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generally, the covetousness, the indolence, the prayerlessness, the spiritual ignorance, the inconsistencies, the evil influence, and the bad examples which abound,-we are bold to say, that there is no species, no measure of success more excellent and more to be sought after than that which shall remove or diminish, perceptibly, these sore and wide-spread evils.
But what has all this to do with the danger which we ascribe to a want of success in the conversion of souls? It has at least this to do with it-that these important and neglected departments of the great work involve more labour, and anxiety, and real difficulty, than even the ingathering of converts; while at the same time, even their successful cultivation fails to afford that exciting gratification, and to produce that glow of triumphant feeling, which are experienced when our labours result in the conversion of sinners. The latter form, also, counts more largely and more rapidly, and is attended with more eclât both in the church and the world; while on the contrary, efforts to train, to instruct, purify, elevate, and edify the church by searching preaching and by faithful discipline, is not only a difficult, but also a slow and unpopular work; hence less inviting and less stimulating. Now, if a want of success in the conversion of sinners were to result in more diligent and faithful effort in this neglected part of the work, it would be a happy result of our failure, since it would not only lead to the noble ends of which we have spoken, but also by securing them, would lay the foundation for more extended and glorious successes in the conversion of men than have been witnessed since the primitive days; inasmuch as it would secure and set in motion that instrumentality, which, at the present day, is more needed than any other, that of a holy, praying, active church, co-operating with the ministry in the salvation of a ruined world.
But such want of success does not always result in this; and here we come to the most serious danger of all from this source. Anxious for this species of success, and failing to secure it by such means and in such ways as the Master prescribes, many are led to resort to other means and other modes of effort, unlawful in their origin, and injurious in their results. For example, finding that the scriptural doctrines which they have been preaching are slow in their operation and scanty in their apparent results, many have been tempted to modify their teachings, with a view to wider influence and more rapid success, a course into which every one unblest with success is in danger of falling. Again, finding that converts are few, when judged by the stern tests of the Bible, many are tempted to adopt a lower and a looser judgment, by which multitudes may be admitted to the church. Finding other denominations
so ready and urgent to secure for themselves all reputed converts, or who are willing to profess religion, some are ledforced as they feel it-to admit to the privileges of the church persons who are untried, and thus, in many cases, by a premature profession, made a cause of scandal, and in this way, at least, recklessly expose the church to the danger of impurity. And still further, inasmuch as the use of the appointed means of grace, preaching the word, prayer, pastoral visitation, personal exhortation, and direct instruction to persons inquiring what they must do to be saved,-inasmuch as the use of these means seems slow in producing an effect, many are tempted to try other and more exciting measures,—measures which will be more rapid and extensive in their results, without regard to the character or permanency of those results,measures which have been found to promote spurious conversions, and to be in many ways injurious to all the best interests of religion. And in these departures the ministry are often urged on by the membership of the church, who are apt to partake of the same impatience as to the result.
All these things, however plausible in appearance and indicative of zeal, form parts of a superficial system, a system destitute of solid and lasting results,-a system which necessarily includes long seasons of coldness and deadness in the church, an irregular evanescent form of piety, and the multiplication of apostates, a system which never acts, except with the violence of spasmodic action, and which as surely tends to decay and death. These dangers are all enhanced by the numbers, zeal, and apparently superior success of rival churches, which are striving to proclaim the largest accessions and the most rapid progress. Our system is not framed for such rivalry. It professes to be governed, not by expediency or human policy, but solely by the word of Christ. It professes to adopt that extended view of the great work which we have attempted to describe. It aims at the greatest possible purity of the church, rather than the greatest magnitude. It aims to glorify God, and not to be popular with men. It aims at solid, not showy results. It aims to build, not with "wood, and hay, and stubble," which may be gathered in any field, and by any species of labourers; but with "gold, and silver, and precious stones," secured with toil and care, but when secured, forming a building of strength and glory, in which God shall delight to dwell. We surely, as a denomination, could attain such results as are attained by others, having as we conceive no superiority in any of the elements of success, provided we adopt the same system of effort. But do we desire this? Do we envy the position, the character, the influence, or the success of any other church in Christendom? Why then should we ever
modify our system in order to emulate their triumphs? We are fully persuaded that just so far as we have copied the measures of others, as distinguished from our scriptural means, we have contributed to impair the permanency and value of our success, and have really lost ground. It is like sewing a piece of new cloth to an old garment, and like putting new wine into old bottles. Scriptural means are best adapted to plant and extend a scriptural theology and a scriptural organization. It is not enough that many have been truly converted by unscriptural means, and by designedly periodical and exciting efforts. By a more faithful adherence to the purity of our system, the regular ministrations of the word. would have been more successful, the results achieved would have been more valuable, and we should this day have been a stronger, purer, and more useful church than we are. Who are they whose present condition illustrates our want of success in the conversion of men? In many of our communities they are, for the most part, those who have been already operated on by the very system to which we refer,—and on whom it has spent its power only to harden and to ruin, and to make them occasions of scandal. And many who have never professed religion, have yet, by their having been subjected to a strained system of effort, become insensible, not only to all less exciting influences, but even to the most moving appeals. Let us therefore heed the lessons of experience. Above all, let us be careful to adhere, in all our labours, to the word of our Master. "Let us not be weary in well-doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." "The husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long_patience for it." Doing this, we shall at least serve Christ. Doing otherwise, we have no assurance of any real success.
