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heighth of impiety. But such things should be referred to him who made us, and gave us to know that the scriptures are perfect, being dictated by his word and spirit; but that we being only of yesterday, and but just formed by the same word and spirit, are necessarily ignorant of many mysteries. Nor is it wonderful that we should be thus ignorant of spiritual and heavenly things, and those which are contained in revelation ; since with regard to those which are beneath our feet (I mean material things which we handle, which we see, and with which we are surrounded) may escape our knowledge, and must be referred to the wisdom of God, who is wise above all. What if we attempt to assign the reason why the Nile annually overflows ?* We could say a great many things, some perhaps plausible and others mere conjectures, while the truth and certainty must be submitted to God. By what wonderful instinct the fowls of the air choose their habitation, such I mean as visit us in spring, and return in autumn, and how they do this regularly, escapes our penetration. Can we explain by what power the sea ebbs and flows; although it is certain it must have a cause?+ Can we tell any thing of the nature of what is beyond the occan ? | What can we say of the sources of rain, of lightning and thunder, of the driving together of the clouds and fogs, and whence come the winds, with many like things ? Can we declare the treasures of snow, of hail and intermediate sleet? How are the clouds prepared, how do they differ from fogs, what is the cause why the moon waxes and wanes, whence arise the water springs ? how are metals and stones formed, and things of this nature? In investigating the causes of all these things, we can be very loquacious; but God alone, who made them, can declare the truth.
If then, in natural things there are some wlich must be left to God, and others that fall within the reach of our faculties, what wonder that of the things contained in the scriptures, those scriptures which treat altogether of spiritual things, there should be some found, which, by the grace of God, we call solve, and others that must be left to his wisdom: and that not only in the present state but in the life to come, in order that God may be always teaching, and man always learning the things of God. As the apostle has said, all other things being done away, these shall remain, to wit, faith, hope and charity. There will be ever ground for faith to remain an unerring guide to our master, assuring us that he is the only God; and that we ought ever to love him, as our only parent; and hope to receive and learn forever more and more from him, who
• This was a phenomenon that perplexed the wits of all the philosophers before Ireneus's time. It has in modern times been ascertained io arise from the great rains that fall regularly at a stated season towards the head of that river, causing it to overflow its banks and fertilize the land of Egypt.
† Modern philosophy has explained this point also, and indeed most of the others which follow. Yet still there are many mysteries in nature unsolved, and unsolvable; and consequently our author's argument holds good.
#Few of the ancients had any notion of the spherical figure of the earth, but supposed it a vast extended plain ; and that beyond the ocean which bound ed thcir sight, it was reasonable to conclude there was some thing beside wa. ter; but they knew not what.
iş good, who possesses infinite riches, a kingdom without end, and unbounded power.
If therefore, according to what we have said, we will be content to reserve many questions for the wisdom of God to solve, we shall preserve our faith, and persevere without wavering. And all the scriptures given by God will be found consonant with themselves; the dark will correspond with what is clear, and the clear will solve the dark; and amidst the great variety of things they contain, we shall perceive a harmonious concord, rendering praise and glory to God who made all things.
Suppose then any one should ask what God did before he made the world! we should reply, the answer belongs to God. So far as this the scriptures do teach, that at a certain time God formed the world complete in all its parts; but how he was employed before this time, no scriptures have shown. This is a matter that belongs to him; nor should we without the authority of his word, by vain and blasphemous fictions of our own, think to account for the production and endless continuance of material things, and thereby reject God from his throne who made all things.
But consider ye who invent such fictions that God is called the only Father, and is really he whom ye style the supreme architect; that the scriptures represent him to be the only God; that the Lord, by way of eminence, calls him his Father, as we might show by his words. When therefore ye talk of him whom ye call the offspring of chaos,* the production of darkness, and who knoweth nought of any thing above him, and whatever else ye prate concerning him, consider I say, the magnitude of your blasphemies against him who is the true God. You seem indeed, seriously and honestly to say, you believe in God, but then you pretend, what you can by no means make out, that there is another God in whom you say you believe, the offspring of chaos and the production of darkness.
