« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
When force and authority fail, corrupt men next resort to stratagem; and endeavor to overreach by cunning, those whom they can neither subdue by force, nor overawe by authority. Or, when all these measures fail, they employ the bait which tempts avarice; and bribery accomplishes what neither power, nor authority, nor policy could effect.
These are the arts to which ambitious and wicked men have recourse, and for the successful practice of which, they receive the applause of the world. But all these are carnal weapons; and religion rejects their use with holy indignation.
True, indeed, men who have worn the garb, and borne the title of Christ's ambassadors, in utter disregard of “the great Master's law,” have been forward to adopt the forbidden measures of worldly policy; and even to seek alliance with the adversary, for the purpose of obtaining carnal weapons, wherewith to maintain their unboly warfare. The arms of the soldier, the authority of the king, and the wiles of the statesman, have been employed by ambitious clergymen, to accomplish their selfish designs. Heaven has seen with horror, and hell with joy, the mis-, named and misbelieving heralds of the Prince of peace, propagating a pretended Christianity by the dungeon and the sword, by fire and faggot, by fraud and chicanery, and every trick of sordid policy. Men have been cheated, and bribed, and beaten, and imprisoned, and burned, to make them Christians ! Inexpressible wickedness! And absurd as wicked.
But, where the power of a wise government, or the progress of knowledge among the people, or, what is
most efficient of all, the influences of vital religion, have prevented the practice of such abominations, unholy ministers of the Gospel have resorted to other expedients, under the pretext of promoting Christianity ; but in reality for the purpose of extending their own influence, and securing their own interests. Sectarian zeal has kindled its unhallowed fires; and they who had little regard for genuine piety, have been roused to most vigorous efforts in advancing the cause of a party.
- The Church”—“Orthodoxy" — 66 Water”—“ Fire”—and the like, have been the watchwords, or rather the war-cry, of different sects of Christians, and have roused them, as the notes of the trumpet, which has often called the old warrior to battle. But all measures of this kind are disowned by the religion of Christ. His ministers, imbued with his Spirit, and pursuing the course prescribed by him, do not need, and cannot employ them.
The reason is obvious :—True religion has its seat in the soul; its influences bear on the heart and conscience. But not one of all these measures has the least power to awaken and regulate the conscience, or purify the heart. And until this is done, nothing is done:—not one effectual step is taken in the great work of saving sinners. Force, indeed, can confine or crush the body:-authority may restrain the actions, and even overawe the mind;-wealth can bribe;—party-spirit may kindle up fiery zeal; but the heart remains unsanctified; the sinner is still in his sins. One may as well think to bind the tempest in chains, and lightning in fetters of iron, as by the use of carnal weapons to subdue men to the faith of Christ.
Yet religion has weapons, which are mighty through God, to the pulling down of strong holds, and humbling high thoughts. The character of Christianity clearly indicates their nature.
It is a religion which consists not in external form and observance: for the kingdom of God is within you" -in the soul. And the high enterprise of the Christian minister is to win over the soul to the obedience of the just. In order to this, truth must shed its light on the understanding, and exert its sanctifying influence on the heart. But it is truth only, as invested with God's authority, which can do this. soning of man is in vain for such a work. There must be “the demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”
And this may be expected only when the truth is delivered as God revealed it, and in the spirit and manner prescribed by the great Head of the Church.
The truth is preached as God revealed it, when the meaning of the Bible is stated, and proved, and pressed on the sinner's heart;—when sinners are made to understand just what God tells them, and that they are bound to believe and obey, because God has told them. If man assumes authority, his fellow feels that he has a right to refuse obedience; if man reasons, his fellow feels that he has a right to reason on the other side of the question, and to withhold belief:—but if God speaks, and the meaning of what he
says is clearly exhibited, then there is no subterfuge;-man must obey, or come to the direct and fearful determination that he will disregard the authority of Heaven.
But much, according to divine appointment, is made to depend on the spirit in which the truth is preached. God, in employing human instrumentality to promote religion, determined to carry on the work of grace, in accordance with the nature which he had originally given to man. He did not, therefore propose truth in abstract forms to the understanding-cold as an icicle in the bosom-but with its light intermingled the genial warmth of love. God is love: truth is an emanation of Deity; and it is the warmth and energy of love, which carries it to the heart, when torpid and cold in spiritual death. It was, therefore, a wise and gracious determination of our compassionate Redeemer, to use all the kindly and generous feelings of human nature, every thing in man that has power to melt and subdue the heart of man, to extend the influences of his religion. The Christian minister, then, in his warfare, not only opposes truth to error, but blessing to cursing; gentleness to violence; pity to contempt; humility to haughtiness; patience to insult; forgiveness to injury; and love to hatred.
But it was manifestly the design of the Saviour, to give to the instrumentality employed in promoting his religion, the moral influence acquired by the association of numbers in one body. It is true, that one man, like Paul, highly endowed with genius, ardent in feeling, full of courage, unshrinking in fortitude, versatile in talent—taken up to the third heaven, and sent thence, like a comet from the sun, beaming with light from the ineffable glory, and burning with the fires of heavenly love, will exert a mighty influence on the moral condition of the whole
world. But even Paul, after all his visions and celestial raptures, still derived aid and courage from the faithful men, who, through his instrumentality, were brought into the church. And he manifestly relied much, under God, on the zeal, and love, and effort of Christians acting in unison.
Hence we see the nature and extent of the instrumentality to be employed in propagating the gospel. Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, both ministers and people, enlightened by divine truth, and moved by holy love, exert all their influence to impress this truth on the hearts of their fellow-men, softened and subdued by this love.
This IS THE LEGITIMATE METHOD OF PROMOTING THE RELIGION OF CHRIST. There is no other. No case, either of individual or associated enterprise, can furnish an exception to the rule. When one, in the true spirit of the gospel, makes his first attempt to bring sinners to Christ, he dare not, for his life he dare not, adopt any other measure than in love to speak the truth which God has revealed. And when he makes his last and greatest effort, he can do nothing more. He has no weapons of higher temper, or more celestial force, with which to assault and pull down the strong holds, and the high things, which exalt themselves against the law of Christ. If he resort to other means, he at once throws himself out of the list of approved warriors of the cross, and fights under false colors. He uses carnal weapons.
His success is not that of the cause of Christ. The places which he wins he does not annex to the kingdom of the Redeemer. Nothing but truth and love can make men real Christians. God blesses nothing else.