Page images
PDF
EPUB

who seem to regard themselves as especially set for the defence of the offence of the cross; and who in fulfilment of their commission, strive to make every truth of the gospel as haggard and repulsive as they can. I plead only for the distinctive message, and am sure that truth, in fitting detail, though mildly urged, will often awaken in the wrong doer more heated and threatening displeasure, than any general statement, however roughly and rashly made. It was a close applicatory section of truth which cost the Baptist his head, and which more than once brought the meek Son of God to the verge of death, and Gnally brought him to the cross. The minister everywhere will encounter a trial in this significant directing and carrying out of his appeals. He needs a fear of God which will lift him above the fear of men.

He will encounter trials of another kind, arising from the exorbitant expectations of the people. While some do not want a great diversity and closeness of application, many do want, in the minister, a great richness and variety of qualification. They seem to insist, that every aptitude, excellency and power shall center in every single man. If they do not all happen to center in their man, they contrive to be dissatisfied. At length, it begins to be whispered, here and there : “ True he has many admirable qualities; but there is one other which occurs to us, that he has not. He does this thing well; and that thing well; but that other thing not quite so well as we should like. He preaches well in this direction-well in that-not so well in the other as is desirable.”—There are some so very unreasonable that, instead of fixing their eye upon the approved qualities of their minister, and thanking God for the noble endowments actually conferred, they fix their jaundiced gaze upon bis deficiency, and look and look till it begins to look dreadfully, and they can bear it no longer. Then they very benevolently say: “ His usefulness is at end in this place. He is fitted to do good in some other field, but not in this. We are sure, he is not the man for us." We can only request such people in their judgments about us, poor, imperfect agents, just to consider, that the material is coarse ;-ministers are earthen vessels; and it is not always possible to get the same lump into every celestial shape demanded by their high wrought conceptions.

There are those who will trouble the minister in the prosecution of that course which he feels bound to pursue. They would limit him in his scope of preaching and of action.

Some are ultra in their orthodoxy. They make Calvinism about as rigid and inexorable as fate itself, and they think the only way to benefit the sinner is to hang him upon one of their dry iron hooks, and there let him hang and writhe till God appears, in inscrutable mercy to take him down. There are others of an opposite stamp. Their constant theme and song is free grace. They wish to see everything made easy and inviting. No good is done in preaching, only as encouragement is made to predominate. Whatever the point they are attached to, the minister must keep to, or in their judgment, bis labors will be nearly in vain.

There are those who have their favorite causes, or objects; and they would have us make most prominent in our advocacy, the cause they love best, and deem the most important.

There are others who have their favorite classes in the community. To satisfy them that we are employing our talents to the best advantage, we must give special and continued attention in our addresses and labors, to the class, to which they are devoted. Now what shall the minister do? He stands, or ought to stand, on high ground. He sees the whole field of duty ;has in view all his responsibilities. He is to account for all. Shall he turn his strength and concentrate his attention permanently any one way? A voice from heaven reaches him, saying: “ Divide, rightly divide the truth, the strength, the solicitude, the prayer, the labor; and give to all that is promising and benignant in christian enterprise, its just measure of influence, and to all the conditions, ages, classes, characters, attitudes, of sinning, suffering man, the appropriate kind and style of doctrine and appeal.”

As ambassadors of God, preachers of his truth, we have difficult and responsible duties to perform. Holiness is a crowning qualification. With the mind stayed on God, strength and wisdom shall be received, and that firmness of spirit wbich the trials and perplexities of our lot demand. Then there shall be a faithful and vigorous dispensation of the word of truth; and the spirit will go with it, and give it a double edge and a sharpened point, and hearts of very adamant shall be pierced or cloven asunder by its strokes, the rebellious submissively bow, and become our helpers on earth, our joy and crown in eternity.

ARTICLE VII.

REVIEW OF MAHAN ON CHRISTIAN PERFECTION.

By Rev. Nathaniel 9. Folsom, Providence, R. 1.

Scripture Doctrine of Christian Perfection ; with other kindred

subjects, illustrated and confirmed in a series of discourses designed to throw light on the way of holiness. By Rev. Asa Mahan, President of the Oberlin Collegiate Institute. Boston: D. S. King, 1839. pp. 237.

It was not until after the appearance of Dr. Pond's article in the January number of the Repository, that this volume issued from the press. The nucleus of the book is a sermon first preached in Oberlin, and afterwards published by request in the New York Evangelist, in November, 1838—à date subsequent, doubtless, to the preparation of Dr. Pond's article. The series of discourses” which it contains, was delivered in the Marlboro’ Chapel, Boston ; where the author supplied the pulpit during the illness of the pastor. As it takes new positions on the same doctrine that has been advocated by Mr. Finney, and makes new attacks upon the common faith of the Church, it may be due to the cause of truth to discuss the subject still further.

