Page images

which, in its gloomiest and most despairing form, is represented by some as an indispensable step to Jesus, I now see to be the daily and the growing exercise of the renewed Christian -that my abhorrence of sin is quickened by that very faith which protects from its terrors. In the deep and mysterious sufferings of Christ, I see the dreadful testimony of heaven against it, and feel that it should be the daily prayer of Christians that they may be enabled to put out from among them that hateful thing for which our Saviour died.

"I do not know whether this suits you exactly, nor have I any right more than others to make my process authoritative. There is nothing authoritative but the Bible, and I read, con amore, your well-expressed sentiment upon the exclusive reverence that is due to it. Your high-toned ambition after the purity of the divine life is the undoubted effect of faith after it is once formed, and the best leader to it before it has taken full and effectual possession of the heart. It will do what the law did formerly-it will serve the office of a 'schoolmaster to bring you to Christ.' When a man compares his miserable execution with his high conception of what is right, he is, as the Apostle most significantly expresses it, 'shut up unto the faith;' he is reduced to it as his only alternative; he makes the atonement of the cross his resting-place; he closes with Christ-derives all strength and nourishment from Him, as the 'branch does from the vine.' The high tone of rectitude will not be chilled, but exalted at this step of the process. It will derive new energy from sentiments to which it was formerly a stranger-the confidence of success, the hope of the promised assistance, and the actual operation of that assistance on our hearts, redeeming them from all iniquity. He that willeth to do the will of God shall know of this doctrine whether it cometh from God.' A will and an ambition to be perfect, if firmly and consistently proceeded upon, will lead us

[ocr errors]

to the humiliating acknowledgment, that in ourselves we are helpless and irrecoverable sinners. It will bring us to the foot of the cross, and lead us to take to Christ as our power and wisdom and sanctification and complete redemption.'-Yours most truly, THOMAS CHALMERS."

"DUNDEE, December 8, 1811.

"MY DEAR SIR,— ** My letters to you are not a faithful picture of my general situation, for they are naturally the effusions of my better moments, and they of course wear an air of peace and of progress to which I cannot as yet lay claim. I have indeed never possessed hours of so unportioned bliss and serenity as some since I began to cleave to Christianity; for I can say, even now, that my most religious hours are my happiest ; but they have hitherto been separated by periods of horrible disquietude and distrust. Sometimes I relapse into coldness and indifference, which, after a few struggles, leave me in a state of stupid torpor, a state of rest which arises from the absence of all tendency, a state of conscious petrifaction. At other times I am distracted by a thousand doubts, which flit before me in undefined mazes, and obscure all my prospects. Their very want of solidity adds to their terrors; their change of shape, and their exits and their entrances, only realize more strongly the unseen world of possibilities. And even in my best moments, I am apt to be assailed by doubts distinct in their character from the former, and, if I mistake not, rightly distinguished by the term misgivings. It is a kind of sinking at heart from the downward glance of unusual elevation. * * * I have been hitherto such a stranger to prolonged quiet and assurance, that, when I experience the quiet and assurance of religion, I become alarmed that Christianity is too good to be true, and that its security is the fever of enthusiasm. But there is one awful consideration which peculiarly presses on

my mind, and is often like to overwhelm it. It is this:If I am really on the right track, by what a complexity of causes am I so? If my present determination to make Jesus my guide and my refuge, be the only one which can save me from eternal perdition, what an overwhelming thought, that this determination is one of a myriad of as probable contingencies! If, among the navies that darken the ocean, there be but one ark that shall outlive the storm, with what trembling step do I enter in,—with what tremendous ken do I inspect its identity! Such considerations are often like to overpower me. Oh, my dear Sir, unite your prayers with mine, that I may arrive at settled convictions. I pray to God to lead me to all truth, and all joy and peace in believing; but my very prayers need forgiveness. Oh, my dear Sir, if Christianity be really true, with what profound gratitude ought we to approach Almighty God for having, of His free-will, called us, for having made so many physical and moral causes so unite as to produce our present tendencies; and with what enlarged hearts of sympathy and benevolence ought we to look around us on those who as yet care for none of these things?' May God continue to be gracious,-may He lead us on from strength to strength,-and may He render us instrumental in winning sons and daughters to righteousness.'

