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NEW EVANGELICAL MAGAZINE,
ON THE DIGNIFIED CHARACTER OF CHRISTIANITY.
It must be a source of peculiar troversy, are not to be overlooked satisfaction to a reflecting mind to by the reflecting Christian. Of contemplate the accumulated mass this kind are many topics which of evidence which supports the come under the description of indivine origin of Christianity-Pro- ternal evidence. If the external phecy, miracles, testimony, bistory, proofs be needful to silence the the successful propagation of the sceptic, the internal are necessary gospel, the character of the Re- to confirm the believer. He can deemer, and the lives of his apos- survey the ground of his confidence tles; all these, connected with the under every different aspect; he internal proofs arising from the may examine it in all its bearings. doctrines themselves, combine to As the allurements of pleasure, stamp with the seal of Heaven, the honour, and interest ever tend to dispensation of the Messiah. The weaken the impression of heavenly privilege, or rather the right, of free truth upon his mind, he will need discussion, while it allows every ob- to ask himself what it is that he jection against Christianity to be has believed? Is there any thing fully stated, has been attended with in Christianity which is peculiarly advantages inconceivably great on interesting--that commends itself the side of truth: it has brought to his affectionthat raises his adforward a fulness of evidence which miration--that enlarges his views, obviates every objection; while the or elevates his piety? Is it such a acknowledged talents and acute- system as ennobles our nature, as ness of its adversaries have served opens a boundless prospect of futo make the triumph of Christianity ture happiness, or is it only a system more complete; and as no source so supported by external proofs, hath been left untried to furnish that it silences our doubts, but weapons against it, the advocates does not affect our hearts ? of revealed truth, have found them- Under such reflections as these, selves more than equal to the com- permit me to remark, that there is bat. It now only remains that they something in the dignity of Chrismaintain the advantageous ground tianity, when considered in its which they already occupy. original purity, that impresses on
The general evidence of Chris- the mind a conviction of its heatianity to which I have adverted, venly origin. When I mention the is much strengthened by many dignity of it, I mean that all which collateral proofs, which, though pertains to it is elevated above not necessary in the public con- meanness; is rational as opposed
to superstition; and is pure in himself condescends thus to give, distinction from the corruption of as knowing in whom he has beevery other system. The most lieved. If he take a comprehensive general prejudice of the human view of all his doctrines, they are mind against Christianity arises found worthy the majesty of the from associating with the very speaker—they do not indeed enter name of it, an impression of weak-into the concerns of earthly states ness or meanness, as though there and kingdoms; they have an object were nothing in the principles or more interesting: they regard the practice of it which suits a mind affairs of man as a moral, a rational, any way elevated above the ordi- an accountable, and an immortal nary level. But can we have any being—a being conscious of the just conception of what real Chris- obligations which arise from the tianity is, and not admit that it is relation he stands in to the great the ornament of our nature that Supreme. He views his divine a consistent Christian is the highest Teacher, in all bis instructions, as style of man?
placing man in this dignified state, If we consider a Christian in re-in distinction from all the other lation to the truth he believes, we creatures in the world. In this shall perceive what corresponds to view he listens to him enforcing this description. The doctrine he considerations of infinite weight receives is not insignificant or and moment—the perfections of mean; it is not indeed in unison the eternal God—the value of an with the wisdom of this world, or interest in his favour-the worth the prince of this world, which of the immortal soul—its redempcome to nought; but it is the tion by his own blood--the resurwisdom of God in a mystery. He rection from the dead—the glories is called to receive only what ac- of heaven, and the miseries of hell. cords with an enlightened under- These divine topics are set before standing, and a judgment exercised him with such infallible certainty to discérn both good and evil. If and indisputable authority, as to he believe that Jesus Christ is the render all other subjects, in comSon of God, and the author of parison, as only the amusement of eternal salvation, it is because God children. It is no disparagement to himself hath borne witness to it by his understanding to have it occuirrefragable evidence. If he make pied about matters which angels a profession of his faith before desired to look into, and for which many witnesses, it is a profession the Son of God visited this world. of his own individual conviction The more he enters into the mind of divine truth; he believes, and of his Redeemer, the more must therefore he speaks. If he is as he consider his own nature to be sured that the heavenly teacher, raised in the scale of being, and a whom he now owns as his only greater importance is consequently guide, was in the bosom of the attached to this present state of Father, yet tabernacled on earth; existence, as preparatory to one that in him are hid all the treasures that will ensue-a life immortal and of wisdom and knowledge; he heavenly. What is there in the thinks it no reflection on his own system of Deism, Paganism, or Maunderstanding to allow him to ex- hometanism, to be compared with plain his own purpose and design Christianity in this view of it! in coming into this world, fulfilling Nor will the dignity of Chrishis ministry, and expiring upon the tianity appear to less advantage, if cross; he sees it consonant to the we view it in its influence on the most enlightened reason to receive life and conduct: keeping in mind, that exposition which the Redeemer however, that it is not the imperfect and inconsistent conduct of some ruler or a subject, the principles of its friends to which we must ap- of Christianity naturally tend to peal as the standard of this influ- promote the discharge of every ence. Christianity is embodied in obligation, and the great design the life of its divine Founder; its intended by our being placed in the practical effects are witnessed in various relations of social life. No his example--in the lives of his limits are prescribed to the virtues apostles, and, in some faint degree, of the christian life; for “whatsoin all his real followers. It is in the ever things are true, whatsoever new man created in righteousness things are just, whatsoever things after the divine image, that the are pure, whatsoever things are dignity of the christian character lovely; if there be any virtue, the appears. To him it belongs to shew Christian must think on these forth the virtues of Him who hath things.” His obedience is commencalled him out of darkness into his surate in its obligation to the glory marvellous light. Though once of God and the good of men ; it darkness he is now light in the is the operation of divine love, Lord, and is called to walk in the making it a most reasonable serlight; to approve that which is vice; the fruits of it are righteousgood, and to hate that which is ness, and the end of it peace. evil. The principles of his holy But it would be doing great inprofession, though not founded on justice to this view of Christianity worldly maxims, are of that ten- to overlook the peculiar blessings dency as to enable him to act his and the future prospects of the part in it. There is no situation of believer. “Now are we,” says one, life in which they are not intended “the sons of God; and it does not to operate-no duty that th do yet appear what we shall bę.” The not sanctify. If integrity, faithful- blessings of the gospel confer honess, diligence, sobriety, sincerity, nour and dignity on the possessors and truth, are approved by the un- of them. Though once aliens, they corrupted reason of mankind uni- are made fellow-citizens with the versally, as things acceptable to saints, and of the household of God and profitable to men, chris- faith; are introduced into the fatian principles not merely recom-mily of God, and made with the Remend but sanction them as of di- deemer joint heirs of the heavenly vine authority. If the more amiable inheritance. Though not disenvirtues of benevolence and mercy tangled from those ties and confind an advocate in every humane nections which belong to this breast, aside from any particular earthly state, the mind of a Chrissystem of religion—the gospel a- tian is directed to a higher portion, dorns them with the most heavenly his affections are set upon things rays--a life of benevolence and that are above; his conversation is mercy was the life of the Re-in heaven, from whence he looks deemer-a life of overflowing be- for the Saviour's return, to change nignity--it was the image of the his vile body, and fashion it like Deity, set forth for the imitation of unto his own glorious body. The his followers. “Be followers of value of those truths which he beGod as dear children.” The chris- lieves, are estimated by him, not tian character consists in a confor- with regard to present enjoyment, mity to this. “Blessed are the but to future blessedness. The immerciful, for they shall obtain portance attached to every thing mercy.” In every station of life, on earth, is regulated by its influthe same elevation of sentiment ence on his final destiny. The will operate. As a master, a ser- fluctuations and vicissitudes of this vant, a husband, or a friend, a (life affect not the nature or the
ground of his hope. His light have perused with much pleasure, afflictions, which are but for a and though I have nearly dropt all moment, work cut for him a far nay correspondence, I could not more exceeding and eternal weight omit complying with your desire, of glory. No object can be more and giving a word in reply thereto. pitiable, than man descending into The Lord has for the present the grave destitute of the favour shut you out from all public ordiof God, and without hope in his nanees, and in a great measure from merey. What a situatien for a the conversation of the righteous; human being under any circum- many of his dear people have been stances, but particularly after a so dealt with and much worse, yet life spent in cultivating his under the Lord himself is present in the standing, with a view to enlarge absence of his public appoint., his intellectual attainments, and, ments; and has other instructors in some sense, elevate himself in equally as profitable for us, if we the scale of existence; but ah! will listen to their voice: as you how vain the attempt, aside from wish to have a word from me, I the principles of Christianity! will point out a few of his monitors; “ Man that is in honour and un- a lecture from each of which you derstandeth not, is like the beasts may have every day, or several that perish.” The high attainments from them all in a day if you please. of cultivated genius--the result of You have a very close inmate years of laborious study, vanish called conscience, which, if it be into disappointment without the an enlightened one, as I hope and hope of inmortality. But the be- trust yours is, will be a faithful liever hath hope in his death. friend. Its language is, “ Keep me There indeed the worth of his tender, quick of feeling, void of principles is brought home, and offence towards God and man; their importance is felt. All his consult me upon all, occasions previous experience of their value temporal and spiritual; act acwas but preparatory to this. Now cording to my dictates, and thou, he arrives at the object--the wide, shalt have a perpetual feast; but the unbounded prospect lies before if thou shalt grieve me, then behim. The foundation of his hope ware of a deceitful reconciliation. is secure; he knows in whom he I will be satisfied with nothing less hath believed ; and therefore, in than a fresh pardon from the blood passing through the valley of the of Christ; he that first gave me shadow of death, he fears no evil. quiet, must keep me in peace.”
And what in yonder realns above, Another friend you will have Is ransomed man ordain'd to be?
continually about you, namely, In honour, holiness, and love, No angel more adoro'd than he.
the Bible, and it will speak a true Before the throne, and first in song,
language, though in different diaMan shall his hallelujahs raise; lects. It will shew you the great Wule wond'ring angels round him
and glorious salvation of Jesus throng, And swell the chorus of his praise.
Christ. It will shew you a perfect March lith, 1815.
S. J. atonement, righteousness, justifi
cation, adoption, and glorification. ORIGINAL LETTER, From the late Joux PHORNTON, Eisg. continually; look upon this as far
It says, “ Soul, fix thy faith here young man, then a captain in His superior to all thy humiliations, Majesty's dary.
gitts, graces, and highest attainClaphara, 19 April, 1784. ments. Let every sheaf bow down DEAR SIR
to this sheat; look upon it also as Your acceptable letter of the far more extensive to cover and 20th March, fiom Waterford, 1 pardon, than all thy sins, corrup
ORIGINAL LETTER FROM JOHN THORNTON, ESQ. 133 tions, imperfections, shortcomings, grace; guarding against temptacan to condemn thee. It is Christ's tions, striving against the flesh. most holy act, and therefore] can- It says, “I appeal to thine own not be added unto, [and] must not experience, Soul, when art thou so be diminisked from.” This work happy as under my smile ? when of God is every way perfect. It is thy faith so delighted, as when speaks also in the language of I am taking of the things of Jesus promises -exceeding great and Christ, and shewing them unto precious promises-many in num- thee? When is the throne of grace ber and rich in variety-suitable a place so privileged, as when I to every case, and calculated for am in thee as a spirit of prayer and every emergency-secured by co- supplication, making intercession venant love and everlasting mercy. in thee and with thee? When are A summary of these you may find thy evidences of the divine favour in Heb. viii. 9-13. It sometimes so bright and convincing, as when makes use of dictatorial language, I am sealing thee to the day of and speaks in the way.of precept. redemption ? Therefore grieve me This voice must be attended unto. not, banish me not from thee, for It supposes you.
grace, I am a Spirit of holiness, and will strength, experience, and a will to not dwell among the unclean.” choose the things that are ex- There is also the voice of the cellent. Much has been bestowed; Beloved, which I must not pass much will be required. Walk in by, Rev. iii. 20. We are apt to pay the path of duty, as the redeemed too little attention to the voice of of the Lord; shew thy love to him our best Friend. See a most in by keeping his commandments; teresting and tender seene respectdemonstrate that the doctrine of ing this matter, in the Song of the gospel is according to godhi- Solomon, v. 2-7. ness, and by well-doing put to Time, likewise, is another mosilence the ignorance of foolishnitor of God, and it speaks loudiy, men. See that the law be esta-“ Live to-day-redeem what has blished in all its divine and hea- been mispent-improve thy talents venly injunctions, and walk not prepare for death and judgment." after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Sickness also may come, and it Many other voices the Bible makes must be attended to; hear the nse of, by way of warning, en-voice of the rod, and who has apcouragement, and example, which pointed it, I cannot now enlarge upon; but I will only mention two voices whenever you advise with it, you more, from very different people, will find it a faithful and able in very opposite dialects, and from counsellor.
very different places, neither of There is also the voice of the which has the vulture's eye ever Spirit,* which will insist much yet beheld, nor any living mortal upon your keeping up communion ever yet seen.t May they be sancwith God, plying the throne of tified to us both. One may be
* By the Spirit here, the reader must understand the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, which Christ promised to give to those that believe in him. John xiv. 16, 17, 26. xvi. 7, 13. And that this is the writer's meaning, is evident from the reference which he afterwards makes to Eph. i. 13. and iv. 30, &e. Happy would it be for Christians if they paid more attention to the apostle's injunction, “ Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed to the day of redemptiou”-which is always done when they indulge “ bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour," &c. EDIT.
+ There is something inexpressibly striking in the hint which Mr. Thornton here drops to his correspondent, and it speaks a volume! Heaven and hell are personified, and the reader is, as it were, called to hear a lecture from each of them. The idea is truly sublime, and had it been found in Shakespeare, what a fund of comment would it have afforded for the critics.