« ZurückWeiter »
wherein there are not forms of prayer, suited and agreeable to this pattern. The same harmony and consent of the ancient liturgies is to be found in the office of baptism.
[To be continued.)
FOR THE CHURCHMAN'S MAGAZINE.
THE ROVER. AT the first view of my name, it will doubtless be said, that I am a useless member of society, and that I am a burden to my fel. low creatures ; but I have this apology to make for myself; I am neither a defrauder, or a deceiver ; I deprive no man of his property, either by theft or rapine; I do not injure my health or reputation, by improper passions, and evil concupicence, nor disturb the tranquility of mankind, by slander or detraction. My business is that of a Rover : I constantly shift my place of residence, as often as the sun begins his daily course. Every person with whom I happen to fall in company I consider as my peculiar friend and brother, as participating of the same nature, as made by the same all-wise Creator, redeemed by the same most precious blood, and as travelling to the same place of everlasting rest; and therefore I consider myself bound by the most sacred ties, to exert all my talents and faculties, in order to render myself agreeable. For which purpose, I have made it my invariable practice to confine myself to the theme of conversation introduced by the company, or to remain a silent, but attentive hearer. Thus qualified, I commenced my rovings; in the course of which, I soon met a person who appeared to be a man of respectability, of piety and religion; who very politely informed me that it was Sunday, and that I must suspend my roving till another day. He also informed me, with some considerable degree of engagedness, that they were about to have a new minister, and enquired if I had not a curiosity to hear him ; if I had, I should be welcome to such fare as his house afforded; of which invitation I very thankfully accepted. The religious exercises of the day being past, I was asked by every one who had an opportunity of speaking with me, how I liked their new minister, how I approved of his sermon, and whether I did not think him to be an excellent speaker. Upon the whole, I found that they universally agreed they had been highly entertained with a fine sermon. I left them to hear the same the next Sunday; and early on Monday pursued my course, where fortune chanced to lead the way, until night overtook me; when I put up with a man who was bowed down by the hand of time, and whom silver locks rendered venerable. He in. formed me that he had been to a meeting of the society, convened for the purpose of settling a minister. For his part, he was tired of hiring preaching by the day; that the candidate whom they were then hiring, was a fine speaker, and he was very fond of hearing him preach ; but he was too dear; it was hard times, and he believed that they could hire as good a preacher as he was, to settle with them, much cheaper; and therefore, it was his mind to look out for another. Finding these, or something like these to be the sentiments and ideas of all with whom I conversed, it cast me inte the most profound thoughtfulness and serious contemplation of mind, which terminated in the following soliloquy: Can this be the case, (said I to myself) that I have been bewildered with such preposte rous ideas of the Church of Christ, of his ministers, and the worship due to God. It has ever been my stedfast belief, (however errone. cus) that the Church of Christ is the whole society of those who are incorporated by the covenant of baptism, under Jesus Christ its supreme head, and distributed under lawful governors and pastors into particular Churches, holding communion with each other, in all the essentials of faith, worship, and discipline. That his ministers are dignified with an especial commission from Christ; that they are stewards of the mysteries of God, to whom he has committed the word of reconciliation; that they are ambassadors for Christ, in Christ's stead : that they are enployed in his particular business, empowered and authorized to negociate and transact for God, all the outward administrations of the covenant of grace, of reconciliation between God and man: That they are delegated by him, to solicit and maintain a good correspondence between heaven and earth; are empowered to administer the word of reconciliation, to sign and seal covenants in his name. Upon which account, all contempt shewn to them, as God's ministers, is an affront to their master, whose commission they bear; and therefore, on account of the higb dignity and the necessity of the ministerial office to the very existence of the Church, they are entitled to a liberal support from the people, according to the blessing of God, upon their substance ; and that not grudgingly or of necessity, but cheerfully, as a debt due to God, who is the bountiful giver of every good and perfect gift; in wliose name and by whose authority they act. · That the idea of biring a minister of Jesus Christ, to administer the means of grace, and to seal his covenant with mankind, savours strongly of simony, and implies as much as if the gifts and graces of God's holy spirit might be bought, and that He might be bribed to bestow his spiritual blessings upon us; and also, that the worship which is due from us to God, is, that we confess our sins to him with humble, penitent, and obedient hearts, and with sincere resolutions of amendment of life. That when we hear the holy scriptures read, we attend to them as a voice from heaven, as a revelation from the infinite God of truth, as the grand charter of all we hope for through eternity, and as divine instructions which are calculated to conduct us in the plain road to heaven. That we, with grateful hearts, thank God for'all the favours and privileges which he has bestowed upon us, and devoutly implore a continuation of them, through the merits of our most gracious Redeemer; and when we sit down to hear the sermon, that we hearken to it as delivered by God's minister, as a mean to promote and cultivate in us, the practice of all moral and evangelical duties. This, says I to myself, has been my constant belief respecting God's Church, his ministers, and the worship that is due unto him, from all Christians. But I find myself to have been all this time bewildered in the mazes of ignorance and error. I learn from the most enlightened, that the Church comprehends either ev. ery body or nobody, that it is of equal consequence, whether we are in it or out of it. That the ministers of Christ, are every one who can preach well; that their dignity consists altogether in fluency of speech; that a certain number of dollars, cents and mills, is as exact an equivalent for their preaching, as an hundred cents is to a dollar; and that public worship, instead of being composed of various parts, such as praises, prayers, thanksgivings, &c. consists only in hearing; and all those who can hear the most eloquent preachers, and the best sermons, are in the direct road to endless happiness.
[To be continued.).
FOR THE CHURCHMAN'S MAGAZINE.
ESSAY ON INFIDELITY.... NO. I. A MISCELLANY intended for general circulation, among readers of all descriptions, and professing to disseminate religious truths; to illustrate the genuine doctrines of the gospel; and to correct errors in faith and practice, should direct some of its efforts against the common enemy of revealed religion. There are indeed books enough written with the express design to answer the objections of infidels, and to shew that the word of God, contained in the Bible, is worthy of credit as a divine revelation. But these books are, the most of them, either too large and expensive for ordinary readers, or too learned and abstruse to be well understood. They are worthy of high commendation in their way; they answer the end for which they were intended; but still there is room for others usefully to throw in their mite: it is their duty so to do, whenever they think they have an opportunity to bring the matter home to the doors of the unlearned, who already have been, or are in danger of being perverted and turned away from the faith once delivered to the Saints, by the error of such as walk in unbelief, denying the Lord that bought them. Those who are acquainted with infidel writers, must be sensible, that, until lately, they have chiefly confined their efforts to those who would be thought choice wits; who affect an elevation of spirit above vulgar prejudices and idle superstitions, and have had little ambition to gain proselytes from among the multitude. To feed their vanity with airy speculations, and excite now and then a smile upon the countenances of readers like themselves, seems to have been their main object. So long as they kept them. selves within such views, there was no great reason to fear they would deeply influence the unlearned part of mankind, nor destroy their veneration for religion. They did not attempt to raise the passions of such, and thereby endanger the peace and good order of society. With respect to themselves, the wiser and more reflecting part of Christians could but hope that a sense of propriety, sentiments of honour, and a wish to preserve the good opinion of mankind, would restrain them in some tolerable order; which has been found actually to be the case. It is natural to conclude, that science and refinement of taste, would controul the ferocious and disorderly passions implanted in the bosoms of fallen men; and candour requires it to be said, that usually such have been their cffects upon infidels, who have been distinguished for science. But at the same
time, we have to lament that pride of heart which can make any man deem it beneath the dignity of human nature to worship and bow down to the great Lord of the universe. We should reprobate that vanity of human reason, which cannot brook being dictated and con. trouled by infinite wisdom; which sets itself up as the standard of truth, in opposition to Him who knoweth all things from beginning to end.
