joy of triumph” should succeed “the toils of war.”
“That there remaineth a rest to the people of God, the Christian has no doubt. O happy state' Surely the hope of enjoying it must administer strong consolation. What are the momentary trials of the present life, when compared to an eternity of blessedness? they are nothing—they are lost in the comparison. A sight of danger and of difficulties; of enemies, numerous and powerful, will, it is true, sometimes discourage, and cause even the most valiant to halt: but how animating to recollect that we maintain the spiritual conflict in the strength of Omnipotence—that the Captain of our salvation has himself fought and conquered—that he is entered into his glory, and has taken possession of the crown He inhabits the praises of eternity—he is supremely blessed. But while supremely blessed—while encircled with the grateful songs of Seraphim and of saints, is he an unconcerned spectator of our conflicts 2 No: to them that have no might he increaseth strength. He proclaims aloud to the Christian warrior; “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life—He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death—He shall be clothed in white raiment—I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out—He shall sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am sat down with my Father in his throne.” “I have only to add, Lavinia, that this is a contest in which vigilance must not relax; in which no truce can be admitted; no proposals for capitulation accepted; no league of amity concluded. Nothing short of perpetual resistance, can ensure tranquillity: nor must the brave assailant hope for conquest till he fall, in the combat. Pray, therefore, that you may neither faint nor be weary, but prevail unto victory. For though the conflict may be sharp and long, yet the sweetness of the reward will abundantly recompense the trouble of resistance; and the joy of the triumph, the toils of the war.’” —Page 231, 232. J. J. J.
To the Editor of the Presbyterian Magazine.
Dr. An SIR,
The following letter, enclosing S25, was put in the collection on the day of our sacrament (23d of May): if you think the publication of it will in any way 1822. Pastoral Letter. 331
subserve the cause of religion, you are at liberty to make that use of it. We are in the habit of taking up a collection at the sacrament, to aid the poor brethren or sisters that may be among us. The day and services were unusually solemn, many not being able to get in the house were obliged to go away; ninety-three were added to the church; many of the brethren of the General Assembly sat down with us at the table, together with many brethren and sisters of other denominations, so that in all considerably more than 1000 must have communed together.
I have divided the money equally between The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and The Board of the United Foreign Missionary Society, S10 to each, hoping that it might meet the wishes of the benevolent donor.
To the Rev. J. P.
Osir, what have I done for Him who died to save my wretched soul! Nothing. Alas! I have tried to exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but I have no assurance that I am interested in him; I heartily request an interest in the prayers of God's people throughout the world. O for an interest in Christ' but justice forbids, and unless mercy prevails I am lost for ever: but, if I am lost, may not others be saved O yes, “there is plenteous redemption;” “Pity the nations, O our God, constrain the whole earth to come!” I have often attempted to pray for the heathen, but “faith without works is dead:” if they are saved it must be by the knowledge of Christ, and how shall they believe on him of whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher, &c. I wish you to accept the enclosed, and distribute one-fifth among the poor and pious of your church, and send the remainder to the most benighted parts of the earth, to aid their conversion to God.
