Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

I say officiously and presumptuously surrounded; for the author of reason and God of truth has neither appointed nor authorized, as he has not needed any such means to secure and to maintain his truth in the world.” “Change, that is salutary, is gradual. Improvement is not sudden and at a single effort, but slow, advancing toward perfection by successive degrees. Revolution indeed may be sudden, and violent, and accomplished at once; but its character is equivocal, and its effects uncertain, till they have had the test of time. “Christianity itself has been best supported, when the evidence by which it is supported, has been most freely discussed and fully examined; and its nature and design will undoubtedly be best understood, and it will come nearest in its form to its primitive beauty and simplicity, when it shall be studied with unrestrained freedom, and the result of free inquiry, can be expressed without reserve and without fear.” Now if the antitrinitarians are liberal men, fond of truth, and friends of free inquiry, because the believe in the propositions whic we have extracted from them, we hope they will allow us a share of the honour, which they have too long claimed as exclusively due to themselves. We believe no proposition to be true, without having what we deem rational grounds for our assent to it. This is true, even in relation to the doctrine of the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ. We judge that he is man, because he asserts it; and that he is the “the true God,” because he asserts it ; and it seems reasonable to us, to judge, that all the statements made by the holy scriptures are true, whether we can perfectly comprehend everything included in these statements or not. Many propositions in natural philosophy we believe to be true, which we cannot explain perfectly in every part.

Thus, we believe, that there is something in the loadstone which will attract the needle. This is a rational proposition, which a child might believe, upon the testimony of a competent natural philosopher: but neither the child, nor the philosopher, can tell what the essence of this something, called magnetism, is, any more than we can tell what is the essence of the Godhead or Trinity. Indeed there is scarcely a proposition in natural philosophy, in which there is not some term, the full meaning of which is not so understood that we can answer every question, which may be proposed concerning it. All solid bodies gravitate towards the centre of the earth, it may be said, and Unitarians believe it; and think they are quite rational in doing it: but does any one of them perfectly comprehend the essence of gravitation, or the nature of its operation ? They believe the fact of the gravitation of solid bodies, just as we believe the existence of a trinity in unity; without being able to comprehend fully what that is in nature, which they denominate the attraction of gravitation. It would be easy to evince, in a thousand instances, that they assent to propositions, which they cannot explain in all their bearings and implications. We conclude, therefore, that we are quite as rational in our faith, as the Socinians profess to be, in their pompously styled rational Christianity. E. S. E.

Fort THE PRESBYTERIAN MAGAZINE. Messrs. Editors,

If sacrifices were an institution of God; if they were offered up by the first family of our race; and if they were intended to admonish man of his sinful character, and to prefigure the GREAT SACRIFICE afterwards to be offered up once for all—then we may expect to find some traces of this institution among all the descendants of Adam ; in other words, among all nations. Accordingly, that the practice of offering sacrifices, was universal, for many ages, in every part of the known world, is now, I believe, acknowledged by all who have an just claim to a knowledge of antiquity. It is not contended that this institution appeared every where in the heathen world in the same form, or attended with similar circumstances; but only that the practice of offering sacrifices in some form, by way of atonement or expiation for sin, has been prevalent at some time or another, in every nation under heaven; and in the greater part of pagan nations, is prevalent to the present hour. This single fact, when impartially viewed in all its relations and bearings, will, I am persuaded, be quite sufficient to show that the practice is not of human invention; and at the same time to afford no inconsiderable means for both illustrating and confirming the great Christian doctrine of atonement. But it may not only be proved that the practice of offering sacrifices was general among the pagan nations; but also that the offering was understood to be of a strictly vicarious nature; in other words, that the devoted animal was offered up as a substitute, or in the room of the guilty person. This, indeed, has been confidently denied by Dr. Priestley and others; but no one, I think, can rise from the perusal of Dr. JMagee's admirable work on Atonement and Sacrifice, without being convinced, that what may be called the Socinian hypothesis on this subject, has been triumphantly refuted. I have made these brief remarks, solely for the purpose of introducing to your readers a document put into my hands a number of years since, and which appears to me worthy of being recorded and preserved. It is a letter addressed to the Rev. Dr. John H. Livingston,

the venerable senior professor in

the Theological Seminary of the Low Dutch Reformed Church, by a brother of his, a gentleman of great respectability and worth, since deceased. It is as follows. A. B.

