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Method of Christian salvation; or What is the appropriate work, and what ... online

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od I "jHnt^AreL



le Bibinits Sdjool



BEQJ7EST OF

ENRY THAYER

SOR IN THE SCHCX)L



March 1902




dbyGoOg



^y /} a^^^y"^



.■ .i^^'< c'c



c / ' ' t ,'-/>/ ,



* Attention is especially invited to the views^ expressed in the
Introduction and in the Third Dissertation, which bear upon
the present call for a concentration of the efforts of the clergy
upon the single work of thorough expositions of the Scriptures
from the Pulpit.

Is it possible for the people, with all the aid which the Pro-
testant clergy will give them, to attain to such knowledge of
the Scriptures, as to receive their faith, and their impulse to
spiritual advancement and moral action, directly from them,
and not at second hand, from the clergy ?

Does not the very ideal of Protestantism require that the
faith and practice of each individual should, as far as possible,
result from the action and influence of the whole Gospel,
exerted — not mediately — but directly upon his own mind and
heart ? If the Gospel is to sanctify the " spirit of the age,"
instead of being corrupted by that spirit, must it not be so ?

How far are the usual ministrations of the clergy consistent
with this ideal ?



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METHOD



OF



CHRISTIAN SALTATION ;



OB



WHAT IS THE APPROPRIATE WORK,



AND



WHAT SHOULD BE THE ESPECIAL AIM,



OF



THE CHRISTIAN MINISTER ?



Being three Dissertations received in answer to the offer of a premitim

in the Congregationalist and the Chnstian Register of the 4th

and 5th of March, 1851» and two in answer to an offer on

the 7th December, 1850.



BOSTON:

PBINTED FOB THE PUBLISHERS.

1851.



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Prof. J, H. Thayer
Maroh 20, 1902.



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INTRODUCTION.

The three first Dissertations, published in this volume, were
written in aiMwer to an offer of a premium for " The Disser-
tation containing the mostfull^ perfect, and the best narration
jrf historical and other facts, bearing upon the follovnng ques*
tions,viz: So far as Christian Salvation is a change effected
in individuals, and may be known to them, and be, by them,
described to others, does the saving power of Christ eminently
attend upon a knowledge of His life, as it is revealed in His
manifestation, from His birth to His ascension 7 and, is it
reasonable to expect that the redeeming effect of this saving
power, will be proportioned to the faitlfulness, with which His
life is studied, and the perfectness with which it becomes known,
and is contemplated ?" It is believed that they point to an
extensive, and common field for effort, upon which Christians,
of every name, will unite.

The premium was offered, as was stated in the proposal, and
the Dissertations are now published, with reference to the em-
inently practical and important question, *•*• What is the

▲PFBOFBIATE WoKK, AND WHAT SHOULD BE THE ESPECIAL AIM,
OF THE ChBISTLAN MiNISTEB ?"

The Dissertations are published without the names of their
authors ; for the publishers choose to rely upon their intrinsic
merits to secure for them a favorable reception. They cer-
tainly do not agree with some of the theological views indicated
and expressed, and would not be held responsible for them.
But, if the perusal of these Dissertations shall prevent one



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Clergyman, of any denomination, from adding strength to the
prevailing scepticism, respecting the faith of the Clergy, by his
treatment of the Bible, as though it was but a collection of
topics, about which, sermons are to be delivered, which might
as well have been written if that Book had no relation to Chris-
tianity, or, even if that Book itself had never been transmitted
to us, then their publication will not be in vain. It will save
some congregation from the torture of listening to the theories,
the experience, or the moral wisdom, of the man who stands in
their pulpit, when, upon hearing the text, they have a right to
expect what assistance, he can give them, in attaining to a
more perfect knowledge of the records of the Evangelists, the
teachings of the Apostles, — the manifestation and the mind of
Christ. " Why," says Herder to such preachers, " Why do
you not rather descend at once from your pulpits, which are but
clumsy chairs of instruction ?" If morality was the main busi-
ness of the preacher, then he thought, one might preach from
Seneca and Epictetus, as well as from the Bible.

The manifestation of God, in Christ, communicated to men
holier emotions, and sublimer spiritual truths, than were possible
to them before His advent ; and, thus, endowed language with
a wealth of meaning, of which, before, it was incapable, and,
to the worthy knowledge of which, no one can now attain, but
by an intense study, a familiar knowledge, and a reverent con-
templation, of these manifestations.

It is objected that the records of these manifestations, — of
the life of Christ, — are but imperfect and fragmentary. But,
those, who have concentrated their attention upon the phenom-
ena and laws of animal life and developnient, have been
enabled, from the view of a few imperfect scales of an extinct
species of fish, or the fragment of a single bone of an un-
known quadruped, to learp their size, form, structure, and hatits
of life. Why may we not expect, that a like concentration of
attention upon the related facts, and upon the laws of spiritual
action, and development, may enable us, with the guidance of
those seemingly imperfect and fragmentary records, which, in
accordance with the Divine purposes, have been transmitted to
us, to attain unto a conscious knowledge of the life of Christ,
in the completeness of its Divine proportions ; thus satisfying
the deepest want of every Christian's heart, and heralding, and
hastening, the coming of the perfect kingdom of God in the
hearts of all ?



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The publishers indulge the hope, that these Dissertations may
strengthen, and make more practically efficient, the conviction,
that, to a worthy knowledge of the significance of each single
act and word of Jesus, all the recorded acts and words of His
life must be present to the mind, and be deeply studied ; that
His life, when thus studied, is a revelation of higher, holier,
and more saving truths, than, otherwise, it is possible for men
to know ; and, that the saving power of His life will be expe-
rienced, in its full energy, always, and only, by those, who, in
a childlike faith, shall avail themselves of all the aids within
their reach, and shall put forth their whole power, to attain to a
perfect knowledge of Him.

We trust that some of the Ministers of the Gospel may
be quickened in their purpose of striving to present, to the
minds and hearts of their people, so true a portraiture of Jesus,
— to enable them to gain such a knowledge of Him, who is
"The Way, The Truth, and The Life"— a knowledge, not of His
words, and outward acts, alone, but also, of what these revealed
to His disciples, and are adapted to convey to us, of His inte-
rior, — His intellectual and emotional. His Divine life, — as shall
inspire that loving faith, which will be sure to lead them to
strive for constantly increasing knowledge and clearer views of
Him, as more to be desired, than all other attainments ; until,
by virtue of that law of our spiritual being, by which, we are
surely assimilated to that which is excellent, in beings, having a
like nature to ours, whom we reverence and love, they shall
become one, in spirit, with Him, /and one with God ; — the only
way, in which, by the laws of God, inwrought with the consti-
tution of our nature, and according to His unchangeable pur-
pose, declared in His word, the saving power of the Gospel can
be experienced.

Th^e are increasing numbers, among all denominations, who
begin to be alive to the obvious truth, that to expect genuine,
and really Christian fruits, previous to a knowledge of the
Savior's life, is to look for effects, in the absence of their nec-
essary and sufficient cause ; and they are convinced, that all
religious movements, and all projects for social and moral re-
forms, which are not originated by that divine energy of the
Spirit of God in Christ, which inspires the records of His life,
and with which the hearts of men are especially inspired through
the study and knowledge of them, are essentially defective ; and,
that, without this energy, all instruction in formularies of doc-



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trine and articles of faith, all moral precepts, however eloquent^
ly urged, — all dissuasions from vice, and all exhortations to
virtue, — all hopes of Heaven, and all fears of retribution, —
must ever prove as ineffectual and vain, as did the speculations
and instructions of all heathen philosophers and moralists, and
all the precepts, persuasions, promises and threatenings, of the
Jewish law, — which, while they presented truths to the intellect,
exhorted to virtue, and commanded righteousness and holiness,
utterly failed to impart, to the hearts of men, any sufficient
spiritual and saving power.

It is confidently believed, that a purer and more profound
Christology, will cause the Clergy to rely less and less upon
their eflforts to promote the spiritual well-being of men, by
directly effecting changes in their external relations, condition,
or, even their outward moral conduct ; — that they will cease to
expect to free the spirits of men from their bondage to sin, by
striking the chains from their limbs, or to advance the purposes
of the mission of Christ, by means of any outward organiza*
tion, or any forms of earthly government or dominion, acting
upon men from without ; — kinds of dominion, which, in the
most perfect and beneficent forms, in which, after the forty
days of fasting in the wilderness, they could be presented, in
vision, or suggested, to the mind of Jesus, were rejected and
cast behind Him, as the suggestion of the Spirit of all evil.

The signs of the times seem most surely to indicate the
early dawning of that brighter day, when, instead of directing
thirsting men to cisterns built of earthly materials and erected
by human skill, which can furnish no sure or full supply, and
which must, in time, entirely fail, — the ministers of Christ,
who stand in every house of God, shall, at all times, with their
whole heart, put forth their whole power, to lead all men to that
divine and ever living fountain, in Him, which gushes fojrth,
for the ever seeking spirit, an ever refreshing and always abond*
ant supply.

