網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

brethren by the blood of the Lamb," more gloriously than the generality of their fellow believers did.'

XI. ASSURANCE OF Faith.- - I hope that do not dissent, in my observations upon faith, either from our Church, or approved Gospel ministers. In their highest definition of that grace they consider it only according to the fulness of the Christian dispensation : bụt my subject has obliged me to consider it also according to the dispensations of John the Baptist, Moses, and Noah. Believers, under these inferior dispensations, have not always assurance; nor is the assurance they sometimes have so bright as that of adult Christians, Matt. xi, 11. But undoubtedly assurance is inseparably connected with the faith of the Christian dispensation, which was not fully opened till Christ opened his glorious baptism on the day of pentecost, and till his spiritual kingdom was set up with power in the hearts of his people. Nobody therefore can truly believe, according to this dispensation, without being immediately conscious both of the forgiveness of sins, and of peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. This is a most important truth, derided indeed by fallen Churchmen, and denied by Laodicean Dissenters ; but of late years gloriously revived by Mr. Wesley and the ministers connected with him. A truth this which cannot be too strongly, and yet too warily insisted upon in our lukewarm and speculative age : and as I would not obscure it for the world, I particularly entreat the reader to mind the last erratum ; without omitting the last but one, which guards the doctrine of initial salvation by absolute free grace.'

XII. Death.The awful consequences accompanying it a proof of our depravity. Would to God the multiplied calamities of life were a sufficient punishment for our desperate wickedness! But alas ! they only make way for the pangs of death. Like traitors, or rather like wolves and vipers, to which the Son of God compares natural men, we are all devoted to destruction. Yes, as we kill those mischievous creatures, so God destroys the sinful sons of men.

If the reader is offended, and denies the mortifying assertion, let him visit with me the mournful spot where thousands are daily executed, and where hundreds make this moment their dying speech. I do not mean what some call “the bed of honor,” a field of battle, but a common death bed.

Observing, as we go along, those black trophies of the king of terrors, those escutcheons which preposterous vanity fixes up in honor of the deceased, when kind charity should hang them out as a warning to the living ; let us repair to those mournful apartments where weeping attendants support the dying, where swooning friends embrace the dead, or whence distracted relatives carry out the pale remains of all their joy.

Guided by their groans and funeral lights, let us proceed to the dreary charnel houses and calvaries, which we decently call vaults and church yards; and without stopping to look at the monuments of some whom my objector remembers as vigorous as himself; and of others who were perhaps his partners in nightly revel ; let us hasten to see the dust of his mouldered ancestors, and to read upon yonder coffins the dear name of a parent, a child, perhaps a wife, turned off from his bosom into the gulf of eternity.

6

a

If this sight does not convince him, I shall open one of the noisome repositories, and show him the deep hollow of those eyes that darted tender sensation into his soul; and odious reptiles fastening upon the once charming, now ghastly face, he doted upon. But methinks he turns pale at the very proposal, and rather than be confronted with such witnesses, acknowledges that he is condemned to die, with all his dear relatives, and the whole human race.

And is this the case ? Are we then under sentence of death? How awful is the consideration! Of all the things that nature dreads, is not death the most terrible? And is it not (as being the greatest of temporal evils) appointed by human and Divine laws for the punishment of capital offenders; whether they are named felons and traitors, or more genteelly called men and sinners ? Let matter of fact decide.,

While earthly judges condemn murderers and traitors to be hanged or beheaded, does not “the Judge of all” sentence sinful mankind either to pine away with old age, or be wasted with consumptions, burned with fevers, scalded with hot humors, eaten up with cancers, putrefied by mortifications, suffocated by asthmas, strangled by quinsies, poisoned by the cup of excess, stabbed with the knife of luxury, or racked to death by disorders as loathsome and accidents as various as their sins?

If you consider the circumstances of their execution, where is the material difference between the malefactor and the sinner? The jailer and the turnkey confine the one to his cell: the disorder and the physician confine the other to his bed. The one lives upon bread and water: the other upon draughts and boluses. The one can walk with his fetters: the other, loaded with blisters, can scarcely turn himself. The one enjoys freedom from pain, and has the perfect use of his senses: the other complains he is racked all over, and is frequently delirious. The executioner does his office upon the one in a few minutes: but the physician and his medicines make the other linger for days before he can die out of his misery. An honest sheriff and constables, armed with staves, wait upon one; while a greedy undertaker and his party, with like emblems of authority, accompany the other : and if it is any advantage to have a numerous attendance, without comparison the felon has the greater train.

