Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of expression, and affectionate tone of address. We are inclined to infer, from the manner in which he describes the Acts of the Apostles, that 'he lias fashioned his own style upon the model afforded by that of St. Luke:

This book of the Acts of the Apostles was written by St. Luke, and is a continuation of the Gospel, which bears his name. The style with which the holy evangelist begins is simple, both with respect to the language and the magnificent things which he had to explain. It is not written as though he was about to display the exploits of a Cyrus, Cæsar, or Alexander, or other great founders of mighty monarchies. He only professes to explain the acts of the Apostles,--acts which they have performed in the conquest of the world, and in making it subject to Jesus Christ; to explain what the doctrine was which they taught; with what zeal they preached it; by what miracles they proved its truth; how they established many churches, both among the Jews and Gentiles; and how, afterwards, they established the government of those churches, and were the means of extending the light and knowledge of the gospel through all the world, and how, by their real and conduct, and their constancy, even to death, in defeuce of the gospel, they promoted its cause.-P.6.

To analyse a continuous Lecture upon the three first chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, is impossible; and we shall therefore endeavour to convey an idea of the matter and manner of the work, by extracting a few of the most important passages. In the fifth Lecture, on the appointment of Matthias to succeed Judas in the apostleship, are the following remarks on the Pope's supremacy, which, though not original in themselves, are put with considerable plainness and perspicuity :

St. Peter, say they, (the Romanists,) proposed to the assembly of the Church, that it was proper to make choice of one who might take the place of Judas in the office of an apostle. The Church approving the proposal, named iwo men for that purpose, and then prayed to God that he would let them know, hy the casting of lots, whoin he would appoint; therefore, say they of the Romish Church, Peter acted as Pope, and had, as chief of the Church, a sovereign authority to order every thing as he should direct. But will any one argue, that, because a person makes to an assembly of men a proposition which is approved by that assembly, that that person has, in consequence of that proposal, a power to dictate as a monarch with sovereign authority to that assembly? Would you not say, on the contrary, that if Peter had been in the Church then what the Pope is in the Ronnish Church now, he would not have proposed the thing to be deliberated on, but would have chosen, by virtue of his own authority, one that should take the place of Judas, and then have declared to the assembly, that he had made the choice, and that it was for them to receive him in the quality of apostle? But as this was not done, it is evident that St. Peter had not that quality. But why was it St. Peter rather than any one of the others who made this proposal to the Church? To this question, we might reply by asking another, “And why any other rather than he?” Was it not necessary that some one must do it? All could not do it together. The Church was a body of order, not of confusion. It was necessary that some one should make the proposal, and why not St. Peter as well as any of the rest? But we may reply to the question more directly than this, by saying, that possibly either God inspired Peter in that moment with what he was to do, or else the rest of the apostles paid this mark of deference to him, as being superior, in point of age, or because he was the first in point of order who had been received into the office of apostle. VOL. XVII. NO. IX.

3 x

The evangelist says, St. Peter stood up in the midst of them; and why so? The interpreters of the Romish Church say, that he did so from motives of respect and attention to the other apostles, and because he was a man of a very dittident and modest disposition; hereby leading us, perhaps, to infer, that the Pope is the very opposite to ditfidence and modesty, for it is mentioned in their formulary, that the Pope is not to pay deference to any one now, except by a small inclination of the head. Others say, that it was because the Virgin Mary was present, and that St. Peter stood up in order to show reverence and respect to her; but all this is mere trifling and guessing at that which the Holy Spirit does not dictate. It relates to dreams rather than to sacred history. We may, therefore, rather say, that St. Peter simply stood up in the midst of theni, because it was the custom, and a very rational one, that in addressing an assembly, the speaker should stand up in order that he might be heard more distinctly; his standing up, however, in the midst of the disciples does not point out any superiority over them, for even Jesus Christ bimselt said, “ I am in the midst of you like one that serveth.”—Pp. 93–95.

With respect to the manner in which Matthias was appointed, it may be observed generally, in the words of Jerome, that privilegia singulorum non possunt facere legem communem ; and, at all events, the circumstance affords no sanction to popular interference in the choice of ministers. Dr. Povah thus treats the subject :It may

be questioned by soine, whether this method was altogether justifiable among Christians, and whether they could practise it lawfully. To this, however, we answer, that the law of God, though it forbids any magical and sacrilegious, yet does not forbid any and every mode of casting lots. On the contrary, to persons living, as the ancient Jews and primitive Christians did, under the immediate care of a special Divine Providence, the practice of casting lots was useful, and, accordingly, was employed, either to know what the will of God was in those things in which it was important that his will should be known; and when it could not be ascertained in any other way; and also for the purpose of preventing partiality, murmurs, or envy, in cases where men could not ascribe the lot that was cast to chance, but to the providence of God alone. The word of God is very express on this point; Solomon, in the 16th of Proverbs, and 23d verse, says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposal of it is with the Lord;" and God has, in many instances, directed this way to be adopted, that men might know what his will was; as in Leviticus xvi., on the first day of the solemn propitiation, two goats were to be presented before the Lord; one to be offered to bim in sacrifice, the other to be sent into the wilderness, and on this occasion lots were cast to direct their choice.—Pp.155,156.

It does not, however, follow from this, that a custom which was adopted in extraordinary cases, in times of old, should be followed on every ordinary occasion in the present day, so as to influence, e. g. the call of ministers of the gospel in general. The ancient fathers of the Church have very wisely directed it otherwise. The Jews never resorted to it in the choice of their high priest, and there are no examples of it, except one, in the time of the siege of Jerusalem, when the rage and fury of one Zelotes chose by lot a man of very contemptible life and manners, and who was not of the family of the priesthood, and yet he made him high priest. The Christians, likewise, never resorted to this custom in the choice of their ministers; for though God, at the beginning of his church, and even during the life of the apostles, had sometimes, by some very remarkable circumstances, pointed out, in certain persons whom it was thought be bis will that they should be called to his ministry, (as we find in one passage of Clemens Alexandrinus), yet we do not read that they ever resorted, on these occasions, to the casting of lots.- Pp. 156, 157.

Some observations, in the twelfth sermon, on the death and resurrection of Christ, respecting the sin of the Jews in crucifying the Messiah, are exceedingly judicious :

It may be said, May not God, in a certain sense, be considered as the author of the sins of these men, as being the first cause of every thing that took place, and as having employed all these instruments to bring about the purposes of his will? I answer, No! He was, indeed, the author of the good that has resulted from the death of Christ by our redemption; but he was not the author of the sins that were committed in bringing that event to pass. The sins of those who crucified Christ can only be imputed to the influence of second causes. The Roman magistrate, in former times, in the exercise of the strict rules of Roman justice, condemned criminals of a certain description to be exposed to lions and beasts of prey, which, while they tore the criminals, sought only to gratify their natural ferocity; but the magistrate, in this case, could not be said to have inspired the lions with their natural fierceness and cruelty. So, on this subject of the death of our Lord, it is one thing to consider what the Jews and the Roman soldiers had for their motive, which was only to gratify their own fierce and unrestrained bad passions; and another to consider what the will and counsel of God was, which was to satisfy the requirements of divine justice. In that ancient punishment, to which I just now alluded, and which the Roman magistrates inflicted on criminals, in exposing them to ferocious beasts of prey, the magistrate did not inspire those beasts with their ferocity; this is what they possessed before; he only made use of that ferocity for the punishment of the guilty, and to execute the punishments which their crimes deserved. So God did not inspire the Jews or the Roman soldiers with those impulses of impiety, ambition, envy, and malice, which led them to treat the Saviour with such cruel indignities; he only made use of thein as instruments to accomplish the will of Divine Providence. They thought, in every thing that they did, that they were accomplishing their own will, which was impious and wicked; but God made them the instruments of accomplishing his own will, which was boly, merciful, just, and good ; nay, what was still more wonderful, although, in putting Jesus Christ to death, they committed a crime wbich a thousand hells would not be sufficient to punish, yet all, even the vilest of these murderers, were told by St. Peter, that if they repented of what they had done, they might find mercy, if they sought it in the atoning blood of Christ, which cleanseth from all sin. Pp. 277, 278.

