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place by frequent coming and going," as an individual in search of something lost.
II. It is implied that there is a time especially favorable for this work of seeking the Lord. There are seasons of revival when men feel inwardly constrained to flee from the wrath to come. Isaiah describes such a season: “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring. And they shall spring up as among the grass—as willows by the water-courses. One shall say, I am the Lord's; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel." Here is a period in which the tide sets toward the church. God is near, in an especial sense. His word is as the fire and hammer.
III. The text describes the manner in which God is to be sought at such times. He has given us his own directions.
1. The first step is the abandonment of sinful practices. “Let the wicked forsake his way,” his habits. His habits are opposed to God. 'If a man would think right, he must do right. A part of Christian character is abstinence from evil. " Cease to do evil."
2. The second step is the abandonment of the sinful purpose. “Let the unrighteous man forsake his thoughts,” his plans, his purposes, his views.
3. He must return unto the Lord. Something positive is to be done. He must come just as he is, by repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
IV. What prospect has a man who is thus seeking the Lord ?
1. God will have compassion on him. Mercy is what man wants, not justice.
2. God will" abundantly pardon him"; free him from the full penalty of the law; not wink at his transgression. God pardons abundantly, obliterates, annihilates transgression ; washes away; blots it out.
Such is the Being, and this is the time and method of seeking Him. There is one consideration which we may well remember in conclusion. It is implied in the text that there are times when God may not be found. Favorable opportunities imply unfavorable ones. Ease implies difficulty. 6. The wind bloweth where it listeth.' There is a day of salvation, Improve it. There is an accepted time. Adopt it.
“ And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee."- Acts xxiv. 25.
God's servants are often called to plead His cause before the great: Moses before Pharaoh, Nathan before David, Elijah before Ahab, the second Elijah before Herod, and the Apostle before the covetous and lustful Felix. All men need the same repentance and blood of cleansing, the same uplifted sacrifice.
Felix is the type of the impenitent man of every generation.
I. Felix had a curiosity to hear the truth. Probably, like many a modern hearer, he expected some elaborate and philosophical discussion of the new system of faith. Paul knew his duty better. He did not come to tickle itching ears; but to awaken the conscience.
II. Felix rejected the Gospel without intending it. He trembled in view of a meeting with his Judge. He might have done as did the jailor of Philippi. He concluded to defer the matter for the present.
So impenitent men now do mean to repent; but not now. They must be deliberate about it. When the Apostle preached, then was Felix'opportunity, his convenient season. Now is theirs.
In Felix' reply to the Apostle, three false and dangerous sentiments are implied.
1. That repentance is a favor to God, and not an obligation, a necessity resting upon His creatures.
2. That every man will have a convenient season for repentance. 3. That, then, he has only to call, and God will answer.
Like Felix, most men reject the Gospel without intending it. They never say, "Go thy way forever!" but only, "for this time !" They hear from curiosity, from habit, to resolve upon future repentance.
III. This conduct of Felix, and those of whom he is a type, appears in its true light, only when we consider that all the promises of salvation which God has made, have to do with the present time.
To-day.” 6 Now.” “ Boast not thyself of to-morrow.” Augustine prayed, “O Lord, make me chaste and continent, but not now.”
How procrastination in believers confirms and co-operates with that of unbelievers. Dr. Chalmers spent the evening in conversation with a man who died during the night, and never mentioned the Saviour's love. "Be instant in season, out of season.”
1.- The Divine Life and the New Birth. By the Rev. JAMES
CRAIK, D. D. 12mo. Boston: E. P. Dutton & Co. 1866.
Parts of this volume have been before the public for several years in another form. Its author, the rector of an Episcopal church in Kentucky, and a highly esteemed minister in that denomination of Christians, writes with much strength and concentration of thought, with a thorough conscientiousness, and an excellent spirit. His topics embrace the vital doctrines of redemption and of the Christian life, the constitution and fundamental idea of the kingdom of God on earth, the worship and sacraments of the church, and other collateral subjects. All these are treated in an earnest, positive way, not controversially, but for instruction and edification. The work has been carefully thought out, and deserves to form a part of the permanent literature of the religious body whence it emanates. There is, also, much in it which will find appreciative readers among all devout Christians.
