Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

entering on such an argument. Is it certain, that Paul, who has such close and copious arguments on justification, in the epistles to the Romans and Galatians, and, on the passing away of the Jewish ritual, in the epistle to the Hebrews, would have supped a logical examination of our subject, if a state of things in respect to it, easily conceivable, had existed in his day? Should a preacher then, deem himself called by Providence, as possibly he may be, to give this subject a complete pulpit discussion, we have virtually said already what positions, in relation to it, we think he should take. He would, if we are not mistaken, misrepresent scripture, and shock the common consciousness of mankind, if, because the bible affirms, as it constantly does, that men cannot obey God, he should insist, that in every sense whatever, they have no power to obey him. Men have rational faculties: these are powers by which, in the presence of evidences of the divine glory, they are physically capacitated, and therefore they are under obligation to love and serve their Maker. These powers, being in the strict sense natural to man, we would, speaking of them collectively, term his natural powers : and as it is this which constitutes his essential likeness to his Maker, we would not allow it, in the discussion, to be made a small matter, but would magnify it, as the very basis of obligation and accountableness, which, while man endures, be his abode where and in what circumstances it may, will leave his sin without excuse, and justify his condemnation and punishment. We would shun most beedfully, every assumption as to this point, which directly or indirectly, interferes with the entire freeness of the grace of God; and make the primary ground of man's guilt, not the abuse of that grace, but the misuse of the powers of a rational and moral agent. Thus would the


be prepared to introduce advantageously the gracious provisions and influences of the gospel. If man, irrespectively of these, be guilty, how aggravated does his guilt appear, when viewed, as in the midst of them all, persisting in his rebellion against God! The enhancement of obligation arising from grace, and consequently of guilt arising from contempt of that grace, should be urged with all the earnestness which these important facts demand : and yet we would now announce the absolute, awful certainty, that all mankind, from the willfulness of their depravity, if left to themselves, would ever have cleaved to their sinful ways, even in the midst of the best privileges of the christian dispensation. In establishing this fact, which, were it not for the presence in our world of a renewing and sanctifying Spirit, would throw the pall of despair over the race, we would bring forth those faithful witnesses from scripture which declare, that men, as dead in sins, and enemies in their minds by wicked works, and enslaved to the world, cannot come to Christ, or be subject to the law of God.

And thus would we throw light on the nature of this cannot, and lead them to censure and condemn themselves chiefly, on this very account. But as the object is not to plunge them into despair, we would here seize upon the fact, that there is a renewing Spirit, as the sole hope of man, and press it along with the certainty before mentioned, as the grand argument for exertion. The object for exertion should be specifically set forth, as nothing short of actual repentance and obedience; and all the powers of persuasion should expend themselves in stimulating the mind to exert itself to that end; but this should be done with clear instruction as to the manner in which exertion should be made, so as to preclude, if possible, every vain effort to accomplish the result, in a way incompatible with the laws of the human mind. Attention should be directed to the appropriate objects of holy feeling; but no delay should be allowed; the mind's instantaneous surrender to the influence of those objects, should be strenuously insisted on; the appalling guilt of resisting that influence, under a direct and vivid consciousness of it, should be urged; and the mind's self-surrendry be encouraged by the consideration, that in proportion to the decision and promptness, with which it now acts, the prospect increases, that the Spirit of grace will make the result sure. If the result does take place, the whole praise of it should be given to the Spirit, without whose influence nothing would have been done. If it does not take place, the blame of failure should be ascribed wholly to the sinner's own perverseness and obstinacy of heart.

We think, that there is no subject, on which popular discourse should be more perspicuous than on this; and that to this end, preachers should, on this point, be careful to hold true and consistent principles; and make themselves perfectly acquainted with those principles. But on ordinary occasions, it would be well, doubtless, to avoid, as much as possible, metaphysical statements and technical expressions. Very often, instead of endeavoring to prove, or expressly affirming, that men have natural power, let this be taken for granted; for men know of themselves, better than we can teach them, that in every instance in which they do wrong, they might have done otherwise ; and this is all which is meant by their having natural power. Again, instead of saying, that men are morally unable to obey God, let them be represented as loving supremely other objects, and, for that reason, invincibly averse to their Maker: and when it is said that they cannot love him, let the design of such language manifestly be, as it often is in scripture, to express this aversion with its guilty grounds. No one can seriously read any passage of the bible, wherein it is declared, that men cannot repent, without seeing at once, that its purpose is not to affirm a physical impossibility, but in popular and appropriate language, to testify to the wickedness of man; and so to

show him, what reason he has for the deepest concern about his soul. Thus, what is meant by moral inability is inculcated, and no difficulty seems to encumber the momentous truth.

Preaching on this subject should always proceed with a vigilant regard to the fact before remarked on, that men have no power to will thernselves directly into prescribed states of feeling. We greatly misjudge, if want of just attention to this fact, on the part of preachers, be not the chief occasion of the prevailing complaints and contradictions in repect to inability. We do not say, that the people should, on ordinary occasions, be distinctly told, that the will has no direct control over feeling; but preachers should carefully remember this important law of the human mind, in doing the business of persuasion. If, instead of repeating the bare demand for immediate repentance, they would be affectionately and skillfully engaging the attention of their hearers to the moving facts and considerations, in view of which, repentance, whenever it occurs, is exercised, they would probably forestall the excuse of inability, either by inducing repentance, or by begetting in them a sense of the desperate obstinacy and hardness of their hearts. This is the manner of the bible; and hence it is not often, that we hear complaints of inability, as arising from impressions made by the serious reading of that book. We do not see, that there is any necessity of our being much longer troubled by such complaints. We are accustomed to meet with no case more troublesome, than that of the convinced man, who, under a most pungent sense of danger and guilt, declares, that he fain would love God if he could; but we think, that this case would be found quite manageable, by observing in the treatment of it, the known principle of mental operation and feeling. We have no doubt of the sincerity of many who make that declaration. They do, in some sense, desire to love God, but they cannot feel the affection of love to him by merely desiring to do so; and they take no other way. No wonder that they are conscious of perfect inability; they are conscious of what is a reality, as we have already shown. the minds of such persons be diverted from attempting an impossibility, by engaging them in calm and fixed thought on the objective causes of holy love. Here let the preacher's right hand show its cunning. Let him prove himself a skillful workman, in bringing forth the evidences of the divine goodness, and displaying the motives to the love and service of God. In this way of proceeding, he may hope for the concurrence of the Holy Spirit. " Or, if he does not succeed in awakening gracious feeling in the breasts of the persons he has to do with, he will probably silence their complaints, by convincing them, that their desire to love God, is a desire to love Him and the world at one and the same time. Vol. VII.



1. The Sixth Annual Report of the British Society for promoting the Religious

Principles of the Reformation : with an Appendir, &-c. Published by D. Sullivan, and sold at the Society's Office, No. 9, Exeter Hall, Strand,

London,1833. 2. Proofs of a Foreign Conspiracy against the United States. New-York, 1835.

We have placed these two works together, as relating alike to the dangers which are to be apprehended to the liberties and religion of Protestants, by the efforts of the Roman Catholics to extend the dominion of the pope. In this subject, Great Britain and the United States have a common interest. The latter of these works comprises a series of letters, first published about a year since, in the New-York Observer; from whence they have been extensively copied into the religious journals of different denominations, and, by their sentiments and reasonings, have excited considerable attention. They are understood to be from the pen of an intelligent American artist, who has resided some time in the south of Europe, and who, from his opportunities of acquiring information on the subject, as well as from his known integrity of character, is entitled to be heard. The facts which he has developed, are important in a high degree ; and without now entering into the correctness of some of his inferences, or admitting in the fullest extent, the positions taken, we can have no doubt of the propriety of such a publication, and cannot but hope, that it will find a wide circulation, and accomplish the great object of awakening the minds of home-born Americans, to some of the evils resulting from the increase of foreign immigration among us. We intend again to recur to this volume, before we close this article.

The efforts and success of papists in England and Scotland, have aroused attention, and led to the foundation of the BRITISH Reformation Society. Our knowledge of this society is limited. We have seen some of their annual reports, and other documents, and have met with frequent notices of their proceedings, in the London Protestant Journal, and other periodicals. From these sources we learn, that it is sustained chiefly by members of the established church ; that it has been in existence only seven or eight years; that its resources have thus far been comparatively small ;* but that, in the face of opposition, and of still more disheartening apathy, it has gone steadily forward, creating for itself an interest in the feelings of the nation, and bids fair to attain a high and commanding rank among the benevolent institutions which bless and adorn our age.

The following extracts from the annual report before us, will show their designs and plans, in their own language.

1833, about 2400 pounds sterling; or $11,000.

'Ist. The society shall be designated " The British society for promoting the religious principles of the Reformation.

2. All persons, professing a belief in the holy Trinity, who shall subscribe one guinea, or give a donation of ten guineas at one time, shall be members of the society." ;

The other articles under the head of laws and regulations, refer to officers, organization, annual and special meetings, &c. The following provisions are specified under the head of

Plan of Operation. • The society proposes,- To assist clergymen and others engaged in promoting the reformation, to purchase (when they cannot be gratuitously obtained,) such quantities of bibles, testaments, and religious tracts, as may be necessary to meet the increasing wants of their respective parishes and districts. 2d. To supply individuals and branch associations with the means of adapting useful instruction to the local peculiarities of their respective districts, by the publication of important controversy, pastoral addresses, interesting correspondence, and affidavits, or other forms of testimony, in answer to mis-statements demanding refutation.

3. To defray the expense of controversial meetings, and the publication of their proceedings.

4. To collect and circulate through Great Britain, authentic intelligence respecting the moral condition of Ireland, and the


of the reformation.

5. To adopt every practicable mode of disseminating the religious principles of the Reformation, among Roman Catholics in other parts of the British dominions.

6. In the full spirit of the foregoing design, the society disclaims all connection with politics, and will hold forth no secular inducement to proselytism.

Education. Although the plan of the Reformation society is not directly connected with general education, or the establishment of schools, the committee will always feel thankful for communications on the subject; and, if it should at any time be found practicable, they will be ready to facilitate such local instruction, as may directly tend to advance the religious principles of the Reformation.

Scripture Readers. The society does not appoint scripture readers, but will assist clergymen and others to engage individuals, who may be duly qualified to fill the office, when they cannot be obtained from those institutions by whom they are professedly employed.

Miscellaneous Publication. Under this head, is contained every species of publication, in the form of tracts, letters, and circulars, calculated to excite a local interest on controversial subjects; but the committee request, that every application for such assistance may be accompanied by a description of the nature and objects of the publication, and the particular circumstances which suggested it.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »