« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
Has this been your habit, professed Christian? Have you joyfully recognized the presence of Christ in every place and in all circumstances? Have you listened to him as your chosen Counsellor? Have you obeyed him as your acknowledged Lord? Have you trusted in him exclusively, yet confidently, for sanctification, support and final salvation? Have you cast away all selfrighteousness and vain glory? Has this been your uniform course? There are some who can answer these questions in the affirmative. Last of all to boast of their adherence to their Lord, and first to ascribe all the glory of their steadfastness to his free grace, they can appeal with holy confidence to him “ who knoweth what is in man,” for the simplicity of their faith in him, the fervor of their love, the devotedness of their zeal, and the multitude of their thoughts of him when his comforts delight their souls. But there are others who, instead of abiding in Christ, are habitually unconscious of his presence, whose thoughts of him are thoughts of a stranger rather than of a friend, whose trust has less of joyous hope than of desponding fear, whose obedience is the service of constraint, not of love. Professed disciple of Christ, is it thus with you? And have you assumed the Christian name only to become so marked an example of inconsistency, folly and ingratitude? What are the express terms of your profession? Have you not explicitly avowed your faith in Christ's presence? Do you not claim to regard it as an unvarying occasion of thankfulness and joy? His authoritative wisdom as your Counsellor, and his absolute sovereignty as your Lord, are they not distinctly and unreservedly recognized? And do you not confessedly place your sole reliance on him for sanctification and complete redemption? Nay, more. Have you not voluntarily entered into covenant with him? Have you not, in the presence of God and men, with full purpose and in hope, joyfully assumed obligations never to be cancelled, that you would continually look to him, as your Guide, your King, and your Saviour? Have you not done even more than this? On supposition that you are a disciple of Christ, have you not repeatedly addressed hiin as your Master and Lord ? and have you not once and again trusted in him for sufficient grace, while you have endeavored to perform his will? Have you not, in a word, pledged yourself, not only by the terms of your professed faith, but by the express articles of your most solemn engagements, and the unequivocal sanctions of your most considerate concurrent acts, have you not pledged yourself to abide steadfastly in Christ while he abides in you? How then can you answer to your conscience its heavy charge? How can you cast off from you the imputation of gross, unpalliable and habitual inconsistency? But the inconsistency of professed Christians who do not abide in Christ is not more glaring than their folly. Beloved reader, you are strangely unmindful of your own highest happi
In that peace of conscience, that sense of security, and those confident and gladdening hopes, which are invariably imparted by abiding in Christ, there is an overflowing fountain of
the purest joy. He who maintains a constant sense of Christ's presence and receives continual manifestations of his love, possesses indeed perpetually a delight in Christ and a joy in the Holy Ghost which are unspeakable and full of glory." He has a foretaste of the blessedness and glory of heaven. He receives an “ earnest of his inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession.” Professed Christian, would not you partake of this joy? Is it not your desire that the highest happiness you have ever experienced, in the exercise of the liveliest faith and the most impassioned love, may be imparted again? Would you not devoutly bless God, if your rejoicing, instead of enduring but a little while, were perpetuated, if, instead of being interrupted by the collision of temptations and cares, it were purified and chastened? O, then, abide in Christ. Love him. Obey him. Trust in him. Do this habitually. Do it uniformly. Your heart will then be undefiled. You will become a temple of the Holy Ghost. The “ Father will love you, and Christ will love you, and they will come unto you, and make their abode with you."
