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this time, and that is, to ask your opinion whether it be lawful, according to the will of God as revealed to us, to pray for our unconverted friends; that is, to ask God to convert them to the Christian religion ? If it be true, as you affirm, (and which I am not prepared to controvert,) that the righteousness of a Christian is a righteousness by faith in Jesus as the Messiah ; that that faith comes alone by hearing or reading the testimony concerning Jesus; and that we have no right to expect any influence superinducing the mind to faith, or even causing the siuner to examine this testimony, or place himself in circumstances for the light of Divine Truth to shine upon his mind. I say, upon the supposition that these things are so, what right has any one to expect that God will answer his prayers in the behalf of any of his unconverted friends ? Ever since I have felt the importance of divine things, I have felt the most anxious solicitude for many of my relatives and friends, who on their
manifested the greatest indifference to these matters, and have often tried to pray for them too, that God would cause them to submit themselves to Jesus as the only Saviour of sipners: but whether these prayers were in accordance to the word of our Divine Master, I confess I am somewhat at a loss to say. When we pray, we should pray in faith ; and in order that we may pray in faith, as I understand, we should pray for such things as our Heavenly Father has authorized us to expect at his hands, and no other. Now, if the Divine Being exercises no other influence over the minds of men than that influence which is derived to them through the words he has spoken to men, and we cannot prevail upon wicked men to give attention to those words, the question is, Are we authorized to expect that God will answer our requests in the behalf of such an one? Here is my difficulty, and it has long been a difficulty with me; and I find it is no less so with many of my friends, and your
you have opportunity to write me a private letter on this subject, I will esteem it as a singular favour; or if you consider the subject of sufficient importance, you can, if you please, furnish us an essay upon it through the Harbinger. Very affectionately,
W. Z. THOMSON. A. CAMPBELL'S REPLY. DEAR BROTHER THOMSON,—When our speculations on
any doctrine or question in religion become principles of action contravening any express precept or approved example found in the sacred writings of the apostles, it becomes us to pause, and rather to question or dissent from our own reasonings, than neglect to do the things that the Lord has commanded us.
It is not uncommon for us poor short-sighted mortals to take such one-sided views of things, and to be so engrossed in contemplating them as not to see at all, or very imperfectly, things of the very greatest magnitude connected with the other side of the subject. As the flying fish, fixing its eye upon the dolphin, endeavouring to elude its pursuit, sometimes leaps into the ship, or darts into the jaws of the shark, so we, in looking intensely upon one error, sometimes plunge into a greater one than we sought to avoid.
It is, however, a happy circumstance that persons who fear God will, whether they comprehend or not some strong sayings, some plain commands, or some approved examples in the good book, rather dissent from their own reasonings, leading in a contrary direction, than omit, or wholly neglect some very plain duty. A very striking instance of this we have in the prayers and enterprizes of some very zealous professors in our own time. In their creed and in their reasonings they maintain that “men are so predestinated, foreordained, and so particularly and unchangeably designed 10 everlasting life and everlasting death, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished ;'* yet they not only pray for the conversion of men, but are active in all “the benevolent enterprizes of the day,” for the conversion of sinners at home and abroad. Such inconsistencies prove that men will sooner distrust their own reasonings than the commands and examples laid before them in the sacred writings.
But it does not always happen that apparent incongruities imply actual contradictions in principle or practice. We do not often see the remote, nor indeed always the proximate tendencies of things. Now if persons were never to act in any great question in religion or morals until they saw all the tendencies and results of their conduct, or its agreement
* Presbyterian and Regular Baptist Confession of Faith, Article üi. Sections 3 & 4.
or disagreement with other principles and other things, they would perhaps die before they would obey the first christian requisitiou.
These preliminary observations are not made from the perception or acknowledgoient that similar difficulties im. pinge the question you have submitted, or that even very apparent, much less real incongruities or contradictions, are involved either in its examination or decision. But if even that were the case, we shall find it our wisdom to do the things the Lord commands, whether we can or cannot reconcile them to our own views, or to other things as plainly revealed.
To approach still nearer the subject submitted, please, dear sir, to consider that the Lord Jesus commanded us to pray for them who are our enemies, “who despitefully use and even persecute us." We are also taught that vengeance belongs to the Lord and he will repay our enemies, and that it is just with God to recompense tribulation to them who trouble us. Yet there is nothing incongruous in our repaying their curses with blessings, nor in praying for their reformation and forgiveness.
But the pinching point with many honest minds, and with yours, though somewhat allied to this, is yet quite distinct from it-" If no converting power other than that displayed in the Oracles of God is necessary, why pray to God for the salvation of men ? And again : If there be no promise nor testimony in favour of those whose salvation we may desire, such as our relatives, friends, &c. how can we pray in faith ?
To these two points we shall briefly advert. And to the first, it may be replied that we are taught to pray for food, raiment, health, &c. for ourselves and others, not expecting, nor taught to expect, that the laws of nature are to be changed, suspended, or new-modified, or that we are to become the subjects of any supernatural aid in obtaining these things; but to teach us our dependence, to cause us to exert ourselves in all lawful and reasonable endeavours for the attainment of what is needful, and in case of the failure of these means that God, whose agents are not only the elements of nature, but ten thousands of thousands of angels and men, may, in his benevolent government of the affairs of men, vouchsafe to us all things necessary to life and gode liness. These three objects may all be comprehended in the reasons why God, who knows that we need all these things before we ask for them, has commanded us to ask for them.
God has placed all the producing power in the heavens and the earth, as he has all-converting power in his Holy Oracles. But neither of these systems of means, natural or moral, exist independent of him. Of nature, it is said "I will hear, saith the Lord, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth, and the earth shall hear the corn, the wine, and the oi), and they shall hear Jezreel.” Jezreel represents the dispersed Israelites. This is a series of the most beautiful prosopopæias. The heavens, earth, corn, wine, oil, and the nation are personified. Jezreel calls for corn, wine, and oil. Then the corn, wine, and oil, call upon the earth for nourishment; then the earth calls upon the atmospheric or celestial influences; and last of all, the clouds call upon the Lord. The Lord bears the clouds, the clouds hear the earth, the earth hears the corn, wine, and oil, and these hear Israel and flow into their storehouses. God and man stand at the two extremes of this system of nature. The bounties of his providence pass through many bands, as the law passed through ranks of angels before it came into the hands of Moses. As he created and sustains. all, so he presides over all; and therefore, while we call upon him for any favour for ourselves or others, we expect not that he will work a miracle to confer it, but that in subordi, nation to these established arrangements he will bestow it.
Whatever is beyond this is matter of pure faith. Thus if God has promised any special succour to any person, for any purpose, we know he has classes of intelligent and voluntary agents, who are all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for the heirs of salvation, and with a reliance upon
promise and a knowledge of his means and agencies, we confidently expect the blessing promised.
We know not how the attention of men is fixed upon a thousand subjects, nor by what means, curious and unsearchable, a thousand thoughts arise in our minds. Like ancient Israel, we can trace matters to the clouds; but beyond the three heavens of the Jews, what intellect can pierce!
Besides, there is the moral as well as the natural government of God. They are not the same, though the latter may in many respects be analogous to the former. Minds,
or rational agents, are not under the government of only the same laws which govern our bodies. If the universe had been altogether material, its Creator might have slept for seven thousand years, to speak after the manner of men, and on awaking have found things just as the evolutions of natural law would have presented them. But minds require supervision; because, all nature is an immense manufactory of motives, which are constantly operating in all directions, upon every thing that thinks, in the universe. But there we approach the shores of that ocean on which no mortal man has made a voyage of discovery; and for us to infer from premises unexplored, is as arrogant as it would be ridiculous to write the details of a voyage round the universe which has never yet been made.
But to descend to the ground on which God's word and government have placed us, we are taught to pray, and taught at the same time that God is unchangeable. We are taught that the word of God is the sword of the Spirit, and that the gospel is both the wisdom and power of God to salvation; and yet we are taught to pray for all men. But while all-converting power is in the word, who can tell the thousand ways in which that word, that great moral instrument, may operate upon the minds of men, or in how many attitudes they may present themselves, or be presented, to its influences ? No matter who plants, or who waters," it is God who makes to grow.” But how often does the shower fall on the field of the sluggard; how often does the dew bless the ill-farmed or uncultivated field of the slothful ; but it fills not his barn. His stalls are empty. He begs in harvest. They only who ply themselves are blessed. The diligent become rich.
But were it not that philosophy has presumed to explain every thing, and to cut the knots which she cannot untie, I would rather have answered your letter in the following style :
God's word is the word of life. Where it is not known, believed and obeyed, there no life eternal dawns. He that bas the Son of God has this life, and he is revealed in this living word. He teaches his disciples to pray for the following things :- For their daily bread; for them that despitefully use and persecute them. Thus, Jesus said, " Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” And