Take the following on baptismal regeneration :

How is it, then, that by baptisın we are said to be regenerated, and therefore receive all the blessings of the Holy Spirit? To this we answer, just as letters of grace to which the seal of a prince is attached, are said to save the life of a criminal, and to deliver him from the hands of justice; so is this sacrament, when it has the seal and the grace of God in Christ, attached to it. For God does always accompany it with his infallible grace and the operation of his Holy Spirit, in all those who receive it with a suitable disposition, i. e. with faith and repentance. In all other cases, however, we have no warrant to expect that baptism produces the promised good effect, or that God even favourably alloweth the work of those who undertake it not in a spirit of christian charity and devout prayer, but rather from worldly motives, and in an improper spirit. Hence the countless numbers who, after having been baptized, fall away from the faith, and pursue the paths of unrighteousness and unbelief. We are not, indeed, to attribute this to any defect in the sacrament itself, but to the vicious conduct of those who receive it unworthily, or who rather profane it.-Pp. 351, 352.

Already have we given an extract on the subject of the Romish corruption; but we cannot refrain, in times like the present, from subjoining our author's remarks on the secession of Protestants from the papal communion. It is seldom that the Doctor forgets his tone of persuasive simplicity; but, in his quiet way, his language marks the indignation which he feels at the idolatrous worship of the Vatican:

From this part in the history of the church of Christ, as separated from the Jewish church, we naturally turn to the church of Christ in our own times, when the Church of England separated from the Church of Rome. If the Church of Rome had continued in its original purity, in points of form and discipline, and bad preserved its original simplicity in explaining the word of God; if it bad retained the same high standard of moral conduct, which befitted the followers of the holy Jesus; if they had continued to worship ever in believing adoration the one only true God; it they had sought for reconciliation and salvation through the intercession of the one only and exclusive Mediator, Jesus Christ; if the sacraments had been celebrated by them in the same form, and confined to the same number in which the Divine Author had instituted them; if they had only fallen into some few errors of lesser importance, into some abuses in point of discipline, into some corruption in point of conduct; or if the evils had been even greater still, and they had perinitted the faithful servants of God to protest freely and candidly against thein, without forcing them, by the inost dreadful anathemas and violent persecutions, to silence all remonstrance in opposition to the bonest dictates of their own consciences; or, again, if our ancestors had separated from the Church of Rome from any carnal and worldly motives ;—then truly we might have been justly accused of causing schism. But let any one examine, without prejudice, what both they and we have done, and he must acknowledge that we have only done that which our consciences dictated to us. For every cause which can make a separation just, was in a most eminent degree apparent here; the word of God, in the vulgar tongue, appeared no more; the sacraments, and especially that of the Lord's Supper, were so changed, that if the holy apostles could have descended from beaven to earth, they would not have known them; the Christian religion had been so disfigured in its most essential parts, that there remained little more of it than the name; the churches echoed with nothing more than the names of the saints, to implore from them the pardon of our sins; the pulpits principally resounded with the doctrine of human merits; the prevailing devotion of the people consisted either in worshipping images, or in making pilgrimages to the shrine of departed saints; and their principal consolation was derived from the desire of dying in the habit of a inouk, that so they might be saved from future punishment; or in saying masses for the soul, that it might be delivered out of purgatory. All these debasing superstitions, added to the respect and reverence which was paid to pretended relics; and again, the hymns and prayers which were offered to the Virgin Mary, with the view of entreating that humble disciple of our Lord to do what, if she could hear such prayers, could not fail to move her deepest sorrow and indignation, viz. to use the influence of a mother over a son, to save souls at the moment of death: all these things, I say, must necessarily excite the repugnance and disgust of every, I will not say reasonable and enlightened mind, but of every one in whom there existed the least spark of true piety. All pious and honest minds, therefore, could not fail to unite in bewailing the errors, and in boldly protesting against the abuses which were growing daily in the Church at the time of the Reformation; but instead of listening to the remonstrances of these pious persons, what did the priests who were in authority do? They resorted to their anathemas and excommunications, and persecuted them with vengeance instead of opposing with arguments, i. e. instead of resisting the arguments of the Reformers with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, they destroyed their bodies with the sword of man, with the fire and the faggot, the prison and the stake. God saw all this, and for a long time restrained his

indignation at the profanation of his own boly institutions, till at length taking vengeance, as it were, on these adversaries of his sacred truth, he raised up Luther, Zuinglius, and Calvin, on the continent, and Cranıner, Latimer, and Ridley, in our own country, men endowed from heaven with an especial illumination and heroic valour, and who, like Moses, Zerubbabel, Esdras, and Nehemiah, in the old time, were the means of delivering bis people from that spiritual Egypt, and from that mystical Babylon in which they were slaves. By the influence of these men, (and inany nations in Europe followed their example, the sacred Scriptures were translated into the vulgar dialect, and were put into the hands of every Christian, that he might be instructed and made wise unto salvation. Was there, then, ever a separation more just or more necessary than that of the Protestants from the Church of Rome? To condemn it would be like condemuing the Israelites for leaving Egypt under the conduct of Moses, when God commanded them to leave; or like condemning the Jews for leaving the captivity of Babylon under the guidance of Zerubbabel, Esdras, and Nehemiah, that they might go to rebuild the temple of God at Jerusalem; or like condemping St. Peter, when he exborted, in the words of the text, the converted Jews to separate themselves from the synagogne, and save themselves from that untoward generation. — Pp. 376--S80.

With this we conclude. To those who desire a fair and candid view of the backslidings and superstitions of the Church of Rome, together with a familiar and comprehensive refutation of her errors, these Sermons of Dr. Povah will be the work they would select. It is full and satisfactory, and withal it has no parade of fine writing, no argumentative display. He is clear and easy, and, we think, incon

trovertible. There is also much that is useful on the subject of missionary labour; and we recommend the volume as a welcome

companion to those who are destined for the arduous, yet honourable, employment of carrying the glad tidings of salvation into countries where Christianity is still unknown.

LITERARY REPORT.

Researches, Antediluvian, Patriarchal, of idolatry, and the means by which

und Historicul, concerning the Way God preserved his true worship in the in which Men first acquired their call of Abraham, and the selection of Knowledge of God and Religion, the Jews as a nation apart from the and as to whut were the Doctrines of rest of the world, and peculiar to bimthe Churches of Adam and Noah, 8c. self. He then proceeds to show that &c. &c. By Thomas CLARKSON, it was the object of Messiah's coming M.A., formerly of St John's College, to recover the light which had been Cumbridge ; Author of the History lost to the Heathen, and obscured to the of the Ābolition of the Slave-Trade, Jews, and to lay open a grand scheme &c. &c. London: Longman. Ips- of salvation to the human race. Conwich: Piper. ' 1836. Pp. xxiv. 198. sidering the importance of this object,

it seems probable that some intimations Tus essay is divided into two parts: of his appearance would be made bein the first of which, after showing that fore-band. And the second part of the the knowledge of religion originally was Researches is occupied in ascertaining communicated to mankind by God what notice had been given to the difhimself, the writer enters into an ela- ferent people of the earth, and in reconburate inquiry respecting the progress ciling the character of Christ with the

« AnteriorContinuar »