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world.' The heathen nations are given to our Redeemer for an inheritance, as much as Canaan was given to the seed of Abraham; and it is our business, as it was theirs, to go up and possess the land. We should lay our account with difficulties as well as they; but according to our faith in the divine promises, we may expect these mountains to become a plain. If the Lord delight in us, he will bring us into the land: but if, like the unbelieving Israelites, we make light of the promised good, or magnify the difficulties in the way of obtaining it, and so relax our efforts, we may expect to die as it were in the wilderness.
It is true, there are some differences between their case and ours; but they are wholly in our favour. We are not, like them, going to possess countries for ourselves, but for Christ. They went armed with the temporal sword, we with the sword of the Spirit; they were commissioned in justice to destroy men's lives, we in mercy to save their souls; they sought not them but theirs, we seek not theirs but them. Now, by how much our cause exceeds theirs in the magnitude and beneficence of its object, by so much the more shall we incur the frowns of heaven, if we fail of accomplishing it through unbelief.
On a certain occasion the disciples said unto the Lord, encrease our faith;' and it is worth while to consider what that occasion was. Luke xvii. 3-6. There was a hard duty enjoined, to forgive lamented injuries, even though committed seven times in a day. The apostles very properly turn the injunction into a petition, praying for great grace to enable them to discharge so difficult a duty. They said unto the Lord, 'encrease our faith.' But why ask for an encrease of faith? Possibly we might have said, Lord encrease our love, our self-denial, or our patience. Asking for an encrease of faith, was asking for an encrease of every other grace; this being a kind of first wheel that sets the rest in motion. Our Lord's answer intimates that they had chosen a right petition;
for faith, even in a small degree, will enable us to surmount great difficulties; difficulties, the surmounting of which, is as the removal of mountains. The passage taken in its connection, teaches us the efficacy of faith in discharging duties, and surmounting difficulties.
Where there is no faith in the truths and promises of the gospel, there is no heart for duty: and where it is very low and defective in its exercises, there is but little spiritual activity. If a good man be entangled in sceptical doubts respecting the truth of the gospel, or any of its leading doctrines, he will, during that time, be not only unhappy in his own mind, but of little use to others. He admits, that God used in former ages to hear the prayers and succeed the labours of his servants, and that there will be times in which great things will again be wrought for the church. But of late, and especially in the present age, he imagines we are not to expect any thing remarkable. This is no other than a spice of that atheistical spirit which said, "The Lord hath forsaken the earth, he regardeth not man;' the effect of which is, an indifference to every exercise and enterprise of a religious nature. Faith operates as a stimulus, unbelief as a palsy.
If faith in divine truths and promises be low, though we should be drawn in with others to engage in religious enterprises, yet we shall not follow them up with ardent prayer, or look for the blessing of God with that earnest expectation which generally presedes the bestowment of it. Instead of forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, we shall be in danger of resting satisfied in present attainments, and so of losing the things which we have wrought, for want of following up the work to which we have set our hands.
All the great things that have been wrought in the church of God, have been accomplished by this principle. It was by faith that the worthies 'subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped
the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, and put to flight the armies of the aliens.' It was by faith that the apostles and primitive christians went forth as sheep among wolves, and at the expense of all that was dear to them on earth, carried the gospel into all nations. Wherever they went they were previously persuaded, that they should go in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ: and it was so. God always caused them to triumph in Christ, and made manifest the savour of his knowledge by them în every place. Could we but imbibe this spirit, surely we should be able, in some good degree, to say so too. "Believe in the Lord our God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.'
But why is it, that God should thus honour the exercise of faith? Is it not because faith is a grace that peculiarly honours him? We cannot do greater dishonour to a person of kind and generous intentions than by thinking ill of him, and acting towards him on the ground of such evil thoughts. It was thus that the slothful servant thought and acted towards his lord. On the other hand we cannot do greater honour to a character of the above description, than by thinking well of him, and placing the most unreserved confidence in all he says. Any man who had a just regard to honour, would in such a case feel a strong inducement to answer the expectations which were entertained of him. And God himself hath condescended to intimate something like the same thing. "The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.' In believing his word we think well of him, and he takes pleasure in answering such expectations; proving thereby that we have thought justly concerning him. It was on this principle that our Lord usually conferred the blessings of miraculous healing, in answer to the faith of the patient, or of those that accompanied him. 'If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. According to your faith be it unto you.'
AGREEMENT IN SENTIMENT THE BOND OF CHRISTIAN UNION.
An original Letter to the Rev, Samuel Palmer of Hackney, in 1796.
I HAVE no partiality, certainly, for the Established Church. I believe it will come down, because it is inimical to the kingdom of Christ: yet I respect many churchmen, and shall not refuse preaching in their pulpits, provided I may go on in my own way. Mr. Eyre pressed me to preach for him; and by complying with his request, I materially served the mission.
As to dissenters, I consider a dissent from the church of England, or any other church, as affording no proper ground of religious union. The thing itself is merely negative. As dissenters we are not necessarily united in any thing, except that we do not approve of the church establishment. We may be enemies to the government of God, and the gospel of Christ; yea, we may be avowed infidels, and yet hold this. I therefore have no notion of throwing what little weight I may possess into the dissenting scale, merely as such; though, if other things were equal, I should certainly do so. These remarks have no respect to my conduct at Hackney, but are in answer to what you say on that subject in general.
The doubts which I expressed respecting your sentiments, arose from no one's insinuations, but from reading a pamphlet which you published some years ago. may now be fourteen years since I read it; but I then thought it too much in favour of indifference to what I esteemed important truth. Since then, you know, we have conversed together; and from the whole I was inclined to hope, that your regard to what I accounted evangelical sentiments was greater than I had supposed it to be. And the general approbation which you have
since bestowed upon my Letters on Socinianism left me no reason to doubt, that whatever might be your speculations on the modus of the divine subsistence, you did not reject either the atonement of Christ, or his proper divinity. If I had reason to believe of any man, that he did not call upon the name of the Lord Jesus, or rely upon his atoning sacrifice for acceptance with God, I could not acknowledge him as a christian brother, or pay him any respect in a religious way. But by whomsoever these great truths are cordially admitted, I trust it will ever be the desire of my heart to pray on their behalf with the apostle, Grace and peace be with them!
Now however you inform me, that you " reject no doctrine from any dislike to it." But if I were satisfied that the worship of Christ is idolatry, I think I ought to reject it with abhorrence. I imagine however you mean, that supposing you are mistaken in any of these matters, it is not from any bias of heart, but from mere mistake. I own that I dare not say so, respecting any mistakes of which I may be the subject. I reckon that such is the perspicuity of God's word, that if I err on any important truth, or precept, it must be owing to some evil bias to which I am subject, though I am unhappily blinded to it. . You have "no precise ideas of the person of Christ, and you suppose that I have none." We may neither of us fully comprehend that mysterious subject; yet you will admit that there is a material difference between the ideas of one who calls upon the name of the Lord Jesus, and one who does not, but considers him as merely a fellow creature.
You" despise the man who cannot maintain a brotherly connection with another, because he thinks for himself." I wish every man to think for himself, and also to act for himself; but if in the exercise of this right he thinks the Son of God an impostor, and his doctrine a lie; or lives in the violation of his commands; I think myself not only entitled but bound to withhold all brotherly connection with him, of a religious nature; not because he thinks or