Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

so frequently inflicted on that people during their journeys through the wilderness, and in the subsequent periods of their history, and more especially their present wonderful dispersion throughout other nations, go to remind us, with equal emphasis and certainty, that it is only in proportion as our heart is “perfect towards him," that God can be expected to "show himself strong" on our behalf; since their peculiar privileges, as the providential charge of him to whom they appertained by solemn covenant, were plainly dependent on their faithful mainte. pance of the condition which that covenant involved. Had it been the purpose of Jehovah merely to set forth what his providence can do, he might as well and easily have shown himself strong on the behalf of any other nation, as he did on the behalf of the “chosen generation," whom he adopted as the type of that more glorious and spiritual church which was afterwards to be established; and he might have done so without a covenant of obedience like that by which the Jews were bound. But in that case the great practical value of the exbibition, even though it had been a thousand times more varied and surprising than it actually was, would have been lost, both to the church of Christ, and to the world in general. It would then, indeed, have borne the character, which it is so often falsely supposed to bear ; namely, the character of a merely arbitrary and capricious play of goodness and power for no specific pur. pose.—1 had almost said, a fond and foolish exercise of an unmeaning partiality, utterly unworthy of the divine nature and perfections. But, whilst reading the Jewish history, we bear in mind that there is a circumcision, which is not “ outward in the flesh,” being “ in the spirit, and not in the letter ;” that there are those who are “the seed of Abraham," not by natural relationship to him, but by their participation of the faith for which Abrabam was illustrious; and that the Jews were thus the typical representatives of “a great multitude which no man can number,” who were afterwards to be gathered out of “all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues.” We thus perceive that the great lesson intended to be taught by all the mighty acts and wonders which God did for Israel, is, that the same God will ever, in a peculiar manner, care for those who, being “ Christ's,” are therefore “ Abrabam's seed, and heirs according to the promise;" whilst those who are yet « aliens,” or outcasts from his spiritual Israel, though not excluded entirely from his providential care, shall still enjoy that care in an inferior degree.

It is on this ground that we discover the foundation of those promises, which insure to all God's people, in their individual as well as their collective character, an adequate supply of all their bodily and temporal necessities. For if, as intimated in the history of the Jewish people, the providence of God is the handmaid of his grace, and, as such, is commissioned with the special care of those“ whose heart is perfect towards him," then, unless we would again charge an all-perfect Being with infirmity, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion, that all those things which nature absolutely needs, and the providing of which often brings eo severe a burden on the mind, “ shall (certainly) be added." And we need to wonder at no miracle,-no alteration or suspension of natural or ordinary causes, that may in any case be necessary to preserve the truth of God from being broken. If need be, any thing in heaven or earth “shall pass away” to make room for its accomplishment, “ until all shall be fulfilled.” On the same principle, we find nothing above the character of the plainest and most obvious truth in the scriptural assurance, that “to them that love God all things work together for good.” It has sometimes been thought that a little ingenuity was requisite to show the perfect truth of that assertion : but any one disposed to call its truth in question, would find it a much heavier tax upon his ingenuity, were he required to show, under what circumstances, to one“ whose heart is perfect towards” God, the contrary can be possible; or how any thing can really harm him who is a " follower of that which is good.”

