« הקודםהמשך »
distinguish between Adam's nature before he fell, when God pronounced him very good, and his nature after he fell, and became desperately wicked. That which was natural before the fall cannot want mortifying, but that only which the fall made natural. Selfishness is the depravation of self-love, as intemperance is of thirst.
I am not yet convinced that a man would shew his love to God by a willingness to be eternally and perfectly unholy and miserable ; that is, to hate God for ever. If this were possible, would it not be a most awful instance of “ doing evil that good “ might come?” Surely such speculations carry things to an extreme: and it is evident, even from the reasonings of those who favour them, that they have a very slender and ambiguous support in scripture. The apostle says, “ he laid down his “ life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives “ for the brethren :" but he seems not so much as to have thought of an infinitely greater sacrifice, which true love would be willing to make if necessary. In places where the doctrine of election is deemed so essential, that a person can hardly be thought a Christian who does not hold it, I have often observed individuals reconciled to it, not by a real submission to the righteousness and sovereignty of God, but by an idea that they themselves are elect. And may not the sentiment, 'that a willingness to be lost for ever, if the glory of God
and the good of the universe require it, is the ' essential distinction between holy and selfish
religion, give occasion to a similar self-deception, and lead men to work up their minds to a persuasion that they are thus willing, as the best
evidence of their safety? « The heart is deceitful “ above all things;" and“ we are not ignorant of “ Satan's devices.”
I am very far from being an enemy to free inquiry, provided it be conducted with humility, sobriety and reverence of God. But suppositions sometimes put for the sake of argument, concerning his decrees, operations, and dealings, make me shudder, as if I heard blasphemy. Surely poor short-sighted worms ought to be impressed with deeper awe of the infinitely holy and gracious majesty, before which angels veil their faces, than to use such language, and indulge such reasonings, in speaking of God! I must also think, that we should be careful not to intrude, with boldness, not to say presumption, into “ things not seen, and not adventurously to deduce probable consequences from revealed truths. I mean not to offend, but it appears to me that the pride of reasoning, and confident speculation, are as much the danger of religious people in North America, as antinomian laxity and selfishness are of those in Old England. The rationale of Christianity, as some call it, if carried farther than a sober and full understanding of the scriptures, will prove a dangerous matter. Religion came from God in full perfection, and can never be improved, though it
may be spoiled, by philosophy: and, the nearer our sentiments and expressions accord to those of the holy prophets and apostles, the purer will our religion be. The pride of self-wisdom is as congenial to our fallen nature, and as opposite to Christianity, as any other kind of selfishness : “ for “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God."
The Bible is, “ a light shining in a dark place.” It says a little concerning the entrance of sin, and the ruin of our race; but it gives us full and clear instructions in respect of our guilt, danger, refuge, and path.' By this light I would walk, and with it be contented, till I come to that better world where full day will be poured on all the ways and works of God. I once thought myself competent to reason on many subjects, which I now feel to be far too wonderful for me. I am afraid of desiring to be “ wise above what is written," “ lest “ the light that is in me should prove darkness." “ Secret things belong unto the Lord our God ; “ but the things which are revealed belong to us “and to our children for ever, that we may do all “ the words of this law.” For, “ the fear of the “Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil, “ that is understanding.” And the apostle, having gone to his limits in imparting what he had received, exclaims, “ O the depth of the riches both “ of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How un“ searchable are his judgments, and his ways past “ finding out! For who hath known the mind “ of the Lord ? or who hath been his counsellor ?
Allow me to add, that in my humble opinion, your magazine would be more useful if more devotional and experimental subjects were introduced, and such as were suited to influence the affections, and keep alive a tenderness of conscience ; while our Magazines wouid be much improved by substantial doctrinal and practical instructions. There are however in most of them, very useful papers ; and I cordially wish you success in the name of the Lord.
EXTRACTS FROM TWO LETTERS
to a Ministerl who asked the writer's opinion of a Sermon on the Times, which he had been requested to publish: the text, Nahum ii. 1. “ He that dasheth in pieces is come up before thy "face: keep the munition, watch the way, make
thy loins strong, fortify thy power mightily.”
An early answer to your question can contain only an extemporary opinion ; and I feel myself incompetent to decide on the subject. I own I am not very partial to accommodation; and I thought, while you were preaching, that, if you had said the same important things from a text
'The late Rev. George Patrick, LL. B. The letters were written about the year 1799. The extracts here given are taken from a Memoir, which was published of Mr. P., no copies of the originals having been kept.-J. S.
in which they were evidently contained, they would have been more convincing, impressive, and effectual: but then I observe that a great majority is against me in this respect.
The ingenuity, that deduces important instructions from a text which seems not to contain any thing to that special point, excites the approbation and admiration of many: but some think it unwarranted, and that it gives too much scope for fancy; and tends too much to take men off from the plain meaning of scripture, to hunt after such allusions, till they forget the Go, and do likewise; as, has been exceedingly the case in the parable of the good Samaritan. Your allusions, however, though I own I could not find the ground of them in the text, were of a practical nature and tendency; and thus calculated to produce good among those who have a taste for accommodation.
If I had not considered you in a very different light from that in which I do some preachers, in whose sermons imagination and accommodation predominate, I should have evaded the question, or declined giving an answer. But I deem you to be of so right a spirit, and your aim to be so simple, that any thing of this kind, which gives umbrage to some persons, and is not unfrequently ascribed to a wrong cause, must arise from an error of judgment, which may, without much