« PreviousContinue »
a minute; till these evil dispositions have gained full possession of them. Waste of time may also be mentioned. We think it a little matter to waste a few minutes, forgetting, that out of these minutes, hours are made, that hours constitute days, and that of days, life itself consists. We neglect minute after minute, because each is but a minute. We sit down only for a minute at some idle employment, and in some easy posture, and thus our idle habits grow upon us.
Want of economy is to be traced to the same negligence of small things. The bulk of our
expense is made up of trifling sums, and as he that wastes his minutes will be found to trifle away his life, so he that throws away his shillings will be found to trifle away his substance.
What then is the way in which we must learn to avoid both sin in general, and every sin in particular? "He that despiseth small things," says an apophrical writer," shall fall by little and little." It is by not despising small things that we shall avoid both those greater and lesser degrees of iniquity.
What then is it to despise small things? It is to make light of them-it is to make light of them because they are small. We suppose a little matter to be a little evil, whereas a little matter may be a great evil; it may be a precedent for many other evils. A little evil, many times repeated, becomes great; and the reason for committing this little evil the second time will seem just as good as for committing it at the first. We should be afraid, therefore, of
little negligences and sins. We should be afraid of all such language as the following. "Why, surely, this is so trifling an indulgence, it is so small a saving, it is so slight a departure from truth, it is such an insignificant breach of the Sabbath, it is such an unimportant, diminutive matter, that it is not worthy of my attention. Great sins, indeed, I abhor as much as any man; but such little sins, if indeed they are sins, I never can attend to." Do you indeed hate great sins? Then beware of little ones. This is the great art of the devil. The constant excuse with which he supplics us is that of saying, "Is it not a little one?" To move one step in sin beyond that which we have already taken is all that he asks at present. When we have advanced this step, then another will be taken. Now each of these single steps is little. Every sin in this sense is small, for it is only a small addition to the sin which went before. Each sin seems therefore diminutive to the sinner. The plea of smallness is ever returning. It is the apology for all crimes.
Did you never find this answer given you by one whom you reproved for sin? Or, rather, did you ever find any one who did not thus excuse himself? The fault in question is always a small one. Other men's sins seem great sins.. Past sins of our own seem perhaps to be great; or future sins of our own, would, if described to us, appear great; but our own and our present sin is always a little one. It will be said, perhaps, but is this the doctrine of the gospel? Does not the gospel teach us to repent of
all sin at once, and to become new creatures through the allpowerful influence of the Holy Spirit? And should we not at tend to the great work of our conversion, rather than to the little obliquities which have been spoken of? I answer, that one proof of conversion to God is our not making light of small sins. He who loves God as he ought, he who is redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, may know his faith to be sincere, chiefly by this test; namely, that he will make much of those sins which other men make so little of; he will ever be magnifying what they are ever excusing, As it is the way of sinners to plead in favour of sin, so it is his to plead against it.
I conclude with remarking, that as the sinner falls by degrees, so the servant of God rises step by step. Improvement in holiness, like improvement in sin, is gradual; for the path of the just is as the shining light which shineth more and more unto the perfect day. N. Y. [Ch. Obs.
On the first of these questions believers have their controversy with professed infidels; the secoud furnishes the ground of many debates among Christians themselves. But the matter which arises out of these questions, severally, ought never to be mixed. If a man profess to receive the scripture as a divine revelation, he forecloses all controversy about its authority; because the word of God is a much better security for truth than any deductions of human reason. He may have difficulties in explaining or vindicating some truths which he receives under the sanction of a divine warrant, but still he is not to deny those truths. This appears in fact to have been the understanding of almost every writer of reputation on the subjects of Christian controversy, tili lately. Those who were supposed to wish for a greater latitude did not choose openly to avow it. Within a few years, however, the Socinians, finding it impracticable fairly to defend their creed against the artillery of revelation, with which their opponents were likely to demolish it, have sought arms and aid from the camp of infidelity. They have contended at one time like Christians, and at another like Deists, and often have alternately taken the ground and used the weapons of both parties in the same combat. This system they did not adopt all at once, nor without some caution and address. At first they seemed only to be carrying to the point of perfection a plan on which they had, in some measure, acted, from the days of Socinus
himself. They employed much art and assiduity to shew that the sacred writings had suffered greatly by some important inter polations, and by numerous and gross corruptions. Much like wise was said to inculcate the belief that a great part of the inspired volume ought to be considered merely as allegorical, or so highly figurative, that no precise intellectual truth, or well defined doctrine, can satisfactorily be derived from it; that it admits of many interpretations, and may be made to consist with that which is given by them, as well as with any other. These are the limits to which some of the corps still confine themselves. "Others, however, among whom we may reckon Dr. Priestley, Bekker of Amsterdam," and a host of German Socinians, have been less scrupulous, and have proceeded to far greater lengths. They do not all exactly agree in the same representations, for they love to appear not to act in concert. Among them, however, they have not merely insinuated, but professedly maintained, that Jesus Christ and hi apostles, though they were honest, good men, and at times much favoured of Heaven (Christ being the chief of the prophets ;) yet were not only liable to err, but did actually err, and teach their errors to others; that they quoted scripture from the Old Testament very incorrectly, and applied it very fancifully and absurdly; that they taught many Jewish dogmas that were utterly false, which they either received as truths themselves, or else, knowing them not to be true, not only did not undeceive
their followers, but inculcated falsehood as if it had been truth ; and such a falsehood, they especially insist, is the doctrine that. there is a devil or evil spirit ; that the apostle Paul is frequently a very inconclusive reasoner, adopting principles that are unsound, and forming conclusions that are untenable: that we have no reason to believe that there was any thing miraculous in the conception of our blessed Lord, but that he ought rather to be considered as the natural son of Joseph. We are too much shocked and disgusted to proceed with this detail, though there are ample materials for the pur pose.
Thus, then, this class of Socinians claim to bring the whole scripture before the bar of their own reason, and to pronounce the sentence of falsehood on as much of it as to them may seem meet; not because it is corrupted or interpolated, not because the writers are misrepresented, but because they actually taught. what is erroneous, and for that reason ought to be corrected or condemned. The only point in which they differ from acknowiedged infidels, is, in admitting that the scripture, after all, contains a revelation from God; though they will by no means consent to specify what are the particular parts which they will recognize as such, and by which they will abide as the divine word, and the umpire of controversy. Frequently and earnestly have they been pressed to do this, but they never have done it. Hence it is that controversy with them becomes endless, because it is impossible to terminate it,
⚫ while the parties have no common authority or principles to which they may appeal. Hence, also, Deism, open and unreserved, has been most extensively propagated, through the medium of Socinianism. For if the Bible be that interpolated, corrupted, allegorical, and erroneous book, which these men would make it, common sense revolts at the idea of receiving it as a revelation from God, and a guide to future happiness. If all its doctrines and principles are at last to be subjected to every man's own decision, whether they shall be received or rejected, why not consult your reason alone and at once? Why bring the master to the scholar, when you know beforehand that much which he will say will be weak, and empty, and erroneous? It is easier, say infidels, to believe, not only all the mysteries, but all the superstitions that Christians ever received, than to believe that the infinitely wise and good God has given mankind the revelation of his will in such a form as this. And here, for once, we declare ourselves of their opinion. But so far from rejecting revelation, as the consequence, we contend for receiving and maintaining it simply and entirely, as we find it in the Bible, in the originals of the Old and New Testaments. Let these originals be the subject of diligent study and of sound and reverend criticism. On the score of emendation let them be treated as respectfully at least, as the copies of the best heathen writers, than which they have been much better guarded against corruption. In this manner let
us discover what revelation teaches, and then let us receive it with docility, humility and thankfulness, as the word of life. Let us not bring to the study of scripture a system already formed in our own minds and fortified by prejudice, but let us go to it in the first instance and without prejudice, to learn what is the system which we ought to receive. With the temper of children let us sit at the feet of the Saviour, imbibe his instructions, and obey his precepts. As far as we are able, let us explain what is difficult; but when we can go no further, let us treat the difficulties of revelation as we do those of the other works of God; as we do the profound, obscure, and contradictory things which appear in creation and providence, and in regard to. which the best philosophers are always the readiest frankly to confess their ignorance. Let us be ashamed to acknowledge that there are certain things which, for the present, we do not fully understand; and let us wait for more light in this world, or for stronger faculties in the world to come. The maxims of sound reason and philosophy, not less than the injunctions of the gospel, point out to us this course. [Rees' Cyclo. Art. Angel.
ON THE EDUCATION OF PIOUS YOUTH FOR THE GOSPEL MINISTRY.
From the Evangelical Intelligencer. MR. EDITOR,
IT has given me pleasure to observe that you have made it an object of primary importance
in your miscellany, to endeavour to promote the education of pious youth for the gospel ministry. In my apprehension there is no one thing that is half so deeply concerned as this, I will not say merely in the extension of religion, but in the preservation of its very existence in our country and I am persuaded that even the pious part of the community have in general no adequate views of the subject at all. If they saw it in its true light, it would be impossible for them to remain so indifferent as they appear to be. Allow me, then, to make a statement which I think must be a very alarming one to all the real friends of true piety, and which, notwithstanding, I believe to be incontrovertible.
The first thing to be noticed is the present state of our churches in regard to a supply of ministers. Is it not a fact that there are almost as many congregations vacant, (taking our country at large) as there are settled? I am afraid we must answer this inquiry in the affirmative; or, at least, I think it will not admit of a question, that if we had double the number of well qualified clergymen that we now have, there would not be a surplusage, when our frontiers and missions are taken into the account. Let us then set it down, as I suppose we safely may, that, at present, we have but about one half the number of ministers that we want. What then are our prospects for the time to come? My estimate is that the present number of ministers of the gospel in the United States, of all denominations, is about eight thousand. The pop
ulation of these States, by actual experiment, is found to double in less than twenty-five years. It is therefore evident that twentyfive years hence, we shall need eight thousand clergymen more than we now have, only to keep up the half supply which now exists, and on the supposition that none of the present number will be removed. But in that space of time, at least one half of the pres; ent number will die. We must consequently educate and bring forward twelve thousand clergymen in twenty-five years, if we would preserve the churches in as good a state as they are in at present; and twenty-four thousand, to furnish a full supply; that is, nearly a thousand year.
I have with design made this statement as short and as plain as I could, that it might not be tedious to examine it. I hope that your religious readers will examine it carefully, and think of it seriously. It will, I am persuaded, be found to contain no exaggeration; and if it does not, it is certainly calculated to excite much anxiety. Instead of a thousand ministers entering the gospel vineyard annually, I sus. pect that the whole number does not equal the fourth part of a thousand. What then is likely to be the state of our country in .. a few years? There must be a change, or heathenism will abso, lutely overspread our land; for this consequence always has, and always will follow the extinction of the gospel ministry. I. have no doubt at all that God will préserve his church in the world-he has promised to do it, and his promise he will fulfil, let earth and hell withstand it as