Page images

pend on foreign auxiliaries. We must then defend ourselves by soldiers and weapons of our own. On such an emergence, what can be more necessary or happy, than to have a vigorous band of young men, already trained for this holy war, armed with the whole armour of God, and ready for the attack? Of what unspeakable importance then must an institution be, in which may be formed such a phalanx for the defence of the Christian cause!

But dismissing, if it be possible to dismiss, all fear of prevailing infidelity; is it not an indubitable fact, that the intermediate space between pure Christianity and genuine deism is already crowded by errors of every name and kind? We have lost, not only that unity of spirit, but that uniformity of doctrine, by which our pious forefathers were distinguished. To them there was but "one faith and one baptism," as well as "one Lord, and one God and Father of all." But among us how many in efect deny that sacred name, into which they were baptized! While others, who do not thus deny "the Lord, who bought them," greedily embrace many erroneous doctrines, relating to our state by nature, and to the powers of the human mind; to the dignity, atonement, and mediation of Christ, to the agency of the divine Spirit in regeneration and sanctification, the duration of future punishment, and universal salvation. These and other like errors are now openly avowed and publicly taught; errors so gross, so contrary to the gospel of Christ, that, whoever had embraced them in the days of our Vol. III. No. 7.

Q ૧

have been

ancestors, would thought a monster in religion, and deemed unworthy the Christian name.

But in places, where these fundamental errors do not prevail, there are nevertheless great divisions and contentions about doctrines of less moment, and also about rites, modes, and ceremonies in worship, and forms of discipline. While "one says I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; and another, I am of Cephas;" how few are content to say, 66 we are of Christ!" Is it not for a lamentation, that so many, who bear and profess this sacred name, have departed from the simplicity of the gospel of Christ, and are divided into sects, mutually opposing each other, and sometimes with a spirit of acrimony, that would disgrace heathens? Surely it must be the ardent prayer of every one, who loves the Lord Jesus Christ, that all his professed followers keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace; that, as they 66 are called in one hope," they "be of one spirit, having one Lord, one faith, one baptism."

What can more divide the Christian church, or more distract the minds and alienate the affections of its members, than to be instructed and led by teachers of opposite views, zealously engaged to propagate their respective peculiarities, and each to increase the number of his adherents? On the other hand, can the mind of man conceive any thing so necessary and conducive to unity in faith and affection among Christians, as that those, who are to inculcate the doctrines and duties of the gospel upon

others, be themselves united in the same mind and in the same faith? This union among the teachers of religion is the natural result of sameness of education, studies, and habits, which is not to be found but at a public institution. Diversity of sentiment, and not unfrequently prejudice and disaffection, is generated by difference of education. If the clergy of New England, from its settlement to this day, had been all educated in one theological seminary; is it supposeable, that our ministers and churches would have been so divided in opinions, and so opposed to each other, as they now are? If the appeal be made to fact, it will be found, that so long, as the clergy of this country were educated at one college, there was very little difference of opinion on religious subjects, and that the churches were almost universally of one denomination; a sectary was then scarcely known. But during the last half century, in which colleges have been so multiplied in our country, and candidates for the ministry, not, as was the ancient custom, at a public institution, but in private, and under direction of gentlemen of opposite opinions, have made preparation for the desk, errors and sects have been multiplied beyond calculation.

This being the deplorable fact, we are pressed by the important question: How can the evil be remedied? The answer is prompt; by retracing the steps and correcting the course, by which we have erred. Like causes produce like effects, and vice versa. Difference of education, we find, has produced difference of opinions. Sameness

