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cles which these people of Samaria witnessed; the Saviour has not personally visited our cities as he did their's, or endued his ministers with the power of miraculously healing the sick and casting out devils; but we have the record of those very miracles handed down to us by credible witnesses, who sealed the truth of their testimony with their blood; and we discern also the same moral and spiritual effects in the hearts and lives of all who truly receive it, as "the power of God unto salvation." The Samaritans had "known Christ according to the flesh," as one who searcheth the inmost secrets of the heart; "come see a man that told me all that ever I did;" but though we have not thus his immediate presence, we have the same testimony to the truth of his word, for it is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." The Samaritans had witnessed unclean spirits come out of many that were possessed with them, and many that were taken with palsies, and that were lame, healed; we have the testimony of these facts, and also those spiritual miracles of healing, by which sinners are cleansed from their transgression, renewed after the image of Christ, transformed in the spirit of their minds, and translated from the kingdom of satan to that of the Son of God.
3. We next learn that the people of the city of Samaria, having attentively heard the word of God, and received it by faith, "were baptised." They were not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, but hastened to confess him openly before man, by a compliance with his own appointed sacrament, by which all who should receive him as their Saviour, were to declare their belief in him in the presence of the
church and of the world. It is not enough that we have a firm persuasion of the Divine inspiration and infinite importance of Christianity; we must be willing to take up the cross of our Saviour, and, whatever reproach may await us, remain firm and consistent in our profession of his name before mankind. In the present age no such peril or persecution assails us for calling ourselves Christians as threatened the first disciples of Christ; we are not exposed to pain or infamy or death for the sake of our professed religion; and to be baptised in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, even in infancy, has become so general that it is often complied with as a customary rite, with scarcely any consideration of its meaning and importance, either on the part of those who present a child for baptism, or of the baptised person himself when he comes to years of reflection. But very different was the case at the time when these Samaritans became candidates for admission to this holy sacrament; for, in coming to the font of baptism, they solemnly recorded their belief in the Saviour, their reliance upon his atonement, and their determination to live to his glory. They declared by the very act their earnest resolution, through the grace of God strengthening them, "to renounce the devil, and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh; to believe all the articles of the Christian faith, and to keep God's holy will and commandments and to walk in the same all the days of their life." And with regard to ourselves, who were baptised in our infancy, our baptism is of no spiritual value to us, yea rather it will increase our condemnation, if, having thus named the name of Christ, we do not depart from iniquity. We may say of it as the Apostle said of the Jewish rite of circumcision, that
of itself "it availeth nothing, but a new creature;" it is only an outward and visible sign and seal of an inward and spiritual grace, which grace is the washing and regeneration of the soul, by virtue of faith in the atonement of Christ, and through the renewing influences of the Holy Spirit.
4. This gift of the Holy Ghost, we are further informed in the narrative before us, was conferred upon the people of the city of Samaria. In the early days of the Christian church it pleased God in many instances to bestow upon its members not only the ordinary influences of his Holy Spirit, for their instruction, consolation, and sanctification, but also especial and miraculous gifts, for the confirmation and extension of the faith. Probably both the miraculous and the ordinary gifts of the Spirit were given to the church of Samaria: the former have long ceased; but the latter are still promised to every true Christian. It is the Holy Spirit who alone can open the heart, as he did that of Lydia, to attend to the things which are spoken in his word. To him must we look up, to enlighten the eyes of our understanding, to convert our hearts, to strengthen our faith, and to lead us in the paths of peace, of joy, and of devotion to the service of God.
5. This beneficial effect of the preaching and reception of the Gospel was seen in the case of the people of Samaria. Hitherto, though not idolaters like the Gentiles, they had been following the evil inclinations of their unrenewed hearts; some of them were under the dominion of "unclean spirits ;" and the whole of them," from the least unto the greatest," had gone after "a certain man called Simon, who used sorcery, and bewitched the people." But now, believing the preaching of Philip, they turned from their deeds of darkness to newness and holiness of life. Whereas satan and
his ministers had hitherto borne the sway over them, they now be came the servants of God. "One was their Master, even Christ," whose personal instructions to them, when he visited Samaria three or four years before, they probably well remembered; and to whom, as the promised Messiah, they now turned with full purpose of heart, trusting in his atonement, endeavouring to walk in his steps, and worshipping God in the manner he had taught them, "as a Spirit," "in spirit and in truth."
