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ney's statements, rendering them the least interesting part of the volume. There is no doubt, indeed, that we frequently fail to exercise that confidence in God which it becomes us to possess, and that on this account God does not answer our prayers; but that the prayer of faith—in the sense of the words attached to them by Mr. Finney, viz., not prayer presented to God in the name of Christ, but with entire confidence that the blessing implored will be granted—that such prayer in all cases,-not only when God has promised to bestow the specific blessing, but when he has not—is essential to success, I have as yet to be convinced.'-Pref., p. vi.
The source and nature of the obscurity which Dr. Payne thus justly notices may be exhibited in a few words. It is well known to all devout readers of the Bible that the New Testament contains some truly delightful declarations respecting the success of prayer: e. g. All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing ye shall receive. If ye shall ask any thing in my name "I will do it. Whatsoever things ye desire when ye pray, be• lieve that ye receive them and ye shall have them.' Matt. xxi. 22. Mark xi. 24. John xiv. 14. A passage of similar tenor occurs in James v. 16, · The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Very often, without doubt, has the question arisen in the heart of a devout reader of the Scriptures, whether and how far these blessed words may be applied to present exercises of prayer, or whether any peculiar reference separates them from the ordinary experience of the saints. Without doing any justice to this question, Mr. Finney takes two of these passages as texts for two of his lectures, and applies them without scruple or limitation. It was impossible that such a course could be satisfactory. At almost every point a considerate reader finds questions in his mind unanswered, and perplexities which nothing he reads is adapted to remove. All these in fact throw him back on the primary and original question, whether the class of passages—for they are a class—have or have not a peculiar and limited reference. If they have, their whole application fails; and if they have not, still there are wanting clear and definite principles by which their application is to be guided. We shall not, we suppose, be suspected of a wish to rob the church of God of any part of its inestimable endowments, or to diminish the warrant which divine promises may afford us for expecting an answer to our prayers; but we are constrained to say that we think the entire class of passages we have cited are not applicable to the general experience of Christians. If the context be referred to in each case, they will be found to stand connected with verses relating to the removing of mountains and other miraculous operations, and our conviction is clear that the prayer and faith intended were limited in their reference exclusively to the working of miracles. It seems to us that there is
quite as much reason for our saying to a mountain, Be thou cast into the sea, as there is for our praying with an absolute belief that we shall have whatsoever we ask. We have spent too much time, however, with Mr. Finney, whose work, to do justice to its various contents, would require a long review for itself. Commending it to a judicious and discriminating perusal, we now turn to the interesting and gratifying narrative of Dr. Reed.
The Narrative of the State of Religion at Wycliffe Chapel during the year 1839, we cannot hesitate to place among the most engaging and valuable publications of its class. With a small abatement on the score of a spice of sentimentalism, by which the respected author is too strongly characterized to be, perhaps, aware of its existence, it is, we think, without fault, or as nearly without fault as human productions may be ; containing at the same time very much that is interesting in facts, just in observation, and wise in counsel. The narrative having been subsequently printed in a cheap form, and very extensively circulated, it must be altogether unnecessary for us to enter in detail into its contents.
Let it suffice to say, that it unfolds a course of exertion and an amount of success truly admirable and gratifying, and well fitted to act extensively on others, both as an example and a stimulus. We hope that Wycliffe Chapel will long present the aspect of a church in a state of permanent revival, and that the pamphlet before us may be the means of introducing many other churches into a similar condition. The few remarks which our space will allow us to add in reference to this subject, will, perhaps, be best devoted to one of the cases in illustration' with which the Narrative concludes.
The next case I would mention is that of a young man of a speculative cast of mind, and whose thoughts had been more engaged with religion than either his conscience or his affections. He had been trained in the ways of religion ; but since he had been at his own control, he had got into an unprofitable course both of hearing and of
He attended some of our special services ; his convictions, though still feeble, were strengthened, and he was led to meet me at the
'I have had," he said, 'a wish to speak with you, and yet I hardly know what to speak about.' • You are under some concern,
salvation.' Yes, I hope so ; but not always. It comes and goes at times.” ' Have you been always as careful as you should be to cherish it by a regular and prayerful use of the appointed means ?'
I fear not, but I have sought and sought, and seem no better, and am disheartened.' I fear you will not be better till you feel yourself worse.
Let me remind that admit
have not used the means as you
* I have sometimes ; I remember once especially, that one night I resolved to pray in earnest, and if ever I did pray, it was that night; and yet I was no better.'
* And you were angry with God that he had not heard such good prayers?'
• I thought he would hear them.'
· He is under no obligation to hear true prayer except what his promise creates, and I fear yours was not true prayer. is as humble as it is earnest. It asks what it wants; but confesses it deserves nothing.'
• But if I do my best, is it my fault?'
• It is pretty clear that you cannot do more than you can ; but it is not so clear that you are willing to do what you can.
I hope I am.
Very true; there is an affecting sense in which you cannot convert yourself; but I think that is not your sense. What is conversion ?'
• It is turning from the world to God.'
• Very well ; now tell me what is it that hinders you from turning to God with all your heart this moment ?'
• Is it any thing-can it be any thing but your unwillingness that hinders you?'
"I wish to be converted.'
