« AnteriorContinuar »
attachment to the abrogated rites of the ceremonial law, brought in sentiments which, if not totally subversive of the gospel, yet tended to obscure its glories, abridge its privileges, and destroy its admirable simplicity. Such Judaizing Christians existed among the Galatians: and against them, together with their doctrine, is this whole epistle directed. This text is a part peculiarly awful and instructive: though written with an immediate reference to those who troubled the Galatians, it may, I apprehend, admit of a more general application ; — an application to those of the present day, who, by any means, disturb the peace of the churches of Christ. To consider this evil conduct and its consequences, may not be unworthy the attention of any, and especially demands, the attention of schismatics and disturbers.
Disturbances in churches are sometimes produced by raising mere circumstantials to the importance of first principles and essentials in religion; giving infinite weight to every trifle; agitating, with fury, questions on which the wisest and holiest men have agreed to differ; charging those who conscientiously differ from them, with stubborn ignorance or designing hypocrisy.
Some disturb churches by confining their view to one important truth, and dwelling or insisting on that to the exclusion of the truth. Instead of considering truth in its whole extent, one idea is seized, dwelt on, and propagated, while he who dares to consider the word of God as containing an assemblage of truths, which form a glorious whole, is charged with legality, and ignorance; which, instead of demanding pity, prayer, and reason, deserves all the chastisement that bitter bigotry and unchristian cruelty can inflict.
Others disturb the Churches of Christ by insinuations to the disadvantage of a minister. A numerous people love the man, and listen to his doctrine and precepts with delight. Sinners are converted, and saints edified, and all walk in love, maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, till some root of bitterness springing up troubles them. The minds of some are warped; they hear without candour, perhaps, without prayer. The ininister's designs are misrepresented. Sentiments are charged on him which his soul abhors. Every expression is tortured, till they make it confess a falsehood, Such conduct justly offends the more serious and peaceable. With the offending party, expostulation becomes vain; and, confident in their own discernment, the conversion of thousands, by the minister's means, could not convince them that God does, or will, or can, own his labours.
That a minister may so act or preach as to deserve the disapprobation of his hearers, is a melancholy truth, which every candid mind must confess, and every pious mind lament. The minister, however, may preach the important doctrines of the
Fall, the atonement and divinity of the Redeemer, the influence of the Holy Spirit, and all others which are deemed Evangelical; his life may be unimpeachably exemplary; — yet he gives unpardonable offence, which warrants the most cruel insinuations, or the most awful charges:and why? Because he may not have made these offended and offending ones of sufficient importance; or, because he will not dwell exclusively on their one favourite doctrine, the truth and importance of which he admits, and feels to as great a degree as themselves; or, perhaps, because the God of nature has not furnished him with a voice and manner perfectly agreeable to their wishes. And a series of moral defects is an offence of a far less magnitude than a want of such, or such a way of preaching!
If such troublers of the Israel of God read these lines, may we ask them, Have they ever properly considered this text? If they are Christians, real Christians, do they not find deadness of soul, a crossness and bitterness of temper, little becoming the disciples of him whose name and nature is love? Do they not attend, without advantage, the same ministry, under which they once professed to have derived instruction_and comfort? Is there any real difference in the doctrines preached? Why, then, is there such a difference in their feelings? Is it, or is it not, because God has given them over for a time to "bear their own judgments?" And is not such unprofitableness a judgment which every real believer must dread?
If they are not real Christians, (and such persons frequently are not) is not such a mode of conduct the way to be confirmed in ignorance, obstinacy, and hardness of heart?
I beg leave to close this picce with the recital of an anecdote, which may be considered as a living and painful illus tration of the Apostle's declaration. In the neighbourhood of a small, but truly pious, affectionate, and catholic Calvinistic church (of which the writer was a member) there was a congregation belonging to Mr. Wesley's society. The two congregations were in the strictest bonds of Christian friendship. Their houses and hearts were open to each other. The ministers of those churches were more than common friends. They differed on the doctrine of election; but the grace of God had made them one soul. In Mr. Wesley's society was a very zealous free-will lay preacher, who occasionally came to the town in which the Calvinistic church met; lie seized every opportunity of introducing his peculiar sentiments, throwing the church into confusion, and making the people miserable with bitter contentions, on points which they had previously considered as no bar to the exercise of Christian love. When my venerable and excellent pastor was lamenting it to his worthy friend, the minister of the Wesleyan congregation, the latter said, "I grieve that Mr. has acted so impro
perly; I could not have done it: nor would I, for the world, have that text against ine, which appears appicable to him," "He that troubleth you shall bear his own judgment." The writer of this has since been in company withthis zealous laypreacher, who then was, and still continue, a daring and hardened infidel.
WRITTEN BY THE SHEPHERD OF SALSBURY PLAIN.
To the Editor.
Sir, Many of your readers, without doubt, have read, with pleasure and instruction, the little cheap Repository Tract, entled, "The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain." Some, perhaps, may not≤now that the admirable account was founded on a real character ad facts. Having met with an Original Letter, in the Shepherd's own and-writing, addressed to a respectable Farmer, I have thought it ma be acceptable to your readers to insert it in your Magazine, with no ther alterations than ip the spelling of a few words, and the omission f a few repetitions and a paragraph or two. — A short account of hi death, from a London News-paper, of September 15, 1796, may poperly be inserted, as a sort of Preface to the Letter.
I am yours, &c.
"LAST week died, at Wyke, betwee. Bath and Bristol, in the seventieth year of his age, David Sunders, of West Lavington, Wilts, whose distinguished piety and moral excellence furnished Miss H. Moore with material for her much admired story of "The Shepherd of Salisbury Plin." The dimness of his sight had obliged him to give up hi occupation, which he had followed for more than half a cenury on the same farm, until about six months back: since which time several respectable farmers, who well knew his forth, entertained him, by rotation, at their houses; and as a park of their unfeigned respect for his memory, they had his emains conveyed from the place of his decease to his own arish, and buried with more than common solemnity."
Litleton, Aug. 16, 1793.
I received a kind and welcome letter from you, dated July 25; which letter I could not aswer myself, by reason of the infirmities and weakness of bod I was then under; but
I desired friend Wastfield, of Imber, to answer it in my stead; and I hope you received it to your satisfaction; but not having since heard from you, I concluded the hurry of harvest prevented. I then equainted you, my cousin James Saunders was coming at Michaelmas to be your servant, if God shall permit; but he desired a protection from you, that he might come safelyfrom Salisbury to you, and not be molested by the press-gang, for hearing lately of many instances that have happened, hesays, he is afraid, not being used to travel; and being a mothe's delight, she will not be satisfied: so I hope you will let him know how he may come safely. I hope he will answer to our satisfaction; for he says, he will endeavour to the utmost of his power. You must excuse his spiritual ignorance, for he never had any instruction; and may the Lord open is understanding, and teach him to know his blessed will! am ready to conclude he will be a good servant; for I am near him, and do not see but he is very diligent, and undertands his business. He says, he cannot afford to come under eight guineas a year; and he will put a helping hand to forwrd his master's business, so far as not to neglect the flock whn under his care. I could wish a few books amongst you, Itely wrote by friend Wastfield. I have dispersed many of thm; and they are liked much. They are wrote in a simple and innocent style, to promote the glory of God. They are entiled, "The Gospel-Mirror, both to Professor and Profane."
As for my part, I ambut very poorly in body, having very sore legs; and cannot peform the business of my flock without help. As to the thing of this world, I have but little share, having my little cot to pray and praise my God in, and a bed to rest on so I have ust as much of the world as I desire.' But my garment is won out, and some of my Christian friends think they must put thir mites together and buy me one, or else I shall not be able to endure the cold in the winter: so I can say, Good is the brd! he is still fulfilling his promise: "I will never leave the, nor forsake thee."
When I read in yar last, the tender humility the Lord, by his grace, has wrought in your soul, in bringing you to sit down among the Magalen and Jerusalem sinners, my aged soul praised God on you behalf; for it is such sinners as Jesus Christ came to seek and save. For he says, "I came not to call the righteous, but inners to repentance;" therefore, let me, as a wellwisher to pur soul, intreat you to yield yourself up to God. Let him have the whole pre-eminence to reign and rule over you, that, as he has begun the work of grace and salvation in your sod, he may carry it on till the day of the Lord Jesus; and ya can truly and experimentally say, with the apostle, You have found redemption in his blood, even the forgiveness of sns; " for in the Lord have I found
righteousness and strength; and in the Lord doth my heart rejoice, give praise, and give glory; for in his holy name have I found everlasting strength" Beware, beware of the flattering deluding world, lest you again be shorn of your strength; and, like Samson, become weak as another man, and have no strength nor power to resist the enemy: for here we are in an enemy's country, and have great need to put on the whole armour of God, that we inay be able to resist the powerful force of the enemy; for by them we are beset, before and behind, within and without: so I find no way to conquer or overcome, but by fervent prayer in the Spirit, looking unto Jesus, "for he is our great High Priest, exalted and seated at the right hand of God, to be a Prince and a Saviour to all that, by faith, look unto him :" for he hath told us he hath overcome the world; and whosoever, by faith, looketh unto him, shall receive power to overcome all things. I think St. Peter saith," Unto them that believe, Christ is precious;" and my soul can evidence that he is precious; more precious than rubies, or the gold wedge of Ophir. Glory be unto his holy name! he is the joy and rejoicing of my heart. For, as the Psalmist saith, " Whom, Lord, have I in Heaven but thee? and there is none on the earth that I desire in comparison of thee!" Oh! that I could leave this corrupted body and fly to my beloved, and enjoy the fulness of divine love. Here, by faith, we behold him through the veil of ordinances; but ere long the veil will be taken away, and ordinances cease. And oh what joy to think we shall see him face to face; and hear him say unto us, " Ye are they that have continued with me in my temptations, now come and receive a never fading crown of my glory, and reign with me for ever and ever." The poet says,
"Earth's but a sorry tent,
Pitch'd for a few frail days;
Heaven's my song, my praise!
Now, my dear friend, my heart is enlarged with tender affections of love towards you. Perhaps it may be the last time I shall be ever able to take pen in hand as you are much my superior, bear with my weakness and simpleness this once, and suffer me to speak the whole of my soul, and deal plainly in asking a few important questions. I am not going to ask you, What denomination or party you hold with? I will leave to yourself to be fully persuaded in your own mind. Is it the desire of your soul to be saved by Jesus Christ, in his own and appointed way, disclaiming or renouncing all help in yourself, relying alone on him for salvation, sinking in the gulph of woe, and, like Peter, crying, "Lord, save, or I