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immediate union with the visible Church ; and in his instant preaching of the Gospel we see the vital energy of his faith, and the evidence of his thorough regeneration.
4. Paul was now a New Creature, and he entered upon a New Era of his Existence.—The dark cloud of his former errors is rolled away, the delusions of his past life are dispelled, and the weight of guilt, which for three days and nights had deprived him of appetite and rest, is removed. Old things are passed away, and behold, all things are become new. A new state of moral being is experienced, new relations with God and with man are entered into; new principles are implanted now, and emotions and enjoyments unknown before are realized. He is justified, and has peace with God through Jesus Christ. He is an adopted son of God, and has the witness of his acceptance within him. He has free access to God, and enjoys communion with him as his Friend and Father. The love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him. His soul glows with love to God supreme, and with ardent love to the saints as his brethren in Christ. All his powers are given to God, and devoted to his glory and the good of mankind; and now it is that his fine qualities as a man, which ritualism had so long obscured, suppressed, and perverted, become developed into the noblest attributes of character; and his life, before a delusion to himself and a curse to others, realizes its highest purpose as an embodiment of truth and holiness, and a boon and a blessing to mankind.
In his converted state, we see in Paul an entire abnegation of all his former errors and prejudices, and an active, energetic protest against them and their pernicious influence. He not only preaches the Gospel he once sought to destroy, but employs his vigorous pen to uproot and destroy those special errors which had been so baneful to himself.
5. He opposed Traditions with all his might.-He knew how his own mind had been perverted by them ; how they had veiled the truth from his perception, and enveloped his countrymen in a thick mist of prejudice and error; and his prophetic eye saw the like danger threatening the Christian Church. Hence, while casting away traditions as “old wives' fables," and worse, he utters solemn admonitions to the ministers of Christ against them, and against all admixtures of human opinions with the pure fountain of truth. “O Timothy, keep that which is committed unto thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called.” “Hold fast the form of sound words.” “The same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” “Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.” “Refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself unto godliness.” “These things command and teach.” “Take heed unto thyself, and unto thy doctrine; continue thou in them, for in so doing thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee.” Writing to Titus, he says, a bishop, as the steward of God, must “hold fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and convince the gainsayers. Wherefore rebuke them (the teachers of tradition) sharply, that they may be sound in the faith ; not giving heed to Jewish fables, and
commandments of men, that turn from the truth.” And writing to the Church at Colosse, he says, “Beware lest any man spoil you with philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (1 Tim. i. 4; iv. 7; i. 6—20; 2 Tim. iv. 4; Titus i. 7-14). Paul saw in traditions a plague-spot which would spread and infect the whole Church with a foul leprosy, unless it were purged out by the power of truth.
But amidst these admonitions against Jewish fables and human traditions, we behold in prominent contrast a constant honouring of the Holy Scriptures, and an inflexible adherence to their teaching. To them Paul appeals as the sole authority, and the one infallible standard of religious truth and duty. Hence he solemnly avers that “ All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. iii. 16).
It is usual with tradition-mongers to magnify the authority of Peter; but Peter, like Paul, denounces all attempts to usurp the place of God's Word by human tradition ; for he emphatically declares—“If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter iv. 11). "To the law and the testimony," says Isaiah : " for if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. viii. 20).
This teaching is but the echo of the Saviour's own voice. Hence, while he inveighs most strongly against traditions and their corrupting influence, he directs all men to the infallible Word :-“ Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, for they are they which testify of me" (John v. 39). Such is the unanimous condemnation of traditions ; such the supreme deference to the Holy Scriptures by Christ and his apostles.
6. With the same Decision and Energy Paul opposed the spirit and the form of Ritualism.--He knew from painful experience its antagonism to vital religion; he saw from observation its nascent operations in the Christian Church ; and by a Divine prescience he knew also how baneful it would be in future ages, and he therefore laboured incessantly to counteract its power. In his enlightened estimate even the legally-appointed forms of Judaism, when fulfilled and abrogated, were no better than “weak and beggarly elements," and such he designates them. If such is a fit designation for authorised ceremonies when rendered obsolete, what is the fitting characteristic for human rites sanctioned only by tradition? These he speaks of as “dung”—feculent ordure offensive to God, and polluting to men; which could not even touch religion without leaving a moral stench ånd stain.
Let us hear his earnest expostulations and solemn invectives against the ritualistic practices of his own day. Writing to the Colossians, when teachers of this formalism had already tarnished the simplicity and impaired the vitality of some, he says : “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days (Jewish festivals), which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary
humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind. ... Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world (the Jewish dispensation), why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using ;) after the commandments and doctrines of men ?" (Col. ii. 8, 16, &c.)
Addressing the Galatians, when a similar class of ritualistic teachers had introduced their silly but pernicious vagaries, and thereby fascinated into dead formalism some who had once been lively, simple-hearted, and spiritual believers, he exclaims, “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you ? This only would I know of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish ? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain ? if it be yet in vain.” “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage ? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain” (Gal. iii. 1-4; iv, 9-11). On this earnest expostulation we remark, if the Galatians were thus censured as “ foolish” in becoming formalists, it cannot be wise in us to do the same. If the false teachers “ bewitched” them by their doctrine, it behoves us to guard against such fascination. If both were brought into “bondage" by encumbering religion with obsolete and human rites, the fact admonishes us to preserve our freedom. And if such formalism rendered the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit of “none effect" unto those who practised it, it is our solemn duty to avoid it as we would “apostacy.” If Paul thus keenly rebuked the nascent evils of ritualism cropping up in the primitive Church, what would he say now? If he could rise from the dead, and use his vigorous pen once more, what would he say of the mockery of 223 gewgaws displayed at the York Ecclesiastical Congress ? What would he say of the man-millinery, buffoonery, and magical pretences practised in our churches ? Alas! alas ! how are the mighty fallen!
