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ordinary need of earnest exhortation to contend, to agonize, as if for life and death; as the athlete or the gladiator strove in the arena, not for honour merely, but for life itself.
And see what he presents as the occasion, as the subject of this deadly, I had almost said this desperate contention, not even life, as a mere natural and temporal advantage; much less anything belonging to it, or depending on it. Something more than this was now at stake, and was threatened with destruction, or in danger of removal, unless earnestly contended for and rescued by an agonizing struggle. Not their ease or comforts, not their lives or fortunes, but their faith, their Christian faith; the faith by which they were distinguished, and by which they must be saved; the faith delivered, not merely once, as if referring to a former generation—which is not the case—but once for all, the finished, settled, and unchangeable belief, or system of religious faith, which had been, once for all, -by an authoritative, final, and complete communication, delivered #o the saints—the Primitive or Apostolic Church; not for their personal salvation merely, but as a deposit, a tradition, to be kept and propagated and transmitted to the latest ages. In a word, it was for Christianity itself, including the foundation of their own hope, and their own experience of all that was just, true, lovely, and of good report, that Jude had felt constrained to urge his readers to contend, to agonize, as if for something infinitely precious, and yet imminently jeoparded.
1. That the danger-be it what it may-was not a local one, affecting merely certain churches, like the gross abuses in the Church of Corinth, of which Paul writes, may be gathered from the fact that the epistle now before us is addressed to no one church-as most of Paul's are—much less to any individual-as several of Paul's are-but to all who could appropriate the apostolical description—as being “sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ,” and hence called Catholic.
2. The same considerations seem to show that the necessity alleged by the apostle was not temporary, or confined to the precise time when he wrote; unless it can be shown that his description has no counterpart or verification in the later experience, or the actual condition of the Christian Church. Unless it can be shown that it was only in the apostolic age, that “men have crept in unawares, before ordained to this damnation ;" “impious" and hypocritical professors of the true faith, “turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
3. That this description has respect not merely, or at all directly, to the open enemies of Christianity, but to its pretended friends, to its professed adherents, is plain from the expression, “crept in unawares," insidiously introduced into the Church itself,
" a form of speech wholly inapplicable to the open and avowed hostility of heathen, infidel, or in the strict sense anti-christian
powers. It is also plain from the historical examples, which the writer cites, of fearful wickedness and fearful judgments, in the case of those who had enjoyed the highest privilege and honour, as to near approach to God, and eminent distinction in his service.
The two examples now in question, are those drawn from the rebellion and destruction of the elder race of Israelites, who came out of Egypt; and from the downfall and irrevocable doom of "the angels who kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation,” and are now " reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.” These are two of the most memorable and impressive illustrations of the providential law propounded, in and after the terrific death of Nadab and Abihu, in their priestly vestments, at the very altar. “This is what the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified." The examples afterwards referred to are intended, not so much to throw light upon this point, as to aggravate the guilt of these insidious intruders, by comparing them with cases of pre-eminent iniquity, to which the sacred history had given a proverbial, and in some sense, a prophetic character. To one acquainted with the Hebrew Scriptures, no condemnation or description could be stronger than to place men in the same class with Cain, Balaam, and Korah, Sodom and Gomorrah, or the antediluvians to whom Enoch preached, and whose destruction he predicted. And lest these should be regarded as Old Testament examples, which could have no parallel or repetition in the Christian Church, the Apostle, after citing them, and adding a terrible elucidation of the sins which they exemplified, reminds his hearers that the apostles, as the constituted organizers of the Church, and the inspired completers of the Christian revelation, had expressly told them, not on one occasion merely, but as a constant theme of their instructions, that even in the last time, under the new economy, and even to its very close, there should still be such licentious scoffers.
And here, says Jude, is the fulfilment now before your eyes; here are the very men predicted. “These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.”
If then the dangers here described were not peculiar to one time or place, it becomes us to be likewise on our guard against them; and if, on the other hand, there are times, and places, and conditions of society, in which they are particularly to be dreaded, it becomes us, not to take for granted, that our own time and condition are exempted from such fearful peril, but to apprehend the contrary, at least as possible, and with a wise yet bold precaution, to inquire what is the true safeguard and protection against evils so appalling, which exist in every age, and may be particularly rife in ours.
It is characteristic of the Bible, as contrasted with too many human modes of teaching truth and doing good, that it presents the worst and best of everything together. Sin and holiness, heaven and hell, salvation and perdition, man's misery and God's mercy, instead of being separately urged and magnified, so as to produce despair on one hand, or encourage license on the other, are exhibited in juxtaposition, not to say in conjunction; so that in revelation as in personal experience, the most humbling views of human guilt and helplessness immediately precede and usher in the clearest revelations of Divine grace, and the precious fruits which it produces. Of this usage-if it may be so called—we have one example in the text, which follows the dark picture of corruption in the context, like a flash of lightning in a midnight storm, or as the dawn of day is said to be preceded by the darkest hour of the night.
Even the most cursory and superficial reader must experience a sort of pleasurable shock, on suddenly emerging from the horrors of the previous description to the sunshine or the daylight, or the morning twilight of this so cthing and exciting, and exhilarating promise, for it is a promise, though conveyed in the imposing form of an authoritative exhortation.
The first thought suggested by this striking sequence is the one already hinted in more general terms—that after all, the Church and the believer have no reason to despond; that even in the worst of times, and when surrounded by the worst corruptions, nay, when these have actually worked their way into the Church itself, and there effected terrible fulfilments of the most alarming prophecies, and fearful repetitions of the most abhorred historical examples,—when Cain, and Balaam, and Korah, seemed to live again, and Sodom and Gomorrah, as it were, to be rebuilt-even in times of such extreme discouragement to true believers, they have reason to repent of their own sins, and to bewail, the sins of others, but have no right to despair.
