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No. I. 47. MONDAY, MARCH 2, 1835.
INTRODUCTORY OBSERVATIONS. The United States of North America, once a colony of Great Britain, have of late years become an object of much and growing interest to the countries on this side the Atlantic. The eagerness with which, year after year, the people of Europe, and more especially the inhabitants of the British Islands, derive information respecting them, requires no stronger proof than is afforded by the multiplicity of books of travels in that country, which are continually issuing from the London press, and all of them finding readers. It would be easy to enumerate, at least a dozen, perhaps a score, of publications on this particular subject, which have made their appearance within the last three years, all of which have been popular, and chiefly so from the interest taken in the subject of which they treat. In the present melancholy state of the continent of Europe, where despotism and bigotry have succeeded in establishing at least a temporary dominion, when in England itself the most vigorous efforts are making to uphold the unnatural alliance betwixt Church and State, and perpetuate the abuses of olden times, America possesses a stronger hold than ever on the hopes and affections of those who desire an amelioration of the general condition of man.
Numerous, however, as our sources of information have been, it is much to be lamented that they are so very de
fective in relation to that one grand concern, which must always take the lead in the minds of true Christians, viz. the progress of the Gospel, and the extension of our Redeemer's kingdom,—that spiritual and heavenly economy which we know is destined one day to “ fill the whole earth.” On this subject it was useless to seek for any satisfactory information in the writings of tourists and travellers; for, with the exception of Mr. John Morison Duncan's two elegant and interesting volumes, published about a dozen years ago, we have little on the subject of religion from any of them that is worthy of regard. It was not likely, indeed, that a topic of such vital interest should be wholly overlooked by Mr. Duncan, who was himself a member of a Baptist church in Glasgow, and the son of an elder of that church: his volumes consequently have been distinguished by our Monthly and Quarterly Reviewers, as having bestowed more attention on this point than those of any other European traveller.
But while we give Mr. Duncan full credit for the attention he bestowed, and the information which his volumes communicate on the state of religion generally, it is greatly to be regretted that he was not more minute in his inquiries respecting the different sects and parties which were then in existence in that extensive continent; for had he done so, he might have gratified his friends on this side the Atlantic with information which would have been highly acceptable to them. It is true, that the details to which I now refer, might not very conveniently have found a place in a work intended for the use of the middling and higher classes, and the library of a gentleman, for which the elegant style in which it was got up certainly fitted it; but, communicated to the public through the medium of a religious Magazine, such information would have been acceptable to the friends of primitive Christianity, and the lovers of Christ's kingdom. This deficiency, however, it shall be my first object to supply, as far as I am able, by collecting into one point of view the scattered rays of light that have lately been elicited by inquiries into the subject.
To guard against mistakes, however, it may be proper to explain at the outset the specific object to which the attention of my readers will, from time to time, be called, in
perusing the pages of this journal; and that is, the progress which the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ has been making of late years on the American continent, according to the views which I entertain of the nature of that kingdom, and the appearance which it has hitherto made in the world, amidst a host of conflicting parties, each striving for the pre-eminence. In prosecuting this subject, we shall unavoidably be led to notice the various accounts of American revivals that have lately occupied so large a share of the attention of British Christians, and endeavour to arrive at something like an estimate of their value and importance, according to the standard of the New Testament-the only criterion given us for forming a correct judgment of the religion of Jesus Christ, since he left the earth.
Now, seeing that a great diversity of opinions are current among religious people in the present day, as to what we are to understand by the Kingdom of Christ—what are its constituent principles; and how it is to be known and distinguished by us from all counterfeits, it may be proper, in order to prevent misunderstandings, to state concisely the views which are entertained of it by the conductor of this journal. He is of opinion that there may be much display of religious fervour, great zeal in proselyting, and loud cries of “lo, here is Christ, and lo, there," where there is nothing of his kingdom to be traced.
