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profess to be Calvinists, and yet never preach divine decrees, sovereignty, election, special grace, entire dependence, disinterested benevolence, &c. in time of revivals, if indeed they ever do. And of late others have taught that God has bound himself by sure promises immediately to convert all those sinners whom Christians actually pray for in faith; that the prayer of faith for all men is the fundamental duty of all christians; and yet profess to be christians, while thousands and millions of the human race annually die without conversion. Some profess to believe the Bible which contains predictions of terrible divine judgments for peculiar sin and wickedness upon the earth before the millennium, which two or three christians by praying in faith if this scheme is true, could easily defeat. But these and all other inconsistencies and absurdities weaken the moral power of the gospel, and greatly diminish the influence of those who preach it. Scarce any thing bas been more detrimental to the progress of religion, than such gross inconsistency in religious teachers.
Exhibiting all the counsel of God is adapted to make deeper and better impressions upon the minds of men, than any partial exbibition of divine truth. Those who adopt this method have the advantage of the united weight and influence of the whole of the divine system. This is adapted to make an indelible impression upon both the conscience and the heart. What can so effectually impress the mind with a sense of obligation to obey the divine law, as a clear view of the divine supremacy and authority over us? What can make us feel our dependence, like just views of the universal agency and absolute sovereignty of God? What can make us feel our guilt and inexcusableness for hating and sinning against God, like a clear and comprehensive view of the infinite goodness of God, in all his dea signs and works? What can transform the heart into the divine image, like beholding the true glory of God?
The more christians behold his glory here, the more will they be sanctified. What can stimulate us to benevolent zeal and action, like a comprehensive view of the glorious design which Christ is carrying into effect. But those who conceal some of the primary truths of the gospel, neither much enlighten the understanding, nor very deeply impress the mind.
“ As from the wing, no trace the sky retains,
The parted wave no furrow from the keel,” So disappear the ephemeral impressions made by this course of preaching upon the soft passions, tender sympathies, and selfish hearts of mankind. They flatter and please and impress the heart, which is as unstable as water, and elastic as the wind.
Exhibiting all the counsel of God is better adapted to try and manifest the hearts of men, than any different course of preaching. This is very desirable in many respects. It is a great favor to false converts, to have their false hopes exposed and destroyed, that they may not be led to trust in them to their everlasting ruin. It is a great favor to hypocrites to have their hypocrisy and deceit exposed, painful and mortifying as it is; that they may be induced to renounce it, and not, by self-fattery, ruin their souls forever. It is a great favor to have sophistry, deceit and delusion of deceivers and seduc
ers exposed and detected, that they may cease ruining themselves and others by their deceitful arts and wiles. It is a great favor to the church of Christ, to have all her real enemies exposed and manifested to all, that she may disclaim them, and not fellowship them at the expense of truth, faithful discipline, and the divine favor. It is a great favor to the world, to be taught accurately to read human nature and character, by seeing them unveiled, and as they manifest themselves in the furnace of divine truth; for it may save from many a snare.
Exhibiting all the counsel of God is the best way to guard men against all religious errors. There is one system and but one that is guarded on all sides against all religious errors. And that is the system which comprises all the counsel of God. A good knowledge of this scheme will enable a person instantly to detect any religious error, and avoid the imposition and shares of all errorists. Though a good heart is indeed indispensible to salvation, yet an enlightened understanding often proves a better bulwark against gross and fundamental errors, than a good heart with very limited knowledge. The heart is extremely mutable, but the understanding is not thus changeable. For the want of good eyes, thousands of good people have been exceedingly imposed upon, and led into gross and dangerous errors. But how many thousands of impenitent sinners have been saved from delusion and fatal errors, by their knowledge of the whole counsel of God. How important does this knowledge appear, when a storm of false religion, enthusiasm and fanaticism, like a resistless torrent, is making such moral desolations, as almost to justify the application of the lines of the poet,
“ Earth seems a garden in its loveliest dress
For the Hopkinsian Magazine.
CHANGE OF HEART.
