Page images

upon us : he that is filthy shall be filthy still, and he that is unholy shall be unholy still.

Faith alone can convince men of these essential, vitalizing, and praccal truths. Faith, which “is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen,” strikes at the root of superstition, in its manifold forms of error, by drawing aside the separating veil, and opening eternity upon time. It shews that the two worlds, which we thought so disconnected and diverse, are in fact but one: governed by the same Sovereign, upon the same principles, and by the same laws; the one, indeed, a province in rebellion, where a few only are “faithful found among the faithless :” the other subject with an affectionate allegiance, and basking in the sunshine of the Royal Presence and favour. Faith then asks, Are you of that little flock who are so identified in the interests with their gracious Sovereign, and so assimilated to Him in spirit, that you would hail, with joyful acclamation, His advent “in power and great glory" to this rebellious world : and look up, and lift up your head, knowing that your redemption drawethnigh ? Are you prepared, and willing, if that glorious event be still delayed, to quit at his summons this theatre of apostacy, and to occupy the post to which he may be pleased to call you in his court above? What is the answer of the monitor within to these solemn and searching questions? Does the Spirit witness with your spirit that you are the child and the friend of God? If not, what, I would ask, are your plans and prospects for eternity? When do you expect to receive that Spirit, without which you can be none of Christ's ?—to cultivate that holiness, without which you cannot see the Lord ?—to acquire that meekness, without which you cannot be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light? Were you to answer, I will no longer put off the consideration of my eternal interest to a vague, undefined, and perpetually receding future : to. day indeed there are obstacles, but to-morrow I will address myself to this important work; I would still reply, May not this night thy soul be required of thee? Nay, may not an angry God spare life, only to consign you to a living death ; to give you over to a thoughtless and reprobate mind? If to-day you harden your heart, may he not swear in his wrath, “ They shall not enter into my rest ?".

But why need I urge the terrors of the Lord to enforce an imme. diate acceptance of his gracious invitations ? Are not his ways ways of pleasantness, and all his paths peace? Is not each sinful temper eradicated, a fetter struck off, which not only enslaved you to Satan, but whose iron entered into your soul? Is not each worldly affection crucified, a weight cast away, ennabling you to run with patience and cheerfulness the race that is set before you? Is not each grace of the Divine life which you cultivate a faculty of present enjoyment, as well as an appetite for that feast of bliss to which you shall hereafter sit with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God? Put the answer to these important questions to the proof of experience. Put to proof, whether a salvation from the power and the love of sin is not the present health and present happiness of the soul. Put to proof the wisdom and truth of that principle which the angel's assertion to Joseph intimates, that then does Christ pre-eminently and emphatically bear the name of Jesus the Physician, Saviour, Deliverer of his people; when he has saved his people from their sins.

J. M. H.



To the Editor of the Christian Observer. There are times when it is necessary to recur to first principles, in a manner which, to the established Christian, must seem almost trite and common place. Allow me, then, to preface the remarks which I am about to make, and by which means I may perhaps be more clearly understood, by a brief statement of what I conceive-and in this I am sure you will agree with me—to be simple truth, upon a very important subject, although strangely controverted at the present time—I allude to the right method of attaining an accurate and saving knowledge of the contents of Holy Scripture.

From the variety and discordance of sentiment which prevails, even upon subjects of importance, amongst those who yet glory in the recognition of one Inspired Volume, as the sole and authoritative source from whence all their religious opinions have been derived, one might be tempted to imagine that that Sacred Book contained no directions as to the method by which we may arrive at an accurate knowledge of . its contents. But no such directions have undoubtedly been afforded—“whoso runneth may read;" and if so, let us mark the consequence. They must be infallible in their result, to every one who does but submit himself to their guidance. In the pursuit of any inferior science, our proficiency will always depend upon the degree of our adherence to the particular method of investigation which is demanded by the very nature of that science; but in the present instance, (if such directions are indeed laid down, since these must be inspired equally with every other part of the book which contains them,) not only may we be said to be in danger of losing the object of our research, by a neglect of the method best calculated to lead to it; but, on the other hand, in adopting them we must—we cannot fail to-arrive at it. The consequence of which is, we may here observe, by the way, that the discrepancy of opinion above alluded to, is obviously not in the least to be laid to the charge of any deficiency, or even obscurity, in the Divine Word, but solely to the partial or entire neglect or refusal, on the part of man, to adopt that method of investigation which has been laid down by its Divine Author.