By the Kingdom of Christ, then, in few words, he understands the reign of the Messiah over his redeemed people, called out of the world of the ungodly, and separated from them in all religious fellowship, and made willing subjects in the day of his power. This is that kingdom which it was foretold, in ancient prophecy, the God of heaven would set up, wherein all people, nations, and languages, should serve him, and which from a small beginning, after long depression and manifold conflicts, should at last prevail over all opposition, and fill the whole earth, Dan. ii. 35, 44; vii. 14, 27. It is that kingdom which, in the economy of redemption, the Father hath given to the Son, whom he hath constituted heir of all things, Ps. ii. 6–8; Matt. xi. 27; Luke xxii. 29; Heb. i. 2. Its foundation is laid in the sufferings, death, and resurrection of Christ, and it was conferred upon him as the reward of his deep humiliation and
obedience to the will of his heavenly Father, Iş. liii. 10–12; Phil. ii. S-12; Heb. i. 3-10; ii. 9, 10.
This kingdom, according to Christ's own good confession before Pontius Pilate, is not of this world; that is to say, it is essentially different from all worldly kingdoms, inasmuch as it is of heavenly origin and of a spiritual and heavenly nature. It respects men's eternal interests, and its power and influence are exerted over the mind and heart; for it consists in “ righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” It has not this present world for its ultimate object, aim, and end; but rather to deliver Christ's people from this present evil world, and save them from the ruin and destruction which awaits it. All its laws and institutions are of heavenly origin; for the wisdom of man has nothing to do with them, as must be manifest from this, among other considerations, that they all run counter to the maxims and spirit of worldly kingdoms. They enjoin disconformity to this world in all its favourite lusts; such as the love of sensual pleasures, of riches, and the pride of life. They enjoin the mortification of all those malignant tempers and dispositions which actuate worldly men; and they inculcate humility, meekness, gentleness, forgiveness of injuries, piety to God, and benevolence to men. The immunities, privileges, and honours of this kingdom, all correspond with its spiritual and heavenly nature: they are such as are adapted to make its subjects contented and happy in the midst of manifold trials and afflictions; for they consist in the pardon of sin, peace with God, the enjoyment of his favour, sanctification of the heart and holiness of life, the privilege of adoption into the family of God, and the promise of eternal life from the dead, with the everlasting heavenly inheritance beyond death and the grave. And finally, the real subjects of this kingdom are such and only such as are 6 of the truth,” or believe the gospel, and hear Christ's voice addressing them in the word of his grace, and so are led to give earnest heed to his doctrine, precepts, promises, and admonitions, yielding unreserved obedience to him as their Saviour and their King.
This kingdom was set up in the world, by the preaching of the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, of which we have an account in the second chapter of the Acts. Before our blessed Lord left the earth, he instructed his Apostles to tarry at Jerusalem until they received the gift of the Holy Spirit, which he would send unto them from the Father, which they accordingly did. And thus supernaturally endowed, we are told they preached the gospel with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. The most extraordinary success attended their ministry. Three thousand of the Jews, who had been concerned in the crucifixion of the Son of God, “gladly received” the apostolic testimony concerning the Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth, were baptised in his name, and added to the hundred and twenty disciples who had been previously gathered by the Saviour's personal ministry in the city of Jerusalem. Of them it is recorded, that they separated themselves from the unbelieving Jews, and "continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and prayers, praising God, and having favour with all the people,” Acts ii. 42–47. · Thus was the kingdom of Christ set up at the beginning, and established with all possible evidence, that it was “ not of this world.” The church at Jerusalem was organised under the inspection of the inspired Apostles, and after a model which the Saviour himself had prescribed hefore he left the earth, Acts i. 3. The laws that were delivered by the holy Apostles were regarded as of divine origin and authority, and they were held to be superior to all other laws. We ought,” say the servants of Jesus, " to obey God, rather than man.” What power appeared was the power of God, working in a miraculous manner and with supernatural efficacy. As the Apostles were faithful men, they taught the disciples to observe “all things whatsoever Christ had commanded them;" and the influence of divine authority and love was extraordinarily manifested in the disciples obeying the new commandment of their Lord, John xiii. 34; for when the exigence of circumstances required it, “ they who had possessions sold them, and distri. bution was made according as every man had need.”