Page images
PDF
EPUB

society. It

may

make a man eloquent; it may make him learned; it may strengthen his desire to acquire head knowledge. Excellent actors, valiant soldiers, able lawyers and mathematicians, have been rendered such by human praise. The commendations of the religious world may increase the number of religious professors; it

may make men cry, ' Lord, Lord,' and take the name of God in vain: but it will never make them Christians, or keep them such. Improper motives cannot produce desirable consequences; and if that which the Almighty uses for humbling the pride of man's heart is by man perverted to the purpose of exalting him in his own good opinion, what result can be expected but that of shame and confusion, inconsistency and folly? Not to speak of the disgrace which professors bring upon themselves in the eye of the world by their want of humility, what incalculable injury do they do to each other by making religion the vehicle of flattery; for the unqualified praise, of which I have already heard too much in this place, admits no softer name than that of flattery. And I again repeat, that I consider no possible mode of adulation which can be used by the mere worldling, half so destructive of human happiness as the cruel deceptions which proceed from the mouth of him who deceives his neighbour respecting his spiritual concerns.”

Here Mr. Mills paused: but as Mr. Burton made no remark on what he had said, the excellent man proceeded to this effect. — “ To prove what I have just asserted,” said he, “I will point out two examples: first, that of a young man such as the one who came under our observation before dinner--a well-looking and clever man, who follows, for his support, a vain and dangerous profession; and, secondly, that of a young minister, who has some knowledge of religion, a wish to distinguish himself, perhaps some desire of doing well, a fine voice, and an agreeable person. Both these persons, though in such different lines of life, are public characters, and are both liable to be assailed by the flatteries of the world: this of the professing world; and that of the mass of ordinary society.

But on which of these persons, I ask, is the praise of man likely to produce the most fatal effects?

It would seem

[ocr errors]

not unreasonable to suppose that, as the minister is not so far from the way of duty as the stage-player, it may please the Almighty the sooner to arrest him in his career of folly; though we presume not to say, that such a mercy may not be extended to the other. But, humanly speaking, the case of that man who makes the voice of commendation his idol while he professes to be a zealous servant of the most high God, appears to be far more hopeless than that of the most profligate offender. And if any kind of reasoning could induce us to question this truth, Scripture and experience should nevertheless compel us to acknowledge it: for, what reason, I ask, is assigned for the backwardness of many of the chief rulers among the Jews to confess Christ, but this--they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God? And what would be the result of our enquiries, were we to search the page of history for the most atrociously wicked characters?

Should we not discover them among those who have made religion the cloak of their ambition, and who have used the name of God to obtain that honour which cometh from man only?

“I am persuaded," proceeded Mr. Mills, “that such a use of the name of God is a more offensive breach of the third commandment than that of which the most profane are guilty when they openly blaspheme in our streets. But, not to diverge too far from our subject, as I hope that there are not many now in England who, like Balaam, Mahomet, and Oliver Cromwell, deliberately and determinately fall into the dreadful sin of using religion only as a cloak for cruelty and pride, we will return to our two supposed characters, and enquire further into the probable effects of flattery upon each of them. The stage-player is, no doubt, elated and intoxicated by the thunders of applause with which he is continually saluted; but he is not deceived as to the concerns of his soul by the roars of the multitude. No one tells him, because he is a fine imitator of other men's manners, that all is well between him and his God; neither is · Peace! peace!' continually whispered in his ear by his thoughtless associates. But the flatterers of the professing young man deceive him in points of the most infinite importance to his welfare:

they make him believe that he is far advanced in the path of salvation, when his foot is, perhaps, treading the way of destruction; and lead him to suppose himself the chosen of God, while he is yet in the very bonds of Satan.

These, my dear Sir, are some of the mischiefs produced by those who have the language of religion continually in their mouths without understanding the true nature of it; and hence ought we who are professors to be especially mindful of the commandment-- Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain ;' constantly looking inward, and ever seeking those helps of the Spirit of God whereby alone our religion can be preserved from degenerating into a mere noisy profession, and our expressions of piety from becoming as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals."

“0, Mr. Mills !” said Mr. Burton, when the good man had ceased to speak, “ you have indeed touched me to the quick: but I thank you for it. You have, by the divine blessing, made me feel my errors.

I have been in a dream; and you, I trust, have been commissioned to awaken me from it. May the Almighty enable me henceforward not to sleep as do others, but to watch and be sober!”

Mr. Burton then entered into some particulars of his life, and seemed to be much affected while he spoke. He stated, that, when he first began his ministerial career, it was in a little village, where he lodged in a farm-house, had a low salary, and a mean apartment: “but,” said he, and the tears started in his eyes, "I was happy then. My mornings were spent in the study of the Scriptures in their original languages, and in tracing the pages of history as they referred to prophecy; I dined early; and in the evenings I visited my parishioners and my school. Nature then seemed to spread forth all its beauties for the purpose of inviting me to communion with my Creator, and I had not unfrequently reason to think that my God was present

But a friend put it into my head that I ought to seek a wider sphere of usefulness, and persuaded me to believe that I was thrown away in

my

retirement. These views were so gratifying to my self-love, that I used every exertion, and put every engine which

[ocr errors]

with me.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

I could command in motion, to procure me a larger
church and a more extensive charge of souls. I obtain-
ed my wishes; but by the change I have neither found
riches nor content. If my income is larger, my ex-
pences are proportionably greater. I must now appear
better dressed, occupy handsome lodgings, and do
many things which were unnecessary in my former cir-
cumstances; yea, and I now think myself happy if I
can keep free from debt.”
Must!repeated Mr. Mills,

" must have all these things!

· Yes," answered Mr. Burton, I repeat must: for I have no strength to resist the desire of appearing altogether like other people in the society in which I live, and especially where I am held up as a shining light, and as an example of all that a young minister ought to be.” You evidently then are not fit for your

situation as a public man,” replied Mr. Mills; “and this was well known to your heavenly Father when he appointed you to a retired situation. O how careful should we be never to interfere pragmatically with the leadings of Providence! I could tell you, and so could every experienced person who has ever studied the ways of God, what miseries ensue from the want of that faith whereby we are taught to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth, and whithersoever he may choose to direct our path."

The excellent old gentleman then proceeded to give the young

minister much sage advice, adapted to his present circumstances. And, before we drop all mention of this young minister, we may add, with pleasure, that this advice was not thrown away, but that, from the period of which we are speaking, by the divine blessing, there was a marked change in the conduct of Mr. Burton.

The next morning, at an early hour, Mr. Mills and Anna were on the road in their little taxed-cart; and Anna gradually found her lately dejected spirits again revived by the simple discourse of her reverend friend, together with the fresher breezes which met her from the mountains.

The subject of Mr. Mills's discourse, as they passed

66

along, had respect to the dangers arising to the professors of religion from prosperity, and the absolute need there is of looking well to our hearts lest we should take credit to ourselves for any thing we are enabled to do which may appear commendable in the smallest degree. And as he noticed the very light manner in which too many persons of the present day write and converse upon the most solemn subjects, he seriously remarked, that even the most lively Christians, those whose hearts were really devoted to God, must be sensible of the dreadful disparity and disagreement which are frequently to be found between their words and their thoughts, their outward actions and their internal feelings. Hence,” said the good man, “ there is not one commandment by which I feel myself more entirely condemned than the third: since scarcely an hour passes, and not one single occasion is set apart for devotion, in which I do not take the name of God in vain, and that in the most plain sense of the commandment. However,” added he, cheerfully, “though condemned in every particular by the law, yet we are allowed to continue our journey through life under the influence of a sweet and encouraging assurance, that the price of our redemption has been fully paid by Him who could confidently say to his enemies, Which of you convinceth me of sin?

Early the second day from their leaving L-, Anna arrived at her beloved home; where, being confirmed in her views of what she considered to be the true nature of religion by all that she had observed among the professing part of the inhabitants of L-, she immediately returned to her usual round of duties, and continues, we trust, to fulfil them, in the strength of Him who is our ever present helper in the time of need, with no greater mixture of human infirmity than is usually discoverable among sincere and upright Christians.

By our last account of Anna, we understand that she is become a wife and mother. But as her husband is a young man whom Mr. Williams employed to assist him when he perceived that his own strength was beginning to fail from his growing infirmities, she is not separated from her parents, and her venerable father has still the privilege of beholding the lovely effects of piety

« EelmineJätka »