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mountains, who use the utmost precaution if possible to avoid a fall, ought we not to mark the temptations that throng "the path of life,' to resist them in their onset, and to lean on the arm of One who alone can secure us from the shame and misery of the backslider? To this most important end, the very fall of David, immeasurably evil as it was, may by grace be made subservient. Doubtless it has taught such lessons of unceasing prayer and watchfulness to the whole Church of God, as it might not otherwise have received; and has deterred thousands from approaching the fearful precipice of sin.
To be more frequently at the cross of our Redeemer, is another lesson to be learned by contemplating "the infirmity of saints." Can we meditate on their falls, or failings, without being so sensible of our own as more deeply to feel our need of the "exceeding riches of His grace?" To whom, then, but to Himself should we go, as "the friend of sinners?" In his blood-shedding alone we find the great treasure of reconciliation to our offended God; in his righteousness alone, a title to the heavenly inheritance; in His intercession, a full security for the acceptance of "the prayer of faith," and for a supply of the all-sufficient grace of his Holy Spirit, according to our several necessities. In His example also we find that perfect model, which we cannot too minutely copy. In proportion, then, as our manifold "infirmities" pass in review before us, shall we flee for refuge to the cross, and present our supplications before the throne; yea, find the most massive consolation in the words of Jeremiah, "The Lord our Righteousness." (Jer. xxiii. 6.) The last use to be made of "the infirmities of pious men,' is to desire an abundant entrance into a world of perfect holiness. As into that nothing "that defileth" can enter; so, in proportion to our sense of all the multiplied evils that are allied to sin, will be our predominant desire to "depart and be with Christ," that so we may have done for ever with its darkness, its pollutions, its bondage, its misery; and enjoy that endless communion with Christ and with one another, which will be impaired by no sin, clouded by no care, and embittered by no sorrows. This God would have us do, when He commands us to "set our affections on those things that are above;" to have "our conversation in heaven;" and to "lay hold on eternal life." As those who are familiar with the varied miseries of sickness, and who have themselves felt its burden, naturally prize the blessings of continued health; so must the true Christian, while witnessing, and also experiencing, the evil of sin, even when controlled by grace, long for admission into that world "where holiness abides for ever.'
And must not the serious contemplation of the foregoing facts lead us to avoid every approach to flattery in our communion with the saints of Christ? That evil quality is among the characteristics of the wicked. (Psalm xii. 2.) Therefore the true follower of the Lamb of God will endeavour so to speak as never to be chargeable with "flattery." He will also shun every kind of phraseology which may tempt his brother, however "clothed with humility," to "think of himself more highly than he ought to think." For in truth this dangerous snare is too frequently, though unconsciously, laid, even by religious persons. This I could prove by referring to the favourable observations sometimes made on sermons in the presence of the preacher; and to the speeches (now happily, I trust, rare) delivered by pious men, respecting the excellence of others, at the anniversary meetings of Societies. And forgive me, Mr. Editor, if, as an old friend and brother, I venture to express a
doubt whether, in your own pages, the piety of living men (reviled, as they have been, by their enemies) has not occasionally been set forth in a manner (however true, and, I am sure, with a supreme view to the glory of God, yet) somewhat too eulogistic for the self-renouncing powers of faith. That commendation endangers our humility, is admitted by the Christian reader. And well I remember the following fatherly reproof, once administered to myself by a now sainted clergyman (on my alluding to his Christian graces): "I wish my friends would never say more of me than I say of myself, namely, that God, I trust, in his infinitely gracious covenant, has not overlooked even me." Another sainted friend once said to me, on a similar occasion, "Don't praise me, my friend, for I am all tinder;" meaning that he was naturally prone to self-admiration. When, therefore, we render to the religious their due meed of commendation, ought we not so scrupulously to measure it, that it may not prove too exciting, and even intoxicating, to the spirit? Solomon has justly said, that " as a fining pot for silver, so is a man to his praise;" a comparison which seems to bear on the foregoing points. Πιστις.
Our correspondent has requested us not to cross out his friendly stricture upon ourselves; but to add to it a note if we judge it desirable. We have no particular wish to do so; but a few words upon the general subject may not be inexpedient.
We are consoled that our mistake, if it be one, is on the side of courtesy and charity; for though we believe that scriptural doctrine is held in its essential truth by those who are popularly termed "the evangelical clergy," we have not concealed or extenuated anything that appeared to us to require correction in that body; and hence we have often displeased individuals whom we highly esteemed as brethren, because we dissented from some of their opinions. So far from being flatterers of what is often called "the religious world," we have many times been denounced as accusers of the brethren," because we could not see everything to be right which is done by some excellent Society, or preached or written by some zealous friend; for we have often found, by unhappy experience, that if we concurred with, and defended, a man in ninety-nine points which we deemed to be "evangelical," but differed from him about some abstruse question of controversial theology, some matter of unfulfilled prophecy, or some principle or practice of a favourite Society or circle, our general concurrence with him has not shielded us from the charge of impeding the growth of evangelical truth. We doubt not that some of the very remarks which our correspondent thought too laudatory may have given offence to the very persons commended, because not unmixed with some note of difference, or some unwelcome suggestion. We could specify numerous instances of this kind.
But with regard to praising what is commendable, there is scriptural warrant and example for so doing. How constantly does the Apostle Paul, for instance-one instance among many-speak with joy and gratulation of “the works of faith and labours of love" of churches and individuals. And why should Christians be niggard in the discharge of this delightful duty? "Honour to whom honour is due ;" if, therefore, those who speak at a public meeting, or write for the press, should say in truth and simplicity, "We do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed upon" such or such churches or individuals; and should mention, as St. Paul does, "the
riches of their liberality," this token of brotherly gratitude is not in itself fulsome panegyric, offensive to God and hurtful to man; though of course it may be overwrought, and made to minister to unseemly and nauseous compliment. But this is the abuse; for the deserved expression of kind feeling was not wrong. If we can keep from over-doing and under-doing, we shall compass right-doing. But the temptation is often to over-doing, and requires to be watched over, especially upon the platform of religious institutions.
But in the matter alluded to by our correspondent, it is not a question of compliment but of justice. The conductors of periodical publications are required to remark upon a great variety of books, facts, institutions, and men. Suppression of truth may be injustice as much as putting forth falsehood. If we believe certain doctrines to be those of the Word of God; if we feel confident they are held by certain individuals; if we see them exhibited in their lives and writings; if we witness the blessed effects of their exertions and example; ought we to keep back these facts, lest it should be said we are praising men, or perhaps "going with a party?" We have, for instance, a very distinct opinion as to what have been some of the second causes-for every good and perfect gift cometh from above as the primary, the originating, Cause-of the revival and extension of piety in the Church of England; and when names, books, facts, or societies, are alluded to, bearing upon this subject, we think it right to speak our mind; but in so doing we regard ourselves only as paying a debt, not as devising flattering words.
But further, the defence of what is good against falsehood and slander, or even mistake, sometimes calls for the line of remark which our correspondent kindly reproves; for there never have been wanting terms of reproach and malevolent charges to disparage true religion; and often has it been our duty to vindicate those who hold the doctrines which evil or ignorant men call by opprobrious epithets, from false accusations; as that they teach, "Let us sin that grace may abound;" and that those of them who belong to the communion of the Church of England are not sound episcopalians, or good members of the Catholic Church. We appeal to their lives; we adduce characteristic extracts from their writings; we set forth the principles and proceedings of the institutions with which they are connected; we disprove unmerited charges; and we claim for them what is justly due, without hiding or extenuating what is erring or evil; but this is lawful and Scriptural advocacy, not for compliment, but for truth and practical utility.
We have said that there is a duty to discharge; we might have added that there is also often a cross to bear. To advocate, without flinching or trimming, what is truly "evangelical" in doctrine, in conduct, in preaching, and in religious institutions, not unfrequently involves self-denial and personal inconvenience. The roads to ease, dignity, and emolument, point in far other directions. But we will not enter upon this topic; the state of the Periodical Press connected with the Church of England speaks for itself. If however our correspondent, instead of general statements, will point out some individual instances (of which we are quite unconscious) in which we have committed the offence which he specifies, we will endeavour to profit by his friendly reprehension.
AMERICAN REPRINT, AND RECOMMENDATION, OF THE
For the Christian Observer.
WE have received a Prospectus of an American edition of the Christian Observer, with an Introductory address; to which are appended, much to our astonishment, "the testimonials of nearly two hundred and thirty Ministers of twelve different denominations." Many years ago there were two Monthly reprints of our pages in the United States; but of late the American periodical press has been so redundantly prolific, that few readers can keep up with the local demands upon their time and attention; and as this mass of daily, weekly, and monthly authorship has extended itself to the various religious communions, all of which have publications specially connected with their own body, it was less surprising that foreign pages like ours should have ceased for some time to be reprinted, than that a considerable demand for them should have again arisen. As conscientious members of an Established Church, we are at issue with almost the whole of the people of the United States; for even our fellow Episcopalians differ from their Anglican brethren on this important question. Again, we are Episcopalians, and the majority of religious persons in the United States are Presbyterians or Congregationalists; which designations include, so far as Church government is concerned, Baptists, and various other denominations. Further, as respects questions of doctrine, the discrepancies of opinion are many and great; though we believe that the "orthodox of all classes in America,-those "who hold the Head,”- -see much to approve in the English Thirty-nine Articles; for there is a striking similarity on the most prominent points of faith among the various Protestant Confessions. So also there are differences of political sentiment; besides which, the local questions of every country press most closely upon the attention of its people; and it is impossible to convey that interest in its intensity to other lands, whether it be connected with persons, books, or events; with Church matters, or matters of State. The most stirring questions in one country are often as uninteresting and unintelligible in another, as the animated conversation of two old school-companions, or fellow-townsmen, to a third person unacquainted with the names and circumstances which call forth their sympathies. These considerations, we should have judged, would restrict our domestication in the United States to a small class; and we were not aware that so many of our fellow Christians, even of our own communion-much less of otherswere pleased to judge our publication adapted for republication among them.
We have received the handsomely-reprinted January and February Numbers of our work; together with a Prospectus, Introductory address, and the extensive list of recommendations; and some of our Western friends have requested us to communicate with our readers upon the subject. They do not, however, seem to recollect that to us the republication is a serious disadvantage. A considerable number of copies of our work found their way to the United States, and these will be superseded by an American reprint; which, being subject to no cost for copy-right and management, can be afforded at a very low price. It is an expensive compliment to an author on the one side of the Atlantic to reprint his works on the other, thus depriving him of the
foreign market; and we are sorry to say that our encouragement at home is not such as to render this a matter of indifference; for, amidst the present multiplicity of publications, the most favourable opinions will not uphold religious periodical works, if those who approve of the principles maintained in them do not make some effort to circulate them, -especially long-established works, which require a constant supply of new subscribers, as the older ones are removed by death. But if our American friends think our pages likely to be useful, and that they can circulate them more widely from their own press than from that of our worthy publisher, we are content and rejoice.
We are puzzled what to do with the papers forwarded to us. On the one hand, we are unwilling to appear to slight the good opinion of our Western brethren; or to break the slightest link of that brotherly intercourse which the fellow-disciples of the same Lord and Saviour in both lands would desire to be strengthened for mutual benefit, and the building up of the Church of Christ; on the other, these testimonials might, for obvious reasons besides their length, be ill-placed in our pages; nor would they be perused by all our readers. We might have given as a specimen only the names of the Bishops and Presbyters of the Episcopal Church; with perhaps some of the other best-known names; but as these stand with the rest in this remarkable document (for remarkable it is, in the present divided state of the various bodies of Christians both in England and America) it would be unhandsome and invidious to cull a portion; and conscientiously attached as we are to our own country and communion, yet if Christian men in a distant land, who hold their several opinions as firmly as we do ours, think that anything we are permitted to write, may, by the Divine blessing, help to set forth "the common salvation," shall we not feel grateful for their candour, their Christian spirit, and their good opinion? As most of the writers specify the grounds upon which they recommend the reprint of the Christian Observer in America, they are not pledged for more than they express; and they well know our opinions upon Church Establishments, Episcopacy, and other important questions, upon one, or several, of which, many of them differ from us and from each other. Yet there is a common "bond of peace" in the Gospel of our Redeemer which should unite upon earth all who hope to be united in heaven; and though a Christian may not lawfully overlook, or undervalue, any one opinion which he believes to be founded in the sacred oracles; yet, says the Apostle, "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." In our own country we have been often severely handled in Presbyterian, Congregational, and Baptist publications; and assuredly we could not expect, or ask for, tender treatment; much less testimonials of character; but it is consoling to find, that where Christians are removed from a sphere of local influence, they often take less harsh views, and find something to value for the sake of the common cause, notwithstanding special grounds of contrariety.
Under all the circumstances, we shall perhaps do well to print the substance of the American Prospectus and Address, with the twelve-fold Testimonials. Some of our readers may think the document worth preserving in our long line of volumes as a very unusual record. We do not make ourselves responsible for all the statements or kind words of our friends; but the knowledge of the interest which so many Christians in a distant land are pleased to take in our pages, should at least lead CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 64. 2 G