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1. Is the religion of Jesus Christ -Does not Christianity furnish a indeed destined to become the reli- remedy for this most distressing, most gion of the world?
discouraging, and most fatal defect, 2. Is the Christian system—the in the modern operations of Christian system of means and agencies, deve- communities? If so, loped in the New Testament, for pro- 12. Is it not solemnly incumbent moting Christianity, indeed efficient on every community, on every confor the conversion of the world? Or, gregation, and on every individual,
3. Is there any scriptural or reason- promptly to apply the remedy? able grounds for the conclusion, that 13. What is that remedy ? --what other means and agencies, (such is it that shall give permanent and as a second personal advent of Christ) perpetually-increasing influence and will be needed and employed ? success, to a revival of religion ? By
4. If the instrumentality of the what means shall the “little leaven" church is destined to convert the now in the world, leaven the whole world, have we evidence of its pre- moral lump? Lastly. What may sent fitness for the task? If not, it and must each member of the church will be necessary to inquire, become,—what may and must each be
5. Did not the primitive church and do, in order to acceptable and effecevince all the influence, activity, and tual co-operation with the God of all perseverance that may, “ speaking as grace, in the accomplishment of his men,” be deemed requisite ?
glorious designs ? 6. Is there any intimation given
And now we have to invite our in the Scriptures, that the Christian Christian readers to accompany us in religion would, necessarily, in suc- our search after a satisfactory answer ceeding ages, lose any of its power: to each of the questions which have that the experience and practice of been proposed. These are by no Christians should necessarily dege- means matters of cold and unprofitnerate ; and that strife, and division, able speculation, or idle curiosity; and inefficiency should mark the they are full of intense interest, — character of the church?
they affect the destiny, both tem7. Is there, at present, any insur- poral and eternal, of all the existing mountable obstacle to an immediate millions of the human race, and of return to primitive purity, both of “ten thousand times ten thousand” heart and life, by the members of the millions yet unborn. We hope to church?
present to those who do accompany 8. Why, after nearly four cen- us, such information as will, at least, turies have been spent in professed repay them. And we invite assistreformation, has not such a return We ask for a free and dispasbeen generally effected?
sionate expression of the opinions of 9. Why have modern revivals of our friends, whether in unison with religion, generally, been limited as to our own, or opposed to them ; and for their influence, and transient in their the kind communication of all such duration?-How is it that after every facts and reasonings, as may appear period of renewed spiritual life and calculated to elicit and establiska energy, and of consequent success, a truth. state of indifference, inactivity, and In conclusion, we most affectiori-declension in piety and zeal, has ge- ately ask our readers, whom we have nerally, if not universally,succeeded? previously called Christian readers;'* -Thus not only arresting the pro
are you such? We desire to ask of gress of the revival, but undoing all, each, Reader, are you a Christian? or a great part of, the good work We ask not, are you called a Christhat had been accomplished. tian? We ask not, do you profess
10. Does not the temporary and the Christian faith? We ask, are you transient character of revivals, if a Christian ?: “ Have you received essentially connected with them, take the Holy Ghost ?". Have you receivaway all ground of hope for the ed, “not the spirit of bondage again world's conversion, by the ordinary to fear, but the spirit of adoption, means?. But,
enabling you to cry, Abba, Father ? 11. Are revivals of religion neces- If not, we say, in all affection and sarily “transient as to their dura- sincerity, you are not yet prepared tion, and limitedastotheirinfluence??? to accept our invitation.
one thing is needful.” First of all, submit; one class regarded themwe entreat you, give yourself to selves as entitled to command-the God. Seek, oh ! seek the knowledge other believed themselves bound to of him “ whom to know is life eter- obey. Inquiry was prohibited on nal.”. For the present, let your sole pain of death; and indications of inquiry be, “what must I do to be any disposition to act freely, were saved ?" If you will but make this sure to be followed by the severest your inquiry, you most certainly penalties that the rulers could inflict. shall have a speedy answer. Then, For hundreds of years did this state having found salvation for yourself, of things continue; and it seemed as and not until then, can you duly though the heaven-born spirits of understand the evils which exist men, designed for light and liberty around you.
