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The Advancement of Religion the Claim of the Times. By Andrer

Reed, D.D. 8vo, pp. 399. London : Snow, 1843. The present aspect of public affairs furnishes materials for grave and thoughtful deliberation. It is apparent that conflicting elements are at work, both in the political and religious world ; and how the struggle may terminate, it is not very easy to decide. Conjecture is fruitful; expectation is alive; the hopes of some are buoyant and flattering; while the fears of others are dark and foreboding.

For ourselves, we entertain no gloomy anticipations: the excited elements, we believe, will ultimately yield to the pacific mandate of Him, who commandeth even the wind and the sea, and they obey him. The troubled waters, by a sanatory process, will only effectuate purity and health. If turbulent influences do agitate the surface of the stream, there is a depth to which their fury cannot reach ; and we have full confidence in the all-subduing influence of Christianity, which, pouring oil upon the ruffled bosom, shall calm it to repose : yes; religion is our anchor, our hope, our salvation : we have little fear for our country, and none for Christianity. But if there ever was a period, that demanded the active and simultaneous efforts of Christian men, that period is the pre

We should precipitate our differences, and obey the call to union—we should consolidate our strength, and bring the aggregate force of Christian principle, character, and zeal, to bear upon the revolting masses of ungodliness around us : in a word, the advancement of religion is the claim of the times. We speak from a careful examination of the work before us, when we record it as our deliberate opinion, that the times do not more powerfully claim the advancement of religion, than the volume on our table is adapted to promote it. We know not any work in this department of literature, which will bear comparison with this publication: the spirit and temper which pervade it, bespeak a mind richly imbued with devout feeling, and overlooking the confines of party, is intent only upon the salvation of the world. The volume comprises ten lectures. The subject of the first is—The Advancement of Religion desirable.Motto: “Thy kingdom come.” The great principle laid down, and uniformly kept in view throughout these lectures, is the advancement of religion ; and the details into which this principle is amplified, comprise every form in which religion is embodied, and in which it is capable of progression. Dr. R. defines what religion is ; explains what is meant by its advancement; and shows that advancement is desirable. But while the abstract proposition thus laid down, may secure the unhesitating acquiescence of men of every shade of religious opinion, still its practical importance is not sufficiently felt, so as to touch the springs of action, and thus prompt to exertion, in some degree commensurate with the pressing demands of a sinful world. The following statement is perfectly astounding, and nothing more need be suggested to secure at once the sympathy, the prayers, and the efforts of a Christian population : Dr. Reed observes, “ Those who bear the Christian name under any form may be computed at two hundred millions. Of these, about eighty millions may be considered Protestant; and of the whole Protestant community, it would be making a liberal allowance to say, that there are twenty millions living truly under the influence of that religion they profess. But twenty millions is so small an amount, as compared with the world's population, that it scarcely affects the aggregate sum ; and it may still be said, that there are eight hundred millions of beings on our earth who are neglecting the great end of life, and the great and adorable Being, who is the single fountain of life and blessedness.”—p. 11.


