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To conclude, Let every professor of religion consider the mat-. ter seriously, as in the presence of the heart-searching God; and examine whether he has sowed sparingly or bountifully; and let him, for the time to come, render to the ministers of Christ their due, as well as to others. Let deacons, especially, reflect how much depends on them. Let all weigh with serious attention the dictates of the Spirit of God on the subject in 2 Cor. ix. 7-14. Gal. vi. 6, 7. and 1 Tim. v. 17, 18. Let prayer succeed meditation: and when you rise from your knees, let the heart suggest what is duty, and act according to the dictates of this sober and pious hour.
I am, Gentleman, your most obedient, humble servant,
N. B. When plans, however reasonable and beneficial, are left as orphans to the care of the wide world, they often, in a considerable degree, fail of their effect. But when a few publicspirited men form themselves into a committee, and undertake the patronage of the business, it has a thousand-fold greater success. It is most devoutly to be wished, that some gentlemen in London would step forward, and take the charge of this proposal; and by some means press it home on the attention of the managers and individuals of every congregation in the kingdom. Your labour of love, gentlemen, will not be lost. The words of Jesus to his faithful disciples at the last day, will be found applicable, and be addressed to you:-" I was hungry, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was naked, and ye clothed me.-Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
THERE never was an error in the world but what had some resemblance to truth, either more or less: and hence it is there are enquirers after truth, who are deceived by a specious appearance, and thereby are unwarily drawn aside into the paths of error. If we consider the numerous controversies which are now, and ever have been in the world about religion, and what diversity of opinions there are on almost every article of the Christian faith, we shall be ready to conclude there are more errors in theology than in any other system. Perhaps this may occasion some pious Christian, as it does the men of the world to think rather hardly of God, because that which most intimately concerns our best interests, is so perplexed with disputes. Some persons, not willing to give themselves the trouble of thinking seriously on the subject, have concluded, that since the doctrines of Christianity appear so dubious, they are not very important; and hence arises the modern opinion, that it does not signify much what a man's faith is, if his practice be
but right. I believe this is the true cause of that general indifference to religious opinions which prevails so much in the world. This is the error of the times; and many good men have fallen into it. For the satisfaction of those whose minds are unsettled on this subject, I will briefly endeavour to point out, the causes of error, and best method of attaining a just idea of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity.
The principal criterion of truth is, that it is consistent. The, more you examine it, the brighter will its evidence appear. The resemblance of error to truth is only on one side; and if you carefully survey it all round, you will detect its fallacy. Hence, in order to form a just judgment, a man must have a comprehensive understanding, that he may be able to view all the several parts of a subject at once, to see their relation to each other, the various consequences necessarily resulting from them, and the difficulties with which they are attended. This qualification is especially useful in finding out the true sense of scripture. Many persons form very inconsistent notions of divine truth, by confining their attention to one or two detached passages; therefore it is necessary in a text, to observe how it accords with the rest of the Bible; and, in examining a doctrine, to observe its conformity with others: this is properly called the Analogy of Faith. But all men do not possess a comprehensive understanding, so useful in investigating the truth. For the comfort of every true Christian therefore, let it be observed, there is another qualification more important, and which partly supplies the want of this; I mean holiness of life. Now none can rightly obey the commands of God, but those whose hearts have been regenerated by the Spirit of God; then have they tasted that the Lord is gracious. They have seen the odiousness of sin, its desert, and their danger by it; they have felt the power of the Spirit in enabling them to repent, and in giving them faith to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; they see his amazing love in dying for them, the inestimable value of tris atonement, and his complete sufficiency to answer the demands of God's law; they see the inflexible justice of God the Father, his infinite mercy, and his unspotted holiness, strikingly displayed in the plan of human redemption; and they feel the power of the Spirit enabling them to subdue their sins, and to render sincere obedience to the commands of God. The Apostle says, "It is a good thing that the heart be established with grace." And indeed so it is an experience of the grace of God towards them, mightily strengthens their belief of the truths of the gospel. Will they, who have seen and felt all that has just been mentioned, deny the doctrine of human depravity, the deity and atonement of Christ, the divinity and agency of the Spirit, and the necessity of repentance, faith, and good works? No: they are rooted and grounded in love; they have a witness within themselves of the truth of these doctrines; they will firmly adhere to the genuine peculiar principles of Christianity, though
they cannot answer every objection which may be raised against. them; nor shall the ingenuity and sophistry of unregenerate men, often prevail so far as to pervert them from the faith of the gospel.
If it be true, that there are more errors among professing Christians, than among philosophers of any class, the reason is, there are no doctrines in any of the sciences so diametrically opposite to the inveterate prejudices of the human heart as those of Christianity are. But the truth of this assertion wholly depends upon the signification which is annexed to the term Christian. Some there are who assume this name; but have no more right to it, than the idiot has to be called a mathematician. Those who really are Christians, by reading the same Bible and being taught by the same Spirit, are nearly of the same sentiments; but because they have been accustomed to view things through a different medium, and to use different terms, there appears more difference among them than in fact there really is.
