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and a Wesley?—or wipe from his of the times is to laxity of principle, memory the more recent imposing to an utter repudiation in the insecession in the North ? Is there, in stance of religion of all that is posithe sons of the English Church, no tive, definite, and abiding, and to the spark of that spirit which kindled into ushering in of a day of indiscriminahigh and holy resolve in the breasts ting indifference. If the recent sale of a Chalmers, a Candlish, a Guthrie, of livings, the bartering of the souls and others ? Nor need the fear of of men under that highest sanction results detain them from taking this in the kingdom, with the late decimomentous step, when the time in sion of the Privy Council, fail to their opinion, has come; for a free shock the moral sensibilities of the Episcopal Church, with its ceremo- nation, we must have already made nial, its liturgy, and a purified minis- most ominous strides towards general try, would be a popular institution, torpor and death. There is, morewould attract to itself both wealth over, a presiding secular spirit oband intelligence, and neutralize a truding itself upon us in relation to large portion of the Nonconformity spiritual things. A forgetfulness of of the realm.
propriety, of becoming reserve, and But we have not so much to do of an appropriately dignified dewith the duties of others, as with meanour with regard to them has those which are incumbent on our- been considered hitherto as belongselves. In looking then at the ing exclusively to the lower strata of strange features which spread them- Dissent, to that fanatical class which selves around us, it becomes us rightly has been regarded as the dregs of to estimate their gravity.
secession. This unenviable notoriety with the slightest pretensions to true is no longer confined within such religious sympathies can be a listless limits, but the most solemn verities spectator of the great ecclesiastical are beginning to be treated in high drama which is passing on every places with a flippancy which would hand. If there be those who are be unbecoming far inferior themes. disposed to regard it as a dreamy · The most awful mysteries of our thing, as a transient and passing faith are bandied about by ecclesiaspageant, they may trace their mis- tical notabilities, and by the potentake in the interest it has awakened, tates of a political hierarchy, with a and in the glee it has occasioned total disregard of true refinement, among the avowed enemies of evan
to say nothing of the absence of the gelical truth ; that its stage, its cha- profound reverence which they claim. racters, and its scenery, are not un- The
newspaper are now real but substantial, is indicated by and again rendered the vehicles of the delight with which these parties unseemly strifes, and of embittered prognosticate that the age of what discussions, on subjects which fill the they call bigotry is on the wane. Cer- thoughtful mind with indescribable tainly if we look at society through awe. Commercial advertisements and the medium of the Endowed Church, great Christian dogmas are found in with its rampant rationalism on the juxtaposition, the exchange and the one hand, and its equally assertive eternal destinies of men jostle each sacerdotalism on the other, with the other and take a common level. mixed elements which fill up the There is a sort of spiritual vandalism intervening ground, and observe at abroad, before whose withering touch the same time what is passing with- all that is sacred shrivels and dies. put, we must infer that the tendency The Goths have rent the veil, and
pages of the
rush with ruthless step into the pre- and which have assumed a somesence of the cherubim, the ark, and what prurient notoriety in our day. It the mercy-seat, while before their would be bootless to attempt to meastolid gaze the Shekinah itself is sure their respective declivities, or to scared, and withdraws. They must indicate the depths of disappointment be negligent observers and superficial and dishonour to which they separatethinkers who fail to perceive the in- ly conduct, but it is enough for us to fluence of this confusion of tongues, know that these are the two gaunt this ungodly contention, this dese- presences which confront us, which cration of divine mysteries within we have to meet with a steady eye the avowed temple of conformity, and a determined will, with which upon the national mind—this rude we are to hold no dalliance, and to violation of those susceptibilities admit no compromise, but to resist which constitute the most precious each with an unfaltering voice, in inheritance of our nature.
the language of the Great Master: thy shoes from off thy feet, the “Get thee behind me Satan, thou place whereon thou standest is holy savourest not the things that be of ground." The times which pass over God, but those that be of men.” us, either for evil or for good, do not
And should we not, my brethren, spend their influence on themselves; guard against a too indiscriminating they survive their date; they send sympathy with the æsthetic spirit of their undulations on to succeeding the times? Society, like individuals, years. They determine the charac- has its impulses, its moods, and its teristic features of unborn ages. Who antipathies. These are so silently can calculate the effect of the oc- occasioned and formed, that we are currences we are deploring, on the
unable to detect the process; they youth who throng our Universities slide into and supersede each other and who are destined to be the $0 subtilely, and are so gradually statesmen, the judges, and the taken in through the interstices and preachers of the next generation ? pores of social life, that almost all Who can guage their influence on the we know of them is, that they exist; literature of our age, and on the and so Protean are they, so transient modes of thought which may prevail comparatively is their stay, that we in our families and our homes- can trace them only in their relics. among those, that is to say, who Whether from the restless activity of are to determine the complexion of great animated masses, from a freer coming times?
