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good and wise men (especially among ourselves, where it is so much needed) are about to unite to save the Church of God, in this eventful day of its history, by rebuking the extremes to which we are exposed, and recalling the spirit with the success of the apostles.
There is one aspect of the general subject which we regard with peculiar hope, and which we cannot close this article without noticing. It is, that the friends of order and truth in New England, and in the Presbyterian Church, are beginning to understand each other better, and to act more in concert. Such men have too long been strangers to each other, and fostered mutual and ill-founded prejudices. The best men of the Congregational Churches of New England, and of the Presbyterian Church, think and feel very much alike on most subjects, and entirely alike on fundamental ones. It is time, that burying jealousies, without the surrender of principle, they should unite their labours, influence, and prayers, to arrest the progress of those errors in doctrine, and excesses in measures, which are now rampant in their respective denominations; and which, by abuses of revivals, by corrupting the fountains of religious knowledge, and turning to their account the power of the periodical press, threaten to overrun the land. We conclude with the memorable words of Robert Hall, in reference to another subject: “A growing unanimity has begun to prevail among the good in different parties, who, finding a centre of union in the great truths of revelation, and in a solicitude for their interests, are willing to merge their smaller differences in a common cause. The number of the sincerely pious, is, we trust, increasing among us, whose zeal, far from suffering abatement from the confidence of (those opposed to them) has begun to glow with a purer and more steady flame than ever. These are pleasing indications that the presence of the Holy One of Israel is still in the midst of us.'
A FRIEND TO REVIVALS. Philadelphia, Oct. 3d, 1832.
Note.—The Preliminary Essay is worthy, in all respects, of its distinguished author; and the letters, to which little or no reference is made, are also truly ex. cellent. But it so happened that the train of thought which the writer pursued led him to select topics, which called more specially for the extracts which have been introduced.
vol. Iv. No. VI.—3 Q
ART. II.-AN ADDRESS
Delivered at Princeton, by the appointment of the Board of Directors of the Theological
Seminary, at the close of the annual examination of the Students, in May, 1832. By Rev. Gardiner Spring, D.D.
I have never appreciated the embarrassment of addressing you, my young friends, until I am now, in the providence of God, called to this service. I shall not probably suggest a thought that has not frequently been suggested by those who have been called to this service before me. But if I shall be so happy as to present a few topics before your minds in such a light as shall have the least tendency to increase and extend your usefulness as men, as the ministers of Christ, I shall be abundantly gratified in the few moments I am allowed to enjoy with you.
The tendencies of piety are to produce good. “A good tree bringeth forth good fruit.” The high aim of the true Christian is to be useful. This is the tendency of his spirit, his affections, his desires, his hopes, his efforts, his whole renewed character. It is not that he may be a splendid man, but a useful man.
A minister of the Gospel presses after a prize of very questionable lawfulness, when he aims at being a splendid minister; but he has no misgivings of conscience when he honestly aims at being a useful minister. He will be very apt to be disappointed if he aims at being a great and splendid minister; but he will rarely, if ever miss his mark, if he aims at being a useful minister.
You have a thousand times been told, that to meet the high claims of the work for which you are preparing, you must possess ardent and uniform piety. Your usefulness will, in a great measure, depend upon the power which the religion of the Gospel exerts upon your own soul. To this, more than any other cause, may be traced the secret power of such men as Baxter, Edwards, Brainerd, and Payson. One reason why so many ministers live to so little purpose is, that while they may perhaps be good men, they are obviously deficient in that personal piety which has a transforming effect upon the heart and deportment. God and heaven are not the point of attraction toward which their minds and efforts are
perpetually tending. I have known ministers of splendid talent not half so useful as many of their humbler brethren; and who probably will not be found in those illumined departments of the heavenly city, where they “that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever. You never can be faithful ministers, and therefore
you never can be useful ministers, without fervent piety. You will not be faithful to the truth of God, nor to the souls of men. You will not take pleasure in your work, nor endure its trials, nor be eminently successful in winning souls to Christ, without fervent piety. Piety, my young friends, must be your great adornment, and give your character its lustre. The bare hopes of piety, and even its predominating graces, ought not to satisfy you. Her self-denying spirit, her heavenaspiring affections, her exalted and humbling joys, her unreserved self-devotement, her increasing purity, her sweet sensibility and tenderness, her absorbing confidence in the cross, and her deep and restless solicitude for the best interests of men; this, under a wise direction, will not fail to make you useful ministers.
It is almost too obvious a remark, especially to you, to say, that to be a useful minister, a man must be well instructed in the oracles of God. But there are several reasons for making this remark, just at this time. You have the best opportunity for religious instruction of every kind. To say nothing of the excellent instructions you are receiving in the different departments of divine learning, immediately from the Holy Scriptures, which we all know to be the only infallible rule of faith and practice, the standards of faith adopted in this Seminary, I am more and more persuaded, must commend themselves to every reflecting and sober man. I know there is a growing prejudice against forming and subscribing creeds or confessions of faith; and it is not surprising that this prejudice should exist in a youthful mind. But, if there are essential doctrines of the Gospel, and if these doctrines can be ascertained and defined, where is the impropriety of embodying them in some well digested formula? By nothing has the baneful influence of error been so generally counteracted, and the cause of truth so generally promoted, as by judicious confessions of faith. New England owes her orthodoxy, under God, to the Assembly's Catechism ; and not until that excellent summary of doctrine fell into disuse, did some of her churches decline from the faith
Dr. Spring's Address. of their fathers. Old England, too, owes its remaining orthodoxy to the thirty-nine articles. And, where will you find a formula which more clearly ascertains and defines the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures, than the Catechisms and Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church? I am confident you will appreciate these remarks, gentlemen, and you will do so the more, the more you reflect upon them, unless you yourselves are carried about with every wind of doctrine, and fall away from the stedfastness of the Gospel. Equally confident, am I, that you have special cause for appreciating them at the present crisis of the American Church. Already are there such departures from the essential doctrines of the Gospel among us; already have so many become wavering and unsettled in their religious sentiments; that there is peculiar obligation on those who are preparing for the sacred office, to investigate and understand the meaning of the Bible. Do not allow yourselves to be satisfied with vague notions of the truth of God. To this we have seen, to our sorrow, not a few of the youthful ministry are exposed. As the guardians of this sacred Seminary, the Directors have not a little solicitude that no youth should go from these walls before he has formed a well digested system of religious truth. Let it be a maxim with you to have no views, only so far as they are definite. It were unspeakably better to understand a few truths well, and to know them certainly, than to expatiate vaguely over the extended fields of christian science. The certainty of knowledge is a very different thing from the extent of knowledge. Because you may have but a partial and imperfect view of divine truth, it does not follow that you must of necessity be in darkness and uncertainty in relation to those truths with which you are familiar. Though no man that ever lived, should perfectly know all that God has revealed, this would not prove that he does not know many things with perfect definiteness and certainty. Though our natural eye-sight is limited, so that we cannot see beyond a certain circle, nor all things at once in any circle, yet, we can see one thing at a time, and that clearly. The same is true of the understanding. Though we may have no knowledge about some truths, and though we cannot contemplate and compare many truths at once; yet, we can contemplate one thing at a time, and compare a few things together, and hence come to a definite and certain knowledge of such things as we can discern and compare, and from one truth clearly discover another,
and so make slow, but progressive, advancements in knowledge. And thus it is that we shall see clearly, and exhibit impressively the harmony, connexion, and consistency of the great truths which the Gospel reveals. It is this definiteness of view which we affectionately and urgently recommend to you. One doctrine of the Bible consistently understood, will almost necessarily lead a devout and inquiring mind to perceive and appreciate the harmony and connexion which run through all the peculiar and essential doctrines of the Gospel. The student who thoroughly understands one doc
. trine of the Gospel, will be very apt to understand another and another. Once let your views of divine truth be definite, and there is little danger that they will long remain distinct and prominent. Clear and definite views of God's truth, combined with ardent piety, go far to make a useful minister. If the treasures which infinite wisdom has accumulated in the Bible, abundantly enrich, and adorn, and give practical utility to the Christian character, how much more to the ministerial? Aim at high attainments in Christian knowledge. If you cannot excel in every thing, excel in this. Labour, study, pray, to excel in this. To be burning and shining lights, you must feel the pre-eminent claims of religious truth.
Another characteristic of a useful minister, is untiring diligence and energy of action.
energy of action. It was not by his talents merely, nor simply by his fervent piety, nor was it only by his enlarged views of the truth of God. hut by his indefatigable diligence and action, combined with these, that the Apostle Paul accomplished a greater amount of good, than was ever accomplished by any other man. The life of a useful minister is an eventful life. It is fruitful in benevolent results. His energy is not developed so much upon set occasions, or by studied effort: his whole life is full of labours and events that are intimately connected with the best interests of men. I know of no class of men who labour more, or more severely, than FAITHFUL ministers of the Gospel. There are good ministers, pious men, who are called to contend with most inactive and sluggish habits, both of body and mind; and there are those who are never satisfied and happy unless they are in some way actively employed: and the difference in the aggregate of good accomplished by these two classes of men, will be found, in the course of years, to be immense, and almost incalculable. Let every young man who is looking toward the sacred office, settle it in his mind,