This your blindness and folly arises hence, that you cannot be con tent to leave any thing to the wisdom of God, but must presume to explain the very origin and manner in which his being, his mind, his word, his essence, and his Christ are produced and do exist; and this you do by referring to the nature and affections of man ; not considering that man being a compound creature, we may say of him that he hath sensation and thought, as hath been said ; and that from sensation comes thought, and from thought cogitation, and from cogitation reason; (but what reason do we mean? For according to the Greeks, there is a fundamental reasoning principle that cogitates, and another kind of reason that is expressed by the organs, and so man sometimes rests and is silent, and at other times he speaks and acts. But God being all mind, all reason, all opera. tive spirit, all light, and ever existing one and the same, as we ought to conceive of him, and as the scriptures teach, to suppose such different affections and departments in his manner of being, is the greatest absurdity.
Iren. Lib. 2. ch. 51. : Ireneus here enumerates some of the obscurities and strange fancies of the Valentineans and Marcionites, who pretended to know a great deal about the genealogy of several orders of beings, whom they represented as in a meas. ure divine, and who had much to do in forming and governing the world.
FOR THE CHURCHMAN'S MAGAZINE.
. On the Church Catechism. MR. EDITOR,
I AM sensible that proposals for altering long established institutions should be listened to with caution, perhaps in many cases not at all, even when clearly seen to be improvements. The rea. son of this is obvious; for the nature of man is such, that when once his mind is set afloat after novelties, there is great danger of Introducing more errors and defects than will be cured. Notwith- · standing this I propose, with your approbation, to offer through the medium of the Churchman's Magazine, some reasons for altering the authorized catechism of the church.
This is obviously a part of our public institutions in which innovations may be made with less inconvenience than in any other. They will scarce be perceived by any who may be disposed to make difficulty. The minds of children are docile, and will take any shape their instructors please to give them. Hence the ordinary objection to alterations, that they are apt to set people's mirds afloat, does not lie in this case.
I find no fault with a single sentiment inculcated, believing them all strictly warranted in the word of God, and conformable to the tenor of the gospel, I object not to what it does contain, but to what it does not ; to deficiency of matter in the first place ; and in the next to what seems to me to be a faulty arrangement.
A catechism for the instruction of youth, it must be admitted, should contain a concise explanation of all the fundamental doctrines of the gospel, together with the practical duties of the christian. Is this the case with our church catechism? I think not. The child who learns it is indeed properly enough instructed into the nature of baptism, the ordinance by which he is spiritually born into the church of God, and constituted an heir to the promise of salvation. But where do we find any thing said about the nature of that church, by what marks it is to be known and designated ? Where is there any thing said about its officers, their powers and duties? Where any thing about who is to administer its ordinances? In the apostle's creed, true it is, the child professes his belief in the holy catholick church,” but where is he taught how to find that church? This seems to me a material deficiency that ought to be supplied.
In the same apostle's creed the child announces his belief « in the Holy Ghost.” And in the subsequent explanation of the creed, he declares his belief in bim, as he who sanctifieth him and all the people of God.” But this does not seem a sufficient exposition of so important a point in christian divinity as the mission and offices of the Holy Ghost; who, we are taught in the bible, is sent to dwell in the hearts of every true servant of God, to guide them into all truth, to guard them from temptation, and keep alise
in them the love of God; and through whose assistance alone wc are enabled to perform works acceptable to him.
If these two points were farther explained by several distinct questions and answers, it would, I think, be clearly an improvement very desirable. Perhaps also an explanation of the descent into hell would be proper. This is an article about which many serious christians have their doubts for want of a proper understanding of the subject. What is meant by “ the communion of saints," would also be a proper clause for explanation ; in which the nature of the christian church might be inculcated. These are indeed all of them points about which there was no difference of opinion when the creed was compiled, and consequently no danger of a misunderstanding, though ever so shortly expressed. But in our day there is much danger from the wide difference that prevails in people's minds on these subjects ; and against this danger it is proper to guard by a more full and particular explanation.