The design of the author can be stated in few words. He would build up a defence against modern rationalism, in his own church and out of it, by widening the narrowness of “the popular theology,” from which he regards much of the present scepticism a reaction, and by commending to the public a moderate episcopacy, in distinction from one too high or too low. Theologically, he works at much the same task which occupied Whately in his Essays on St. Paul's epistles. What, in our judgment, that eminent logician did not accomplish, we do not here find effected. We deem it simply impossible to make an Arminian out of the apostle to the Gentiles. While Dr. Craik is luminous and scriptural upon the cardinal points of sin and redemption, he contends against a particular election to salvation as though that necessitated a limited atonement, and interfered with the universality of the provisions of grace in Christ. One would think it were time for intelligent writers on the side of an election to the privilege of being saved, but not to an actual salvation, to see that the Calvinistic or Pauline doctrine of election to life everlasting puts not a straw in the way of any soul's pardon and justification, while it does assure the fact which nothing else assures, that all the souls for which Christ died shall not persist in rejecting his purchased and offered grace.
It is a
mystery to us that, with her articles so suffused with the Augustinian theology for which their framers confessed so hearty a sympathy, for substance, there should be found in the Episcopal church the present comparatively small agreement with this method of explaining Christian doctrine. Leyden has proved too strong for Geneva, inside the rubric, it must be confessed. We doubt if it has altogether been the result of logic. If the Commonwealth men had been less Calvinistic, the church of England now might have been more so.
Much as we admire the carefulness with which this church nurses her tender lambs — an example which should reprove and teach not a few outside her pale — we are compelled to except against her views of the baptismal ordinance, even as laid down by so cautious and religious a writer as Dr. Craik. A brief quotation will give the reason.
“In Baptism every child is taught to say that he • was made a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.' They were made members of Christ, because they were, by baptism, incorporated into the church which is His body, the fulness of Him who filleth all in all.' The members of Christ are necessarily, by virtue o that relation, the children of God; "and if children, then heirs ; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.?"
We must, in candor, admit that the author repudiates the idea of conveying, through these phrases, a belief that baptism is a saving ordinance. He condemns those who say that “it is to the Sacraments that man must look, both for the beginning and the continuance of Divine Grace. In Baptism, grace is first infused." p. 11. This is denounced as the contrary pole of error to “the popular theology." He calls it “partial, one-sided, and insufficient ... just as narrow and just as much in conflict with human experience and human consciousness” as - the Calvinism of the day. We will not stop to try this novel equipoise, but will put it to the reader whether, in spite of his disclaimer, the author has not taught this very heresy, in the citation thus made. If the terms there used, from Scripture, do not declare the fact of a renewed nature, then we affirm that no language can convey this idea. We are continually told that all which is meant by regeneration and being a Christian, in the baptismal formula, is merely an external connection thus formed with the visible church. The last proposition we would not object against, for it is a part of our faith that a very important relation is so established in baptism. But here and habitually, language is employed which defines with emphasis the most vital union of the soul of man with God—“children, heirs, joint heirs with Christ.” This, in biblical usage, is fundamentally more than being
baptized with water. We claim that it is neither scriptural or safe 80 to employ words. The meaning will, by a fatal necessity, be ever breaking away from these bounds and escaping into ruinous lapses of false doctrine, To be born of God is more than to be signed with water ; and Christ meant that Nicodemus should understand this. Dr. Craik says that baptism is the birth-act of a soul into Christ's kingdom, which has received the converting grace, as our Lord was not born into this world until he had been conceived of the Holy Ghost in the Virgin's womb; thus rightly contradicting the teaching of those who contend that the saving grace comes from God in and through the baptismal rite. We admit with Leighton, that the phrase "a new born Jew" was used before our Lord's time, of the change of a man's pursuits from one calling to another; but it does not follow that in Christian usage it signifies any such superficial transition. Our exception to the position here taken is, that religiously and in the meaning of Christ, the new birth or regeneration is made to mean primarily and mainly a profession, through baptism, of Christian faith and obedience. We, on the contrary, affirm, that the receiving of the converting grace itself is this new birth of which the baptismal sacrament is the appointed declaration to the world : and we can but see the gravest evils involved in the maintenance of the other ground. Between this author and ourselves, this may be only a difference as to the use of biblical language. But, where his usage ends, to what it directly leads, he himself most clearly shows us in the just and heavy strictures which he pens upon the full-grown heresy of sacramental salvation as entrenched in the Papacy. We hold a true exegesis of the words of Christ and his apostles to be an indispensable barrier against that most pestilent delusion, and that this interpretation is with us.
These criticisms, which we do not care to extend, will show the main drift of our dissent from this very able treatise. Some other opinions we might not endorse, as, for instance, the pith of the chapter on “ Church and State.” But
much of the work we do endorse as soundly true and profitable. We deeply sympathize with the author's desire to rid Christianity of all needless encumbrances, so as to commend it successfully to the "wise and prudent" of our day, as well as to the “weak and base.” But it does not seem to us that the achievement of this good object points toward either the doctrinal or ecclesiastical solution of the subject here attempted. We prefer to abide by the Puritan theology and polity in this grand enterprise of enlightening and saving men. At the same time, we hold our faith in charity and good will toward all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth.