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THE BIBLE, A TEST OF MORAL CHARACTER.
The Bible is the Statute Book of a moral kingdom, and contains an exhibition of the character and government of God. It presents the Supreme Being, an Omnipotent, wise and holy Sovereign, sitting on the throne. Man is his subject, placed in circumstances the most favorable to render a cheerful and prompt obedience. Here he is to pass a brief probation, and then enter on a state of endless retribution. In this government, there is no change. Individual rights are inviolably preserved. The innocent never suffer, and the impenitent guilty never escape, punishment. Here is no injustice, no act, that is not dictated by the highest reason. The happiness of the subject, and the glory of the sovereign, are inseparably connected.
With such a government, no reasonable subject can find fault
. Separate it from human action, and there is not a rational being in the world, that will complain of it? Lost spirits would eulogize it, did they not feel the weight of its tremendous power.
But no sooner is what is thus beautiful in theory brought to bear on the conscience and the heart, than it fills the world with rebellion. All ages
characters and ranks break out into open revolt. In the abstract, no one can find any fault in it; but in the application, it is insufferable. Human nature will not submit to it.
Here then comes up the test,--the Bible as revealing the character and government of God. Every one busies himself to find out where lies the grand difficulty,-how a system, that appears so beautiful in theory, should seem to be nothing but injustice and oppression in practice.
One, disowning revelation altogether, turns over the volume of nature, and inspects carefully every page. He discovers that there bas been an eternal succession; or that the world is the offspring of chance. Consequently, there is no First Cause.
Another, admitting that there is a God, reads over the Statute Book, but finds it full of contradictions and absurdities. He cannot imagine how the prophets could foretel future events, or Joshua stop the sun, or Moses pass through the Red Sea on dry land, while Pharaoh and his hosts were swallowed up. Or, he cannot find room enough in the ark to contain all the animals, nor water enough any where to drown the world. Consequently, the Bible is a deception. There is a God ;—but he takes no cognizance of human actions.--A king, but no moral government.
A third, admitting the Bible to be from God, reads over the laws it contains, and at first is satisfied with them. His heart approves them all. But he comes to the penal code, and here he finds a difficulty. To this section his heart will not submit -What! man denounced as a rebel and threatened with eternal punishment? It is inconsistent with divine goodness. It is unreasonable and cruel,--the doctrine of devils ! Consequently, Sheol is the grave, and Gehenna, the valley of Hinnom. “ The worm that never dies,” lived but thirty years, and “the fire that is never quenched,” went out eighteen centuries ago.
This granted; or in other words, man's accountability destroyed, and justice struck from the constellation of the divine attributes; and his heart does not rebel against the wreck that remains. It perfectly accords with what he would have the divine government to be. Therefore this must be what the Bible teaches.
Another reads the sacred volume ; and he does not object to a moral government; nor to penal sanctions. But he finds the great difficulty at another point.— Three cannot be one; nor one, three. This, he avers, contradicts both reason and philosophy, though the subject itself may lie beyond the reach of all analogy and philosophical investigation. But why does he stop to cavil at a droctrine, which angels around the throne do not understand? The reason is obvious. Admit this as a truth of revelation, and what follows? The atonement, man's entire depravity, the necessity of a change of heart and salvation by grace,--the very doctrines, which his soul hates. Strike out these doctrines from the book of God, and he would not care whether three made one, or ten, or forty.
Thus does every man assume his own feelings as the standard of rectitude; and according to them he modifies the divine government;--or rather each one frames a government to suit himself. One will have it that there is no God, i. e. he does not want any such being to exist in the universe. Another has no objections to a God, if he does not assume the character of a moral governor. Another permits even the existence of moral laws; but they must be without penal sanctions. To any cther than these, his heart will not submit. Another cannot bear the thought of human depravity. Doctrines that even approach it, he views with suspicion. He lays hold on fallen man and elevates him to the neighborhood of angels, dresses him out in robes of innocence, and then talks of his purity and divinity.
But there is a great mistake in this mode of investigation. The divine government is what it appears to be. It is not liberty at a distance, and despotism at hand. It is not harmonious and beautiful in theory; and all that is vile and oppressive in application. “ The law is holy and the commandment holy, just and good.”
But the grand difficulty lies in the heart. That is the source of all those contradictory creeds and discordant opinions, which now deluge the moral world. It is not because the Bible is not a plain book, and the divine laws reasonable ; but because man is a wilful rebel. The sun is right; but the dial is wrong.-It has never been adjusted to the pole. Let a man look into the heart, and he will readily see the reason, why the government of God produces such restiveness, murmuring and rebellion. He who does this, finds no occasion to blot out or modify what the Bible reveals. It is what it ought to be. It honors God,-it meets the wants of man and promotes the happiness of the universe.
