« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
consoles them in affliction; he sanotifies them by his Holy Spirit; he "guides them with his counsel" through life; and at length" receives them to glory."
Such is the character, and such is the privilege, of the true Christian. If then we desire the favour of God, if we wish to be safe and happy here and hereafter, let it be our endeavour to increase in love to him. Thus shall we have the most convincing, yet the most simple, evidence of our being his true servants. Knowledge alone is not religion; but love, the offspring of genuine faith, and the companion of every good word and work, in proportion as its holy influence is exhibited in our lives, will stamp our character as the children of God.
Tothe Editorofthe Christian Observer.
contrast the sentiments of such a master in Israel as Dr. Doddridge, with the crude and indigested theories which are at present unsettling the minds of some truly pious but ill-judging persons, and distressing others who have not attained to that settled confidence which they are led to view as necessary to salvation.
A LOVER OF THE OLD PATHS.
"Much religious dejection has arisen for want of rightly distinguishing between the first principles of the divine life and the highest improvement of it.
MUCH discussion having of late taken place respecting what is called the doctrine of assurance, I am anxious to lay before your readers the following remarks on the subject, from the pen of a divine, whose personal piety, critical ability, and truly Christian and judicious tone of sentiment entitle him to the highest respect as an expositor of Scripture. It might be too trite to insert extracts on the subject from the already justly popular works of Dr. Doddridge; but it is not generally known that four volumes of interesting sermons from his pen have been recently given to the world, after having slept in manuscript since the death of their venerated author. (For an account of his work, and the transcript of a sermon from it, see Christ. Observ. for January 1827.) In one of these discourses occur the following sound and scriptural statements on the subject of assurance; which, as the work is hitherto little known, it may be well to extract for the public benefit. It is truly consolatory and edifying to
"It is true, indeed, that the most eminent attainment is desirable; but the growth of grace, like that of nature, is gradual. There may be a principle of true religion in the heart, and yet it may be far short of maturity; as there is a vast difference between a new-born infant and the vigour of the full-grown man. From the moment a man casts himself at the feet of Christ with a sincere and prevailing desire to be saved by him in his own way; that is, in the way of holiness; he is, according to the tenour of the word of God, intitled to the promise of mercy: but it may not be till after a course of many years that he shall have obtained that full mastery of his appetites and passions, that firm trust and confidence in God, that deep resignation to his will, that active zeal for his glory, that generous disregard to his own interest where that of God and his fellowcreatures is concerned, which may, after all, crown the work; and especially that full assurance of the Divine love. I mention this the rather, because I know that many injudicious teachers have made assurance of the very essence of faith, meaning by assurance, not a full persuasion of the power and grace of Christ in general, but a certainty that they themselves should be saved by him; a great and grievous error, which cannot be so much as reconciled with the principles of common
sense, without overthrowing those of Scripture. For, on what can this assurance be founded? On a personal revelation? Can it be imagined, that every believer has an immediate revelation from God, even previous to his being a believer, that he is intended for eternal glory? And this testimony of the Spirit of God to an unbeliever is most unscriptural; if not, it must go upon the suppostion of a universal salvation; and if even that were allowed, yet no man could be sure he should escape damnation, if there be such a thing, for the time that punishment shall endure. So that, in short, the only thing that can lay a foundation for such a universal assurance of immediate happiness through Christ, if it does not arise from the consciousness of being formed by grace to a meetness for glory, must be a hope which the devils themselves may have, and which overthrows the very first principles of Christianity, and must be
as false as the Gospel is true. I say this, because I fear the doctrine that I oppose is one of the monsters which the present age has produced. But if we are to judge by facts, as well as by reason and Scripture, it is very certain that some doubts may consist with true faith. It is certain that a man who fears the Lord, and obeys the voice of his servant, may walk in darkness, and see no light; and it is as certain that many begin where they ought to end. There is a great deal of reason to believe, that they often take the warmth of their own affections and imagination for the testimony of the Spirit of God; and setting out with a premature assurance, they end in apostacy: whereas we see many humble souls, that go on for a long time under a heavy burthen, and yet walk much more steadily and honourably, and end their days with more comfort to themselves, and more reputation to a Christian profession."
Tothe Editorofthe Christian Observer. THE following paper, though drawn up by an American gentleman, for the instruction of his own countrymen, appears to me so applicable to the arguments of some among ourselves, that I transmit a copy of it for insertion in your pages. The writer, of course, did not mean, as he twice observes, seriously to apologize for Pharaoh; his shrewd irony being intended not to exculpate that tyrannical monarch, but to shew the proportionably greater criminality of those who, possessing an infinitely higher code of faith and morals, act like him, and with far less plausible semblances of argument for their proceedings.
Having often heard Pharaoh censured for enslaving the Hebrews having often heard the expressions, "Egyptian slavery," "Egyptian bondage,' Egyptian oppression," as well as "Egyptian darkness,"-it came into my mind a few days since, to examine what kind of bondage the Hebrews were held in, and what excuses Pharaoh could have made to himself for such a course towards that people. The result of my inquiry was rather surprising to myself; and led me to make some remarks on the case, under the above title.
Let me not, however, be misunderstood. I do not mean to justify the conduct of Pharaoh towards Israel. My apology is not absolute, but comparative. I only object to
the practice of representing the slavery of Israel as the hardest ever endured; and of Pharaoh as the most unjustifiable of all slaveholders. It is not correct. And the people of every country where slavery is tolerated, and especially slave-holders, would do well to borrow their proverbs respecting slavery and oppression, from a different quarter than ancient Egypt. If I am not mistaken, these two facts can be fully made out, from the Hebrew account of their bondage-first, that it was not as hard as several kinds of modern slavery; and secondly, that Pharaoh not only had more plausible, but better, reasons for his course, than many modern slave-holders have. In proof of the first, I adduce the following facts:
1. The Hebrews were allowed to live separate to themselves, and retain their own manners, customs, and religion. (Exod. ix. 26.) They formed a community by themselves. Their slavery was rather political than personal. They were held as public, not as private, property. The labour exacted from them was for the benefit of the state, rather than of individuals. (Exod. i. 9-14.)
2. They were not bought and sold, transferred from hand to hand, and removed from place to place, as caprice or profit might dictate. They formed family connexions as they pleased, which were not broken in upon. The education and management of their own children were left to themselves; and all the endearments of the domestic circle were untouched; the temporary at tempt to destroy their male children excepted, which we will notice presently.
3. They remained where they were first settled, in the best part of the land of Egypt. (Gen. xlvii. 4-11 Exod. ix. 26.)
4. They not only were allowed to retain the property which they brought into Egypt, but greatly increased it during their stay. (Gen. xv. 14; Exod. xii. 38.)
5. They lived well, by their own confession;-so much so, that they afterwards lamented the loss of their good living; and had almost returned to slavery for the sake of it. (Exod. xvi. 3; Ñum. xi. 4—6.)
6. They were made to labour; but their great increase is against the notion that their labour was so very oppressive as some suppose. (Exod. i. 9-14.) Experience proves that oppressive labour, especially on the part of females, operates against a great increase. But the increase of the Hebrews, while in Egypt, I think, unparalleled.
7. It does not appear that they were shut out from any of the common modes of improvement and education. The various works performed-as spinning, weaving, and embroidery; working in wood and iron; in gold, silver, and brass; even to the cutting and setting of diamonds, with many other things connected with the erecting of the tabernacleprove a very considerable knowledge of the ornamental, as well as useful, arts. (Exod. xxxv-xxxix. ; Num. vii.) The direction to write parts of their law upon their doorposts and on their gates (Deut. xi. 18-20), seems to imply that the great mass of the people, if not all, could read and write. The notice of writing the names of officers (Num. xi. 26), of writing the law on pillars (Deut. xxvii. 3), of writing a copy of the law upon stones (Joshua viii. 32), of the king's writing out a copy of the law for his own use (Deut. xvii. 18), agree with the opinion that reading and writing were common among the people.
8. The attempt to destroy their male children was the darkest feature in the case. We shall have occasion to refer to this again, in noticing Pharaoh's excuses and rea
In this place I must notice, that the whole facts of the case favour the opinion that the number destroyed must have been very small. The first attempt to effect it totally failed. The attempt to drown them,
appears to have lasted but a short time. It was not, we may infer, in operation at the birth of Aaron; as nothing is said about a difficulty in saving him. Moses was but three years younger. (Exod. vii. 7.) It was in force at his birth. (Exod. ii, 2, 3.) At three months old he was cast out, but was immediately rescued and adopted by the daughter of Pharaoh. No other case is particularly mentioned. From Acts vii. 20, it seems probable some others were cast out. In all probability, the same sympathy which led Pharaoh's daughter to save and adopt Moses, led her to prevail on her father to abandon the cruel practice. We can indeed hardly conceive of her indulging the full tide of female and maternal kindness for the infant Moses, and not make an effort to save others from the watery grave from which she had rescued him. That the practice was abandoned-that but few were destroyed-I think nearly certain, from the fact that there were 600,000 men contemporaries with Moses when they left Egypt, and that the number of Israelites immediately after leaving Egypt (Exod. xii. 27), compared with their number on entering Egypt (Gen. xlvi. 27), only about 215 years before, shews that they doubled, in less than every fifteen years-an unusual increase. The above statement, I think, proves that Egyptian slavery was much milder than the slavery which has been often practised since, and is now practised by many who profess Christianity.
The following facts, drawn from the Hebrew records, will shew, I think, that Pharaoh had what he probably thought good reasons for holding that people in bondage ;reasons which at least will bear comparison with what pass for good
1. The Hebrews were received into Egypt at a time of unexampled scarcity, when like to perish; and were, with their flocks and herds, supported free of cost (Gen. xlv.
10, 11); while the Egyptians, who raised the grain laid up in store (Gen. xli. 34, 35), had to sell their flocks, herds, and even themselves, for food for their families. (Gen. xlvii. 15-24.) While the obligation of Pharaoh to Joseph for his foresight and ability is fully admitted, it is thought that some bounds ought to be set to the returns made to him, and especially to his whole kindred. His being made prime minister, the cordial welcome given to his family in their distress,-giving them as a residence the best district in Egypt (Gen. xlvii. 11),-supporting them from the public stores for about six years (what they carried to Canaan cost them nothing, as Joseph returned their money, Gen. xlii. 25, xliv. 1), and their prospect of a free trade with Egypt, with Joseph prime minister there, might with some reason be thought a pretty liberal reward. Not many good deeds get better pay.
2. At the end of the famine, instead of returning to Canaan, as might naturally have been pected, the Hebrews continued to occupy the land of Goshen. Joseph never forgot that he was a Hebrew, or lost any just and proper opportunity of advancing the interests of his own kindred. While Egypt owed much to him in many respects, various things were so managed (perhaps accidentally) that the Hebrews had decidedly the advantage, as to wealth, ease, and the means of improvement, over the Egyptians. The close of the famine found the Egyptians without money, flocks or herds, or even personal freedom (Gen. xlvii. 12-26), and under an engagement to give Pharaoh one fifth part of all their produce. On the other hand, the Israelites were full handed, had lost nothing, were in possession of the best part of Egypt, and had under their management the cattle of Pharaoh (Gen. xlvii. 6); and as all the cattle of the Egyptians had come into Pharaoh's
hands, the Hebrews no doubt re'ceived a good portion of Pharaoh's fifth, in payment for managing them for him. They had full employment, of the very kind they preferred (Gen. - xlvi. 33, 34): no wonder therefore they were willing to have remained where they were. Joseph continued to direct the affairs of Egypt for about seventy years after the famine; and we may well suppose, that, with the advantages which the Hebrews enjoyed over the Egyptians, they must, as to comfort and wealth and improvement, have been greatly in advance. This may not have been much noticed at first; but it could not but excite notice at the time of Joseph's death, or soon afterwards. A king that ascended the throne, after the death of Joseph, saw how things were proceeding, and had as much zeal about the interests of his Egyptian kindred, as Joseph had for his Hebrew. The case was, however, one of peculiar difficulty. Things had gone on so long, that it was not easy to make a change; yet many things might naturally have led Pharaoh to think a change absolutely necessary. Judging from the Hebrew records, I think it likely that Pharaoh saw, or thought he did, that one of three or four things must take place. Either, 1. he must expel the Hebrews; or, 2. he must amalgamate them with the Egyptians, so as to form a promiscuous people; or, 3. see his own people made slaves in their own country by the Hebrews; or, 4. prevent that by making slaves of them.
To accomplish the first, might have been no easy matter. It would in all probability have led to war. The Hebrews would have most likely called in the aid of the Edomites, or some other of their kin, and the ruin of Egypt might have followed; or if effected, where could the Hebrews have gone? They had been absent from Canaan about one hundred years; and there was little probability that the Canaanites would allow them to reCHRIST. OBSERV. No. 310.
turn. They would have most likely roved about on the borders of Egypt, and made inroads for plunder. As to blending them with the Egyptians, and forming them to the same manners and customs and religion, this was still more difficult than the other. Nothing is harder than to change the religion and habits and prejudices of a people. Israel had now been in Egypt above a hundred years. Joseph had married an Egyptian. Yet the original prejudices of both nations, as well as their religious principles, were nearly, if not fully, as much at variance as at the first. (Gen. xliii. 32; Exod. viii. 26.) Scarcely any inter-marriages took place; and as to religion, the one was an abomination to the other. To think of force, was idle. Their prejudices, religion, as well as their complexion, (the Egyptians were Africans, black; the Hebrews, from Mesopotamia, fair,) made the thing hopeless. To expect Pharaoh to sit down and contemplate a progress of things that tended directly, as he might naturally suppose, to a struggle, and threatened the loss of his throne, and the slavery of his people, is to expect more than was likely. The only alternative, Pharaoh might easily suppose, was to prevent this, by adopting a new policy towards that people. He might easily persuade himself, that it was but fair that Israel should make some return for all they had received for above one hundred years. He may have thought he was justified in gradually employing the Hebrews in building cities and in field labour; while he raised the military character of the Egyptians, and made such preparations as would enable him to suppress any opposition to his plans.
The conduct of Israel to the Shechemites (Gen. xxxiv. 25— 27), and their late attempt to plunder the inhabitants of Gath (1 Chron. vii. 20—23), might make him feel justified in providing against similar treatment. If this