The New Zealand Evangelist
Gal. 5, 0, “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.”
Gal. 6, 15, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.”
1. Cor. 7, 19, “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.”
Attendance upon the outward forms and services of religion is highly important, inasmuch as they are of God's institution, and they tend to promote grace in the soul. They come recommended to us, both by precept and example, from the highest authority—God's most holy word. It is then the duty of every Christian to read his Bible, to make prayer and supplication to God, to frequent the various services of the sanctuary, as he may have opportunity, to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; at stated seasons to join his fellow disciples at the table of the Lord;—in short to perform all the outward services and ordinances of religion which are authorized and recommended in Holy Scripture. Every man who has the opportunity to attend to “these necessary things,” and neglects to improve it, not only denies his Christianity, but also exposes his soul to great peril and danger; for no one can neglect the injunctions of his Creator, Redeemer, and Lord, and be guiltless and harmless. To observe and do these things is not only the duty of the Christian, it is more—it is his gracious privilege. Religious observances are fraught with benefit to all who attend them in the spirit of their institution. They are channels through which our gracious Lord ordinarily vouchsafes his blessing to man—they are means of grace. He, then, who is careless about the page 4 forms of religion, not only neglects an important duty but he also forfeits a most gracious privilege. He disregards a positive institution, and he loses many seasons of mercy and “times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.”
Notwithstanding, all important and advantageous as are the outward observances of religion, the Christian who receives the Bible as the sole rule of faith and practice, must be convinced that it is quite possible to be conversant with all the forms of Christianity, to attend upon her services not only occasionally, but regularly and punctually, and yet remain destitute of the living, saving, regenerating principles of the Gospel. Valuable as are the means of grace, they are so only as means; in themselves, (to use the nervous language of St. Paul, quoted at the head of this paper,) they are “nothing,” they do not “avail any thing.” Only as they answer the end designed in their institution do they become profitable to men. Baptism, for instance, is a most important rite; and if the parties celebrating it be actuated by right feelings,—if with the administration there be mixed earnest prayer to God through Jesus Christ, and believing expectation of his presence and blessing; there can be no question but that great good will result from its observance. Yes, God will crown his own ordinance with his hallowing and sanctifying influence, and the “inward and spiritual grace “shall accompany the “outward and visible sign.” But if there be not these desires, and feelings, and expectations on the part of the recipients and administrators, the thing signified will certainly not accompany its symbol, and Baptism will be an empty form, perfectly valueless; as has evidently been the case with multitudes in the professedly Christian world, e. g., the “baptized infidels, washed to fouler stains.” Have not the miserable drunkards, the swearers, the Sabbath breakers, the unchaste persons of Christendom been baptized? And what has their Baptism done for them? Are they regenerate? Have they in possession the “inward and spiritual grace” of which page 5 Baptism is the “outward and visible sign?” Both Scripture and common sense meet these queries with a decided negative. “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” 1 John, 3, 9.
So might we argue with reference to all the other observances of Christianity. Let them be attended to with proper sentiments of heart, and, unquestionably, the worshipper shall be benefitted;—but if the right state of heart be wanting they will not profit. They are “nothing,” they do not “avail anything,” but as joined with “faith which worketh by love,” “a new creature,“—and the “keeping of the commandments of God.” These last, then, are what we have styled Catholic Principles; for wherever they exist, there is genuine, Catholic, Scriptural, Christianity. To deny the Christianity of those who hold these principles in their integrity is to be a bigot and a sectarian; and to call that Christianity which discards these vital, holy truths, is not Catholicity, but unscriptural latitudinarianism.
But as these principles are of such manifest importance in the Christian system, it may be well to look at them in detail; and, in our examination of them, to pay entire deference to the mind of God, as revealed in Holy Scripture; and to that only. In so doing we may probably do violence to pre-conceived notions and opinions of our own. But this entire and sole deference must be paid, if we would be consistent and true to our Protestantism, whose watch-word is the immortal sentiment of Chilling-worth, “The Bible, the Bible alone.” The poet expresses the same truth—
“Not to man but God submit,
“Lay my reasoinings at thy feet.”
[To be Continued.]
Lost—Somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are lost for ever.—American Paper.