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that very grossness of heart and consequent want of interest in spiritual things, which prevented them from forming any just conceptions of that kingdom to which the parables related, or even taking the pains to make, like the disciples, any inquiry in regard to the matter.
As I have now before me this cause of inattention-a love for the world and consequent want of relish for the things of the Spirit, I may proceed to consider how it may be remedied. It is, however, one of so distinct a character that it should be treated of under a separate head. This obstacle, then, is:
3. The love of the world. Here the attention and the affections are pre-engaged by objects which cannot secure either permanent or perfect. happiness, and it is wished to direct the mind to the things of religion through which both may be enjoyed. Now if the world with its hell, and religion with its heaven, could be both clearly presented to a mind free from bias, there would be no uncertainty as to the choice which would be made. For man loves happiness too well not to seek it, and dislikes pain too much not to avoid it, when in his power to do so. But when the affections are previously engaged, it is always difficult and sometimes impossible to fix the attention upon any other object; and even when this may be done to a certain extent, there is in man such a passion for present enjoyment, that he will, for the sake of it, often hazard, and even reject future happiness, although superior in degree. This case is a very common one, and this obstacle, the love of the world, is one exceedingly difficult to remove.
It is the one which exists usually in respect to the rich, who have it in their power to enjoy this present world. “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" "And again I say unto you," continued Jesus, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God!" What an obstacle, then, is this to be removed! And how is this to be done? And by whom is it to be done? "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” No human agency-no preaching, teaching, exhortation, or admonition--no Bibles, no missionaries can effect its removal. It requires the special interposition of God. And how is it effected? By giving additional force to the gospel? Nay; but rather by removing the hindrance out of the way.
Thal the love of the world is to be regarded in the light of an obstacle to the gospel, is apparent from what Paul says directly to the point: 2 Cor. iv. 4. “If our gespel be veiled, it is veiled (or hidden] by those perishing things, by which the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them "
The things of the world, then, constitute an obstacle so interposed that the light of the gospel is intercepted and cannot "shine unto them.” Must its light be so increased as to pierce through this obstacle? By
All that is necessary is to remove it, that the light of the gospel may shine into the heart- the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.' When the obstacle is removed, the gospel is no longer veiled or hidden. It appears in its beauly and brilliancy to the mind, and the individual is now enabled to estimate its value and importance.
If we were to compare the human mind in this case to a pair of balances, well fitted indeed at first 10 weigh accurately, but at present having in one of the scales a quantity of dross which weighs it down to the ground, we should have a representation of the mind thus preoccupied and burthened with the love of the world. Before such a pair of balances could weigh accurately, they must be brought to an equipvise. This may be done either by emptying out the dross, or by putting an equal weight into the other scale. In either case, when the gospel (which I may compare to an additional weight) is introduced into this scale, it will prepondera:e; owing in the first case, to the balances being free; and in the second, to the presence of the weight by which the dross had been counterbalanced, and which fitly represents a power or weight added to the gospel 10 secure to it the preponderance. How much more simple and excellent the first method-10 empty the scale, thal, coming to an equipoise, the balances may be adjusted so as to show the true value or weight of the truth!
But the question recurs: How is the mind ihus emptied of the love of the world? How are those perishing things which hindered the light of the gospel from shining into the heart, removed? It would not be proper to say that this is in all cases accomplished by the same means, nor should we in any degree thus restrict the divine agency. We know, however, from the experience of men, that it may be effected in many cases by such means as will prove to the individual, in a striking manner, the uncertainty and vanity of earthly things. Sudden pecuniary losses and disappointments will sometimes wean a man from the world, so that he will gladly throw himself into the arms of the gospel. Sometimes sickness will show by how slight a tenure earthly possessions are retained, and thus convince men that they have overrated their value. The loss of children, relatives, or friends, will sometimes have this result. Calamities, whether personal, social, or national, thus often are converted into blessings, and become the means of sobering the mind, restoring its balance, and enabling it to judge correctly of its true interests. That such means have been successful in many cases, is a matter well known, and many a Dives, tormented beforehand in the flame of affliction, has been led to call
poor and the despised for succor, and to desire the conversion of his brethren. Such is the nature of the human mind, and the natural effect of Bueh means whether on earth or in hades. These conversions, then, are said to be beyond the power of men, and possible only to God, because the obstacle is of such a nature as requires the hand of God himself to remove it by such afflictions or providences as are beyond the sphere of human agency.
I do not wish you to understand me, however, from this remark, as kolding the sentiment that any obstacles are removed or any persons converted by human agency alone. On the contrary, there is divine agency in every case, as I hope to make appear. Meanwhile, having thus to some extent considered the nature of the power employed in removing obstacles to conversion, I shall leave other cases to your own reflection, and close for the present with this reinark, that all the obstacles of which I have spoken have this effect in common, of keeping the gospel from the heart-or, in other words, of keeping men in ignorance of the gospel; and that is, after all, the true cause of their being unconverted—so true it is that men are “alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them.'
SCRIPTURAL REFORMATION; Or, an attempt to show what Reformation is, according to the views and
practices of all Reformers. James Henshall has just published at Richmond a sensible panaphlet with the above title, from which we extract the following:
Tertullian the ancient says, “Whatsoever is first, is true; whatever is more recent, is spurious.” The truth of this declaration will not be questioned by any who may be but partially acquainted with the history of men. All things connected with time, and all things con. nected with man, are destined to change. Nothing seems to be free from the law of change, but God and truth. Truth is the moral instrument, in the hands of God, for good to the human family. Satan, as the great enemy of God and man, makes use of error, which is corrupted iruth, in opposing God and in destroying man. 'Truth has a fitness in its own nature for all the wants and necessities of man.