ART. IV.-Jephthah's Vow.
THE supposed immolation of Jephthah's daughter has been strenuously urged, by the oppugners of divine revelation, as a capital objection to the morality of the Bible. This consideration alone is sufficient to invest the exposition of Judges xi. 29-40, with the highest importance. The usual interpretations of that deeply interesting narrative may be resolved into two opposing theories,-that of immolation, and that of consecration. Among divines and biblical critics, distinguished names, of equal eminence for talent, piety, and intelligence, are found arranged in support of both these theories of interpre
tation; while Josephus, it is well known, positively asserts the immolation of the daughter of this judge in Israel. To this theory of exposition Dr Kitto not only subscribes, but assumes the personal responsibility of the doctrine contained in the article "Jephthah," as it is not credited to any of the learned contributors to the "Cyclopædia of Biblical Literature." That the authority of such a name, on either side of the question, is not inconsiderable, will not be questioned. But the question as to the nature of this vow, must, after all, be decided, not by authority, but by the weight of argument in support of the assumed facts in the case. This will justify a careful re-examination of the whole matter, together with Dr Kitto's argument in support of the immolation hypothesis.
There are two sources of difficulty in determining the real character of the vow,-the extreme brevity of the narration, and the remoteness of the period when the event occurred. Its high antiquity invests it with a degree of obscurity which the brief reference of the historian leaves quite unremoved. And that either of the current hypotheses is entirely unembarrassed is more than can be claimed. But left to the necessity of balancing probabilities, and of choosing between alternatives, that theory of exposition will command our concurrence which presents the fewest difficulties, and which is sustained by the highest probability.
That there is a connection, intimate and vital, if not inseparable, between the character of Jephthah and the nature of his vow, will not be disputed. And what this was is more easily determined than some other points in the narrative; since what was left obscure by the sacred historian has been amply cleared up by the inspired apostle. From his character, then, we assume that his vow was a pious act. It was indisputably such in his own intention, and such, also, as to the circumstances under which it was made. Both go to establish his piety, while the latter were more marked and solemn. Let us briefly recount them. He was summoned from his retreat in Tob to the headship of the martial forces of Israel in repelling the invasion of the Ammonites. The specified conditions on which he had consented to take the direction of affairs at this critical juncture were acceded to by the people, and the covenant between him and them had been confirmed by an oath. The whole transaction had been recounted "before the Lord in Mizpeh." The attempt to terminate the invasion by negotiation proving abortive, and "the Spirit of the Lord coming upon him, he promptly addressed himself to the arduous work of vanquishing the invaders, and of retrieving the fortunes of his country. His chief reliance for success was upon the arm of God. To secure the favour of heaven upon
the enterprise, and as a proof of his confidence in that favour, he made the vow in question.
Granting the piety of the act, where is the proof that his piety was not as enlightened and rational, at least for his times and the dispensation under which he lived, as it was ardent and confiding? Of the pure and elevated character of his faith we have the testimony of the apostle.-(Heb. xi. 32.) He is placed with David, Samuel, Gideon, Barak, and Samson, all honourable as being eminent examples of "faith." But how does this testimony to this eminent grace accord with the hypothesis that he immolated his daughter? On this theory, here is an act and a trait of character utterly irreconcilable! On this supposition he must have sacrificed her either to Moloch, the heathen god of the Ammonites, the hated enemies of the Hebrews, or to the God of Israel. That human sacrifices were offered to Moloch is an undisputed fact in sacred history. The law of the Hebrews (Lev. xviii. 21) specifically inhibited them from causing their children to "pass through the fire" to this god. How absurd to suppose, that despicable as the Ammonites were to the Israelites on account of their gross idolatry and its cruel rites, now doubly so by this unprovoked invasion of the inheritance given their fathers, that this judge, prince, and general should first consult the God of his fathers, and then sacrifice his daughter to the revengeful god of his enemies! Where is the evidence that either in making or in paying his vow, he copied the example of these most besotted idolaters? Besides, he was well versed in the history of divine providence toward the Canaanites who were exterminated for their idolatry. Neither could he need instruction as to the requisitions of the law respecting sacrifice. He knew that human sacrifice would be even a greater abomination to God than that of any unclean animal. Hence, it is not conceivable that he should obligate himself, in any contingency which might arise, in making a vow to the Lord, to do that to secure the divine favour which he knew must be offensive to him. How could he have acted so preposterous a part as to have offered his daughter to Moloch, or to have offered such a sacrifice to Jehovah? And that there must have been some qualification to his vow, latent or implied, beyond what appears in the narrative, is evident from the absurdity of taking the words of the vow in their literal acceptation. On his return some person might have "come first out of the doors of his house," over whom he had no legal control; some neighbour, man or woman. His vow, of course, could not embrace them. It might be a dog, or some unclean animal, in which case it could not be offered, but must be redeemed, and the price devoted to a sacred purpose. Such a condition