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but likewise to adhere to the very phrases which he had employed to express them. ‘Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me.” This injunction, as it seems to us, virtually prohibits all unnecessary deviations from the customary modes of expressing sacred things. We think, moreover, that it forbids or discountenances the supposition, that when different persons use language which in its plain meaning is directly opposite, they intend to inculcate the same evangelical truths. The same thing we grant, may be expressed with considerable variety of phrase, but it can never be necessary or expedient to depart from the customary modes of expression while we attach to them the same ideas as the rest of mankind do. We may flatter our pride with the idea that it discovers a noble spirit of independence to divest our minds of a servile attachment to the forms of speaking used by our predecessors, and those who had the care of our religious education. But is not truth immutable in its nature ? Will not the same principles which are sound and true, at any given period, be also sound in all ages following 2 Can it be necessary then, can it consist with propriety to invent novel and ever varying modes of expression to teach those divine fundamental truths which no lapse of ages can change Can the adoption of ambiguous phrases under pretence of superior light, serve any other purpose than to perplex the minds of plain Christians, and occasion disputation upon points in relation to which it is alleged, there is no material difference 2 “Upon the whole we cannot but think, it would be sound wisdom to pay greater regard than we have done, to the advice administered so earnestly by St. Paul to the Corinthian church: Now I beseech you brethren by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you : but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment. We confess our inability to devise a better plan for attaining and preserving harmony in opinion, than to adhere to the plain simple manner of stating the doctrines of the gospel which has for ages been customary in our church. Should we all agree to speak the same thing, to adopt and adhere to the same form of words, no doubt would remain but that we had one meaning. This, we think, would not be an unreasonable compromise for the sake of peace; especially on the part of those who are so frequent and loud in their complaints respecting religious faction. It would not, we think, be paying greater deference than we owe to those venerable men of
preceding ages, who, with pious care, and probably, not without many prayers for Supreme aid, have drawn up for on instruction and establishment in the faith. so excellent a system of sound and whole. some doctrines as that contained in our confession of faith.”
“Religious creeds are useful not only for instruction, but they serve, if used properly, as a bond of union among the disciples of Christ. We find those societies which have no particular system of religious doctrines, divided in sentiment, and not unfrequently their diversity in opinions proves the occasion of their dissolution and overthrow. In churches which have adopted particular systems of doctrine, every member admitted has a fair opportunity of knowing what are the tenets to which he is required to subscribe; and the consequence, in general, is, that in those churches, there is more unity of faith, more order and harmony, and less danger of divisions to weaken and dis. solve them,”
Review of Elliott's Sermon.
The Causes of our Fear, and the Grounds of our Encouragement:—a Sermon, preached August 31st, 1820; being a day of humiliation, thanksgiving, and prayer, recommended by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. By the Rev. David Elliott, pastor of the congregation of Upper West Conococheague.
Our author has justly remarked, that “occasional sermons seldom travel far, or live long, except it be in the hearts of those whose partiality first drags, them into light.” What then? Should they not be published? If they were worth preaching and hearing, they are worth printing and reading also: and when sermonizers, or their auditors, are both able and willing to circulate some impressive sermon, as a religious tract, they ought to do it, from love of the truth, and from a desire to win souls to Christ. Some one discourse, which our people may think uncommonly good, merely on account of its appropriateness and adaptation to their state of feeling, being printed, and read by them in their families, may be productive of more substantial results than a hundred sermons, equally meritorious in themselves, but not equally calculated to arrest the attention, and mould the feelings of a congregation. It is sometimes objected, against the publication of new sermons, that there are enough already extant, which far excel them. This statement may be true; but, again we ask, what then? Shall a minister of the gospel never preach any new sermons, because he cannot frame better ones than many which he has already delivered P Shall hundreds of o evangelical preachers never attempt to utter their own addresses to their people, because they are not so intrinsically valuable as thousands, which they might find in their libraries, and which were in print before they were born ? For the same reason that we would wish public teachers to deliver