« AnteriorContinuar »
us with a thorough design to apply its practical lessons to their own individual cases, and with the earnest prayer, that by the blessing of God, they may be as high in perpetual favour and love, as they are now in external privileges.
In discoursing from the text, Romans i. 15 16, “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the Gospel to you that are at Rome also : for I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ"— The author illustrates the following important propositions :
“I. There are peculiar difficulties and temptations which attend the preaching of the gospel in great cities ;-and
“II. It is of peculiar importance that the gospel be plainly and faithfully preached in such places.”
Upon the difficulties and temptations he observes
“1. The accumulated wealth, and the consequent luxury and dissipa. tion of a great city, form a serious obstacle to the plain and faithful preaching of the gospel.
If wealth were generally employed, as some pious individuals have employed it, to promote the spread of the gospel, and the happiness of mankind; it would indeed be a real blessing, and its increase highly to be desired. But, alas! in this depraved world, how seldom is wealth thus employed! It is too commonly made to minister to the vanity and the lusis of its possessors; and thus becomes a curse both to them, and to all around them. But in great cities, where many wealthy individuals are brought together, and where the principle of competition and display maintains such a peculiarly powerful influence; there the 'pomps and vanities of the world' hold an almost undisputed reign. There magnificent houses, grand equipages, splendid dress, and expensive entertainments, form, with multitudes, the ambition, and the business of life. There the unceasing effort of many, to rival those above them, to outstrip equals, and to dazzle inferiors, is the grand object, which keeps up the constant fever of anxious pursuit.
“ While splendid living is the idol of one class, various kinds of amusement, commonly called pleasure, employ and corrupt a much larger class. The theatre-the card-table—the dance-the midnight revel, and every form of dissipation, are summoned to their aid to kill time, or to season the insipidity of sober life. Amusements are multiplied, and combined, and varied, and reiterated, until they become the chief, and, with many, the sole employment. And even some of those who are not engaged in these pursuits themselves, are so connected by various ties with those who · are, that they cannot escape the contagious influence. Cast an eye, my
friends, over any populous city, and say whether the picture is not below rather than above the reality.
“Now, need I say, that all this is directly contrary to the spirituality and self-denial of the gospel ? Need I say, that a person who walks in such a course, even though he be a stranger to gross vices, cannot be a disciple of Jesus Christ ? No, brethren, as long as the Bible is our guide, it is impossible to decide otherwise. And I have sometimes thought that there is no class of persons more difficult to be approached and impressed by a minister of Christ, than your genteel, decent worshippers, of luxury and fashion. We cannot denounce them as immoral, in the popular sense of the term; and they are apt to imagine that they are saints because they are not profligates. As long as this impression remains, there is no hope of their being profited by any thing we can say. With what an anxious and trembling heart, then, must a minister of the gospel go to proclaim his message in a place where such society abounds! He needs not only all his fortitude as a man, but also all his confidence as a believer, and all the gracious aid promised by the Master whom he serves, to support and animate him in the undertaking."--p. 12.
But there is another possibility, or probability, perhaps still more lamentable than this luxurious, dissipated, wealthy indisposition in the hearers.--The minister himself catches the spirit of his people and mingling in their contaminating society, begins to lose the spirit of his holy office and given up to the guidance of natural feeling, finds it hard "to go to those who, it may be, a few days or hours before, caressed him, and perhaps loaded him with civilities at the hospitable table, and tell them, that except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God; that he that believeth not on the Son of God, shall not see life, but that the wrath of God abideth on him ; that we must not be conformed to this world; but must deny ungodliness and wordly lusts, and live soberly, righteously, and godlily in this present evil world! O, what a temptation is here to soften or keep back the truth ! What a temptation to avoid dwelling on those great practical gospel doctrines, which he knows are so grating and offensive to many of his hearers !" From such hospitable tables may the Lord preserve the ministers of our city!
“But alas !" proceeds our author, “even this temptation, fearful as it is, is not the whole of his danger. It will be well if, besides softening or keeping back the truth, he be not gradually and insensibly drawn to adopt in his own person and family, those very worldly habits, against which he was bound to have lifted up both his voice and his example. It will be well if, instead of being a faithful reprover of prevailing vanities and follies, he be not, in effect, their daily patron. There is, I am persuaded, no harder trial of a minister's graces, than to mingle continually with the members of a wealthy, polished, and fashionable congregation, and at the same time to keep himself unspotted from the world. Truly it requires the firmness, as well as the prudence of an apostle, to be surrounded with the spirit of conformity to the world, and yet, without giving just offence, to have no fellowship with it: to be continually solicited by worldly blandishments, and yet to maintain that holy elevation of sentiment and conduct which becomes an Overseer of the flock, a steward of the mysteries of God.?"-p. 14.
" 2. The Refinements of Philosophy, falsely so called," it is true, "are apt to reign in great and polished cities, and are unfriendly to the preaching and success of the gospel;" and "the pride of knowledge, and the speculations of false science, are opposed to the” humiliating and simple doctrines of the cross.But we pass over these peculiar obstacles, as being less applicable to a
-proud and gay, And gain-devoted city,"
Where cupidity is the ruling passion, and where the speculations of false science yield to the speculations and mysteries of trade, and proceed to the next obstacle, which is
« 3, That in polished and fashionable society, there is always a peculiar demand for smooth and superfictal preaching."
“ The votaries of pleasure and ambition delight in that kind of preaching which will not disturb them in their unhallowed course. They say, • Prophecy to us smooth things. The more a sermon is decorated with the charms of a splendid rhetoric; the more it contains of the enticing words of man's wisdom, and the less of plain, and pungent gospel truth, the better adapted it is to their taste. In short, they will not fail to be pleased with a preacher, who grarifies their fancy with brilliant imagery and language, and their ears with fascinating tones, and says little or nothing to make them displeased with themselves.
“ Search Christendom over, my friends, and you will find this to be one of the grand temptations in preaching the gospel to the luxurious and fashionable, especially in large cities. And, alas ! how many ministers who set out with the purpose and promise of being faithful, have fallen into the snare? They have begun, perhaps, with that most vain and delusive of all calculations, (for such I verily believe it to be) that the doctrines of the gospel are never so likely to find their way to the hearts of the gay and the worldly, as when they are covered and disguised with artificial ornament. Hence they have insensibly contracted the habit of preaching, the truth, perhaps,—but truth so gilded over,--so loaded with ornament,so studiously divested of every thing adapted to give it edge and effect, as to be little if any better than keeping it back. This kind of preaching is greatly to be admired by the people of the world; but it leaves the pious to starve and mourn. It excites no alarm. It produces no complaint, on the part of the unbelieving and impenitent. It allows every hearer, who is so disposed, to slumber in security; and is adapted, ultimately, to make those who statedly attend upon it, Christian in name, but heathen in reality.”-p. 19.
“From a courtly, flattering mode of preaching, the transition is easy and natural to erroneous opinions. And, accordingly, great cities have commonly been, in all ages, the hot-beds of error. Because there have been displayed most frequently the pride of intellect, and those splendid temptations which are apt to beguile from the simplicity that is in Christ.”—p. 20.
“ In great cities” “ has generally commenced that fatal decline from orthodoxy, which began, perhaps, with calling in question some of what are styled the more rigid peculiarities of received creeds, and ended in embracing the dreadful, soul-destroying errors of Arius or Socinus. We
*“ The above language, concerning the destructive nature of the Irian and Socinian heresies, has not been adopted lightly; but is the result of serious deliberation, and deep conviction. And in conformity with this view of the subject, the author cannot forbear to notice and record a declaration made to himself, by the late Dr. Priestley, two or three years before the decease of that distinguished Unitarian. The conversation was a free and amicable one, on some of the fundamental doctrines of religion. In reply to a direct avowal on the part of the author that he was a Trinitarian and a Calvinist, Dr Priestley said I do not wonder that you Calvinists entertain and express a strongly unfavourable opinion of us Unitarians. The truth is, there neither can, nor ought to be, any compromise between us. If you are right, WE ARE NOT CHRISTIANS AT ALL; and if we are right, YOU ARE GROSS IDOLAȚERS.' These were,
might easily illustrate and confirm this position, by examples drawn from our own country, had we time to trace the history of several sects among us, and especially of American Unitarianism. But I forbear to pursue the illustration farther : and shall only take the liberty to ask, as I along-How is it to be accounted for, that the preaching of those who deny the divinity and atonement of the Saviour, and who reject the doc. trines of human depravity, of regeneration, and of justification by the righteousness of Christ--How, I ask, is it to be accounted for, that such preachers, all over the world, are most acceptable to the gay, the fashionable, the worldly-minded, and even the licentious ? That so many embrace and eulogize their system, without being, in the smallest perceptible degree, sanctified by it? That thousands are in love with it, and praise it; but that we look in vain for the monuments of its reforming and purifying power? I will not pretend to answer these questions; but leave them to the consciences of those who believe, that the genuine doctrines of the gospel always have had, and always will have, a tendency to promote holiness of heart and of life; and that we must all speedily appear before the judgment seat of Christ.