The fourth and fifth Dissertations are two of the ten received
in answer to the offer of a premium on the 7th of December,
1850. Of the remaining eight, several may be published in
another volume. The offer was made, in the hope, that it
might be demonstrated, that there was no portion of the Evan-
gelical Narratives, to which the thoughts, acts, and words, of
Jesus of Nazareth, gave origin, which was not inexhaustibly
rich in materials for reflectioo and discourse.



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DISSERTATION.

To commend to the attention of those engaged in the
Christian ministry or preparing for its labors, the study and the
preaching of the Life of Jesits, is the design of these pages.
It is the belief of the writer that here is to be found the most
effectual means for elevating and purifying the character of the
individual, and for communicating to the instructions of the
Pulpit that fdrce and tenderness which are necessary to render
them effectual for the conversion of mankind. Not that theolo-
gy should be narrowed down to a single department, however
important that may be ; not that the student should cease to
investigate, or the herald of the cross to declare " the whole
counsel of God.'' We would but contribute this humble effort
to raise to more just estimation than it has yet received, that
great theme of reflection and of discourse, which is peculiarly
Christian, — the revelation which our Heavenly Father gave of
his own perfections, and of our duty, in the life of his Son.

The proposition to the proof and illustration of which our
labor will be directed, is the following, expressed nearly in the
words used by the proposer of the subject : —

" So far as Christian salvation is a change effected in indi-
viduals, and may be known to them, and be by them described
to others, the saving power of Christ does eminently attend
upon a knowledge of his life, as it is revealed in his manifesta-
tion from his birth to his ascension ; and it is reasonable to
expect that the redeeming effect of this saving power will be

B

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8

proportioned to the faithfulness with which his life is stodiecif
and the perfectness with which it becomes known and is con-*
templated."

The terras of this proposition render it unnecessary, as if
would be obviously inexpedient, to embarrass our argument by
connecting with it the discussion of any Controverted doctrine.
Nor will the candid disciple of any denomination deny that
salvation does to a great extent include " a change effected in
individuals," which " may be known to them< and be by them
described to others ;" a change of heart and life, a change of
feelings, purposes and conduct. It was early declared respect-*
ing Jesus, that he should " save his people from their sins." In
this prophetic announcement, we are aware, a pious Jew of
that generation would consider temporal deliverance strongly
implied. Men spoke not then, as many do among us, of the
calamities of a nation, as if calamity could come without
crime. They spoke of national sins, and sometimes included
under that name the punishment also^ But if temporal rescue
was understood as promised in this prediction, the idea of moral
renovation was not lost sight of. And when our Redeemer, by
his instructions^ and by the great events of his life and his
death, had manifested the spiritual nature of his religion, then
did there shine forth a wider and a holier meaning, hitherto
concealed, in the words " He shall save his people from their
sins." His people were not only Israel, but mankind ; nor
was his salvation to be a mere bringing back of the mass to the
comparative purity of their nation^s earlier days, so that with
purity, independence and glory might return. No. It was the
establishment of a holier law than Moses ever knew, — the
rescue of all who would accept that rescue from every form of
sin, — and the acquirement thereby, not of earthly conquest for
a nation, but of a place at the right hand of the throne of God
in heaven for every faithful follower of the Messiah.

We are not to be rescued from suffering alone* Our God



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did not condescend to reveal himself to mankind by miracle,
changing the course of nature, — he did not send tlie holiest of
his messengers, the Being honored with the name of his Son,
to die a death of agony, merely for the removal of an outward
penalty. To save from this was a part of his lioly purpose, but
not all. It was not the most important part. Sin is a greater
evil than punishment. To save from sin then is a more impor-
tant object than to save from punishment. It is so moreover,
because to a great extent, it includes the other. To reform th^^
guilty does not in itself indeed absolve him from the penalty
due to his past sins ; but it saves him from the suffering which
must have ensued from his continuance in guilt for the future.
Far better than forgiving sin, is it to prevent the necessity ot
forgiveness.

Nor is it possible to obtain divine pardon for the offences we
have already committed, without turning from them for the
future. Whatever view we take of the condition of forgive-
ness, repentance must be regarded as essential. We must be
saved from our sins themselves, before eternal justice can par-
don their past commission. Our forsaking them does not of
itself entitle us to pardon, but surely we cannot hope to be
forgiven, unless we forsake them.

To procure our pardon for the past alone, leaving us still
subject to those evil passions which would quickly plunge us in
new guilt, would therefore be to meet but a small portion of
our need, while it would yet be more than Divine justice could
allow. To procure by anticipation a pardon to the impenitent
for their future sins, would be to dethrone God's justice, and
withdrawing from us the restraint of fear, to leave us an un-
protected prey to the worst of evils, that of sin itself. We
cannot be saved unless we abandon sin.

This abandonment of sin includes a change of conduct, and
as the cause of this, a change of heart, or of spiritual disposi-
tion, feelings and purposes. In this change the general consent



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10

of Christians recognizes the influence of the Holy Spirit. But
that influence, it is also generally admitted, accompanies and
aids the use of the appropriate means. Were it otherwise, it
would be miraculous, and would supercede all human effort. —
The Spirit does not win to Christ the souls of those to whom the
Gospel has not been preached ; but it accompanies the preach-
ing of the word, and renders the people willing in the day of
God's power. While then we fully admit the agency of the
Spirit. to change the heart of the sinner, we are obliged, gen-
erally, to act as if his rescue depended on our own efforts
alone. Thus at present, we examine what views it is most
expedient to present in order to gain the hearts of men to the
truth and to the love of Christ, knowing that though the sove-
reign power of God could work by any means or without any,
it is his will to work most effectually by such as are by us most
judiciously chosen, and most faithfully employed.

There are various motives presented to us in the Scriptures,
by which, with the Divine blessing upon them, the erring may
be influenced to the abandonment of their sins. The instruc-
tions and the warnings of God's ancient law, the precepts of
the Apostles, and still more those of Jesus himself, may and
must be urged. The fear of Divine displeasure and of its
awful consequences may warn, and the love of our Heavenly
Benefactor may encourage, —

" The violated Law speaks forth
Its thunders, and in strains as soft
As Angels use, the Gospel whispers peace.'*

Among all these means of salvation we claim a place of
eminence for the contemplation of our Kedeemer's life. If
the sinner can be brought to direct his gaze to this, he perceives
the strong contrast between his own fallen state and the beauty
of a perfect character. Often, in witnessing the wrong con-
duct of men, the thoughtful mind is impressed with the idea
that they know not the real character of their own actions ;
they know not what they are doing. You hear the voice of



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11

continual strife m a family circle, and yet the members of that
circle appear all unconscious how painful is the spectacle which
they exhibit. You behold a man enriching himself by a hun-
dred petty and ignoble tricks, and yet he thinks himself an
honorable man. We are blind to the moral character of our
own actions. Now there Is nothing which removes that blind-
ness more readiiy> than to have a higher example presented in
strong contrast to oUr own practice^ Let a member of that
wrangling family circle go into one which exhibits the constant
influence of domestic loVO, and his eyes are opened to the un-
loveliness of his ownv Let that fraudulent dealer be brought
into intimate contact with men of real honor, and as he per-
ceives how different is their conduct from what his own has
been, he feels a shame that he had never felt before. Thus it
is that the great example, the life of Christ, by showing us the
beauty of holiness, manifests the evil of siuv In proportion
then, as that life is studied, it is likely to exert a saving influ-
ence over us. It requires to be studied, for though some of its
lessons are so plain that he who runs may read, yet there are
blended in it such peculiarities, resulting from the customs of
the age, the individual circumstances and especially the high
office of our Lord, that it is necessary to allow for all these in
our consideration, in order that we may have the intrinsic
beauty of our Savior's character, in a clear and imitable form
before us. We are to resemble Christ, not in going round from
place to place, — not in instructing crowds, not even in spending
nights in prayer, — but in meekness, firmness, faith and love, —
in seeking the good of others rather than our own, subjecting
our own will to the will of our Maker, using worldly power or
wealth if we possess it, as he used hw unearthly endowments,
not for the gratification of vanity or pride, but for purposes of
usefulness or of piety, — bearing opposition with meekness, and
wrong with forgiveness, sorrow with submission, and death with
trustful resignation. If thus his example enables us to act, d:



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12

will save us from sin here, and, at least so far, from the conse*
quences which must follow sin, both here and hereafter.

Nor in speaking of the saving influence of the contempla*
tion of our Redeemer's life, must it be forgotten, that the
events accompanying his death are included in this expression.
They possess indeed a power over the heart, peculiar to them-
selves. Our Lord said, referring we are told, to the nature of
the death he was to undergo, " And I, if I be lifted up from the
earth, will draw all men unto me." The observation, had it
come from uninspired lips, would still have been recognized as


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Online Library2d sess. U. S. 56th Cong.Method of Christian salvation; or What is the appropriate work, and what ... → online text (page 1 of 8)