Theological errors, and indeed eriors of every kind, may be partly attributed to the ignorance which necessarily attends this state of mortality. This reason is sufficient to account for errors in lesser matters of religion; but I apprehend, it is inadequate to account for those which relate to the more essential parts: for any man of a moderate capacity, notwithstanding the imperfection of his reason, reading the Bible under the ordinary influences of the Holy Spirit, will not make such gross mistakes about the main truths of Christianity as we hear daily in the world. The grand cause is, that men enter upon the study of theology with depraved hearts. However detrimental ignorance may be to the cause of truth, a depraved heart and ungodly conduct are more so. When men neglect the plain declarations of scripture, they are never likely to understand its more mysterious parts. The doctrines of the gospel are directly levelled at pride; which, of all other vices, is the most universal, and the most deeply rooted. Their hearts will revolt at them: and when men will not attend to the Bible, but indulge their own. imaginations, they will fall into an infinite variety of errors: there is no end of speculation. They may choose what system they please, or frame a new theory for themselves. It signifies very little what system they adopt in preference to others, or whether they believe in any at all; for they only seek to gratify a vain curiosity, and do not consider the influence which their principles should have upon their conduct; whereas the children of God" desire the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby." The doctrines of Christianity are of very little use, when they are abstracted from its practical influence. All the knowledge which God communicates to his children, is given to them for their improvement; and they only can expect to have greater degrees communicated unto them, who carefully improve that which they already possess. For, whosoever
ORIGINAL LETTER FROM THE REV. MR. ROBE.、、
hath, to him shall be given; and he shall have more abundance: "but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away, even that he hath." Matt. xiii. 1. "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God." John vi. 17.
Upon the whole, he who diligently obeyeth all known truth; who reads his Bible in a dependence upon divine illumination, and compares one part with another, and the whole with his own experience, takes the best method to find out the truth, and get the comfort of it to his own soul. FABIUS
ORIGINAL LETTER FROM THE REV. MR. ROBE,
TO THE REV. S. L, LONDON;
Respecting the great Out-pouring of the Spirit of God on the Ordinances, and the Revival of Religion in the West of Scotland at that Time.
Feb. 22, 1742.
I HASTEN to gratify your wishes, " to know how the work of God goes on with us; and I make no doubt but the account of it will fill your heart with joy, and your mouth with praise. The Lord's appearance in his glory, to build up his Zion, continueth and increaseth. There was a proposal from the praying societies at Edinburgh, transmitted in short printed memorials to us and other places, to set apart Friday the 18th, now past, for thanksgiving to the God of our salvation, for what he has done in watering several corners of this church; and for prayer, that it may be more general. The societies met at night: Mr. Sp-s assisted me: we had a good and great day; the Holy Ghost was poured forth, and there was a serious concern apparently among the people. Mr. S. and I had much dealing with many after the sermon; but it was only with those who had been under soul-exercise before. But hear now the wonders of sovereign grace, to worthless and sinful minister and people! Whereas the awakening influences of the Holy Spirit had been suspended for three winter-months, they appeared again in this congregation on Sabbath se'ennight. Since which day, nine has been with me, under such concern as obliges them to seek after instruction and direction. I heard last night of two others, who have not been with me. Two of those awakened last Lord's Day, are under great distress; one of them was lately married, and of a blameless life. The Lord can overcome, when he pleases, the excuse of "I have married a wife and cannot come." The other is a married woman, who never was of a religious character, but descended of godly parents, deceased some years since; and I hope the Lord is now beginning to hear the prayers that they formerly put up
for their children. Dear Sir, praise and give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for these new visits of mercy, that it may be continued; and that I may have grace and strength given me to improve it for myself and them, to the glory of God; and that in this "accepted time and day of salvation," we may not "receive the grace of God in vain." All these are awakened without those painful effects upon their bodies, which have been (though unjustly) objected against in other cases.
There were also, about three weeks ago, about ten boys in the town of Kilsyth, who of themselves associated for prayer: some of them had been the most wicked in the place. They are reformed, meet twice a week, and are in a hopeful way. The Lord has done all this for us, for his holy name's sake, and hath shewn himself to be the hearer of prayer. And when for three months he had proved that I could not awaken one soul with all my earnest endeavours, he hath done it when I was not looking for it; and manifested that it is altogether his work, and it should be wonderous in our eyes. At Cumbernaud, a door great and effectual is kept open, though there are many adversaries, and great opposition made by some.
At Cambuslang, I hear they observed Friday the 18th, congregationally; and there was a great concern and uncommon motion among the people; but have heard no particulars. I have accounts this week that the awakening continues at Gargunnock, in some degree, and at St. Ninian's; and that every thing proceeds hopefully in these congregations. I have learned also this week, that this blessed work has entered into other congregations about Muthel; but having no particulars, I have written to Mr. H. from whom I expect soon to hear. It is certain the work is in some degree in Kilmarnock, near Dumbarton.
I have thus given you what occurs to me at this time: you'll doubtless, when you see Mr. Whitefield acquaint him of this, and that I remember him frequently in prayer. I long for meeting with Count Z. and to hear some particulars of it. I have akindly and warm heart toward the Moravians. Wherein they are otherwise minded, I hope the Lord will enlighten, and shew it unto them.
To the above add (from the same hand) an Extract from the
Mans of Kilsyth, March 19, 1751. "The session being met for prayer, by appointment, the names of above an hundred persons were read, who were brought to the knowledge of God in that singular work of God, in this parish, in the year 1742 and 1743. Five of their num ber are safe landed, having finished well, and left an honourable profession to posterity of the grace and power of God in their