“I beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ." I would constrain you by his unparalleled condescension. What if a fellow-man, embodying in his character all the lovely and ennobling qualities of human nature in their highest perfection, and raised by his wisdom and power above all possibility of deriving any essential benefit from your society,—what if he should invite you to a most intimate, endearing and inviolate friendship! What if some ministering spirit from the courts above, arrayed in all his purity and splendor, and gifted with heavenly wisdom, should come down to earth and proffer you his constant attendance, that he might communicate divine knowledge, renovate your heart, cheer you in the hour of despondency, defend you in peril and shed down upon you continually the refreshing dews of a seraph's love! But it is not a mere being of earth, however exalted and god-like, nor is it a ministering spirit from heaven, whatever his proximity in rank to the throne of the Eternal, with whom you are invited to hold this confiding intimacy. It is the Lord of life and glory, the Creator of the ends of the earth, the King of kings, the high and holy One. It is He whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain, and who filleth the earth with his glory; this is the friend, the guide, the Saviour, who lays aside his excellent majesty, and comes down to his footstool, and takes up his abode with the humble and contrite. “ Behold,” he says, "behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in unto him, and will sup with him, and he with me. And shall the condescension of Christ, thus infinite, be requited with ingratitude? Will you slight with a cold and base indifference what the Majesty of heaven has thus stooped to proffer, and with an almost imploring importunity solicits you to accept? “Who are we, and what is our father's house,” that we should come into remembrance before him? Or what has he discovered in us to allure bim to our abode? Helpless and worth
less; incapable of one right thought or emotion not communicated from above; unable to withstand the slightest temptation or advance a single step in the path of holiness unaided; lingering in the Christian course and often seeking opportunities for deviation; continually yielding to spiritual foes and sometimes confederating with them; it is solely from his unmerited, free and boundless love that any of us have derived the least wisdom, or strength, or right
We love him, because he first loved us. Christian, conscious of your past inconsistency, folly and ingratitude, would you humbly and thankfully open your heart anew to the love of the Saviour, and in return for his matchless grace concentrate on him the faith and affection, the homage and hope of your soul forever? It can be done. Nothing lies in the way. “Return unto me, and I will return unto you,” is Christ's encouraging invitation. Say to him now with sincerity, “ Thou art all my salvation and all my desire;” present your soul and body a living sacrifice to him, and let the offering, through his efficient grace, be perpetual; renource the love of self; serve the l.ord Christ; and he will not be far from you. He will manifest himself to you as he does not unto the world. You will feel his presence, you will hear his voice. He will guide you by his counsel; he will sustain you by his grace; he will cheer you with his love. He will afterward receive you to glory. That glory is already prepared for you. It waits to receive you. Its reflected splendors you may even now see.
[In our number for May, we gave the discourse reviewed below merely a passing notice. We are happy to invite the attention of our readers to a more sull analysis of its valuable contents.]
LITERARY CulturE INCREASING THE POWER OF The CHRISTIAN MINISTRÝ. A Discourse by William R. Williams, pastor of the Amity Street Baptist Church, N. Y.
This sermon was delivered first at Kingston, N. Y. before the Hudson river Association, and was repeated at the anniversary of the Young Mens' Education Society of this city. It is an able and clear setting forth of the advantages which a literary education may confer upon the Gospel ministry. The spirit which pervades it, we think admirably adapted to conciliate even those whose objections to an educated clergy have been the strongest. The author gives us the impression of one who is uttering truths of which he is fully assured, and whose importance he most deeply and heartily feels. Indeed, to one who has both breathed the spirit of the Saviour, and drank at the fountains of science; who, made familiar with the character of God by the teachings of his Spirit,
has learned to trace that character in the universe of matter and of mind, there can be but few themes of occasional discourse more striking than ministerial education. A mind thus trained can estimate the dangers of ignorance and the blessings of knowledge. It traces, in the long eventful career of the church, the aids she has derived from learning, recals the eras of her history, and sees how, in many a crisis of her peril, her deliverance has been accomplished by the efforts of sanctified and disciplined intellect. One who, thus familiar with the past, rises from the contemplation of its solemn lessons, cannot fail to bear away with him an enthusiastic interest in all that may promote the intellectual training of minds dedicated to the service of the Saviour.
The introduction to this discourse is a beautiful sketch of the venerable apostle to the Gentiles. He is portrayed not merely as an apostle, nor yet as an inspired preacher, or an expounder of the Gospel, but as a man who, in profoundness of genius, in extent and variety of acquirements, in knowledge of mankind, in the possession of all that education, in its best forms, is intended to bestow, was not a whit behind the foremost of bis contemporaries, and in any age would have been reckoned among the master spirits of the world. From the character of this apostle the author educes the general idea of the discourse, that learning increases the power of the minister of the Gospel. This general idea is founded upon the words in 2nd Cor. x. 10. " For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful.” The subject is discussed under three several heads;—"the prejudices against ministerial education,”—“the advantages of literature, duly used, to the preacher of the Gospel;" and the “necessity and mode of guarding against its possible abuses.'
In considering the objections, it is very properly taken for granted, that they who enter upon a preparation for the sacred profession, are men in whom the spirit of the living God has implanted the faith of the Gospel. Any attempt to substitute learning for piety, or the instructions of professors for the teachings of the Saviour, Mr. Williams disclaims all intention to sanction. It is only when the breath of spiritual life has been breathed into the soul, that any one, however gifted, should think of standing up as the ambassador of God to guilty men. Mr. Williams has examined the meaning of those passages of the Scriptures which have been thought to discountenance theological instruction, and has shown, with great clearness, that they furnish no ground for the modern objections to clerical education. We present the following paragraph as containing the conclusion which the author derives from the example and writings of Paul:
“As the great resource of his ministry, as the choice armor in which he was to confide, the apostle would have rejected even true science and true eloquence. Yet, as subordinate instruments, as the incidental aids of his labors, he has not only allowed, but himself employed them continually and most successfully. The Christian pastor who makes the acquisition of a reputation for elo
quence or wisdom the first object of his labors, or trusts in them as his chief weapons, sins against God with a fearful and an aggravated guiltiness; but the man who, in the fear of God, and supremely loving him, uses them, not for their own sakes, but for the sake of God and his church, does righteously, wisely, and well. If he confide in them, or glory in them, it is at his peril. But if he have received them, it is alike at his peril to withhold the exercise of them when under the controlling influence of love to God and man.
As the teachers and prompters of ministerial labors, they are to be rejected; as its handmaidens and helpers, they are to be received and employed. To cultivate them for their own sake were an idolatry which Paul would have condemned most sternly; to use them for the service of God and his Israel, is the very practice which Paul himself exemplified.” p. 12.
The very common objection that the experience of the church has found“ learning to be prolific in error,” is also very happily alluded to in this part of the discourse. This objection we often hear urged by those whom a more extended knowledge of the facts would undeceive. That disputations and heresies have often been the results of the speculations of learning, we do not pretend to question. But when we remember the general truth, so often exemplified in every department of human life, that no good of earth is wholly unmingled with evil, we are not surprised at these results. Danger, in one form or another, besets every path in which the mind of man is permitted to travel. It is an essential condition to a state of moral probation. To meet it, is a duty enjoined alike by the promptings of our own nature, and by the commands of God. To shrink from the danger that may attend the inquiry aster truth, or the attainment of good, would be an act of cowardice both weak and wrong. Every blessing within the reach of man is to be attained only through perils; and, when attained, is to be preserved in its purity only by constant carefulness and watchings. Who can number the ministers of evil, the luxuries, the crimes, the social and moral dangers that walk in the train even of civilization herself. Nay, the very intercourse of every-day life has its perils. It may fire the soul with anger, or wither it with envy; it may present occasions gratifying to vanity, or stimulating to sensuality. Yet who, for reasons like these, would stay the progress of social improvement, or withdraw himself from the intercourse which business or pleasure may demand. To us, there seems as little justice in charging upon learning the heresies and corruptions of the church, as in ascribing the crusades and the savage warfare, so often waged under the banner of the cross, to the mild and merciful genius of Christianity.
Mr. Williams has well illustrated the inconsistency involved in these objections. “There is no doubt,” says he, " that wealth is more generally and inevitably injurious to the Christian character than knowledge; and more abundant and earnest denunciations of the evils which accompany riches are to be found in the New Testament, than of those which accompany knowledge. Yet who would render all