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THE Conc ctors of the ChristiAN Spectator, take the opportunity presented them by the commencement of another year of their labours, to solicit the aid, both of the talents and patronage, of those who are united in the great doctrines of the Reformation. At no period since the commencement of this publication, has the union of the friends of these doctrines appeared more necessary; and the assurances of friendly regard and assistance, which, from various quarters we have received, induce us to believe that at no period has this union appeared more probable. To illustrate the necessity of united effort, we need only remark, that the enemies of the doctrines of the Reformation are collecting their energies, and meditating a comprehensive system of attack, which demands on our part a corresponding concert of action. In addition to this organized system of attack, there are individuals in every part of our country who are filling the land with cavils against the doctrines of grace, calculated to unsettle the minds of multitudes, and if it were possible, to deceive the very elect. This ubiquity of indefatigable assault, seems to require a like ubiquity of indefatigable defence. Is it not time then to lift up an ensign which may be seen from east to west, and from north to south, and to sound a trumpet of alarm which shall draw around the standard of our Captain the defenders of his faith? For our part, we cannot meditate on the preparations of the enemy without solicitude, or endure the thought that the battle axe should ring on the gates of Lion before a sentinel awakes, or a note of preparation is heard within. It seems evident, that such a periodical work as the exigences of the church demand, can be sustained only by great and united efforts. By men of learned leisure it cannot be supported, for no such exist in our country. Must it not then be sustained by those who are compelled to redeem their time and double their diligence for that end. But to support it permanently in this manner is it not indispensable that the pressure be allowed to rest on a more extended base? A small number of men may make great efforts for a short time, but who can sustain through protracted years, an effort which puts constantly in requisition all his energies at their highest point of exertion : Were it practicable to meet the exigences of our country by five or six periodical publications in different places, why should the labour and expense of defending the truth be multiplied many times, when it can be done with far greater ability by a single united effort P So far as writers are awakened to more vigorous exertion by the prospect of appearing in the presence, and labouring for the benefit of thousands, a work to be read by the great body of the church, must exert a powerful influence in calling forth the utmost reach of talent. And would not the interest excited in the community at large by such a work, give to it a peculiar and commanding influence 2 Two difficulties only have occurred to us as to the permanent support of such a work; the one is a sensibility which may be awakened by the admission of different views respecting some points of doctrine, the other a natural feeling entertained by every good man who is deeply engaged in professional and local duties, that his hands are already full and that he can do no more. As to the first difficulty, we are prepared to believe that the exercise of a christian spirit on the part of the writers, and the conciliatory influence of the department of reviews, with a small share of christian magnanimity and forbearance on the part of the readers, will render the work more instructive and satisfactory, than a publication accommodated exclusively to the senti
ments of any one part of the church. Indeed, if the day is ever to come when “ the watchmen shall see eye to eye,” with whom is the approximation to commence if not with those who are least asunder, and whose hearts are most cordially disposed to union, and how can that union be effected except by a temperate statement and discussion of conflicting sentiments P As to leisure for promoting the general interests of the Church, which lie beyond the sphere of professional labour, we have out-lived the day, in which we expect to find any such period of leisure between us and the grave. Those duties are important and sufficient to occupy the time of every man; but the question is, can our immediate professional duties, and the more general duties of our humble spheres, be lawfully allowed to engross our whole strength and time. There is indeed a providential course of things which will hold on its way to great and good results unwatched and unanticipated, except by God himself; when local duties are faithfully performed throughout the church, and no enemy is combining into plans of extensive reach, all those general causes of a disasterous influence which can be brought to bear on the interests of the church. But never, we believe, have the enemy been left to control and pervert all the great springs of action and influence in a community, without a deplorable prevalence of errour and prostration of truth. To avert so great a calamity, the result of plans so deliberate and comprehensive, of causes so powerful, of an executive energy recently awakened into such constant and vigorous action, we feel ourselves called upon in common with the friends of vital religion, in every part of our country, under a sense of common danger, and duty, taking into view the religious interests of this great and growing nation for centuries to come—to lay aside all prejudices, if we have any, to forego in part the demands of local avocation, and even to lay upon ourselves additional burdens, that we may at once meet the enemy which is coming in like a flood, and fight on the threshold, the battle of the Lord. It is by no means our expectation that the Christian Spectator will become extensively a controversial work, much less that its exertions will be directed exclusively against any one party. To illustrate and defend the doctrines of grace, from whatever quarter they may be assaulted, to give a wider range to their practical influence, and to array in one impenetrable phalanx all who stand forth in their defence, are the high objects to which we would concentrate our feeble efforts, and urge the co-operation of our brethren.
MAN sustains a most important relation to this world, and the use which he makes of it, decides his present and future well-being. The influence of the world is felt not merely in our sufferings and enjoyments as sensitive beings, but in the formation of our character, as beings who are destined soon to leave our present state,and enter one of eternal retribution. It becomes then a point of enquiry, well worthy of examination, what is the true and proper use to be made of this world; how are the duties of religion and the business of the world to be united and to be made alike subservient to our spiritual, our highest interests.
The subject becomes still more important if we reflect, that the opinion is not uncommon, and the practical estimate still more frequent, that the duties which arise out of man's condition in this world, are incompatible with that spiritual frame of mind, which the Scriptures constantly inculcate. There are those who plead for a species of indifference to this world, and a kind of sublimated devotion, which are not only inconsistent with the active business of life, and with a lawful measure of worldly enjoyment, but with usefulness to their fellow creatures. The propensity, however, of most men, is not to go to excess, in obeying those precepts of the gospel, which require abstraction from the world. To enfeeble the obligation of Christian selfdenial, and to extend the limits of self-indulgence, we are told of a thou
sand things, which are lawsul, which are proper, which are necessary; that there are duties pertaining to this world, that the constitution of the world evidently demands a high degree of solicitude and toil in its concerns, in order to fulfil the duties of life, and that we are not so to undervalue the things of this world, nor to be so absorbed with those of another as to disqualify us for the enjoyments to be found in our present state of existence. Which of these two classes is in the
right, it might be difficult to decide
were we to concede to them their own premises. For if the duties of man which result from his relation to this world, are incompatible with those which arise from his character as anaccountable and an immortal being,each opinion, it would seem has a warrant, and between the different courses proposed, we are fairly at liberty to take our own choice. But it is not difficult to shew, that the opinion which assumes, that religion is incompatible with the duties and business of the present state, is founded on an utter misapprehension of the nature either of true religion or of the proper business of the world. True religion may be said to consist in habitual obedience to the comprehensive precept “whether, therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” His own glory, is the end of all the works of God and the only end worthy of himself. That end which is worthy of God, surely becomes every other being, who is capable of making it the end of his actions. This end, man, as an accountable creature, is qualified to propose to himself and to accomplish. There is nothing in his faculties, nothing in the nature of the world that surrounds him, nothing in the structure of his physical constitotion, which necessarily interseres with rendering the world in the use he makes of it, subservient to this exalted end of his creation. The end therefore, for which man is to live, is the glory of God. This law is of universal obligation throughout the intelligent kingdom of Jehovah. The tray or manner in which the end is to be accomplished by the voluntary subjects of that kingdom, varies according to the different circumstances in which they are placed.— In heaven, this end is pre-eminently accomplished by direct acts of worship, and by the affections and the delights which are inseparable from such employments in the unveiled presence of God. On earth too, the method of honouring God by direct acts of worship and their appropriate emotions and joys, is not denied to man, but made his privilege and his duty. As a constituent part of the same great end, man is to propose to himself, his own present and eternal wellbeing, and that of his fellow men.— To aim at the glory of God as the ultimate end of all our actions, involves the loss of no real good, either to ourselves or to our fellow creatures. God, in his wisdom and goodness, has not only required us to glorify him, but has established a perfect coincidence between that end, and our own best good. Amid all the varying scenes and duties of life, the alternative can never arise, when one real interest of man, must be sacrificed to the divine glory, or one particle of that glory, to the real interest of man. The anthem sung by the heavenly hosts, when the Saviour was born, may be repeated, till time shall be no longer, “glory to God in the highest, peace on earth and good will to men.” The rule by which this great end is to be promoted, is contained in the
laws and precepts which God has given us in his word. Had man been competent to decide on each specific act or course of action by which God would be most honoured, he had been safely left to pursue this end in conformity with his own judgment. But it must be obvious, on a little reflection, how much embarrassment, and perplexity, and errour, would have attended the decision of the endless diversity of questions, which in that case would have arisen.— From these evils. God has graciously exempted us, by giving to us his laws and precepts, as the guide of our conduct. Omniscience has decided for us. Under such guidance we may walk in a sure and safe path to the great end for which God has given us an accountable and immortal existence. Such being the nature of real religion, we are led to enquire, whether its habitual power, and its practical ascendency are incompatible with the true business of the world, or with any of the duties which arise from our present condition. An inspired Apostle has taught us to use this world as not abusing it. To abuse the world, is to turn it from a good to a bad purpose. None will doubt that the world formed by infinite wisdom and goodness, is capable of answering a good end to the creatures for whose habitation and benefit it was made. If then, we can ascertain how that end may be defeated on the one hand, and how secured on the other, we shall also ascertain what it is to use the world as not abusing it, and whether the true use of the world is at all inconsistent with the duties of religion. 1. We are not to regard this world as of no value to our happiness, but duly to appreciate it as the means of present good. “There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour.” “Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving.” The