Poughkeepsie, June 9, 1802. Dear Brother, “I am just returned from spending between two and three months in the Highlands, opposite West Point. While there, I was informed of a fact which I thought interesting enough to relate to you. My author is a †ir. Justus Nelson, now about 75 years of age; an honest and respectable old gentleman, who has spent three quarters of a century on this spot. “In tracing the limits of his plantation, we came to a smooth piece of ground near the river, and still nearer a small rivulet of spring water. This, he told us, was formerly the residence of a tribe of Indians, and which they only left when the natives generally removed from that part of the country, in the year 1756. Whilst our company were viewing the place, and naturally soliciting information from this patriarchal old citizen, respecting his former savage neighbours, he told us, that when he was a youth of, say fourteen or fifteen years old, he was present at an extraordinary scene which occurred here. “An Indian had killed his father. The tribe immediately convened, and he was condemned to be burned alive. The day arrived ; and all the Indians in that part of the country, and most of the white inhabitants attended. The pile was very large, consisting of at least twenty wagon loads of dry wood. Fire was put to it in several places, and the conflagration soon became general. At this moment the particide appeared with his hands pinioned, and led by four stout men, two, on each side, holding him by the shoulders. When *... approached as near the fire as they possibly could without being scorched, they seized the

criminal, and, lifting him from the ground, appeared to be in the act of precipitating him into the flames: when, suddenly desisting, a black hog was produced from another part of the crowd, and flung into the midst of the fire, where he perished in a moment. The murderer was, in an instant untied,—mixed with his countrymen as usual,—and no mention of the deed ever after oc

curred. Mr. Nelson said, that the

man lived there several years af. terwards, and finally emigrated with the rest of his tribe about fifty years agrO. go Whether the culprit was privy to the atonement that was to be made for him, and had himself provided the animal, Mr. Nelson was not informed. His opinion is, that he expected immediate death, and was as much surprised at his deliverance as the bulk of the bystanders. “The truth of this narrative does not rest alone on the credibility of Mr. Justus Nelson. I find it spoken of in the neighbourhood as a thing which no one hesitates to believe. I certainly give it full credence. The Indians who inhabited the banks of the Hudson, the sea coast of Connecticut, and Nassau, Staten and Manhattan islands, were the Moheagans, originally from Lake Huron.-Your affectionate brother, “HENRY LIVINGSTON. “Rev. Dr. Livingston.”

Thoughts on Revivals of Religion. (Continued from page 24.)

Having ventured some remarks on the nature and desirableness of revivals, in a preceding number, we proceed, now, to mention some of the means which the friends of the Redeemer should employ, to invite and promote these benign visits of the God of all grace.

1. The first that occurs, and perhaps the first in importance, is exemplariness on the part of professing Christians.

As we would wish, fellow Christians, to witness the power and efficacy of the gospel, in the salvation of souls, we must look into our own hearts, and try to live under the constraining influence of the love of Christ. If we content ourselves with the mere form of godliness, we cannot adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour; our light cannot shine before men, so as to induce them to glorify our Father who is in heaven. Instituted external observances are good in their place. They are but means, however, and ought not to be rested in, or mistaken for the end. Genuine godliness has its form; but it has its power also. And if we would recommend religion to those with whom we are conversant, we must show that our faith is a living, operative, and sanctifying principle. It will be next to impossible to convince the thoughtless part of mankind of their guilt in neglecting the gospel, while they see its professors uninfluenced by the spirit and precepts of Christ. And, unless our hearts are deeply affected with a sense of our Christian obligations, all our efforts to promote the glory of God, and the good of souls, will be feeble, languid, and ineffectual. The history of the church will bear us out in saying, that most revivals of true religion begin in the hearts of God’s professing people. Times of refreshing, from the presence of the Lord, are generally afforded, in answer to the effectual, fervent prayers of the righteous. This being the fact, does it not follow clear& that coldness, and languor, in

hristians, constitute formidable barriers to the progress and efficacy of the gospel: What an affecting consideration ' If we who have named the name of Christ, and taken upon ourselves the obligations of Christians, are cold and indifferent in the service of our blessed Master, we stand in the way of the salvation of souls.

Are your graces, then, Christians, in a low and languishing state? Are you conscious that, in temper and practice, you fall far short of the requirements of the gospel? Call mightily on God, that he would “strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die.” Betake yourselves to fervent prayer and close self scrutiny. You have an advocate with the Father; a throne of grace, and a God of mercy to go to, whose arm is not shortened that it cannot save, and whose ear is open, and ever attentive to the cries of the returning penitent. 2. Prayer is necessary to give effect to all other means of grace. “Call upon me, in the day of trouble, saith the Lord, and I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” By prayer the Christian engages Omnipotence in his favour. And, as the poet expresses it,

“Satan trembles when he sees, The weakest saint upon his knees.”

