Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

confined to the wealthy : now, the “Miscellany" may be discovered in the field and in the shop; in the cottage and in the hall. The renowned sages of Greece and Rome would have hailed with rapture the printing-press, which might have been the instrument of rescuing those countries from final overthrow by disseminating the truths of the everlasting Gospel.

They sought but never found.” Our 66 Visiter" inculcates on all the importance of true religion, as the one thing needful in our journey through the wilderness of this world. When subject to the angry strife of passion, the fell darkness of despair, and appalling storms of adversity, religion alone is qualified to enlighten our darkness, to dispel our fears, to snap the chain of sin and unbelief, and to inspire the mind with consolation and hope. In this respect our work has been beneficial, and for which we thank God and take courage.” We have given insertion to a large amount of original essays and select subjects of miscellaneous information, which cannot fail to enliven the social hearth, to prove a source of pure and unalloyed pleasure, and unite in closer bonds the domestic ties of affection and friendship. To the well-informed mind these themes will afford material for conversation and thought; and to those who have not been favoured with much education, they will doubtless be the means of calling forth latent intellectual energies, and of inspiring an earnest desire for farther information.

It is knowledge, sanctified by the grace of God, that makes one man greatly to differ from another. Thousands who have risen from lowly parentage have arrived at the acme of honour and fame, and become a credit to their country and a blessing to the world. We therefore would urge upon our readers, and especially upon our juvenile friends, the importance of mental improvement; and, instead of squandering away their time in vain and profitless pursuits, evanescent as the meteor's flash, “ seek the kingdom of God and his righte. ousness, and all these things will be added unto them.”

In conclusion, we are bound to present our thanks to those, and they have been neither few nor uninfluential, who have so kindly lent their aid to our infant undertaking; and we trust that they will continue to afford us that efficient assistance, without which our work would be deprived of considerable interest and value. To our numerous Subscribers we tender our cordial acknowledgments : they have generously placed us on the pinnacle of the periodical press, in securing for us a sale of the “CHRISTIAN MISCELLANY" exceeding by tens of thousands every other publication of similar size and price. For this we bless God, and thank them !

[ocr errors]

THE

CHRISTIAN MISCELLANY,

AND

FAMILY VISITER.

JANUARY, 1847.

REMARKS ON THE DIRECT WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT. I. ON ITS NATURE.

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” “ The Spirit itself beareth witness,”—this is the point. It is by his own direct witness that our adoption is made known to us; not by the witness of the sacraments,-instituted by his divine authority, and ministered by men whom he has called to office in the church,—nor by the witness of outward or inward holiness. Both the witness of the sacraments, and the witness of holiness, external and internal, are important in their proper places, times, and seasons; and remotely, indeed, the Spirit does witness in them on the point at issue, -- "Am I a child of God?” But in the absence of that higher testimony, (the Spirit's own direct witness,) these witnesses are so full of hesitancy, so obscure in their depositions, so liable to contradict their own testimony in cross examination, that the man who rests his cause on them solely, is sure to be nonsuited; or to fail in obtaining from the court a satisfactory verdict in his favour. He may murmur at the decision ; he may take courage in defeat, and move for a new trial; but if he can procure witnesses of no higher order, the result will be only a confirmation of the former unsatisfactory verdict. In other words, you cannot obtain the knowledge of salvation by the remission of your sins, and your adoption into the family of God, either by the favourable testimony of the church of Christ, or by the evidence of your own good works.

But although you thus fail to attain assurance of mercy while relying on the united testimony of godly Ministers, and works of righteousness, in the absence of the direct witness of the Spirit, yet no sooner does that witness come, and “God hath sent forth into your hearts the Spirit of his Son, crying, Abba, Father,” than the Lord lifts up the light of his countenance upon you, and gives you peace; your own spirit involuntarily adopts the cry,

Abba, Father;" in the divine countenance you recognise a Father's smile ; and by the Spirit's influence on the heart is shed abroad that filial love “that casteth out all fear which hath torment." This is the direct witness ; and by it you have at once both the knowledge and the disposition of a child, “ child of God.” Nay, more than knowledge or disposition, it is life also ; “ the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus ;” and this life you have by new creation."

The blind, broken-hearted penitent, led by a way that he knows not, at last, by a simple act of faith, receives the atonement, trusts in Christ, and is brought out of darkness into marvellous light. This glorious transition, produced by the Spirit's witness, is commonly

VOL. II.

66

a

a

B

66

instantaneous; but not exactly so always. While, generally, like the flash of lightning as seen in a dark night, it is at certain other times as the going forth of the morning." In the one case, the hour, the moment, of pardon and adoption is literally marked by a precision as definite as in the natural birth ; in the other, it may be as difficult to say at what moment the last doubt quitted the heart, as to tell the instant of the morning when the last shade of night, fleeing before the rising sun, passes over the line of your meridian. In both cases “the darkness is past, and the true light shineth :" and as there is no comparison between the importance of the fact of your having the benefit of the full light of day, and your being able to state the exact moment when twilight begins or ends; so it is with respect to the evidence of the direct witness; the great point lies here,— Is

my

inward evidence, at this moment, such as to enable me to “read my title clear ?" To either case belong both perils and advantages. The more instantaneous assurance serves to give interest and a tone of decision to your experience ; the more gradual approximation of the witness tends rather to stability of principle and of moral habit: in the former case, there is a danger of resting in past experience; in the latter, of having your energy, comfort, and usefulness, impaired by soul-withering temptations to doubt and fear. the path of honour and duty, of peace and safety, to both classes, is to “forget those things which are behind, and reach forth unto those things which are before ; to “ leave the principles " (the first elements) " of the doctrine of Christ, and go on to perfection ; so shall they never be ensnared in the Antinomian delusion, or again incarcerated within the bars of Doubting Castle. Indeed, should you not on your profession of adoption immediately bring forth in your conduct the fruits of holiness and righteousness, you “crucify the Son of God” within you ; make the Holy Ghost " a liar ; and tell all the world that you are " bastards, and not sons." Birth and breathing, life and its essential functions, are facts and principles, not only distinct from each other, but of quite a different nature ; yet the one does not more naturally and necessarily follow the other, than the direct witness of the Holy Spirit is followed by love to God and man. Born of God, and the fact attested by his Spirit, you become “ followers of God as dear children." Here is the distinction between the direct witness and the indirect : the former is communicated immediately from God at the time of our conversion, and brings home to our heart the “ • knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins,” without dependence on, or reference to, the consistent conduct which is expected to follow; the latter is this consistent conduct: the one is necessary for God's faithfulness, and the believer's comfort; the other for God's glory, the church's satisfaction, and the world's conversion. That consistent conduct will appear, where, when, and while, God smiles on the heart, is as certain as it is " impossible for God to lie.” The condition on which this smile of divine approbation is continued, and also the blessed assurance which it ever generates, is your continuing to repeat the act of justifying faith ; your receiving at every recollected moment Jesus Christ as your Prophet, Priest, and King, your wisdom, righteousness, and salvation.

This faith (without which it is impossible" either "to please God," or to know that we are pardoned and adopted) pre-supposes such “instruction in righteousness” as is taught by the uncorrupted, unsophisticated word of God, and a purely evangelical ministry; and also that this instruction has been received with all teachableness, meekness, and simplicity; has produced a godly sorrow for sins that are past; such a pious resolve as that which characterized the prodigal, “I will arise, and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned ;” and such a commendable effort as was seen in

[blocks in formation]

the Spirit.

the same penitent, when it was recorded of him, " And he arose, and came to his father."

Mention is made above of the witness of the sacraments, on which so much, not to say the sole, stress is laid, by the Papist and Puseyite. That this cannot be relied on as “the indubitable seal,” or primary witness of pardon and adoption, is plain from two considerations : first, it is impossible for any Minister, merely a man like myself, to know whether my ** heart is right with God” or not: the Searcher of hearts alone can decide this. " Man looketh on the outward appearance ;" (uninspired, this is all he can do;)" but the Lord looketh on the heart." Therefore he, and he only, can tell me if all be right. And for the same reason, in the second place, I can have no certainty that the Minister who presumes to decide on my spiritual state before God is not either deceived, or himself a deceiver. Hence, however important the witness of the sacraments to those who are anxious to "fulfil all righteousness,” (as every sincere Christian must be,) it is exceedingly evident that it cannot for a moment supply the place of the direct witness of

Before I proceed to notice the great importance of Class-Leaders, and all other teachers of holy things, pressing this doctrine on the souls committed to their care, I have only to make one other remark; and that is, on the distinction between pardon and adoption.

we are the children of God,” is the gracious truth attested by “the Spirit itself.” This is adoption ; which necessarily includes pardon ; for “if children, then heirs of God” and glory. But without pardon there can be no title to heaven; guilt consigns to hell. Forgiveness, therefore, is either prior to adoption, or simultaneous with it; before, or at the same moment. Now it is possible to conceive of pardon where there is not adoption, but not of adoption where there is not pardon. Hence, in the order of thinking, if not of time, pardon is first; and in a certain sense inferior to adoption. A Sovereign may pardon, without taking the pardoned offender into the bosom of his family, and making him

the heir." Yet in " the things of God” we have no warrant for saying that a man can be pardoned without being adopted. Consequently, we speak of pardon and adoption as inseparable in Christian experience ; and, that by the attestation of the direct witness of the Spirit, both these blessings are confirmed to us at one and the same moment : pardon flowing directly from penitential faith in the all-sufficient sacrifice of the sin-atoning Saviour ; and adoption proceeding from the Father of mercies reconciled to the penitent sinner taking refuge in the blood of his Son.

(To be continued.)

That or

BROTHERLY LOVE. Among the various duties which devolve upon the followers of Christ, and which require from us a decidedly practical regard, that of brotherly love is certainly one of the most important; having been strictly enjoined by our Lord, and powerfully enforced by his example when on earth he exhibited a pattern of holiness for the imitation of his followers. “This is my commandment,” said he," that ye love one another, as I have loved you. The Apostles and fellow-Christians in those days, imbibed a great part of the spirit of their divine Master; for “the multitude of them that believed were of one heart, and of one soul.” The obligations to brotherly love are as urgent now as they were then; and unanimity and concord among the followers of Christ are in every age of the world equally necessary and expressive of the grace

of religion.

When a principle of grace is implanted in the heart, it will be exercised in holy complacency towards everything that is congenial with its own nature. The moral character of God will be contemplated with holy reverence, and cordial approbation ; and thus a foundation will be laid for that reciprocal affection which ought ever to subsist among Christians. “Every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him.” They are united to God, and to each other, in the most endearing relations. "All believers are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” “The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee.” They are all guides, animated and comforted by the same Spirit, having the Spirit of Christ dwelling in them. They are partakers of the same divine nature, having “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." They are engaged in the same spiritual warfare, wrestling

not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in high places. They are journeying to the same heavenly country. These are some of the bonds which join the disciples of the Redeemer in mutual love and united effort, and their attachment to each other will be found to increase in the same proportion as they advance in the experimental knowledge of divine things, and in their meetness for the heavenly state.

This principle will operate in Christian benevolence towards the indigent and degraded among our fellow-creatures; and, especially, towards the poor and tried disciples of Christ. The goodness of God in making “his sun to rise on the evil and the good," and sending “rain on the just and on the unjust,” is an instance of pure benevolence; and it is the duty of his followers to endeavour to walk in the same rule. Be ye, therefore, merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Every individual within the reach of our exertions, and our prayers, has a right to our pity and compassion; and no professing Christian

any amount of truth and justice, lay claim to the character of a true follower of Christ who can refuse assistance to the poor and suffering around him. “He that seeth his brother have need, and closeth his bowels of compassion against him, how dwelleth the love of God in him.”

The presence of this principle in the human breast, will alter the feelings and actions of such an one, and prevent him from indulging in unchristian remarks on the religious experience and character of his brother. It is lamentable to hear some avow themselves the disciples of the meek and lowly Jesus, and at the same time indulge resentment and ill-will towards other professed followers of Christ, and take a malignant pleasure in exposing and magnifying their iniperfections. The temper and conduct of such characters are at variance with their profession; for while they call themselves the disciples of the Redeemer, they betray a want of that charity which is one of the distinguishing marks by which the followers of the Lamb are known. “ By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” But the true believer sits at Jesus's feet to receive those doctrines which are calculated to eradicate from the heart every root of bitterness, and to inspire a spirit of love and benevolence; and amid many imperfections, and struggles with innate depravity, love maintains the throne in his heart, and on this ground he draws the inference for himself, and for all his fellowChristians,—“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.'

As Jesus Christ is exhibited in the Scriptures as a pattern to those that would follow, let us imitate his example, and walk in his steps ; so that the same mind that was in him, may also be found in us.

Let us love one another as becometh the children of one common parent, and as the travellers to one heaven. In all our concerns with each other, and with the world, let

can, with

[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsett »