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world, that he gave his only begotten son,” &c. Sometimes also this term means the Gentiles. Rom. xi. 12. “If the fall of them (the Jews) be the riches of the world;” that is, if the fall of the Jews be the occasion of an abundant exhibition of grace in the call of the Gentile world. We have already stated, that the phrases all the world, and the whole world, are frequently taken in a very circumscribed and restricted sense. For example, Luke ii. 1. “There went out a decree from Cesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.” This could mean nothing more than the Roman em: ire. In Rev. xiii. 3. we are told that “all the world wondered after the beast,” while at the same time, there was a society of men, with whom this same beast and his deluded votaries had waged a war of extermination. But in the case under consideration, we have the extent of the meaning of the word world, rendered sufficiently definite, by the phraseology of the context in the preceding verse. “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins.” Now, as the advocacy is founded on the propitiation, it would be absurd to suppose that the former should be less extensive than the latter. But the advocacy does not extend to all men. John xvii. 9. Jesus says, “I pray not for the world.” How then should the propitiation be for the whole world, in its absolute and unmodified acceptation ? But the plain and obvious meaning of the text may be clearly ascertained, by attending to the following circumstances. The apostle John was a Jew, and writes to Jews. Agreeably to the usual manner of speech among the Jews, in reference to the Gentiles, he distinguishes them by the customary designations. He therefore says of our Lord, “He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for our sins only, but also for the
Protestant Christians generally profess to esteem it one of the greatest blessings of the reformation, that they are permitted the use of the holy scriptures, and allowed to try the doctrines of their teachers by that infallible rule. But were we to judge of their sentiments by the manner in which they employ this rivilege, we should be apt to conclude that they do not really value it so highly as they pretend. For, from the manner in which they proceed in regard to the use of the Bible, we should infer that they either now repose implicit confidence in the fidelity of their public instructers, or that they do not consider it a matter worthy of their attention to know whether the texts from which their preachers address them be in the sacred volume or not. We are led to this conclusion from the scarcity of Bibles which appears in our churches on Sabbath. If Christians of the Presbyterian denomination bring to church a psalm book, they seem to think that they have along with them the only book that is necessary in the public worship of the sanctuary. They imagine, or at least appear to imagine, that the large Bible from which the clergyman reads his text, is the only Bible that is required in the house of God. Hence, we believe, that clergymen might, in many instances, read their texts from the apocrypha,
talmud, or alcoran—did they only seem to read them from a large book, marked on the back, Holy Bible—without being detected by many of their hearers. But this could not be done without detection, did all, who are able to read, bring Bibles to church, and examine the text when the preacher announces it to the congregation. Were this practice pursued, it might be the means perhaps of restoring that useful method of instruction called lecturing, which, we are sorry to observe, has become in our churches almost entirely obsolete. This plan of expounding the scriptures has, in these days, we understand, become rather unpopular; and therefore preachers, conforming o too much to the fashion of the times, have deemed it prudent to lay it aside. On the hearers then the restoration of this excellent method of teaching biblical religion, must be considered as in a great measure depending. If they will be so condescending therefore as to bring their Bibles with them to church, and request those who preside over them in holy things, to exlain to them, in their discourses, more fully than they now do, the sacred oracles of truth, the clergy would no doubt rejoice to unfold to them those invaluable treasures which these sacred oracles contain. This practice, we are certain, if wisely pursued, would have the hapiest tendency, under the blessing of God, to diffuse throughout our churches the light of heavenly wisdom. A great many of those who attend upon public worship in our churches, have not time, on account of their other pressing avocations, to study the sacred volume closely. If they read it at all, they read it over in haste, and carelessly; and often do not, in consequence, understand very well what they read. Hence the great necessity of adopting some method of rendering such persons acquainted with the sacred
contents of God’s holy word. To accomplish this was one great object which Jesus Christ had in view in appointing a standing ministry in his church. To the poor the Saviour himself preached the gospel— and he certainly intended that this useful class of our fellow creatures should be countenanced and instructed by his succeeding apostles and ministers. To the poor then the gospel is not preached, when clergymen deliver to their people only elegant and elaborate harangues—in which perhaps the poor feel but little interest— and neglect to unfold to them, in plain and simple language, the edifying doctrines and precepts of the volume of revelation. The manner, therefore, pursued at present, by many pastors, may gratify some of their hearers: but it must have a tendency to leave the major part of them in ignorance respecting the truths of that word which was given to man, “to be a light to his feet and a lamp to his path.” Is it not then the duty of