« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
us, and that the knocking may be heard at the door at even, midnight, cock-crowing, or the morning.
4. If you do not intend to repent, it would be perhaps desirable that you should die now. Without repentance, you go on only to add sin to sin. Condemnation increases as time is prolonged, as opportunities are multiplied, and as mercy is enjoyed without accomplishing the object for which it is bestowed. If you had died during this past year, might it not have been well! For, if you will not repent, it will be something not to have the gathering guilt of successive years upon your head. Yea, if you are resolved to perish, how desirable for the sake of others that you would very soon cease to remain here!
5. You will be forgiven if you desire forgiveness, and seek it in the appointed way. Death is threatened, that you may choose life. The flashing sword is waved before your eyes, that you may turn back from the path of destruction. • There is but one name given under heaven among men by which we can be saved.' 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.' • Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him turn to the Lord, and He will abundantly pardon.' Do not say you cannot repent. Go to God, and ask Him to give you the needed grace. Do not say that your guilt is too great, for the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin. If you will, there is more than hope for you,-there are peace and joy in believing. Ages may roll on, but to you the night is far spent, and the day is at hand.' • Awake to righteousness.' • Where the tree falls, there it shall also lie.' The question is, Eternal death or life? How canst thou hesitate? Prepare to meet thy God.'
• Redeem thine hours,—the space is brief
While in the glass the sand-grains shiver ;
When time and thou shalt part for ever.'
UNITED PRESBYTERIANISM—WHAT IS IT?
A. DIALOGUE BETWEEN A UNITED PRESBYTERIAN AND AN ENGLISH INQUIRER. As two gentlemen in a suburb of London were walking together, the one asked the other, Do you know anything of the United Presbyterians ?
I ought to do. Why do you ask ? They have had preaching for several months, I understand, in a hall near by, and are now getting up that new chapel, which promises to be rather handsome. Do you know what their tenets are ?
If you mean the doctrines they hold, they are, in a general way, very much the same with those of the evangelical clergy of the Church of England, and of what we call the orthodox Dissenters, the Baptists, Independents, and Welsh Methodists.
When you say, “in a general way,' am I to understand that they don't quite agree with these parties, or are distinguished from them, in some points of doctrine ?
Not exactly; but that you can tell more precisely and definitely what their doctrines are, than you can those of these parties.
How is that?
Because the Independents and Baptists object to a written creed; and accordingly you find occasionally among them very wide differences of doctrine, and, unfortunately, among a portion of the former, a large infusion
now-a-days of the negative theology, so that for any instruction in the great doctrines of salvation one might sometimes as well hear a Unitarian; and, on the other hand, among some that are sufficiently positive and zealous, one occasionally hears rampant Arminianism; and though in the Church of · England the Articles are defined, subscription to them is so notoriously no proof that a clergyman believes them, or even understands them, or will not preach in opposition to them or positively deny them, that, in the evangelical portion itself, startling defects, discrepancies, and extravagances are occasionally found.
Then what is the security which the United Presbyterians have against these evils and dangers ?
They have a written and a distinct creed; they train all candidates for their ministry in the knowledge and grounds of it; and they require, after ordination, a strict adherence to it.
What is their creed, and where is it to be found?
Fundamentally they hold, in the broadest and strongest manner, that the only infallible rule in religion is the Holy Scriptures; and the divine inspiration of the entire books of the Old and New Testaments is with them a point settled incontrovertibly by the clearest and most complete evidence, which the progress of science and of time does, and can only, augment, whatever agitation may now and then arise from the ignorant, rash, and reckless utterance of exploded fallacies and refuted objections. different interpretations of Scripture, and different deductions from it, prevail, they deem it right to set forth plainly and fully the views which they have adopted of the system of doctrine and duty which it contains; and in this light their subordinate standards are the Westminster Confession of Faith, with one important exception, and Larger and Shorter Catechisms.
By whom was the Westminster Confession and Catechisms drawn up ?
Why, by the Assembly of learned and godly divines convened by the Long Parliament in 1643, for settling the government and liturgy of the Church of England, and for vindicating and clearing her doctrine from false aspersions and interpretations. It was the most eminent council of theologians that ever met in this country, and consisted of about a hundred members, summoned by the Parliament from all parts of England, with eight commissioners, chiefly ministers, from the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. They met in Henry VII.'s Chapel in Westminster Abbey ; their deliberations extended over several years; and the mature results were the Confession of Faith and two Catechisms, which bear the impress of the most profound knowledge and most elaborate care and precision, together with a Directory for Public Worship and a Form of Presbyterial Church Government.
I suppose they are all strictly Calvinistic?
They are, and therefore in thorough agreement with the Confessions of the Reformed Churches abroad.
Calvinism, as I understand, holds salvation to be entirely of God's free grace?
Exactly so. It is just Paulinism, of which Calvin is the great modern expositor. One meets everywhere in the Apostle's writings striking summaries of the grand system which the truths of Christianity form, and which the logical intellect of the Reformer so admirably unfolds and vindicates.
Will you have the goodness to mention one of the passages you refer to ?
Take that in the third chapter of Titus : After that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour ; that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.' What is, and what is not, the source of the sinner's salvation ; what its great blessings; what the agency by which they are applied; what the medium through which they are procured ; and what the end for which they are imparted,—are all there exhibited in the clearest manner, so that it is an epitome of what is called the Calvinistic scheme ; and you will find, on referring to the place, that the doctrine of our utter depravity precedes the statement, and the injunction of good works as the fruits of faith follows it.
What view do the Westminster Standards take of the sacraments ?
That they are divinely instituted means of grace, but not indispensable to salvation, and not dependent for their efficacy upon any virtue in themselves, or upon the persons administering them.
Then the United Presbyterians don't countenance the notion that baptism is regeneration, or that the priest can communicate grace.
No. They acknowledge no agent of grace to the soul but the Holy Spirit, who may regenerate without baptism or with baptism, but without whose operation no sacraments nor ministers can produce any saving efficacy.
You referred to some important point in the Westminster Confession which the United Presbyterians don't hold. What is that?
It is the doctrine that the civil magistrate has authority in or over the Church, to interfere with its doctrine, worship, or administration. That doctrine has been the source of all the invidious distinctions made by the civil power of one party or class of opinions over others, of all the persecutions which it has waged against the disfavoured parties and opinions, and of the corruption and overbearance of those whom it has endowed and fostered. In exception to this pernicious doctrine, the United Presbyterian Church declares, in adopting the Westminster Standards, that she does not approve of anything in these documents which teaches, or may be supposed to teach, compulsory or persecuting and intolerant principles in religion.' Having given me so much information about their doctrine, will
have the goodness to inform me what are the modes of worship followed by the United Presbyterians ? Have they a Liturgy or Book of Common Prayer ?
No. No Liturgy nor Prayer-Book. The objections to these, stated by the Westminster divines in their preface to the Directory for the Public Worship of God, are too clear and valid to admit of their use where they have once been discarded.
What are the objections to the Book of Common Prayer?
That it is of Romish origin, and mainly of Romish structure ; that the ceremonies it imposes are unprofitable and burdensome; that the repetition of all the prayers is wearisome, and leaves little room for instruction; and that its tendency is hurtful to piety both in ministers and people.*
Then all their prayers are extemporary? *' As if there were no other worship or way of worship of God amongst us, but only the service-book ; to the great hindrance of the preaching of the word, and in some places putting of it out as unnecessary, or, at best, as far inferior to the reading of Common Prayer, which was made no better than an idol by many ignorant and superstitious people, who, pleasing themselves in their presence at that service, and their lip-labour in bearing a part in it, have thereby hardened themselves in their ignorance and carelessness of saving knowledge and true piety.' • Add hereunto that the Liturgy hath been a great means to make and increase an idle and unedifying ministry, which
They are ; which tends much to cultivate the spirit of prayer, and ready and appropriate expression ; and, where a devout man marks the operations of Providence, and is impressed with the Scripture he reads, and the truth he preaches, also conduces to great variety and richness in devotion.
Do they use the Psalter or hymns in praise ? Both. The former is exclusively used in many congregations ; but along with it a collection of hymns, compiled for the denomination, is extensively adopted.
Is the metre version of the Psalter one of those used by the Church of England, or that of Watts ?
Neither ; but one much more faithful, terse, and beautiful than any of these, though chargeable with some doggrels, commonly called the Scotch version, but in reality as English as the others, being the production of Roux, a member of the Long Parliament, and a superior Hebrew scholar.
Do they kneel in prayer, and stand in praise ?
