Изображения страниц

on man, because man is capable of perceiving that this is his Maker's character. It is binding on every man and all men alike, because every man in his right mind is possessed of this capacity, to know God and to feel the obligation to obey him. Nothing but the annihilation of our rational faculties can release us from the duty of holy fear and reverence towards God, as well as every other evangelical temper, and to him, let every man remember, we are answerable for the result. Let every one remember too, that there is a tribunal within him, in the very faculties of his own intelligent and immortal spirit, which will hold him guilty, and make him feel that he is guilty, if he practically disregards this sacred obligation. And if he can, by any means, corrupt or pervert the tribunal within him, there exists a similar tribunal in the reason and intelligence of the whole created universe, and by the verdict of that tribunal he is guilty of death, if he does not render to the most high God the fear and reverence which are due to his great name. In vain will he pretend to love God, or to exercise the required gratitude for his favors, if he overlooks those essential attributes of the Supreme Being which entitle him to be feared as well as loved; or rather, which make the very love of a holy heart towards him, but the chastened sentiment of a childlike, humble, adoring re


3. It only remains, that we notice some misapprehensions on this subject, together with the grounds of them. The misapprehensions to which we allude are the following.

It is supposed by some, that emotions of fear have little to do with true religion, if indeed they are not incompatible with it. There are many, who seem at least, to make religion to consist almost wholly in high and strong affections, and particularly in affections of a glad and joyous character. With them, all true religion is little if any thing more than gratitude, joy, and admiration. This is the character of their own religion; and in others, it is the only religion with which they have much sympathy, or for which they feel much charity. Now this, if the foregoing remarks are just, is a misapprehension of the true nature of religion; and it arises from this source. It overlooks some of the essential perfections of God as a moral ruler; and supposes that the Deity is simply kind, and benevolent, and all powerful, and that his sole object is to make his creatures happy. Now this, we conceive, is a total misapprehension of the subject, and the scheme of religion to which it gives birth, is essentially false, and fraught with abundant mischief to the souls of men. Where, on this scheme, is Jehovah's purity, and holiness, and hatred of sin? Where that awful and glorious justice or equity, which is the very basis of his throne and government? Where, on this scheme, is the value, or the meaning, of the atonement, properly so called? Where the peculiar scrip

tural preciousness of the Messiah's blood? Where the appropriateness, necessity, and power of the gospel, as a plan of salvation for guilty and lost beings? If God is simply good and benevolent, or if that is the most important view of his character which we can take, what shall we do with much, very much of the bible--what mean those awful threatnings which Sinai heard and trembled to hear. If God reigns in mere kindness, and for no other purpose but to make men happy, why the scenes of Gethsemane and Golgotha; the heavens gathering blackness, and the earth giving signs of woe ; why those terrible sufferings; why those hours of preternatural darkness; why that spectacle of sorrow on the cross ; why that mysterious cry of deep, unwonted distress, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me.” All this to tell us merely that God is gond? Why not tell us this in the more direct and obvious way, of putting forth his power at once, and making men happy, if this was the sinple end and object of his government? If God is to be regarded as accomplishing men's happiness only, and that too by mere power in alliance with goodness, why all those solemn exhibitions of justice, and holiness, and hatred of sin ; and all those measures of a moral government, to which the Most High has resorted, and under the influence of which he is so evidently carrying on, from age to age, his glorious work of transforming a world of rebels, into a family of dutiful and affectionate children? We do not need the testimony of the cross to tell us simply that God is good, nor that he wills the happiness of mankind. But we need that affecting testimony for other purposes; we need it to tell us, that while God is good, yea, infinitely good and benevolent, he is also pure in his goodness, and holy in his benevolence, and just while the justifier of him that believes on Christ; and thus to gather round man's heart, every high and constraining motive to induce him to fear, as well as to love, that mighty Being, who is taking such measures to reclaim and save him. Now we would ask, Is the religion which is adapted to the character and circumstances of men, and which naturally results from the manifested character and purposes of God, a mere exercise of gratitude, or of admiration and confidence and joy? Where in all this, is the distinctive and peculiar spirit of the reclaimed and pardoned sinner? Where in all this, is there any evidence, that God is seen and regarded, as he truly is, and for what he truly is? Where in a whole world of such beings, would there be found one, answering to the following designation from the mouth of God by his prophet, “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word;" or answering to the description of our Savior, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for their's is the kingdom of heaven.” Again. It seems to be supposed by many, that sin is a light and venial offense ; man's misfortune rather than his

crime; an unhappiness more properly than any very censurable dereliction of duty. This misapprehension also arises from mistaken conceptions of God, and of the duty which man owes him. It proceeds from that fruitful source of error in religion, low and unworthy notions of the infinitely pure and holy One, and of the importance, the rectitude, the strictness, the extent, the unchangeable obligation, of his law. Where God is not seen to be what he is, and is not feared for being what he is, it is not to be expected that there will be any just or proper sense of sin ; even the bare intellectual perception of its true turpitude and odiousness will not exist in the mind. All just views of sin are derived from just views of the character and law of God. When this great and holy being is degraded in men's eyes, and virtually dispossessed of his throne and kingdom, and his law cast behind their backs, then sin and rebellion against him, at least in any of their ordinary forms, will wear only the appearance of slight and venial offenses. Men, instead of feeling penitent and humble, as they have much occasion to do, in view of their real delinquency and guilt, will feel proud of their imaginary virtues, and indulge feelings of self-complacency and self-esteem, on account of their supposed excellence of character. It would be superfluous to ask, of what benefit can such a scheme of salvation as that of the gospel be to beings cherishing such views of themselves as these. The pharisee in the parable exhibits their spirit,—a spirit invulnerable, immoveable, to all the influences of the gospel. Hence comes the doctrine, of a merely human Redeemer, to save men's souls; and an atonement for sin, which is in truth no atonement; and a renovation of men's characters, which is any thing but making them new creatures in Christ; and a faith in the Lord of life and glory which regards him as a mere minister of divine grace and mercy to the world of mankind; and the conclusion of the whole, that all men are to be saved, Again. It is a misapprehension of many, that present happiness is the only sure test of true religion. With them, all religion is vain, which does not bring a perpetual sunshine into the soul, and fill the mouth with praise. Even the serener and more hidden pleasures of religion, which, like still waters, are noiseless because they are deep, such persons would condemn as savoring too much of a timid, legal spirit. The mourning for sin; the solemn fear to offend; the conscious unworthiness; the deep prostration of soul before God; the earnest striving, not after greater joy but greater purity of character; the humility; the self-abasement; the leaning upon the cross of Christ for support and comfort; the meekly hoping in God in the midst of discouragements, which occasionally may seem to intercept almost every ray of light, and which, for seasons at least, may make the christian life appear much more like a conflict than a triumph; these are, in the view of many, the exercises of a

spirit, which has not experienced the true liberty of the gospel, which has not yet been, fully, at least, initiated into the school of Christ. But to us it seems, that what is here looked upon as savoring of a legal and slavish spirit

, is the very temper of the gospel. As to the question of happiness even, we would not exchange its hidden and peaceful and holy pleasures, for the higher and more extatic joys, and rapturous emotions, in which many appear to place the very essence and vitality of religion. Although we are far from making present happiness the test of piety, or from thinking that men cannot be disciples of Christ because they are not always with him on the mount of transfiguration, yet we think, that the humble, reverential spirit, which has been described in these pages, is at least not less favorable to true enjoyment than a spirit of an opposite or different kind. And we believe it will ever be found true, that in regard to mere peace and comfort, as in every other desirable attribute, that religion is the purest and best, which springs from the most exalted and reverential thoughts of God, of his law, and of his gospel, and which makes all nature seem, as it were, one vast temple, the solemn dwelling place of that pure and holy Being.

We add a single general remark. Right conceptions of the character and government of the Supreme Being are of the utmost importance in religion. How can men fear this mighty Being, until they have obtained some just conceptions concerning him ? How practice the duties of an intelligent and enlightened pietyhow live as men ought to live-how die as a serious man would wish to die? To this point we earnestly invite the attention of our readers. We assure them that that time will not be misemployed, which is spent in acquainting themselves with the Almighty, that they may learn to fear him, and be at peace with him.



My Dear J—.

In accordance with my intention, as expressed in a former letter, I took passage at Marseilles in a French ship bound for Naples, on the 22d of January, 18%. This course was recommended by my friends, in preference to a journey by land during the winter season, round the northern coast of the Mediterranean. I regretted the necessity of yielding to their advice, as I should thus lose a sight of the maritime Alps, with the road which lies under them, from Nice to Genoa. This road I had often heard spoken of, as presenting a kind of scenery so peculiar

and even unique, as richly to repay all the labor and privations of the route. But as no companion could be found, whose views and wishes were co-incident with my own in this respect, I felt myself compelled to submit to a mode of conveyance, which in nine days, as I was confidently assured, would place me at Naples, in a climate like that of May in our country.

Accordingly, at five o'clock, A. M. we left Marseilles with a fair wind, which had blown for a fortnight, and which it was of course concluded, would blow a fortnight longer. At the end of the second day, we had completed one quarter of the voyage. The northern point of Corsica was nearly gained. Nice lay on our left at the distance of forty miles; the mountains back of Genoa were in full view before us; and the shores of Tuscany above Leghorn began to appear on our right. In a few hours we were to pass the cape, and run down with a fine breeze, through the Tuscan gulf, to Naples. But we were a few hours too late. At this moment the wind became adverse. We beat up against it for nearly two days, and saw other ships which were a few miles in advance of us, weather the point, and bear down for Naples, while we were left behind.

During the whole of one day, we were standing close under the western coast of Corsica, not far from the birth place of Bonaparte. The greater part of the Island appeared to be a mass of rocks, rising into peaks—broken by ravines—thrown into every form of confusion, by the action of some powerful element. Along the shores to the width of three or four miles, are fertile plains or hill-sides. These were covered with olive trees and wheat fields, presenting a strong contrast to the perfect desolation of the mountains, which constitute the greater part of the Island. These mountains are some thousand feet high, and were covered with snow half way down their sides, while the temperature on the sea-shore was like that ofour April. This is a striking peculiarity in European scenery. With us cold and heat appear to be more equally distributed over a great extent of country. We rarely see the livery of winter and of summer in the same landscape. But around the shores of the Mediterranean, there are every where sheltered spots where snow rarely if ever falls; where the temperature of our October is prolonged to January, and the mildness of May begins to be felt in the early part of February, while the mountains which wall them in, and protect them from the cold, are themselves covered with snow till June or July. There is something peculiarly picturesque and striking in the union of two such extremes in the same scenery -a landscape of rich, green fields covered with orange and lemon trees loaded with fruit, around which is thrown, like a border, a chain of rugged mountains covered with snow. Such was the appearance of Corsica during nearly two days while we were endea

Vol. II.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »