Page images
PDF
EPUB

was

with the limits of the globe and the members of the human family. To encourage and qualify them for the execution of this work, He assured them that His presence would be with them, " alway, even unto the end ;” and that they should be "endued with power from on high." Under the first sermon, in which salvation, through faith in Christ crucified, was proclaimed, “ three thousand” were saved and added to the church. These were soon increased to “five thousand ;" and the five thousand to " a great multitude,” including many of the priests and some of the rulers. The success of the Gospel in Jerusalem was only a type of its triumphs in other lands, whithersoever it was carried by the apostles and their immediate successors. Then, at least, the word did “run," and was “glorified;" it grew,

and multiplied ; and everywhere it produced fruits in harmony with its heavenly origin, and confirmatory of its lofty and exclusive claims.

Tertullian, in his “ Apology," published A.D. 200, addressing himself to the Roman governors, says,

“We are but of yesterday : nevertheless, we have filled everything belonging to the empire, --cities islands, villages, free boroughs, places of assembling, the armies themselves, the wards, the rolls of judges, the palace, the senate. We leave to you nothing but the temples.” The same author affirms,* “ that all the nations had believed in Christ.” “Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and those who inhabit Mesopotamia and Pamphylia; they who tarry in Egypt, and they who inhabit the region of Africa beyond Cyrene, both Romans and natives ; likewise the Jews in Jerusalem, and the other nations. So that already the various tribes of Getulia, and the many countries of the Moors, and all the provinces of Spain, and the different nations of Gaul, and the parts of Britain inaccessible to the Romans, are now subject to Christ. And the Sarmatians, and Dacians, and Germans, and Scythians, and many remote nations and provinces, and many islands to us unknown,

which we cannot enumerate,-in all which places the name of Christ, who is already come, reigns." +

When we consider that Christianity, during the first two centuries, was everywhere introduced in opposition to the sword of the magistrate, the craft of the priests, the pride of the philosophers, and the passions and prejudices of the masses,—that the men who introduced it were few in number, without wealth and human influence, ignorant of the arts and sciences, and, for the most part, foreigners in the lands where they laboured, and that its profession brought no worldly advantage to its converts, but, on the contrary, subjected them to scori. and contempt, to imprisonment, banishment, and death, we shall find it impossible to account for its early and wide-spread success, except on the assumption of its Divinity. No power, but that of God, could have sustained its first teachers under the complicated sufferings they

Adoers. Judæos, cap. 7.

of Apologet., 1. 37.

had to endure, or have conquered the formidable obstacles with which they had to contend, or have produced such a prodigious change in the opinions, practices, and tempers of men, as the conversion of the nations from heathenism to Christianity implied.

It is delightful to find Britain named among the countries which received the Gospel before the close of the second century, and that it was here, as in other lands, a “ saving health," is abundantly apparent from the fruits it produced. Before it reached our island, the inhabitants were semi-barbarians; their religion was one of the most sanguinary forms of superstition which ever existed among any people; the power of life and death was vested in the chieftains; the priesthood were cruel and domineering; the mass of the people were serfs, without letters, dwelling in rude hovels, clothed in skins, and depend. ing mainly on the perils of the chase for their precarious subsistence. But history, confirmed by happy experience, testifies that Christianity changed the aspect of the land; extirpated Druidism, drove barbarism from our shores, limited the power of the chiefs, liberated the serfs, gave equal laws, and rendered life and property secure. It is undeniable that most, if not all, our national and local charities are Christian charities; that the most benign provisions of our laws are Christian provisions; that the purest and loftiest thoughts and sentiments which glow in our poetry, and enrich our theology, are derived from the Scriptures ; that the noblest and most philanthropic men, whose names adorn the pages of our past history, were Christian men ; and that the best magistrates, masters, parents, children, and servants, now living, are Christians.

It is admitted that many who now profess to believe in Christianity, belie and contradict their profession. But what then ? If traitors affect loyalty, is loyalty itself to be suspected and disparaged ? If thieves make a profession of honesty, is the existence of honesty itself to be questioned, or the men who exemplify it to be discredited ? Counterfeit coin proves the existence and value of a genuine currency; and nothing can be more uncandid than to hold Christianity responsible for the sins of false professors, whose lives it condemns, and whom its great Author threatens to disown, "cut in sunder," and cast into "outer darkness.” If all who name the name of Christ were to be what they profess, and to do what they are bound by the commandments and example of Christ to do, they would, without exception, become, at once, the fast friends of virtue, and the avowed enemies of vice; their tempers would be meek and lowly, their conversation chaste and edifying, their conduct holy and unblamable. When infidels and unbelievers play the hypocrite or the profligate, they act in character with their maxims, which sanction fraud and crime, when they can be practised secretly, and with the prospect of worldly advantage. But when a professing Christian acts the villain, or the secret cheat, he transgresses the laws he vowed to keep, overrides the

motives he affects to revere, and contradicts the example of Him whom he calls, “ Lord and Master." His is the sin of the man; theirs, of the system. When a Christian professor commits iniquity, he violates, and, for the time, renounces, his principles; but when infidels and the impugners of revealed religion sin, they only carry out their principles to legitimate results.

In all discussions respecting the comparative inefficiency of Christianity, it ought to be remembered that its ameliorating effects constitute only one branch of the evidences which prove its Divine origin, and on which it rests its claims to universal acceptance. Could it be proved that in forty-nine cases out of every fifty, in which the Gospel had been fairly represented, and honestly applied, it had failed to impress a character of holiness upon the people, still it would be premature, on the part of its enemies, to pronounce it a failure, or a detected imposture: for the unassailable evidences deducible from the fulfilment of prophecy and types, the working of miracles by heaven, commissioned agents, the character, miracles, life, and resurrection of Jesus, and the purity, sublimity, originality, and benignity of the entire Christian system, as set forth in holy Scripture, would still remain a tower of beauty, and a bulwark of strength, which it behoved unbelievers to demolish, before they could, with any show of reason, proclaim a victory.