sermons of their own formation, we would desire pastors, when able, to print some of their writings, for the perusal of their parishioners and friends. They will in many instances be pondered, when their authors have gone hence, to the world of spirits; and they may be better to those who preserve them, than many other religious publications, superior in their own nature, because they will, in reading, associate with the matter, the well remembered manner, and all the moral excellence of their spiritual guides. Whitefield's sermons have never, in the perusal, given any persons, but those who remember to have heard the author preach, very high satisfaction; yet to those, they have been superlatively good. Write on, then, we would say to our brother Elliott, (for he is a good writer.) and send forth your sermons, as little messengers of good, or as missionaries in your name, and that of your divine Master, to warn sinners, and comfort saints, when you are dead. In the sermon before us, Mr. E. endeavours to exhibit some causes of national fear, and others of enouragement, with a view to pro
mote, at the same time, public humiliation and thanksgiving. Among the things which are “certainly enough to make us fear that the Lord may visit us in judgment,” he enumerates the prevalence of infidelity, especially among the members of our national legislature, some of whom, “on all occasions, evince the most deadly hostility to religion, and who oppose every measure, which has for its object the extension of Christianity.” “Such a spirit of infidelity, discharging its venom in our public councils, like a cancer near the heart, greatl threatens our national health. And it is time, my brethren, that men of all political parties, who consider the favour of God necessary to national prosperity, should set their faces against the introduction of men into our public councils, who are known to be hostile to religion. We ask no man to abandon his political creed, but as a Christian we would plead with him to guard the sanctuary where he worships.” To all this we say, amen and amen. Let professing Christians of every denomination and political section determine, as honest men, that no avowed enemy of Christianity, whether he be a federalist, a republican, or a democrat, shall receive their suffrage for any office in the state or nation, and then we might expect a speedy reformation. Even the infidel intriguers for office would then, from prudence, impose on their tongues and pens such a restraint as would be beneficial to the community. These enemies of Christ might not become any better at heart, but they would be less detrimental to the morals of society. Another cause of fear, which Mr. E. mentions, is the existence of the evil of slavery in our otherwise highly favoured country. On this subject he is judicious in his remarks; for he neither condemns all slaveholders, under all circumstances as thieves and robbers, nor justifies the commencement, the extension, the perpetuation of the evil. In a note he says, compliance of the people in general, “evinces a disposition to recognise the providence of God in the events of the nation.” The Friends no doubt would have joined more frequently with their fellow citizens in observing special seasons for thanksgiving and prayer, had they not feared the encroachments of civil power upon their religious liberties. How well or ill grounded their fears were, must be left for the community to judge. E. S. E.
“When the author speaks of the criminality of slavery, he would not be un
derstood as implicating all who are slave
holders. By the errors of their ancestors, it is admitted, that men may be placed in a situation to render the liberation of their slaves impracticable. Such a measure might put their own lives in jeopardy, and endanger the moral and political safety of the community. Hence on the principles of self defence and common good, they can hardly, in such cases, be chargeable with crime for holding them in servitude, provided they use their efforts to prepare the way for their liberation, as soon as practicable, by moral instruction and otherwise. But when men, by their own act, assume the right of sacrificing the liberty of their fellow men ; and when they sanction the crimes of those who introduced slavery into our country, by extending it, we cannot on Christian principles, nor so on the broader principles of natural right, acquit them of guilt. And indeed, in all cases, in which men lend their efforts either directly or indirectly, with a view to perpetuate slavery, we are not among those who would venture to pronounce them innocent.”
Of the national constitution he asserts, that
“It gives no encouragement to the destruction of human liberty, and the sale of human blood. It is admitted, indeed, that there are almost insurmountable obstacles to the removal of this evil. But if there were a disposition to remove it, as Providence might open the way, the will would be accepted for the deed, and the displeasure of heaven might be averted. But while our nation continues to assume the crime and extend the evil, we can look for nothing but some dreadful visitation of God, when perhaps ‘the iniquity of the fathers shall be visited on the children to the third and fourth generation.” Whatever men of the present age may say or think, on this subject, posterity will testify that our fears have not been groundless.”