When the pangs of death are over, does not the difference made between the corpses consist more in appearance than reality? The murderer is dissected in the surgeon's hall gratis, and the rich sinner is embowelled in his own apartment at great expense. The robber, e exposed to open air, wastes away in hoops of iron; and the gentleman,

confined to a damp vault, moulders away in sheets of lead: and while the fowls of the air greedily prey upon the one, the vermin of the earth eagerly devour the other.

And if you consider them as launching into the world of spirits, is not the advantage, in one respect, on the malefactor's side ? He is solemnly assured he must die ; and when the death warrant comes down, all about him bid him prepare and make the best of his short time: but the physician and chaplain, friends and attendants, generally flatter the honorable sinner to the last : and what is the consequence? He either sleeps on in carnal security till death puts an end to all his

a

66

delusive dreams; or if he has some notion that he must repent, for fear of discomposing his spirits, he still puts it off till to-morrow: and in the midst of his delays God says, “ Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.” What wonder is it, then, if, when the converted thief goes from the ignominious tree to paradise, the impenitent rich man passes from his "purple bed” into an awful eternity, and there s lifts up his eyes” in unexpected “ torments ?" }

XIII. JUDGMENT DAY.-In an argument with Mr. Toplady, one of the most virulent opposers of Mr. Wesley, Mr. Fletcher maintains that Toplady's doctrine of absolute predestination is incompatible with a day of righteous judgment. Among other reasons for this, he offers the following:

* Mr. T. has told us, p. 45, that “fallen men are involuntary beings;" and in this page he tells us that they sin voluntarily. Now we, who never learned Mr. T.'s logic, cannot understand how “ involuntary beings" can sin voluntarily. But, letting this contradiction pass, and granting that sinners offend voluntarily, I ask, Is their will at liberty to choose otherwise than it does, or is it not? If you say it is at liberty to choose otherwise than it does, you renounce necessitating predestination, and you will allow the doctrine of free will, which is the bulwark of the second Gospel axiom, and the Scripture engine which batters down Calvinian reprobation; and, upon this Scriptural plan, it is most certain that God can “ judge the world in righteousness,” that is, in a manner which reflects praise upon his essential justice and wisdom. But if you insinuate that the will of sinners is absolutely bound by " the efficacious purposes of Heaven," and by the effective decrees" of Him who “worketh all things in all men, and even wickedness in the wicked;" if you say that God's decree concerning every man is irreversible, whether it be a decree of absolute election to life, or of absolute reprobation to death, “because God's own decree secures the means as well as the end, and accomplishes the end by the means ;" (p. 17;) or, which comes to the same thing, if you assert that the reprobate always sin necessarily, having no power, no liberty to will righteousness, you answer like a consistent Calvinist, and pour your shame, folly, and unrighteousness upon the tribunal where Christ will judge the world in righteousness.

A just illustration will convince the unprejudiced reader, that this is really the case. By the king's "efficacious permission," a certain strong man, called Adam, binds the hands of a thousand children behind their backs with a chain of brass, and a strong lock, of which the king himself keeps the key. When the children are thus chained, the king commands them all

, upon pain of death, to put their hands upon their breasts, and promises ample rewards to those who will do it.Now, as the king is absolute, he passes by seven hundred of the bound children, and as he passes them by he hangs about their necks a black stone, with this inscription, “ Unconditional reprobation to death:" but being merciful too, he graciously fixes his love upon the rest of the children, just three hundred in number, and he ordains them to finished salvation by hanging about their necks a white stone, with this inscription, “ Unconditional election to life.” And, that they may not miss

