Billeder på siden
[ocr errors]





"Truth and Love are two of the most powerful things in the world; and when they both go toge ther, they cannot easily be withstood. The golden beams of Truth, and the silken cords of Love, twisted together, will draw men on with a sweet violence, whether they will or no."-Cudworth.




A WORK which the author published a few years its intrinsic merits. One thing is certain, the subsince, on the Duties of Church Members, concludes ject is confessedly important, and it is as plain as it with the following sentence:-" Let us remember, is important. It requires little argument to explain that HUMILITY and LOVE are the necessary fruits of or to defend it; and as for eloquence to recommend our doctrines, the highest beauty of our character, and enforce it, the only power that can render it efand the guardian angels of our churches." To fectual for practical benefit, is the demonstration of prove and elucidate this sentiment, and to state at the Spirit: without this aid, a giant in literature greater length than it was possible for him to do in could do nothing, and the feeblest effort, by such asthat treatise, the nature, operations, and importance sistance, may be successful. Too much has not of CHARITY; he was induced to enter upon a series been said, and cannot be said, about the doctrines of Discourses on the chapter which is the subject of the gospel; but too little may be said, and too of this volume: these Discourses were heard with little is said and thought, about its spirit. To conmuch attention, and apparent interest. Before they tribute something towards supplying this deficiency were finished, many requests were presented for in the treasures of the temple, the author offers this their publication; a promise was given to that ef- small volume; and though it be but as the widow's fect, and the intention announced to the public. On two mites, yet, as it is all he has to give, as it is a further inspection of his notes, the author saw so given willingly, and with a desire to glorify God, little that was either novel, or on any account he humbly hopes that however it may be despised worthy to meet the public eye, that he had for two by those, who he rejoices to know, are so much years quite abandoned his intention of printing. | richer than himself in intellectual and moral affiuCircumstances which need not be mentioned, toge-ence, it will not be rejected by him, who more rether with frequent inquiries from his friends after gards the motive than the amount of every offering the forthcoming treatise, drew his attention again that is carried to his altar. to the sub a few months since, and revived the original purpose of sending from the press the sub-other faults which the scrutinizing eye of criticism stance of these plain and practical Discourses. will discover in his work, and which its stern That intention is now executed; with what results, voice will condemn, one is the tautologies, of which, the sovereign grace of Jehovah, to which it is hum- in some places, it appears to be guilty. In answer bly commended, must determine. to this, he can only remark, that in the discussion of such a subject, where the parts are divided by such almost imperceptible lines, and softened down so much into each other, he found it very difficult to avoid this repetition, which, after all, is perhaps not always a fault-at least not a capital one.

The author can easily suppose, that among many

Edgbaston, April 22, 1828.

The author offers this volume primarily and chiefly to his own friends, to whom it is dedicated. He has, however, by publishing it, placed it within the reach of the public, though he can truly say, that he does not expect much interest to be produced by his work, in the minds of many, beyond those who are prepared, by friendship, to value it above



twelfth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians. "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the


THE OCCASION OF PAUL'S DESCRIPTION AND ENFORCE-same Spirit. And there are differences of administration, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal: for to one is given by the Spirit, the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another, faith by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of Spirits; to another divers tongues: to another the interpretation of tongues."


