« EelmineJätka »
the econemy of redemption, or the gracious provision the Supreme Being has thought fit to make for reconciling the world to himself, by the manifestation in human nature of his own Son. It is this which constitutes it the Gospel, by way of eminence, or the glad tidings concerning our Saviour Jesus Christ, on the right l'eception of which, or its rejection, turns our everlasting weal or woe. It is not from the character of God, as our Creator, it should be remembered, that the hope of the guilty can arise ; the fullest development of his essential perfections could afford no relief in this case, and therefore natural religion, were it capable of being carried to the utmost perfection, can never supersede the necessity of revealed. To inspire confidence an express communication from heaven is necessary ; since the introduction of sin has produced a peculiarity in our situation, and a perplexity in our prospects, which nothing but an express assurance of mercy can remove.
In what manner the blessed and only Potentate may think fit to dispose of a race of apostates, is a question on which reason can suggest nothing satisfactory, nothing salutary: a question, in the solution of which, there being no data to proceed upon, wisdom and folly fail alike, and every order of intellect is reduced to a level ; for “who hath known the mind of the Lord, or being his counsellor, hath taught him ?" It is a secret which, had he not been pleased to unfold it, must have for ever remained in the breast of the Deity. This secret, in infinite mercy, he has condescended to disclose : the silence, not that which John witnessed in the Apocalypse, of half an hour, but that of ages, is broken ; the darkness is past, and we behold, in the gospel, the astonishing spectacle of “God in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing to them their trespasses," and sending forth his ambassadors to “ intreat us in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God." To that strange insensibility with respect to the concerns of a future world, which is at once the indication and consequence of the fall, must we ascribe the languid attention with which this communication is received ; instead of producing, as it ought, transports of gratitude and joy in every breast.
This, however we may be disposed to regard it, is unquestionably the grand peculiarity of the gospel, the exclusive boast and treasure of the Scriptures, and most emphatically " the way of salvation,” not only as it reveals the gracious intentions of God to a sinful world, but as it lays a solid foundation for the supernatural duties of faith and repentance. All the discoveries of the gospel bear a most intimate relation to the character and offices of the Saviour; from him they emanate, in him they centre ; nor is any thing we learn from the Old and New Testament of saving tendency, further than as a part of the truth as it is “ in Jesus.” The neglect of considering revelation in this light is a fruitful source of infidelity. Viewing it in no higher character than a republication of the law of nature, men are first led to doubt the importance, and next the truth, of the discoveries it contains ; an easy and natural transition, since the question of their importance is so complicated with that of their truth, in the Scriptures themselves, that the most refined ingenuity cannot long keep them separate." It gives the knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins, through the tender mercy of our God, whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” While we contemplate it under this, its true character, we view it in its just dimensions, and feel no inclination to extenuate the force of those representations which are expressive of its pre-eminent dignity. There is nothing will be allowed to come into comparison with it, nothing we shall not be ready to sacrifice for a participation of its blessings, and the extension of its influence. The veneration we shall feel for the Bible, as the depository of saving knowledge, will be totally distinct, not only from what we attach to any other book, but from that admiration its other properties inspire : and the variety and antiquity of its history, the light it affords in various researches, its inimitable touches of nature, together with the sublimity and beauty so copiously poured over its pages, will be deemed subsidiary ornaments, the embellishments of the casket which contaius the “pearl of great price.”
Scriptural knowledge is of inestimable value on account of its supplying an infallible rule of life. To the most untutored mind, the information it affords on this subject is far more full and precise than the highest efforts of reason could attain. In the best moral precepts issuing from human wisdom, there is an incurable defect in that want of authority which robs them of their power over the conscience they are obligatory no farther than their reason is perceived ; a deduction of proofs is necessary, more or less intricate and uncertain, and even when clearest it is still but the language of man to man, respectable as sage advice, but wanting the force and authority of law. In a well-attested revelation it is the judge speaking from the tribunal, the Supreme Legislator promulgating and interpreting his own laws. With what force and conviction do those apostles and prophets address us, whose miraculous powers attest them to be the servants of the Most High, the immediate organs of the Deity! As the morality of the gospel is more pure and comprehensive than was ever inculcated before, so the consideration of its divine origination invests it with an energy of which every system not expressly founded upon it is entirely devoid. We turn at our peril from him who speaketh to us from heaven.
Of an accountable creature duty is the concern of every moment, since he is every moment pleasing or displeasing God. It is a universal element, mingling with every action, and qualifying every disposition and pursuit. The moral quality of conduct, as it serves both to ascertain and to form the character, has consequences in a future world so certain and infallible, that it is represented in Scripture as a seed no part of which is lost, "for wňatsoever a man soweth, that also shall he reap.” That rectitude which the inspired writers usually denominate holiness, is the health and beauty of the soul, capable of bestowing dignity in the absence of every other accomplishment, while the want of it leaves the possessor of the richest intellectual endowments a painted sepulchre. Hence results the indispensable necessity to every description of persons, of sound religious instruction, and of an intimate acquaintance with the Scriptures as its genuine source.
It must be confessed, from melancholy experience, that a speculative acquaintance with the rules of duty is too compatible with the violation of its dictates, and that it is possible for the convictions of conscience to be habitually overpowered by the corrupt suggestions of appetite. To see distinctly the right way, and to pursue it, are not precisely the same thing. Still nothing in the order of means promises so much success as the diligent inculcation of revealed truth. He who is acquainted with the terrors of the Lord, cannot live in the neglect of God and religion with present, any more than with future, impunity ; the path of disobedience is obstructed if not rendered impassable ; and wherever he turns his eyes he beholds the sword of divine justice stretched out to intercept his passage. Guilt will be appalled, conscience alarmed, and the fruits of unlawful gratification embittered to his taste.
It is surely desirable to place as many obstacles as possible in the path of ruin : to take care that the image of death shall meet the offender at every turn; that he shall not be able to persist without treading upon briars and scorpions, without forcing his way through obstructions more formidable than he can expect to meet with in a contrary course. If you can enlist the nobler part of his nature under the banners of virtue, set him at war with himself, and subject him to the necessity, should he persevere, of stifling and overcoming whatever is most characteristic of a reasonable creature, you have done what will probably not be unproductive of advantage. If he be at the same time reminded, by his acquaintance with the word of God, of a better state of mind being attainable, a better destiny reserved (provided
they are willing and obedient) for the children of men, there is room to hope that, "wearied,” to speak in the language of the prophet, “in the greatness of his way, he will bethink himself of the true refuge, and implore the Spirit of grace to aid his weakness, and subdue his corruptions. Sound religious instruction is a perpetual counterpoise to the force of depravity. . The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul ; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple ; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes ; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever; the judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
While we insist on the absolute necessity of an acquaintance with the word of God, we are equally convinced it is but an instrument, which, like every other, requires a hand to wield it; and that, important as it is in the order of means, the Spirit of Christ only can make it effectual, which ought therefore to be earnestly and incessantly implored for that purpose. “Open mine eyes,” saith the Psalmist, “and I shall behold wonderful things out of thy law.” We trust it will be your care, who have the conduct of the school we are recommending to the patronage of this audience, to impress on these children a deep conviction of their radical corruption, and of the necessity of the agency of the Spirit to render the knowledge they acquire practical and experimental. “ In the morning sow your seed, in the evening withhold not your hand; but remember that neither he that soweth, nor he that watereth, is anything; it is God that giveth the increase.” Be not satisfied with making them read a lesson, or repeat a prayer. By everything tender and solemn in religion, by a due admixture of the awful considerations drawn from the prospects of death and judgment, with others of a more pleasing nature, aim to fix serious impressions on their hearts. Aim to produce a religious concern, carefully watch its progress, and endeavour to conduct it to a prosperous issue. Lead them to the footstool of the Saviour ; teach them to rely, as guilty creatures, on his merits alone, and to commit their eternal interests entirely into his hands. Let the salvation of these children be the object to which every word of your instructions, every exertion of your authority, is directed. Despise the profane clamour which would deter you from attempting to render them serious, from an apprehension of its making them melancholy, not doubting for a moment that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and that the path to true happiness lies through purity, humility, and devotion. Meditate the worth of souls ; meditate deeply the lessons the scriptures afford on their inconceivable value and eternal duration. While the philosopher wearies himself with endless speculations on their physical properties and nature, while the politician only contemplates the social arrangements of mankind and the shifting forms of policy, fix your attention on the individual importance of man as the creature of God, and a candidate for immortality. Let it be your highest ambition to train up these children for an unchanging condition of being. Spare no pains to recover them to the image of God ; render familiar to their minds, in all its extent, the various branches of that “holiness” without which “none can see the Lord.” Inculcate the obligation, and endeavour to inspire the love, of that rectitude, that eternal rectitude, which was with God before time began, was embodied in the person of his Son, and in its lower communications will survive every sublunary change, emerge in the dissolution of all things, and be impressed in refulgent characters on the new heavens, and the new earth, “ in which dwelleth righteousness.” Pray often with them, and for them, and remind them of the inconceivable advantages attached to that exercise. Aa custom them to a punctual and reverential attendance at the house of God: insist on the sanctification of the Sabbath by such a disposal of time as is suitable to a day of rest and devotion. Survey them with a vigilant and tender eye, checking every appearance of an evil and depraved disposition the moment it springs up, and encouraging the dawn of piety and virtue. By thus “training them up in the way they should go,” you may reasonably hope that “when old they will not depart from it."
DAYS BEFORE BOOKS. — In the old ignorant times, before women were readers, history was handed down from mother to daughter, &c., and William of Malmesbury picked up his history, from the time of Venerable Bede to his time, out of old songs, for there was no writer in England from Bede to him. So my nurse had the history from the Conquest down to Charles I. in ballad. Before printing, Old Wives' Tales were ingenious ; and since printing came in fashion, till a little before the Civil Wars, the ordinary sort of people were not taught to read. Now-a-days, books are common, and most of the poor people understand letters ; and the many good books and variety of turns of affairs, have put all the old fables out of doors. And the divine art of printing and gunpowder have frightened away Robin Good-fellow and the fairies.-AUBREY.
A LESSON FOR PRETENDERS.—I remember when I was in the Low Countries, and lived with Sir John Ogle at Utrecht, the reply of that valiant gentleman, Colonel Edmunds, to a countryman of his newly come out of Scotland, went current; who desiring entertainment of him, told him—My lord, his father, and such knights and gentlemen, his cousins and kinsmen, were in good health. Quoth Colonel Edmunds, Gentlemen (to his friends by), believe not one word he says ; my father is but a poor baker of Edinburgh, and works hard for his tiving, whom this knave would make a lord, to curry favour with me, and make ye believe I am a great man born. - PEACHAM. Complete Gentleman, 1627
MR. PIr.—On his “Additional Force Bill,' in 1805, Mr. Pitt had a meeting of country gentlemen—militia colonels, we think—to consider the measure. One of these gentlemen objected to a clause for calling out the force, which he insisted should not be done except in case of actual invasion. Pitt replied, 'that would be too late ;' but the gentleman still insisted on the case of actual invasion. By and by, they came to another clause, to render the force more disposable ; the same gentleman objected again, and insisted very warmly that he never would consent to its being sent out of England — except, I suppose,' rejoined Pitt, 'in case of actual invasion.'— Quarterly Review.
TENDERNESS OF CONSCIENCE.—Thomas Curson, born in Allhallows, Lombard Street, armourer, dwelt without Bishopsgate. It happened that a stage-player borrowed a rusty musket, which had lain long leger in his shop: now though his part were comical, he therewith acted an unexpected tragedy, killing one of the standers by, the gun casually going off on the stage, which he suspected not to be charged. O the difference of divers men in the tenderness of their consciences ! some are scarce touched with a wound, whilst others are wounded with a touch therein. This poor armourer was highly afflicted therewith, though done against his will, yea without his knowledge, in his absence, by another, out of mere chance. Hereupon he resulved to give all his estate to pious uses : no sooner had he gotten a round sum, but presently he posted with it in his apron to the Court of Aldermen, and was in
pain till by their direction he had settled it for the relief of poor iu his own and other parishes, and disposed of some hundreds of pounds accordingly, as I am credibly informed by the then church wardens of the said parish. Thus as he conceived himself casually (though at a great distance) to have occasioned the death of one, he was the immediate and direct cause of giving a comfortable living to many. FULLER.
TRANSLATION.—Shakespeare was godfather to one of Beni Jonson's children, and after the christening, being in a deep study, Jonson came to cheer him up, and asked him why he was so melancholy? “No, faith, Ben (says he), not I, but I have been considering a great while what should be the fittest gift for me to bestow upon my god-child, and I have resolved at last.” “I pr’ythee, what ? says he, “ I'faith, Ben, I'll e’en give him a dozen good Latten Spoons, and thou shalt translate them.” L'ESTRANGE. Anecdotes and Traditions (a volume published by the Camden Society).
KEEP TO YOUR CALLING.-Bishop Grosteste of Lincoln told his brother, who asked him to make him a great man- -“ Brother,” said he, “if your plough is broken, I'll pay the mending of it; or if an ox is dead, I'll pay for another; but a ploughman I found you, and a ploughman I'll leave you."-AUBREY.
CONSCIENCE.—A stranger came recommended to a merchant's house at Lubeck. He was hospitably received; but, the house being full, he was lodged at night in an apartment handsomely furnished, but not often used. There was nothing that struck him particularly in the room when left alone, till he happened to cast his eyes on a picture which immediately arrested his attention. It was a single head; but there was something so uncommon, so frightful and unearthly, in its expression, though by no means ugly, that he found himself irresistibly attracted to look at it. In fact he could not tear himself from the fascination of this portrait, till his imagination was filled by it, and his rest broken. He retired to bed, dreamed, and awoke from time to time with the head glaring on him. In the morning his host saw by his looks that he had slept ill, and inquired the cause, which was told. The master of the house was much vexed, and said that the picture ought to have been removed, that it was an oversight, and that it always was removed when the chamber was used. The picture, he said, was, indeed, terrible to every one ; but it was so fine, and had come into the family in so curious a way, that he could not make up his mind to part with it, or to destroy it. The story of it was this :-“ My Father," said he, “was at Hamburgh on business, and, whilst dining at a coffee house, he observed a young man of a remarkable appearance enter, seat himself alone in a corner, and commence a solitary meal. His countenance bespoke the extreme of mental distress, and every now and then he turned his head quickly round as if he heard something, then shudder, grow pale, and go on with his meal after an effort as before. My father saw this same man at the same place for two or three successive days, and at length became so much interested about him that he spoke to him. The address was not repulsed, and the stranger seemed to find some comfort from the tone of sympathy and kindness which
father used. He was an Italian, well informed, poor but not destitute, and living economically upon the profits of his art as a painter. Their intimacy increased ; and at length the Italian, seeing my father's involuntary emotion at his convulsive turnings and shudderings, which continued as formerly, interrupting their conversation from time to time, told him his story. He was a native of Rome, and had lived in some familiarity with, and been much patronized by, a young nobleman; but upon some slight occasion they had fallen out, and his patron, besides using many reproachful expressions, had struck him. The painter brooded over the disgrace of the blow. He could not challenge the nobleman, on account of his rank ; he therefore watched for an opportunity, and Assassinated him. Of course he fled from his country, and finally had reached