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perplex them. Who does not know, that the far-famed fanatical Unitarians, who call themselves " Christians," have their " revivals" of a strongly marked character; their ^anxious seats;" and all the most imposing and exciting means,-tiiat have ever been adopted for making a popular impression?N I\ay, one of the most active and popular leaders of that sect, boasted, that he had drawn at least fifty persons to "anxiefcs seats" merely by the influence of his own singing, which was, indeed, remarkably touching and powerful. It is, surely, unnecessary to remark, that such revivals are a disgrace to the name; that they are the fruit of animal excitement only; and that every enlightened friend of the Redeemer's kingdom must mourn over their character and tendency.
It is not mere excitement then, in which the animal feelings are roused and agitated, and in which the mere principles of nature are addressed, and called into powerful action, that constitutes a genuine and desirable revival of religion. For, as there can be no real religion in any individual heart, without the reception and love of the fundamental doctrines of the gospel; so we must estimate the real character of every religious excitement which claims to be a revival, by the degree in which pure gospel truth is recognized, embraced and obeyed. If the subjects of it appear to be moved by distinct views of truth, addressed to the conscience and the heart; if, in giving an account of their anxiety, their hopes, and their peace, they manifest that their apprehensions of the Saviour, and their grounds of confidence are those which the scriptures authorize; and if they plainly bring forth the fruits of holy living;—we must denominate such a revival a work of God, thank him for it, and rejoice in it as a rich blessing.
6. Finally; the doctrine of our text places in the strongest light
THE SIN AND DANGER OF THOSE WHO HOLD THE TRUTH IN MERE HEARTLESS FORMALITY, OR IN UNRIGHTEOUSNESS. The great end of
all truth is sanctification. If it fail of producing this effect, it may render inexcusable, and may finally condemn; but cannot savingly benefit. Though a man had all knowledge, and^all orthodoxy; though he were skilful in the word of truth, and "valiant for thq truth," against all gainsayers; still if he did not love it, and obey it, and live under its power, what would it profit? Beloved Reader! look well to this matter! You may become by study an able theologian, and even a champion for sound doctrine; and yet, after all, may "know nothing," on the subject of religion, "as you ought to know." You may have none of that spiritual knowledge of God, of the Saviour, and of yourself, which is "life eternal." And if you die thus, it were "better for you that you had never been born." While you seek sound doctrinal knowledge, then, with unceasing diligence; rest not satisfied with mere speculation. Remember that a scriptural creed is not piety. Many a man, we have reason to believe, with a head full of orthodox opinions, while his heart Was
unreconciled to Goo", has sunk to perdition. "The kingdom of God is not in word, ln\t in power. If you know these things, happy are you if you do \hem. He that knoweth his master's will, and doeth it not, shall be "beaten with many stripes." Again I say, then, be not satisfied with speculative orthodoxy. If you possess nothing more, your knowledge w\'L but -sink you to a lower hell. Your light will be your condemnation. Let your study ol the truth be ever accompanied with humble, fervent prayer for that teaching of the Holy Spirit, who alone can render it effectual to your eternal benefit. And, O that every one who reads this page, may be so taught of God, as that the word of truth may be a "savour of life unto life, and not of death unto death" to his immortal spirit! Amen!
No. 2. PITTSBURGH, JULY, 1832. Vol. I.
BY E. P. SWIFT,
OF PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA.
THE CHARACTER OF GOD.
Exodus 33: 18. And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.
The great system of the material universe incontestibly refutes every surmise of the eternity of its past existence. It so eloquently attests, in the constant activity of inert matter, and the harmony and order of inanimate things, the traces of design, and the existence of a designing mind, and so loudly proclaims, in all its operations, in the organs, senses and instincts of living beings, and the intellectual faculties and active powers and moral affections of man, the being and the constant presence of that pure and mighty Spirit, from which all must have proceeded,—that an argument in proof of your own existence would seem more necessary, than one intended to establish his. He that can look without and within, and witness the fullness of a wise and designing power, in innumerable forms of contrivance and adaptation, and yet see not the hand, and recognize not the presence of this greatest and noblest of Beings, is one whom the first laws of human belief do not bind, and whom, of course, no possible reasoning could convince.
The same mice that so distinctly announces the fact of the divine existence, as distinctly asserts His own single, independent, underived, and absolute perfection; and reason concurs with revelation in declaring the certainty of his moral administration over the universe, and the actual responsibility of all other intelligences to Him, who for his own glory made, and sustains, and governs all. Without regarding it as expedient to present at this time even an outline of the argument. in proof of the divine existence, it seems proper, prior to a distinct consideration of the several attributes of
God,* to endeavor to impress upon the mind, a proper sense of the transcendent Importance or Just And Correct Views or His Glorious Character, as most vitally connected with every department of theological knowledge and practical religion. If to the earnest and prayerful study of God's true character, our every power of thought and reasoning and devotion is summoned, from a belief of its necessity to the eternal good of the soul, it is not less so from the greatness and grandeur of the object of our investigation. If we contemplate his essential pre-eminence in the universe, as that first, underived, eternal, immutable, all-wise, all-powerful, every where present Being, most simple, and most pure in his nature, and illimitable and all-sufficient in his attributes, who is the cause of all things, and the final disposer of all creatures and events;—as the Maker and sustainer of all mental as well as material existences) with all their varied' properties, capacities, and susceptibilities; as the Fountain of all intelligence and of all moral distinctions, and as boundless and incomprehensible in the perfection of his felicity, his goodness and his moral rectitude, as he is in the immensity of his presence, and the glory of his power.—Or, if we contemplate his infinite superiority, in relation to all other beings and things, as the source of all knowledge in dependent minds, by its direct communication, or the provision of the means of it in the forms and examples of things presented to them in his works; as the Author of all the magnificence, and beauty, and happiness, which fill the universe;—as the great Lawgiver to matter and mind, the supreme Legislator of all worlds, and the perfect pattern of all goodness; as the Author of that religion whose actual and moral pre-eminence has in all ages and in every land proclaimed the source of its emanation, and of that system of redemption, which has been the astonishment of angels and the deepest mystery of love to men: And if we contemplate him not only as the source of life, and light, and truth and love, but the grand object of hope or fear, of delightful attraction or of miserable aversion to all created minds; as the Being, to know and serve and enjoy whom will constitute throughout eternity the life and immortality of heaven,—we cannot but feel, that to acquire just, and true, and adequate ideas of Him, must be the most reasonable of all requisitions, the most imperious of all duties, and for time and eternity the noblest of all pursuits. As the being and perfections of God most fitly form the first and most glorious chapter in all religious investigations, so correct impressions here are most vital, because they will go to influence men's opinions on every other subject of revelation. Misapprehensions of the character of him who reveals, will diffuse their effects over every part of the revelation. To mistake the true character of him who in the bible legislates, is but in fact to misinterpret its every law; and to want just views of the Deity, is to want a power to be duly moved by his heavenly promises, or awed by his fearful threatenings. Here is a centre in which all the various lines of truth do meet. Here is a fountain, whose pure or infected waters are diffused over all fields of sacred knowledge! A small mistake here, like a slight derangement at the heart, will carry forth its effects into - the whole system of one's faith and duty. Perhaps it is not too much to say, that every act of sin in the universe, is to an omniscient mind, referable to the diminished impression on the mind of some one principle of moral truth, and that every such defection begins in an erroneous or impaired impression in respect to the character of God, just as the beauty and impressiveness of every principle of revelation, are rendered more luminous and sanctifying on holy minds, in proportion as they understand and have a felt impression of the character of Him from whom it came. As a matter of truth and duty, then, the acquisition of correct views of the character of God deservedly claims a priority to every other, as every man's ideas of himself, his relation to others, and the nature and importance of his salvation, as well as the force upon his mind of every subject of thought, or tie of moral obligation, co'ntaJrted in the bible, will derive an influence from this, which it can itself control in others.
* The Editor has expressed a desire, and, as far as possible, a determination, M follow something like a regular order, and a systematic arrangement, in the several topics of theology to be discussed in the Presbyterian Preacher, and this subject wal taken in compliance with this plan.
The fact, that the Gentile world, with the benefits of tradition, the lamp of reason, and the light of nature, experienced an utter loss of all just ideas of God, and turned all "the truth" concerning him " into a lie," admonishes us not to rely upon the resources of reason and philosophy for this most precious acquisition. And when we see thousands enjoying the external light of revelation, having minds so perverted by sin and ignorance, as to think of him only as an object devoid of every thing lovely and endearing, and inspiring dread and aversion, it should arouse us to a sense of the dangers of neglect and inattention. Now the bible, we are assured, when attended by the Spirit, and when it meets with minds sincere, and pure, and bright enough to receive its spiritual and lucid impressions, can, by its simple statements, and its varied presentations of God's character to the mind, effect for him who applies all the resources of his intellect, and heart, and his experience, this most important communication.
Instead of resting in vain resolutions, or intellectual efforts, or outward means, should we not, (like Moses, when the trying duties of a most responsible station were likely to produce discouragement unless fresh and sanctifying views of the divine character were presented to his mind,) go often and earnestly to the throne of grace, and join all our researches to become truly wise and holy with the fervent petition, / beseech thee, 0 Lord, shew me thy glory. What we propose, at this time, is,