Page images
PDF
EPUB

from the uncertainty of the characters whom they were address ing; and the same cause has produced the modern essay called a Sermon, which is partly addressed to those who are supposed not to be Christians, and partly to those who are.

Having seen how impossible it is that such a sentiment as Christian love can exist in churches in which the gifts of the Holy Spirit do not manifest themselves, it will be easy to perceive also how none of the minor graces can exist either. The very lowest, which is alms-giving, cannot be done according to the Apostolic precept of doing good unto all men, especially unto them which are of the household of faith:” we know not who are of the household of faith, nor have we any means of knowing; and if we attempt to know, it can only be by exercising the spirit of judgment, which we are expressly forbidden to do. But in a church in which the gifts of the Spirit were in full power, the gift of discernment, and the fearful discipline which would be exercised on impostors, would render the liability to imposition extremely difficult : the rich members would cheerfully contribute, even to give their cloke in addition to their coat, to one whom they knew to be a brother: a virtual, though not a literal, community of goods would be exercised : while the weekly collections of the flock would ever leave an abundant supply for all the offices of kindliness to them that are without; which would make a Christian church a real blessing, not only to its own members, but to all around it, who should see its good works as the light of a city set upon a hill, and thereby glorify the Father who is in heaven. The deacons, and those employed in the subordinate ministries and helps and governments of the church, would be well acquainted with all the circumstances of every member, and distribute to the needy severally as each required.

It will be no answer to these observations, to shew that there has been much love and mutual dependence between the members of the Moravian or any other church. The love which existed amongst them, and which is not to be denied, was merely that of persons naturally tender and affectionate; and the mutual dependence arose out of the machinery of their respective church establishments, and was no more a work of the Spirit than the orders of bishops, priests, deacons, parish-clerks, and church wardens, in the Church of England. Ever since the one bond of the Spirit, God's sole “ Binders(Zech. xi, 7), has been rejected, and men have attempted to bind one another into church union and fellowship by written terms of confession, the body of Christ has become more and more rent.

In this respect, all terms of subscription, be the articles never so sound, are equally prejudicial: and the closer any church or body of men are held by these ligatures, the more violent will be the

rupture of it which the Spirit will cause, when the members of Christ which it contains become each of them a Naphthali, or hind let loose.

There never was so fearful and soul-destroying a delusion in the Christian church, as that which is put forth by the opponents to the present manifestations of spiritual gifts-namely, that they already possess all the graces of the Spirit, and that therefore they have no need of the gifts. The truth is, that self-love has blinded the eyes of professors of religion. All discerning men deny and laugh at the impudent arrogance of such pretensions. The world calls, and justly calls, modern professors canting hypocrites—that is, men who lay claim to å holiness which they do not possess. The world laid no such charge at the door of the early Christians, when the gifts abounded. Love was their acknowledged characteristic; sincerity, even to obstinacy, in the open avowal of their whole opinions, was the meed of praise awarded them by their bitterest enemies; and the records of heathen malevolence are wholly silent on any charge of insincerity, or of false assumption of virtues to which they were not entitled. Not so modern enemies of Christianity: they have seen that the assumption of Christians to the simplicity, honesty, holiness, and love, which they lay claim to, is groundless; that hypocrisy, dissimulation, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness, abound in them: and professors of religion had better learn their real character from the world, take the beam out of their own eye, and then will they see clearly to take the mote out of the eyes of those to whom they ought to preach, and exhibit the example of Jesus.

It is remarkable how often the common sense of mankind is more correct in its apprehensions, than that half information which arises from the superficial examination of any subject. The charge of hypocrisy, which has been constantly made against professors of religion, is perfectly correct. The leaven of the Pharisees is hypocrisy, which leavens the whole lump. Leaven makes the mass into which it is put, swell up, and look very big; adds greatly to its bulk, and something to its power of pleasing the taste, but nothing to its really nutritive qualities. When we say Hypocrisy, we do not now mean that men take up the trade of Evangelical profession while they know in their hearts that they believe a different set of doctrines from those which they declare from their lips; but we mean that they profess a system of religion which consists of a certain assurance and confidence in an unseen Being for power that they neither have nor wish to have; of a perfection to which they assert it is impossible to attain; of a love which they do not feel; and of a holiness of which they are not partakers. There are many, very many persons in the religious world, who are pious, benevolent, and meaning to

be honest; but they know there is a discrepancy between their system and themselves : and constantly to act more than they feel, is dissimulation, although not intended to deceive.

If there be any professors of religion who really hunger and thirst after the holiness enjoined in Scripture, they can attain it only through church ordinances after the Apostolic model. They must join themselves to churches in which there are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, which the Lord has given for the perfecting of the saints; and without these they never can be blest: they can have no love, no charity, no holiness, no brotherly love. They cannot thrive as individuals. We feel how galling and repugnant this assertion will be to the conceit, pride, heady high-mindedness of the age, which has imbibed in the church all the radical liberalism, that is on the point of breaking down every ordinance in the state. Rebellion in the church has preceded rebellion in the land. Many shall bewail the destruction of their worldly concerns, who despise the spoliation which themselves have caused in their spiritual prospects. Let not the true Christian suppose that the spirit which he sees abroad on the earth has found no access into his own heart, and has not diffused itself into his religious principles. We implore such to reverence the pastoral office exceedingly; to uphold the hands of every faithful minister who will take God and his Bible for his guide, and trample upon all confederacies of men; to separate themselves from no teacher until after much patience, and prayer made for him; to exercise faith for every one who is honest, however dark and ill-instructed he may be: but, at the same time, to leave every one who will not allow the voice of the Spirit to be heard in his assembly; being assured that without it there can be no gifts; and without the gifts, none of the genuine graces of the Spirit of God.

The division of chapters and verses is very useful for reference, but often mars the connection of the argument in many places in the Bible. There is probably no portion of Holy Writ which has been more perverted by superficial readers, owing to this arbitrary division, than the passage relating to the present subject. We allude to ch. xiii. of the First of Corinthians, which they say is inserted in order to contrast love with gifts : but what possible contrast can there be between love and gifts, which does not equally exist between faith and gifts, holiness and gifts, or any other fragment of the Christian character ? Faith, gifts, holiness, wisdom, utterance, love, knowledge, and many other graces, are endowments from God; and any comparison, in the way of setting up one above another, is derogatory to some, and honourable or exalting to none. If it be said that love is preferred to faith in the very passage in question (ver. 2), we deny the fact, and say the assertion is made from ignorance of its

clear meaning. The faith spoken of is the mere faith of power to work miracles, the possession of few; and not " the precious faith of God's elect," which is the common possession of all God's children. The whole force of the passage consists in its being an instruction how to use the gifts of the Holy Ghost, because they are not conferred for the benefit of the individual who possesses them, but for the benefit of the whole church ; that the possessor is only a vessel through which the blessing is conveyed; that the channel should not use its gift for its own advantage, but rather for the advantage of others; and that the ungifted members should exercise their love in an especial degree towards their gifted brethren.

Now the want of love, which has been shewn by the Evangelical and all other ministers and writers, to the gifted persons in these days, is the strongest proof that can be brought forward of the total absence of love in the church. In almost all cases they have condemned the gifted persons without a hearing: they have publicly censured their BRETHREN, without taking the common pains of inquiring of their brethren what it was they had really done: some have accused the gifted persons of being impostors; some, of being possessed by devils ; some, of being silly, deluded enthusiasts. 'One clergyman, of high Evangelical repute, being in London from a very distant part of the empire upon other business, was requested, by some friends in his own neighbourhood, to examine into the subject of the manifestations in Mr. Irving's church : he came once or twice, but subsequently declared that he could not rise at five o'clock in the morning for any thing; and when he returned home, denounced them as illegitimate claims ! Not one clergyman has had sufficient love or zeal to attempt the deliverance of the persons he says he believes to be misguided. With this damning fact before our eyes, not all the sermons that they shall preach, nor speeches they shall make, nor tirades they shall write, will ever make us acquit the whole of the Evangelical body of the charge of want of love for the objects towards whom the Apostle especially directs them to exercise it. To hear the panegyrics passed on this chapter, one would suppose that Paul had written an elegant essay on an interesting affection of the natural man; and half the Sceptics in the land are as loud in its praise as the Evangelicals themselves; and, for aught we see, obey its injunctions as fully as these. Love, says the Apostle, is not rash: the Evangelicals condemned first, and inquired afterwards, the acme of rashness;thinks no evil: the Evangelicals think great evil of the present manifestations ;-rejoiceth not in iniquity : they rejoice in every report which confirms their belief that the work proceeds from Satan ;---rejoiceth in, or with, the truth: they rejoice not in the state in which the church would be brought by this truth, but

fear and hate it exceedingly, knowing that their place and false dignity would be thereby taken away ;-beareth all things: they bear nothing; if all things do not turn out according to their preconceived, and unexamined fancies, they condemn at once ;believeth all things: they do not believe the word of one of these gifted persons to be worthy of trust, nor do they give them credit for sincerity, or think their opinions merit five minutes' conversation ;-hopeth all things: instead of hoping that they may not be deceived, and anxious to find out that they are not, they fully anticipate the most unfavourable view of the question;

-endureth all things: they have nothing to endure; they dread being counted fools; they wish to be counted wise, and prudent, and sound reasoners, and good logicians; and they think that the way to attain this reputation is to cry down the gifted persons.

From this their disgusting practice, let us turn to the injunction of the Lord, and see what ought to be our conduct. We read that every person possessed of the Spirit acted in such a way, by voice and manner, as to be considered either as “ filled with new wine,” or “mad,” or “possessed of a devil.” We read also that the persons endowed with gifts of the Holy Ghost were more likely to abuse them than persons endowed with any

other treasure; that a church so endowed was particularly blessed and favoured of God, and therefore a particular object of Satan's attacks; that they who had not any gifts would be jealous of those who had ; that they who had, would be liable to be puffed up; and that they who had one gift would be discontented at not having some other. Since, therefore, gifted persons stood in such dangerous places; since their apostasy or declension would be so much more fearful than the apostasy or declension of any other persons; we are exhorted to give them more support than any other of our Christian brethren, by our prayers ; and these prayers will be certainly hypocritical, unless we love them, for their gifts sake, more than we love other members of the church. Moreover, in the greater number of instances the gifts would be manifested in persons whom we should not be disposed to value on other grounds: God would choose especially the weak and foolish, in order to confound the wise ; persons whoseconduct, when not under the influence of the Spirit, might be justly censurable. Satan would not only tempt them to abuse their gifts, but he would also tempt us to suspect them of doing so, and thereby entirely mar the benefit to be received into our own souls; for if once the suspicion crosses our minds that the prophet is unfaithful to his God, and speaking of his own mind, we no longer believe we are listening to the voice of God, and the prophet is no longer a prophet to us. Wherefore, the Lord, foreseeing that such suspicions would entirely frustrate the benefit which he designs to his church by raising

« PreviousContinue »