“Without me, ye can do nothing,” is a lesson, which every true disciple of Christ has learned, in some degree, though it is too often neglected, to our unspeakable loss. Of the sad effects of self-confidence, we have a memorable instance in the apostle Peter. His Lord, on a certain occasion, warned him of his danger. But deeming the caution needless, he replied: “Though all men should be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended: though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee.” This language bespeaks a warm attachment to his master; but it betrays great ignorance of his own weakness. Mark the issue. His curiosity leads him into company where temptation assails him, at a moment when he is off his guard. His fear gets the better of his faith: when, interrogated by an impertinent maid servant, he denies his Lord, with profanity and falsehood. Why did he fall; Because he presumed when he ought to have feared, and boasted, when he ought to have prayed, “Lord thou knowest my frame, and re

memberest that I am dust; hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.” His case is recorded, reader, for our benefit. “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” “Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Do you find your evidences of an interest in the Saviour faint and un

satisfactory? Go to the mercy seat;

look up to the Father of lights, and ask him to shed into your benighted mind, the light of his reconciled countenance, and give you the testimony of his spirit, to witness with your Spirit that you are his. It is your Saviour’s promise, and command; “ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” John xvi. 24. Have you ungodly relatives, for whose salvation you feel a deep and tender concern, and in whose hearts you long to see Christ formed, the hope of glory? Lay their case before God, with frequent prayers and intercessions. He has the hearts of all men in his hand, and can turn them, as the rivers of water, whithersoever he will. Are you desirous of seeing the triumphs of grace in the congregation with which you are associated? Aid the ministry of the gospel and its ordinances by your prayers; and water the good seed of the word with your tears. “Ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence; give him no rest till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” Say continually, “Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts, look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this thy vine.” God is a hearer of prayer. And we may rest assured, that a reasonable portion of our time spent in prayer, will not be spent altogether in vain. Social prayer is of special importance, in promoting the interests of religion. Our blessed Lord has given us great encouragement in this duty, by the promise of his pre

sence wherever two or three are met together in his name. It was much practised in the primitive days of Christianity; and, indeed, it is a means of drawing down special blessings upon ourselves and the church of Christ. .# societies, under the direction of prudence and discretion, have always been nurseries of evangelical piety. And a prevailing inclination to attend upon them, may, #. be regarded as a token or good. . Such meetings are happily calculated to confirm our faith, to enliven our hope, to promote brotherly love, and enlarge our desires for the prosperity of Zion. And however much they may be neglected and despised in times of deadness and stupidity in religious concerns, they are much frequented, and signally blessed, whenever God is pleased to pour out his spirit and revive his work. And we would submit to the serious consideration of our pious readers, the propriety of meeting in some convenient place, on the Sabbath morning, previously to the commencement of public worship, for the purpose P imploring the blessing of God, on the exercises of the sanctuary. Some persons, we are well aware, may not find it convenient to attend on these occasions. Many, however, could spend

a short time in this way, without neglecting any of their domestic du

ties. It is the practice in some of our churches, and, in several instances, it seems to have been attended with a divine blessing. The exercises in these meetings, ought, perhaps, to be confined to prayer and singing. The principal subject of prayer, should be the success of a preached gospel, wherever it is dispensed, and especially, in the congregation with which we may be connected, respectively. “Paul may plant, and Apollos water; but God giveth the increase,” is a truth which cannot be too deeply impressed on our minds. It is God that gives the hearing ear, the tenVol. I.

der heart, and the faithful applying conscience. It is God that gives effect to the word preached, for the conviction of the sinner, and for the comfort and edification of his people. And we are fully persuaded, readers, that if we prayed more fervently, and reflected more seriously, before we enter the courts of the Lord’s house, we should have more of that hungering and thirsting after righteousness, on which the Saviour pronounces a benediction. We should oftener have occasion to say, “Come ye that fear the Lord, and I will tell you what he hath done for my soul.” Another means favourable to the revival of religion, is frequent and free conversation on the subject. “They that feared God, of old time, spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened and heard it: and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name: and they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” This was the practice of the apostles and primitive Christians, and why should it not be our practice? The subject has lost none of its importance. Men talk much on subjects of a temporal nature, in which they feel a deep interest. And why should not Christians speak to one another of the glories of the Saviour, and consult about the best means of promoting his kingdom *...Why should the introducing of religious topics be deemed, as we fear it is, in some social circles, a breach of good manners P Why should webebackward to urge our intimate friends and acquaintance, to give diligence to make their calling and election sure? Ah, what reason we have to be humbled for our unfaithfulness and worldly spirit, when we read, in holy scripture such express, precepts as these: “Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and

« PoprzedniaDalej »