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having held out promises and hopes that were never to be realized.
But now nothing of this can be alleged—the most hardened infidel, however he may declaim against Christianity (as, alas ! he may too easily do) on account of the conduct of Christians, the divisions, the dissensions among us, yet at least he must confess that these very things were prophesied of by the LORD JESUS Himself and His Apostles, and that these prophecies are now too plainly fulfilled in the present condition of the Christian world,
The faithful Christian, then, however he may deplore the events, yet at least derives comfort from the thought that they form a strong, and—as even an infidel must confess--a plain, undeniable proof in favour of the truth of the Gospel.
Yet, on the other hand, and in a different point of view, these considerations may well suggest to us much matter of grief, also of solemn warning as to our own personal duty in such trials. For I think it must be confessed to be one of the severest trials to sincere Christians in these days, and one comparatively unknown to Christians in the early ages of the Church—the extreme prevalence of schisms and divisions, supported and encouraged on the false and pernicious principle that human authority is not to be listened to in matters of religion.
For now, if a young person who has been brought up in the way that is now most usual, without any great attention to his religious instruction, should begin to think seriously about these matters, the first thing he observes is that religious persons themselves are divided one from another, and all equally positive that they are right. And as he knows they cannot be all right, so he thinks they are perhaps all wrong, and therefore draws back at the very threshold, and renounces in fact all Christian communion.
These kind of cases I am confident are very frequent; and it should seem that they who make schisms and causeless divisions in the Church of Christ will have much to answer for on account of souls so perishing for whom Christ died.
“It is impossible but that offences come, but woe to him through whom they come.” This was one of the most solemn and affecting warnings ever delivered by the holy Jesus, and it seems to have something prophetic in it, as if He were then looking forward to the scandalous divisions, the misery and ruin which would be brought into His Church, His fold, by the wiles of the great enemy, practising on the proud and corrupt hearts of fallen man.
In conclusion, let me observe that it is difficult to speak on this subject faithfully, and with that charity which should guide the thoughts and words of all Christians, especially of Christian ministers. The reason why it is difficult to speak hereon, is because divisions and separations in religion are come to be accounted of small consequence, and no matter of blame; and also because it is taken for granted that clergymen (I mean the majority of us) are actuated herein by sordid and worldly motives of some kind or other. But still, however blind we may be and ignorant of Gospel truth, if people choose to say so; however false
may be our doctrine, however corrupt and worldly our lives —yet surely the truth of God remains the same; surely, St. Paul says,
“schisms and divisions are evidences of a carnal spirit;" surely he says that “we ought to avoid those who cause divisions and offences,” adding, that they serve not the LORD JESUS Christ but their own belly,” their own feelings and fancies, “and with good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple." Our opinion then may be of no value, but surely that of St. Paul is worth attending to, all must confess.
These things we are bound from time to time to press on your thoughts, with our earnest prayers at the throne of Divine Grace, that we may all be enabled more and more to perceive the value of love and harmony, of unity, peace, and concord ; that we may ever love the truth and peace
be ever more ready to hear than to speak, to obey than to command; and, following the advice of the great St. Paul, that we lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty; and, finally, that we cherish no bitter, angry feelings against those who have departed from the faith and unity of the Church; nor, on the other hand, be too confident and positive about our own spiritual condition, but humbly and habitually beseech Almighty God for His dear Son's sake, that those who are gone astray may be brought back, and that we may be all led into the way of truth, and enabled to hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life.
“As it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man."
We are placed, each of us, in the midst (as it were) of a vast eternity: on the one side of us is the eternity which is past; on the other the eternity which is to come. So also as inhabitants of this earth on which we tread, we occupy (as it were) an intermediate point in the course of its existence.
On looking back, we are able, by the aid of authentic testimony, that namely of Scripture history, to realise to our minds the great events which have taken place in times past; and on looking forward, we are able also, by the light of authentic prophecy, to foresee the great events which are drawing on upon the world; some near, some farther off.
Some persons might perhaps think that it is of no use for people to trouble their minds with inquiring into events long since accomplished, or with looking forward to such as will not take place till this world shall draw towards its end, and they perhaps shall have been long in their graves. It might be supposed, that such inquiries are vain and useless, a mere waste of time, and that people would act more wisely, in limiting their thoughts and views to their own times, and to matters of present and immediate interest. Nevertheless the fact does certainly seem to be, that we are, now, very much concerned in events which have long since past, and also in those which are to come hereafter. The knowledge of these, a due consideration of and inquiry into them, together with a course of thought and conduct influenced by such knowledge and consideration, is certainly no vain speculation or waste of time, but a matter of present and immediate duty. At least, if it be not so, how is it to be accounted for that the volume of Scripture, the revealed Word of God, should be so full as it is of history and of prophecyhistory of things past, and prophecy, that is, history of things to come ?
And if it should be said that certainly there are in the Scriptures a great many prophecies, but that they are nearly all in the Old Testament, and have been long since fulfilled : it might be answered, first of all, that there are even in the Old Testament numberless predictions which have not yet received their final accomplishment; and secondly, that the New Testament is remarkably full of prophecies, in proportion more so than the Old, as might easily be shown.
The right study of history and prophecy, therefore, that is, a reverential inquiry into the Divine revelations concerning what has been before, and what shall be hereafter,—this is not merely natural and allowable to thoughtful persons, but it is even a Christian duty, and the neglect of it must evince a want of seriousness about Christian truth,must shew that men have a low notion of the value of “the glorious Gospel of the blessed God."
On examining the authentic and sacred records of the most ancient history, it appears, that about 4190 years ago, when mankind in general had greatly forgotten their Heavenly LORD and CREATOR, HE determined to inflict on them his severe and heavy judgments.
That forgetfulness of God, and neglect of all serious thought, were the crimes which drew down on that miserable generation the wrath of the Almighty, is plain from comparing together what is said on the subject in the Old and New Testaments.
In the Old Testament we find that at that time “ God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that