We admit, that had the Lord Jesuis based the claims of His Gospel to universal acceptance, on the fulfilment of predictions which affirmed that all to whom it should be preached would, within a specified time, become converts, and exhibit its purity in their lives and tempers; and were it found that the fact falsified these predictions, both as to time and general efficiency,—then a valid objection would be made out, which it would be the duty of the advocates of Christianity to obviate, or to own themselves vanquished. But no such predictions exist; no such pledge was given; and, consequently, no such objection can be urged. On the contrary, both Christ and His Apostles foretold that the Gospel would not produce an immediate and universal reformation in the world. The Lord Jesus predicted that in the age succeeding

own, “ false Christs” would appear, and would “ deceive many;" that one effect of His coming would be to set the nearest relations at variance with each other; that because of abounding iniquity the “ love of many ” would wax cold;" that His followers would be "hated of all nations for His name's sake ;” and that the time would come when whosoever killed them would think they did God service. Two of the Apostles, St. John and St. Paul, predicted that there would come “ a falling away;" that “the man of sin, the son of perditiou," would be revealed. They foretold the working of the “mystery of iniquity,” the great Romish apostasy, together with the idolatry, and other corruptions it would introduce into the Christian church. Nay, more; with an exactness altogether unaccountable, except on

His

the assumption of their being inspired, they specified the particular forms which that apostasy would assume, the characters of the men who would introduce them, the regions where they would chiefly prevail, the city which should be their centre, the period the system would continue, and the judgments by which it would be destroyed. “The Romish apostasy," as Dr. Macknight observes, “involves particulars so strange, so extensive, so new, and has contributed to the forming of so unheard of a dominion, that nothing but the Divine Omniscience itself was capable of foreseeing and foretelling these things. The friends of Christianity therefore walk upon the firmest ground, when they contend that the argument for the truth of the Gospel, arising from the predicted corruptions of Christianity which have happened, is much stronger than the argument against it, taken from those corruptions, notwithstanding they have been productive of manifest evils to mankind.”

(To be concluded.)

DUTY TO THE PASTOR.

IP you wish for the success of the voluntary principle, you must know the necessities of your pastor, and not only know them, but provide for them; and this must be done not grudgingly, but willingly,—not as a matter of charity, but as a course of justice. The complaint is constantly heard, that the pulpit is not equal to the age; is inferior to the press, the bar, and the lecture-room. How can it be otherwise, when, instead of being placed on a level with the liberal professions, as it ought to be, it is often degraded to the recompense of the meanest mechanic? “Preached sermons,” says Mr. James in his “ Earnest Church,” “are the cheapest of all cheap things, in this age of exceeding cheapness ; and yet what invaluable blessings have these serions been to multitudes! By only one of them, in many cases, persons have been converted to God, and enriched with eternal salvation. Christians, you want your pastor to run in the way of God's commandments to His ministers. Then take off, by your liberality, the burden under which he can scarcely walk, or even stand. As the welfare of the church depends, under God's blessing, upon the labours of the pastor, and as the energy and efficiency of his labours depend on the state of his own mind, it is indispensably necessary that he should be kept as free as possible from all solicitude about pecuniary matters. There are few concerns about which the spirit of liberality, in this age, has been less conversant, or less anxious, than the adequate and comfortable support of the ministry; and, as a consequence, there are few functionaries so ill supported as those on whom, under God, the whole cause of evangelization depends."

599

THE APPROACHING CONFERENCE.

BIRMINGHAM.

Many circumstances combine in giving interest to the deliberations of the Wesleyan Conference. The decisions of that assembly always have a direct and important bearing upon the prosperity of our churches. Questions involving the peace, growth, and extension of Circuits are necessarily considered during its sittings. And it often happens that the discussion of subjects of great Connexional moment occasions an excitement which is healthful in itself, and which calls more special attention to its proceedings.

This year the Conference will meet in Birmingham at the invitation of the Wesleyans of that town and neighbourhood ; being the fourth occasion upon which it has been generously welcomed to this centre of industry. The first Birmingham Conference was opened in Cherry-street Chapel, at six o'clock, on the morning of the 27th of July, 1836. Nearly four hundred ministers attended. Dr. Bunting was elected President for the third time. The Conference assembled under most favourable circumstances. A large numerical increase was reported from the Districts, and the different Connexional Funds were understood to show a gratifying advance upon the preceding year. The pleasure naturally arising from these signs of prosperity was heightened by the hearty and hospitable reception afforded the ministers. The Conference was entertained at a public breakfast, when its most prominent officials were presented with gold and silver medals, intended to commemorate the occasion, having on the obverse a half-length figure of Wesley in the act of preaching, and on the reverse the names of the President, Secretary, Irish and American Representatives, with other information. The Museum of the Royal School of Medicine was kindly thrown open to the preachers; and many other thoughtful attentions indicated the harmonious relationship existing between ministers and people.

The Conference of 1836 will always be remarkable in the history of Methodism. It was the first year in which candidates for the Wesleyan ministry were ordained by the insposition of hands. Eight years before, Dr. Bunting had pressed this subject upon the Conference; but that time was not deemed the most expedient for introducing the custom. All acknowledged the Divine authority, scriptural character, and great antiquity of the practice, and were equally convinced of the validity of ordination without imposition of hands. At the first Birmingham Conference, however, it was decided to adopt the recognised form of scriptural ordination, which it was thought would tend greatly to raise the character of the ministry in the estination of the Wesleyan Church, as well as other religious communities.

A resolution was passed at this Conference approving the establishment

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »