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297 Lavater's ardent imagination led him rather too far in his expectations, hopes, descriptions, and representations. But, on the whole, his writings have not only been eagerly and most extensively read, but also abundantly blessed to persons of different stations and conditions in life, among whom we might name many of the highest rank and distinction. There was a period in which hardly any writer was so universally read, and so generally admired in several parts of the continent, as Lavater; and even now, though dead, he still lives and speaks in his works; and many, who envied or despised him in life, now admire and esteem him after he is gone to that world, where alone his true character will be justly appreciated.
All seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's.
As if Paul had said, ' almost all I meet with are intent upon their own gain, their honour, their ease, their credit; not principally concerned to please, honour, serve, and glorify Jesus Christ.'
Selfishness is a principle natural to fallen man; it is a general evil: it forms the character of all the unregenerate: it cleaves too closely even to the godly. Selfishness stands op. posed to Christ; and only as we seek to know, to love, and to serve the glorious Jesus, do we gain the victory over the enemy Self. Where Christ is not known, Self must of course prevail; and in true Self-denial alone; Christ and his glory become the chief objects of our attention.
The reflection of the apostle applies te the whole world lying in wickedness. It is congenial with natural men to cry out, What shall we eat or drink? who will shew us any good ? They seek their gain from their own quarter; but none stir up
themselves to seek God: they will not come unto Christ; they will not have this man"to reign over them. The politics, religion, commerce, and pursuits of natural men terminate in Self Divine grace alone can stem the torrent, and turn men from Self to Christ.
Nations, and even those enlightened, may seek their own, not the things of Christ. To rival other kingdoms in wealth and splendour, - to conquer and spread their conquests, - to maintain the glory of the field, and the empire of the seas, -"to sit as queens," are often their grand objects: these take place of the laws of the Saviour, glorying in his cross, the cherishing of his religion at home, and conveying it abroad. As the knowledge of Christ, religious liberty, and obedience to God's laws prevail in nations, in that proportion self-seeking declines.
All the erroneous in religion, however pharisaical their zeal, however enlightened they may appear in their own estimation, are self-seekers. What do we see in the home-coined reveries of Mahommed ?-What do we see in the will-worship and superstitions of the Church of Rome?-What exists in the boasts of thousands in a creature's righteousness, to the neglect of a Saviour's inerits? - What appears in the outcry that multitudes are making againsi the idol Self, who at the same time discover a secret chagrin that others do not bow to their jodgment and worship them? What I say, do we discover in all these and others like them !-- but all seeking their own, not the things of Christ.
Christian Societies may incur Paul's censure, if they confine their thoughts and exertions exclusively to their own party or denomination. Christ is not divided : He is all and in all. Self will allow us to feed and nourish our own flock, if we neglect to seek the lost sheep, and content ourselves without the increase of the fold of Christ. What is at the bottom of niggardliness towards the ministers and cause of Christ? What makes Churches indifferent to the news from distant countries, and deaf to the cries of the perishing heatben? What withholds the mite of any society from the funds of missionsIt is answered, Self! Do not the very excuses, and the words that compose them, expose the fact ? We must support our own minister,"_" we must mind our own Society,"_"we have Heathen enough in our own country,"_" charity begins at home:" who sees not Self in all these? But it is a inistake; we are no lusers by liberality. The more public-spirited churches are, the more likely are they to thrive. “He who soweth bountifully shall reap bountifully,” saith God.
Ministers of the sanctuary may seek Self inordinately, and the things which are Jesus Christ's in too small a degree. If too much of their time be occupied in learned trifles and amusing sciences, to the neglect of the study of the holy Scriptures; it ministers preach only in the pulpit, and not in private, and from house to hodse; if their concern about their labours be not greater than for their dues; if they withdraw from the social and public meetings of their brethren; or, if when attending them they prefer frivolity, conviviality, or desultory conversation, to conference about the grand affairs of Christ's kingdom; if they keep back from the people general information concerning the spread of the gospel, and growing jealous, do not encourage the exercise of gifts and graces where God has given them; if they neglect favourable opportunites of offering to spread the savour of Christ around them; it in their preaching cold and dry speculations upon morality take place of the glory, the person, the offices, the grace, the love, and the reign of Christ, with the person and work of the Holy Spirit; especially if their life be not holy, huinble, modest, irreproacli
299 able, and every way becoming their high and heavenly calling "they seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ.”
Numberless individuals in the vast circle of the Christian world, wealthy and honourable, would do well to consider the apostle's reflection, and endeavour to obviate it :-"Every man must give account of himself to God." Time, riches, talents, and influence are a trust reposed in our own hands, the proper management of which we are obliged to by the Great Donor.
. How small a proportion of all, or any of these, is devoted to the interests of the Redeemer! How much tiine and treasure are seen squandered away upon trifles, which, so far from turning to good account in a dying hour, must sting the cons science with remose, when the subject reflects how much better these might have been employed in tbe spread of the gospel, and the salvation of immortal souls. If Self were not too dear to the rich, what wonders they might perform! To what an extent of usefulness in the Missionary Cause might only a small portion of a vast fortune be turned! What benefit might the souls in a whole neighbourhood derive, froin the influence of a Christian Gentleman at his country seat! What support might the cause of Christ everywhere derive, - what comfort might be enjoyed by many a poor ininister of Christ, what barrea spots in our kingdom might be fertilized, - in a word, what a harvest of souls might arise from the well applied bounty of the wealthy and the great! But, alas," all seek their own, bot the things which are Jesus Christ's"!
Thanks be to the great Head of the Chu h, some few have ever been found who seek the things of Christ, in preference to their own. Paul was of this class, and he acknowledges a Timothy to be like-minded. The number in all ages has been made up rather of individuals than of the bulk of professors : mostly among the middling and lower orders of believers, with here and there one among the rich. May the Spirit of God be more abundantly poured out upon the Church, that Self may be destroyed, and Christ Jesus become all and in all! Warwick.
LETTER FROM THE LATE REV. JOHN EYRE
TO A LADY. Dear Madain,
Be assured, it gives me pleasure to meet at the table of the Lord those whom I hope to meet around his throne above. The profession of your faith is of the right sort; and I have no season whatever to doubt its sincerity. You cannot build too much on Christ, for the Father hath appointed hiin as the sure foundation of our salvation : and if you are under the teachings of the Holy Spirit, there is no danger of your building on Him tgo little. His oilice is to convince of sin, and thereby to bring
the sinner to depend alone on him for acceptance. This he does by bringing home the law to the conscience, and enlighteing the understanding to discern its spiritual nature, and the extent and goodness of its righteous demands. The soul thus taught, stands condemned before God, confesses itself to be guilty, filthy, and abominable, and pleads only the merits of Christ for pardon and justification. These convictions of sin are sometimes accompanied with great terror, especially if the soul be suffered to doubt whether God will have mercy or not; and nothing but a discovery of the all-sufficiency of Christ's satisfaction, whereby God can be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly, can remove these fears: and when this is done, and
peace established through faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit continues to convince of sin with increasing evidence: and though the soul may not feel the keen anguish it endured under its first awakenings, yet it becomes, from day to day, more deeply humbled, and is taught to rejoice alone in Christ Jesus, and to have no confidence in the flesh : and as it becomes poorer and ineaner in its own eyes, and viler in its own esteem, Christ becomes more precious and honourable, till at last be becomes“ all in all.” If this be your experience, give God the glory, and take the benefit and advantage of every ordinance : if God and you are agreed in opinion of your own vileness and Christ's suficiency, from henceforth walk humbly and thankfully before him. If God be on your side, you may expect to meet with evils, but you need not fear them ; you may expect trials and temptations, but you need not be discouraged on account of them. His power is almighty, his grace all-sufficient, and his gifts and favours without repentance. Whatever you want, he has treasured up for you in Christ Jesus, and his Holy Spirit will enable you to come to him continually, and to receive out of his fulness. I shall not fail to pray
your success your Christian warfare ; and when you draw nigh to a throne of grace, put up a petition for one who shall always be happy
DearMadam, Your friend and servant in the Gospel of Jesus, Homerton, Oct. 31 1786.
EXPLANATION OF 1 PET, III, 19, 20.
In the interpretation of Scripture, particular attention should be paid to what is usually termed, the Analogy of Faith. One doubtful passage should not be explained so as to contradict the plain sense of another. Through the want of due re. gard to this rule, erroneous principles are frequently deduced from the word of truth. The apostle Peter's expression, re
EXPLANATION OF 1 PET. III, 19, , 80. ferred unto at the head of these remarks, has been thus perverted. Speaking of Christ, he had said, that he was “ put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:" and then he adds, “ By which also, he went and preached unto the spirits in prison ; which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited, in the days of Noalı, while the ark was preparing.”.
From this passage the Papists infer the descent of Christ's human soul, immediately after his crucifixion, into Hell, or the place of the damned. Some of the ancient fathers entertajned this opinion. What is styled the Apostles' Creed, seems to countenance the idea. But the ancient fathers were fallible men; and the Creed, called the Apostles', was not composed by the Apostles themselves. Neither the one nor the other, therefore, has proper authority to determine our judge ments on this particular. There is indeed a passage in the Psalms, in which David, personating the Messiah, says, “ Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hell*. But the term Hell there, does not, in the original, signify the place of the damned; but the invisible, or separate state of the dead +. This is sufficiently evident, even to the English reader, from its immediate connexion with the following phrase : “ Neither wilt thou suffer thine boly one to see corruption,” The former part of the sentence informs us, that the soul of Christ should not continue in its state of separation from the body : the latter, that his body itself should not be so long separated from his soul, as to be reduced to a state of putrefaction.
As to the quotation from Peter, which now lies before us, it says nothing respecting the human soul of Christ, much less of its descent into Hell. It speaks only of his preaching. l. terally rendered indeed, it is,“ he went and preached unto the spirits in prison.” The phrase, however, does not inply local motion, but only the act of preaching. We have a similar mode of expression in Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians (ii. 17.) “ He came and preached peace to you, who were afar off, and to them who were nigh.' Does the apostle here mean to assert, that Christ actually went to the Ephesians, in order to preach to them? The case is too evident to admit an interpretation like this. The word which, in both these passages, literally denotes local and personal motion, is lost in that which expresses the act of preaching. “Many similar phrases," as Macknight observes, “ might be produced from the best Greek authors." That the apostle Peter did not here intend to convey the idea of the actual descent of Christ's human
Ps. xvi. 10. + See Parkhurst's Hebrew Lexicon, under 3xw: and his Greek Lex. under Adns. See also Ainsworth's Annotations on Gen, xxxvii. 35; and on Ps. xvi, 10,