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not whether they are leading them to the green pastures of Divine truth, or the poisoned herbs of error and delusion.
3. This subject sheds light upon the period at which recent converts ought to make a visible profession of religion. The practice has been, and if I mistake not, still is widely prevalent, of gathering in all the subjects of an all-pervading religious excitement, as soon as they express a hope of their faith and obedience; nay, of urging and persuading them to this course as soon as the needful arrangements can be made. Now, all experience proves this course to be perilous. Under preaching the most sound, thorough and searching, every genuine and extensive revival will affect and startle more or less, and work in them a superficial and temporary change, who will speedily make it manifest that they have no root in them, and are not radically changed according to a beautiful comparison of Edwards, during the blossom and fragrance of a revival. There will be many fair blows that will bring forth no fruit to perfection, or, at best, none but bad fruit. In a short season the true character of such will develope and unfold itself. They will show that they have no relish for true religion. On how much larger scale will this occur, if artificial stimulants of the animal passions, and a superficial style of preaching are employed? Does not every dictate of prudence and benevolence bid us wait a brief season, that we and they may see whether there is ground of a comfortable persuasion that they are new creatures, or whether they are answering their consciences with insincere vows? Even after the utmost precaution, tares will be mixed with the wheat. But without this precaution, tares will so prevail, that we shall, at best, only be able to say the wheat is scattered sparingly among the tares. Is it said that the apostles received their converts at the moment of conversion in the days of Pentecost ? I answer, the persecution which tests stony ground hearers was experienced in all its rigors on the spot. And when we have the supernatural gifts for searching the heart which were vouchsafed to the apostles, such reasonings may be more timely. But until then, our only basis of judging ourselves and others is this: by their fruits ye shall know then-and there must be reasonable opportunity to observe those fruits. It has been said that the remedy for premature admissions to the church is discipline. I answer; the piety of the churches now will scarcely sustain a wholesome
and effective discipline; and under the state of things contemplated, all discipline would be utterly prostrated. Besides, it is a cruel idea to construct our proceedings on the very design of bringing persons needlessly under pains of ecclesiastical censure. It is a mistaken idea, that entrance to the church is a completing and confirming part of a regeneration, otherwise defective and uncertain. The new creation exists as it does. If it does, it will be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. Union to the church, and enjoying its ordinances, is a divinely appointed means of sanctification; not of conversion : which latter notion is the error of the half-way covenant system, long since exploded. On the other hand, there is danger of a contrary extreme. Many delay a profession of religion beyond all reasonable limits, while they hope they are new creatures; they are ever waiting for more light and evidence; and in consequence of the neglect of so momentous a duty and privilege, clouds and darkness thicken around them, until they lose all evidences and all sensible delight in religion. No person of mature years ought long to indulge a hope which does not lead him to confess Christ before men, unless prevented by obstacles beyond his control. But in regard to the period which should intervene between hopeful conversion and union to the visible church, no uniform and unvarying rule can be laid down. It depends on a thousand circumstances, such as age, understanding, knowledge, capacity to discern the Lord's body, the clearness of evidence to themselves and others, all which must be weighed in all good conscience, with an unfeigned desire to do the will of God.
Lastly. There is reason to fear that every congregation comprises some stony-ground hearers, both among and out of its list of church members. Are there none such here? Would to God there were none. If there are, who does not say, Lord, is it I? is it I? And are not all urged by the danger of self-deception, to examine themselves, whether they indeed be in the faith? And if such an examination should prove that I might of a truth say, thou art the man, would it not be worth ten thousand worlds ?
And what shall be said of those who are not even so much as stony-ground hearers ? Who have no appearance or pretence of faith, either in their own or others' view? Who confessedly do not allow the word to reach and penetrate even the surface of the soul? If these things be in the green tree, what shall be in the dry ?
Estered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1841, in the Clerk's Office of the Soutbern District
of New-York, by W. H. Bidwell.
BY REV. WILLIAM ADAMS,
Delivered on the Sabbath after the DECEASE OF THE LATE PRESIDENT HARRISON.
“ Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils : for wherein is
he to be accounted of?” Isaiah, 2: 22.
The believer in a superintending Providence, who presides over all the affairs of men, can find no apology for inattention to passing events. Conduct so indevout, is rebuked alike by reason and Scripture. No knowledge is so practical and important to ourselves as the knowledge of God. But how is this to be acquired? Are not his acts the best exponents of his character ? Are not the dealings of his Providence his own living voice, with which he speaks to the children of men, in language distinct and audible? The utmost modesty, I know, becomes a being of yesterday, when attempting to scan the ways of Him whose counsels are a great deep. Stretching over so large a space, and requiring the whole of time for its completion, many parts of the great plan of Providence must remain inscrutable and mysterious to our mortal vision. They are like the many springs and wheels of an involved and intricate mechanism ; seemingly they work adverse one to another, but when the result comes out, the harmony of the whole will be seen. It is but a part of God's ways which we see; and the adaptation of one event to another, on a vast scale, and the fitness of all events to a final end, can be made clear only when the whole plan is completed.