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Whatever view we take of mankind,-whether, as possessing true religion, but requiring advancement; or as exhibiting some of the varied forms of religion, but defective in spirit ; or as being destitute of religion altogether,—the Gospel, and that alone, is admirably adapted to meet the circumstances, and relieve the wants of all. Every other system elaborated by the ingenuity of man, wearing perchance the impress of hoary antiquity, entwined it may be with the habits, manners, and customs of its former admirers, is gradually falling into desuetude and ruin; unable, after the lapse of years, to abide the test of utility, to which every false system must ultimately submit. Modern invention has been called into exercise and a new moral world,has emerged from the chaos of darkness and corruption, which the rising tide of truth threatens to overwhelm, while the ark of God shall survive its destruction. To this new expedient Dr. R. thus beautifully refers :“More recently, schemes have been devising, which are to bring to society a true worship and true felicity. And much has been said of the dignity and perfectibility of human nature; and much of existing institutions, as the fatal barrier to our progress. And marriage has been denounced as a prejudice; property as a usurpation ; and the Bible as an obsolete book; and men are promised to be introduced to a 'new moral world, in which they are to find their character in circumstances, their honour in the worship of the God of nature, and their harmony in having all things common amongst themselves. A new moral world! and on such premises ! and with the vaunt of man's perfectibility! Vain and visionary fancies ! Abortions of a sickly imagination and a corrupt heart! too feeble to do harm or preserve life. While we speak of them they expire. Though they flatter human passions, they cannot sustain human hope. Like the insignificant wave on the great waters, they appear and dazzle for an instant, and then disappear for ever, leaving all beneath as cold and as dark as it was before !”-p. 18. Dr. R. shows that the means employed; the facilities afforded ; the advanced state of civil and religious liberty ; prevailing peace; extended commerce ; the result of the advancement of religion to ourselves, to our dearest connexions, to the church universal, to the world, to heaven and eternity; every view we take of circumstances and events—of the present and the future, render the advancement of religion supremely desirable and imperative.

The subject of the second lecture is—The Advancement of Religion in the Person.” Motto: “Tarry ye—until ye be endued with power from on high.” Some excellent and appropriate remarks will be found in this lecture. Dr. R. shows not only the indispensable necessity of sterling piety in those who would be efficient co-workers with God in the conversion of the world; but of an elevated state of devout feeling and moral purity; and directs attention to certain particulars essential to advancement in personal religion, and the means adapted to promote it. We would strongly recommend the thoughtful and prayerful perusal of this lecture, as a qualification for the work of faith and labour of love, which conscience may suggest, or the word of God enjoin. It is fitted to awaken the drowsy professor—to startle into life and activity the supine—to minister the pabulum vitæ to the ordinary Christian, and hence, to promote the vigour and manliness of spiritual life ; and by communicating a fresh impulse, to prepare the mind for untried and ancontemplated efforts. We have noticed some forms of expressions in this and other parts of the volume, which are scarcely in keeping with the author's theological views, and quite at variance with his adopted phraseology on other occasions ; we dispute, for instance, the accuracy of the following representations : "He clothes existing and acknowledged truths, with new light and power;" and speaking of a pastor of “talents and fruitfulness," who during his ministry, it appears, had been lead to perceive more vividly, and to feel more powerfully, the important doctrine of the Saviour's mediation, he says, “The grand truth of the mediation of Christ broke on his mind with overwhelming light and glory:” and in the same category we must place the oft-repeated, and almost axiomatic phrase, “the Scripture is a sealed book.”—p. 167. In connexion with the above, but bearing an aspect widely different, we have the subjoined statements : “Theology is a spiritual science; and it can be seen only by a spiritual faculty, and through a spiritual medium.” The failure or success in fixing upon the true meaning of Scripture, must be ascribed to the measure of spiritual acumen possessed, as Dr. R. very properly remarks, “Two expositors of the Holy Scriptures shall be equally acute, equally learned, equally industrious; the one shall give you the just sense, and the other shall fail of it. What is the reason? Simply, that the one has a more spiritual apprehension of the truth.”—p. 166. It is manifest, therefore, that the light, power, and glory of Divine truths, are unchangeably the same, and the degrees of clearness with which they are discerned, depend upon the degree of spiritual perception with which the mind is endowed. The features of loveliness and beauty, impressed upon the outstretched landscape before us, are precisely the same, though the mists of the morning hang over them, or the darkened vision of the beholder hides them from view. We may perhaps incur the charge of fastidiousness in suggesting these remarks, but as they have relation to important truth, we cannot deem them altogether impertinent : accuracy of expression is subordinate only to correctness of thought; the spirit, force, and beauty of the one may be essentially damaged by the negligence of the other : language should express neither more or less than it is intended to convey, and be so carefully selected, as to become a faithful exponent of our ideas.

