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without of the combustion working within, until the volcano bursts forth from the crater with the fiery lava to desolate the region below. Sudden events, whether of mercy or of judgment, have no heralds. The prophet's servant saw nothing but an unruffled surface on the waters when first sent to behold them; but when at the command of his master he went the seventh time, the cloud, which then appeared though no bigger than a man's hand, carried with it the tempest in its womb. 1 Kings xviii. 44.
In a moment, like the present, the solemn demand of Christ becomes a matter big with the weightiest consideration, in the prospect of impending judgments; and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching -"When the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" The question is infinitely appalling to the most faithful among the Lord's people; but to every one, unconscious of an interest and safety in Christ, the enquiry is calculated to ring through all the chambers of the heart in a peel like thunder. And what answer can be given, in the millions of instances of such as "have the form, but deny the power of godliness ?” What an alarming subject to all such of painful reflection? It were almost needless to observe, that those words of our glorious Lord, though put in a way of question, do not carry with them an idea as if the matter was doubtful, but rather as a thing already known. It is that kind of question which answers itself: it is, as if the Lord had said, shall he find faith? No, he shall not. I have thought the subject, contained in the bosom of a scripture so truly awful, might be profitable in leading to profound meditation of enquiry under divine teaching: and with those alarming prospects in view, which are predicted by the apostles to distinguish the latter days; and which, the corresponding signs of the times seem to intimate as if at hand; I have conceived, that the words themselves of
our most glorious Christ will form a basis, suited on which to build my affectionate salutation of his spiritual church on this entrance of a new year; the Lord accompanying our meditation with the gracious influences of his Spirit!
Let it not be supposed, however, by the reader, that when the Lord Jesus speaks on this momentous enquiry, concerning the want of faith as extending to the whole earth, that I am about to trace the footsteps of the Lord in the search so far. My little tract must be bounded within very narrow limits; I cannot explore the subject beyond the skirts of our own land. What continental researches might discover on this ground, I know not: but if rumour be correct, the greater part of Europe is sunk into a state of apathy to divine truth; or subjugated to any thing, and to every thing that is inimical to the "glorious gospel of the blessed God." Where the papistical government doth not reign, infidelity hath erected her throne in the minds of the people, and to her sceptre all bend submissively except " that little band of men whose hearts the Lord hath touched," 1 Sam. x. 26. It is my mercy, that I have never been called to behold the countries of such daring hostilities to the majesty of heaven: and it is an additional mercy, that I know nothing of them but from report. The most considerable part of my life hath been spent in the duties of a parish, and little of this great world can I speak from personal knowledge. A few observations on our Lord's question, as may attach itself to the kingdom to which I belong, is all that I have to propose; and if they are as kindly received by the spiritual church of Christ, as they are affectionately offered, my gratulations of the Lord's people on the entrance of the new year, will be, I hope, accompanied with the Lord's blessing.
If we bring the solemn demand of our Lord to bear upon that system of religion, called the church.
of England, as by law established within this realm; and the enquiry begins here-" When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" The answer may be direct; yes, if the articles by which the church of England is professedly known, and supposed to be governed, are made the standard of decision; for as long as those distinguishing doctrines, which constitute the grand principles of our holy faith, form the leading points of those articles, and are proveable from the word of God, the system itself (however exceptionable in numberless instances the conduct of professors who stand within the pale of the church may be) cannot be found but in perfect conformity to "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." Let me not be misunderstood; by the articles of religion, as by law established, I mean those among them which are essential to vital godliness, and which are in the spiritual apprehension of all that are taught of God, namely, faith in the Holy Trinity; original, or birth sin; justification by faith, predestination and election; obtaining salvation only by the name of Christ, &c. &c. And where those glorious and fundamental truths are inwrought by God the Holy Ghost in the living tablets of the regenerated heart, "the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirits that we are the children of God," Rom. viii. 16.-then may we say, with the apostle John, and from the same divine authority as he did, "when he shall appear we shall have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at his coming," 1 John ii. 28.
If from the doctrines themselves, as set forth in the articles of the established church, we prosecute the subject yet further, and enquiry be made whether they are continually brought forward by the ministers of the word, and insisted upon in terms equal to their importance? here I pause; for this is not my province to answer: and this will be fully ascertained by the
Lord himself in that day when he comes to make his own question, " will he find faith on the earth?" It can belong to none but him who hath reserved to himself this divine sovereignty, when he saith, "I, the Lord, search the heart; I try the reins; even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings," Jer. xvii. 10. But, let it be observed, that while the discernment of spirits is the Lord's sole prerogative, all that can be done on the part of man to enforce their obligation hath been done: the same legislature, which framed those articles on the divine authority of scripture as the rule to guide all preachers and ministers of the establishment in their daily ministration, took the most effectual means human wisdom could devise to have them faithfully obeyed: and if there are any so daringly presumptuous as to act contrary to their statement, the matter must rest between God and their consciences. For every one that offers himself a candidate for admission into holy orders, is bound by law previously to his introduction to the sacred office, to sign his full and unreserved conviction of their truth: nay, more, in the solemn hour of his ordination, lest through haste or inadvertency, or from any other motive whatever, he had been led to seek an entrance into the ministry without having first received an unction from the Lord to qualify him for it, the bishop is directed by law to put this heart-searching question individually to every one, one by one, in the moment of presenting himself for ordination; and his answer is supposed to be unequivocal, unreserved, and from the convictions of conscience. Do you trust that you are inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon you this office and ministration, to serve God for the promoting of his glory, and the edifying of his people?' What a trembling of soul will take place, if, in a single instance, any should be found who hath lost sight of these solemn declarations, and from motives
of filthy lucre have rushed into the ministry like the unthinking horse into the battle! And how will the demand of Christ one day sound through all the lengthened aisles, and high vaulted roofs of cathedrals, chapels, and churches, "When the Son of man cometh, will he find faith on the earth ?"
And let it not less be considered, that the same or similar demand will attach itself, as well to those that are ministered unto, as to those that minister: both priest and people are included in one and the same responsibility: true, indeed, the congregations which follow the establishment do not subscribe with hand to the articles, as the ministers are required to do; but they are supposed to consent with heart, to the leading doctrines contained in them; for otherwise, why are they found within the pale of the church? It hath been said indeed (and perhaps, it may be true in many instances) that the rubric doth not in all points correspond to the articles. But what objection shall be made on that account? We do not in common life reject the whole because incomplete of certain parts: the building taken in one great pile, may have in several departments its defects, (as what structure among men is without them) for all human institutions must more or less partake of human infirmity. Such is the establishment; it is an old building, but not without some parts of great usefulness: the formulary of her daily services incorporates the uniform confession of original, inherent, and actual sin; the necessity of salvation, and that wholly by the Lord Jesus Christ; the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is kept everlastingly in view, in a repeated doxology; and in relation to the large portions of the sacred scriptures which are daily read, no form of worship I believe hath more. Let me not here again be misunderstood; I am not advocating the cause of the establishment; if it cannot defend itself, let it fall; but I am simply stating what that establishment is,