of education, then, we may reasonably hope, will be productive of similarity in opinions. As far, therefore, as the prevalence of religious error and the multiplication of sects among us have arisen from difference in the theological education of our clergy, so far the increase of these evils in future may be prevented, and their growth checked, though they may not be wholly eradicated, by applying the natural remedy. This remedy, it is needless to say, can be no other, than the establishment of a public and well endowed Theological Institution; to which candidates for the gospel ministry in all parts of our country, and at whatever college educated, may resort for the acquisition of that fund of knowledge, which is necessary to qualify them to be able and eminently useful public teachers of religion; at which they may enjoy the same instruction, assistance, and counsel; where they will naturally form similar habits of thinking, reasoning, and acting; where daily intercourse, candid communication of sentiments, and reciprocal interchange of the purest energies of the mind, will efface local and other prejudices; where several years continued residence in one religious and happy family will beget fraternal sympathies and lasting friendships; and where, devoted to the same object, pursuing the same course, seeking the same divine guidance, and "being knit together in love, they may grow into him in all things, who is the head, even CHRIST." From such a fountain, we may indulge the pleasing hope, would natur ally flow such streams, as would

make glad the churches of our God. From such a seminary would proceed pastors, who would feed the flock with the same heavenly food; who would preach the same divine truths; and endeavour to preserve the unity of the faith in the bond of perfectness. By such a body of ministers much might be done to silence heresy and error, tò heal the divisions, and allay the animosities, which have long disgraced the Christian church; and much to promote that spirit of love, by which Christians were at first distinguished. For this sameness of education will naturally produce, not only unity of sentiment, but union of soul. At a period of life, when friend ship takes root in reason, and the sensibilities are alive to all the charities of social intercourse, it may well be expected, that serious and pious young men will contract those strong attachments and that mutual confidence, which in after periods will occa sion delightful recollections and recurrences; and lead them, as circumstances may permit and require, to assist and consult each other in the duties and difficulties of the ministerial office. In consequence too of having formed at such an institution a much larger circle of substantial and pious friends, every such minister would have in times of trial, a larger number of able protectors, interested to support him. This harmony and mutual support of regular ministers would also have a powerful influence in promoting the order, peace, and harmony of our churches. Such is the importance of a public, solid, and uniform education for the ministry to the cause of evangelical truth, to unity of

faith, to the suppression of sectarian errors in opinion and practice, to the mutual assistance of the ministers of Christ, to the order, peace, and harmony of Christian churches. How beneficial, how desirable, how necessary must that institution be, which alone can ensure such an education!

To the remarks, already made, it is scarcely needful to add that, whatever produces the preceding effects, must directly tend to the increase of true religion in gen eral. Next to the unholy lives of professors, Christianity has suffered most from those divisions, contentions, and animosities, which heresy and error have excited in the Christian church.

Here indeed it ought

not to be forgotten, that the unholy walk of many professors, that stone of stumbling to multitudes, is to be resolved into the erroneousness, as well as weakness of their faith. Correctness of life depends in great part upon correctness of principle. So far from truth is the modern doctrine, "that it is of little consequence, what a man believes, if his life be good," that to his life being good, it is of the greatest consequence, that his creed be correct. But the injury to religion, now contemplated, has principal reference to the effect of error, not in an individual, but social view. Error, especially in the momentous concerns of religion, leads directly to contention; and, where contention is, there is every evil work. To sow discord among brethren, by scattering the seeds of error, is to ensure a copious harvest to the adversary of souls. Men of the world, not distinguishing, as they ought, but judging of Christianity from the lives of professors,

too hastily conclude that this religion cannot be of God. Christianity is therefore abandoned by them, if not exposed to ridicule and blasphemy. Thousands, especially among the young and thoughtless, thus contract a fatal prejudice against that name, by which alone they can be saved. In this way unknown multitudes become, if not professed, yet practical infidels. How important is it, then, that the floodgates of error be shut, and that free circulation be given to evangelical truth; not only as this would lessen the number of infidels, but as it would establish the minds of many weak and wavering Christians, and give to Christianity an opportunity of producing its genuine effects on the hearts and lives of professors! Ministers would then have more leisure to dwell on heavenly themes, to unfold and recommend divine truth in all its beauty and sublimity; and private Christians would let their light so shine around them, that others, seeing their good works, witnessing their pacific temper, and heavenly conversation, would also be excited to glorify their Father, who is in heaven.

