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the Gospel.--Every man calling himself in a special sense) a Christian, either saves or destroys those around him :-Such is the rule of the dispensation under which we have to act. It pleases not the Divine Power (very rare cases excepted) to operate independently of that living and rational agency to which even the scheme of human redemption was made to conform itself. The Saviour of men “became flesh, and dwelt among us,” because no violence could be done, even on the most urgent and singular of all occasions, to the established principles of the moral system. The harmony of the intellectual world, in the constitution of which the Divine Wisdom is so signally displayed, must not be disturbed, notwithstanding that the Eternal Majesty himself was coming to the rescue of the lost; and in this illustrious instance we have a proof, applicable to every imaginable case, and always suflicient to convince us—That the saving mercy of God to man moves only along the line of rational and moral agency ;that if a sinner is to be “ converted from the error of his way,” it must be by the word or personal influence of one like himself. Was it not (other purposes being granted) to give sanction to this very mode of procedure, that He who “ was rich" in the fulness of divine perfections, “ became poor,” that we, through the poverty of his human nature, "might be made rich ?” Vain supposition then that God,
who would not at first save the world at the cost, or to the damage of the settled maxims of his government, shall in after instances waive them ;or put contempt in private cases upon that to which he attributed the highest importance on the most notable of all occasions !
Christianity, such as it actually exists in the bosoms of those who entertain it, is the Instrument of God's mercy to the world :-and the Effect in every age will be as is the Instrument. In these times we have not quite lost sight of this great principle; much less do we deny it:-and yet every day we give more attention to other truths, than to this. We honour the capital doctrine of the agency of the Spirit of Grace in the conversion of men; and then we turn to proximate and visible means, and pay due regard to all the ordinary instruments of instruction. And thus having rendered homage in just proportion, to the Divine Power and sovereignty on the one hand, and to human industry on the other, we think too little of that Middle Truth which, nevertheless, to ourselves is the most significant of the three, namelyThat the moral and intelligent instrumentality from the which the Sovereign Grace refuses to sever itself, is nothing else than the vital force which animates each single believer.
Does not the Omnipresent Spirit, rich in power to renovate human hearts, even now brood over the populous plains and crowded cities of India and of China, as well as over the cities and plains of England ? Is not God-even our God, locally present among the dense myriads that tread the precincts of idol worship ?-Is He not ever, and in all places at hand; and wherever at hand, able also to save ? Yes, but alas! the moral and rational instrumentality is not present in those dark places; and the immutable law of the spiritual world forbids that, apart from this system of means, the souls of men should be rescued.
Nor is the bare presence of the moral and rational instrument of conversion enough ; — for its Power resides in its QUALITY. The very same law-awful and inviolable, which demands its presence, demands also its quality, as the condition of its efficiency. Yes indeed, awful and inviolable law ;-awful because inviolable; and awful to the Church, because it makes the salvation of mankind, in each successive generation, to lean with undivided stress, upon the purity and vigour of faithi and charity, as found in the hearts of the Christians of each
age, severally and collectively !
There might, we grant, seem more urgent need to make inquiry concerning the intrinsic condition of the Christian body in those times when its diffusive influence had sunk to the lowest point, or seemed quite to have failed, than when this influence was growing. And yet, inasmuch as hope is a motive incomparably more efficacious than despondency, we should be prompt to avail ourselves of its aid whenever it makes its auspicious appearance. But the present hour is an hour of hope ;—let us then seize the fair occasion, and turn it to the utmost advantage. This age of expectation is the time when vigilance and scrutiny, of every sort, should be put in movement, and should be directed inward upon the Church itself; for in the bosom of the Church rests the hope of the conversion of the world!
How culpable then, and how ignoble too, must we deem that spirit of jealousy or reluctance which would divert such a scrutiny, as if the honour of the Gospel were better secured by cloaking the faults of its adherents, than by labouring to dispel them! Shall we, as Christians, wish to creep under the shelter of a corrupt lenity? Shall we secretly wish that the time may never come—or at least, not come while we live, when the inveterate and deepseated errors of the religious body shall be fairly dealt with, and honestly spread to the light ? It may indeed be true that when we have to denounce the flagrant evils that abound in the world, and when open impiety and unbelief are to be reproved, we should use a serious severity; but then, when we turn homeward, shall we at once moderate our tones, and drop our voice, and plead for å sort of indulgence, as the favourites of heaven, which we are by no
means forward to grant to the uninstructed and irreligious portion of mankind ? Shall our thunders always have a distant aim ? Alas! how many generations of men have already lived and died untaught, while the Church has delicately smothered her failings, and has asked for an inobservant reverence from the profane world! True it is that the vices of heathens and infidels are grievous; but it is also true that the vices of the Church, if much less flagrant, and less misciehvous in their immediate operation, are loaded with a peculiar aggravation, inasmuch as they destroy or impair the
MEANS for the repression and extermination of all error and all vice!
If then the alleged dependence of the religious welfare of mankind upon the vigour and purity of the Christian body be real, we find a full apology for whatever methods (even the most rigorous) that may conduce to its cleansing. All we need take care of is the spirit and intention of our reproofs. Should there be any, calling himself a disciple of Christ, who would protest against such impartial proceedings, he might properly be told that the inquiry in hand is too momentous, and is far too extensive in its consequences, than that it should be either diverted or relinquished in deference to the feelings or interests of the parties immediately concerned.— Be it so,' we might say to the reluctant and faulty Christian, be it so,