We may willingly grant that human wisdom, when duly exercised, can do a great deal in curing the vices to which our natures are in. cident, and resisting the temptations to which we are here exposed. But feeble is the strength of man in his best estate, as experience proves. We have reasons enough to be convinced that nothing can effectually restrain the tyranny of our corrupt inclinations but a sted. fast faith in the surrounding Providence of an all-seeing God, to whom, at a future day of judgment, we must give an account of the deeds done in the body. Nothing can make men uniformly virtu. ous, benevolent, and kind to each other, just and upright in all their actions, and temperate and sober in their enjoyments, but an inti. mate conviction that they are the creatures of God, and dependent on the aids of his holy spirit. Nothing can so effectually render them good members of community, as a uniform adherance to all the duties which the Gospel requires; and above all, nothing can make them contented with themselves and easy in their prospects of futurity, but faith in the Son of God, who hath brought life and im. mortality to light in the Gospel. Perverse and prejudiced indeed must be the mind which can see any thing degrading and unworthy the most exalted genius, in submitting to these truths, in bowing obedient to these conclusions. To do this, is so far from degrading, that it ennobles man; it allies him to God; it enables him to buffet the storms of adversity; to endure the evils to which he is lia. ble, with calmness and dignity, looking forward to a future world, for a haven of rest and everlasting triumph. So long as infidels left the bulk of mankind in unmolested possession of this faith; while they did not attempt to disturb the minds of those who move in the humbler walks of life, unambitious of distinction for wit and science, they were to be pitied on their own account, more than de tested for the mischief they might do the rest of mankind. Under the direction of their fallacious reason, they were running astray. from the true guide to happiness; they were following shadows and illusions instead of the substance; they were striving to quench and eradicate all the best passions and most ennobling propensities of the human heart, for such are surely those which unite man to his Maker, the centre of all excellence. But as they did not seek to have many followers, they were not dangerous enemies; their works were mostly confined to the closets of an inconsiderable few, who were the professed friends of reason, and the irreconcilable enemies of violence and persecution: and no doubt many of them were sincere in their professions. They did not attempt to enlist in their service the passions of the multitude, and therefore the advocates of revelation had little to fear. A war of words, a metaphysical skirmish, by which few were molested, was all that became necessary.
1 Such, and so nearly harmless, has heretofore been the controversy: Infidels seemed to have had little else in view, than to shew their parts, their wit and ingenuity. They have begun with an appearance and profession of serious argumentation, and ended with a few jests. Their friends and followers have had their laugh, and gone on contributing their aid, apparently with little reluctance, to support the institutions of religion, and seeming to be convinced of their utility. But of late years, it is manifest they have changed their ground. The turbulent and disorderly passions of sinful men have been roused; proselytes have been sought from among all ranks and orders of men in society; efforts have been made to circulate books calculated to eradicate from the minds of men, unused to scientific pursuits, all veneration for the solemn and sacred services of religion, and to represent Christianity as a system of tyranny and usurpation, destructive to the welfare of society, To say that these things are ominous of evil, and that there is need of sounding an alarm of danger, may perhaps be represented as the cant of hypocrisy, intended to impose on the ignorant. But those who are attentive and observant of what is going on around them, will not be frightened from what they believe to be their duty, by such insinua. tions. While they frequently observe in the hands of the industri. ous, though unlettered and therefore incautious farmer or mechanic, books, intended to unhinge his mind, to shake his faith in the word of God, and destroy his veneration for things he has been used to hold sacred, how can they avoid thinking that these things come to pass by the efforts, and under the direction, of those who are more knowing then such, well-meaning readers, and better able to com. bine many contrivances for the production of a distant effect? While in these unlearned classes of community, men are frequently found, in the decline of life, expressing their doubts of that faith in which their prime has been spent; and the flippant youth boasting that he has thrown off the shackles of superstition, is there no danger to be apprehended from this great change of manners and ideas? When many more are wavering and undecided whether the whole of religion may not be an imposture, have not they, whọ stand fast in their faith, a loud call to embrace every opportunity for strengthen. ing the firm, satisfying the wavering, convincing the doubtful, and convicting open gainsayers? Our modern infidels tell us, that reason is the only sure guide of man, Well then, away with all laws, human and divine! Down with all the institutions of civil society ! For no law can be made by man, but what will run counter to the reason of some one, and therefore be an imposition on that sovereign guide. No one can hesitate a moment what would be the consequence of the doctrine carried to this extent; and therefore they say, No--we do not contend for the sovereign authority of reason but in matters of religion. This is an affair which rests altogether between God and each individual; and therefore every one should be left entirely to the guidance of his reason. Let us see then how the position stands. In worldly things the reason of each individual is not sufficient; but there is need of restraint, coercion, and authority, sanctioned by the severest penalties ; even, in many cases,