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read, and where the members of the family are not called together for prayer. Men are in hazard of tampering with their own feelings of conscientiousness in their attempts to meet the letter of the law.
We think the number of these visits should be diminished, and the quality enhanced. If we have reason to think that a member of society is growing cold in his love to Christ, if he is running after earthly pleasure, if he has ceased to meet in class, he should be carefully looked after, seriously talked to, solemnly warned of his danger, or encouraged to start afresh. This sort of work is far too important to be hurried through; it demands patience, care, fidelity, and earnest love to souls. This part of a minister's business has much importance attached to it in the Scriptures; it is said to be one of our chief duties, and solemn condemnation is pronounced on those who neglect it. Ezek. xxxiv.
Great care is required in dealing with cases of this kind. The devices of Satan are diversified and numerous, and it demands skill and discernment to meet them. It is to be presumed that in all cases of religious declension and instability, religion is either not understood as to its true nature, or not enjoyed. The very terms in which it is described in the Scriptures import its matchless value: "The unspeakable gift," the "great salvation," the "living water," the "treasure hid in a field," the "pearl of great price,' and many similar forms of expression indicate its inestimable worth.
If religious professors saw this subject in its true light, surely we should not have to mourn over so many falling from their stedfastness and turning away from the holy commandments delivered unto them. It is the very thing to satisfy the longings of the human soul; and the light of the sun is not more adapted or more agreeable to the eye than the light of God's truth is adapted to meet the wants and desires of the soul. When weak believers fail to see these things in their true light, pains should be taken to instruct them in the truth as it is in Jesus.
Broader views of Christian experience exhibited in the pulpit, and more urgent appeals to believers as to the duty of advancement in the divine life. We are afraid, generally speaking, that the type of our religion is low, the vast body of christians are below the Royal standard in holiness and joy. True Christianity is an intensely earnest thing, and its real influence is to break down and subdue all things to itself, until it assimilate the entire man to the glorious image of Christ. God will have no sharer in his throne: his name is "jealous; " he asks, he demands the whole heart, and nothing short of this will satisfy him. But no man who thus yields himself to God in his own way can be fickle and unstable in his attachment to his religion. Entire devotion to God implies
decision of character. He that is wholly the Lord's belongs to none else. His eye is simple; his intentions are pure, and the supreme desire of his soul is to love God with all his heart and mind, with all his soul and strength. He sets the Lord and his religion first, and everything else is regarded as subordinate. Now the question is, do we in our public ministrations insist sufficiently on this entire consecration to God? David prays, "Unite my heart to fear thy name." Our people require this unity of heart Godward. Their religion ought to be the grand master principle, and it should be continually urged on them that their safety and happiness are identified only with advancement. No man ought to rest satisfied with present attainments, while such ocean fulness lies before him; by an onward movement alone can he become, "stablished, strengthened, settled in the faith." A good man has nothing to do with his past experience in the sense of present acceptance and safety. He cannot subsist on past experience, he cannot be justified before God on the ground of former actions, he must live to God to-day, and press into the fulness of the blessings of the gospel of peace now. Virtuous character can be formed only by virtuous actions. Men become strong in the religious sense only by the continued exercise of spiritual gifts. It is well known that wicked men, through long continuance of evil habits, seem absolutely divested of the power of resisting or overcoming their evil propensities, and evil of all kinds is drawn upon them as the result. So of the good. A man may persevere in habits of devotion until they become "second nature" to him, and it is easier for him to do right than wrong. "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin because he is born of God." All experience and observation confirm us in the conviction that this high and exceedingly desirable state of grace can be obtained only by patient continuance in well-doing after we believe and are saved through the blood of the Lamb. This is the reward of continuance in welldoing-of going on to perfection.
This course of conduct should be incessantly urged upon our people from the pulpit; our discourses should be so framed as to keep the necessity of advancement in grace continually before their eyes. It is often said of us as a community that we are more successful in getting people into the church than in keeping them. It is evidently intimated in the observation that there is a defect either in the shepherding, the pastoral oversight, or otherwise there is deficiency in the wisdom, the weight, or the suitability of our public ministrations, which is an equally grave charge. Now, be this insinuation true or otherwise, it should lead to deep searchings of heart. It is painful to think of a tree full of blossom bearing no fruit, and of good seed sown in the field failing to wave in
harvest inviting the sickle of the reaper and bearing sixty or an hundred fold. To add many to the church, and then, from any cause to lose them, produces feelings of as deep discouragement as can well be imagined. It behoves our ministers to be as well prepared as possible, in the possession of theological truth in all its amplitudes and forms, so as to meet satisfactorily the ever-recurring necessities of the people; to lead them through the length and breadth of divine revelation, that they may enjoy the good thereof. But it is of equal importance that we should have a knowledge of their spiritual state and feelings, that we may be able to give to every man his portion of meat in due season.
Finally, after all we can do by warning, entreaty, or expostulation, we shall be unable to achieve our highest wishes in restoring all that have backslidden in heart, or in establishing every wavering soul. There will ever be a class, and we fear a large one, who by their unstable ways will produce ministerial anxiety and sorrow. These men will continue running about from one place of worship to another, hearing first this preacher and then another, but never becoming the wiser for such pretended advantages. These are the men who are ever learning but never coming to a correct knowledge of the truth, still continuing ignorant of the best means of advancement in an intelligent and useful piety.
In the parable of the sower we are warned against expecting too much in certain quarters, although the seed of the word may be good and also sown with a skilful hand. Out of the four classes among whom the seed is sown only one class brings forth unto perfection, or in such a way as pleases the divine Sower. We shall not be far wrong in taking this proportion as still holding good in regard to the preaching of the word and the degress of success by which it is attended. At the best human nature is but a poor thing, and it requires a large amount of patience and forbearance to lead it on, in spite of its instability and waywardness, in the way everlasting.
But we should recollect that God in his long-suffering has borne long with us in the midst of our follies and imperfections, and in like manner we must bear with the ignorant and unstable soul. Tender plants may by careful nursing be made eventually strong and healthy, and reward the pains taken with them; so imperfect believers may be brought nearer to God, the fountain of spiritual life and power, and may at length be made strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. The great Father of all looks down upon all his children in their different degrees of weakness and imperfection with feelings of tenderness and compassion. He assures us for our encouragement that he does not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax; so we must encourage hope concerning our unstable brethren, though there may not be
much material for hope to feed upon. And even supposing that our efforts go unrewarded, as far as the objects of our anxiety are concerned, we shall not go unrewarded by him who employs us in our work, and who engages to sustain us in it. We are answerable to him for our fidelity in relation to the performance of our work, though we may not be held responsible to the same extent for our success in it. "Now we beseech you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men."
ESUS CHRIST instituted two ordinances for the observance of his Church. Of those ordinances the first is Baptism, which sets forth symbolically the purification of the heart by the Holy Spirit. The second is the Supper of the Lord, which is an emblem of the atonement made for sinners by the Saviour.
A vast amount of various opinion has for centuries existed amongst Christians respecting Baptism and the Supper, producing not a little bitterness and strife. The object of these ordinances is clear and easily understood. When a person becomes a Christian he should enter the Church; and as baptism is the introduction to Church membership, he should be baptised. While a man continues a Christian he should receive the emblems of the body and blood of the Lord, in remembrance of the atonement made for his sins by the Son of God. There is something so simple, so apparently obvious about these things, that it seems strange so much should have been said about them, and with such a divergence of idea.
It is our purpose to examine the subject of Baptism, not as it is found in the writings of men, but as it is set forth in the word of God.
Baptism is an ordinance which Jesus did not himself originate. It had been in existence hundreds of years previous to his advent. When he was about thirty years old he came from Galilee into Judea, and found John baptising multitudes of people in the
* An Essay read at Birmingham, in October, 1866, at the First Session of the Literary Association of the Tunstall District.
neighbourhood of the Jordan. John baptised unto repentance, and he often reminded the people that his was an inferior work, and a symbolic baptism. "I," said he, "baptise you with water unto repentance, but there cometh one after me, the thongs of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose, he shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost." With the form of words used by the disciples of Jesus, as they baptised the multitudes which came to them, we are not acquainted. The disciples baptised more people than John, but for what purpose it is not stated. But neither John's nor that of the disciples of Jesus was Christian baptism. John did not baptise in any name, and the disciples of Jesus did not understand Christianity. Jesus instituted Christian baptism after his resurrection, when he commanded his apostles to go into all nations, to teach, and to baptise in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
The principal differences amongst Protestant Christians, in connection with this subject, refer to the persons who should be baptised, and to the manner of baptising them.
Who then ought to be baptised? All who belong to the Church of God. Who then belong to the Church of God? All who believe in Jesus Christ, and all who are incapable of such belief. When a man, who has never had any connection with Christianity, has been induced to believe the doctrines of the Bible and desires to become a member of the Church, he ought, unquestionably, to submit to baptism. Such submission is an acknowledgment that his past life has been wrong, and a declaration that his future life in connection with Christian ethics shall be right. With reference to what has been called "believers' baptism" we have at present no controversy. But we have asserted that such persons as are incapable of exercising faith in Jesus belong to God. And it is incredible that infants, idiots, and madmen will be punished with everlasting destruction. Punishment depends on guiltiness; guiltiness arises from breaking known law. But the persons in question do not understand law. And even human governments, which are far less merciful than the Divine government, do not regard incapable persons as responsible. And infant damnation is a subject so shocking, so repulsive to feeling, so opposed to the nature of God, so contrary to the genius of the Scriptures, that amongst every million of men there is not one who believes in such a monstrosity. If then it can be proved that infants belong to the Church of God, no person, it is presumed, will oppose their baptism.
It is proper now to inquire whether, when the Church was originally organised, infants were made members; and if so, whether that Church has ever been abolished?
Previous to the calling of Abraham the church consisted of disconnected units, after that calling, of an associated aggregate.