Now the directions to which I allude may, I think, be briefly stated to be as follows. 1. The inward teaching and illumination of the Spirit of God is, we are taught, essentially requisite to a right understanding of the word of God, and that this is to be obtained by believe ing prayer ; so that in reaching that word, we must first of all earnestly pray for, and simply depend upon, this Divine illumination and teaching. This is either directly expressed or necessarily implied in such passages as the following :-Prov. i. 23; 1 Cor. ii. 10, 15 ; 2 Cor. iv. 6 ; Ephes. i. 17, 18; iv. 18, to v. 8, 14 ; John vi. 44, 45 ; xiv. 16, 17; xvi. 13, 14; 1 John ii. 20, 27; Luke xi. 9-13; James i. 5; Ephes. i. 17; Ps. xxv. 5; cxix. 18, 27, 33, 73. From these passages we learn, in the plainest terms possible, that without Divine teaching, through the natural blindness, ignorance, and alienation of the human mind, man cannot" understand what God has revealed that in those instances in which he does under

stand, it is simply “because he has received the Spirit of God that he may know the things freely given of God," because “God has commanded the light to shine into his heart,"—has “given him the spirit of wisdom and revelation,”—and he has thus become “light in the Lord ;" because he has been “ taught of the Lord;" because “the Spirit of truth has Himself led him into all truth,” and having “an unction from the Holy One," he thus “knows all things ;” and we are at the same time taught by precept, promise, and example, that this invaluable blessing is to be obtained by prayer, and that God will infallibly bestow it upon all who diligently seek it. But this is not all.

2. In another class of passages we find equally inculcated the duty of submitting the word of God to an accurate investigation; such an investigation-1 allude more particularly to the term "searching "---as that to which we should submit any document whatever in the meaning of which we were particularly interested. See Ps. 1, 2 ; Prov. ii. 1–5; John v. 39 ; Acts xvii. 11 ; 2 John iii. 14–17. By this is implied, not only that we read over the books of Scripture diligently in the order in which we find them; but if, for instance, we would obtain a correct understanding upon any given subject, we must first refer to and bear in mind all the passages which have reference to it, and not one class only (as is too often the case) which may seem to favour one view of it; for “ every word of God is pure,” “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God," "whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning;” and then, secondly, we must compare them one with the other—"comparing,” as the Apostle says, “spiritual things with spiritual.” Thus, when the great enemy tempted our Saviour, by quoting an isolated passage of Scripture (a most common device, for there is in fact scarcely a form of false doctrine but what is founded upon some detached passage or passages), our blessed Lord replied, by quoting some other passage, which explained and limited its meaning. “It is written again,” &c., and then we must likewise search the Scriptures, as the word of God; that is, we must enter upon and prosecute the investigation without bias, and disentangled from the influence of preconceived opinion. “ The meek will He guide in judgment, and the meek will He teach His way.” (Ps. xxv. 9.) “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall not enter therein.” (Mark x. 15.) It is at once obvious that in whatever degree a man is influenced by preconceived opinions, however derived, to that extent his opinions are not formed from the word of God. + Now by comparing together these two classes of passages we arrive at the only but absolutely certain method of obtaining a right knowledge of revealed truth ; and it is in fact one example out of many of an established principal in the moral government of God, that his blessing is to be sought for and obtained in the diligent use of the means which he has appointed. Thus in the present instance, while we seek by fervent prayer, and simply depend upon, the teaching of the Holy Spirit of God, we are to use the faculties which he has afford. ed us for the investigation of that word, just as much as if the result depended exclusively upon our own exertions. In other words, the Spirit teaches through the medium of the written word, understood in its plain and literal signification, and not without it; so that in order to understand it aright, we are to address ourselves to the considera

[ocr errors]

tion of it, just in the same manner that we would to any other work of history, biography, and science, the meaning of which we might be anxious to ascertain. It is true in this particular, as in every other, that God is sovereign. He prevents man with his goodness, and whilst the very desire to pray and to “search," is from him, he is sometimes pleased to impart great light to the understanding, when comparatively little research has been made. But the method to which I have just alluded is nevertheless the ordinary method of his providence and grace; it is the method of his own appointment, in the use of which we shall never be disappointed, whilst our success will usually bear an exact proportion to the degree of our adherence to it.

I necd not say how opposed to this view of the subject, and therefore how unscriptural, is the system which would lead us to rest satisfied with “ tradition," and what is called “the Church teaching," instead of daily searching for ourselves, with the Bereans of old, “whether these things are so;" which would persuade us that if any influence of the Spirit be promised in this matter, the object of it is but to impress upon our minds what we have learned before from other sources, and that even the command to "search the Scriptures," is not strictly applicable under existing circumstances.

It is not however so much, sir, with immediate reference to the class of writers by whom these and similar tenets have been recently revived, and who have met with faithful opposition in your pages, that I have now taken up my pen to address you ; but with reference to an author of far longer standing and more eminence in the church. I allude to the Rev. G. S. Faber. In a work he has lately published on “ the Primitive Doctrine of Election," I lament to see him maintain an opinion directly opposed to the foregoing plain and simple deductions, as they appear to me, from the word of God, and which he even ventures to designate as “delusive and unscriptural." Upon the particular subjert of the work to which I refer, I apprehend comparatively few will be found to agree with its respected author, but with reference to this I will not add another word. The topic to which I allude bears equally upon every subject of scriptural investigation. Mr. Faber maintains that the illumination promised in the word of God, and necessary to our understanding it aright, is “ not intellectual, but moral,”—that its object is “ to teach us to know ourselves, ab intra, -” our weakness,' -“all that we have become in consequence of sin," &c.—but not to enable us to come to a decision, ab extra, upon any part of divine truth which may happen to be litigated. That we are therefore authorised “ to pray for moral tempers and dispositions, to collect and weigh the evidence which lies within our reach ;" but we are “not to expect any illuminating descent of the Spirit into our minds, after the way of a communication to the irtellect."

Now, sir, I will appeal to any unprejudiced mind, whether the texts I have before cited, do not expressly authorize us (as long, of course, as we are found in the exercise of all other appointed means) both to pray for and to expect the unerring guidance of the blessed Spirit of all truth, and that (for I do not know how to adopt phraseology more correct) by the way of a direct communication to the intellect. For the illumination there spoken of is a light shining within, to convey to us “ the knowledge of God,” _“ that we may know the things given us of God,"—that we may discern” the things given us of God, Carist. OBSERY. APP.

5 G


that we may "behold the wondrous things of his law;"—it is designed to teach us”-“to lead us into all truth,"—that we mayknow all things," - whilst without it, we are in a state of darkness—we do not and cannotknow them. Can any language be plainer than this?

But let us examine the arguments by which Mr. Faber endeavours to support his proposition. In the first place, he maintains, that to pray for intellectual illumination is to pray for “ personal infallibility,”

-that upon the supposition of such a prayer being offered by a person of piety, and receiving an answer, it would then become as wrong to call in question the opinion of such an individual, as it would be to question the message of an inspired apostle or prophet.” But the fallacy of this objection is at once apparent, when we consider the media through which prayer is answered. Not only, as already stated, is prayer requisite in this matter, but a believing dependence upon divine teaching, and a diligent unprejudiced, comprehensive, and persevering investigation of the divine volume; both of wbich may be exercised in various degrees, attended with a corresponding variance in result, and in none of which is perfection attainable in the present life. The objection is surely as absurd, as it would be to assert, that if a man of real piety pray for faith and love, or any other grace, and obtain an answer to his prayer, he must thenceforward necessarily be perfect, and never more be subject to the risings of unbelief or uncharitableness. What I maintain is this,—that a right knowledge of revealed truth will be attained just in proportion to the adherence of any individual to the directions just alluded to; whilst without them it will not be attained at all.

But Mr. Faber has another, and perhaps at first sight a somewhat more plausible,argument. It is this. We have been assured by different individuals, and by some most eminent for piety, that they have prayed for divine teaching, and yet the conclusions to which they have arrived appear to be wholly dissimilar, and that upon important points. It is indeed most extraordinary, that in such a connexion as this, Mr. Faber should at all allude, as an instance in point, to the case of two individuals, the one of whom he himself terms an “ infidel," and the other a “ God-denying apostate ;" but who both stated that they sought direction from above in their pursuit of truth. Can he for one moment imagine that either an infidel or a Socinian, rejecting as they do the only medium of access to the throne of the Majesty on high, can offer up acceptable prayer? If not, how is any instance of this kind in the slightest degree relevant ?

But let us look at another instance which Mr. Faber adduces, and which may be fairly admitted to bear directly upon the point at issue. Although I believe it may be proved from the history of the church in all ages, that all who have been really “ taught of God," have been entirely agreed as to all matters of essential importance, and necessarily connected with salvation ; and if there be a difference here, it is apparent, but not real,-in the mode of stating the truth, but not in the truth itself,—yet it must be admitted that upon many lesser, although in themselves important, matters, men who have both sin. cerely prayed, and searched the Scriptures too, do materially differ in opinion. Thus then Mr. Faber adduces an instance, in which, in point of fact, two individuals of eminent piety sought, by prayer, divine teaching and direction, and, as we may conceive, sought it sincerely, upon the points at issue, between Calvinists and Arminians;

« PreviousContinue »