intercourse with foreign nations, It is obvious, then, that on the one from the spirit of ingenious enterhand there is a subtle agency at prise, or from these and other causes work, which seeks to plant among combined, it is not requisite to deus empty and fruitless speculations cide, but it is clear that the present to the utter subversion of all dog- age offers no exception to the rulematic instruction, and that there is that it differs, that is to say, in its another which aims to merge per- superficial features, from those which sonal responsibility in priestly inter- have preceded it. But change does position, and to lull us to sleep be- not necessarily intend improvement, neath the shade of a blighting super- nor a love of ornament indicate restition. These are the two extremes finement. Æsthetic tendencies do not to which the unwary and the thought- always bring with them correspondless have from time immemorial been ing conceptions, any more than inat once attracted and impelled, tellectual proclivities necessarily in
volve mental power. It would be itself losing its edge while brandished difficult, I think, with all our pro- amidst so much that is incidental gress, to detect any very marked ad- and artistic? While giving all proper vancement in true taste, either in attention to the tastefulness and comthe architecture, the fashions, or the modiousness of our places of worship, manners of the day. The tone which and to the order, impressiveness, and prevails in general society has shown decorum of their sacred engagements, itself in religious communities and we will not forget, brethren, that we among others, in our own in the have nothing to do with an age when altered style of our chapels, the modes all was typical, whether buildings or of our worship, and the tendencies ceremonies, or sacrifices, from the towards the imposing and ornate. If golden bell and the pomegranate that we admit that in these respects we adorned the robe of the priest, to the have taken a step in the right Urim and Thummim which glistened direction, is there no danger, my on his breast, from the altar before brethren, of our going too far—of which Solomon stood spreading forth the spirit of competition and the his hands towards heaven, to the passion for display impelling us too gorgeous temple itself, beneath whose fast ? May we not bound forward in vaulted roof he poured forth his this direction with a force which will sublime prayer ;-but the rather we entail and demand a corresponding will bear in mind that whether we recoil ? Are we in no danger of convene in the lowly cottage or in falling into the gross notion, of drink- the well-appointed sanctuary, we ing in the far too common, but very come to Mount Zion, to the city of subtle feeling, that human artifice the living God, the heavenly Jerucommends itself to the Divine com- salem, to the innumerable company placency ?—that material grandeur of angels, to God the judge of all, comports with the spiritual essence? to the spirits of just men made per
that garnished temples are pleasing fect, to Jesus, the mediator of the to God? An error which we must ad- new covenant, and to the blood of mit, pervades all superstitions. ' "But sprinkling which speaketh better where is the house that you will things than the blood of Abel.” build unto me,” saith the Lord, “and It is incumbent on us to nourish where is the place of my rest ?” as wisely as we can in the youth of May we not go on till the forms of our congregations a profound reverour worship endanger and overlayence for the Word of God. its spirit, till screens and vestments, The most artful, and certainly the and intonations, and chants, become most successful way of getting rid of substitutes, instead of auxiliaries, to evangelical truth, is to weaken the the intelligent devotion of the sanc- influence of the book which contains tuary, and so call down the rebuke, it; this, therefore, has always been
Bring no more vain oblation"? Is the policy of the free-thinking school. it altogether certain that we may not “If,” say these men, "you wish to adapt our religious houses and ser- dispose of the unction about which vices to the cravings of novelty until the saints talk, break the vase which we appeal through them to the ima- holds it, for whatever impairs the gination rather than to the under- power of the Bible strengthens the standing, and render them channels cause of rationalism.” They attempt of agreeable excitement, rather than their work of demolition by settingthe sanctifying means of grace? Is there Scripture at variance with nature and no danger of the sword of the Spirit with science, by calling in question its historic records, by magnifying do, the inspiration of the Sacred the few blemishes which time and Scriptures will shine through all, transmission may have occasioned in with matchless and unabated splenits renderings, by denying its inspi. dour; the faithful guide from heaven ration, by arraigning its mysteries at will still remain with us, “fair as the the bar of reason, and by covering it moon, clear as the sun, majestic as with human glossaries. It might be an army with banners." Let us, allowed, I think even by such persons, brethren, as aforetime, give its leaves that we are not so much overdone broadcast to the winds; let us tell with information respecting subjects its simple story to the child, and of the highest interest to rational propound its deep philosophy to the and accountable creatures, touching sage; let its beams penetrate the things which lie beyond the range of hovel, and give an unwonted radiance sense, or the scope of trained and to the palace; let us commission it cultivated intelligence, or with regard to every clime, and render it into to the secrets of an unexplored every tongue; let us fearlessly invite future, as to wantonly dispense with towards it scrutiny and research, and any helps which have come down to confidently laugh at the pestilential us from the past, or as to lightly set breath of malignity and hate, for aside a volume which brings to us “not one jot or tittle of my word great thoughts adapted to awaken shall fail.” If it would not savour solemn musings, and to inspire ani- of arrogance or presumption, I would mated hopes ! Instead of trying to appeal to the Denomination to which supersede it, good taste, true self- I belong, to rise as one man, and, interest, and enlightened benevolence, amidst the times which are passing would conspire to lead us solicitously around us, swear renewed allegiance to retain it, and so far from rejoicing at the shrine of inspired truth! in extinguishing it, to mourn at the There is reason to fear that the thought of being deprived of its opinions we deprecate have found light. It is a bad sign when men acceptance in Nonconforming circles ; can deface or pull down a venerable, that they have in some instances stately, and chaste fabric without a tainted the teacher and captivated sigh! But we venture to defy their the hearer; but it is difficult to assaults. Their predecessors have imagine a greater calamity overtried it before them-coarse hands taking us than their unimpeded have attacked it, polished weapons diffusion. The professed Christian have been hurled at it—the common Church has always had those about herd have insulted it-the schools it who have advocated a historic have risen up against it. Essays rather than a confiding faith—such and Reviews” may be multiplied,
may be multiplied, a faith as that we have in Alexander, and may carry, if they dare, their in Julius Cæsar, or in Attila—while teachings to their legitimate issues; those have not been wanting who but there stands the Bible still, and have magnified a theoretic beyond a there it will abide, unscathed, un- living experimental belief,—a belief shaken, unsullied ! Though a scratch akin to that we may have in Faber's or a fly-speck here or there may Theory of Prophecy, in Harvey's slightly deface the productions of a Theory of the Blood, or in Newton's Raphael or a Titian, the genius of Theory of the Heavens—while a third the great masters will gleam through class have vaunted an assumptive notwithstanding, and, after all its instead of a practical belief, choosing avowed enemies or false friends may to forget that "faith without works is dead.” But now we are threatened become patent to intelligent and with the destruction of theories thoughtful men, who may have rethemselves with the overthrow of garded it with a too lenient eye, its the very structure of our religion, influence will be more restricted and are invited, by professed Chris- still, since its tendency is to substitian instructors, too, to adopt pre- tute for earnest Godliness a kind of mises, which if conducted to their gaseous inflation, and to distend with legitimate consequences, will land us unhealthy humours rather than to in the infidelity of a Bolingbroke and give muscle and sinew to the frame. a Hume. Happily, however, the As a Denomination, our wisdom and dispensation under which we live, strength lie in resisting it, in enwhile it provides for a stated minis- countering it by the faithful, plain, try, recognizes no priesthood, so that persevering, affectionate preaching the influence of the pastor is rather of the great doctrines of the Cross. moral than official, and is made to We might, without impropriety, call depend more on his fidelity than on to encourage and to cheer us, the his position. The Christian fellow- shades of our fathers, the character ship, not the officers whom it may and deeds of our predecessors in the elect, is the guardian of the truth. faith and patience of Christ; men of To the Church, not to its instructors, ripe faculties, of manly mould, and the keys of the kingdom are en- of apostolic zeal, “ of whom the trusted,—nor can they, permit me world was not worthy." But we to say, be in safer hands. Men who the rather repair to the fount of have received evangelic truth, who evangelic law, and to the example of appreciate its sacredness, and know inspiration itself,—to one who writits incomparable worth, are its best ing to early believers says, “And I, protectors; others may run about when I came to you, came not with the walls of Sion, but it is theirs to excellency of speech or of wisdom, guard its citadel. It is, therefore, declaring unto you the testimony of for the churches of Christ to fulfil God. For I determined not to their mission, and not to betray their know anything among you, save trust by tolerating equivocal and Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. unscriptural teachings in their midst. And I was with you in weakness “ The prophet that hath a dream, and in fear, and in much trembling. let him tell a dream ; and he that And my speech and my preaching hath my word, let him speak my was not with enticing words of word faithfully."
man's wisdom, but in demonstration There is no feature more l'e- of the spirit, and of power : that your markable or more honourable among faith should not stand in the wisdom Dissenters, as a rule, than the of men, but in the power of God.” respect and esteem in which they We, my brethren, as a section of hold the ministry, and those who the visible Church, are but slightlysuitably represent it; but this is if at all-affected by this malady; no reason why they should be ex- but if our pulpits are to occupy the pected to render a blind and indis- place which belongs to them in this criminating obedience; it is rather great conflict, and effectually to rethe legitimate spring of that jealousy sist the insidious and cankerous enwith which they regard the vast in- croachments of error, it is obvious terests involved. But the insidious that weighty obligations rest on leaven is as yet only very partially those on whom has devolved the diffused, and as its pernicious results training of the rising ministry of