In the object of the gospel ministry, as stated in the scriptures, we read its importance. Ministers are there represented, as set for the defence of the gospel, and to be examples to believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. When, therefore, the clergy consist of men of distinguished talents, learning, and diligence; when they stand fast in the same faith, and are united in the same spirit; when in their conduct and conversation they exemplify the purity and charity

of the gospel; there is the best reason to hope, that true religion will generally flourish in princi ple and practice. In the divine economy, means are adapted to ends. Did not the defence of the gospel depend, under God, upon the ministers of Christ; he would not appoint them to this service. Were not their conduct influential in forming the religious character of men; ministers would not be enjoined to be examples to them in conversation, as well as in doctrine. The language of St. Paul on this subject is decisive, importing that able and faithful ministers, "by taking heed to themselves and to their doctrine, and by continuing there. in, shall both save themselves, and them who hear them." The necessity and extensive utility of gospel ministers are figuratively represented by salt and light, elements essential to the life and comfort of all creation. What efforts then ought not to be made for training up a learned, pious, and harmonious clergy, to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world! David of old

[ocr errors]

swore unto the Lord, and vow. ed unto the mighty God of Jacob; surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes, nor slumber to my eyelids, until I find out a place for the Lord, a habitation for the mighty God of Jacob.” Surely Christians, under the gospel dispensation, ought not to be less anxious, that his "priests may be clothed with salvation," thoroughly furnished for every good word and work, “that his saints may shout aloud for joy."

N. B. The outlines of a contemplated Theological Institution will be given in our next number.



Fellow Mortals,


As you are your own accusers; as you are repeatedly exposing yourselves to fresh guilt and disgrace before many witnesses, your crimes need not be proved. Unaffected with your guilt and folly, neither the voice of the preacher, the important truths he delivers, the eyes of spectators, nor even the presence of God himself, have hitherto restrained you. Suffer one among the many, whose feelings have been deeply affected, and whose devotion has been interrupted by your indolence and folly, to address you in the plain, faithful language of friendship.

What mean ye, O sleepers, by choosing the day of the Lord, above all others, for a day of slumber, and the time of his worship, above all other times in that sacred day, for sloth? What! have you not houses to sleep in, that you must convert your seats in God's house into places of repose? Have you no time for sleep, but that which he has set apart for his service? Will you find an excuse from the nature of the service? Will you plead that the gospel of Christ is so uninteresting, or the exercises of the sanctuary so unengaging, that it is difficult to preserve your attention to them? Think, what evidence such pleas afford of the hardness and carnality of your hearts. What can engage your attention, if the glorious discoveries of the gospel;

if God incarnate shedding his precious blood for guilty men cannot? What subject so deserving your most serious attention as this? When the Redeemer expired, the rocks were rent, the earth quaked, the graves opened, the dead arose, the sun was darkened, and a centurion exclaimed, "This is the Son of God!" But you, more obdurate and unfeeling, present to a disgusted Christian assembly a yawning countenance, when the wonders of redeeming love are declared from the pulpit. You declare by your conduct, that an idolatrous Gentile soldier felt more like a Christian than you, who have been all your days under the light of the gospel. You may profess to be Christians, and you might be displeased with any one who should call your sincerity in question: And is your sleeping in God's house the evidence you give of it? Is this the fruit by which we must judge of your faith? Enter the mosque of a Musselman, the pagod of an Indian, or the synagogue of a Jew, and must you not allow, if attention be the criterion, they are better worshippers than you? Yes; it is the infamy of assemblies called Christian, above all others, thus to dishonour their religion, and insult their God. And at your door, O sleeper, this infamy lies. Where is your respect for your minister, your profiting by his labours? Unhappy man! thy hearers tell

« PreviousContinue »