The next point that presents itself, is the abrupt and clear line of distinction drawn between the true and false professor, between the treacherous but scoffing libertines, whose actual existence, as foretold by prophets and epistles, Jude had just before affirmed; and those whom, in the midst of these defections and apostacies, he now addresses as “beloved,”—both by him and by his Master.
, “But ye, beloved !” How significant is every word in this apostrophe; how strong the contrast hinted by the but, and more distinctly indicated by the ye, and still more unequivocally spoken out in the beloved! Blessed be God that such a particle, and such a pronoun, and such an adjective, could still be used in this connection, not only with grammatical correctness, but with doctrinal and experimental truth.
When from the general encouragement afforded by these opening words, we proceed to inquire more particularly in what the encouragement consists, or where the safety of the Church and the believer lies; we are perplexed, not by the paucity, but by the
fulness and variety of means proposed. “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Without attempting too precise or subtle a distinction between these particulars, but rather viewing them as different aspects of the same thing, we may still assist our own minds in the profitable use of them, by fixing our attention on the four acts here prescribed as means of safety.
The first is that of building—“ building up yourselves on your most holy faith.”
The second that of praying—"praying in the Holy Ghost.”
The third is that of keeping—"keeping yourselves in the love of God.”
The fourth is that of looking—“ looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, unto eternal life.”
AEIOU. [To be concluded next month.]
A VINDICATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF
BY JONATHAN DICKINSON.
[JONATHAN DICKINSON, the first President of Princeton College, was among the greatest of American divines. He was Pastor of the first Presbyterian Church in Elizabethtown, N. J. His two sermons on Predestination and Free Grace have never before been published, so far as is known to the Editor. The full title, together with the Preface, is given from the manuscript. The sermons are in an excellent state of preservation. We are indebted for the use of the sermons to the Rev. John MILLER, one of the descendants of President Dickinson. The following is the original title, and also the dedication.- Ed.]
THE TRUE CHURCUMAN: Being a demonstration that those essential articles of Christianity, the Doctrines of Predestination, and the Sovereign Free Grace of God, are confirmed, not only by the Sacred Scriptures, and the rules of right reason; but also by the approved doctrine of the Church of England. In two sermons; preached at Elizabethtown, in New Jersey. By JonatuAN DICKINSON, A.M. Pastor of a Church of Christ, at Elizabethtown.
“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.”--2 Tim. 1:13.
I will not have him for my God, who hath not power over my will; I will not have him for my God, whom I, miserable sinner, can necessitate to permit evil; I will not have him for my God, from whom all good descendeth not.—BRADWARDINE,
THE DEDICATION : To the Church and Inhabitants of Elizabethtown, in New Jersey. Dearly beloved in our Lord Jesus. The dreadful bonds of office, whereby I am indebted unto you, makes it my duty, to neglect no means, either by word or pen, that may advance the welfare of your precious souls; the shipwreck that is daily made of our most precious faith, makes me with less reluctancy, publish these plain discourses. Let carping critics (as I expect they will) find fault, I am sure the subject is weighty and seasonable; and I study to advance your welfare, to establish you in your holy faith, to show the old paths that you may walk therein, not gadiling about to change your way; and endeavor not to tickle itching ears. I am sure these doctrines here treated of, are the turning points of your salvation, you can't with safety lay the hopes of your salvation upon any other bottom; therefore, be careful that (in an affair whereon an eternity depends) you build sure; let none cajole you out of, but earnestly contend for, the faith once delivered to the saints; lest by compassing yourselves about, with sparks of your own kindling, you receive this at the hands of God, to lie down in sorrow. Accept this pledge of greatest respect from him, who above all things covets to see Christ formed in you.-J. DICKINSON.
THE TRUE CHURCHMAN.
BEING A VINDICATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION,
“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we might be holy, and without blame before him in love. . . . Being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."—Eph. 1 : 4, 11.
The Divine oracles contain many dvovónta, things hard to be understood; there is much of mystery must be left to the sacred pages, as a depth unfathomable by the most penetrating understanding, and sagacious wit, of shortsighted mortals; perfection of knowledge is reserved to a state of glory. Revelation, therefore, and not reason, must be the standard of our faith. Though it is true that there is no part of the Book of God, but what is most reasonable; yet much of it is the object of faith, that is far beyond our comprehension : we must believe what purblind reason can't perceive, and not call in question the dictates of the unerring Spirit of God, because not quadrating with our depraved, as well as infirm reason. Yet, alas ! such is the defection and degeneracy of a great part of the professing world, that the very foundations and vitals of our religion, are struck at by the idolized reasonings of men of corrupt minds.
The everlasting truths that my text leads me at this time to treat of, are such as are most opposed and impugned by the prevailing heresy of this evil age, as though no doctrine were more dangerous, nor more repugnant to the free grace of God and comfort of the saints.
It is my desire, therefore (God assisting), to handle the subject before me, with such clearness and plainness, as to undeceive such that (by the crafty wiles of seducers) have been led aside from the purity of the gospel, and to remove those stumbling-blocks that ignorance or prejudice has thrown in our way. In order hereunto, I shall first take notice of several things, that the words (duly weighed) will be found to contain in them. We may then note,
1. The eternal date of the Divine decree “ before the foundation of the world.” The infinite and omniscient God must needs comprehend all things, and all events together, in one moment of eternity. As God is an eternal being, so the decree must needs bear equal date with his essence; for the decree is God himself decreeing. The plain meaning of the words is, that the elect were