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Beloved, with each receding year it is scarcely less grateful to contemplate the changed circumstances of those, who, during the year, have been brought from bondage into liberty-from the apprehension of slavery into the sweet realization of sonship. Though this by no means adds to such an one's security, it does to his satisfaction; and it is assuredly, when experienced, treasured up with the sweet memoranda of the year; and where not as yet enjoyed, will be among the long and earnestly-sought-for boons at the mercy-seat.
Nor can any be indifferent to the all-important events of the year during which he experienced the truth of that blessed testimony (Ps. cx. 3), "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." The commencement, and the continuation, and the close of the year that was from all eternity set apart for translating a pre-ordained vessel of mercy out of the kingdom of darkness, into the kingdom of God's dear Son, must indeed be a precious, an ever-memorable year in the remembrance of every such vessel of mercy. It stands forth in after-life pre-eminently blessed, and is tinctured with a brilliancy infinitely more glorious than that year's brightest sun.
Thus much, beloved, as to personal privileges. You will now expect a word about more general matters-matters not so much affecting the internal economy, as the external welfare of Zion. And with respect to this, we are more disposed to urge upon you the advice of Moses (Ex. xiv. 13), "Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord," than to advance any suppositions of our own. That the general aspect of the times is most serious, few can doubt; that the Lord has a controversy with the nations, and that his judgments are in very deed abroad upon the earth, even merely nominal professors will admit; that a crisis-and a serious one-is at hand, we, in common with very many, have long believed. But upon what that crisis shall be, or its immediate effects, we cannot venture an opinion. Notwithstanding the signal way in which Jehovah has afflicted the nations, as far as our highly-favoured England is concerned, Popery is increasing -Infidelity is spreading-crime is advancing.
The present state of the world, but more especially the condition of our own country, is defined by three simple words :
Depravity, Delusion, and Discord.
If we contemplate our position in a moral point of view, the aspect is truly awful. Notwithstanding our efforts as a professedly Christian land, we question if any age ever surpassed, or even equalled, th depravity of our own times. In a pamphlet which lately came under our notice, we met with the following deeply humbling statement:
"During the last thirty years crime has decreased in British India one-half, and in some places one-sixth, but during the same period it has increased in Great Britain tenfold beyond the number of the population. It is stated that one in every sixteen males in this country, is annually taken into custody for a violation of the laws."
The same authority adds,
"The Sheriff of Glasgow says, that in that city no less than 30,000 persons are intoxicated every Saturday night and during the greater part of the Lord's-day; and 20,000 females are annually taken into custody for drunkenness."
So much for the world; and now with respect to the professing Church. Delusion characterizes her condition. Generally speaking, the age is impregnated, not so much with hypocrisy as with self-deception. It was the remark of a divine, some twenty years ago, that "in primitive ages Satan opposed Christianity; since which he had changed his tactics and got up a counterfeit." Truly it is so religion has now become fashionable. The man would be almost discarded from society who professed it not. It would be deemed unsafe and hazardous to have dealings with such an one. Multitudes, moreover, are cradled in Christianity. Vast facilities are afforded for training the infantile mind. From very youth they become acquainted with the letter of Scripture; and are
thus familiarized with the common truths of our common faith. As a matter of course, this is followed by an outward profession. This, coupled with consistency of conduct in their general deportment, speedily introduces them either to membership among some class of professing Christians, or to the privilege of Gospel ordinances in the Establishment. But such persons never having been made the partakers of divine life, by the regenerating grace, effectual operation, and irresistible power of God the Holy Ghost, may be classed among those who have but "a name to live while they are dead." They have religion in the letter, but not in the spirit. They have the form of godliness, but are destitute of the vital power and energy thereof. Uncharitable as it may be deemed, we believe it may be truly said of the great mass of religionists of the present times, "God hath sent them strong delusion" (2 Thess. ii. 11).
But the third term-the Discord of which we speak-has reference to a totally different class; even to the Lord's own truth-taught and truth-loving people. And as it is with these-and, comparatively speaking, with these alone that this work has to do, we beg to offer them a few words of exhortation.
Beloved, we grieve over the discord and disunion among the Lord's own eternally-loved and eternally-chosen people. We consider this to be decidedly the most serious mark of the times. But for it, we should have hope for the land, and anticipate better things. For a praying people must be a prevailing people. But we seem to look, but to look in vain, for those holy wrestlers which have in days gone by, stood forth so prominently among the Lord's people. It seems as if He were taking away one burning and shining light, and another, and another, but we see not their places supplied. To us it appears as if the enemy, seeing that his time is short, has been permitted to come down with great power. He has both extensively and effectually sown the seeds of discord and division even among the Lord's own people. Brethren, is it not so? and are not the following among the fruits and effects? We are disposed to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. When and where we least suspect, we fall into our own spirit—and that is naught but a carnal spirit. We imagine we are "earnestly contending for the faith once delivered to the saints," when perhaps the faith we had deemed so pure, has a great admixture of flesh. Our creed as well as our character, our profession as well as our person, need be weighed in the balances of the sanctuary, lest they should be "found wanting." Beloved, are we prepared to bring our every sentiment, thought, or idea, to "the word and to the testimony?" We may professedly wish so to do; but are we found so doing?
Moreover, in all our argumentations, is LIFE- -spiritual divine LIFE-our end and aim? Is it for this we contend as being indispensable? Is union to the Lord Christ, and a vital oneness with him, the very life-blood of our creed? Is this our starting point, and are all our arguments made subservient to, and in accordance with, this?
Furthermore, does the very spirit and temper of our living and loving Head, in that forbearance, and sympathy, and brotherly-kindness, which he so continuously insisted upon, become ours? do we love each other, in him, manifestively? Is there a weeping together and a rejoicing together? Do your trials and your temptations become ours, and our trials and our temptations yours? Is there heart-travail and soul-travail for each other?
Brethren, let us each ask ourselves the question pointedly? We acknowledge with sorrow our own occasional lack of personal experience on this head. Have You no need to do the same? Have not some of our happiest moments been spent in sympathy with and for our brethren? And are not those seasons blessed when there is such an outpouring of the Spirit, that we can come bearing before the throne those whom we love in the truth, and for the truth's sake? Beloved, the Lord give both you and ourselves increasingly to know, that communion with the risen Head about his dear suffering members is unspeakably precious.
Oh, for such a mighty and manifest outpouring of the Spirit, that all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, may be put away from us, with all malice; and that we may be kind one to another, tender-hearted,
forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake, hath forgiven us (Eph. iv. 31, 32). And seeing that time is short; that
"Ev'ry beating pulse we tell,
and that in all probability, some, and perhaps many, of us may before the close of another year, be summoned hence; oh! that the Lord the Spirit may cause a divine unction and power to possess our souls, whilst he reads into our hearts afresh, his own most holy word, "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another; if any man have a quarrel against any, even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye" (Col. iii. 12, 13).
And now a word to such as have lately expressed a wish that we should open our pages to controversy. Readers, turn to our motto, and you will see that "CHRIST" is our Captain, "COMFORT" our banner, and "CONCORD," or the "UNITY OF THE SPIRIT," the emblem of our covenant relationship. Thus arrayed, for nearly ten long years we have traversed the wilderness in union with each other. With "SEE THAT YE FALL NOT OUT BY THE WAY we started; and, feeling its force, we have been privileged unitedly to enjoy many a sweet foretaste of that perfect and uninterrupted bliss towards which we journey. Why then would you have us change? You may conceive it would be to our mutual edifying and advantage. We trow not. Again and again, in a less public way, have we proved to the contrary. Self has intruded, and strife been the consequence of many an intentionally profitable disputation. There is more about us of "I am of Paul, and I of Apollos," than we are disposed to imagine. The Lord, therefore, being our helper, as long as he condescends to employ us, so long shall our imperfect labours be to render the GOSPEL MAGAZINE Consistent with its title, namely, a medium to "Strengthen the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees; and to say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not."
"Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you."
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen."
Your willing Servant in the Gospel of Christ,
Bonmahon, County of Waterford, Ireland,
Nature and Grace...
Original Letter of the late Rev. J. B.
Old Jonathan at School
82, 128, 150, 199, 246, 320, 362
Portrait-Rev. J. D. Lane
Poetry-63, 121, 164, 251, 267, 278,
103, 202, 253, 392, 546
293, 304, 344, 350, 368, 378, 384,
of the True Church
Special Services at Birmingham
The Opening of our Tenth Year as Editor 245
Visits to the Brethren
Weep not-She is not Dead, but Sleep-
287, 369, 474, 498