Before examining Mr. Maban's arguments, there are two things worthy to be noticed. 1. He does not fairly state the question at issue, and the opinions of his brethren who differ from him. 2. It is remarkable, that while he is contending for the doctrine of the actual attainment of perfect and permanent holiness in the present life, as the secret and spring of higher devotedness, which he trusts he has himself found, it was not that doctrine, but another, which put him in possession of the secret.

In respect to the question at issue, he thus states it: Is christian perfection attainable in this life ? p. 25. No other question is blended with this, in its first statement. But on p. 35, in violation of the laws of just reasoning, there is an amendment introduced, with no previous notice: “ We have the same evidence from Scripture that all Christians inay, and that some of them will, attain to a state of entire sanctification in this life, that we have that they will attain to that state in heaven.”

This remark of the author, and the whole tenor of his discourses, show that the main question in his mind is not the one first announced, but another, introduced ten pages afterwards.

Mr. Mahan inakes the impression, by his mode of presenting and discussing the subject at first, that bis brethren, who differ from him, disbelieve the attainableness of entire sanctification in this life. Now this doctrine is admitted on all hands. It was admitted by the Editor of the Evangelist in some strictures on Mr. Mahan's sermon when it first appeared in that paper. It is freely admitted by Dr. Pond.

It has been the experience of the writer of this Article, both to preach and hear preached, the doctrine of the attainableness of perfect holiness. Some of the very arguments employed by Mr. Mahan are those employed by his brethren on the other side ; not however to show that any actually become perfect, but that Christians ought to be perfect, and to blush and be grieved for their short-comings. At the basis of every exhortation to be holy, lies the metaphysical truth that perfection in holiness is attainable.

It was due from Mr. Mahan to his brethren and to the cause of truth, to present, in the outset, the real question at issue; to state what they believed and what they did not believe ; to show, if he could, that the distinction between attainableness and actual attainment is a groundless distinction. But instead of this, he has argued, professedly, in discourses second and third, the whole subject in debate, and considered objections, without a single remark on these important points. And in a fourth discourse, which is nothing more than an expansion of his second argument in Discourse II, he has only alluded to them in a passing manner, and bestowed on them a most inadequate notice of a page and a half; at the conclusion of which he says, that “the advocates of the common theory are sacredly bound to take the ground that the state under consideration is not attainable, in any appropriate sense of the term.” Is this fair and logical argument ? Is it not rather the manner of a sophist, and better adapted to build up a sect, than to advance the truth?

As the distinction between attainableness and actual attainment is so important in the case, it is necessary to see how Mr. Maban disposes of it.

He first asks, p. 119, “ What evidence can we have, that such a state is unattainable, bigher than this, that all Christians in all past ages have honestly and prayerfully aimed, and all will continue to the end of time, thus to aim at this state, with the absolute certainty of not attaining to it?” Now we reply that an honest, prayerful aim is consistent with actual efforts that are not perfectly commensurate with human capacity and obligation. We admit that none can reach heaven, who do not honestly and prayerfully aim to do the whole will of God; who do not aim to do this with a higher corresponding effort than is put forth for any other and earthly good. But we affirm that po Christian has done all he could. In answer to a possible objection “ that such efforts are not made with sufficient vigor ;" he says, “ that to put forth efforts with the adequate vigor, is the very thing at which all are aiming." Now the object of the aimn is manifestly not the effort, but it is the perfect law of God. And this is not more a philosophical truth, than it is matter of common sense. For who ever says, I aim to try to do a thing ?

In further effort to remove the distinction between attainableness and actual attaininent, as applied to the Christian, Mr. Mahan endeavors to remove the parallel case of the sinner, of whom it has been justly said, that he is able to repent, in the absence of the grace which actually renews, though he never will repent. He asserts that to make the cases parallel, it must be supposed " that all sinners, in the absence of such grace, are honestly and prayerfully striving after holiness.” Mr. Mahan here substitutes striving for aiming, though he has considered one the object of the other. Now what we affirm is, that Christians do not, to a degree commensurate with their capacity and obligation, strive to do the whole will of God. Here the cases are parallel. The sinner may honestly and prayerfully aim to repent, and fail in respect to the work of repenting. This can be shown on Mr. Mahan's own principles of interpretation. He believes that the individual described by Paul in 7th of Romans is not a Christian, but an unregenerate man. That individual says, “ To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not.” He may honestly and prayerfully will, or aim, but not in faith. So the Christian may honestly and prayerfully aim, but not in that degree and strength of faith, the exercise of which Mr. Mahan says will be followed by perfect and perpetual holiness. And here too the cases are still parallel.

On pp. 113, 114, our author remarks that “ the common impression seems to be, that men are required to do all this,” (i. e. to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of the Aesh and spirit,)

SECOND .SERIES, vol. II. No. in. 19

« PreviousContinue »