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contending (even at the risk of strife) with brethren whom we believe to be in error?
The Greek word rendered “foolish” in the two passages above quoted, means, literally, “dull,” “stupid.” It is the word applied to the man in the parable who "built his house upon the sand,” and also to the virgins who "took no oil with them."
Now in both these cases it was the end which showed the folly. In the case of the foolish builder, the house may have been ever so carefully put together, but the storm, whose probable or even possible approach had not been thought of, showed the folly of neglecting to dig for a sure foundation. In the case of the foolish virgins, they took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom; and then, not before, did it appear that they had no oil with them. May not this teach us that there is a solemn lesson involved in the use of this word to describe a class of questions which Christians are to avoid ? They may be questions which, at present, from man's point of view, appear interesting, instructive, and profitable; and yet, regarded in the light of a coming eternity, their discussion may turn out to have involved mere waste of time. Viewed in the light of this world's supposed continuance, it were folly to avoid them—viewed in the certain passing away of the fashion of this world, the folly is to entertain them.
It would not be difficult to find illustrations of this point. Take the great, or, shall we call it, little subject of the Bicentenary agitation. If the world is to last for ever; nay, even if we are to have a thousand years' existence of the present state of things, however improved, it is a point of considerable interest and importance, to discover whether true religion be indeed so hindered in its growth (as many affirm), by its connection with the State, or whether it would suffer if set at liberty to support and defend itself. But if, on the other hand, the coming 's
of the Lord draweth nigh,” it is as foolish for Christians to waste their time in fighting about such questions, as if builders engaged in the last stage of a building, expecting the speedy visit of the architect for final inspection of the work, should fall out with one another about the arrangement of the scaffolding upon which they stand, and instead of applying their energies to the accomplishment of their real work—the building itself, should waste time and words in contending about the poles and planks which are so soon to be cast aside.
The exact point wherein lay the folly of both the foolish builder and the foolish virgins, was forgetting the future, while acting, perhaps, suitably enough for the present. And is not this the point where the folly of so many religious disputations of the present day appears, that, while contending about matters which are interesting in themselves, the coming of One who will set all these questions at rest, is forgotten ; and thus brethren begin to beat their fellow-servants, and neglect to watch for their coming Lord.
It is said that, during the French expedition to Egypt, a fierce dispute arose amongst the French generals about some point of strategy on which they differed. When, however, Napoleon appeared amongst them, the dispute at once ceased-his master-mind set ali to rights; there was no longer need to fight about a point which was at once settled by one to whom they all deferred.
So shall it be when the Saviour comes. There will be then no disputations or wranglings about points on which now the Lord's people are divided. It will then be known infallibly whether Church or State should have existed conjoined or separate; whether redemption be particular or universal; or whether infant baptism was right or wrong.
Is it then proposed to postpone all exercise of judgment upon these disputed points until the Lord comes ? Far from it. Every Christian is bound to aet up to the light given him in the Word, in any or every one of these matters, and is responsible to God for such action. All that is urged is that, while acting up to the light we have, we should bear in mind the speedy approach of a day which will throw light upon, and bring to the light all these things. The thought of this coming, infallible decision, ought surely to keep us humble, and content to wait, in many cases, for vindication, till He comes whose presence will set all to rights.
On the other hand, let us prize dearly every grain of truth which we have received by the Spirit's teaching from the word. Let us hold it with firmness, advance it with meekness, and defend it, if necessary, with faithfulness; and when the attack of others has forced us to defend the truth committed to our keeping, let us bear in mind the advice of a Christian poet :
“Be calm in arguing; for fierceness makes
Error a fauit, and truth discourtesy.
More than his sicknesses or poverty ?
H. E. B.
THE CONFLICT.—You may take the Lord's promise for victory in the end ; that shall not fail; but do not promise yourself ease in the way, for that will not hold. If at some times your enemy have the advantage, give not all for lost. He hath often won the day, that hath been foiled and wounded in the fight. But, likewise, take not al! for won, so as to have no more conflict, when sometimes you have the better, as in particular battles. Be not desperate when you lose, nor secure when you gain them.- Archbishop Leighton.
THE PRIVILEGES AND DUTIES OF A BELIEVER.
ST has been happily remarked by a valued servant
of Christ, that the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth
chapters of Romans, present a picture of the leading features in the believer's course. After the foundation of justification by faith is laid in the third and fourth chapters,—the fifth chapter represents the privileges of the believer; the sixth, the duties and character of the believer; the seventh, the believer's conflict; the eighth, the believer's triumph.
Perhaps we may find it profitable to turn our attention for a little while to this view of the subject, for we believe that confused notions of other privileges and duties respectively, have not only done serious injury to real Christians, but have, through them, indirectly hindered the great work of God in the conversion of sinners to Christ.
But first, what are the privileges of a believer? Not merely of some persons eminent for holiness, but of all who have truly come to Jesus, and, by faith, have laid hold of his precious sacrifice.
And, first of all, his sins are forgiven. It is not a conditional pardon, or a partial or doubtful pardon; not like the reluctant forgiveness man often extends to his fellow-man, but full and entire. The sins “blotted out”-“cast into the depths of the sea,
_66 made whiter than snow, "remembered no more. And this is a matter of fact, not of feeling; it does not depend on our sense of it, but on God's word. And yet how many will not allow themselves to believe they are pardoned, because they say they cannot feel it.
They do not consider that faith must come first, and feeling afterwards; they have had faith, it may be, to come forward and ask for pardon (and such faith, however
weak, will obtain it, for the very touch of the hem of his garment is life). But here their faith stops. They cannot believe they have received what they asked for, until they have some additional sign that their prayer is answered. Now this is a confirmation to their faith which the very nature of the case forbids. The cancelling of a debt, the remission of a penalty, is a transaction which takes place for, not in the debtor or criminal ; his sensations of joy are not the cause, but the effect of his knowing himself free and pardoned. This needs to be kept very specially in mind at the present time, for many who read the deeply touching accounts we receive from time to time of the sudden thrill of joy which has been experienced by newly converted sinners, imagine that because they have not felt this startling burst of delight, they cannot have truly received pardon; whereas, a thousand causes, outward and inward, may modify the feelings experienced on receiving forgiveness, without altering the fact of that forgiveness. The knowledge and reception of free pardon, may come to the mind suddenly or gradually; the passage “from death to life" may take place as imperceptibly as that from winter to spring in our climates; the outward circumstances of the person who experiences the change, his temperament, education, state of health, and numberless other causes, but may affect the manner of his reception of the tidings; the reality of the fact cannot be altered by any of these things.
The fact of forgiveness is one thing, and the recognition of that fact another. And that recognition requires to be put on clear and simple grounds. The Christian's reason for believing himself pardoned, is not simply that Jesus died, for many who know this never appropriate the blessing; but that salvation is promised to all who believe, and he has believed. Jesus has promised to receive all who come, and he has come.
But many stop short with knowing they are pardoned,