THE credibility of the Gospel, as a revelation from heaven, was attested by miracles, as had been predicted by the prophet Joel. "And it shall come to pass afterwards, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also upon the servants and the handmaidens in those days, I will pour out my Spirit." This prophecy began to re- It is not necessary that we should here explain ceive its accomplishment when our Lord entered the nature, and trace the distinction, of these enupon his public ministry, but was yet more re-dowments-a task which has been acknowledged markably fulfilled, according to the testimony of by all expositors to be difficult, and which is Peter, on the day of Pentecost, when the disciples thought by some to be impossible. But vague and were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to general as is the idea of them which we possess, we speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them can form some conception of the strange and novel utterance;" and still continued to be fulfilled till the spectacle presented by a society in which they were power of working miracles was withdrawn from the in full operation. They constituted the light which Church. Our Lord Jesus Christ ceased not, dur- fell from heaven upon the Church, and to which ing his continuance on earth, to prove, by these she appealed, as the proofs of her divine origin. It splendid achievements, the truth of his claims as is not easy for us to conceive of any thing so strikthe Son of God; and constantly appeal to them in ing and impressive, as a community of men thus rehis controversy with the Jews, as the reasons and markably endowed. We may entertain a general, the grounds of faith in his communications. By though not an adequate, idea of the spiritual glory him the power of working miracles was conferred which shone upon an assembly, where one member on his apostles, who, in the exercise of this extraor- would pour forth, in strains of inspired eloquence, dinary gift, cast out demons, and "healed all man- the profoundest views of the divine economy, and ner of sickness, and all manner of disease." Christ would be succeeded by another, who, in the exeralso assured them that, under the dispensation of the cise of the gift of knowledge, would explain the Spirit, which was to commence after his decease, mysteries of truth, concealed under the symbols of their miraculous powers should be so much en- the Jewish dispensation;-where one, known perlarged and multiplied, as to exceed those which had haps to be illiterate, would rise, and in a language been exercised by himself. This took place on the which he had never studied, descant, without hesiday of Pentecost, when the ability to speak all lan- tation and without embarrassment, on the sublimeguages without previous study was conferred upon est topics of revealed truth; and would be followed them. The apostles, as the ambassadors and mes- by another, who, in the capacity of an interpreter, sengers of their risen Lord, were authorized and would render into the vernacular tongue all that enabled to invest others with the high distinction; had been spoken; where one would heal the most for, to confer the power of working miracles, was a inveterate diseases of the body with a word, and prerogative confined to the apostolic office. This is another discern by a glance the secrets of the mind, evident from many parts of the New Testament.- and disclose the hypocrisy which lurked under the But while apostles only could communicate this veil of the most specious exterior. What seeming power, any one, not excepting the most obscure and confusion, and yet what real grandeur, must have illiterate member of the churches, could receive it; attended such a scene? What were the disputaas it was not confined to Church officers, whether tions of the schools, the eloquence of the forum, or ordinary or extraordinary. It is probable that these the martial pomp, the accumulating wealth, the gifts were sometimes distributed among all the ori- literary renown of the Augustan age of the Roman ginal members of a church: as the society increased, Empire to this extraordinary spectacle? Yea, they were confined to a more limited number, and what was the gorgeous splendor of the temple of granted only to such as were more eminent among Solomon, in the zenith of its beauty, compared with the brethren, till at length they were probably confin- this? Here were the tokens and displays of a preed to the elders; thus being as gradually withdrawn sent though invisible Deity; a glory altogether unfrom the Church as they had been communicated. earthly and inimitable, and on that account the more remarkable.

These miraculous powers were of various kinds, which are enumerated at length in the epistle to the Romans. Having then gifts, differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion (analogy) of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our miDistering or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation; or he that giveth, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye come bediligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerful-hind in no gift:" and in another place he asks them ness." They are set forth still more at length, in the "What is it, wherein ye were inferior to other

For the possession and exercise of these gifts, the Church at Corinth was eminently distinguished.This is evident from the testimony of Paul,-"I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Christ Jesus; that in every thing ye are enriched by him in all utterance,



and a susceptibility of offence; while on the other,
we shall witness an equally offensive exhibition of
envy, suspicion, imputation of evil, exultation over
failures, and a disposition to magnify and report of-
fences. Such passions are not entirely excluded
from the Church of God, at least during its militant
state; and they were most abundantly exhibited
among the Christians at Corinth. Those who had
were too apt to exult over those that had none;
while the latter indulged in envy, and ill-will to-
ward the former: those who were favored with the
most distinguished endowments, vaunted of their
achievements over those who attained only to the
humbler powers; and all the train of the irrascible
passions was indulged to such a degree, as well
This unhappy state of things the
nigh to banish Christian love from the fellowship of
the faithful.
apostle found it necessary to correct, which he did
by a series of most conclusive arguments; such, for
instance, as that all these gifts are the bestowments
of the Spirit, who in distributing them exercises a
wise but irresponsible sovereignty-that they are
bestowed for mutual advantage, and not for personal
glory-that this variety is essential to general edifi-
cation-that the useful ones are to be more valued
than those of a dazzling nature-that they are de-
pendent on each other for their efficiency; and he
then concludes his expostulation and representation,
by introducing to their notice that heavenly virtue
which he so beautifully describes in the chapter un-
der consideration, and which he exalts in value and
importance above the most coveted miraculous
powers. "Now, ye earnestly desire (for the words
should be rendered indicatively, and not impera-
"Ye are ambitious to obtain
tively,) the best gifts, but yet I show unto you a
more excellent way.'
those endowments which shall cause you to be es-
teemed as the most honorable and distinguished
persons in the Church; but, notwithstanding your
high notions of the respect due to those who excel
in miracles, I now point out to you a way to still
greater honor, by a road open to you all, and in
which your success will neither produce pride in
yourselves, nor excite envy in others. FOLLOW AF-
TER CHARITY, for the possession and exercise of this
grace is infinitely to be preferred to the most splen-
did gift."