Another point of importance is the summary of duties enjoined in the ten commandments, which seems to me to be deficient in point of form. All who have been much in the habit of catechising children, I think must be sensible that the answers are fal too long, making it burdensome to the memories of children, and less intelligable and useful. Too many things are thrown together in a mass for their comprehension, even though they should retain and understand well the meaning of the words. In explaining the duty which we owe to our neighbors, there are topics enough introduced for at least a dozen different questions and answers, which ought of course to be divided into so many. And perhaps on further reflection than at present I have bestowed, I might suggest some additional points not touched upon as the catechism stands.
And lastly, the same objection seems to lie against the comment upon the Lord's prayer. It is too long for one answer; and might easily be divided into as many as there are distinct petitions in that divine form. And if a question or two were added to precede the Lord's prayer, concerning the nature of the duty, and the obligations to it, I think it would not be amiss. Though the capacities of children may in general be little adequate to comprehend the force of abstract reasoning on the nature of duty and obligation; yet in a case so plain as that of prayer and thanksgiving to the God who made and daily supports them, they cannot well miss of receiving some benefit from such instruction. For here as upon every other point, the catechist should be supposed to assist their young minds by his own comments and explanations.
After having offered this sketch of improvements for consider ation, it is incumbent upon me to point out the manner in which they may be introduced. And in this there can be no difficulty. The General Convention of the church in America is to meet in May next. To that body it belongs. At the suggestion of any one member, it would, beyond a doubt, receive attention. ir on deliberation they should be of the opinion that the foregoing proposals are worthy of notice, justice will be done them. But if it shall appear, that they are of too little importance, I trust I shall, without murmuring, submit to be thought a pragmatical in. novator ; and endeavor to console myself with the reflection that I am not alone in this innovating world.
Mr. Whitlock's Convention Sermon.
[Concluded from page 182.] SUCH being by divine appointment the office and character of the priest, it is the duty of the people to “ seek the law at his mouth." We read that Moses, when he had finished the book of the law, committed it to the priests to deposit it in the ark, and to read it at stated times to the people. But where was the propriety of this ? For the people might have the law at home, and read it for themselves. Certainly ; and it was a duty strongly enjoined. But this was not sufficient. God was to be glorified by the public reading of his law in the great congregation. And as it was his law, it was proper it should be read by his messengers. This is with great propriety the case in the christian church, which is the appointed “piilar and ground of the truth.” From his first establishment to the present day, the reading of the scriptures, together with the worship, has been the principal employment of her public assemblies. During what are called the dark ages, which lasted several centuries previous to the invention of printing, books were exceeding scarce on account of the great expence of transcribing ; and the people in general were so illiterate, that it was considered a great privilege that they could learn the word of God from the lips of his priests. The Romish church, taking advantage of a long established custom, converted it into a law prohibiting the people from reading the scriptures and from hearing them read except by the priest. This certainly was a great evil, and calculated to rivet on the people the chains of the papal tyranny. But mankind are prone to extremes, and to correct one error by its opposite. Since the reformation, several denominations of christians have arisen which make no provision for the public reading of the law of God by the priest, but leave it as only a private duty ; by which means the light is taken from “ the candlestick," and " put under a bushel ;” and each one, if he reads the scriptures at all, is likely to have a private interpretation. The natural consequence is, divisions and sub-divisions among christians till men are carried about by every wind of doctrine.
The source of this evil is a mistake common among christians concerning the nature of preaching, supposing it to consist in the present practice of sermonizing. But the scripture informs is that “ Moses was preached being read in the synagogue erery sabbath day.” After the same manner is Christ to be preached ; his gospel should be read in the churches every Lord's day. The only true preaching is the publishing of the word of God by his ministers, and since the days of inspiration we have no eridence of any thing as the word of God, but what is writen in the holy scriptures. All other preaching,” says Bishop Taylor, is the