and bliss, were always to be held in We
purpose to commence the darkness and slavery and woe. series of articles, to which this is in- But these ages of gloom and bondtroductory, in our next number. age have passed away, Centuries
ago, the Gospel was brought forth from the cells and cloisters in which
it had been concealed ; the printing THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES.
press multiplied copies of tia ScripThe present age seems to me to tures by thousands : men began to be distinguished from former ages in read, to think, to examine for themthree important particulars: its in- selves ; darkness fled at the approach quiring spirit, its utilitarian charac- of day; and the chains of civil and ter, and its reforming tendency. It religious bondage were both broken is well for Christians to understand at once. It is true that the instruthe spirit of the age in which they ments of this happy change suffered live, that they may so regulate their greatly in their struggles for liberty conduct, as to render that spirit sub- and truth : many of them lost their servient to the great objects for which lives in the conflict.
But they God has called them into being, neither lived nor died in vain. Their
The first great peculiarity of the memories will be revered as long as present period, is the restless spirit the world itself endures : and the of inquiry which so extensively pre- mention of their names, and the revails. There have been times when cital of their sufferings, will inspire for centuries the spirit of inquiry with a love of freedom thousands yet seemed to be completely dormant; unborn. It is true that the work is opinions descended like estates from not complete ; that all are not emanfather to son ; institutions that cipated from the yoke of unauthorhad existed for a length of time were ized, anti-christian authority : but deemed so sacred that no man was at the work has been proceeding ever liberty to question their utility or since the period to which I have redispute their worth ; and when the ferred. Each succeeding age has witfact, that any doctrine was main- nessed the removal of restrictions on tained, or any practice sanctioned freedom of thought, or liberty of by the priest, was deemed suf- conscience; and the present age is ficient to prove that doctrine true, distinguished above all others by its and that practice right. The iron spirit of bold, and fearless, and untiryoke of the feudal system entered ing investigation.
Men seem to be into men's souls, and the galling determined to think for themselves bondage of Popish superstition ren- at last ; and nothing less than evidered their degradation complete; dence,_clear, sound, convincing eviand by the conjoint influence of the dence-will satisfy them now as to two, men were transformed from free, the excellence of any system that intelligent, thinking beings, into the may be proposed for their adoption, or tools of an ungodly, ambitious priest- the truth of any statement that may hood, and the abject slaves of an un- be urged on their belief. just, tyrannical oligarchy. Civil and Let it be understood that I speak of religious society were both divided the general spirit and character of into castes or classes ; and it was re- the age. There are of course excepgarded as the prerogative of the one, tions, and these exceptions, in the todictațe, and the duty of the other, tó aggregate, may be numerous ; but
still the general spirit of the age is the right to inquire what it is that as it has been described.
We know that a docindividuals still, who, appearing to be trine pronounced as true by Heaven, unconscious of any power or right to must be true ; but the object of our judge for themselves, are willing that inquiry is, to determine whether others should judge for them; and Heaven has pronounced the doctrine there are those who plead for a return in question true. You say that it to the worst peculiarities of the Po- is so; but that is not enough ; we pish system ; who would extinguish must see, and hear, and judge for the right of private judgment, and ourselves, and then we shall be conhave men to form their opinions on tent.
Such is the first characterisall religious subjects according to the tic of the spirit of the age. dictates of their teachers. But still And what are the lessons that these are the exceptions; and the Christians should learn from a condeep, decided disapprobation of such sideration of this state of things? sentiments as those last adverted to, Ianswer, we should learn to treat men expressed by the public, shows clear- as reasonable beings; to expect blind ly that the public mind is embued submission, and implicit faith, no with a love of liberty, and that men longer ; to expect conviction no furcannot, as formerly, be hoodwinked ther than we furnish evidence, and and led blindfold at pleasure. No, to expect compliance only in prothe inquiry now is not what a certain portion to the weight of the motives class of men believe and teach, but we adduce. Men have been treated what is truth? And nothing is re- like children too long; and after garded as too sacred to be made the they have asserted their claim to be subject of inquiry. A sentiment regarded and treated as men in all may have generally obtained from other matters, they have still subtime immemorial ; but its antiquity mitted to be dealt with as children in does not screen it from investigation. matters of religion. But they are now The inquiry, Is it true? is considered awaking to a consciousness of their to be as applicable to it as to any rights and capabilities here also ; other point. A doctrine may be very they are hearkening to the apostolic gencrally, nay, almost universally injunction,“ in understanding be hell; but its extensive prevalence men.” And if we are to plead the cannot prevent investigation. Any cause of truth and holiness successman who doubtsit, claims the right to fully now, we must bear in mind express his doubts; and the public that we are addressing men. Authoawards that right : “ Let the man berity might awe the child; reasoning heard,” is the prevailing cry. A and persuasion must move the man. system may be upheld by the sup- If you would have him believe your port of a great many intelligent, and doctrines, you must prove them true; wealthy, and influential men; but if you would have him to adopt your neither the talent, the wealth, nor course, you must show him that that the authority of its supporters can course is best. protect it from the most rigid scruti- The Gospel is adapted to the conny, in the present day. Men have dition and capacities of mankind in learnt that intelligence is not confin- the most advanced stage of intelleced to a class ; that rich men are not tual cultivation. It invariably apinfallible ; that the influence and peals to men as rational, reflecting authority of those who support any beings. It asks not their acquiesgiven system, constitute no guaran- cence in a moment of excitement, tee for its truth; and they claim the when under the impulse of violent right of inquiry. “ But you must emotions. No, it calls them to renot inquire,” say some who are in- tirement, to reflection, to deep, seriterested in upholding things as they ous consideration. It lays before are : “The subject is too sacred for them the evidences of its Divine inquiry : God has pronounced the original, and asks them to weigh doctrine true, and all inquiry is those evidences well. It spreads bethereby precluded.” Not so, say the fore them the character of God, and thinkers of the present day. We do solicits their attention to its boundnot wish to inquire whether what less excellencies. It shows them in God says be true : but we do claim all their spirituality and extent, the
requirements of Jehovah's law; and spirit of the Gospel, as they are unappealing to the sense of moral rec- congenial to the spirit of the age in titude that God has implanted within which we live. All intimidation them by his Spirit, asks if these re- and persecution, all craft and earthly quirements are not just ? It de- policy, are contrary both to the spirit scribes the sad results of disobedience and letterofthe Gospel. And they are to God's law, and referring them to as unsuitable to the times in which what they see around them, inquires we live, as they are improper and if the description be not correct? It unchristian in themselves ; and tells the wondrous tale of redeeming those institutions and systems which love, and asks if the provisions of can be sustained by no better means the redeeming plan are not alike than these, must inevitably perish. honourable to God and replete with Already their days are numbered ; blessings to mankind ? It states the and the fabrics which have been conditions of salvation, and leaves it reared on such a foundation, already for the consciences of men to deter- totter to their base. Truth needs mine whether these conditions be not no such measures to support it; the reasonable, just, and gracious ?. It Gospel spurns all alliance either with acquaints them with the relations earthly influence or earthly autothey sustain to each other, and urges rity. The secular arm,--the aid and them to the cultimation of brotherly countenance of rich worldly men,dispositions, and to the performance splendid magnificent structures, of kind and brotherly deeds. It the attractions of music, the charms opens out before them the prospects of oratory,—these, and a thousand of immortality ; shows them that other kinds of earthly influence may the steps they take must exert an be requisite for the support of error influence on their eternal destiny; and superstition ; but the Gospel and urges them to act, not on the needs them not. Nay, those who foolish maxims of earthly pru- would use such means in support of dence, but with an eye to eternal the Gospel, only obscure its lustre, consequences. By motives and con- and impair its efficiency. All that siderations drawn from the divinity it asks of its advocates is plain truth, of its own origin, the boundless per- and a consistent life : all that it fections of God, the equity and excel- solicits from those to whom it is lence of his laws, the terrible nature addressed, is a calm, and serious, and and sad results of sin, the wonders impartial consideration of its claims. of redeeming mercy, the terms on More than this it does not need ; which men become personally inter- more than this it will not accept. ested in its blessings, the relations All attempts to fetter men's minds, they sustain to each other, and to an and subject them to the influence of unending state of existence, the Gos- low, selfish, worldly considerations, pel seeks to induce men to learn its it repudiates and rejects; adopting lessons, to embrace its principles, as its motto, “LET `EVERY MAN and to act according to its directions. BE FULLY PERSUADED IN From first to last it treats man like HIS OWY MIND. PROVE ALL a being capable of thinking, of ex- THINGS; HOLD FAST THAT amining, and of judging for himself. WHICH IS GOOD. FOR THE And if we are to promote the spread WEAPONS OF OUR WARFARE of Gospel truth, we must do so too. ARE NOT CARNAL, BUT We must make ourselves acquainted MIGHTY THROUGH GOD.” with its evidences; we must study My fellow-Christians, let us act its principles ; we must trace its in- on these lofty, noble principles. Let fluence; we must imbibe its spirit; us never stoop to an alliance with we must conform our practice to its earthly influence or power. requirements; and by inanifestation never depend either on numbers, or of the truth, we must commend our- wealth, or rank, or eloquence, or selves to every man’s conscience in any thing but the power of truth, the sight of God.
and the power of God. Let us seek The means by which some pro- a perfect knowledge of Jehovah's will, fessors of religion have sought to and let us never rest till we are permaintain and propagate their senti- fectly conformed to its requirements. ments, are as much opposed to the Let us seek by earnest believing
prayer the promised influence of the were we just now to commence a Almighty Spirit. Arrayed in light universal system of infant instrucand strength from above, let us go tion, and continue the course through forth to combat the prejudices, cor- all the higher departments formerly rect the errors, and reform the lives specified-in the course of twenty of men.
Let us exercise our own years all the children who are now minds, and call upon others to exer- about two years of age (if continued cise theirs. Let us manifest in all in life) would have arrived at the things the kind and forbearing spirit age of twenty-two in an enlightened of the Gospel, and show that we wish and moralized state, and would form not to be lords over God's heritage, the most numerous and influential but helpers of our brethren’s joy. portion of the population, and give Let us by all means encourage the a tone to all ranks of society. Even spirit of inquiry that prevails. Let the physical aspect of the globe, withus show that Christianity does not in the course of another century, dread, but courts investigation. might be renovated and adorned with Striving to attain the utmost heights every thing that is beautiful and of intelligence and piety and bene- sublime. The wealth that has been volence ourselves, let us endeavour to expended in the madness of warfare, draw all others after us. But let the even by civilized nations, during a only influence we use to draw them, century past, had it been appropribe the influence of knowledge and ho- ated to philanthropic improvements, liness and love. God will smile upon would have been sufficient to have our efforts; God will prosper ouren- cultivated all the desolate waste of deavours. A new, a happier state of our globe, to have made its wilderthings shall be introduced. Men nesses like Eden, and its deserts “like shall learn to love God and love each the garden of the Lord,”-in short, other : to bear with each other's mis- to have transformed it into something takes, and promote each other's wel- approaching to a terrestrial paradise. fare ; and love to God and love to We have it in our power to accomman shall fill the earth with an plish all this in the century to come, abundant and glorious harvest of de- if we are willing to devote our enerlight.
* * gies and our treasures to the pur
poses of philanthropy and general To be continued in the next number.
But is it of any avail to address HOW TO BRING ABOUT BETTER this subject ?
the majority of our fellow-men on
No: we might as DAYS.
soon speak to the tides and currents An Extract from Dr. Dick on the Moral of the ocean, and expect them to Improvement of Mankind.
stop at our command, as to expect “Is it inquired, when we expect that the current of licentiousness, the millennium to commence ?” I re- folly, ambition, and avarice, in which ply, just when we please.
three-fourths of mankind are carried willing that it should commence in headlong, will stop its course, and the present age ? We have the diverge into the channel of religion, means in our power if we choose to philanthropy and beneficence. But apply them. In the course of forty I trust there is still a select band of years from this date the millennium Christian Philanthropists who only might not only be commenced, but require to be convinced of the necesin a rapid progress towards the sum- sity of extraordinary exertion, and mit of its glory,--provided we were to receive an additional stimulus, in willing at this moment to concentrate order to excite them to a God-like all our moral and intellectual energies, liberality. and to devote all our superfluous What sacrifice would it be to a wealth, *** * to the furtherance of man who has £500 a year to devote this object. Nay, in the course of annually £100 to the purposes of rehalf that period, we should have a ligious and intellectual improve generation rising up in knowledgement ? to another who has £1000 and holiness, far superior to any race a-year to devote £300, and to anowhich has appeared in the world ther who has £10,000 to allot £4000 during the ages that are past. For annually for the same object?