[ocr errors]

Sunday, December 9th. "The above was written last night, when my mind was in a state of vacillancy and discomfort. I have this morning been reading my Bible, and I feel a reassurance of which I had little expectation. I begin to find the New Testament. my best modulator; it alone gives that pitch to my temper which suits my existing capability. Books of devotion are accommodated to a given stage of advancement, perhaps the prevailing one of the author. By perusing them, I can work

my mind up to their elevation; but the state is forced, and of necessity transient. But in my Testament I find every thing in its proper bearing.

"I now begin to have a taste for its direct enforcements. I like to converse with it on the spot. I am ashamed to acknowledge that this is the most recent step in my progress. At first I used to read the precepts only; or, if I happened to turn to the doctrines, I found them so confused, and the reasoning so unintelligible, that I soon laid them aside. * At last, when the doctrines began to command my regard, I still liked to get at them by means of an interpreter, and was still averse from personal colloquy. This repugnance is now extinguished, and I delight in the excitement of naked contact. I now ardently desire to be able to read the original Greek with facility, and to pronounce the doctrines and precepts of Paul, and James, and Jesus, with the very os rotundum which originally breathed them.

"So important is the maxim, 'Drink deep, or taste not,' that I now begin to find what I considered the weakest parts of the Bible are the strongest. The obscurity of Paul, upon inspection, I find to arise out of the closeness and concatenation of his reasoning; and, above all, the want of method and outline in the New Testament, which lately struck me as a formidable objection, I now consider as corroborative of its peculiar character. My objection was this:-The Old Testament dispensation was more immediately of Divine origin. The tables of the law were given to Moses graven by the finger of God. The code was complete, and regular, and sacred. We hear of nothing lost,-nothing surreptitiously added; whereas the expansion of the New Testament scheme is much more fortuitous. No arm of terrors was bared to protect it; the propagators were exposed to the greatest dangers, and escaped by the greatest hazards; many of the most important precepts

were elicited by chance,-many more have not come down to us, many miracles are unrecorded,-even whole epistles are lost; while it is by the greatest good luck that many false ones are not obtruded. All this, which I lately considered as a formidable objection, I now think a strong confirmation of the peculiar nature of Christianity. The religion of the Jews was a religion of diplomacy and legal enforcement: every thing was decided by an appeal to laws, and accordingly the laws were arranged and numbered. But the religion of Jesus is a religion of principle, suggestive, by its very nature, of a stainless morality. Accordingly, there is not the same anxiety as to its outward form and pressure.' The internal principle is the essential, and with this everything harmonizes: e. g., the scheme was not divulged amid thunders and tempests, for persuasion is the surest appeal to the heart. Its propagators were obnoxious to ordinary mishaps, for by their endurance they enforced the principle they promulgated. False teachers made their appearance, for their detection put the principle in action. (1 John iv. 6.) The precepts were not methodized, for they flow as corollaries from the principle. This latter circumstance in Paul's writings is very remarkable. After putting the doctrine of faith on its proper basis with an elaboration and a copiousness which set him before you in all the struggles of intellect, and with an apparent dread of omitting any applicable elucidation,-after securing this point, he suddenly relaxes, and, with a great deal of dégagement, proceeds to throw off his miscellaneous precepts. *** I shall expect to hear from you soon.-I am, my dear Sir, yours, JAMES ANDERSON."

"KILMANY MANSE, December 23, 1811. "MY DEAR SIR,— * * * I am charmed to understand the tranquillizing effect of the Bible upon you. Let me therefore recommend a small treatise, entitled 'Clark's Promises,' in

« PreviousContinue »