Sacramental efficacy was another delusion which Paul most energetically denounced. Circumcision was an ancient and venerable rite. It was ordained by God as the seal of his covenant with the Jews, and the sign of their national privileges, and was of imperative obligation while the old dispensation was in force ; but it was abolished by the cross of Christ. Nevertheless, ritualistic teachers insisted upon its continuance as imperative; and not only so, they ascribed to it a saving efficacy. This doctrine was one of Paul's fatal errors in the days of his Pharisaism ; its belief had inflated him with self-righteousness, had engendered a false security, had inspired a persecuting bigotry, and caused him to reject the Saviour. Knowing its falsehood as a doctrine, and its dangerous tendency as a rite, his Epistles abound with cogent
arguments and earnest admonitions against its intrusion into the Christian system. Addressing the Galatians, who had accepted this dogma, he thus expostulates : “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ, unto another gospel : which is not another ; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ.” “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” And not only was the heresy productive of bondage, but one which neutralized the Gospel and engendered apostacy; for he adds with solemn earnestness : “Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever are justified by the law (seek justification by the use of ceremonies); ye are fallen from grace. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision availeth anything ; but faith which worketh by love. Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump (a slight departure from Gospel simplicity worketh corruption gradually through the whole Church). I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded : but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whoever he be. I would they were even cut off which trouble you." “For though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” Solemn words are these, which should make our modern innovators tremble.
The grand truth which pervades the apostle's teaching here and everywhere, and which lies at the foundation of all true religion, is this, that Christianity is intensely spiritual in its essence, and simple in its forms; that encumbered by ceremonies it loses its life ; and dependence even on its own simple and authorised rites is incompatible with a simple trust in Christ. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are important rites ; neither baptism nor the eucharist can be more important to the Christian dispensation than circumcision was to the Jewish. All the arguments and expostulations therefore against the efficacy of circumcision, apply with equal force against the efficacy of baptism and the eucharist. The principle is the same, and the principle is immutable—applicable to all time; and universal — applicable to all nations and all persons without distinction. Hence, looking beyond all forms as nothing in efficacy, Paul says expressly to the Jews, “ He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward, in the flesh : but he is a Jew, who is one inwardly ; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter ; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” And then, addressing Christians universally, he says, with equal emphasis, using similar language and applying the same truth to them, “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” It is enough. New Testament examples teach and enforce the great truth, that all attempts to decorate religion by
human rites is to mar its celestial beauty and sensualize its Divine spirituality; and all attempts to invest its two simple ordinances with a transforming efficacy, is to usurp the office of the Holy Spirit and degrade religion into a carnal spell. The inefficiency of rites and ceremonies, and the necessity of a soul-renewing religion by the power of the Holy Spirit, is the doctrine which runs through all the writings of Paul and of all the Scriptures.
It was the possession of this true spiritual religion which, while expanding the intellect of Paul, and freeing him from all narrow views and all morbid bigotry, developed the noblest qualities of his gifted mind. It rendered him one of the most humble yet the greatest of men that ever lived, exemplifying the highest personal excellencies, abounding in prodigious labours, patiently and heroically enduring the severest privations and sufferings, and dispensing among distant nations and through all ages the richest blessings. Continuing a ritualist, he would have remained a blind bigot, a selfrighteous Pharisee ; casting off that slough, renouncing the weak and beggarly elements of both obsolete and unauthorized rites, and embracing spiritual religion by simple faith in Christ, he became a pattern of purity and benevolence to all ages, a sample of that intellectual and moral grandeur into which the Gospel transforms the nature of man, renewing him in the image of God.
In conclusion we have only to say, as Paul's life as a ritualist was acknowledged a grave mistake, it is folly to make it our pattern. As rites which encumber religion are designated “weak and beggarly elements,” they are hardly worth being adopted by us; and as in Paul's estimate the righteousness resulting from their use is called "dung,” it is neither cleanly nor creditable to pollute ourselves with such feculent material. But as true, simple, spiritual Christianity is God's own beautiful and priceless gem, let that be our ornament and our wealth ; let us possess it, hold it fast, and hand it down to posterity, pure and untarnished as it came down to us.
A NEW YEAR'S HOMILY FOR THE
“Be ye also enlarged.”—2 Cor. vi. 13. MANY ministers of late have adopted the custom of giving their people, on the commencement of a new year, a text to guide their thoughts, and aspirations, and efforts during its progress. Generally construed, the custom is an admirable one, and many advantages may result from its practice. What is serviceable to a congregation may be equally so to a circuit, and what will benefit a circuit may promote the well-being of an entire community. We hope our presumption may be forgiven us if, with the kind permission of the Editor, we use our Magazine as a pulpit, consider the whole Connexion as our audience, and give, as the watchword for our life as a community during the year 1871, the words of St. Paul, placed at the head of this article
“BE YE ENLARGED.”