Page images
PDF
EPUB

world; and to urge all, as helpless sinners, to accept the gracious offer of God—even free salvation by Jesus Christ, who is “ the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” He determined not to know any thing but Jesus Christ and him crucified, before his parishioners, and before the whole world. He exhibited Jesus Christ, all and in all, for the salvation of guilty and lost sinners: a prophet to enlighten by his word and Spirit: the great High Priest to atone for them, and to intercede on their behalf, by virtue of his meritorious sacrifice and righteousness : and their king to protect by the power of his arm, and to sanctify and rule in their hearts by his Holy Spirit.

Not long after this happy change in Mr. Adam's sentiments and conduct, he met with some of the works of Martin Luther, the champion of the Reformation. He read these with great attention and much edification. Had he taken up Luther some years before, it is probable that he would at once have rejected the doctrines which the reformer taught, with the utmost disdain and abhorrence, as tending to antinomianism. He who could not for a time embrace the doctrine of justification by faith, on the authority of St. Paul, would have made no hesitation in spurning from him at once the same doctrine, when advanced by Luther, as contrary to the gospel which Christ taught, and subversive of all godliness. He was now humbled by the law of God, which convinced him deeply of his sinfulness, even in his best state ; hence he was not offended with Luther's boldness of expression, and freedom of sentiment, but was charmed and edified by his faithful elucidation of St. Paul's doctrine.

To the words, “ boldness of expression,” used by Mr. Stillingfleet, a note is added, probably from the pen of the late Rev. Joseph Milner, of Hull. It is worthy of the historian of the church, and may

be of use to those who read the works of Luther.

“ It will be readily allowed, that there are in the writings of Luther some expressions, which seem to savour of antinomianism, and from which imputation it would be very difficult to defend them against a critical scrutiny.

But that they were never meant in that light is evident, not only from their admitting a very different sense, when candidly considered with the context, but from his writings against the Anabaptists of his times, on this very account.

“The genius and temper of Luther must be considered, -the age in which he lived, and the fundamental errors which he combated. He was a plain, blunt man, and had an aversion to those softenings which are so fashionable in the present day; he thought they would injure the force of what he said, and make it less pointed against those errors which he had it in his heart to demolish. Although such bold strokes as are found in Luther's works may give offence to those who do not feel any real want of a Saviour, yet persons who, like Mr. Adam, feel the urgency of their case, will find them the only remedy which can reach their disorder. And, while the cold and enervated exactness of the wise and prudent affords them no relief, the years, before

reformer's words will be a balm to their wounded consciences, and the richest cordial to their fainting souls. Besides, the divine blessing which has, for so many ages, attended the perusal of Luther's works, is no inconsiderable argument for their truth and soundness.”

Though the account of Mr. Adam's conversion is contracted within the compass of a few pages,

, yet the exercises of his mind, his searchings and inquiries respecting the way of salvation by Jesus Christ, were continued during several he fully preached the gospel of Christ. If he began his inquiries as early as 1736, twelve years after he was Rector of Wintringham, it was not till about the year 1746 that he attained full confidence in the doctrines of man's ruin by sin; his full recovery by faith in Christ; and his restoration to the image of God, by the influences of the Holy Ghost.

The case of Mr. Adam is pregnant with instruction to all, but especially to ministers of religion. There are a few things worth observing in him. He was a person, who from his youth cultivated habits of reading and reflection, and was not content either to remain in ignorance, or to take things upon trust. According to the light he possessed, his conduct was directed, which appeared in his refusal to take a second benefice, which he deemed it unlawful for a clergyman to hold. He made no secret of acknowledging his errors in doctrine and godly practice, when he had discovered them to be such. He could not allow his former mistakes concerning the way

an

in which sinners may find acceptance with God, to have been a trivial matter. He also delivered his own sermons and addresses in the pulpit, and did not content himself with reading the sermons of other divines. He was of opinion that he was obliged, not only to teach the theory of religion, but also himself to reduce it to practice, if he expected to convert men's souls. Hence, in his Pri. vate Thoughts on the Pastoral Office, he remarks, “ How can those preachers be supposed to bring others to Christ, who never came to him them. selves ?

The account of that change of mind which Mr. Adam experienced, and which fitted him to become able minister of Jesus Christ, nourished

up

in the words of faith and of good doctrine,” may be brought to a close, by introducing an English translation of the fragment of a prayer, which he composed in Latin. It has the date of March 17th, 1748–9, which serves to show that at that time he was preaching Jesus Christ and him crucified, and was himself “ working out his salvation,” and “ redeeming the time.”

“ I thank thee, the Father of mercies, and thee, my Saviour Jesus Christ, that I perceive thy peace in my heart, and in my inmost soul.

I pray that by thy Holy Spirit it may daily increase ; and together with it, love, worship, and the highest reverence of the undivided Trinity; that living to thee, I may also die to thee, and rise again, and enjoy the eternal felicity of thy saints in heaven, through Jesus Christ.

“O how often, and how long have I presented myself to God, a feigned and pretended sinner, not seriously considering the dignity of Christ, not the greatness of every sin, and especially of my own! Truly, if the guilt of sin could be purged by prayers, or by our works, a whole Christ, and his sacrifice, would be of no avail.”

« PreviousContinue »