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of God, which is so essential to a growth in that knowledge of God
and of Jesus Christ, which constitutes the most striking attribute in
Christian character. We thus reason from the proficiency which is
discoverable in the bounds of our acquaintance, which is large enough
to afford data for very general conclusions.

To read the Scriptures for the sake of carrying out into practice
all that we learn, and to read them for the sake of knowing what is
written, are very different objects, and will produce very different
results. Their influence on the temper and behaviour, in the former
case, will ver>' soon become manifest to all with whom we associate;
while in the latter case, there is no visible improvement. David said
that he "hid the word of God in his heart," or laid it up in his mind,
"that he might not sin against God;" and that he had "more under
standing than all his teachers, because God's testimonies were his
meditation." It will be admitted that the sacred writings of the Apos-
tles and Evangelists of Jesus Christ ought to be as precious and as
delightful to the Christian as were the ancient oracles to the most
pious Jew. Now as an example of what we mean by a private devo-
tional reading and study of the oracles of Christ, we shall permit a
Jew to tell his experience —

"The law of my mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and
silver. With my whole heart have I sought thee; my soul breaketh
for the longing that it has to thy judgments at all times. Thy testi-
monies are my delight and my counsellors. Teach me, Lord, th'^
way of thy statutes, and I will keep it to the end. Give me under-
standing, and I will keep thy law; yes, I will observe it with my
whole heart. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments, for
In it do I delight. Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of
my pilgrimage. At midnight I will rise to give thanks to thee,
because of thy righteous judgments. O how I love thy law; it is
my meditation all the dayl How sweet are thy words to my taste;
sweeter than honey to my mouth! Thy testimonies have I taken
as an heritage forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart. Great
peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall cause them to

These are only a few extracts from one piece, written by a king
throe thoui-and years ago. On ar.other occasion he pronounced the fol-
lowing encomium on the testimony of God: —


"The law [doctrine] of the Lord is perfect, converting [restoring]
the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple:
the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the command-
ment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the
Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true
and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea,
than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and the honey-comb.
By them is thy servant warned, and in keeping of them there is a
great reward."

This fully reveals all that we mean by a devotional private study
of the Holy Scriptures. Every Christian who can read, may every day
thus refresh, strengthen, and comfort his heart, by reading or com-
mitting to memory, and afterwards reflecting upon some portion of
the book. He may carry in his pocket the blessed volume, and many
a time through the day take a peep into it. This will preserve him
from temptation, impart courage to his heart, give fluency to his tongue,
and the graces of Christianity to his life.

In this age, when ignorance of the Christian Scriptures is so
characteristic, and the rage for human opinions and traditions so
rampant, it is a duty doubly imperative on our brethren, to give
themselves much more to the study of the book, and then one of
them will put a host of the aliens to flight; and, what is still more desir-
able, he will have communion with God all the day, and ever rejoice
in his salvation.

In the second place, there is wanting amongst disciples who are
heads of families, more attention, much more effort, to bring up their
children "in the correction and instruction of the Lord." The chil-
dren of all disciples should be taught the oracles of God from the
first dawning of reason. The good seed should be sown in their
hearts before the strong seeds of vice can take root. From a child
Timothy knew the Holy Scriptures, and they were able to make him
wise to salvation, through the Christian faith. How many more
Timothys might we have, if we had a few more of the daughters of
Lois, and a few more mothers like Eunice! Most saints, in this
generation, appear more zealous that their children should shine on
earth, than in heaven — and that they may be rich here, at the hazard
of eternal bankruptcy. They labor to make them rich and genteel,
rather than pure and holy; and spend more time in fashioning them
to the foolish and wicked taste of polished society, than in teaching
them by precept and example the word that is better than gold, and
more precious than rubies. Well, they sow darnel, and can not reap
wheat. They may have a mournful harvest, and years of bitterness
and sorrow may reward them for their negligence and error. If only
a tithe of the time, and the labor, and expense that it costs to fit a


son or a daughter to shine in the middle or front ranks cf genteel
society, were spent in teaching them to fear God and keep his com-
mandments, how many more virtuous, solid and useful citizens — how
many more valuable members of the family of Cod — how many more
faithful and able witnesses for the truth of God, would be found in
all corners of the land!

Every Christian family ought to be a nursery for God. Their
offspring should be trained for the skies. For such are the promisea
of God, such are the facts on record, and such is the experience of
Christians, that every parent who does his duty to his children, may
expect to see them inherit the blessing. Their didactic labors, aided
by their example and their constant prayers, will seldom or never
fail of success in influencing their descendants to walk in their ways
The very command to bring up their children in the Lord, implies
its practicability. And both Testaments furnish us with all adsuranc-:*
that such labors will not be in vain. That men of high renown in
sacred history, were generally the sons of such a parentage. The
sons of God were found among the sons of Seth, while the daughters
of men were of the progeny of Cain. Abraham was the descendant
of Shem; Moses and Aaron were the sons of believing parents;
Samuel was the son of Hannah, and David was the son of Jesse.
John the Harbinger was the son of Zechariah and Elizal)eth; and
it pleased the heavenly Father, that his Son should be the child of
a pious virgin.

But it is under Christ that the faithful are furnished with all
the necessary means of bringing up their offspring for the Lord.
The numerous failures which we witness, are to be traced either to
great neglect, or to some fatal notion which paralyzes all effort; for
some think that the salvation or damnation of their offspring was
a matter settled from all eternity, irrespective of any agency on
their part: that some are born "vessels of wrath," and others "ves-
sels of mercy;" and hence the instructions, examples and prayers
of parents, are of no avail. Among the descendants of such, it will
no doubt often happen that some become vessels of wrath fitted for
destruction, while others become vessels of mercy, predestined to

When God gave a revelation to Jacob, and commanded a law to
Israel, he gave it in charge that they "should teach it to their chil-
dren, that they might put their trust in Qod, and might not be,
like their fathers, a rebellious race." The Apostles of Christ have
also taught the Christians the same lesson. This is our guide,
and not our own reasonings. Now let the disciples make this their
business, morning, noon, and evening, and then we shall see the


We are sorry to see this great duty, to which nature, reason, reve-
lation alike direct, so much neglected by many of our brethren; to
find amongst their children those who are no better acquainted with
the Scriptures than the children of their neighbors who believe in
miraculous conversions, or think it is a sin to attempt what they im-
agine to be the work of God alone — never suspecting that God works
by human means, and employs human agency in his works of provi-
dence and redemption.

I never knew but a very few families that made it thair daily
business to train up their children in the knowledge of the Holy
Scriptures, to cause them every day to commit to memory a portion
of the living oracles; but these few instances authorize me to think,
and to say, that such a course persisted in, and sustained by the
good example of parents, will very generally, if not universally, issue
in the salvation of their children. And before any one says,
I have found an exception to the proverb of Solomon which says
"train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he
will not depart from it" — let him show that this child was trained up
"w the way he should go."

In the third place, there is wanting among many disciples a
stricter regard to relative duties — we mean, not only the dues which
justice, truth, and moderation claim, but all relative duties. So long
as Christians live after the manner of men in the flesh, according
to the fashion of this world, they must, like other men, contract
debts which they can not promptly pay, make covenants and bar-
gains, give promises which they can not fulfil, and stake pledges
which they are unable to redeem. All this is wholly incompatible
with our profession. Such were not the primitive disciples. Sceptics
of every name, men of the world, who have ever read the New Tes-
tament, know that such behaviour is utterly incompatible with the
letter and spirit of Christianity. A Christian's word or promise
ought to be, and is, if Christ be honored, as solemn and as obliga-
tory as any bond. And as for breach of bargain or covenant, even
where it is greatly or wholly to the disadvantage of the Christian,
it is not even to be thought of — "he changes not, though to his hurt
he covenants." How much has the gospel lost of its infiuence, be-
cause of the faithlessness of its professors! O when shall it be again
said of Christians in general, that "they bind themselves as with a
solemn oath, not to commit any kind of wickedness — to be guilty
neither of theft, robbery, nor adultery — never to break a promise,
or to keep back a deposit when called upon." Pliny writes to the
Emperor Trajan that such was the character of Christians A. D.
106-7, as far as he could learn it from those who were not Chris
tians. Were all the common (nowadays rather uncommon) virtues


of justice, truth, fidelity, honesty, practised by all Christians, how
many mouths would be stopped, and how many new arguments in
favor of Jesus Christ could all parties find! But even were the33
common virtues as general as the Christian profession, there are the
other finer virtues of benevolence, goodness, mercy, sympathy, which
belong to the profession, expressed in taking care of the sick, the
orphan, the widow — in alleviating all the afflictions of our fellow-
creatures. Add these virtues, or graces, as we sometimes call them,
to the others, and then how irresistible the argument for the divine
authenticity of the gospel! Let industry, frugality, temperance,
honesty, justice, truth, fidelity, humility, mercy, sympathy, appear
conspicuous in the lives of the disciples, and the contrast between
them and other professors will plead their cause more successfully
than a hundred preachers.

In the last place, there is wanting a more elevated piety to bring
up the Christian character to the standard of primitive times. We
want not fine speeches nor eloquent orations on the excellencies of
Christian piety and devotion. These are generally acknowledged.
But we need to be roused from our supineness, from our worldly-
mindedness, from our sinful conformities to an apostate generation,
to the exhibition of that holiness in speech, in behaviour, without
which no one shall see the Lord. What mean the numerous exhor-
tations of the Apostles to watchfulness and prayer, if these are not
essential to our devotion to God and consecration to his service?

If our affections are not placed on things above, we are unfit for
the kingdom of glory. To see the folly of a profession of Christianity
without the power of godliness, we have only to put the question. How
is that person fit for the enjoyment of God and Christ, whose heart
is filled with the cares, anxieties, and conc?rns of this life — whos.>
v.hole life is a life of labor and care for the body — a life of devotion
to the objects of time and sense? No man can serve God and Mammon.
Where the treasure is the heart must also be. Thither the affections
turn their course. There is no room for the residence of the Spirit
of God in a mind devoted to the affairs of this life. The spirit of
the policies of this w'orld and the Spirit of God can not dwell in the
same heart. If Jesus or his Apostles taught any on;? doctrine clearly,
fully, and unequivocally, it is this doctrine, that "the cares of thi?:
world, the lu?ts of other things, and the deceitfulness of riches, stifio
the word and render it unfruitful."

If any ono would enjoy the power of godliness, lie must give up
his whole soul to it. The business of this life will b-^ performed relig-
iously as a duty subordinate to the will of God. While his hands
are engaged in that business which his own wants, or those of his
household make necessary, his affections are above. He delights in


God, and communes with, him all the day. A Christian is not one
who is pious by fits and starts, who is religious or devout on one
day of the week, or for one hour of the day. It is the whole bent of
his soul — it is the beginning, middle, and end of every day. To make
his calling and election sure is the business of his life. His mind
rests only in God. He places the Lord always before him. This is
his joy and his delight. He would not for the world have it other-
wise. He would not enjoy eternal life, if he had it at his option,
in any other way than that which God himself has proposed. He
accedes to God's arrangements, not of necessity, but of choice. His
religious services are perfect freedom. He is free indeed. The Lord's
commandments are not grievous, but joyful. The yoke of Christ is to
him easy and his burthen light. He will sing with David —

The love that to thy laws I bear,

No language can display;
They with fresh wonders entertain

My ravish'd thoughts all day.

The law that from thy mouth proceeds

Of more esteem I hold
Than untoucli'd mines, than thousand mines

Of silver and of gold.

Whilst in the way of thy commands,

More solid joy I found,
Tlian had I been with vast increase

Of envy'd riches crown'd.

Thy testimonies I have kept,

And constantly obey'd;
Because the love I bore to them

Thy service easy made.

In the same ratio as Christians devoutly study the oracles of God,
teach them to their children, practice all relative duties to soci-
ety at large, and rise to a more elevated piety, they will increase
their influence in the great and heavenly work of regenerating the

A few remarks on the things wanting in the order of Christian
assemblies, to 'give to their public meetings that influence on them-
selves and on society at large, will finish this section of our essay.

Our heavenly Father wills our happiness in all his institutions.
His ordinances are, therefore, the surest, the simplest, and the most
direct means of promoting our happiness. The Lord Jesus gave him-
self for the church that he might purify and bless it; and, therefore,
in the church are all the institutions which can promote the individual
and social good of the Christian community. In attending upon thesa
institutions on the Lord's day, much depends upon the preparation of
heart of all who unite in commemorating the death and resurrection
of the Son of God.


In adverting to the most Scriptural and rational manner of cele-
brating or observing the day to the Lord, and for our own comfort and
the regeneration of the world, we would first of all remark, that much
depends upon the frame of mind, or preparation of heart, in which we
visit the assemblies of the saints.

Suppose two persons, A and B, if you please, members of the samo
church, taking their seats together at the Lord's table. A, from the
time he opened his eyes in the morning, was filled with the recollec-
tions of the Saviour's life, death, and resurrection. In his closet, in
his family, and along the way he was meditating or conversing on the
•wonders of redemption, and renewing his recollections of the sayings
and doings of the Messiah. B, on the other hand, arose as on other
days, and finding himself free from all obligations arising from the
holiness of time, talks about the common affairs of every day, and
allows his thoughts to roam over the business of the last week, or,
perhaps, to project the business of the next. If he meet with a neigh-
bor, friend, or brother, the news of the day is inquired after, expa-
tiated upon, discussed; the crops, the markets, the public health, or
the weather — the affairs of Europe, or the doings of Congress, or the
prospects of some candidate for political honor, become the theme of
conversation. As he rides or walks to the church, he chats upon all
or any of these topics, till he enter the door of the meeting-house.
Now as A and B enter the house in very different states of mind, may
it not be supposed that they will differ as much in their enjoyments
ap in their morning thoughts? Or can B, by a single effort, unburthen
his mind, call in the wanderings of his thoughts, and in a moment
transport himself from the contemplation of things on earth to things
in heaven? If this can be imagined, then meditation and preparation
of heart are wholly unnecessary to the acceptable worship of God, and
to the comfortable enjoyment of his institutions.

But is it compatible with experience, or is it accordant to reason
that B can delight in God, and rejoice in commemorating the wonders
of his redemption, while his thoughts are dissipated upon the moun-
tains of a thousand vanities? — while, like a fool's eyes, his thoughts
are roaming to the ends of the earth! Can he say, with a pious Jew,
"How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs
— yes, even faints, for the courts of the Lord! ^ly heart and my flesh
cry out for the living God. Happy they who dwell in thy house; they
will be still praising thee! A day in thy courts is better than a thou-
sand. I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God than to
dwell in the tents of wickedness." "One thing have I desired of the
Lord, and that I will seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the
Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and
to inquire in his temple. send out thy light and thy truth! Le;


them lead me, let them bring me to thy holy hill and to thy taber-
nacles. Then will I go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy;
yes, I will praise thee, God, my God!"

Or had the Jew a sublimer worship, more exalted views of God's
salvation, and more piety than a Christian? Or were the ordinances
of the Jewish sanctuary more entertaining and refreshing than the
ordinances of the Christian church? This will not be alleged; con-
sequently, B, and all of that school, are utterly at fault when they
approach the house of God in such a state of mind as they approach
the market place, the forum, or the common resorts of this present

Christians need not say in excuse for themselves, that all days
are alike, that all places and times are alike holy, and that they ought
tc be in the best frame of mind all the time. For even concede them
all their own positions, they will not contend that a man ought to
speak to God, or to come into the presence of God, as they approach
men. They will not say that they ought to have the same thoughts
and feelings in approaching the Lord's table, as in approaching a
common table; or on entering a court of political justice, as in coming
into the house of God. There is, in the words of Solomon the Wise, a
season and time for every object and for every work: — There is the
Lord's day, the Lord's table, the Lord's house, and the Lord's people;
and there are thoughts, and frames of mind, and behaviour compatible
and incompatible with all these.

In the public assembly the whole order of worship ought to do
justice to what is passing in the minds of all the worshippers. That
joy in the Lord, that peace and serenity of mind, that affection for
the brethren, that reverence for the institutions of God's house, which
all feel, should be manifest in all the business of the day. Nothing
that would do injustice to all or any of these, ought ever to appear in
the congregation of Jesus Christ our Lord. No levity, irreverence, no
gloom, no sadness, no pride, no unkindness, no severity of behaviour
towards any, no coldness, nothing but love, and peace, and joy, and
humility, and reverence should appear in the face, in the word, or
action of any disciple.

These are not little matters. They all exert a salutary influence
on the brethren and the strangers. These are visible and sensible
displays of the temper and spirit of Christians; and if Paul thought it
expedient to write of veils and long hair when admonishing a church,
"to do all things decently and in order," we, in this day of degen-
eracy, may be allowed to notice matters and things as minute as those
before us.

We intend not now to go into the details of church order or Chris-
tian discipline, nor to expatiate on the necessity of devoting a part of


the lime to singing, praying, reading, teaching, exhorting, commemo-
rating, loniniunicating; nor on how much of this or that is expedient.
Times and circumstances must decide how much time shall be taken
up in these exercises, and when it shall be most fitting to meet, to
adjourn, etc. Nor is it necessary now to say, that there must be
simply order, and presidency, and proper discipline, and due subordi-
nation to one another in the fear of God. We now speak rather of
the manner in which all things are to be done, than of the things
themselves, their necessity or value.

After noticing what in some instances appears to be wanting in
the manner of coming together on the Lord's day, we proceed to
notice in order the things wanting in many congregations for the
purposes already specified.

And first of all, be it observed, that in some churches there appears
to be wanting a proper method of handling the Scriptures to the edifi-
cation of the brethren. It is admitted by all the holy brethren that
the Scriptures of truth, called the living oracles, are the great instru-
ment of Cod for all his'purposes in the saints on earth. Through them
they are converted to God, comforted, consecrated, made meet for an
inheritance among the sanctified, and qualified for every good word
and work. Every thing, then, depends upon the proper understanding
of these volumes of inspiration. They can only operate as far as they
are understood.

The system of sermonizing on a text is now almost universally
abandoned by all who intend that their hearers should understand
the testimony of God. Orators and exhorters may select a word, a
phrase, or a verse; but all who feed the flock of God with knowledge
and understanding, know that this method is wholly absurd. Philo-
logical lectures upon a chapter are only a little better. The discussion
of any particular topic, such as faith, repentance, election, the Chris-
tian calling, may sometimes be expedient; but in a congregation of
Christians the reading and examining the different books in regular
succession, every disciple having the volume in his hand, following
up the connection of things, examining parallel passages, interrogating
and being interrogated, fixing the meaning of particular words and
phrases by comparison with the style of that writer or speaker, or
with that of others; intermingling these exercises with prayer and

Online LibraryAlexander CampbellThe Millennial Harbinger abridged (Volume 1) → online text (page 56 of 70)