The third lecture is on The Advancement of Religion by Personal Effort.Motto : “Let him that heareth say, Come.” The importance of the subject discussed in this portion of the volume, appears, by the request expressed for the distinct publication of this lecture, in a cheaper form, for more general circulation. Should any of our readers lack the means of securing the volume itself, we trust they will not fail to possess this valuable fragment of it, which will supply the needful impetus to benevolent action, and direct to the right performance of it ; in fact, it may be used as the Christian's vade mecum, in his efforts to do good. The advice it contains is solid and judicious, the result of thought and experience. Objections are met, and wisely disposed of ; motives to engage in the work are selected, and pressed with no ordinary fervour; and encouragements are plentifully supplied, that the mind might not be overborne with difficulties, and yield ere the important work be accomplished. The conversion of souls is to be sought, and nothing more ; that is, we must seek to make Christians, and not sectarians ; to secure a convert to the Gospel, not a proselyte to a party ; to be satisfied with nothing less than a sound and indisputable conversion. Dr. R. encounters a mistake, which it is feared too many indulge, in entertaining favourable opinions, where there are no decided indications of true piety; thus cheating themselves into the belief that hopeful symptoms exist, because there is a negation of active vices, and the flowing drapery of a moral decorum, serving to blind the eyes and complete the delusion. We should heed the lesson taught by the revolving seasons, that while there can be no fruit without blossom, there may be blossom without fruit. It may be affirmed of every man, that he is, or he is not converted; we know of no middle state, no neutral ground: there are shades of character both in worldly and religious men ; but up to the point of conversion, all are ungodly, and beyond that point all are religious; the transition from

one state to the other is instantaneous, and all subsequent improvement progressive. To convert others is the province of converted men ; let him that heareth say, Come : there is work enough in the field of Christian labour for all, and departments suitable for all. None need stand idle because there is no work, or because he may not work, but because he will not work ; to all it is said, “ Go work in my vineyard."

Some remarks occur in this lecture in the subject of lay-agency, which, while it is admitted a diversity of opinion exists, there seems little difficulty or doubt, respecting its necessity and propriety, in the mind of the author himself. In the sentiment expressed by Dr. R. we most cordially concur, namely, that lay-agency is as extensive as lay piety. In the records of the early church we are distinctly informed, that on the persecution that arose about Stephen, the church which was at Jerusalem were all scattered abroad through the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles ; that they (the church) went every where preaching the Lord Jesus, that the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned unto the Lord. Dr. Dick observes, that the first person among the dispersed disciples, that began to preach, was Philip, an evangelist, who sustained an extraordinary office, inferior only to the apostles ; that when Antioch is again mentioned, we read that there were prophets and teachers in that city, among whom we find Lucius, a man of Cyrene. He thinks it highly probable, that he was one of those Cyreneans by whom the church at Antioch was founded ; and he says it is a natural inference, from his being a prophet or teacher, that the rest were likewise prophets, or persons invested with some ecclesiastical office; and that all those, who went every where preaching the word, were possessed of the same authority. Unless we can acquiesce in such an improbable conjecture, that every member of this scattered church bore some official character, we are necessarily compelled to acknowledge, that layagency enjoys the venerable sanction of primitive practice ; and that the results of that agency exhibit the imprimatur of Divine approval. Piety prepares for action, and renders action not optional but obligatory, and when put forth in the fear of God, with reliance upon the Divine Spirit, shall not fail of success.

The fourth lecture is—The Advancement of Religion in the Family.Motto: “Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children.” In this lecture the author directs to the method in

look for this advancement; and then to the inducements disposing us to it. The diligent cultivation of piety in the parents is considered, in the attempt to urge and promote the advancement of religion in the household. Maternal influence, especially, as its nature is good or evil, must have a salutary or pernicious effect, in the formation of early habits; and will tend materially to mould the character of the rising generation. It is of unspeakable importance that the

which we may

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