“The preacher then, who goes to a polite and luxurious capital, ought to be most vigilantly on his guard against the tendency and the influence of which I have spoken. He ought to be constantly aware of the difficulty and of the temptation before him : and while he endeavours to gratify, as far as is lawful, the taste for elegance and refinement in his public services; he ought, at the same time, so to preach as to be able, with truth, to say— I preach Christ crucified, not with the enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power."--pp. 20, 21, 22.
(To be concluded.)
WESTERN ASIA.-PALESTINE. AMERICAN BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS FOR FOREIGN MISSIONS.
Report of the Prudential Committee. This mission at present consists of the Rev. Messrs. Levi Par. sons and Pliny Fisk, who sailed from Boston, on the 3d of November, 1819, and “entered the harbour of Malta, after a favourable passage, on the 23d of December. The rigid quarantine laws of that island would not permit them to land. They had the happiness to meet the Rev. Mr. Jowett, and Dr. Naudí, at the Lazaretto, and to be introduced to the Rev. Mr. Wilson, a missionary, and Mr. Jones, who had been American consul at Tripoli. From these gentlemen they received much valuable information, and proofs of the kindest and most benevolent interest
28 nearly as can be recollected, the words, and, most accurately, the substance of his remark. And nothing, certainly, can be more just. Between those who believe in the divinity and atonement of the Son of God, and those who entirely reject both, . there is a great gulf fixed,' which precludes all ecclesiastical intercourse. The former may greatly respect and love the latter, on account of other qualities and attainments; but certainly cannot regard them as CHRISTIANS, iu any correct sense of the word; or as any more in the way of salvation, than Mahommedans or Jeus,"
in their mission." "Mr. Jowelt was at the pains to draw up a paper of hints for their use; and has shown his love to the cause, and his hearty and zealous co-operation with all faithful, by an excellent letter addı essed to the Board. This laborious missionary, whose travels in Egypt and Western Asia have been read with eagerness by the Christian world, not only received Messrs. Parsons and Fisk kindly, but, in cominon with his associates, was at personal inconvenience and expense to meet them almost daily, while they remained in the harbour."
" On the 9th of January the ship pursued her voyage, and in six days arrived in Smyrna.”
The Report of the Committee contains no important intelligence from the mission of a later date than we have already laid before our readers, in this volume, p. 50-and the account it gives of the preparation and departure of the missionaries, with observations on the peculiar field of labour they have entered upon, are to be found in our last volume, at pp. 476 and 536.
“ On the first Monday in February, the Rev. Mr. Williamson united with the missionaries in the monthly concert of prayer. This was probably the cominencement, in Turkey, of a holy cele. bration, which will, at some future day, be observed in every village of that populous and extensive empire."
We shall lake leave of this interesting mission, for the present, with the following extract of a letter from the gentleman just named, addressed to the Secretary of the Board.
"Smyrna, Feb. 1820. “Rev. AND Dear Sir,-Although our friends, the missionaries, have acquainted you with their safe arrival in Smyrna, yet I would wish to join in the annunciation of the fact."
“I would first greet you and every member of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Accept of my most cordial salutations, and Christian congratulations, on the happy commencement of an enterprise, which must, in due time, terminate in the completest success—in the conversion of the heathen and reformation of the Christian world. Every attention has been, and shall be paid to Messrs. Parsons and Fisk, and to all their successors, who will come as the messengers of the Lord, as far as my abilities and influence will possibly avail.”
“ Within the last 50 years, literature is beginning to peep out among the Greeks from her hiding places in Turkey. Some of the best informed are acquainted with the history of the reformation; and will grant that Luther was a great man, sent for the benefit of the human race, though they are far at present from desiring a like reformation. Luther, and those other reformers, who did not condemn and sweep away episcopal superintendence, are respected by a few of the Greeks, !hough the majority will have nothing to do with reformation, and know nothing about it. Besides the Christians all around the shores of the MediVOL. VII.