FORCE OF EXAMPLE IN THE CHRISTIAN PASTOR.
“Christiani pastoris mores optima sunt ejus doctrinæ explicatio." It is universally allowed, that uniformity of life and manners is the best comment on the precepts and doctrines of the clergy. The powers of oratory-ihe finest flowers of rhetoric, lose their influence, unless accompanied with the still small voice of good example. This gives weight and efficacy to every precept, and with irresistible force, commands, at the same time that it engages. The beauty of holiness is more powerful than a thousand arguments. “Dum facet, clamat."
" What weight and authority" (as a certain writer justly remarks) “ does it add to the instructions of the clergy, whilst the audience have it to say—the minister-the preacher is a worthy man;" that he does not enter into the pulpit, as an actor upon the stage to personate a feigned character, and forget his real one; to utter sentiments, or represent passions not his own. Such should be the character of every minister. He should be able to paint the several virtues in their just proportions and amiable colors from living and beautiful originals in his own breast.-He warmly recommends, because he warmly cherishes them. He exclaims against the contrary vices, with an honest indignation, and becoming boldness, because he detests, and is conscious that he delests, them. He himself feels what he speaks VOL. VI.-NO. II.
-hath an inward and vital sense of the truths he delivers, and therefore makes others feel them too. He speaks from his own heart, and to the hearts and consciences of his hearers, and therefore he prevails.
Pulpit oratory may be exceedingly useful, as well as ornamental, when accompanied with the one thing needful, a good example; but in comparison with that, it is as nothing. Without that, eloquence is but “as sounding brass, or a tink
, ling cymbal”- warmth, as artifice; and address, as ostentation. The eflect of oratory is transient; its impression vanishes, as the animal spirits subside; but a well regulated and exemplary life, is a continual sermon, and often tends more to convince the thoughtless and reclaim the vicious, than the most powerful eloquence or the most pathetic persuasion. The apostle does not admonish Timothy to "take heed unto his doctrine only, but also to himself."
Precept and example must go hand in hand. The one must elucidate the other, and give it life and vigor. Every inadvertency, every little slip, every indiscretion, derogates from the authority, and lessens the influence of the man of God. The ambassador of Christ, conscious of the importance
of the vocation wherewith he is called, should engage in no other pursuits, but those calculated to advance the cause of the Redeemer. He should apply all his care and attention to that one great concern which cometh upon him daily—the care of the church,-having no ambitious views, aspiring at no power, but that of gaining a conquest over himself and of being able to present the truth in a powerful and persuasive manner.
One of the greatest of the apostles, hath said, “ Who is sufficjent for these things ?" If so, certainly nothing ought to interfere, or stand in competition with this momentous concern. Disengaged from all meaner pursuits-regardless of all lower advantages, that tend to obstruct his great design of glorifying God, let him study to preserve himself blameless in all things, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth, and proving an ensample to the flock.
CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN TWO LAYMEN ON STRICT AND
MIXED COMMUNION, in which the principal arguments in favor of the latter practice are stated, as nearly as possible in the words of its most powerful advocate, the Rev. Robert Hall. By J. G. Fuller. With Dr. Griffin's Letter on Communion, and the review of it by Professor Ripley of Newton. Boston: Lincoln & Edmands, 1831.
- There is a class of Christians," says the lamented Robert Hall, “pretty widely diffused through these realms, who deny the validity of infant baptism, considering it as a human invention no: countenanced by the Scriptures, nor by the practice of the first and purest ages. Besides their denial of the right of infants to baptism, they also contend for the exclusive validity of immersion in that ordinance, in distinction from the sprinkling or pouring of water.” In consequence of their peculiar sentiments on these subjects, this class of Christians have, for the most part, confined their communion to persons of their own persuasion, considering those of other denominations as unbaptized. Their practice in this respect has been termed close or strict communion ; while the opposite practice is styled free, open, or mixed communion.
It is the design of the work before us to vindicate the practice of close communion. It is our design, in what follows, to offer some considerations in opposition to this practice. We would premise, however, that we entirely agree with our brethren, the strict or Calvinistic Baptists, in the sentiment, that none but professed believers in Christ—who give credible evidence of having been regenerated by the influences of the Holy Spirit-are entitled to communion at the sacred supper. Those only who give evidence of being the children of God are entitled to a seat at their Father's table. Those only who are prepared to enjoy real, spiritual communion with Cbrist and his people, are entitled to receive the emblems of such communion. The
сир of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ ?" *
Hence, in advncating what is sometimes called open communion, we cannot perceive that we justly expose ourselves to the charge of latitudinarianism ;--a charge usually urged in this connexion, and which is urged, in the work before us, in opposiion even io Mr. Hall. See pp. 153, 154.