At praise the ordinary posture is sitting, which is most unseemly, although a number of congregations stand. At prayer, again, the ordinary posture is standing, and, I am sorry to say, with open eyes, and often gazing about, than which nothing can be more at variance with reverence and heart devotion. There is no rule of the Church regulating the postures. We know that prostration, kneeling, and standing, have all scriptural sanction, although the first is not suited for public assemblies. Where there is ample room, the second is becoming; but the third is most adapted for general use, and was that used in the temple and synagogue, and when observed with the eyes closed, and the head bent, as in some entire congregations, seems the most reverent and appropriate of all. Another form, however, is beginning to creep in, of united indolence and irreverence, sitting at prayer, as if the Most High were to be approached without even the tokens of respect given to an earthly superior.
Are organs or instruments used in the worship?
No; instrumental worship under the old economy could be employed only by the Levites, and with the rest of their service was done away, so that in the New Testament there is no vestige of it in the Gospel Church.
Is there no kneeling even in the communion ?
None. That came in with the doctrine of transubstantiation, and belongs to the adoration of the host in the Romish service. It is a relic of idolatry in the Church of England, as is the repairing to the altar at the communion. The altar has no place in the Gospel Church ; and the communion is a social service, in which, as at the original institution of the Lord's Supper, the brethren are to sit around a common table, and partake successively of the instituted emblems.
How often is the communion observed ?
There is no fixed rule. In none of the congregations is it seldomer than twice a year, in most it is quarterly, in several it is more frequent, and in one or two in Scotland it is monthly.*
By what rule are all these points to be determined ? contented itself with set forms made to their hands by others, without putting forth themselves to exercise the gift of prayer, with which our Lord Jesus Christ pleaseth to furnish all His servants whom He calls to that office.'- Preface to the Directory for the Public Worship of God.
* • The Communion, or Supper of the Lord, is frequently to be celebrated ; but how often may be considered and determined by the ministers and other church governors of each congregation, as they shall find most convenient for the comfort and edification of the people committed to their charge.'—Westminster Directory for Public Worship.
The New Testament. In worship, as in doctrine, nothing is to be admitted for which its sanction cannot be pleaded, and especially nothing which is at variance with its teaching.
In their doctrines and modes of worship, then, the United Presbyterians agree very much with the bulk of orthodox Dissenters? In what respects do they particularly differ from them?
I have already mentioned one very material, in their having a published creed. These other bodies have a creed as truly as the United Presbyterians, by which they judge what is orthodox or not; but inasmuch as it is not written and published, and required to be formally adopted by their ministers or members, they profess to be free of all shackles to human creeds, which is mere sophistry ; for the more intelligent, decided, and earnest they are, the more strictly they adhere to their particular opinions, which are not the less defined and understood by themselves, that they are not set forth in a plain document. We hold, on the contrary, that when our minds are quite made up as to what is the truth of the Gospel on controverted points of doctrine and worship, it is our duty to state it in the clearest and most public manner, for the benefit both of those within and of those without our communion.
There are other respects, not less marked, in which the United Presbyterians differ from the English Dissenters, with whom they have so much in common, especially as to church government; but the consideration of these
you and I must reserve for another interview.
DR COLENSO AND THE PENTATEUCH.*
It is a mistake to suppose that the internal merits of Dr Colenso’s volume entitle it to much consideration. Our library contains infidel productions more conspicuous for their ability and subtilty of thought than the one now before us, and which in some respects would be more difficult to
Had it been given to the world anonymously, there is a possibility that it would not have paid its own expenses, and that the publisher or author would have been out of pocket. It is no new thing to attack Christianity through the sides of Judaism; no new thing to assail the Pentateuch as a bundle of old traditions, which bears the same relation to Jewish history that the Iliad of Homer does to the history of Greece ; no new thing to accuse our blessed Redeemer, who is the way, the Truth, and the Life, of having no more knowledge of the truth or falsity of these early annals of His own country than any Galilean peasant of His day. This, unhappily, is no novelty; but that this should be done by a person who professes his belief in divine revelation, who claims to be not only a Christian man, but also a Christian minister, and who sees nothing in the upholding of such sentiments to prevent him from retaining his office as a bishop in the Church of England, is a new thing in the history of the Church of Christ. We remember no case which corresponds with it. One thinks of the Archbishop of Paris, in the first French Revolution, who publiciy disavowed his belief in the existence of a God; but then he denied the existence of the Christian Church as well. The French priest, in proclaiming his infidelity, abjured his priesthood at the same time. The English bishop, while publishing an infidel
* The Pentateuch and Book of Joshua critically examined by the Right Reverend John William Colenso, D.D., Bishop of Natal,