[ocr errors]

a

a

a

their reward by nonperformance of the above-mentioned condition, he gives the key of the locks to another strong man, named Christ, who, in a day of irresistible power, looses the hands of the three hundred elect children, and chains them upon their breasts, as strongly as they were before chained behind their backs. When all the elect are properly bound, agreeably to orders, the king proceeds to judge the children according to their works, that is, according to their having put their hands behind their backs, or upon their breasts. In the meantime a question arises in the court : Can the king judge the children concerning the position of their hands, without rendering himself ridiculous? Can he wisely reward the elect favorites with life according to their works, when he has absolutely done the rewardable work for them by the stronger man? And can he justly punish the reprobate with eternal death, for not putting their hands upon their breasts when the strong man has, according to a royal decree, absolutely bound them behind their backs? “Yes, he can,” says a counsellor, who has learned logic in mystic Geneva ; " for the children have hands, notwithstanding the inevitable accomplishment of the king's effective and permissive decrees: now children who have hands, and do not place them as they are bid, are accountable, and accountable children are judicable ; and if judicable, they are punishable.This argument would be excellent if the counsellor did not speak of hands which are absolutely tied. But it is not barely the having hands, but the having hands free, which makes us accountable for not placing them properly.'

HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE ART OF PRINTING.

PRINTING is an art to which mankind are so much indebted that it cannot be viewed with indifference. A few remarks, therefore, on the origin and progress of this art; we think will be acceptable to our readers.

Though unknown in Europe until about the middle of the fifteenth century, it was in use in China, but in a very imperfect state, at an extremely remote period. Their mode of printing, however, was quite different from the mode afterward invented, and now in so general use in Europe and other parts of the world. The Chinese method of printing resembled more our mode of engraving maps and woodcuts, than it does our improved typography. They prepare blocks of wood, firm, close, and smooth, of the size and form of the page they intend to print ; on one side they glue paper, on which some able penman delineates the necessary letters and characters; the wood in this state is put into the hands of a sculptor, who, following with the proper instruments the outlines of the characters inscribed on the paper, cuts them out in relievo; the paper is then gently rubbed off, and the engraved tablet, thus prepared, is that by which their printing is executed. The great disadvantages of this plan are very manifest. There must be as many of these wooden blocks as there are pages in a book : their blocks are of no use in printing any other works, and the process is extremely tedious and expensive. There are, however, these advantages: the Chinese require no corrector of the press, and their books are uncommonly accurate and beautiful ; and they are not required to throw off a whole edition at once, but may, as those do who now use stereotype plates, print only so fast as they are required. Though the exact time when printing commenced in China cannot be ascertained, it is allowed on all hands to have been about five hundred

years

before any knowledge of the art was possessed by Europeans.

But though this is the fact, the Europeans are not indebted to the Chinese for a knowledge of this curious invention; for the former had the honor of inventing it themselves before a passage to the east by the Cape of Good Hope was discovered by the Portuguese, and therefore before they had any knowledge of the existence of that distant country. Though this fact is incontrovertible, yet to what individual the honor belongs of having invented the art of printing, has been a subject of much dispute. Three cities, namely, Harlaem in the Netherlands, Mentz and Strasburg in Germany, have each claimed the honor of giving birth to the man who is entitled to this distinction. Without, however, entering into the arguments, pro and con., in reference to this subject, we will remark that the weight of testimony seems to be in favor of Harlaem; and that the honor of the invention belongs to Laurentius Coster. The manner in which he was led to this invention confirms the truth of the remark so-frequently made in reference to important discoveries, that they are often more the result of what are called accidental circumstances than of previous design.

• Laurentius,' says the relater of this event, walking in a wood near the city, began at first to cut some letters upon the rind of a birch tree, which, for fancy's sake, being impressed on paper, he printed one or two lines as a specimen for his grandchildren to follow. This having

happily succeeded, he meditated greater things, (as he was a man of • ingenuity and judgment,) and first of all with his son-in-law, Thomas

Peter, invented a more glutinous writing ink, because he found the common ink sunk and spread; and then formed whole pages of wood," with letters cut upon them; of which sort I have,” says the narrator, • seen some essays in an anonymous work printed only on one side, entitled, “ Speculum Nostræ Salutis," [A Mirror of our Health,] in which it is remarkable that in the infancy of printing, (as nothing is complete in its first invention,) the back sides of the pages were pasted together, that they might not by their nakedness betray their deformity.'

6

66

« 上一頁繼續 »