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ART. VI.—JAMES' CHRISTIAN PROFESSOR.
The Christian Professor Addressed, in a series of counsels and
cautions to the members of Christian Churches. By JOHN Angell James. New York : D. Appleton & Co. 1838.
The name of John Angell James is so pleasantly associated with the best feelings of American christians, as to give the assurance, that this new work of his will be sought with avidity, and read with intense interest. Nor will those who peruse it be disappointed. For although it is true, that the topics upon which it treats are in general familiar to the churches, inasmuch as they constitute the themes upon which every faithful pastor in our land discourses, the manner in which they are discussed by Mr. J., has given to them an attractiveness with which it is not in the power of ordinary ministers to invest them. This little volume contains nineteen chapters, and the substance of almost all, as he says in his preface, was delivered in a course of sermons addressed to the church of which he is pastor, on the mornings of his communion sabbaths. The object in preaching them we state in his own words: “When I look into the New Testament and read what a christian should be, and then look into the church of God, and see what christians are, I am painfully affected by observing the dissimilarity; and in my jealousy for the honor of the christian profession, have made this effort, perhaps a feeble one, certainly an anxious one, to remove its blemishes, to restore its impaired beauty, and thus raise its reputation.” It is superfluous to say, that this seems to be the all-absorbing object of the author, in every page of this interesting book.
The first chapter is occupied in defining the import of a public christian profession. Our writer very happily illustrates what is intended in such a profession, by inserting a formula used in one of the Presbyterian churches of America, upon the admission of members. We were happy to see this, because it shows the oneness of that faith, which blends in one communion all the friends of Jesus, redeemed by his blood, "out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” It is true we may differ in forms of ecclesiastical polity, and in our various systems of theological philosophy, but we harmonize in the grand fundamental facts, upon which evangelical piety founds her celestial claims to the homage of the world. There is amidst all these diversities, but one Lord, one faith, one baptism.
Upon the second chapter, which treats on the obligation and design of the christian profession,” we propose to dwell a little longer, inasmuch as we are of the opinion, that with all the light we enjoy upon this subject, there exists a most criminal neglect in some portions of our community. We say in some, because we are aware, that in others there has been a tendency to an opposite extreme, and multitudes have rushed into the church without that preparation, both of the head and heart, which the bible inculcates. But in some parts of our Zion, and perhaps more in New England than elsewhere, the communion table has been invested with such an awfulness, and christian hope subjected to so much doubtfulness, that all our congregations are filled with those who are, upon the whole, entertaining the belief they are christians, but waiting from year to year, in disobedience to a known command, in expectation of receiving more light, and stronger assurance of their good estate.
Among other reasons which he gives for making a public profession, we would call the attention of our readers to the following:
* Profession is for the WORLD. This we have already shown in what we have just considered, but it might be more extensively dwelt upon. “Ye are the salt of the earth, ye are the light of the world,” said Christ to his disciples. The Church is the pillar and ground of truth, intended to hold up, to send round, to hand down, the truth : to show what truth is, what faith is, what holiness is; to exhibit the text and a living comment upon it too : to send out life-giving voices attended by life-giving actions; to speak for God to, and act for God upon, the dark and inert mass around. The true Church of Christ is evidently designed not only to receive the truth by faith for its own sake, but to reflect it, by profession, for the world's sake, It seems to bear much the same relation to the word of God, as the moon does to the sun; and to perform somewhat the same function in the spiritual economy as the satellite does in the planetary system. It is not the original source of light, for that is the Bible ; but it is the recipient and depository of this light, which it receives for its own benefit, and reflects for the benefit of a benighted world. The Church revolves in the attraction of this moral orb, and exhibits to those who would not otherwise receive them, its glorious beams. Hence, by the Lord's Supper, which is strictly and exclusively an ecclesiastical ordinance, the Church is said to “ show forth” the death of Christ till his second coming. The word signifies to "publish openly and effectually," "to declare in a joyful and emphatic manner." To whom is this declaration to be made ? Not to the Church, for they are to make it. Not to the angels or spirits made perfect, for they do not need it; but to the careless, impenitent, and unbelieving world. The death of Christ, as a sacrifice for sin, is the great truth of Christianity; it is not so much a doctrine of scripture, as
James' Christian Professor.
hanel Christian Professor
the scripture itself; it is, in fact, the new covenant : and the church, das erdeutly set forth crucified for sing-a gathered round the sacramental table, and jointly partaking of the ele- Thad to behold him, as the lamb of God, ments of bread and wine, in believing remembrance of the atoning
altre sis of the world." death of the Lord Jesus, is, in that act, as well as by its well known
iphatica pp. 36, 37, w state some objections publicly declared sentiments, a witness for Christ, and a preacher of
z be made by those who entertain the hope of him to the world. He is thus evidently set forth crucified for sinners,
I want to acknowledge it before the world, and who are thereby invited to behold him as the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world. Every time the church is gathered togeth-3(pon one of these objections we will er, the “Bride,” the Lamb's wife, lifts up her entreating voice, on be
" But my parents, or my husband, do half of her divine Lord, and says to those who are despising and reject
is... por are they fit for it, and they would ing him, “ Come to Christ for salvation.” Every professor, therefore,
3' ju the church without them, and I should who joins himself to the church, both by his declaration of faith and his approaches to the table of the Lord, sends forth the invitation to unbelievers, "Come to Jesus, and be saved."' pp. 32-34.