It is plain, therefore, that the dealings of Providence never can supersede the necessity of a written revelation, as a method of human instruction. These are too involved and incomprehensible to be a guide unto the simple. Seemingly discordant and irreconcilable, by themselves, they would often confound the wisdom of the wisest, and perplex the mind of the most studious and sagacious. Observe, accordingly, the fallacious construction which men, unenlightened by revelation, have put upon passing events to their own bewildering and distress; perverting, oftentimes, the mysteries of Providence into the service of error and superstition. It is the Scriptures of God which alone are capable of interpreting aright the movements of Providence. God cannot deny or contradict himself. It is his word which explains his Providence-itis his Providence which illustrates and confirms his word. Whatever appears dark and adverse in outward events, religion teaches us to resolve into the wisdom of Him who seeth the end from the beginning, and who out of seeming evil evolveth good; while, in return, the dispensations of Providence paint to the eye and trumpet to the ear of man, those various lessons of piety which, when taught in other forms, often fail to affect him. Hence it generally occurs, that deeper impressions and more powerful effects are produced, when the declarations of God concerning the vanity of all things human are repeated in the solemn tones of afflictive events, than when read on the printed page, or heard in the calm retreats of the sanctuary.
The rational faculties attain to their best exercise when removed as far as possible from things sensible, into the region of the abstract and spiritual; but the heart of man feels the most acutely, when, withdrawing from things remote, it is made to bear the pressure of things near, visible and tangible. When thus stricken by the hand of God, and full of sorrowful experience, the voice of man is no farther needed, except it be to interpret Providence, and guide the emotions already excited in consonance with religion.
You have already anticipated, my brethren, the application of these remarks to that recent dispensation of Divine Providence by which God is to-day speaking to this whole people ; the aspects and relations of which are so public and prominent, that not to observe them would betray the most criminal levity. For the first time since the organization of our civil government, its chief cxecutive officer has been removed by death. That is a novel experience through which this nation is now passing. Never before have we been taught, after this manner, the nearness of that relation which connects each and every citizen in our land with the man who is elevated to preside over its affairs. Observation has misled me, if it be not true, that this event has developed a beauty and a power in this feature of our government which before was never even suspected. Our red brethren in the West have always been accustomed to designate the President of the United States as their “Great Father.” It is a title far above that of king or emperor. Amid the asperities of political excitement, and the collisions of party feeling, men have scarcely thought of any such relation; but when death has come to sunder the tie, a whole people is visited with a sorrow, in some respects, not unlike that which
children feel when bereaved of a parent. Men are actually surprised to find themselves thus affected. In their animated desire to elevate favorite candidates to the chair of chief authority, they had not even thought that there was, in every bosom, a latent feeling of personal relation to that office itself, which, in an event like that which has now occurred, would create a common sympathy superior to sectional preferences and party animosity.
My motives, in alluding thus distinctly to this mournful event, cannot be misconstrued by those who will testify that this sacred desk was never prostituted to the purposes of party. The ministers of religion are called to a higher vocation than to indulge in political speculations, or supply fuel for political excitement. Leaving it for others to discuss what are to be the probable effects of this unexpected providence on our civil affairs, it will be my province, as a teacher of religion, to present those aspects of the event which are consonant with the instructions of the holy Sabbath.
1. I cannot but think that this dispensation of Providence was designed to teach this people the vanity of human dependence. It has pleased God to accomplish most of his purposes on earth by human instruments. Now it is one of the most common modes in which the natural atheism of the human heart developes itself, that there should be so prevalent a disposition to deny the agency of the Supreme, and confide entirely in an arm of Aesh. It is so in the family. Children hang upon a father, and think scarcely at all of that higher hand on which he himself and they depend. So it is in the church. There has ever been a proneness to trust in favorite men and measures, forgetful of her entire dependence on her invisible Lord and Head. Pre-eminently so is it with the state. It is frightful to think what an amount of atheism there is in reference to civil affairs. More confidence is felt and expressed in the wisdom of man than in the all-wise and powerful agency of God. The sagacity of rulers, the skill and experience of governors, the prudence of legislators, the wisdom of cabinets; in short, the agency of man in some form occupies a place, in the thoughts of man, far above all sense of dependence on Him, who, from on high, declares "counsel is mine and sound wisdom : by me kings reign, and princes decree justice; by me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.”
To cease from this dependence on men and to trust in God only, while it is the first lesson of piety, is one of the most difficult of all attainments. Therefore it is that God employs violent measures to aid its accomplishment. Intending that men should devoutly recognize his superintending authority, he breaks down and casts aside the instruments which have been made to occupy his place. He enters the domestic circle, and removes the “strong staff" on which many lean, that wounded hearts