* * * *
The JMinisters and Elders of the Associate Reformed Church, in General Synod assembled, to the people under their charge, wish grace, mercy and peace, from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
VERY DEAR BREthnex,
The General Synod, at its meeting in May, 1821, having referred to the dif. ferent Presbyteries, to report their judgment thereon, a plan of union between this body and the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church, agreed to by conferring commissioners from both churches, and the judgment of the Presby. teries having been tendered to the Synod, at the present meeting, after very full deliberation, the Synod have determined in favour of the union. They deem it due to the occasion to state somewhat at length the leading reasons on which this very weighty measure is predicated. To prevent mistakes, it may be proper to premise, that the design of referring questions of general interest to Presbyteries, is not that Presbyteries may decide definitively thereon; but to revent improper haste, and to prepare the way for the members of the supreme judicatory to make up their minds, and decide on the fullest information, as their consciences shall dictate, agreeably to the word of God, and the standards of the church. The judgment of a majority of Presbyteries, is no certain evidence of the opinion of the majority of the church, as Presbyteries may be very unequal in numbers, and may decide by very unequal majorities. It would be a erversion of every principle of order, that in deciding a question of general interest, the vote of a small Presbytery, carried by a small majority, should weigh equal to that of a large Presbytery, determining almost unanimously on the opposite side. It will not be questioned for a moment that it is the incumbent duty of all who belong to the body of the Lord Jesus Christ, and have 332 Pastoral Letter. JULY,
union to him, the head, to be one in the profession of their faith, and to have fellowship in their worship; to unite their counsels and their means in the common cause. There is but “one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.” There is but “one body, and one Spirit, and one hope of our calling ; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all;” and, hence the incumbent duty upon all who profess to belong to Christ, “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” There can be as little warrant for the disciples of Christ to divide from one another as to divide from Christ himself. If we may not cut ourselves from the head, neither may we cut ourselves from the members. And if we may not cut the head from us, neither may we cut from us the members. Division among the members of Christ’s body, operating to the rejection of each other's fellowship in the worship of their common God and Saviour, is the identical sin of schism represented in the New Testament as so heinous. As this is clearly the doctrine of the New Testament, which teaches that the church of Christ is the body of Christ, that this body is one, and that there must be no schism in the body, so it is most distinctly the doctrine of our most excellent confession of faith, contained in our standards. In the 26th chapter of that confession, where the communion of saints is treated of, we have, in the first section, this remarkably plain statement: “All saints that are united to Jesus Christ, their head, by his Spirit and by faith, have fellowship with him in his graces, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory. And being united one to another in love, they have communion in each other's gifts and graces, and are obliged to the performance of such duties, P. and private, as do conduce to their mutual both in the inward and outward man.”— Agreeably to this statement, which is so plain that he “who runs may read,” all saints are obliged, from the common privileges of which they partake, to the performance of such duties as do conduce to their mutual good; that uniting in the full use of the word, sacraments, and prayer, with all the other means of grace, is for their mutual good, will not admit a doubt, and if so, they are obliged so to unite. It is schism on the part of those who refuse. It follows in the next section, “saints by profession are bound to maintain a holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services, as tend to their mutual edification.” Now, as there is no case of exception whatever stated, it necessarily follows as the sense of the passage, that a profession of saintship involves in all cases, an obligation to maintain a holy fellowship in the worship of God, &c. with all whom we have ground to consider fellow saints. It is true this fellowship is to be a holy fellowship, i.e. it is to be maintained in matters of duty only. In acts of sin, the saints are to ...” communion with one another any more than with the children of the world. The doctrine that we are to separate from people whom we allow to be Christ's people, and from ministers whom we allow to be Christ's ministers, by way of lifting a testimony against errors in doctrine or worship they may be supposed to maintain, is a doctrine not of truth, but of error, and error of direct schismatical tendency, against which the synod would warn the people of their charge. How this error, which is by some made a great principle of action, in the matter of spiritual fellowship, has ever come to have its advocates in our church, is not of moment to inquire. Search the scriptures, and compare them with our standards, here it will be found to have no countenance. Does Christ any where enjoin the officers of his house to deny the outward seals of his covenant to any he hath himself brought within the bond of his covenant? Does he deny to any who believe on him, “to whom he gives power to become the sons of God,” the right to be recognised as such in the church of God? Has the head of the church called, and gifted, and sent into the ministry, multitudes of men to whom he has given his broad commission, “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” and whose ministrations he largely seals with his own Spirit; and yet, does he require others of his people, who may be greatly their inferiors not only in wisdom but in grace of every kind, to reject their ministrations altogether, may be, to live without a preached gospel, rather than hear those, the servants of Christ, preach it; to allow their children to grow up without baptism, rather than allow these commissioned