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observable deficiency with many writers and teachers of religion in our day, arising in great measure, as we imagine, from that sort of artificial fruce between the World and the Church, to which we have referred.
We consider then, that in a time of widely spread nominal Christianity, and of general lax profession, the line of conduct the most seasonable on the part of serious Christians, is, not simply that they should " testify of the truth,” but that in doing so, they should invariably make the highest assertion of the claims of the Gospel in general, and rest with undiverted firmness upon those particular declarations of Scripture, which seem placed there on purpose to straiten the narrow way, and to furnish the direct and infallible means of detecting a heartless and empty profession.
And we are decidedly of opinion, that those calculations which would suggest the adoption of a lower tone, while the truth is still maintained, from the apprehension of losing entirely the opportunity of doing good, are unfounded ; and even if they were not, that to act upon them would be inconsistent with the simplicity of faith, and is in fact a course that can stop no where til every thing essential is conceded.
Perhaps there is no definition that would apply more generally and exclusively to the highest order of Christians, than this, that they are those who believe every word of the Divine testimony. And as to inferior Christians, the supposition that they are such, implies of course, that they believe and bbey so far as is essential to their escaping the “ wrath to come;" but with respect to a large portion of that which' is revealed for our instruction, it is quite overlooked: if it be presented to them, if it be urged upon them, they seek only how they may evade the inference that follows directly from the plain and proper sense of the words; they turn on every side in search of pleas of mitigation, and as the illumination of truth, where it is resisted, is transient as the glare of a meteor, though it be as the sun in the heavens to those who rejoice in the light, a reason is easily found that will hold together till the flash is past, and the mind presently returns to its comfortable twilight. But to descend to those who are Christians only in name; though they profess to believe the Bible as a whole, they, in fact, believe none of its parts, and they require therefore to be shewn, that they are unbelievers, and exposed to the judgement declared against those who reject the testimony of God.
We say then, that it is peculiarly incumbent upon those who address themselves to such persons, that they bring their own minds up to the bighest point of conviction as to the certainty and authority of every particular declaration of Scripture; and that they take care that in their full and proper sense they re
ceive all those words, to each of which an infinite consequence is attached. And in their addresses to others this comprehensive faith, this impressive persuasion concerning every iotu, that it shall be fulfilled, will give to their words a weight, (we are speaking only of the means,) that will carry then down into the consciences of men, with a convincing, or an intolerable force. It is found that men will hear to bear of the claims of the Bible in general; but unless they are Christians, unless indeed they are Christians who have well learned the lesson of humility, they will not bear that this claiın should be urged upon its single declarations. The Bible is the word of God: no doubt. But, “ if any man love the world, the love of the “ Father is not in him.” “ If any man come to me, and bate “ not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and bre“ thren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be “ my disciple.” These are hard sayings; who can hear them?
That which is presented with timidity, is likely to be rejected, with contempt. If one half of the message, for instance, its supreme and unbending claims,) be conceded or concealed, to meet the disinclination of those to whom it is delivered, those to whom it is delivered will learn at least that the message is a thing that may be balved; and they will soon be bold to confess, that the one half of it suits them as little as the other.
We believe that in the instance of some writers and teachers, the habit of calculating too much upon the probable result of their efforts, though it may not go so far as to make them conceal or disguise the truth, gives them perpetually an air of hesitation in asserting and insisting upon its sovereign claims; and thus the previous fear operates directly as a negative cause of the neglect, or of the rejection it had anticipated.
There is no true courage without calmness; and there is no calmness like that which is the result of knowledge. And here we think we can again trace the disadvantageous influence upon trany minds, of the present external condition of the Church. In arduous times, when the relation of true Christians to those about them, is that of declared hostility, when they are expecting at every turn to meet the lion and the bear, when days of suffering and nights of fear are appointed to them, their understandings, their tempers are corroborated. In their religious opinions they build lower, they rise bigher, they feel that they want the whole of the truth, they seek for it with the simplicity of hunger, they find it, for all who seek shall find, and they profess the truth, as without hope of conciliating, so without care of offending. There is no room left with them for that feeble hesitancy, that reluctance to drawing strong but inevitable conclusions; that intellectual pusillanimity, which in easier
times detains thie judgements of Christians perpetually shivering in the shallows of theology. Teachers therefore thus educated, in addressing those whom they would designate by no softer terms than such as they had learned from Paul and Peter, would boldly enforce what they boldly declare, and that in the deepened tone that results from the persuasion that “ their “ word shall prosper to the end for rohich it is sent ;" and theirfaith is but confirmed by the anticipated consequence :
wise understand, but none of the wicked do understand.” When Gabriel descends to our world upon some errand of mércy, could we observe his cheerful flight, every movement would signify the fulness of his confidence, that the intended benefit, however apparently suspended upon conditions and contingencies, shall actually be enjoyed by the objects of his mission. But when the opinions are deficient, or vague, or unsettled, upon the important parts of the Christian system to which we make an allusion, there will be a constant disposition to calculate results upon natural principles, to the disparagement of that wisdom which is from above; and the inind will suffer in its Christian simplicity, and in its self-possession, from an anxiety that would be proper only if we were responsible for the effect, as well as for the endeavour.