Again, the principle that the operations of God's providence are subservient to the purposes of his grace, sheds no inconsiderable light upon the mystery which is supposed to be presented, when, whilst the ungodly “increase in riches,” and “have more than heart could wish,” the man whose heart, if not absolutely perfect towards God, is yet, in general, upright and sincere before him, is “ plagued all the day long, and chastened every morning.” It is not that He who claims, as his own, “the gold and the silver, and the cattle on a thousand hills,” would merely “ for his own pleasure” deny to his people the advantages of health and riches. But he regards their eternal salvation as being an object infinitely more important than their worldly comfort; and to this one great object all others must be subordinate and secondary. Were Christians in general sufficiently established in the grace of God, so as that they might be indulged with a larger portion of this world's good, without so imminent a danger as that which now in general exists of their “ falling into temptations and a spare," and into those “ many foolish and hurtful lusts, wbich drown men in destruction and perdition ;" and, above all, were they more generally disposed to have a “ heart” entirely “perfect towards” God, as it regards the employment of their superfluous substance for the promotion of his glory ;-in that case, some have supposed we might soon witness a literal fulfilment of those scriptures which declare that “the meek shall inherit the earth,” and that “ the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.” And perhaps there may be less of absurdity in such a supposition than has been commonly imagined. Be that as it may, it is certain that we very much deceive ourselves when we designate our trials and afflictions by the name of “ cross” or “adverse providences.” For no dispensation of Providence can be really adverse to us, though it may seem to be so, which goes to further the designs of grace. The hand of God-his merciful and gracious hand-is in the stroke that wounds, as well as in the remedy that heals; in the afflictions that assail, as well as in the consolations that support. And the purpose of his grace will be seen, at last, as certainly in the cloud of darkness which shuts up our worldly prospects in obscurity, as in the clearer sunshine of prosperity. Indeed, not unfrequently, when God is intending to confer the greatest benefits, he chooses this “ mysterious way, his wonders to perform." In the moral, as in the natural world, “ he maketh the clouds bis chariot, and walketh upon the wings of the wind.”

This subject well deserves a long and special application, as it regards the practical uses to which it is subservient. But on the present occasion, I cannot be permitted to do more than briefly hint at them.

1. In the first place, the doctrine of a divine Providence—that Providence being beneficent as well as universal-condemns that excessive anxiety with which we are so prone to burden and distress ourselves. We cannot, in the face of that doctrine, cherish such anxiety, without calliog into question either the divine authority, or the divine goodness; in either of which cases we virtually seek to set up our own strength and wisdom in the place of that almighty and benignant Providence which “ careth for us.” The cordial reception of that doctrine will necessarily lead us to “ be careful for nothing ; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving to make known our requests unto God.” Moreover, that doctrine condemns all such anxiety, as being, like other sins in general, not less absurd than it is criminal; since from the view which our divine Redeemer has instructed us to take, it can really avail no more to the purpose of facilitating the end which it proposes, than it can avail to change the colour of our hair, or to “add one cubit unto our stature.”

2. Secondly, this doctrine inculcates the duty, and, when heartily embraced, it will inspire the feeling, of a grateful acquiescence in our lot, however far removed that lot may be from the circumstances which we should have chosen for ourselves. I say a grateful acquiescence; for mere submission does not reach the standard at which we are re. quired to aim,-it does not reach the standard to which the faithful Christian actually rises. That a divine Providence chooses for us our inheritance, is not to be regarded as the stern necessity of our condition, but rather as the great mercy of the Lord our God, who knows full well, that no heavier curse could come upon us, than that he should, in all cases, give us up to our own hearts' lust, and leave us to walk after our own counsels. It is very often said, and not improperly, that the dispensations of divine Providence will be, in part, the subject of that anthem of praise which we shall sing in heaven. But a genuine faith in that Providence will make them to be the subject of our praise on earth. For “ to the upright there ariseth light” even “ in the darkness;” and whilst, in regard to all those dispensations which are maulfestly beneficent and gracious, we exclaim, “ The Lord will command his lovingkindness in the day-time,” we should be ready to add, in regard

to afflictive and mysterious dispensations, “And in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.”

3. More especially, this subject, as connecting the operations of God's providence with the purposes of his grace, calls upon us to look well to it, that our own “hearts are perfect towards him ;” and that, in order to their being so, they are the subjects of that grace, which can alone destroy their deceitfulness and enmity, and render them a boly and acceptable sacrifice. True it is, that even while we yet remain under the power of that "enmity to God,” which " is not subject to his law, neither indeed can be,” we are not, on that account, immediately and entirely excluded from his providential care. For “he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” But, while that enmity continues, all our blessings are on the merest sufferance only. We cannot, like those whose heart is right with God, claim them by any right of spiritual inheritance, or on the ground of any promise. Or, whatever disposition in our favour there may be on the part of divine Providence, there is, on our part, no disposition to accept its guidance, except as it may chance to coincide with our own will and judgment; and we have no heart for any benefit it offers, but such as comes to us in an inviting form, or with a palatable taste. And thus the providence vouchsafed to us in that condition is often thwarted in its purpose, and loses more than half its value. Nay further, if all the streams of goodness which that provi. dence pours forth fail to attract us to the source from which they flow; if they succeed not in winning us to him who is a God of grace, not less than a God of providence, and who is a God of providence for the very purpose of his being so much the more abundantly a God of grace ;there is a voice which speaks to us, if we will hear it : “ Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering ; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance ? but after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God?" " Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all ” other “ things”-in providence as well as in grace " shall be” freely “added unto you.” Nay, providence itself shall then be converted into grace, until grace shall be turned into glory. And, from the heights of the heavenly Zion, “thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldst keep his commandments or no,--to do thee good at thy latter end.” Then shalt thou not only " consider in thine heart,” but thou shalt also see with thine eye, “ that, as a father chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee.” And, in regard to all the dispensations of his providence, as well as in regard to the wonders of his grace, thou shalt exclaim, " Thou, Lord, leddest me by a way which I knew not, that thou mightest bring me to a city of habitation.”



To the Editor of the Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine. Much has been said of late re. pointed of that ministry which they specting Mr. Wesley's Deed of De- conscientiously preferred, and wbich claration, and of its great importance had been so signally owned of God in to the Methodist Connexion. It is the revival and extension of religion. very probable that many members To meet this emergency, and thus of the societies, who take a lively perpetuate the system of Methodism, interest in the welfare of Methodism, Mr. Wesley drew up the Deed of are only imperfectly acquainted with Declaration, constituting one hun. the nature and bearing of this Deed, dred Preachers “the Conference of and with Mr. Wesley's design in the people called Methodists,” and executing it. Its principal object giving them the power, under cerwas, to secure to his people, in every tain restrictions, to appoint Preachers place, a continuance of that itinerant to the chapels, and to exercise a ministry to which they had been godly discipline over their fellow. accustoined, and for which their nu. labourers and one another. This merous chapels were erected. Mr. Deed he enrolled in His Majesty's Wesley had himself appointed the high Court of Chancery. In all Preachers to the different chapels, this he was actuated by the purest and exercised over them a salutary motives; having specially in view control; and he determined that the peace and welfare of the societhese functions should devolve upon ties, and the further advancement of the Conference of Preachers wien the work of God. This procedure he was no more. In the year 1784 excited, at the time, great searchings he found that his life was drawing of heart, and subjected that venerato a close, and that his arrangements ble man to considerable censure. were insecure ; for, according to the He therefore deemed it requisite to practice which had hitherto been publish a history of the whole affair ; followed, wben he died the Confer- and it appears to me that to this ence would cease to exist, as it de apologetical document it might be pended, from year to year, upon his well at present to call the attention mere will. If the different bodies of of the Connexion, as it will show Trustees were then to appoint the them how intimately, in Mr. WesPreachers to their respective chapels, ley's judgment, the welfare of the there would be an end to itinerancy; societies was connected with the nor would a different result follow, just rights of the Conference. Many if the appointment were to fall into of the modern assailants of the Conthe hands of the Trustees and the ference know well enough the tensocieties conjoined. One set of Trus. dency of their projects. They want tees, and the society connected with to wrest from that body the power them, could appoint a Preacher only with which Mr. Wesley has invested for themselves; and thus the prin it, that they may themselves get posciple of Independency would be session of the chapels, and exercise adopted. Whereas the people had an undisputed sway over the sociecontributed their money towards the ties. Whereas the power in ques. erection of their chapels, with the tion was conferred upon the Conunderstanding that they should be ference by Mr. Wesley, not for the occupied, not by independent and benefit of the Conference itself, but stationary Ministers, but by Itinerant of the Methodist people ; for the Methodist Preachers, who should be guardianship of their original rights regularly changed. But they were and privileges, as meinbers of the now, in the event of Mr. Wesley's “united societies," forming one death, in danger of being disap- body, and possessing an itinerant

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »