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No 1.

THE

CHRISTIAN DISCIPLE.

JANUARY, 1815.

ON THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE YEAR.

WHEN we arrive at the commencement of a new year, we seem to be placed as on an eminence, from which we may have extensive prospects. We may look back on a long succession of ages, generations, and revolutions; on the years we have lived, the favors we have received, the dangers we have escaped, the changes we have experienced, the duties we have performed or neg lected. We may look around and behold the present state of things in the world, in our own country, in our respective societies and families. Then we may look forward into an ocean of futurities, probabilities, possibilities, uncertainties, and perplexities, enough to overwhelm the soul and fill it with dismay, were it not for the consoling thought, JEHOVAH REIGNS.

Seldom have the people of this country entered a new year with prospects more gloomy than the present. Our lot is cast in perilous times, in an age of surprizing revolutious and changes in the state of empires and na

VOL. III.

been sudden, unexpected and terrible. They have defeated human calculations, and often filled the world with astonishment aud consternation.

How tremendous have been the events in Europe since the year 1800! How immense the destruction of property, of lives, and of happiness! But for what has been all this waste and ruin? On the part of man, it has been to gratify, or to resist the ambition of wicked and unprincipled mortals. On the part of God, it has been to punish guilty nations, to humble the proud, and, we hope, to prepare the way for times of reformation. The vials of God's anger have been remarkably poured out on the nations of christendom. But, "For all this his anger is not turned a way, but his hand is stretched out still." And what is in reserve no human sagacity can foresee.

For many years after the convulsions in Europe commenced, we seemed to be distinguishingly favored. We felt not the scourge of war; yea, we were even enrich

tions. In the scriptures, the con-ed by the calamities of other navulsions of kingdoms and states tions. But our ingratitude kept are represented by earthquakes. pace with our prosperity. By This metaphor seems particular- the indulgence of party ambition ly applicable to the convulsions among ourselves, and bewilderand overturnings in the present ing partialities for foreign nations, age. Like earthquakes they have we became too unmindful of what

was due to our God and to ourselves. We first became a nation divided against itself, and then rushed unprepared into war with a foreign power. Where such a course, if persisted in, must land us, we need no prophet to foretél. With sufficient clearness, the history of other nations predicts our destiny.

We are not disposed to excite needless alarm, nor to indulge in gloomy and uncertain conjectures. Two things are very sure-one is, that our sufferings will not be greater than our iniquities deserve the other, that the Most High ruleth over men. He regards the cry of a penitent, suffering people; but those who walk in pride he is able to abase.

The course of events in the last year on the continent of Europe, excited a hope that God would soon give permanent peace to all the contending nations. In this however we may be sadly disappointed, and the year to come may be, beyond all that our eyes have seen, a year of blood, desolation, and misery. At least, it may be so to our country. We seem to be nearly ripe for scenes which appal the heart, even while viewed at a distance, and with hope of escape.

It is certainly in the power of God, and perhaps it is in his purpose, to deprive us of our abused privileges, and to pour up. on us vials of anger, as terrible as have been experienced in France, or Spain, or Germany. Alas! "who shall live, when God doth this?" But what are our claims to exemption from such evils, as have befallen other nations? Are we better than they? Are we more wise, or more powerful, or more

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united? Are we more awake to our danger, or more disposed to reformation?

The possibility of our being called to witness such scenes of woe, together with the probability or danger which results from our guilt and our divisions, may well excite every individual to fly to the throne of mercy and implore pardon for himself and his country. Could we but see evidence of a general spirit of contrition, union, and reformation, we should have solid ground for hope, that the dismal cloud which hangs over us would be dispelled; that the anger of God would be turned away, and that instead of deserved vengeance and ruin, we should experience mercy and salvation.

But whatever may be the fate of our nation, even if no signal calamity should befal us as a people, the ordinary course of events must annually sweep away many thousands of our countrymen. Yet who can point out the individuals, whose names are this year to be registered among the dead? Or who can name the person who has assurance that he shall be alive, when the year shall close? Is there one among all the millions in these states, who can safely say, This year I shall not die? If then many

thousands of us must die in the course of the year, and no one has assurance of life, not for another year, nor even another hour, is it not time for every one to call himself to a serious account, and to become prepared for the final reckoning?

With what feelings should every family commence the year? Surely with feelings of gratitude,

that they have been spared s0 long, and have experienced so many mercies-with feelings of contrition for their many offenceswith a sense of their dependence

ed in obedience, and closed with praise.

O Lord, so teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. So teach on the mercy of God, for life and us to commence this year, as to insure thy favor through life, thy presence in the hour of death, and that blessed immortality, brought to light in the gospel of thy Sun.

every favor with pious resolutions that while life and reason are continued, God the Preserver shall no more be forgotten or neglected that every day shall be commenced with prayer, employ

ON THE AMBIGUITY OF LANGUAGE, AS A SOURCE OF ERROR.

In a former Number some observations were made on the influence of education, as a source of error; and it was intimated that other sources would be brought to view. The ambiguity of language demands a particular consideration.

ideas in the customary intercourse of those who are endowed with the powers of speech. A soldier, who is acquainted with the various beats of the drum, and has been accustomed to hav ing his duty signified in this manner, will seldom mistake the signs. But an ignorant soldier would be very liable to many innocent mistakes, even if his heart were perfectly upright. But if the same beats on the drum were so used as sometimes to signify one thing, and sometimes another, the most intelligent soldier would be liable to mistakes.

Now such is the imperfection of human language, that the same words have various significations; and in some instances the different significations of the same word, and the same sound, are nearly opposite. It would be a work not adapted to the Disciple, fully to display the ambiguity, or equivocal character of the words in our language; a few examples only will be given, to show how liable men are to mistake the meaning of each other, and the meaning of particular passages of scripture.

Language is ambiguous when the same sentence is liable to be understood in different senses; and such ambiguity may result from the useof an equivocal word or phrase, or from the arrangement of the words in forming the We shall now consider the ambiguity which results from the use of equivocal words or phrases.

sentence.

Words are but arbitrary and artificial signs, by which ideas are communicated from one person to another. They derive all their meaning from those who use them. As by the consent of community certain motions of the head, the hand, or the body, are used as signs of obeisance, or tokens of friendship and civility; and as certain beats on a drum are used as signs of ideas in an army; so certain combinations of letters and words are, by the consent of mankind, used as signs of

to

The word let is used in two senses, which are nearly opposite; it signifies to permit, and to hinder. "John wished to go school; his father was so simple as to let him." By this might be intended either that his father permitted him to go, or that he hindered his going. If the writer used the word in one sense, and the reader understood it in another, an erroneous opinion would of course be formed of the conduct of the father.

The word overlook is used in at least three very different sen

ses.

At one time it signifies to oversee, inspect, or superintend; at another it signifies negligence or want of care; and again it signifies forgiveness, passing over an offence, or neglecting to punish "The general overlooked the conduct of the captain." Suppose we have nothing but this declaration to guide us, who would be able to say whether it means-The general carefully inspected the conduct of the captain; or, the general neglected to oversee the conduct of the captain; or, the or, the general passed over a fault in the captain? Any person who had been acquainted with one sense only of the word overlook, would naturally understand it in that sense, whether right or wrong. If wrong, must his error be ascribed to the depravity of his heart?

The word translated Angel, so often used in the scriptures, signifies a messenger; and it is as applicable to a human, as to a heavenly messenger. At the present time in our land it commonly signifies a celestial spirit. Suppose then that an ignorant

person in reading of the " "Angel of the church in Philadelphia," should think a celestial messenger was intended; should we have no way to account for his error which might clear him from blame?

The word translated God, was formerly applied, not merely to the Supreme Being, but to Angels, to rulers, and to the innumerable objects of heathen adoration; and it is thus variously used in the bible. But among us, in speaking and writing, the word God is commonly used to signify the high and lofty One, who inhabiteth eternity. Is it then very wonderful, if on some passages of scripture in which the word is used, there should be different opinions? Those who have been taught to believe that in the scriptures this title is peculiar to the Supreme Being, are certainly very liable to mistakes, and to think he is intended when he is not.

The Greek word, translated church, signified congregation, and was equally applicable to any congregation, whether Jewish, Christian, or Heathen. We now make a distinction between the church and the congregation that meet in the same place; a distinction which perhaps was wholly unknown in the days of the apostles. This however may be the subject of future inquiry. But we not only apply the term church to a number of professed believers, who meet in the same place, but it is often applied to the meetinghouse. These several facts may have been the occasion of many mistakes. If I simply say, "the

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