It would, however, be an act of great injustice to Mr. Wilks, were we to allow our readers to imagine, from the nature of the preceding remarks, that he is chargeable with the attempt to compromise the doctrines of the Gospel, with the view of conciliating those whom he would gain. We may safely say that his Essays are decidedly evangelical, and we have pleasure in adding, that they indicate a serious spirit, an inpression of the importance of his subject, and a desire to do good. But yet we must confess we have felt a dissatisfaction in the perusal of these voluines, the nature of which may be gathered from the observations we have taken this occasion to makt. Though Mr. W. appears to understand, and fully. to appreciate the remedy, lie seems deficient, (not, we dare say, as a matter of doctrine, but rather of impression,) in his estimate of the inveterafe and insidious character of the disease. Throughout we have wished that his statements had been corroborated, that his åttempts to expose and to dissipate fallacious hopes, had been carried much farther home, so as to have left less possibility of continued deception. And particularly we have regretted, that in several instances, the passages of Scripture adduced in support of his positions, are not the most striking that might have been brought forward, nor those which are the least easily evaded, and that too little use is made of those hard and intolerable sayings, with which the Divine wisdom has furnished us for the express purpose of exposing the hypocrite, and con
victing the self-deceived. We would rather that be bad lashed bis deluded reader ipto avowed irreligion, than merely chastised bim into the feigned acknowledgement, that he is not quite so good a Christian as he ought to be.
Even had be not placed the respected name of Mrs. Hannah More, in the front of his work, Mr. Wilks would not have been surprised that his Christian Essays' should recall it to our recollection : he labours upon much the same field, but we will not say directly as an imitator of that very eminent and useful writer.
The Essays are on the following subjects: Sources of Error in Opinion-Full Assurance of Understanding-Full Assurance of Faith-Full Assurance of Hope-Christian Obedience-The Form, and the Power of Religion-True, and False Repose in Death-False Modesty in Religion—The Duty of Christian Affection between Ministers and tbeir Flock-Comparative View of Natural and Revealed Religion. We must pass over
. the observations we migbt have made upon particular passages, and give our readers a specimen of the volumes. We extract the following passage from the essay on · The Full Assurance of
* To renounce ourselves,—to conquer all the natural ideas of the fallen mind relative to the attainment of Heaven; to trust to the mercy of God conveyed to us solely through Jesus Christ, not for any worthiness in ourselves, but gratuitously on account of his own sovereign favour and loving-kindness,—to rely as humble penitents upon the Saviour of mankind for the application of his obedience and merits to us, as our claim to pardon, justification, and eternal glory, with a firm belief that such reliance will not be in vain,-all this, however difficult, however apparently humiliating, however opposed to the natural suggestions of the unrenewed mind, seems to be in. cluded in the scriptural idea of the full assurance of faith. It cannot therefore excite wonder that so exalted a principle should suppose as exalted an agent, or that an apostle should in consequence affirm, that “ faith is the gift of God.' ignorance may vaguely depend upon the divine mercy, because it does not perceive the heinousness of sin, or estimate aright the justice of God in decreeing its punishment;mpresumption may arrogantly hope to obtain Heaven, because it magnifies our supposed excellence, and extenuates our real guilt, till it has formed such a character as it imagines deserves the Creator's approbation;-- but for the humble penitent, feeling and acknowledging on the one hand his inherent depravity, his actual transgressions, and his utter unworthiness, (all which will appear more aggravated as his repentance is more profound, ) ---and perceiving on the other the infinite holiness and inflexible integrity of the Creator, who has inseparably appended misery to sin,- for a person thus penitent and thus instructed, possessing a tender conscience with an enlightened understanding, to enjoy the full assurance of faith, is a paradox resolvable only on the principles of the Christian revelation,
Faith and hope thụs implanted where, humanly speaking, despair appeared inevitable, evince themselves to be indeed the gift of God."
On the subject of worldly amus ibents, Mr. Wilks says, • Were we glways to live in the full assurance of faith, the most trivial occurrences of life would be consecrated by its influence; but "whatsoever is not of faith is sin," so that every pursuit on which we cannot consistently expect the divine blessing becomes a crime. The true Christian de res got any stronger argument against questionable amusements tiw the words of Saint John ; " these things are not of the Father' ut of the world.” To him who desires to live up to the spirit aptismal engagements this Apostle could urge no stronger of, 1 against the world than that it is worldly; as Saint Paul in duscribing the malignity of sin, says only that it is “ex. ceeding sinful." p. 108.
Perhaps froin the impression which remains upon our minds from the perusal of his first publicatic, and re will add from many indications is the pice tirane .. weave strongly the idea, that those Essays do niewoit what Mr. Wilks could do if he were to expend more of time and of effort upon writing ; or to use plain terms, that he might have done much better bad he taken more pains. Sometimes, from the extensiveness of an author's connexions, or his situation in life, or his having already gained a portion of the public attention, the temptation to publish is disadvantageously strong. Something, enough to make up one volume, or two volumes, is written off under the influence of the most ill-boding of all evil stars, the presumption of success; and as effects are as their causes, the result is that he does not succeed.
Now, we have to complain of many paragraphs in these volumes, that they appear to have cost Mr. Wilks too little. Unmeaning expressions, inappropriate and very trite illustrations, are too frequent. We believe we hazard nothing in saying, that the best writers are those who take the most pains, and that no man, whatever his powers may be, who does not always endeavour to do as well as he can, aye, and we might almost say, better than he can, will ever write well.
However far we might go in our estimate of any writer's native powers of mind, we should still recommend him to act upon a supposition that will render it at least highly desirable, that when he writes—and prints it, he should do his best.