6. And in so doing "there was great joy in that city." The Gospel of Christ, wherever faithfully preached and cordially received, is a source, the only true source, of substantial happiness. The joy of the men of this world is founded on no solid basis; it is at the mercy of time, and chance, and casuality; but the blessings of religion are satisfactory and durable: they include the pardon of sin, a copscience at peace with God, adoption into his family, the enjoyment of his favour, and the hope of everlasting glory in heaven. The healing of the sick, and the casting out of unclean spirits, which caused such joy in the city of Samaria, were expressive emblems of the spiritual blessings conveyed by the Gospel. We were weak, and we are strengthened; we were guilty, and we are pardoned; we were sinful, and we are cleansed; and if the angels themselves rejoice over a sinner that repenteth, how much more should the sinner himself rejoice when thus turned from the error of his ways, and restored to the favour of his Creator. Let us then, like the Samaritans in the text, give heed to the things which are spoken to us of God; let us believe them; let us duly estimate their importance; and let us hold them fast, amidst the troubles of life and in the hour of death, that we may find them the well-spring of happiness to all eternity. Amen.
Tothe Editorofthe Christian Observer.
THOUGH I have not seen M. Malan's book on which your correspondent B. W. makes the "friendly remarks" inserted in your last Number; and therefore cannot pretend to say how far they are just; yet I cannot but think that they contain some positions that cannot be defended by a comprehensive view of the whole of the Holy Scriptures, so as to reconcile the seemingly contradictory passages relating to to doctrine with each other. First, your correspondent objects to M. Malan's proposition, "No works in order to salvation,” and says it should have been, "No works in order to justification." M. Malan evidently means, that our good works have no part in procuring our salvation, which position certainly accords with the whole tenor of Scripture. Had he said, that we may be saved without having any good works to shew, B. W. might well have considered such an assertion objectionable, as it would have been tantamount to saying, that we may be saved without faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; for if we have faith in him as the Saviour of the world, our lives must necessarily exhibit works acceptable both to God and man. B. W. admits that we are justified irrespectively of good works; now, if so, we are evidently saved irrespectively of them; for it is written, "whom he justified them he also glorified (Rom. viii. 30). Good works are certainly necessary to justify (or prove our faith genuine) before man, but not before God who knoweth the heart.
Again, B. W. says, "It is erroneous and dangerous to assert, that faith consists in believing and applying the promises of the Gospel, as if they were spoken absolutely, personally, and individually to ourselves. The promises of the Gospel are of a general, and also an individual application." This passage certainly involves a contradiction;
for, if the promises are of individual application, certainly I have a right to believe that they are made to me individually (M. Malan could not mean exclusively of others), and to apply them to myself individually; and this, connected with an entire reliance on the merits and bloodshedding of Jesus Christ for my salvation, I apprehend is true faith. B. W. says, that "it is unscriptural and dangerous to speak of salvation as already granted and ob. tained." But does not the Apostle Paul do so? "Who hath saved us and called us with a holy calling." This is surely speaking of salvation, as granted and obtained: and does not the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of Zacharias say, that John the Baptist "should go before the face of the Lord to give knowledge of salvation to his people by remission of their sins;" that is, as I understand the passage, a consciousness of forgiveness, by which they might be assured, that God was now reconciled to them by the mediation of his beloved Son, and made them heirs of salvation. True, this salvation, though granted "through the tender mercy of our God," is not yet complete in the experience of Christians in the present life, nor will be so until the resurrection of the body; yet, the Scripture certainly authorises them, yea, most earnestly exhorts them, to believe it, and to rely upon it, as a thing perfected in the purpose of God, with whom to will and to do are the same. "Fear not, I am with thee, I am thy God" (Isaiah): "Fear not, I have redeemed thee (Jeremiah): "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, and covered me with the robe of righteousness." (Isaiah Ixi.) And does not our Saviour assure us, that they who believe on him "have passed from death unto life;" and the Apostle John," now are we the sons of God, although it doth not yet appear what we shall be?"
B. W. also quotes some observa
tions respecting the unchangeable love of God to his people, and the impossibility of their falling from a state of grace, from M. Malan's book, in pages 80 and 81, which he thinks exceptionable; but he does not state why. I am sure he will be very far from replying to this doctrine as the men of the world do, who say, Then may a man follow his evil desires, and live in sin, since, from the unchangeable love of God, he can never come into condemnation. He knows that wherever God bestows his grace on the soul, it excites an unfeigned hatred of sin, and an ardent desire for holiness. "I will put my fear in their hearts, and they shall not depart from me?" I grant that Antinomians, from the declaration of the free and un
changeable grace of God in the Gospel, argue for a liberty to live licentiously;-but why? because they have never known" the grace of God in truth," and have "neither part nor lot in the matter." Since it is impossible that men can be saved but by the free, unconditional gift of this grace in Christ Jesus (unconditional, I say, for faith and repentance, are not conditions on our part, but fruits of this grace bestowed on us), shall the ministers of Christ hide its freeness and fulness from the world, lest they should turn it to licentiousness; as if they were wiser than God, and knew better how to deal with our fallen race than he does? God forbid. F.