Mr. Editor- I lately heard a popular preacher use the phrase change of heart, in a manner, which struck me as novel, if not improper. In illustrating his subject, be supposed the case of two men, who had long been at bitter enmity; but who, having fallen into the same party in a time of great political excitement, laid aside their enmity, sat by each other's side in caucus, and were ready to do each other every kind office in their power. Now, said the preacher, Their hearts are changed towards each other." Suppose this to be true in sobie very figurative sense; it was to me a novel mode of expression, and when thrown out without any explanation, seemed to me a dangerous mode of expression. It is manifest that the two men in the case supposed, might retain the same selfish feelings towards each other, after they became apparent friends, as when they were open enemies. And let the electioneering ferment subside, and their individual interests seem to clash; and they would manifest the same enmity, as before. They have experienced no change of character-nothing like what the scrip tures mean by a change of heart.
In a real change of heart, not only the object of one's affections is changed, but the nature of them. Indeed the object of affection may not be changed. Before that change of heart, which the Bible terms conversion, or being born again, the sinner loves himself selfishly and supremely, i. e. because it is himself, and more than all other beings: after that change, he loves himself disinterestedly and subordinately, i. e. because his interest is nearly valuable, and far less than God and the public good. And so, before a change of heart, the sinner may love God, from a mistaken apprehension tbat God lovos him and will exert his Almighty power to save and bless him; but after that change, he loves God for what he is in himselffor the inherent and moral perfection and beauty of his Divine character, aside from all considerations of a personal nature, and can say with Job, « Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”
I fear, tlfat calling such a mere circumstantial change as the preacher described, a change of heart, may mislead hearers who are not very discerning and void of self-flattery, and be the occasion of their imagining, that the great moral change, in which men pass from death to life,' is no more than a circumstantial change of feeling and conduct, without any radical change of the nature of the voluntary affections and exercises which compose the heart.
CHARACTERISTICS OF A GENUINE CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE.
Extracted from the Christian Spectator. First, is it founded in a knowledge of the truth? "sanctify them," said our Saviour, through the truth.” “Being born again," said Peter, “by the word of God.” I have begotten you in Christ Jesus," said Paul, “by the gospel.” All boly affections have their foundation in divine knowledge. They are the result of a spiritual illumination. The character which they form answers to the nature of those objects, as the image upon the wax, to the seal by which it is impressed. Hence, true christians are described as being “renewed in knowledge,” as “receiving the truth in the love of it," as “having purified their hearts in obeying the truth, through the Spirit.”
“Ye are our epistle,” it is also said; our doctrine is written upon your hearts and made legible in your lives. “Ye have obeyed from the heart, that form of doctrine wbich was delivered unto you;” or, more literally, into wbich, as the Aowing metal into a mold, ye were delivered. the system of truth revealed in the gospel, is the most ample and illustrious display of the glory of God to be found this side of heaven. Hence it is the most decisive test of human character. To hearts at enmity with God, it is unwelcome; but to the renewed it is spirit and life. Hence, also, it makes no progress among mea,
except by the energy of that Spirit who revealed it. The experianent has long been making. When He published it, who spake as never man spake, and confirmed it by miracles, public, frequent and indubitable; not an individual was converted, except by a special divine influence. He knew it would be so; and laid down the maxim, that no man could come to him, except as drawn of the Father; and the guilty cause, he always laid at man's own door. “He that is of God," he said, “heareth God's words. Ye hear them not, because ye are not of God.” So also the apostle Paul, however he reasoned out of the scriptures, and joined miracles to arguments, and trarailed in birth, day and night, for bis hearers, found the result all the same. The Jews were incensed, and the Gentiles mocked. None believed except as the Lord gave to every man. Hence, in the trial of christian experience, whether our own, or that of others, it is the truth of God understood, received and obeyed? the truth concerning the holiness of his character; the obligation of his law; the sovreignity of his dominion; the nature of sin; the conditon of sinners; the way and terms of salvation; and the dependence of fallen man on free, regenerating, victorious grace? Is there any religious excitement, to which a clear and convincing exhibition of the truth, concerning these things, would put an end? any which arrays the subjects of it in utter bostility against the truth? any which inclines them to keep out of the sight and hearing of it? Could this be the fact, were it a work of the Spirit of truth? Is the work of the Spirit, so contrary to the word of the Spirit ? that word which he employs as the well adapted instrument of his work, and which it is the object of his work to put into the mind, and write upon the heart, so making it effectual to salvation? Or is the scheme of christian doctrine so inconsistent with itself, that a person may truly understand and cordially receive one part, and be violently hostile to another part of it? It cannot be, “He that is of God, heareth God's words.”
Secondly. Did our supposed christian experience, commence in an unconditional submission to God? By this we mean, a cordial consent to the government of God, without respect to our personal interest in his favor, as our deciding motive. Easy it were for the most malignant spirit in bell to submit to God, on the condition that his government were to be employed in snbserviency to the individual benefit of tbat spirit. Sinners love those who love them. Selfishness dictates this. Let the sinner who has long quarrelled with the justice or the sovereignty of God, strongly conceive himself forgiven; and nothing more is needful to lay him, meek as a lamb, at the feet of his almighty friend. But how shall a sioner find good evidence that he is forgiven, until submission is rendered? The uniform declaration of God is, “ I love them that love me.” “Except ye repent, ye shall perish.” It is then important to ask, in what state of mind, originated that flow of feelings, which is usually called christian experience? Did it commence with a preconceived persuasion of forgiveness, or a strong expectation of it, as the exciting cause? or in a cheerful acquiescence in God's sove, reignty and law, a subdued, penitent, child-like feeling; before the persuasion of forgiveness was indulged, and as the ground of it) Selfishness is the ruling principle of the patural heart. Let that heart be employed in religion, it is selfish still. Its love, its joy, its hopes terminate on self; and the character, the law, the purposes, the government of infinite love, are now as much opposed to its religious, as they before were, to its worldly, feelings. But true religion is love; that love which exalts God, which makes his glory its end, and subordinates self to the objects which his law is employ. ed to secure. This is the harmony of the soul with God, the conmencement of its peace, and the foretaste of heaven. “Every one that loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God, for God is love."
Thirdly. Is our experience characterized by humility? When David was leading out his thousands on a perilous expedition, the people, flocking around him said, “Thou shalt not go forth, for thou art wortb ten thousand of us.” Just so when a person, in the expansive feelings of divine love, begins to estimate things according to their worth, he learns to esteem others better than himself, and in honor to prefer them. If, in this manner, he submits himself to his fellow servants, of wbat worth does he consider bimself, in comparison with God? his own wisdom in comparison with God's; his own interests and gratifications, in comparison with the glory of God and the interests of his kingdom? " I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear," is the sentiment of his heart, “but now mine eye seeth thee, wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes." His illumination in the knowledge of God, his perception of the nature of sin, as against God, his minute and ansious observation of the secret workings of his own mind, as all open and naked to the view of God, his every sentiment and feeling in the great concerns of religion, dispose him to take the place of the least of all, and the servant of all. Hence there is no one thing, by whicb redeemed sinners are so often characterized in the scriptures as this; “ Thus saith the high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity, I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a humble and contrite heart." Do you then see a person whose religious experience breaks down his self-confidence and self-complacency; makes him diffident of his own wisdom, low in his estimate of his own attainments, and distrustful of his own beart; willing to be guided, and if occasion demands, to be admonished and reproved; and, by his habitual demeanor, convincing you that he cares but little whether himself be accounted any thing, if only God may be glorified, and his kingdom advanced? Or, on the other band, do you find him self-willed, self-sufficient, self-complacent, self-exalted; fond of holding himself up to observation and assuming to himself the direction; pleased with his flatterers, and bitter, resentful and censorious, in his treatment of those whose sentiments and feelings do not harmonize with his own?. We have said, do you find this spirit in another? Alas! we are too apt to discover it in every one, rather than in ourselves. True humility, however, detects this sin of sins in one's self, sooner than in any other. Candor is its attendant virtue, because it is self-observant. But in judging of the grace of God, whether in ourselves or in others, let