all influential characters, in the Presbyterian church, to endeavour by their example and authority to bring again into fashion the now obsolete practice of publicly expounding the scriptures? We are certain that all, who are really friendly to the diffusion of the truth as it is in Jesus, will strive to restore this practice. All those then who wish the practice of judicious lecturing” restored, should encourage their clergymen to the adoption of it by bringing their Bibles to church, and thus indicating a thirst after the knowledge of divine things. If those of influence would thus show a desire to have the doctrines of the gospel explained and enforced, we have no doubt but that this method of instruction would become, in our churches, fashionable; and that much valuable information would, in consequence, by judicious divines, be communicated to their hearers—which they have no opportunity of doing at present, on account of the sermonizing system that is pursued. Were this practice of lecturing then restored, it might, under Providence, by diffusing among the people the pure doctrines of unadulterated truth, be the means of preventing, in a great measure, the dissemination of noxious errors. For, by lecturing, both preachers and people would naturally become better acquainted with the contents of the sacred volume, and would, in consequence, be less apt, than they now are, to embrace those specious human inventions which many theological system-makers have substituted for the more simple and, perhaps to some, less attractive doctrines of Christianity. For we find that wherever the true doctrines of the Bible are well understood and taught, there, the progress of theological error is slow. But, on the contrary, where the Bible is little read and little studied, there we find that errors and corruptions grow rapidly and take deep and permanent root. It was during the concealment of the sacred volume, that Roman Catholic errors and superstitions spread so widely and took such a firm hold of the hearts and consciences of men. What has happened may yet happen—and should the Bible be voluntarily relinquished by Protestant Christians, the same effect may be now experienced in regard to the propagation of error, which was felt by mankind when the perusal of the Bible was denied to them by a crafty and corrupt priesthood. Should not this consideration, therefore, prompt Protestant Christians of every deno
* By judicious lecturing we mean, not that the clergyman, who lectures, should endeavour to obtain among his hearers the name of learned, by continually finding fault with our English translation of the scriptures; but should simply aim, without shaking their confidence in their English Bibles, to open up to the view of his people the treasures of divine wisdom which the scriptures contain.
mination to promote as much as in their power the public reading and expounding of the scriptures?, Let us not then, in these days of light, through carelessness, with the Bible in our hand, permit errors and corruptions to spread their baneful infiuence among us. Let the Presbyterians of these days especially imitate their worthy ancestors, by bringing along with them their Bibles with their psalm books to church—that they may show thereby that they really have a wish to know the mind of God—and to learn whether their preachers do truly and faithfully speak according to the oracles of truth. Let them request their pastors to explain those parts of the Bible which may appear to their minds dark—that they may be enabled to obtain clear and distinct views of God’s revealed will—and be aided, in consequence, in cultivating that faith and practising those duties which God commands them to cultivate and to practise. T. G. M*I.
FOR THE PRES BYTERIAN MAGAZINE. ON THE NATURE OF SIN.
In the essay on the nature of virtue in your last number, we attempted to show that all virtue or holiness, cannot be resolved into any one class of exercises, or disposition of mind; and in particular, that the theory which makes all holiness to consistin disinterested benevolence, or as it is sometimes exressed, in love to being in general, is entirely destitute of foundation. It is a part of the same system of opinions, that all sin consists in self-love. This is a natural consequence of the doctrine, that all virtue consists in love to universal being. If, therefore, the latter opinion has been proved to be erroneous, the former will, perhaps, be abandoned without much reluctance. Self-love and selfishness, though sometimes confounded, ought to be distinguished from each other. Selflove is a desire of life and happiness, and a regard for our own good qualities and actions. Like every other principle of our nature, when exercised in subordination to the divine glory, and in obedience to the divine i. it is virtuous. It is an essential part of the human constitution. Indeed it is impossible for us to conceive of an intelligent being entirely divested of it. Self-love is not in its own nature sinful. It exists in the angels in heaven, and in glorified spirits. It existed in Adam before the fall. But when it becomes inordinate; or when it seeks enjoyment in unlawful objects, instead of seeking it in the great fountain of life and blessedness; or when it is permitted to supersede the operation of ..some other principle of action, required by the divine law; it is then sinful, and is then properly called selfishness. Self-love, in those who are regenerated by the spirit of God, is not a principle radically different from self-love in those who are not regenerated. It is the same great law-of sensitive and rational nature in both. But in the former it has “received a new direction, and is exercised in a new manner.” It seeks gratification in knowing, serving, and glorifying God; and in the pursuit and enjoyment of those objects which he has made lawful. It is restrained from inordinate indulgence; nor is it permitted to supersede those other affections and exercises which God has enjoined. Selfishness is, therefore, merely the abuse of self-love, and ought not to be confounded with it. “By selfishness,” says Dr. Scott, “I mean foolish, apostate, carnal selflove; and had Dr. Hopkins used this word only, my trouble would have been spared. But I contend, that love of one’s self even as one’s self, is not radically evil, but existed in man as God at first made him; as indeed it must in every creature, holy or unholy. It is the mere ap