Tothe Editorofthe Christian Observer.
THE form of abjuration of Popery used in Ireland, in the numerous conversions to Protestantism now in progress in that country, having been published in the journals, it may be interesting to many of your readers to compare with it the form used in the French Protestant Church in London.
The minister addresses the convert as follows:
"My brethren, Truth cannot be found in two communions whose doctrine and practises are opposite to each other: and the sacred Scriptures teach us, that there is but one bride of Jesus Christ; but one road which leads to heaven; but one church. Therefore they who are concerned in earnest about their salvation, are in conscience bound to abandon a religion in which they perceive errors, and to embrace that which is conformed to the word of God, and consequently true. But as this step is one of infinite importance, it should not be
taken without good reasons, after having well considered the matter, and without any temporal inducement. You then, N. N., who wish to leave the communion of Rome, to unite yourself to our church,
"Do you renounce the traditions which the Romish Church believes should be added to the sacred Scriptures, in order to render our faith more perfect; and do you believe, on the contrary, that every thing which is essential to religion. either as respects doctrine, or worship, or morality, is contained in the pure word of God, which is contained in the writings of the Old and New Testaments?
"Do you renounce the supremacy of the pope; that is, his rank as head and universal oracle of the church, and also the infallibility of any assembly or of any council whatever?
"Do you renounce indulgences, the merit of good works, auricular confession, and purgatory; so as to depend for the remission of your sins, and the hope of your salvation, only upon the free mercy of God,
and upon the merit [mérite] which Jesus Christ has procured for us by his precious blood?
"Do you renounce the belief of the real presence of Jesus Christ in the sacrament, and also transubstantiation, and the sacrifice of the Mass?
"Do you renounce the idolatrous worship which the Romish church pays to the Host; the invocation of saints, and the religious worship of images and relics?
"Do you leave the Romish church, to unite yourself to the communion of the Protestant churches, without any secular interest, any carnal view, but simply with a view to promote the glory of God and the salvation of your soul? "Do you promise to continue immovable in these sentiments, and to continue till death in the profession which you this day make?
"Great God, we thank Thee, with the warmest feelings of our hearts, that in these times of apostacy and scandal Thou consolest us, and repairest from time to time the breaches in thy church, by ever adding to it some one to be saved. It is to Thee alone that we owe this. It is Thou who enlightenest the mind of him who now presents himself here. It is Thou who hast awakened his conscience, who hast inclined his will, and who hast opened a way for him to escape from idolatry and superstition. We praise Thee, we bless Thee for this: but, O Lord, deign to complete thy mercies; grant him perseverance, preserve him invulnerable from all the attacks of satan, the world, the flesh, and the errors of the age, that, being faithful unto death in the profession of a pure faith, and an irreproachable life, he may receive from Thee the crown of everlasting life. Amen."
This formulary is very appropriate; but reasonable doubts, I think, may be alleged against the use of any public recantation whatever, at least on a large scale. Many perCHRIST. OBSERV. No. 303.
sons would conform silently and practically, who would feel alarmed at a formidable public act of abjuration. In the case of the Catholic priesthood no ceremonial of conformity is now required, except the test of receiving the sacrament of the Lord's supper at the hands of a Protestant clergyman; and the consequence has been, that the number of these practical recantations has greatly increased, though with little notoriety or public excitement.
Tothe Editorofthe Christian Observer.
THE Commencement Sermon at Cambridge is of some importance: for the commencing masters of arts are assembled on that occasion in
the university on account of their degree being conferred; and as many of them are not clergymen, and those who are have few opportunities of hearing sermons, being confined to their own churches, it is highly desirable that sound doctrine, enlarged views, and exemplary style, should all be found in the discourse which is then delivered. With regard to Mr. Rose's sermon, at the last Commencement, though I am about to object to some of the writer's positions, I cheerfully allow, that the office might easily have fallen into much feebler hands. His discourse embraces two principal subjects, the end and object of all knowledge-and the kind of knowledge which tends most, rather, according to Mr. Rose's theory, solely, to that end. In the first branch, I agree with the writer; in the second, I must decidedly differ. Mr. Rose would" direct man to aim at a general development of all his faculties, with reference to their great end, and so to point his earnest expectation to another, a better, and a higher state of existence." He has some excellent passages to this effect. It is "mightily important," he says, "that on even minor matters there should be a due re