Error seems to suit his nature by accommodating itself to the ever-changing and Huctuating siale of the feelings and worldly interests of man.
That there is in the universe a wicked spirit, malignantly determined to counteract the will of God, as far as practicable, may be gathered from the fact that each and every dispensation of God's lavor to men kas been corrupted, and to a great extent circumvented, through the free agency of man-by which I mean, that man being a moral and an accountable agent, and being free to do, or not to do, the will of God revealed to him, has been instigated by Satan to rebellion against God. This has been effected by one well acquainted with man's nature; for in every instance rebellion was not the molive which at first prompted man to d. part from God. He was only seeking present gratification; and Satan taking advantage of his weakness, appealed to his passions and propensities, and thus brought about his ruin.
Alier a review of many of the theories of the Fall, and the introduction of evil into our world, I am satisfied the above is the most reasonable, because the most scriptural acı ount of the matter. Every other scheme tends to shake our confidence in the Bible, and alı efforts to accommodate the narrative to the squeamish and sickly taste of infidelity, can only arise from a wavering, doubling state of mind in the individual who attempts it. All the theories invented by Deists to account for the evil they acknowledge to be in the world, are, to say the best of them, fanciful absurdities; and Atheism is the last effort of a bewildered understanding to throw off the inconsis'encies of Deism!
The abuse of man's excellent powers, and the misuse of all God's communications to his intellectual creatures, is the reason of all the mischief that has befallen our race. No sooner was the law given from Sinai, with all the dread solemnity of those awful sanctions which consi-ted in thunders and lightnings and earıhquakes, but it was disregarded and corrupted! Christianity itself, the best, the fullest, and all-sufficient dispinsation, has been changed into all the forms of idolatry and false worship that have ever existed; and this work of corruption began under the very eyes of the holy Apostles of Christ!
The dispensations, one and all, have been established by our heavenly Father. Each contained the love, and light, and mercy necessary for the age, and for the condition of man at the time. The Patriarchal, the Jewish, and the Christian dispensations would not suit to be reversed; as, for instance, the teaching and the exhortations of the Saviour would have been out of place, and much of both uncalled for, in the days of Abrahamn, Isaac, and Jacob. Nor could it be expected that the few plain truths and veiled promises revealed to the patriarchs, would stem ine tide of corruption, and break down the pride of the Pharisees of ihe days of our Lord!
By considerations like these we may feel the force of the following much neglected saying of Solomon: “I know that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it; and God doeth it that men should fear before him." (Eccl. iii. 14.) How backward the people of this age are to learn the lesson here talight, and how much misery is endured and has been endured in ages past by not observing this great truth.
"The law was given by Muses,” and as it was given, it was to be obeyed: “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” (Deut. iv. 2.) The melancholy history of the Jews shows, that notwithstanding the goodness of God to them as a people, in saving them from Pharaoh's iron yoke-his watchful care over them in the wilderness, feeding them with bread from heaven-the miracles which he wrought in con.
firmation of his truth, and the heavenly superiority of the laws which he gave them, they soon became enticed and corrupted from the right ways of the Lord. Moses, before the statutes and judgments of the Lord were made known, felt the force of the truth, that the way of man is not in himself,” and therefore he asks the Lord to show him his way: “Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy eight, show me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I grace in thy sight; and consider that this nation is thy people." Ex. xxxiii. 13.)
REFORMATION UNDER THE LAW –When the Jews had forgotten the law and neglected the worship of God, they were given up by him as their providential preserver to the annoyance of their enemies, and he gave ihem sterility in all their coasts; so that they were ofien threatened with destruction by famine. The people always appealed to heaven as their last resource, and the Lord answered them by his Prophets. In every case of sincere sorrow for sin, and promise of reformation or amendment of life, they were graciously forgiven by our heavenly Father.
We have no occasion to "notice many cases of individual reformation, nor to specify all the national sins which were often committed, and often forgiven, during fifteen hundred years. It will be sufficient for us to stale, that as Christianity has been corrupted, and its primitive simplicity departed from, all we want is a heavenly warrant, either in precept or esainple, by, or according to which, we may apply the line and the plummet of reformation. The great question for us to settle is, whether reformation is work which is to be brought about in accordance wiih what is written in the scriptures, or a work to be performed according to the circumstances of the times, under the lati. tudinarian rule of exprdiency? The history of the church is a history of abuses and corruptions of scriptural truth, and of attempts at reformation, by men and by societies, sometimes with more and sometimes with less success.
Pious men and wicked men have been on both sides of this question; but neither good men bolstering up tottering corruption, nor bad men pleading for reformation, can ever change the nature of things. Error is baneful to society, and truth is the only lasting and durable good, both for sime and eternity, which we need.
There are no less than three several attempts at reformation under the Mosaic di-pensation, which have the sanction of Jehovah the first under Josiah, the second under Hezekiah, and the third under Ezra and Nehemiah at the return of the Jews from Babylon. In this I conceive we are very fortunate, because in an age of great declension and manifest departure from the religion of Christ, it is important to know that our efforts al reformation are agreeable to God our heavenly Father. Wickliffe, in the 14th century, and Luther, in the 16th, equally attempted 10 reform the church, and to bring back Christianity to its original purity. But their attempts were not successful in effeca luating that which perhaps they despised. Martin Luther did much to restore the Bible again to the world, and to the church. But he was rather success'ul in crippling popery, politically and religiously in breaking down the overshadowing power of the man of sin, than in reforming the abuses of Popery. Let it not be imagined that we wish even to insinuate any thing to the detriment of that great reformer: far