The next cause of fear, stated by our author, is “the negligence of magistrates and people in suppressing vice, and enforcing respect to the laws.” This is truly a deplorable evil; and we regret to say, that too many justices of the peace, and other magistrates, consider that
they are not bound to suppress or punish vice, when publicly committed before their own eyes, unless a formal complaint is lodged against the culprits, by some of their fellow citizens. Yes, and it is a grievous thing, that however vicious a magistrate himself may be, he is considered as liable to be removed from office for nothing but official misdemeanor. Hence, if a justice sins not as a justice, he may be a lewd or drunken magistrate to the day of his death. When respectable men, who do not wish to live upon the crimes of society, shall become magistrates, from love to Christ, and the public welfare, then, and not before can we expect vice, as ashamed, to hide its head. At present, every one knows, that very many of the magistrates of Pennsylvania, are not the most steady, substantial, moral and influential men in their respective counties; and that in some places the office has been so degraded, that scarcely an honourable man would be willing to receive an appointment to it, lest he should be thought to be a needy scrivener, or a sower of contention. “If men whose business it is to execute the laws, sit by and connive at their infraction; and if the people either refuse to assist, or in any way prevent the wholesome operation of the laws, we shall have reason to fear for the prosperity of our country.” As other causes of fear, Mr. E. names “the lukewarmness and indifference to the interests and extension of vital piety, which in many places prevail:”—“the angry political dissentions which at present obtain to an alarming extent:” and “the partial existence of God’s judgments in our land.” On the subject of party spirit, we would recommend the following remarks to the serious attention of our readerS. “But our own State is particularly
marked by party dissentions. Among us, the demon of political discord seems to
have taken up his residence. Here he lights his torch, and marches abroad in all his giant strength. Here he marshals his forces, inflames their passions, and rouses their antipathies. And here, while the guardian spirits of the just, look down with wonder and amazement, at the angry conflict, he exults, and revels in the desolations which his magic hand has wrought.
“But to speak without a figure, my brethren, it is manifest that party dissentions have far transcended the limits which either religion, or policy, or patriotism, or common prudence would prescribe. Diversity of political views will exist. And we would not condemn temperate discussions in relation both to public men, and public measures. These, as well as the free exercise of the elective franchise, may be necessary to guard the purity, and ensure the permanence of our institutions. But ‘whatever is more than these, cometh of evil.” When party rancourseizes the public mind, the most serious evils result. The bonds of society are loosened, its morals are corrupted, mutual confidence is destroyed, religious zeal is extinguished, and in short, almost every thing that is valuable to the State, is merged, and lost in the foaming cataract of passion.
“And think you, brethren, that such a state of things furnishes no cause of alarm When we see the best interests of society sacrificed to the strife of party, have we not reason to fear for the safety of the commonwealth We are persuaded that every reflecting man, to whatever party he may belong, must view with serious concern, the present state of acrimonious feeling throughout our once happy community.”
We turn from these occasions for fear, to more welcome considerations, to some of “the grounds of our encouragement.”
“In the first place, here, we remark, that it is an encouraging circumstance that the extension of Christianity is patronised by some of the highest officers of our country. The funds which Congress have placed at the disposal of the President of the United States, for the civilization of the Indian tribes, we are authorized to state, will be applied by him to that object, through the medium of religious associations. Part of them has already been applied in this way, and the late Osage mission has gone out under the acknowledged patronage and protection of the government of our country. The President himself has visited some of our missionary stations, and expressed
his satisfaction at observing the zealous efforts which were making for the progress of the good cause. By these acts, he has evinced a willingness that Christian instruction should be combined with the arts of civilization, and at the same time, to favour the progress and extension of our holy religion. “That the circumstance of governmental patronage to the cause of Christianity, is encouraging in a national point of view, we may learn from the fact, that nations are often dealt with in the providence of God, according to the character and public acts of their rulers. Thus the Lord ‘gave Israel up, because of the sins of Jeroboam.” (2 Kings, xiv. 16.) And “Judah was removed out of his sight, for the sins of Manassah.” (2 Kings, xxiv. 3.) While on the other hand, the Lord declared that “he would defend Jerusalem, to save it (from the Assyrian army) not only for his own sake, but, also, for his servant David’s sake.” (2 Kings, xix. 34.) If, therefore, God is propitious to a nation, or atherwise, according to the character and public acts of its rulers, we may hope that the patronage of our government to Christianity will not be disregarded by him, who watches over and controls the destiny of nations.” Mr. E. proceeds to consider, “the noble, pious and liberal efforts which are making throughout our land, for the extension of the Redeemer’s kingdom;’ the disposition in our national and state governments to acknowledge God, in the mercies and judgments with which our nation is visited; “the continued displays of divine mercy towards us, notwithstanding the partial evils under which we suffer;” and “the promises of God,” as so many “grounds of our encouragement amidst the fears which the aspect of our affairs is calculated to generate in our bosoms.” The national and state acknowledgments of God’s providence to which he refers, are the several appointments of “days of public humiliation, thanksglying and prayer,” in which the different religious communities, with the exception of the Quakers, have cheerfully acquiesced. It is to be remarked, here, however, that our civil rulers pretend to no other power in this matter, than that of
Eatract from the Address of Dr. Chalmers to the Inhabitants of Kilmany.
“But danger presses on us in every direction; and in the work of dividing the word of truth, many, and very many, are the obstacles which lie in the way of our doing it rightly. When a minister gives his strength to one particular lesson, it often carries in it the appearance of his neglecting all the rest, and throwing into the back ground other lessons of equal importance. It might require the ministrations of many years to do away this appearance. Sure I am, that I despair of doing it away within the limits of this short address to any but yourselves. You know all that I have urged upon the ground of your acceptance with God; upon the freeness of that offer which is by Christ Jesus; upon the honest invitations which every where abound in the gospel, that all who will may take hold of it; upon the necessity of being found by God, not in your own righteousness, but in the righteousness which is of Christ; upon the helplessness of man, and how all the strugglings of his own unaided strength can never carry him to the length of a spiritual obedience; upon the darkness and enmity of his mind about the things of God, and how this can never be dissolved, till he who by nature stands afar off is brought near by the blood of the atonement, and he receives that repentance and that remission of sins, which Christ is exalted a prince and a Saviour to dispense to all who believe in him. These are offers and doctrines which might be addressed, and ought to be ad: dressed, immediately to all. But the call I have been urging upon you through the whole of this pamphlet, of “cease ye from your manifest transgressions,’ should be
addressed along with them. Now here lies the difficulty with many a sincere lover of the truth as it is in Jesus. He feels a backwardness in urging this call, lest it should somehow or other impair the freeness of the offer, or encroach upon the singleness of that which is stated to be our alone meritorious ground of acceptance before God. In reply to this, let it be well observed, that though the offer be at all times free, it is not at all times listened to; and though the only ground of acceptance be that righteousness of Christ which is unto all them and upon all them that believe, yet some are in likelier circumstances for being brought to this belief than others. There is one class of hearers who are in a greater state of readiness for being impressed by the gospel than another, and I fear that all the use has not been made of this principle which scripture and experience warrant us to do. Every attempt to work man into a readiness for receiving the of fer has been discouraged, as if it carried in it a reflection against the freeness of the offer itself. The obedient disciples of John were more prepared for the doctrines of grace, than the careless hearers of this prophet; but their obedience did not confer any claim of merit upon them; it only made them more disposed to receive the good tidings of that salvation which was altogether of grace. A despiser of ordinances is put into a likelier situation for receiving the free offer of the gospel, by being prevailed upon to attend a church where this offer is urged upon his acceptance. His attendance does not impair the freeness of the offer. Yet where is the man so warped by a misleading speculation, as to deny that the doing of this previous to his union with Christ, and preparatory to that union, may be the very mean of the free offer being received. Again, it is the lesson both of experience and of the Bible, that the young are likelier subjects for religious instruction than the old. The free offer may and ought to be addressed to both these classes; but generally speaking, it is in point of fact more productive of good when addressed to the first class than the second. And we do not say that youth confers any meritorious title to salvation, nor do we make any reflection on the freeness of the offer, when we urge it upon the young, lest they should get old, and it have less chance of being laid before them with acceptance. We make no reflection upon the offer as to its character of freeness, but we proceed upon the obvious fact, that, free as it is, it is not so readily listened to or laid hold of by the second class of hearers as by the first. And, lastly, when addressing sinners now, all of them might and ought to be plied