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“ seed of the kingdom,” and especially the privileges of the Gospel, including the present pardon of sin and the renovation of the heart. What was the issue ? As if their chains, labours, wrongs, and expatriation from the shores of their own country, had predisposed them to embrace the Gospel, or, rather, as if especially prepared of God, these poor outcasts caught at the “glad tidings” with the utmost eagerness. The truth fermented in the mass, and rapidly extended its influence. The offer of pardon, through faith,—the plainest of all propositions, and yet, to the carnal mind, the most perplexing, —was easily understood by the poor Africans; and they pressed to the cross to receive the great salvation. Neither the cruel lash of the whip, the stocks, the dungeon, nor the infliction of any other possible injury; nor yet the imprisonment of their Ministers, the shutting up of their chapels, and the interdicts of law against their Christian communion ; could stop the progress of the work, or extinguish the sacred flame of piety and love which had been kindled amongst them. Like the Israelites in Egypt, the more they were oppressed, the more they grew in numbers, strength, and piety. And after the struggles of many years, the endurance of every variety of injury, and bearing meekly every possible form of contempt, by the force of the truth they had embraced, they are free, they are happy, and they are on the road to civilization and wealth.
The Methodist church in the West Indies presents to view one of the most magnificent triumphs of the Gospel in modern times ; and illustrates, as clearly as the thing can admit of illustration, the divine efficiency of the simple doctrines of the Gospel. As the forest grows from the slips and seeds deposited in the bosom of the earth, so from the truth taught by a few despised and much-injured Missionaries in these regions, a beautiful and holy community has grown up, rich in piety and pure in morals. Whilst other religious appliances have utterly failed when tried, and have often not been tried at all, because a failure was certainly anticipated, the Ministers of this doctrine never for a moment thought of abandoning even so unpromising a field for the want of success. They knew that the Saviour whom they preached died equally for “ Jew and Gentile, bond and
free ;” and that faith in his name would as certainly bring the one as the other into a justified and regenerate state, and fit them for the communion of the church, the blessings of civil freedom, and the joys of heaven. The effects are before the world ; but the world, through false principles and besotted prejudices, cannot see them. In the meanwhile, peace with God in the heart, possessed beneath a sable skin, joys divine, flowing from lips unaccustomed to the language of praise, the feeling of love and charity, the idea and the habit of worship, the admission of the obligations of Christian morality, the gradual influence and authority of scriptural discipline, the adoption of the marriage-bond, the training and education of Christian families,—have all united to prepare these people for the blessings of civil freedom, and to fit them to render a loyal allegiance to the State.
Besides the salvation which the doctrine of faith has wrought,which is itself sufficient for our argument,—all the collateral blessings referred to have sprung from this root. It does not embrace, in detail, the separate graces of the Christian character, and the virtues of public life; but it is the soul of them all. As the heart propels the blood through the veins, so as to give life, vigour, health, and beauty to the body; so this doctrine gives tone, strength, and activity even to the commonly-recognised moral and social virtues. Had the national obligation of emancipation been hazarded by some master-spirit, without the concurrent influence and teaching of true religion, as preparatory to the reception of the blessing by the slaves, the scheme would have been deemed Utopian. The negro race, in our own colonies, owe their personal freedom to the influence of Christian teaching on their own character, and the world owes all the consequences of this mighty moral example to the force and energy of the doctrine of salvation by faith. The hands which struck off the fetters of these poor slaves were the Missionaries of the Cross, who taught them that they were men, led them to the temple of religion, and pointed them to a glorious immortality. In this, as in all similar cases, the great preparatory ameliorations which have taken place, are owing to the influence of vital religion. Such effects as these never come from the hands of secular legislation. Tribes, classes, and nations, which obtain improved institutions, do so by the elevation of personal character ; and this again is brought about by the power of the Gospel.
Similar illustrations of the wonderful efficacy of the doctrine of salvation by faith, might be given from many other quarters. But we desist, with the one remark, that the same simple truth has been taught to savage hordes, to polluted idolaters, and to the children of the wilderness, with equally satisfactory results. Tens of thousands, in less than a generation, have been brought into Christian communion, kneel together at the table of the Lord, exhibit all the characteristics of the spiritual mind, read the word of God, devoutly sing his praises, and offer prayer to him, in their now Christian families; they observe all the rules of morality and godly order, and live in the joyful hope of heaven : and this new creation has all sprung from one only root,—the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith.
5. The genuineness of this faith, as being scriptural and divine, stands corroborated by every form and kind of evidence.
We have the evidence of personal testimony. In imitation of the
primitive church, it has, through the whole period of our history, been considered the sacred duty of all who themselves have found the Lord to become his “ witnesses” in the world. This is believed to be one of the functions and obligations of the church. To “acknowledge," “confess," “ bear witness” to, and “ follow,” our Lord, are terms in constant use in relation to the practice of the first believers. The confession of faith in Christ by the apostolic church was not subscription to a creed, the adoption of formularies, meeting at the Lord's table, union in public worship-some of these, no doubt, were included ; but it was a living, personal testimony, borne by grateful and sanctified spirits, to the truth and grace of God.