We are speaking of being willing ; and let me tell you, that to be really willing to be converted is to be converted. To will to be converted and not to be converted, is a contradiction in terms—an absurdity.'
« There was a pause.
* I continued, " If, then, you would be truly converted if you were truly willing, is the fault of your conversion with God or yourself?'
With me, if it is only my unwillingness.' • Be honest with yourself, I beseech you. Do not say if, unless you have some other reason to assign besides your unwillingness. If you were truly willing at this time to turn to God, and to love and serve him, is there any thing to prevent you?'
· I know of none ; but I need the grace of God to help me.' · Exactly so; but still be careful not to mistake. This grace you
cannot claim; it is freely promised. You cannot turn to God because you will not; this unwillingness is your chief sin—it is rebellion; and if you are left to yourself, this unwillingness you will cherish to your eternal ruin.'
What can I do, then?'
What can you do? Let me entreat you to retire to your closet this night; meditate deeply on the subject of conversation ; humble yourself to nothing before God; confess your pride, your unwillingness, and alienation from him ; place yourself in his hands as a creature deserving to perish, and that must perish without his help; look up to him through the only Saviour, for a mind to love and honor him, and the life and peace you have forfeited by sin.”
-Reed's Narrative, pp. 84-87. The preceding case is one of a very important and, we suspect, very numerous class. It was treated by Dr. Reed much better than it would have been treated by many divines; but his method gives scope, nevertheless, for a few observations, which we shall take courage to make on account of the general importance of the subject. We begin by remarking, that it was not going directly towards a deep conviction of sin, to ask this inquirer in the first instance whether he had been always as careful as he should have been to cherish a concern for salvation by the use of appointed
It sanctioned him in the erroneous notion which he had evidently formed of his duty, and gave origin and force to the perplexity which immediately followed. * Though not as I
ought,' said the inquirer, I have sought, and am no better.' To this the instructor had only to reply, “You admit, however, that you have not sought as you should.' To which the prompt rejoinder is, ' I have sometimes sought as I should ; and yet I am no better. So far as conviction of sin is concerned, the instructor is here fairly at fault. He accordingly relinquishes the attempt, and betakes himself to the sovereignty of God, who, he assures the disciple, is under no absolute obligation to hear prayer. Now we should regret being reduced to such an answer, because it proceeds upon the supposition that the sinner had done every thing incumbent on him, and was liable to perish by an act of divine sovereignty; whereas it is clearly the doctrine of Scripture that God has made full provision for a sinner's salvation, unless by his own fault. And, secondly, because it admits that the thing which a sinner is to do for salvation is to pray; whereas his duty is to repent, and to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Recalling the necessity, however, of putting the sinner in the wrong, the instructor returns to the charge by saying, ' I fear yours was not true prayer.' Not to say that this was little to the
purpose, since, if it had been true prayer, it could not have saved him--we observe that it failed altogether to bring home conviction of sin. "If it was not true prayer,' thought the in
quirer, it was praying the best I could ;' and he added, “If I do 'my best is it my fault ? We think this was directly to the point, and that, although parried, it was not answered by saying Do you really wish to blame God ?' It is for us to show that the blame cannot justly be thrown upon him. The inquirer very properly nails his teacher to this point, by rejoining, "If I do all I can, can I do more?' and his teacher is again beaten, and obliged to admit that he is right. It is clear that you cannot do more than you can.' We think so too. A third attempt is then made, namely, to show that the inquirer has not done what he could. In reply to his question the inquirer tells him, that what he had prayed for was 'to be converted, and that he did not think he was converted yet; adding, I cannot convert myself.' This general assertion the teacher admits in a sense, of which we shall speak presently, and proceeds to undermine the position by a series of questions properly and successfully directed to show the inquirer that nothing but his unwillingness hindered him from turning to God. The inquirer then changes his ground and affirms, - I wish to be converted.' Dr. Reed's answer to this is most just and decisive, . To be really willing to be converted is
to be converted.' The inquirer afterwards admits the inference, that, if only his unwillingness hindered his turning to God, the fault was his own; and betakes himself to the customary refuge,
But I need the grace of God to help me.' The reply to this is in our judgment unsatisfactory. You cannot turn to God, be
cause you will not. We think there is some confusion of thought in this statement.
It is true that a sinner will not turn to God, and that this is the only reason why he does not; but this does not sustain the assertion that he cannot: on the contrary it goes, not only to warrant, but to necessitate the affirmation that he can, since it is only in cases where persons can do a thing that we ever think of saying they will not. No doubt, in various cases of unwillingness we familiarly use the phrase cannot ; but the phrase in such cases is obviously employed out of its strict and proper sense, and cannot be at all difficult of reduction to its true meaning, which is will not of this class are all the instances in which it is said in the Scriptures that men cannot come to Christ, or turn to God. The entire meaning is that they will not; and the Scripture doctrine is that men can come, but are unwilling. We think it is important that sinners should be told this, in a manner perfectly free from ambiguity; and not be permitted to conclude that because they will not they cannot, or that their unwillingness constitutes an inability. The sentiment is deeply fixed in the mind, that what cannot be done ought not to be required; and the admission that men cannot repent is fatal to all rational sense of obligation or responsibility. To the averment :