Churches?" It is, indeed, both a humiliating and
an admonitory consiceration, that the Church
which, of all those planted by the apostles, was the
most distinguished for its gifts, should have been
the least eminent for its graces; for this was the
case with the Christian Society at Corinth. What
a scandalous abuse and profanation of the Lord's
Supper had crept in! What a schismatical spirit
prevailed! What a connivance at sin existed!-gifts,
What resistance to apostolic authority was set up!
To account for this, it should be recollected, that
the possession of miraculous gifts by no means im
plied the existence and influence of sanctifying
grace. Those extraordinary powers were entirely
distinct from the qualities which are essential to
the character of a real Christian. They were pow-
ers conferred not at all, or in a very subordinate
degree, for the benefit of the individual himself, but
were distributed according to the sovereignty of the
Divine will, for the edification of believers and the
conviction of unbelievers. Hence saith the apostle,
-"Tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe,
but to them that believe not: but prophesying serv-
eth not for them that believe not, but for them which
believe." Our Lord has informed us, that miracu-
lous endowments were not necessarily connected
with, but were often disconnected from, personal
piety. "Many will say unto me in that day, Lord,
Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in
thy name done many wonderful works? And then
will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart
from me ye workers of iniquity." Paul supposes
the same thing in the commencement of this chap-
ter, where he says,-"Though I speak with the
tongues of men, and of angels, and have not charity,
I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cym-
bal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and
understand all mysteries and all knowledge-and
though I have all faith, so that I could remove
mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing."
This hypothetical mode of speech certainly implies,
that gifts and grace are not necessarily connected.

This is a very awful consideration, and, by showing how far self-deception may be carried, ought to be felt as a solemn admonition to all professing Christians, to be very careful and diligent in the great business of self-examination.

Admirable encomium-exalted eulogium on Charity! What more could be said, or be said more properly, to raise it in our esteem, and to impress it upon our heart? The age of miracles is past; the signs, and the tokens, and the powers which accompanied it, and which, like brilliant lights from heaven, hung in bright effulgence over the Church, are vanished. No longer can the members or ministers of Christ confound the mighty, perplex the wise, or guide the simple inquirer after truth, by the demonstration of the Spirit, and of power: the control of the laws of nature, and of the spirits of darkness, is no longer intrusted to us; but that which is more excellent and more heavenly remains: that which is more valuable in itself, and less liable to abuse, continues; and that is, CHARITY. Miracles were but the credentials of Christianity, but CHARITY is its essence; miracles but its witnesses, which, having ushered it into the world, and borne their testimony, retired for ever;-but CHARITY is its very soul, which, when disencumbered of all that is earthly, shall ascend to its native seat the paradise and the presence of the eternal God.


Where distinctions exist, many evils will be sure to follow, as long as human nature is in an imperfect state. Talents, or the power of fixing attention and raising admiration, will be valued above virtues; and the more popular talents will occupy, in the estimate of ambition, a higher rank than those that are useful. Consequently, we must expect, wherever opportunities present themselves, to see on the one hand, pride, vanity, arrogance, love of display, boasting, selfishness, conscious superiority,

It is evident, both from the nature of things, and
from the reasoning of the apostle, that some of the
miraculous powers were more admired, and there-
fore more popular, than others. The gift of tongues,
as is plain from the reasoning in the fourteenth
chapter, appears to have been most coveted, because
eloquence was so much cultivated by the Greeks:
to reason and declaim in public, as a talent, was
much admired and as a practice, was exceedingly
common schools were established to teach the art,
and places of public resort were frequented to dis-
play it. Hence, in the Church of Christ, and espe-
cially with those whose hearts were unsanctified by
Divine grace, and who converted miraculous ope-
rations into a means of personal ambition, the gift
of tongues was the most admired of all these extra-
ordinary powers. A desire after conformity to the
envied distinctions of the world, has ever been the
Share and the reproach of many of the members of
the Christian community.



IN the discussion of every subject, it is of great importance to ascertain, and to fix with precision, the

« ForrigeFortsæt »