John L Smith.

The Christian library : a reprint of popular religious works (Volume 6) online

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tihtaxy of t:he t:heological ^tminary


John M. Krebs

BR 45 .CAA V.6

The Christian library






Rev. Jonathan Going, of the Baptist Church,
Rev. J. F. Schroeder, of the Protestant Episcopal Church,
Rev. J. M. Krebs, of the Presbyterian Church.





























" Truth and Love are two of the most powerful things in the world ; and when they both go toge-
ther, they cannot easily be withstood. The golden beams of Truth, and the silken cords of Love,
twisted together, will draw men on with a sweet violence, whether they will or no." — Cudwortk.




A WORK which ihe author published a few years
since, on the Duties of Church Members, concludes
with the following sentence:— " Let us remember,
that niTNUMTY and love are the neces. - ary fruits of
our doctrines, the highest beauty of our character,
and the guardian angels of our churches." To
prove and elucidate this sentiment, and to state at
greater length than it was possible for him to do in
that treatise, the nature, operations, and importance
of CHARITT ; he was induced to enter upon a series
of Discourses on the chapter which is the subject
of this volume: these Discourses were heard with
much attention, and apparent interest. Before they
were finished, many requests were presented for
their publication ; a promise was given to that ef-
fect, and the intention announced to the public. On
a further inspection of his notes, the author saw so
little that was either novel, or on any account
worthy to meet the public eye, that he had for two
years quite abandoned his intention of printing.
Circumstances which need not be mentioned, toge-
ther with frequent inquiries from his friends after
the forthcoming treatise, drew his attention again
to the subject a ffw months since, and revived the
original purpose of .sending from the press the sub-
stance of these plain and practical Discourses.
That intention is now executed ; with what results,
the sovereign grace of J hovah, to which it is hum-
bly commended, must t termine.

The author offers nis volume primarily and
chiefly to his own frie .ds, to whom it is dedicated.
He has, however, by publishing it, placed il within
the reach of the pu'lic, though he can tri'ly say,
that he does not expect much interest to be produced
by his work, in the minds of many, beyond those
■who are prepared, by friendship, to value it above

: its intrinsic merits. One thing is certain, the sub-
I ject is confessedly important, and it is as plain as it
1 is important. It requires little argument to explain
or to defend it; and as for eloquence to recommend
and enforce it, the only power that can render it ef-
fectual for practical benefit, is the demonstration of
the Spirit : without this aid, a giant in literature
could do nothing, and the feeblest effort, by such as-
sistance, may be successful. Too much has not
been said, and cannot be said, about the doctrines
of the gospel ; but too little may be said, and too
little is said and thought, about its spirit. To con-
tribute something towards supplying this deficiency
in the treasures of the temple, the author offers this
small volume; and though it be but as the widow'.";
two mites, yet, as it is all he has to give, as it is
given %villingly, and with a desire to glorify God,
he humbly hopes that however it may be despised
by those, who he rejoices to know, are so much
richer than himself in intellectual and moral afflu-
ence, it will not be rejected by him, who more re-
gards the motive than the amount of every offering
that is carried to his altar.

The author can easily suppose, that among many
other faults which the scrutinizing eye of criticism
M'lll discover in his work, and which its stern
voice will condemn, one is the tautologies, of which,
in some places, it appears to he guilty. In answer
to this, he can only remark, that in the discussion
of such a subject, where the parts are divided by
such almost imperceptible lines, and softened down
so much into each other, he found it very difficult
to avoid this repetition, which, after all, is perhaps
not always a fault — at least not a capital one.

Edgbaston, April 22, 182S.




The credibility of the Gospel, as a revelation from
heaven, was attested by miracles, as had been pre-
dicted by the prophet Joel. " And it shall come to
pass afterwards, that I will pour out my Spirit upon
all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall
prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your
young men shall see visions ; and also upon the
servants and the handmaidens in those days, I will
pour out my Spiiit." This prophecy began to re-
ceive its accomplishment when our Lord entered
upon his public ministry, — but was yet more re-
markably fulfilled, according to the testimony of
Peter, on the day of Pentecost, when the disciples
" were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to
speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them
utterance;" and still continued to be fulfilled till the
power of working miracles was withdrawn from the
Church. Our Lord Jesus Christ ceased not, dur-
ing his continuance on earth, to prove, by these
splendid achievements, the truth of his claims as
the Son of God; and constantly appeal to them in
his controversy with the Jews, as the reasons and
the grounds of faith in his communications. By
him the power of working miracles was conferred
on his apostles, who, in the exercise of this extraor-
dinary gift, cast out demons, and " healed all man-
ner of sickness, and all manner of disease." Christ { would be succeeded by another, who, in the exer-
also assured them that, under the dispensation of the] cise of the gift of knowledge, would explain the
Spirit, which was to commence after his decease, j mysteries of truth, concealed under the symbols of
their miraculous powers should be so much en- the Jewish dispensation; — where one, known per-
larged and multiplied, as to exceed those which had I haps to be illiterate, would rise, and in a language

twelfth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinth-
ians. "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the
same Spirit. And there are differences of admm-
istration, but the same Lord. And there are diver-
sities of operations, but it is the same God which
worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the
Spirit is given to every man to profit withal : for to
one is given by the Spirit, the word of wisdom ; to
another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit ;
to another, faith by the same Spirit ; to another the
working of miracles; to another prophecy; to ano-
ther discerning of Spirits ; to another divers tongues:
to another the interpretation of tongues."

It is not necessary that we should here explain
the nature, and trace the distinction, of these en-
dowments — a task which has been acknowledged
by all expositors to be difficult, and which is
thought by some to be impossible. But vague and
general as is the idea of them which we possess, we
can form some conception of the strange and novel
spectacle presented by a society in which they were
in full operation. They constituted the light which
fell from heaven upon the Church, and to which
she appealed, as the proofs of her divine origin. It
is not easy for us to conceive of any thing so strik-
ing and impressive, as a community of men tlius re-
markably endowed. "We may entertain a general,
though not an adequate, idea of the spiritual glory
which shone upon an assembly, where one mf mber
would pour forth, in strains of inspired eloquence,
the profoundest views of the divine economy, anci

been exercised by himself This took place on the
day of Pentecost, when the ability to speak all lan-
guages without previous study was conferred upon
them. The apostles, as the ambassadors and mes-
sengers of their risen Lord, were authorized and
enabled to invest others with the high distinction ;
for, to confer the power of working miracles, was a
prerogative confined to the apostolic office. This is
evident from many parts of the New Testament. —
But while apostles only could communicate this
power, any one, not excepting the most obscure and
illiterate member of the churches, could receive it;
as it was not confined to Church officers, whether
ordinary or extraordinary. It is probable that these
gifts were sometimes distributed among all the ori-
ginal members of a church : as the .society increased,
they were confined to a more limited number, and
granted only to such as were more eminent among
the brethren, till at length they were probably confin-
ed to the elders; thus being as gradually withdrawn
from the Church as they had been communicated.

These miraculous powers were of various kinds,
which are enumerated at length in the epistle to the
Romans. " Having then gifts, differing according
to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy,
let us prophesy according to the proportion (ana-
logy) of faith ; or ministry, let us wait on our mi-
nistering : or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he
that exhorteth, on exhortation ; or he that giveth,
let him do it with simplicity ; he that ruleth, with
diligence ; he that showeth mercy, with cheerful-
ness." They are set forth still more at length, m the i " What is it, wherein ye w«,ie inferior to other

which he had never studied, descant, without hesi-
tation and without embarrassment, on the sublime-
est topics of revealed truth ; and would be followed
by another, who, in the capacity of an interpreter,
would render into the vernacular tongue all that
had been spoken ; where one would heal the most
inveterate diseases of the body with a word, and
another discern by a glance the secrets of the mind,
and disclose the hypocrisy which lurked under the
veil of the most specious exterior. What seeming
confusion, and yet what real grandeur, must have
attended such a scene'! What were the disputa-
tions of the schools, the eloquence of the forum, or
the martial pomp, the accumulating wealth, the
literary renown of the Augustan age of the Roman
Empire to this extraordinary spectacle'? Yea,
what was the gorgeous .splendor of the temple of
Solomon, in the zenith of its beauty, compared with
this"? Here were the tokens and displays of a pre-
sent though invisible Deity ; a glorv altogether un-
earthly and inimitable, and on tfiat account the
more remarkable.

For the possession and exercise of these gifts, the
Church at Corinth was eminently distinguished. —
This is evident from the testimony of Paul, — " I
thank mv God always on your behalf, for the grace
of God which is given you by Christ Jesus; that in
every thing ye are enriched by him in all utterance,
and in all knowledge ; e;^en" as the testimony of
Christ was confirmed in you : so that ye come be-
hind in no gift:" and in another place he asks them


Churches'!" It is, indeed, both a humiliating and
an admonitory consideration, that the Church
■which, olall ihobe planted by the apoi^tles, was the
most distinguished for its gilts, should have been
the least eminent for its graces; for this was the
case with the Christian Society at Corinth. What
a scandalous abuse and profanation of the Lord's
Supper had crept in ! Wnat a schismalical spirit
prevailed ! What a connivance at sin existed ! —
What resistance to apostolic authority was set up !
To account for this, it should be recollected, that
the possession of miraculous gifts by no means im- ,
plied the existence and influence of sanctifying
grace. Those extraordinary powers were entirely
distinct from the qualities which are essential to
the character of a real Christian. They were pow-
er? conferred not at all, or in a very subordinate
degree, for the benefit of the individual himself, but
were distributed according to the sovereignty of the
Divine will, for the edification of believers and the
conviction of unbelievers. Hence saith the apostle, i
— " Tongues are for asign, not to them that believe,
but to them that believe not: but prophesying serv-
eth not for them that believe not, but lor them which
believe." Our Lord has informed us, that miracu-
lous endowments were not necessarily connected
with, but were often disconnected from, personal
piety. " Many will say unto me in that day, Lord,
Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in
thy name done many wonderful works '? And then
will I profess unto them, 1 never knew you , depart
from me ye workers of iniquity." Paul supposes
the same thing in the commencement of this chap-
ter, where he says, — " Though I speak with the
tongues of men, and of angels, and have not charily,
I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cym-
bal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and
understand all mysteries and all knowledge : — and
though I have all faith, so that I could remove
mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." -
This hypothetical mode of speech certainly implies,
that gifts and grace are not necessarily connected.

This is a very awful consideration, and, by show-
ing how far self-deception may be cariied, ought to
be felt as a solemn admonition to all professing
Christians, to be very careful and diligent in the
great business of self-examination.

It is evident, both from the nature of things, and
from the reasoning of the apostle, that some of the
miraculous powers were more admired, and there-
fore more popular, than others. The gift of tongues,
as is plain from the reasoning in the fourteenth
chapter, appears to have been most coveted, because
eloquence was so much cultivated by the Greeks:
to reason and declaim in public, as a talent, was
much admired and as a practice, was exceedingly
common : schools were established to teach the art,
and places of public resort were frequented to dis-
play it. Hence, in the Church of Christ, and espe-
cially with those whose hearts were unsanctified by
Divine grace, and who converted miraculous ope-
rations into a means of personal ambition, the gift
of tongues was the most admired of all these extra-
ordinary powers. A desire after conformity to the
envied distinctions of the world, has ever been the
snare and the reproach of many of the members of
the Christian community.

Where distinctions exist, many evils will be sure
to follow, as long as human nature i< in an imper-
fect slate. Talents, or the power of fixing attention
and rai.sing admiration, will be valued above vir-
tues ; and the more popular talents will occupy, in
the estimate of ambition, a higher rank than those
that are useful. Consequently, we must expect,
wherever opportunities present themselves, to see
on the one hand, pride, vanity, arrotrance, love of
display, boastmg, selfishness, conscious superiority,

and a susceptibility of ofl^ence ; while on the other,
we shall witness an equally offensive exhibition of
envy, suspicion, imputation of evil, exultation over
failures, and a disposition to magnify and report of-
fences. Such pas-sjons are not entirely excluded
from the Church of God, at least during its militant
state; and they were most abundantly exhibited
among the Christians at Corinth. Those who had
gifts, were too apt to exult over those that had none ;
while the latter indulged in en\'y, and ill-will to-
ward the former : those who were favored with the
most distinguished endowment.s, vaunicd of their
achievements over those who attained only to the
humbler powers; and all the train of the irrascible
passions was indulged to such a degree, as well
nigh to banish Christian love from the fellowship ol
the faithful. This unhappy state of things the
apostle found it necessary to correct, which he did
by a series of most conclusive arguments ; such, for
instance, as that all these gifts are the bestowments
of the Spirit, w'ho in distributing them exercises a
wise but irresponsible sovereignty — that they are
bestowed for mutual advantage, and not for personal
glory — that this variety is essential to general edifi-
cation — that the useful ones are to be more valued
than those of a dazzling nature — that they are de-
pendent on each other for their efiiciency; and he
then concludes his expostulation and representation,
by introducing to their notice that heavenly virtue
which he so beautifully describes in the chapter un-
der consideration, and which he exalts in value and
importance above the most coveted miraculous
powers. "Now, ye earnestly desire (for the words
should be rendered indicatively, and not impera-
tively,) the best gifts, but yet I show unto you a
more excellent way." " Ye are ambitious to obtain
those endowments which shall cause you to be es-
teemed as the most honorable and distinguished
persons in the Church ; but, notwithstanding your
high notions of the respect due to those who excel
in miiacles, I now point out to you a way to still
greater honor, by a road open to you all, and in
which your success will neither produce pride in
yourselves, nor excite envy in others. Foivlow af-
ter Cn.\RiTY, for the possession and exercise of this
grace is infinitely to be preferred to the most splen-
did gift."

Admirable encomium — exalted eulogium on
Charity! What more could be said, or be said
more properly, to raise it in our esteem, and to im-
press it upon our heart? The age of miracles is
past; the signs, and the tokens, and the powers
which accompanied it, and which, like brilliant
lights from heaven, hung in bright effulgence over
the Church, are vanished. No longer can the mem-
bers or ministers of Christ confound the mighty,
perplex the wise, or guide the simple inquirer after
truth, by the demonstration of the Spirit, and of
power: the control of the laws of nature, and of the
spirits of darkness, is no longer intrusted to us; but
tnat which is more excellent and more heavenly re-
mains : that which is more valuable in itself, and
less liable to abuse, continues; and that is, Charity.
Miracles were but the credentials of Christianity,
but Charity is its essence; miracles but its wit-
nesses, which, having ushered it into the world, and
borne their testimony, retired forever; — but Cha-
RPTY is its very soul, which, when disencumbered
of all that is earthly, shall ascend to its native seat
— the paradise and the presence of the eternal God.



In the discussion of everv subject, it is of great im-
portance to ascertain, and to fix with precision, the


meaning of the terms by which it is expressed; our brethren 1 Or, may we be envious, passionate,
more especially in those cases where, as in the pre- proud, and revengeful, towards " those that are
sent instance, the principal word has acquired, by without," though not towards those " that are with-
the changes of time and usages of socieiy, more inl" We have only to consider the operations and
senses than one. Formerly, the English word cha- ■ eliects of love as here described, and to recollect
riiy signified good-will or benevolence: when re- ■ that they are as much required m our intercourse
stricted to this meaning, it was significant enough , with the world, as with the Church, to perceive at
of the Greeif term employed by the apostle in this ■ once, that it is love to roan, as such, that is the sub-
chapter; but in modern times the word charity is ject of this chapter. Nor is this the only place where
often employed to signify almsgiving— a circum- [ universal philanthropy is enjoined. The apostle
stance which has thrown a partial obscurity over i Peter, in his chain of graces, makes this the last
many passages of Scripture, and has led, indeed, to ! link, and distinguishes it from " brotherly kindness,"
the most gross perversion of Divine truth and the j to which, says he, add "charity," or, as it should be
circulation of the most dangerous errors. That the i rendered, "love." The disposition inculcated in
charity which is the subject of the present treatise j this chapter is, that love which Peter commands us

cannot mean almsgiving, is evident from the asser-
tion of the apostle, where he says — " Though I give
all my goods to feed the poor, and have not charity,
it profiteth me nothing." The meaning of the term
is Love, and so it is rendered in many other pas-
sages of the New Testament ; such, for instance, as
the following: " Love worketh no ill to its neigh-
bor." " The fruit of the Spirit is love." " Love is
the fulfilling of the law." "Faith which worketh
by love." It is the same word in all these texts,
which in the present chapter and in the following
passages, is rendered charity.

" The end of the commandment is charity." —
" Charity covereth a multitude of .sins." The em-
ployment of the term charity, instead of love, in the quoted passage, is peculiarly to be regretted, as
in consequence of the modern meaning attached to
it, many have taken up the false and dangerous no-
tion, that pecuniary liberality to the poor will make
an atonement for human guilt; an error which
could have had no countenance from Scripture, had
the word been rendered as it is in other places. —
''Love covereth a multitude of sins." This is not
the only case in which our translators, by the ca-
pricious employment in different places of two
English words for the same Greek term, have helped
to contuse the English reader of the Holy Scriptures.

We shall in this treatise substitute for charity the
word Love, which is a correct translation of the
original. If, however, the word charity should be
occasionally used to avoid a too frequent repetition
of love, we beg that it may be understood as syno-
nymous with that term.

Of what kind of love does the apostle treat? Not
of love to God, as is evident from the whole chap-
ter, for the properties which are here enumerated
have no direct reference to Jehovah, but relare ia
every instance to man. It is a disposition f(>unded,
no doubt, upon love to God, but it is not the same.

Nor is it, as many have represented, the love of
the brethren. Without all question, we are under
special obligations to love those who are the child-
ren of God, and joint heirs with us in Christ. " This
is my commandment," says Christ, "' that ye love
one another." " By this .shall all men know that ye
are my disciples, if ye love one another." Our
brethren in Christ should be the first and dearest
objects of our regard. Love to them is the badge of
discipleship — the proof, both to ourselves and to the
world, that we have passed from death unto life. —
And although we are " to do good to all men," yet
we are especially to regard " the household of faith."
Bat still, brotherly love, or the love of the brethren
as such, is not the disposition, any otherwise than as
included in it, which is here enjoined.

A far more comprehensive duty is laid down,
which is LOVE to mankind in general. As a proof
of this I refer to the nature of its exercises. Do they
not as much respect the unconverted as the convert-
ed ; the unbeliever as the believer 1 Are we not as

to ad.d to brotherly kindness ; it is, in fact, the very
state of mind which is the compendium of the se-
cond table of the moral law. " Thou shalt love thy
neighbor as thyself"

The temper so beautifully set forth by Paul, is a
most lively, luminous and eloquent exposition of this
summary of duty to our neighbor, which is given us

Online LibraryJohn L SmithThe Christian library : a reprint of popular religious works (Volume 6) → online text (page 1 of 122)