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Very considerable controversies have been agitated respecting the manner in which unconverted sinners should be addressed in the gospel ministry. And though this is most certainly a very important article, yet there is a great want of unanimity of sentiment respecting it. Perhaps injudicious views of several Calvinistic doctrines have had an unhappy influence upon the minds of some. It must be owned there are char. acters in the ministry, and such as are zealous for the leading truths of the gospel, who in the pulpit have little or nothing to say in a way of direct address to the unconverted part of their auditory. Nay, some go so far as to contend that this is no part of their work. How such can reconcile their creed with the example of Christ, the commission he gave to his disciples, and the practice of the apostles, to say nothing of the conduct of the prophets of old, it is not our province to de termine. While that text, “ Go preach the gospel to every creature," stands in our bibles, we must beg leave to think and act very differently.
It is readily owned, that the discourses before us do not immediately handle this subject : yet they discuss a question most intimately connected with it. In the introduction, after remarking the impotence and helplessness of men in themselves, and their entire dependance upon divine grace for salvation, the preacher observes, that "there is a difficulty in the minds of many, how to reconcile this total helplessness of sinners with the sincerity of the gospel call, or with the justice of men's being condemned and punished for their impenitence and unbelief.” Several ways in which some have endeavoured to solve the difficulty are pointed out, and their insufficiency shown. He then adds, “ After what has been said, I think there is no way of attempt ing to clear up this mystery left, but by showing that
there are two essentially different senses, in which men are said to be incapable of doing things." He farther explains his idea, by saying, “ The one consists only in the want of a heart, or disposition, or will to do a thing : while the other consists in, or arises from want of understanding, bodily strength, opportunity. or whatever may prevent our doing a thing when we are willing, and strong enough disposed and inclined to do it." To these he applies the terms of natural and moral inability. To state and illustrate this distinction; to show that men certainly labour under one, or the other of these kinds of inability to comply with the gospel, until they are made the subjects of effectual divine grace, more particularly to consider and evince the moral impotence of sinners, and endeavour to make it appear, that there is ordinarily no other incapacity in sinners, to comply with the gospel, but that which is of the moral kind, employ the preacher through two long
At the close, several important inferences are drawn, and, among other matters, the manner in which a ministerial address to the unconverted should be conducted, is introduced
These sermons are evidently the result of close thought, and contain much strong reasoning. The subject is interesting, and the manner in which it is treated is serious. Several marginal notes are added by the author; one especially, upon the nature of true love to God, which begins on the 28th page, we beg leave to recommend to the most serious attention of the reader"
Of the Sermons and Essays, which are designed to illustrate the doctrine of the atonement, it is expected also, that every reader should judge for himself The subject is evidently of the first importance. « The sufferings of Christ for sin," says a late writer, “char
acterize the gospel scheme, and distinguish it from all others. The atonement made by them, adds to the christian religion its chief superiority, and lays the only foundation of hope for all who have just views of the divine law, and the moral state of man. All the doctrines of the gospel will derive their peculiar complexion from the manner in which the doctrine of atonement is explained. A mistake here will be peculiarly injurious, and will infallibly lead into error in every part of divinity. Atonement is the great sun in the centre of the system. Blot it out, and you are lost forever. Not a ray from any other quarter will dart through the gloomy prison of sin, to cheer its disconsolate inhabitants, to disenthral them from their chains, and enlighten their path to freedom and glory."
Correct views of the atonement shed light, consistency, harmony and beauty divinely charming over the other doctrines of the gospel.
However interesting the subject, it is one on which those are not perfectly united, whose piety is ape parently unquestionable. In the Discourses and Essays on this subject, the writers have occasionally exhibited a small diversity of sentiment. This must generally have arisen from the different errors, which they designed to expose, and which were more particularly contemplated, in their respective arguments, and illustrations. While they have presented no es. sential difference of sentiment, they have honestly and faithfully declared to others, what they believed to be thé « truth as it is in Jesus.”
May the blessing of God accompany His truth, that it may be a savour of life unto many souls; and to Him shall be all the glory forever.