Much obloquy has been thrown on some of our institutions and means of grace, on account of their design to call forth this living testimony of a believing church to the work of God in their hearts. A thousand silly objections are started, to all of which one only answer is perfectly sufficient. Does the practice agree with primitive and apostolic principle and precedent ? We reply, that innumerable passages of the New Testament, some speaking the language of blessing and privilege, others of precept, command, and narrative, can only be interpreted on the principle we maintain. In this first age we have nothing like an ecclesiastical faith,—men made believers on the ground of an economical arrangement,—or adoption into the Christian family by subjection to a ceremony, without any saving knowledge of Christ. A mute church, or one made vocal only by the utterance of a common creed, or responses to a common form of prayer, was unknown to the Apostles. Every one was supposed to • know in whom he had believed,” and to be under an obligation “ with his mouth to make confession unto salvation.” (2 Tim. i. 12 ; Rom. x. 10.) All this, no doubt, was under the judicious direction and guidance of the Apostles and Elders; but in their intercourse with the world, and amongst their unbelieving relations, they were left to exercise their gifts, and to bear their witness, as an enlightened mind might dictate, or as the “Spirit gave them utterance."
We have encouraged this kind of testimony, under proper guidance ; and great has been the benefit to us and to the world. Much of the instruction of both the Old and New Testament consists of the memorials of living piety. The best, indeed almost the only, monuments of the church in the first ages, of any value or consideration, are the experimental and suffering testimony of the martyred hosts who sealed their faith by their blood.
“Our fathers, too, where are they?” They are silent as regards the accustomed places of their long “prophesying in sackcloth ;” (may we not call it ?) but, “ being dead, they yet speak to us.” We do not boast, and yet we have our succession, -a succession of living witnesses. For more than a century, a long and numerous line of
Christian believers, united to each other in bonds of the tenderest love, have spoken the same language, and attest, that, through the truth they have heard, they have attained to faith, and enjoyed an assurance of salvation. This witness is echoed by multitudes in all stations, from distant shores of many nations, and in numerous languages. It is difficult to imagine either collusion or deception in this
The question is one of fact; namely, whether or not belief in the doctrines taught by our church has resulted in those blessings and changes which are described as belonging to the primitive church. It is not in the nature of things, that all the parties concerned must be incompetent to give their testimony in such cases ; and to represent the religion of the new covenant, as of so equivocal a character as not to admit of it, is to malign its Author and design. St. Peter said, “ Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” (1 Peter iii. 15.) It may serve the purposes of those who have no experimental knowledge, or, according to St. Paul, “assurance of knowledge,” to represent the whole process of conversion as an unintelligible operation, and those who profess to “know in whom they have believed,” as fanatical persons. But the question is not so treated in Scripture ; and on other subjects the inductive test is taken as conclusive evidence. When millions of lips attest the same truth, some on earth and the greater number in heaven ; when this witness is not the language of a class, but of all classes,—men of acute intellect, of erudition, of scientific pursuits ;-of students and masters of the general principles and rules of law; of merchants and men of business, as well as of peasants and operatives ;-we say, when all these bear a united testimony, it must in the main be true, if any certainty of knowledge is to be attained on earth. These “ are our epistle, known and read of all men.” (2 Cor. iii. 2.)
Our case is a plain one. Those who deny our divine vocation will necessarily have to prove that Methodism is not Christianity. This will oblige them to put a negative on the testimony which we adduce, and to pronounce the whole to be one bold, long-continued, united, simultaneous, many-tongued LIE. We say nothing now on the question of polity ; that is a distinct thing; we merely refer to the living witness of our people.
If this be denied, then it must be contended that the whole system is rotten falsehood; that its disciples are composed of deceivers and deceived ; and, moreover, that the lives and deaths of those who have departed from this world were mere embodied mockery. All this must be done, or the inference is inevitable,that “this witness is true ;” and, being allowed, then a proof of true religion is made out, a work of God is involved; and from this it will follow, that the evidence of a state of scriptural Christianity is fully established,
If this united witness be not, in itself, deemed sufficient, we are willing to abide by the test of St. James : “ Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” Evidence of a sound and scriptural faith
may be considered both personal and collective. Personal evidence of faith, from works, must be sought in the individual piety and holiness of believers. “ The tree is known by its
fruit.” (Matt. xii. 33.) God forbid that we should lay claim to a piety, holiness, zeal, and devotedness, anywise equal to our obligations, or at all on a level with the mighty mercy and grace of redemption, the promised influence and sanctifying power of the Comforter, or the perfection of the divine law. Nothing of this is meant, and we are perfectly willing to confess our sins and short-comings. But our question relates to the truth of things, to a genuine result, rather than to the degree in which it exists; this of necessity greatly varies in different individuals. We have often been exposed to a crossfire from the batteries of our assailants; and while one class has lampooned us on account of a supposed fanaticism, by reason of our holding the doctrine of salvation by faith only, another has done the same on the contrary plea of our being legal, and insisting on the obligations of practical piety, and the diligent discharge of holy duties. Our very name imports strictness of life ; and since it might be deemed invidious, and savouring of vanity, were we to argue from the piety of our own age, we will put our proof on times which are past. That the fathers and people of our community were eminent in self-denial and the endurance of persecution ; constant and fervent in the spirit and habits of prayer and devotion ; regular in their attendance upon divine ordinances; attentive and humble in the house of God; conscientious in the sanctification of the Sabbath, and anxious to improve its sacred rest; plain, sober, chaste, and Christian in their modes of life; zealous in the support of the institutions of religion, and laborious in the dissemination of the truth ; pitiful, benevolent, and attentive to the wants of the suffering poor, the afflicted, and dying we say, that all these marks of piety and good works were extensively, if not universally, regarded, is attested by the reproaches of enemies, as well as by the records of our dead. When these things were novel, they excited the astonishment of all men ; now that they are common, they raise the wonder of none. The faith of the Gospel in the case of our noble ancestors, eminently “ worked by love ; ” and they “ excelled in every good work.” They obeyed the apostolic injunction : “ Add to your faith virtue ; and to virtue knowledge ; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience ; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity ;” and the annexed promise has been fulfilled : “So an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the