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Now that novelty treads on the heels of novelty, and the recent is already old on account of the multitude of things yet newer, we peculiarly need the gospel as an unchanging landmark and point of support, as a standard that shall be neither stretched nor warped. Society, in its mottled surface and tumultuous heaving, resembles the storm-lifted ocean. Shall the gospel dance about upon the waves, like lights upon a phantom-ship, to beguile the mariner to shipwreck and ruin ? Or shall it beam, as from a rock-founded Pharos, far and wide over the troubled sea, a star of good omen and of hope? God himself has answered this question, in that he has made his “ Christ the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.” But there remains for the professed ministers of Jesus a solemn question. Shall they launch out on the deep and hoist their phantomlights; or shall they abide by the eternal beacon-fire, and feed its flame?
In what we have said, we by no means deny that the faithful minister must study and meet men's real wants. Next to the gospel, the necessities of the human heart should be bis chosen and constant study. But what or how he shall preach, let him see that he ask of God, and not of man. He is the servant of his brethren in the gospel, and not out of it. It behooves those who would acquit themselves as true men in the work of the ministry, to hear the word of God to his ancient prophet, “Let them return unto thee ;, but return not thou nuto them. And I will make thee unto this people a fenced brazen wall, and thou shalt stand before me, and thou shalt be as my mouth.”
3. Once more, the preaching of the gospel has failed to effect all that it ought, because it has been preached with too little faith. We read in the Old Testament, that when the ark was on its way to the city of David, a timid attendant listed his hand to save it from falling. The hand dropped in the palsy of death ; the ark moved on unharmed. Doubt always paralyzes. He who trembles for the ark, might as well cry among the tombs, as preach to living men; nay, he had far better hold his peace; for the spirit of trembling is contagious, and the fearful preacher makes a. skeptical congregation. Skepticism betrays itself in the pulpit in various ways. Sometimes it is alarmed for the gospel itself. Seeing iniquity abound and the love of many wax cold, it fears lest the gates of hell may prevail against the Church, forgetting that from a Church, that
could be gathered in “ a large upper room,” went forth the power, before which old things passed away, and all things became new. Others doubt particular precepts or principles of the gospel, such as those of peace and forbearance, of love unfeigned and of an unworldly temper; and seeing that these principles have no hold upon the popular heart, they are ever ready to account the expression of them by Jesus mere Eastern metaphor or hyperbole. But was his life a metaphor ? Was his loving, forgiving, self-sacrificing spirit a hyperbole ? Or was it in the language of Oriental exaggeration that he said, “ I gave you an example that ye might do as I have
done?” Others who preach the word believe the external · facts of the gospel, and the leading features of the gospel
economy, but are deficient in spiritual faith. They believe in a state of retribution beyond the grave; but not in that retribution of good and evil, which is going on at all times in the human soul, and which death only consummates and makes manifest. They believe in the obligation of outward duty; but hardly know whether there be any holy spirit. They believe in forms; but as to regeneration, they are ready to ask with Nicodemus, “How can a man be born when he is old ? ” They believe in a kingdom of heaven, in which there shall be golden streets and jaspar walls; but not in that kingdom of God which is within.
The preacher of the word must, above all things, have faith. He needs a firm historical faith; a faith which not only sees the intrinsic worth of the gospel, and discerns its coincidence with the law and the spirit of heaven ; but which beholds its foundations upon earth so deeply laid by the divine hand, that it must abide and grow, while the world endures. He needs a deep, awe-stricken sense of the various modes, in which the arm of the Lord has been revealed. He needs an immovable con viction of the constraining authority of Jesus, of his authentication as a teacher, of his right to be implicitly believed and obeyed, in fine, of those facts with reference to his mission, to which the works that the Father gave him to do can alone bear adequate testimony. This well grounded historical faith will make him of good courage, as he preaches the word of the kingdom, and will raise him above the bondage of fear, when foes abound and friends wax cold or fickle. This faith will also prepare him to receive all that Jesus taught, all that he was, as divine and infallible. He, who thus regards the teachings
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and the life of Jesus, will own allegiance to the law and spirit of the gospel on subjects, on which its testimony has been suppressed for ages; and thus will belong to the ranks of reform and progress. But he, who does not thus repose on the authority of Christ, will be too prone to rest satisfied with the religion of the Church as it is, instead of striving to raise it more nearly to the standard of the gospel.
But most of all the preacher needs a spiritual faith, — a faith of experience, of insight, of personal knowledge, - that faith which gives substance to things hoped for, and felt reality to things not seen. Jesus, when on earth, spake of himself as in the bosom of the Father. He dwelt not in the world of sight; but in that which is unseen and eternal. There, with him, must bis faithful preacher dwell. He must be even now a citizen of heaven, — must “ have passed from death unto life.” He must hear the voice of God in nature and in Providence. He must trace the spiritual in the outward, the unseen in the seen. The truths appertaining to the inward life must be to him subjects of consciousness, portions of his own personal history. God's law of retribution he must know from his own self-chastening and humiliation for sin, and from the peace of “God that justifieth” shed abroad in his heart through the faithful discharge of duty. The efficacy of prayer he must know from having felt it. The regenerating spirit of God he must recognise from its power over his own heart. Jesus he must know not simply as the greatest personage in human history ; but a “. Christ formed within” must reflect the features of the evangelic record. The kingdom of heaven he must see as established in his own heart, as built up in the beauty of holiness in his own life. He must be able to say, as to all things that admit of being so verified, “ I speak that I do know, and testify that I have seen.” Through him who has this faith the word will be quick and powerful. His doctrine will drop as the rain, his speech will distil as the dew, making the waste places of the human heart to blossom and bear fruit, bringing up, “instead of the thorn, the fir tree, and instead of the briar, the myrtle.”
In what we have now said, we have been actuated by no censorious spirit. We have spoken of tendencies, against which we ourselves have struggled, of wants which we ourselves have felt. We have unburdened ourselves of various doubts and questionings, as to the signs of the times, which have rested heavily upon us. Indeed there are many things in the present aspect of the Church, which would utterly dishearten us, did we not believe that God loves his own cause better than we can love it. But knowing this, we rest assured, that the gospel cannot fail, or the Church die. His promise stands recorded for all generations, “ I will be a wall of fire round about her, and will be a glory in the midst of her.”
A. P. P.
ST. PAUL'S EPISTLES.
ARCHBISHOP Whately has said very wisely, that " there appears to be a remarkable analogy between the treatment to which Paul was himself exposed during his personal ministry on earth, and that which his works have met with since. Paul may be said to stand, in his works, as he did in person while on earth, in the front of the battle; to bear the chief brunt of assailants from the enemies' side, and to be treacherously stabbed by false friends on his own; degraded and vilified by one class of heretics, perverted and misinterpreted by another, and too often most unduly neglected by those, who are regarded as orthodox. And still do his works stand, and will ever stand, as a mighty bulwark of the true Christian faith.”
Our community of Liberal Christians are not liable to the charge of perverting the meaning of the Pauline Epistles by any Pharisaic superstitions or Antinomian heresies. Our danger is, that we may neglect their study or undervalue their importance. Several causes have led us into this danger.
In the first place, the high value which we attach to morality, or good works, has sometimes given us a distaste for writings which seem to attach such paramount importance to faith ; an objection which rests upon the assumption, that the faith advocated by the apostle is anything opposed to those firm principles and earnest affections, that are the only motives to truly good works.
A similar objection to Paul's Epistles has sprung from the general use of his phraseology in the Calvinistic creeds. Paul's language has been so constantly associated with Calvin
istic notions of Atonement, Original Sin, and Regeneration, that for fear of calling up wrong ideas in the minds of their hearers, our preachers have too generally neglected to use Paul's language in illustrating their discourses, and to lead their people through those states of mind and those views of truth, which Paul bas stated with such power over the great mass of the Christian world.
From these reasons, as well as from the intrinsic difficulties of the case, both preachers and people have been fond of calling attention away from the Epistles to the Gospels, and of sheltering their ignorance or indifference under the remark of the Apostle Peter, that in the epistles of our beloved brother Paul are “some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable do wrest unto their own destruction.” But, without saying anything of Peter's little sympathy with Paul, before we shelter ourselves under this text we must remember, that the wrong use of the epistles is attributed to the unlearned and unstable, - a class of persons which we ought not to be in; and moreover, that Peter does not confine such danger of abuse merely to the epistles, but extends it to the whole of the Scriptures ; — " which they that are unlearned and unstable do wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
Perhaps the most cogent objection to a constant and careful study of the Epistles lies in their supposed opposition, or, at least, great inferiority, to the Gospels. This objection leads us directly to the first point of our discussion, the relation of the Epistles of Paul to the other parts of the New Testament.
I. Their connexion with the Book of the Acts is sufficiently obvious. They give us a view of the inward thought and feelings of the personage, whose outward history constitutes the chief portion of that book; and they make us acquainted with the inward life of the churches whose origin is there described. Without dwelling upon the relation of Paul's Epistles to the subsequent parts of the New Testament, let us consider their bearing upon the Gospels.
I apprehend that an invidious inferiority is attached to the Epistles in reference to the Gospels from the fact, that the word “Gospels” carries with it the idea that the books so designated must contain the whole of gospel-truth. Yet strictly a part of gospel-truth is stated by the Evangelists merely in embryo, and looked to future events for its develop