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Nor must we fondly attach ourselves tol There is a class of visionary but pious the practice of some particular virtue, or writers who seem to shoot as far beyond the value ourselves exclusively on some favour-mark, as mere moralists fall short of it. ite quality ; nor must we wrap ourselves up Men of low views and gross minds may be in the performance of some individual ac- said to be wise below what is written, while tions, as if they formed the sum of Chris- those of too subtle refinement are wise above tian duty. But we must embrace the whole it. The one grovel in the dust from the inlaw of God in all its aspects, bearings and ertness of their intellectual faculties; while relations. We must bring no fancies, no the others are lost in the clouds by stretching partialities, no prejudices, no exclusive them beyond their appointed limits. The choice or rejection into our religion, but one build spiritual castles in the air, instead take it as we find it, and obey it as we re- of erecting them on the holy ground' of ceive it, as it is exhibited in the Bible with- Scripture; the other lay their foundation in out addition, curtailment, or adulteration. Ithe sand instead of resting it on the Rock of
Nor must we pronounce on a character by Ages. Thus, the superstructure of both is a single action really bad, or apparently equally unsound. good ; if so, Peter's denial would render 'God is 'the fountain from which all the him the object of our execration, while we streams of goodness flow; the centre from should have judged favourably of the pru- which all the rays of blessedness diverge.dent economy of Judas. The catastrophe All our actions are, therefore, only good, as of the latter, who does not know ? while the they have a reference to Him : the streams other became a glorious martyr to that mas- must revert back to their fountain, the rays ter, whom, in a moment of infirmity, he had must converge again to their centre. denied.
If love of God be the governing principle, A piety altogether spiritual, disconnected this powerful spring will actuate all the with all outward circumstances; a religion movements of the rational machine. The of pure meditation and abstracted devotion, essence of religion does not so much consist was not made for so compound, so imperfect in actions as affections. Though right aca creature as man, There have, indeed, tions, therefore, as from an excess of courtebeen a few sublime spirits, not touched but sy they are commonly termed, may be per rapt,' who, totally cut off from the world, formed where there are no right affections ; seem almost to have literally soared above yet are they a mere carcass ; utterly destithis terrene region, who almost appear to tute of the soul, and, therefore, of the subhave stolen the fire of the Seraphim, and to stance of virtue. But neither can affections have had no business on earth, but to keep substantially and truly subsist without proalive the celestial flame. They would, how- ducing right actions; for never let it be forever, have approximated more nearly to the gotten that a pious inclination which has not example of their divine master, the great life and vigour sufficient to ripen into act standard and only perfect model, had they when the occasion presents itself, and & combined a more diligent discharge of the right action which does not grow out of a active duties and benefices of life with their sound principle, will neither of them have high devotional attainments,
any place in the account of real goodness. But while we are in little danger of imita- | A good inclination will be contrary to sin, ting, let us not too harshly censure the pious but a mere inclination will not subdue sin. error of these sublimated spirits. Their The love of God, as it is the source of number is small. Their example is not every right action and feeling, so it is the catching. Their ethereal fire is not likely, only principle which necessarily involves by spreading, to inflame the world. The the love of our fellow creatures. As man world will take due care not to come in con- we do not love man. There is a love of tact with it, while its distant light and partiality but not of benevolence; of sensiwarmth may cast, accidentally, a not unuse-bility but not of philanthropy ; of friends ful ray on the cold-hearted and the worldly. I and favourites, of parties and societies, but
But from this small number of refined but not of man collectively. It is true we may, inoperative beings, we do not intend to draw and do, without this principle, relieve his our notions of practical piety. God did not distresses, but we do not bear with his make a religion for these few exceptions to faults. We may promote his fortune, bot the general state of the world, but for the we do not forgive his offences ; above all, world at large ; for beings active, busy, rest- we are not anxious for his immortal inteless ; whose activity, he, by his word, diverts rests. We could not see him want without into its proper channels; whose busy spirit pain, but we can see him sin without emois there directed to the common good; tion. We could not hear of a beggar pewhose restlessness, indicating the unsatisfac- rishing at our door without horror, but we toriness of all they find on earth, he points to can, without concern, witness an acquaina higlier destination. Were total seclusion tance dying without repentance. Is it not and abstraction designed to have been the strange that we must participate something general state of the world, God would have of the divine nature, before we can really given man other laws, other rules, other love the human? It seems, indeed, to be faculties, and other employments,
an insensibility to sin, rather than want of benevolence to mankind, that makes us na- 1 little charity, and themselves with little huturally pity their temporal and be careless mility. While they accuse those who move of their spiritual wants ; but does no this ve- steadily of standing still, they fancy their ry insensibility proceed from the want of own course will never be slackened. If their love to God?"
conversion be not solid, religion, in losing As it is the habitual frame, and predomi- its novelty, loses its power. Their speed nating disposition, which are the true mea- declines. Nay, it will be happy if their mosure of virtue, incidental good actions are notion become not retrograde. Those who certain criterion of the state of the heart ; are truly sincere, will commonly be persefor who is there, who does not occasionally vering. If their speed is less eager, it is do them? Having made some progress in inore steady. As they know their own heart attaining this disposition, we must not sit more, they discover its deceitfulness, and down satisfied with propensities and inclina- | learn to distrust themselves. As they betions to virtuous actions, while we rest short come more humble in spirit, they become of their actual exercise. If the principle more charitable in judging. As they grow be that of sound Christianity, it will never more firm in principle they grow more exbe inert. While we shall never do good with act in conduct. any great effect, till we labour to be con- The rooted habits of a religious life may formed, in some measure, to the image of indeed lose their prominence because they God; we shall best erince our having ob- are become more indented. If they are not tained something of that conformity, by a embossed it is because they are burnt in. course of steady and active obedience to Where there is uniformity and consistency God.
in the whole character, there will be little Every individual should bear in mind, relief in an individual action. A good deed that he is sent into this world to act a part in will be less striking in an established Chrisit. And though one may have a more splen- tian than a deed less good in one who has did, and another a more obscure part as been previously careless; good actions besigned him, yet the actor of each is equally, ing his expected duty and his ordinary pracis awfully accountable. Though God is not tice, Such a Christian indeed, when his a hard, he is an exact master. His service, right habits cease to be new and striking, though not a severe, is a reasonable service. may fear that he is declining : but his quiet He accurately proportions his requisitions to and confirmed course is a surer evidence his gifts. If he does not expect that one ta-than the more early starts of charity, or fits lent should be as productive as five, yet to a of piety, which may have drawn more atsingle talent a proportionable responsibility tention, and obtained more applause. is annexed,
Again ;- We should cultivate most assiHe who has said "Give me thy heart,' cuously, because the work is so difficult, will not be satisfied with less; he will not ac- those graces which are most opposite to our cept the praying lips, nor the mere hand of natural temper; the value of our good quacharity as substitutes.
lities depending much on their being produA real Christian will be more just, sober, ced by the victory over some natural wrong and charitable than other men, though he propensity. The implantation of a virtue will not rest for salvation on justice, sobrie- is the eradication of a vice. It would cost ty, or charity. He will perform the duties one man more to keep down a rising passion they enjoin, 'in the spirit of Christianity, as than to do a brilliant deed. It will try aninstances of devout obedience, as evidences other more to keep back a sparkling but of a heart devoted to God.
corrupt thought, which his wit had suggestAll virtues, it cannot be too often repeated but which religion checks, than it would ed, are sanctified or unhallowed according to give a large sum in charity. A real Christo the principle, which dictates them ; and tian being deeply sensible of the worthwill be accepted or rejected accordingly. lessness of any actions which do not spring This principle kept in due exercise, becomes from the genuine fountain, will aim at such a habit, and every act strengthens the incli- an habitual conformity to the divine image, nation, adding vigour to the principle and that to perform all acts of justice, charity, pleasure to the performance,
kindness, temperance, and every kindred We cannot be said to be real Christians, virtue, may become the temper, the habitutill religion become our animating motive, al, the abiding state of his heart; that like our predominating principle and pursuit, as natural streams they may flow spontaneousmuch as worldly things are the predomina-ly from the living source. ting motive, principle and pursuit, of world-1 Practical Christianity then, is the actual ly men,
operation of Christian principles. It is lying New converts, it is said, are most zealous, on the watch for occasions to exemplify but they are not always the most persevering. them. It is exercising ourselves unto godIf their tempers are warm; and they have liness.' A Christian cannot tell in the mornonly been touched on the side of their pas-ing, what opportunities he may have of dosions, they start eagerly, march rapidly, ing good during the day ; but if he be a real and are full of confidence in their own Christian, he can tell' that he will try to strength. They too often judge others with keep his heart open, his mind prepared, his
affections alive to do whatever may occur in propensity to reform, some crooked practice the way of duty. He will, as it were, stand to straighten. He will never be at a loss in the way to receive the orders of Provi- for employment, while there is a sin or midence. Doing good is his vocation. Nor does sery in the world; he will never be idle, the young artisan bind himself by firmer ar- while there is a distress to be relieved in anticles to the rigid performance of his mas- other, or a corruption to be cured in his own ter's work, than the indentured Christian to heart. We have employments assigned to the active service of that Divine Master, us for every circumstance in life. When we who himself "went about doing good.' He are alone, we have our thoughts to watch; rejects no duty which comes within the in the family, our tempers; in company, our sphere of his calling, nor does he think the tongues. work he is employed in a good one, if he What an example of disinterested goodmight be doing a better. His having well ness and unbounded kindness have we in our acquitted himself of a good action, is so far heavenly Father, who is merciful over all from furnishing him with an excuse for his works; who distributes common blessavoiding the next, that it is a new reason for ings without distinction ; who bestows the his embarking in it. He looks not at the necessary refreshments of life, the shining work which he has accomplished; but on sun and the refreshing shower, without waitthat which he has to do. His views are al- ing, as we are apt to do for personal merit, ways prospective, His charities are scarce-or attachment or gratitude; who does not ly limited by his power. His will knows no look out for desert, but want as a qualificalimits. His fortune may have bounds : His tion for his favours; who does not affict wilbenevolence has none. He is, in mind and lingly, who delights in the happiness, and dedesire, the benefactor of every miserable sires the salvation of all his children ; who man. His heart is open to all the distressed; dispenses his daily munificence and bears to the household of faith it overflows. Where with our daily offences; who in return for the heart is large, however small the ability, our violation of his laws, supplies our necesa thousand ways of doing good will be in- sities; who waits patiently for our repentvented. Christian charity is a great enlar- lance, and even solicits us to have mercy on ger of means, Christian sell-denal nega- our own souls! tively accomplishes the purpose of the fa- l What a model for our bumble imitation is vourites of fortune in the fables of the nurse-that Divine person who was clothed with ry-if it cannot fill the purse by a wish, it our humanity; who dwelt among us that will not empty it by a vanity. It provides the pattern being brought near might be for others by abridging from itself. Ilaving rendered more engaging, the conforipity be carefully defined what is necessary and be- made more practicable; whose whole life coming, it allows of no encroachinent on its was one unbroken series of universal chiaridefinition, Superfluitics it will lop, vanities ty; who in his complicated bounties nerer it will cut off. The deviser of liberal things forgot that man is compounded both of soul will find means of effecting them, which to and body; who after teaching the multitude, the indulent appear increible, to the covet- fed then ; who repulsed none for being is. ous impossible. Christian beneficence takes norant; was impatient with none for being a large sweep. That circumference cannot dull ; despised none for being contemned by be small of which God is the centre. Nor the world ; rejected none for being sinikets; docs religious charity in a Christian stand / who encouraged those whose importunity still because not kept in motion by the main others censured; who in healing sicknesses spring of the world. Money may fail, but converted souls; who gave bread and for benevolence will be going on. If he cannot gave injuries! relieve want, he may mitigate sorrow. Hel It will be the endeavour of the sincere may warn the inexperienced, he may in-Christian, to illustrate his devotions in the struct the ignorant,' he may coufirm the morning by his actions during the day, lle doubting. The Christian will find out the will try to make his conduct a practical excheapest way of being good as well as of do-position of the divine prayer which made a ing good. If he cannot give money, he may part of them. He will desire to hallow the exercise a more difficult virtue; he may for name of God, to promote the enlargement give injuries. Forgiveness is the economy and the coming of the kingdom'of Christ, of the heart. A Christian will find it cheap- He will endeavour to do and to suffer his er to pardon than to resent. Forgiveness whole will; to forgive'as he himself trusts saves the expense of anger, the cost of ha- that lie is forgiven. He will resolve to avoid tred, tlic waste of spirits. It also puts the that 'temptation into which he had been soul into a frame, which makes the practice praying not to be led ;' and he will labour of other virtues easy. The achievement of to shun the evil' from which he had been a hard duty is a great abolisher of difficulties. begging to be delivered.' He thus makes If great occasions do not arise, he will his prayers as practical as the other parts of thankfully seize on small ones. If he cannot his religion ; and labours to render his coc glorify God by serving others, he kuows duct as spiritual as his prayers. The comthat he has always something to do at lume; mentary and the text are of reciprocal ..psome evil tcmper to correct, sume wrong Iplication.
If this gracious Saviour has left us a perfect model for our devotion in his prayer, he
CHAP, III, has left a model no less perfect for our practice in his sermon. This Divine exposition
Mistakes in Religion. has been sometimes misunderstood. " It was not so much a supplement to a defective To point out with precision all the mislaw, at the restoration of the purity of a per- takes which exist in the present day, on the fect law from the corrupt interpretations of awful subject of religion, would far exceed its blind expounders. These persons had the limits of this small work. No mention ceased to consider it as forbidding the prin-| therefore is intended to be made of the opiciple of sin, and as only forbidding the act. nions or the practice of any particular body Christ restores it to its original meaning, of people ; nor will any notice be taken of spreads it out on its duc extent, shows the any of the peculiarities of the numerous largeness of its dimensions and the spirit of sects and parties which have risen up among its institution. He unfolds all its motions, us. It will be sufficient for the present purtendencies and relations. Not contenting pose, to hazard some slight remarks on a himself, as human legislators are obliged to few of those common classes of characters, do, to prohibit a man the act which is inju- which belong more or less to most general rious to others, but the inward temper which bodies, is prejudicial to himself.
| There are, among many others, three difThere cannot be a more striking instance, ferent sorts of religious professors. The rehow emphatically every doctrine of the gos-ligion of one consists in a sturdy defence of gel has a reference to practical goodness, what they themselves call orthodoxy, an atthan is exhibited by St. Paul in that magpi-tendance on public worship, and a general ficent picture of the resurrection, in his decency of behaviour. In their views of cpistle to the Corinthians, which our church religion, they are not a little apprehensive of has happily selected, for the consolation of excess, not perceiving that their dauger lies survivors at the last closing scene of mor- on the other side. They are far from retality. Aftcran interference as triumphant jecting faith or morals, but are somewhat as it is logical, that because Christ is risen, afraid of believing too much, and a little we shall rise also ;' after the most philoso- scrupulous about doing too much, lest the cal illustration of the raising of the body former be suspected of fanaticism, and the from the dust, by the process of grain sown latter of singularity. These Christians conin the carth, and by the springing up into a sider religion as a point, which they, by new mode of existence; after describing the their regular observances, having attained, subjugation of all things to the Redeemer, there is nothing further required but to and his laying down the mediatorial king- maintain the point they have reached, by a dom; after sketching with a seraph's pencil, repetition of the same observances. They the relative glories of the celestial and ter- are therefore satisfied to remain stationary, restrial bodies; after exhausting the grand considering that whoever has obtained his est images of crcated nature, and the disso-end, is of course saved the labour of purlution of nature itself ;-after such a display suit; he is to keep his ground without trouof the solemnities of the great day, as makes bling himself in searching after imaginary this world, and all its concerns shrink into perfection. nothing : in such a moment, when, if ever, ! These frugal Christians are afraid of nothe rapt spirit might be supposed too high- thing so much as superfinity in their love, ly wrought for precept and admonition, the and supererogation in thcir obedience, This apostle, wound up as he was by the energies kind of fear however is always superfluous, of inspiration, to the immediate vicw of the but most especially in those who are trouglorified state the last trumpet sounding-bled with the apprehension. They are apt the change from mortal to immortality ef- to weigh in the nicely poised scales of scrufected in the twinkling of an eye--the sting pulous exactness, the duties which must of of deatlı drawn out-victory snatched from hard necessity be done, and those which the grave-then, by a turn as surprising as without much risk may be left undone ; it is beautiful, he draws a conclusion as unex- compounding for a larger indulgence by the pectedly practical as his pi'emises were relinquishment of a spaller; giving up, grand and awful : 'Therefore, my beloved through fear, a trivial gratification to which brethren, be ye steadfast, "innmoveable ; al- they are less inclined, and snatching doubtways abounding in the work of the Lord.' ingly, as an equivalent, at one they like betThen at once, by another quick transition, ter. The gratification in both cases being resorting from the duty to the reward, and perhaps such as a manly niind would hardwinding up the whole with an argument as ly think worth contending for, even were powerful, as his rhetoric had been sublime, religion out of the question. Nothing but he adds-Forasmuch as ye know that your love to God can conquer love of the world. labour is not in vain in the Lord.'
One grain of that divine principle would make the scale of self-indulgence kick the beam.
These persons dread nothing so much as enthusiasm. Yet if to look for effects with-1 The religion which mixes with human out their predisposing causes ; to depend for passions, and is set on fire by them, will heaven on that to which heaven was never inake a stronger blaze than that light which promised, be features of enthusiasm, then is from above, which sheds a steady and are they themselves enthusiasts.
lasting brightness on the path, and commuThe religion of a second class, we have nicates a sober but desirable warmth to the already described in the two preceding chap-heart. It is equable and constant; while ters. It consists in a heart devoted to its the other, like culinary fire, fed by gross Maker; inwardly changed in its temper and materials, is extinguished the sooner from disposition, yet deeply sensible of its remain the fierceness of the flame, ing infirmities; continually aspiring howev-! That religion which is merely seated in er to higher improvements in faith, hope and the passions, is not only liable to wear itself charity, and thinking that the greatest of out by its own impetuosity, but to be driven these is charity.' These, by the former class, out by some other passion. The dominion are reckoned enthusiasts, but they are in of violent passions is short. They disposa fact, if Christianity be true, acting on the sess each other. When religion has had its only rational principles. If the doctrines of day, it gives way to the next usurper. Its the gospel have any solidity, if its promises empire is no more solid than it is lasting, have any meaning, these® Christians are when principle and reason do not fix it on building on no false ground. They hope the throne, that submission to the power of God, obedi- The first of the above classes consider ence to his laws, compliance with his will, prudence as the paramount virtue in relitrust in his word, are through the efficacy of gion. Their antipodes, the flaming profesthe eternal Spirit, real evidences, because sors, believe a burning zeal to be the excluthey are vital acts of genuine faith in Jesus sive grace. They revere saint Paul's colloChrist. If they profess not to place their cation of the three Christian graces, and reliance on works, they are however more think that the greatest of these is faith. zealous in performing them than the others, Though even in respect of this grace, their who professing to depend on their good conduct and conversation too often give us deeds for salvation, are not always diligent reason to lament that they do not bear in in securing it by the very means which they mind its genuine and distinctive properties themselves establish to be alone effectual.' Their faith instead of working by love,
There is a third class the high flown seems to be adopted from a notion that it professor, who looks down from the giddy leaves the Christian nothing to do, rather heights of antinomian delusion on the other than because it is its nature to lead him to do two, abhors the one, and despises the other, more and better than other men. concludes that the one is lost, and the other In this case, as in many others, that which in a fair way to be so. Though perhaps not is directly contrary to what is wrong, is living himselt in any course of immorality, wrong also. If each opponent would only which requires the sanction of such doc- barter half his favourite quality with the fatrines, he does not hesitate to imply in his vourite quality of the other, both parties discourse, that virtue is heathenish, and good would approach nearer to the truth. They works superfluous if not dangerous. He might even furnish a complete Christian does not consider that though the Gospel is between them, that is, provided the zeal of an act of oblivion to penitent sinners, yet it the one was sincere, and the prudence of no where promises pardon to those who con the other honest. But the misfortune is, tinue to live in a state of rebellion against each is as proud of not possessing the qualiGod, and of disobedience to his laws. He ty he wants, because his adversary has it, forgets to insist to others that it is of little as he is proud of possessing that of which importance even to believe that sin is an the other is destitute, and because he is des evil (which however they do not always be-titute of it. lieve) while they persist to live in it ; that to Among the many mistakes in religion, it know every thing of duty except the doing is commonly thought that there is something it, is to offend God with an 'aggravation so unintelligible, absurd, and fanatical in the from which ignorance itself is exempt. It term conversion, that those who employ it, is not giving ourselves up to Christ In'a run no small hazard of being involved in the nameless, inexplicable way, which will ridicule it excites. It is seldom used but avail us. God loves an humble, not an au- ludicrously, or in contempt. This arises dacious faith. To suppose that the blood partly from the levity and ignorance of the of Christ redeems us from sin, while sin censurer, but perhaps as much from the continues to pollute the soul, is to suppose imprudence and enthusiasm of those, who an impossibility ; to maintain that it is ef- have absurdly confined it to real or suppofectual for the salvation, and not for the sed instances of sudden or miraculous chansanctification of the sinner, is to suppose ges from profligacy to piety. But surely, that it acts like an amulet, an incantation, a with reasonable people, we run no risk in talisman, which is to produce its effect by asserting that he, who being awakened by operating on the imagination, and not on that any of those various methods which the Aldiscasc.
mighty uses to bring his creatures to the