To these remarks the author appends, and, as we think, most appropriately, the following note:
‘Does not this expression of the apostle plainly prove, that the Lord's
Supper ought to be observed publicly before the whole congregation! ac rastering consequences."
We have read, and we confess with sincere sorrow as well as surprise, that the eloquent and pious Robert Hall, made
formal request, on communion sabbath, that the non-professing nembers of his congregation would retire and leave the comunicants to celebrate the Supper alone. It seems to us, that e thereby defeated one grand design,--not to say, by way of minence, the grand design of this ordinance. Leslie, in his nort method with the deists, has established the truth of chrisanity, by showing, that when such a monument of the facts, hose existence it was intended to perpetuate, is found, and nder precisely these circumstances, their authenticity is placed =yond a doubt.
Of course, by the exclusion above mentioned, believers are deprived of one source of faith in the chrisn religion, which the Savior intended they should have when
instituted the Supper, " to show forth his death" until he reDeared at the end of the world. And it is equally true, and ght to be impressed frequently and earnestly upon the considtion of those who are entertaining the hope of salvation ugh Christ without making a public profession of the faith,
they are by this neglect impairing the evidences of the th of Christ, and thus proportionally sapping the foundation christianity. This will be very apparent, if they will only Dose, that all should act precisely as they do.
We know of estimony which would supply the place of this institution,
Els dr. James gives the following repiy:
jamu bearen, should that allow you to remet any of
, or other
We must leave all for Christ.'
a takes the following reply: Then wait no longer.
mata wife had this gratification by waiting for her
in which Christ “is thus evidently set forth crucified for sinners, who are thereby invited to behold him, as the lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world."
Our author proceeds, on pp. 36, 37, to state some objections which we often hear made by those who entertain the hope of pardon, and yet refuse to acknowledge it before the world, and answers them well. Upon one of these objections we will dwell somewhat longer. “But my parents, or my husband, do not make a profession, nor are they fit for it, and they would not like for me to join the church without them, and I should scarcely like it myself.” Mr. James gives the following reply:
'If they will not go to heaven, should that allow you to regret any of the means that help you thither? If they will not honor Christ, should that hinder you from doing it? Will you disobey the Savior out of compliment to any earthly friend whatever? It is your duty, your solemn duty, -and is it better to please men or God ? Perhaps your decision in this matter may be blessed to them. If not, you are to do what is right without considering consequences."
The answer, properly understood, is a happy one, and we insert it for the purpose of saying, that there is not a more common or fatal mistake than the one which is adopted by those who postpone making a public profession of religion, with the hope of thereby inducing their impenitent husbands, or other friends, to do it with them at a future day. This, at any rate, is the experience of ministers of the gospel on this side of the Atlantic. Dr. Lee, formerly of Colebrook, in Connecticut, in a sermon, contained in his volume “especially designed for revivals," directed to those who have been hopefully converted, and urging the duty of making a public profession, puts the following objection in the mouth of one of his hearers : “I have entertained hope seven years, and trust I have walked for the most part in the light, I have a great desire to unite with the church,-I wait only for my husband to unite with me in the duty. O, it would be so happy to have the company of my dear partner! I hope he will be given to my prayer."
To this he makes the following reply: “ Then wait no longer. You have already waited too long. I never knew but one instance where a wife had this gratification by waiting for her husband; but I could narrate some striking instances where the husband was awakened and converted by the public profession of his wife. We must leave all for Christ."
With this answer from the lips of an experienced minister, our own observation, and that of many others with whom we have conversed, harmonize. We could, did our limits permit,
give some striking instances, in which ungodly husbands, who have resisted their wives with angry threatenings and abuse, when they have resolved to acknowledge the Redeemer openly, have been immediately brought into deep conviction of sin, and hopefully converted. The reasons are obvious. There is a reality and strength of influence in the piety which discovers itself in self-denial for Christ, that a husband cannot but must feel. Besides, the separation which occurs when she takes her place in the aisle before the “great congregation,” to profess her supreme love to the Savior, and assume her covenant engagements, carries forward his thoughts to that day, when the division between the righteous and the wicked shall be made at the judgment seat of Christ, and the impassable gulf roll forever between them. When a wife thus obeys the Savior, she may both pray
and hope. It is on account of these associations, we feel it to be important, that the congregation be encouraged to remain while the elements are distributed, and we have in more than one instance seen the happy results in the conversion of the impenitent, whose first impressions were made while they sat as spectators of the scene.
We would here suggest, for the consideration of our ministerial brethren, whether our sacramental seasons are regarded as possessing the importance, which they really have, considered as means of grace either to the church or the world. In some of our churches it has been found very profitable to devote the whole of the afternoon to this service. It has undoubtedly some advantages. More time can be occupied in the celebration, and the communicants will come to it without that fatigue which invariably attends upon protracted exercises. This relief to persons who are feeble, and to mothers who have infants, is certainly desirable. As it is now generally attended to, we fear that it is considered as a mere appendage, rather than an important ordinance of divine worship.
The third chapter, upon “the danger of self-deception,” will be read with interest, and is very opportune at the present day, when, in many parts of our country, preaching on this subject has become unfashionable. We are not of those who are forever dwelling upon the dark side of christian experience, as if it were a virtue to be always doubting our good estate, or leading others to perpetual trembling,-yet we think, that President Edwards' work on the affections, might, in some portions of the religious community, be circulated with great advantage to the church. There is danger, in this day of revivals, when a pub