« PreviousContinue »
to the uniform surface of their sensible opinions : and these men are a valuable acquisition, and lend their influence to carry on the work of rationalizing, and concession, and compromise. And, then, the great centre-point of union is the grand scheme for regenerating the world, carried on by the religious public in common : of which we solemnly and deliberately assert, that so gross an instance of means toiled for and idolized as ends the world never saw; and all because the means, being worldly and visible things, lie within the range of that spirit of incredulity and sensibleness, and, being intelligible and calculable by the world, gratify the disposition to compromise with it, of which we spoke ; while the professed ends and the only efficient causes lie in that region which the natural man knoweth not, because it is spiritually discerned. The very profession of seeking spiritual ends is tacitly, almost, renounced by these societies. Ask about conversion, and you are answered with finance and economics ; pounds, shillings, and pence; preachers, teachers, schools, chapels, tracts, Bibles. What are the means you employ? *Establishing schools, sending missionaries, circulating Bibles and tracts.' Well, and what is the grand object you have in view?
Why, to circulate tracts and Bibles, to establish schools, and send forth missionaries. You have been spending years of great activity in erecting, and improving, and extending a huge machine: do think a little about the moving power. You have been providing music for the deaf, and pictures for the blind : it is time to apply in spiritual earnestness to Him who can alone open their eyes
and unstop their ears. What is the motive for coupling so wide a range of historical inquiry with a description of so pious and philanthropic a portion of the community, which sounds so like a railing accusation? Simply this : An honest conviction, first, that while one effect. of the Reformation was the infusion of much spiritual truth into the mind of Europe, it was, in another aspect, the grand precursor and pioneer of that ascendancy of the infidel spirit soon to be manifested : secondly, that the examination of what is called the recent progress of religion, shews it to be partly a product of the worst influences, to which it is nominally opposed, and altogether a most inefficient counter-agent: and, lastly, that, notwithstanding all we have said of what is felt at present of the evil consequences of the Reformation, there is no antidote but the principles of the Reformers. Under this impression we shall proceed to adduce proof of the true character of the Reformation ; and to shew that the doctrine of Luther and his brethren, on spiritual points, was more remote from what is now held up as the same in substance, than was the doctrine opposed to it by the Council of Trent.
ALEXANDER J. SCOTT.
SIGNS OF THE TIMES, AND THE CHARACTERISTICS
OF THE CHURCH.
(Communicated by the Rev. Edw. IRVING.) Our Lord and his Apostles, when speaking of his coming to judge the Gentiles and manifest his kingdom, do so implicate and involve the prophecy thereof with the destruction of Jerusalem and the downfall of the Jewish economy, that it is an exceedingly difficult, if not an impossible, matter to separate the one from the other ; insomuch that many commentators see in those predictions nothing more than highly figurative language descriptive of that event. The truth, however, is, that the one event is a sign of the other ; and therefore the language of the one is proper to express the other. And this is not peculiar to the downfall of Jerusalem only, but to the downfall of all great empires which the Lord hath set up and cast down again. The prophecies, for example, of the downfall of Egypt (Ezek. xxxii. 7); of the downfall of Babylon (Isai. xiij. 10); of the downfall of the Ten Tribes of Israel (Amos viii. 9); and many more besides, are all expressed in language similar to that which our Lord uses in the xxiv th of Matthew, when describing the downfall of the Jewish state and of the Gentile kingdoms (Matt. xxiv. 29): " Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.” The reason of this identity of language in describing events so far asunder, is, that, though far asunder in time, they are not far asunder in the purpose of God; but each one so ordered and so executed as to embody the oneness of his counsel and judgment, and to typify the last great judgment of the quick, which shall be executed by the Son of Man. In like manier, to go farther back, Enoch, when warning the antediluvian world, doth it in language which Jude applieth to the apostasy which he saw forming, and which we see well nigh consummated in the Christian church. The same also may be said of all other events in the providence of God; otherwise experience of the past were no help towards wisdom for the future. But especially may it be said of all those events of his providence whích God hath been pleased to record, or to foreshew, or to interpret in his blessed word. Wherefore are they written? They are “written for our learning,” not so much in the past as in the future-for our learning, " that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” But of all the events recorded in Scripture for the edification of the church, that certainly upon which the greatest stress is laid, by our Lord and his Apostles, is the casting out of the Jewish church from her seat and her glory in the temple and city of Jerusalem ; for that, while the others are the subversion of kingdoms and empires, this is the subversion of a church, of a true church. The destruction of Egypt and the downfall of Babylon, are two events well fitted to express the downfall of the Roman kingdoms, bound together by the spiritual domination of the see of Rome; but for the subversion of a true church these are not the proper symbols, because they had no right worship of God nor discipline of the church set up in the midst of them. In like manner, for the downfall of an apostate church, like the Papacy, the proper symbol is the casting out of the Ten Tribes after they had become apostate-always making allowance for this distinction, that, the Ten Tribes being of Abraham's natural seed, had a covenant of restoration and recovery, which no Gentile apostasy can possess ;-but for the downfall of a true church, such as we possess in this land, I can find no right symbol, save the downfall of the Jewish church ; of which our Lord himself testified that it was a true church, when he observed its ordinances, and commanded the people to listen to those which sat in Moses' seat, and to do the things which they required of them. Now that the churches of God established in this nation, though differing somewhat in form, yet essentially one in spirit, are a true church of God I believe, both because of their accordance with the Scriptures, and their protestation against the apostasy : and that the nationality is considered as included in the church I likewise believe, from