petite for happiness, and no more morally good or evil than hunger or thirst, or any other natural appetite; but it becomes holy or unholy according as it seeks its gratification in knowing, loving, glorifying, and enjoying God, and in doing good; or in obtaining and enjoying the creature.” Writers, not unfrequently, amuse themselves and their readers, by employing words, which have no definite signification. That every Illa. In loves himself, desires his own happiness, and seeks what he supposes will promote it, are truths perfectly plain to every one. But those who employ such language as the following; that the sinner loves himself because he is himself; and that the saint loves himself because the good of the whole requires that he should love himself, as a part of universal being; do not seem to express any thing that is rational or intelligible. Self-love, as already remarked, is an original, and ultimate law of our nature. It discovers itself as a powerful principle of action when our faculties are first called into exercise. It consequently cannot be the effect of reasoning or reflection; nor can it receive any modification from abstract speculations upon the propriety, in the nature and fitness of things, of a person’s loving himself, either as himself, or as a part of being in general. To such speculations, the far greater part of mankind are utterly incompetent; but all men love themselves. The fact is, no previous considerations are requisite to induce men to love themselves; or to show the reasonableness of exercising this affection. All men are compelled to love themselves by the constitution of their nature. This is an ultimate fact of which no further explanation can be given. “Dr. Hopkins’ distinction,” remarks the learned and grave author already quoted, “between loving self as self, and the love of our
selves, is too nice for my dull faculties. In short, I cannot but think after all, that we ought to love ourselves as ourselves, and I can form no idea of any other way of loving ourselves.” We sometimes meet with theories which bear the aspect of novelty and paradox; but when we examine them more closely, we find that nothing is intended, different from the common apprehensions of mankind. The whole singularity consists in a gross abuse of language. It was a favourite doctrine of Mr. Hume, that reason should in all cases be subservient to the passions. This would no doubt appear to be a very pernicious opinion. But when we inquire into the meaning which he attaches to reason and passion, the greater part of his singularity is found to consist in a departure from the common meaning of those words. For, under the word passion he includes the most important part of what has, in all languages, been denominated reason; and he makes the least important part of reason to be the whole; and by this unwarrantable liberty in the use of language, he is enabled to bestow some degree of plausibility on his novel paradox. We have reason to believe, that many who strenuously contend that all sin consists in self-love or selfishness, using these words as of the same signification, in reality mean nothing different from the common opinions of men. One writer attempts to convince us that self-love is the sum and essence of all sin. We reply, that the scriptures evidently make a distinction between sinful self-love, and the love of the world; and that this distinction is plainly recognised in the common ianguage and opinions of men, and even by our own consciousness. Oh, you mistake m meaning, says he, “When I speak of supreme love to the world, I mean nothing different from supreme self-love.” Do you not indeed? If this be your mean
ing there is no dispute between us. But what becomes of your important discovery P You take the liberty of departing from the common and established meaning of words, and then you advance what appears to be a most absurd paradox, whilst in fact you mean nothing different from the common notions of mankind. Suppose a person should eagerly contend that a part is equal to the whole; every one, who heard the assertion, would tell him that it was absurd, and contradictory to the primary laws of human belief. You misinterpret my meaning, he cries, I wish you to understand that by the whole I mean nothing different from a part. The two cases are parallel. There is nothing new or remarkable in either, except a gross abuse of language. With such persons, the declaration that all sin consists in self-love amounts to nothing. They are determined, at all events, to extend the meaning of the word until it includes all sins whatever; and then they gravely advance it as a very important truth, that all sin consists in self-love. There are others, however, who adopt that mode of speaking, which we are at present considering; whose peculiarity cannot be resolved into a mere unusual and arbitrary signification of words. These writers, using the words self-love and selfishness as synonymous; and defining self-love to be “an ultimate and chief regard to one’s own private personal happiness,” display the utmost zeal and ingenuity in attempting to prove, that self-love is the sum and essence of all sin. Without entering into a detailed examination of this theory, the following arguments are believed to be sufficient to prove it inconsistent with the most unquestionable truths. 1. It is inconsistent with the doctrine of natural depravity, as held by the church of God in all ages.