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ence? What would avail the threatenings of civil law ? The felon would not be deterred from any crime by that which in prospect gave him no uneasiness, and thus the world would become à scene of universal anarchy. If then, it be the case generally, that where an unconverted individual anticipates his speedy dissolution, there equally he would be inclined to say, “ An horrible dread had overwhelmed me.” Much of this must be ascribed to the operation of a secret feeling planted in the bosom, acting qnicker than reason itself, and beyond its controul in many instances : but unquestionably one main cause of that distress which we see wringing so visibly the hearts of dying men, arises from the fear of future judgment. Men may be very ignorant of the nature of that being before whom they are to stand, as also of that investigation which will be made into their conduct; but the mere thought that any thing of the kind will take place is enough to awaken fearful doubtings. . They feel that they have sinned, and though some plan may have been adopted by them for the taking away their guilt, (for few are without something of the kind) it is possibility, they know, that they may be deceived, and this bare possibility breathes of utter ruin. It is highly pleasing to the sinner to flatter himself, that God whom he sees not, will, when he is seen, manifest unlimited indifference to the transgressions of his creatures; but the conviction continues, that should his nature be other than it is hoped it is, there could be no escaping; “ if thou shouldest be extreme to mark what is done amiss, O Lord, who should stand ?” may be considered justly, not only as the language of an inspired Prophet, but as the faltering acknowledgment of many a conscience-smitten criminal. And so St. Paul's declaration is fully borne out by experience, “ the sting of death is sin;" death has many terrors, but the chief and most acutely painful is the consciousness of guilt.
It must be admitted then, that it is no mean lesson 'how to die.' It is a lesson, however, which never could be learned, were it not taught by God himself. The Bible, however, does shew that to mortal eyes which no other composition ever did or could shew, a remedy against the fear of death, and this, because it shews a remedy against the consequences of transgression. Atonement has been made for sinners. He from whose eyes nothing is hidden, who penetrates at once into the past, the present, and the future, he who can compute all consequences, and measure all moral acts with their motives and results; who, and who only can look into the true state of things, and calculate what is the real import of those awfully united horrors, sin and death, that Divine Being has looked down upon the wretched circumstances of the children of men, and looked upon them that he might retrieve the mighty ruin. O what a subject is it for our deepest contemplations, that of the eternal and all glorious God, surveying from his own bright heaven, this impure and sullied earth, not that he might visit its iniquities with some sulphureous shower of destroying wrath, but that from its surface he might take up of the poor guilt-stained inhabitants, cleansing them in his own atoning blood, sanctifying them with his own pure spirit, and clothing them with the beaming robes of
righteousness, to set them upon thrones of light, and put the song
6. How our hearts burn within us at the scene !
J. C. L.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE CHRISTIAN EXAMINER.
SIR-Should the proposed discussion take place in Derry, it will be likely to produce important results, in which every lover of truth and of the Reformation is interested. Our six clerical brethren will have to maintain an arduous contest, (for there is a Jesuitical subtlety in the reasonings of Popery which is truly appalling,) and as we cannot afford them aid in any other way, let prayer be made without ceasing of the Church unto God for them, that they may be endued with heavenly wisdom, and prudence, and firmness. Their cause is of God; and this consideration is sufficient to encourage them to venture upon the conflict. They need but one weapon, the sling and the stone of God's word, and they may rest assured that even in the hand of a stripling it is able to bring to the ground the proudest Goliah that ever defied the armies of the living God. They will be assailed by many darts ; but clothed in the panoply of truth, they have no reason to fear : let them but come to the contest in the name of the Lord of Hosts, leaning upon his almighty arm, and seeking in earnest supplication for the guidance of his grace, and they may rest assured that he will give them a mouth and wisdom which their adversaries shall not be able to gainsay or resist. Christian sympathy is a principal ingredient in the Christian character, (Rom. xii. 15—1 Cor. xii. 26,) and upon what occasion can there be a more legitimate call for its exercise than where the servants of the Lord publicly stand forth to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. Let such, then, be instant in prayer, that they may be encouraged and supported in the prospective view of the conflict; and when they are engaged in it, let their hands be held up by the earnest supplications of the lovers of truth, as were the hands of Moses by Aaron and Hur, in the day of Amalek's discomfiture. May we in faith address these excellent men, and say with Christian feeling, faith and confidence, Go, and the Lord be with you.
BEDELL. December 5, 1826.
THE COMMINATION SERVICE.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE CHRISTIAN EXAMINER.
SIR-I am sure you will always consider your pages not uselessly employed in vindicating any of the formuláries of our Church, or removing any scruples concerning them that may be in the minds of conscientious persons.
It has often happened to me to hear persons, whose judgment and piety I esteem, speak against our Commination Service, appointed to be used on the first day of Lent. The more I consider that Service, the more I admire it, the more convinced am I that it uses, in the most correct manner, the Law and the Gospel, making the law to be what it should ever be in the hand of a Christian, a schoolmaster to bring men to Christ. I shall not now dwell upon the vulgar objection of ignorant people, who are often heard to give as an excuse for absenting themselves from the Service of the Church upon Ash Wednesday, that they do not like to go to curse their neighbours, when it is so evident that every man in that Service declares his sincere conviction that he himself, if under the law, is under a curse, and so is led to express more strongly his value for that Saviour who has “ redeemed him from the curse of the law, being made a curse for him.”
But I must notice an objection made by some more enlightened persons against the first clause in the Service, which states, that “in the Primitive Church there was a godly discipline, that at the
beginning of Lent such persons as stood convicted of notorious sin were put to open. penance, and punished in this world, that their souls might be saved in the day of the Lord, and that others, admonished by their example, might be the more afraid to otfend.” In their zeal for the Divine truth of salvation by grace through faith, they recoil with horror from the idea of men being put to open penance, and punished in this world, that their souls may be saved in the day of the Lord; they fasten upon these words an unevangelical meaning, which is not their intended import, and then they reprobate them in the sense which they have ascribed to them. But I would beg these objectors to remark that these words are strictly and almost literally Scriptural, and whatever false doctrine they discover in them, they might equally discover in the language of Paul, when (1 Cor. v. 5) he desires the Church to “deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” Some may object, perhaps, “punished,” as being an erroneous substitute for Paul's expression of “delivered” to Satan for the destruction of the flesh.' 'But this very word is used by the Apostle himself: (2 Cor. ii. 6) “sufficient unto such a man is this punishment which was inflicted of many." I am sure that St. Paul never intended to convey that the punishment inflicted on the incestuous man could save his spirit in the day of the Lord, by being an atonement for his sin. So I am equally sure there is no ground for supposing that the compilers of our Service meant, or used words, which, when properly understood, were calculated to convey any thing further than that the puishment inflicted might be, under the Divine blessing, a means of bringing the guilty person to such repentance and sense of sin, that, flying to the Saviour, his soul might be saved in the day of the Lord: “it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to him that was exercised thereby.”
But there is one word with which the objectors are incurably offended : “put to open penance." This they proclaim to be utter Popery, and having given it this name, they think themselves absolved from all obligation to argue against it. It is enough to say that it is Popery. There is no person that is more convinced than I am of the evils of Popery; but I am not on that account prepared to quarrel with every thing to which an objector gives the name of Popery ; and perhaps those who have too hastily quarrelled with the thing because they were jealous with the name, may be disposed to relent a little when they find that the most firm opposers of Popery have used the word, and have considered the thing as a godly discipline. No one will accuse John Knox, the Scotch Reformer, or those who acted with him, of having retained any popish bias ; and yet they decided as to the propriety of retaining in their Church “ public penance.” We have the following account of this practice in one instance, in M‘Crie's Life of Knox, vol. ii. p. 75:
“In the beginning of 1563, Knox went to Jedburgh, by the appointment of the General Assembly, to investigate a scandal which had broken out against Paul Methuen, the minister of that place, who was suspected of adultery. Methuen was found guilty, and excom
municated. He afterward returned to Scotland, and a severe and humiliating penance was presented to him. He was enjoined to appear at the church door of Edinburgh, when the second bell rang for public worship, clad in sackcloth, bare-headed and bare-footed, to stand there until the prayers and psalms were finished; when he was to be brought into the Church to hear a sermon, during which he was to be « placed in the public spectacle above the people.” This appearance he was to make on three several preaching days; and on the last of them, being a Sabbath day, he was, at the close of the sermon, to profess his sorrow before the congregation, and to request their forgivenness; upon which he was again to be “clad in his own apparel,” and received into the communion of the Church.
The biographer of Knox, who will be as little suspected of Popery as Knox himself, proceeds: “ The mode of public repentance enjoined on this occasion, was appointed to be afterwards used in all cases of aggravated immorality.” “ There was nothing," says he, “ in which the Scottish reformers approached nearer to the primitive Church, than in the rigorous and impartial exercise of ecclesiastical discipline, the relaxation of which, under the papacy, they justly regarded as one great cause of the universal corruption of religion. While they rejected many of the ceremonies which were introduced into the worship of the Christian Church during the three first centuries, they, from a detestation of vice, and a desire to restrain it, did not scruple to conform to a number of their penitential regulations."
If, then, we could take the sentiments of our Protestant brethren in Scotland as any authority, we should not start from the idea of open penance, and godly discipline, as remnants of Popery, but rather, with our Church, much wish that the said discipline be restored again.
I hope these few observations may be, under the Divine blessing, the means of leading some of your readers to see this subject in its right point of view; and may induce others who are, perhaps, rather too much inclined to cavil and find fault, to pause a little and examine the force of their objections before they raise their voice against the wisdom and soundness of the pious founders of our Church. I cannot conclude this short defence of one part of the Commination Service, without calling your attention, and that of your readers, to the affection and strength with which the gracious consolations of the Gospel are put forward in another part of the Service : “ Though our sins be as red as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow; and though they be like purple, they shall be made white as wool. Turn ye (saith the Lord) from all your wickedness, and your sin shall not be your destruction : cast away all your ungodliness that ye have done; make you new hearts and a new spirit. Wherefore will ye die, () ye house of Israel ! seeing that I have no pleasure in him that dieth, saith the Lord God. Iurn ye therefore, and ye shall live. Although we have sinned, yet have we an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins, for he was wounded for our offences, and