the minute study and observation of all our civil constitutions, and from the execution of every act, either overtly or implicitly, in the name of the blessed Trinity. But all this is put beyond a doubt in the minds of those who believe, with me, that the nation which in the Apocalypse is sealed from the judgments and destruction of the other nations is this nation of Great Britain : for that sealed nation is presented both under the emblem of a nation (twelve tribes) preserved from the ravage of the four winds which lay waste the earth (ch. vii.); and it is represented as a church, standing on mount Zion, and following the Lamb, and redeemed from the earth. (ch. xiv.) And, the more to confirm the parallelism of that nation with the Jewish nation, it is denominated by the very symbols thereof, named by its twelve tribes, and abiding at mount Zion in Jerusalem. For these reasons, while I look for the symbol of the destruction of the apostate Papacy in the downfall of Babylon, which hath never arisen, and never shall arise again; I look for the symbol of the judgment of this nation, and of this national church, in the visitation of Jerusalem in the days of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and still more particularly in the days of our Lord. I have no doubt that much light might be cast upon God's purpose towards our nation and national church, by
the study of those prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others, which have respect to the first visitation of wrath upon Jerusalem. Into this, however, I am not prepared at present to go; but I do purpose, after these introductory remarks, to set before the church the wonderful similarity which there is between the state of the Jewish church as depictured by our Lord, and the state of the church as we now behold it amongst ourselves. And for this purpose I desire to fix my attention specially upon the xxiiid chapter of Matthew, which contains an enumeration of those offences for which God was about to judge that church and nation.
This chapter consisteth of two parts: the first being addressed to the multitude and to his disciples; the second, to the scribes and the Pharisees. To the multitude and to his disciples he spoke thus ; " The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat : all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do: but do not ye after their works, for they say and do not." These words give us the key to the whole chapter; shewing us, first, that the authorities, the guides, the ministers of the church, who had a right to require the observation and obedience of the people, and who sat in Moses' seat, are distinguished from the multitude given by God into their hands for instruction, for correction, and for edification in the ways of God.
God. The parallel, therefore, to the Scribes and Pharisees, must be found in the ministers and rulers and authorities in the church: not the clergy merely, but the magistrate also, who giveth execution by his authority to the decisions of the church. Secondly, This verse shews us that the parallel must be taken between them and a true church, not between them and an apostate church. For of an apostate church it could by no means be said, “ All therefore whatsover they bid you observe, that observe and do;” for the apostate priests command the people to bow down to stocks and stones, to trust in their own works, to purchase with money the abomination of Mass, to worship the communion elements as God, and much more, of which we need not speak particularly. They do not sit in Moses' seat, but in Satan's seat: the people ought not to observe and do whatsoever they bid them observe. The parallel, if a parallel there be, must be between the spiritual and temporal rulers of the Jewish church and the spiritual and temporal rulers of a church of which it is set forth in Scripture as the type. And if, as I have said, the antitype of the Jewish church and kingdom be this sealed nation and church, and all other parts of the prophetic earth be in a state of apostasy, then between us and them must the parallel be found. And whether there be an actual parallel intended, or not; as the forms of wickedness, like the forms of righteousness, though in distant ages they may appear different, are yet in fact the very same; we shall no doubt derive much instruction
from the careful examination of the whole chapter, which thus proceeds: (Ver. 4) “ For they bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” This is the characteristic of a church preaching unto the people a multitude of works and observances, and requiring of them a load of duties, instead of preaching to them faith, as the only ground of justification and the only root of sanctification. Now, how universally this prevails in the church, it requireth some explanation and reflection to perceive : for the very distinction taken by the self-named Evangelicals is, that they preach justification by faith only: and so they do, in words; but observe how it turns out in fact. They will not allow the poor sinner to take immediate assurance of his salvation, but expect of him a probation of doubt and uncertainty, of difficulty and perplexity, before they will permit him to have confidence before God: which, I maintain, is as truly the doctrine of works, as if they were to require alms and offerings to the church. The people who listen to such discourse as permitteth not assurance of faith from the very first and onwards, are put upon the rack and torture of inward uncertainty and fear, and led to count and rest upon the number of their inward spiritualities, as much as the others are led to count and rest upon the number of their outward moralities : and the state of the Christian church at this time, between these two sects, of Scribes upon the one hand, and Pharisees, or separatists, upon the other, is exceedingly to be deplored. And when a man riseth up to give
a the people liberty from such bondage, and to preach instant and immediate comfort and liberty through Jesus Christ, straightway they are offended. And who is the most offended ? Not the Scribes, who preach the Law outright; but the Pharisees, who do the same under this fallacious spirituality. Now I warn all men to give no heed to such unsafe, uncertain, and false teaching; but to receive, through faith, the grace of God, which hath appeared unto you, bringing salvation. Look at Christ crucified, and let these loads and burdens drop from your shoulders. Enter at once into peace with God, through Jesus Christ; and when tribulations come, ye shall rejoice.
Then comes (ver. 5) another feature of the rulers and governors of the church : “All their works they do for to be seen of men..... they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.” These phylacteries were pieces of cloth, or parchment, on which were engraved texts of Scripture ; and their breadth was supposed to denote special sanctity and devotion. So also of the borders or fringes of their garments, which they were required to