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5 Is not provoked.— There is no foundation for the sense which the word easily gives..
6 Robbers of temples.—The scriptural idea of a church is an assembly, not a
7 Bore, or fed them, as a nurse beareth or feedeth her child.
8 Covenant, in this, and the following verses, is more consonant with the usage of our translators than testament, and agrees as well with the original.
4. A committee appointed by, and acting under the direction of the Congregational Union, should be employed to prepare the edition, for its revision and sanction.
Such is the proposal now submitted to you. I can conceive, that in this apathetic and trifling world in which we live, there are many, in some degree the guides of public opinion in our religious circles, who, if it were proposed to them, would smile or frown it away at once from their presence, as a wild, needless, and impracticable scheme. It is astonishing how strong our prejudices are in favour of that with which we are familiar, irrespective of its real properties; and how ready we are to assume that a present position includes in it all that is desirable, to save ourselves the trouble of moving towards another. Since the time when open persecution ceased, Congregationalists have too often forgotten, that a manly practical assertion of right principles is quite consistent with the meekness of the spiritual mind; and have acted as though the beautiful law of forbearance enjoined in the gospel, imposed that passive tameness which can rest at ease upon the verge of a sinful compliance. Let me not, however, convey to you an impression, that the work I have suggested is in my view a task of a trifling nature, and of cheap accomplishment. It is of immense importance. It has solemn responsibilities. It will require time, caution, and talent, to be suitably executed, and be infinitely better let alone, than not done well. But when I consider that there are accomplished, thoughtful, and devout men among us, fully competent to undertake it, and whose attachment to divine truth would make the undertaking to them a labour of love—that the Wesleyans have had for years their New Testament circulating among their members with John Wesley's short notes—that up to the present moment we have been practically upholding a monopoly which interferes with the distribution of the Scriptures as the free gift of God to the world—and that the means are within our reach of promoting the cause of sound scriptural knowledge among our people—I feel that my conscience justifies me in making these observations, and that, whatever may be their fate, I shall have the reflection, that a duty it has imposed is now in some degree discharged. Let me remind you that we are indebted for the present authorized version to the Puritans, who proposed it when prelates frowned ; and that it will be an appropriate service for their successors in principle and spirit, though not in name, to render more perfect the translation they advised.
I am yours faithfully, Nov. 2, 1840.
THE PASTOR'S SCRAP BOOK.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE CONGREGATIONAL MAGAZINE.
MY DEAR SIR, I love Congregationalism. It has many excellencies, but none, irrespective of its scriptural sanction, appears to me to surpass its extreme simplicity. It is a mode of exhibiting Christianity so unencumbered, that it does not in any degree interfere with the free and legitimate operation of the essential doctrines of the cross, and is always susceptible of an easy adaptation to the ever varying aspect of human character and human affairs. It attaches nothing to the gospel so as to occasion any new difficulty in the way of its propagation, and requires of man, as the essential condition of his salvation, nothing more than he can comply with in the most novel and untoward circumstances of life. Its medium of transmitting the light of Christianity is so transparent, that it occasions no discolouring and no convergence of its rays—its instrumentality is so pliant, that nothing is wanting to render it available for the general extension of the Gospel, but the lack of Christian zeal to use that instrumentality aright.
A system of church regulation, so simple, affords abundant opportunity of making, if I may so express it, religious experiments. A Congregational minister, and the church under his care, can, in perfect consistency with their principles, adopt a great variety of plans of usefulness. They can make a fair trial of different methods, till they discover those which are best adapted to their circumstances. If these should ultimately fail, they can be laid aside, and their place be supplied with others more adapted to their altered affairs. This state of things is, in fact, constantly exhibited. Go whither we may, we may learn something new as to efforts to do good. Some of these plans are, it is true, rendered practicable only by peculiar circumstances; but others are susceptible of almost universal adoption. The knowledge of these to some ministers would be of inestimable service. For want of such acquaintance, much valuable time has been lost, much religious exertion has proved abortive, and many serious evils have resulted.
It has struck me, Sir, that your valuable miscellany might greatly aid the noble cause of christian usefulness, by becoming the vehicle of communicating to the public a detached account of successful religious experiments made by different pastors. Will you, therefore, consent to appropriate two or three pages every month toward this object? Will you invite ministers generally to supply you with such accounts as may be deemed suited to the object ?
As an illustration of my meaning, and as an inducement to my ministerial brethren to furnish you with the proposed accounts, I beg your acceptance of the following contribution to the Pastor's Scrap Book.
MEETINGS FOR RELIGIOUS CONVERSATION. Convinced of the great importance of promoting among the members of the church the cultivation of closer Christian fellowship than the usual services at the chapel encouraged, I made, a few years ago, several efforts to establish district meetings for religious intercourse. All my first efforts completely failed. I drew up clearly arranged plans; the times of meeting, the names of the leaders, and the places of assembly, were all specified; I urged—I entreated the members to take the matter up,but all in vain : my hopes were most painfully disappointed. But was the object to be abandoned ? No. At this period the prize essay on Lay Agency was published-a book to the highly talented author of which the Christian church is under a debt of gratitude, which another generation will perhaps be more ready to appreciate than I fear the present. After reperusing that invaluable work, I invited most of the male members of the church to spend an evening with me. I laid before them the principles and suggestions of “ Jethro.” They were deeply interested. At the adjourned meeting they agreed to the adoption of some of the plans suggested—so far modified as appeared desirable in our circumstances. The general arrangement that I drew up was submitted to the whole church, and received their sanction. We immediately changed the Monday evening prayer meeting into a model religious conversation meeting. The conversation was confined to the male members, but the meeting was open to the whole church, and to all that felt religiously inclined. Some of these meetings were times of great refreshing from the presence of the Lord. A passage of Scripture generally formed the basis of our conversation ; but as I considered the whole matter an experiment, I sometimes proposed the subject of my discourse on the previous Sabbath, and sometimes a portion out of a popular work on religious revivals. The selection of a portion of
N, S. VOL. v.
Scripture, by giving the conversation as much as possible a practical turn, I found to be the most suitable. Our model meeting continued six months. By this time, the church generally became sufficiently acquainted with the nature and object of the plan. The interest that was awakened was also very considerable. The proper time for carrying out the original plan was now arrived. We accordingly agreed to discontinue the model meeting, to give up the Monday evening service altogether, and to establish, in five different parts of the parish, weekly meetings for religious conversation. These assemblies we call district meetings. A printed plan was drawn up, and the times, the places, and the leaders of the meetings were specified. These district meetings have now lasted six months; and I have the extreme gratification of stating, that they keep up with increasing interest. I find that they promote brotherly love that they fan the flame of vital religion—that they afford a training school for inquirers—that they give me increasingly easy access to the people, (for I visit them as often as I can,) and that they encourage local efforts of usefulness. Not one evil consequence has followed. So satisfied am I with them, that, if they were to break up, I should fear that vital religion had forsaken us, and I feel persuaded that any danger of their dissolution would fill the hearts of the most active, and the most pious, with grief.
Yours very truly, Dec. 8th, 1840.
J. C. G.
A CRITICAL INQUIRY INTO THE MODE OF
The religion of Jesus Christ is a system of truths and duties, of which all are important, although not equally so. Each doctrine he taught, and each precept he enjoined, affords some indication of his character, and contributes something to the accomplishment of the holy and merciful designs for which he visited our world. No part, therefore, of his instructions ought to be regarded by us as of little value ; nor should any of his commands be deemed of little consequence. The reverential affection for his Lord which every believer cherishes, must lead him to esteem highly all the truths and duties of the Gospel, for his sake from whom they proceed ; and as he advances in acquaintance with them, he finds everywhere the marks of divine wisdom and goodness. Just as each little flower does its part in showing forth the Creator's glory, being in harmony with all his works ; so each portion of Christianity, however insignificant it may seem, exhibits something of the perfections of its great Author, and furnishes something towards the salvation of the human race. There is nothing useless, nothing that is unworthy of most attentive and devout consideration.
The nature of an ordinance appointed by the Lord, and since observed in every age and in every country by nearly all his followers, must be in itself a subject deserving our regard. But, apart from its own importance, there are circumstances which have long given to the rite of baptism an additional, and often a very painful interest. Christians have understood, in various and opposite ways, the commandment of their Master. Men eminent for learning and ability, for candour and piety, for an ardent love of truth, for humility and perseverance in the search after it, have arrived at different and contradictory conclusions. The convert to Christianity is, in consequence, involved in a perplexing and harassing controversy, at a time when, commonly, his judgment is immature, and his conscientiousness a matter to himself of anxious distrust. His attention is thereby drawn away from things acknowledged to be of more importance. Being unexercised in such discussions, he frequently has no principles to direct him, and does not know even how to seek for the truth. Fearful of yielding to inclination, or improperly swayed by it, he often arrives at a conclusion which is the result rather of excited feeling than of enlightened judgment; he adopts, probably for life, opinions to which he has been brought, either because he feared to dwell upon arguments which coincided with inclination, or because he was unwilling to give much consideration to any other.
The common effects of this controversy on the minds of individuals are lamentable. Those which have followed, to the church at large are even more deplorable. Congregation has been set against congregation, and one part of the church of Christ has been dissociated from another. Thus exertions which had their origin in Christian fidelity and benevolence, have appeared to spring from party spirit, and to be directed to party ends. And when it was supposed, that, through the increase of light and love within the church, and the formidable array of error and infidelity without—through the awakening of zeal to spread the Gospel, and the opening of wide fields for sacred enterprise, all true Christians were about at length to combine as brethren—to join as one holy brotherhood in united efforts for the cause of the Redeemer and the world—this unhappy subject of controversy, like the spirit of discord, has entered our camp. Now, we cannot together seek to diffuse the word of God among the nations of the earth, because, alas ! it is thought more important that our notion of the meaning of a Greek term should be given to the world, than that in this high and holy undertaking, the church of Christ, should evidently be one.
However desirable it may seem that this cause of dissension should be taken away, few, probably, will be sanguine in anticipating such an