Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

sands, and spots of fearful memory, where many a noble vessel has gone to ruin !-The eloquent lamentation of that great man, Richard Baxter, who laboured far above many, a century and a half ago, for holiness, peace, and love, may well find a place here; both to stimulate our gratitude, and to administer a still very requisite admonition.

"I would that our Protestant churches had not too great a number of such men as are far short of the schoolmen's subtilty, but much exceed them in the enviousness of their zeal, and the bitterness and revilings of their disputes; more openly serving the prince of hatred against the cause of love and peace. O how many famous disputers, in schools, pulpits, and press, do little know what spirit they are of; and what reward they must expect of Christ, for making odious his servants, destroying love, and dividing his kingdom! How many such have their renown, as little to their true comfort, as Alexander's and Cæsar's for their bloody wars !-Cease your proud contendings, O vain-glorious militant clergy! Learn of the Prince of peace, and the holy angels that preached him, to give glory to God in the highest,' who givethpeace on earth,' and well-pleasedness in men.' Did Christ, or his apostles, make such work for Christians as you do? The great Shepherd of the flock will take your pretences of order, orthodoxness, or truth, and piety, for no excuse for your corrupting order, faith, and · practice, by your tyranny, self-conceitedness, blind zeal, and superstition; and for using his name against himself, to the destroying of that love, and concord, and unity, which he hath bequeathed to

C

his church; and for serving his enemy, and dividing his people, and hardening infidels and ungodly ones by these scandals. Return to the primitive simplicity; that we may return to unity, and love, and peace. The God of peace give wisdom, and peaceable principles, minds, and hearts, to his servants; that, though I shall not live to see it, true love and piety may revive in the Christian world, by the endeavours of a healing ministry!"

What do we owe to Infinite Benevolence, that the aspect of the Christian Church, in our own times, is, in so many points of view, the happy contrast of this pathetic lamentation! So much has God done for us what then do we owe to him?

Yet, let it not be ascribed to moroseness, to the love of spying or proclaiming faults, to the spirit of arrogant judging and ill-becoming presumption, if one, who has too much reason to acknowledge his own participation in the delinquencies complained of, still solicits his brethren to "strengthen the things which remain," and to seek to have their "works perfect (filled up to the requisite amount) before God," in order that the religion which we are sending through the world, may be of the best quality, having the least mixture of unworthy and debasing adulteration, and such as shall be the most entitled to the love and imitation of converted nations.

One of the most obvious symptoms of a state which ought to awaken our anxious dissatisfaction, is the low degree of religious knowledge which extensively prevails; and the flimsy and puerile character of that knowledge which is actually possessed by many professors of serious piety, in whatever degree

it may subsist.

If we did not live under a condition of society in which, more than in any former period, large, comprehensive, and solid knowledge is required, upon all the topics of literature, and science, and the arts of life; if universal investigation, uprooting the quietude of ancient prejudices, demanding clear conceptions, and well-defined descriptions, and solid evidence for all conclusions, were not the character, or at least the profession, of our age; there is that all-commanding majesty in religion, which should, at all times, make these demands, and enforce their utmost application. Its sublime topics, God and man, life, death, and an eternity of happy or miserable consciousness; the bright and awful beaming of a personal interest with which it looks upon every child of man; the means of its conveyance, levying and sanctifying all the aids of philology, history, and philosophy, for the service of Bible-interpretation; and its consequences, affecting an immortal duration, and that in modes which no human expression, no human thought, can reach ;— these, and their associated considerations, might surely be expected to produce, even in the most dull and unreflecting age, habits of intense and profound study upon the science and art of religion; the science, whose noble archetype is found in the moral perfections of God; the art of practically attaining the highest ends of existence, living to God, being conformed to his holiness, and being blessed with his happiness. So, in fact, it has been. The wild excursiveness of the Platonic philosophy, and the amazing depths of a metaphysical theology, even in some of the Mahometan speculatists, have been

ample attestations of the strength of these impressions on the human mind. In the darkest period of Christian Europe, the prejudices and complicated manacles of a soul-restraining superstition could not prevent such men as Anselm, Bradwardin, Peter Lombard, and Aquinas, from exercising their mighty spirits upon the great and deep things of God. How then is it, that, in a day like ours, pre-eminent in opportunities and means and fearless avowals, many Christians content themselves with a quality and degree of religious knowledge, so servilely adopted, so superficial, scanty, and ill-provided with intelligence and proof, as to awaken most serious fears, in thoughtful observers, that the frail texture would be driven away by the first wind of false doctrine that might be directed upon it? Poverty and want of advantages cannot be pleaded as the excuse of a numerous class of men, concerning whom these apprehensions force themselves upon us. Often, in truth, pious persons of the lower orders in society discover an extent of knowledge, and an acquaintance with facts and principles and their just evidence, in the great things of God and his revelation, which might put to the blush many of the polished and elegant disciples of our modern churches. It is not a little remarkable, that these very persons will take an unsparingly solicitous care, that their sons and daughters shall have every means for the most accurate initiation, and the most perfect proficiency, in one or more languages, in mathematics, or even the mere ornaments or fashionable accomplishments which they deem requisite to their station. They will engage the ablest teachers, they will purchase numerous and

costly books and instruments, they will sacrifice years of time; to secure for the objects of their anxiety the most comprehensive knowledge, the most distinguishing and fastidious correctness, the most masterly practice. Yet, to obtain sacred and divine knowledge, they content themselves with provision and efforts, which, as to both kind and degree, are most manifestly meagre, unattractive, and inadequate. The theological part of what they may, perhaps, call their library, is so scanty and ill-chosen, as to form a remarkable contrast with the amplitude of their expendings upon the furniture of a drawing-room, or a genteel accomplishment for a daughter, or a study necessary to obtain honours or an establishment for a son.

Scarcely less to be lamented and censured, is the practice of purchasing, indeed, some excellent books of Christian divinity, guided in the choice by accident, or by recommendation, or by the celebrity of a name; having them well adorned with the devices. of gilding and figuring, and then tastefully disposed in a splendid book-case. But, when these adjustments are completed, the matter is nearly ended. These depositories of truth and wisdom are rarely opened; or are read in a cursive and desultory manner; or are turned to only for the purpose of marking passages, that have been pointed out as peculiarly tender or powerful; while there is but a very faint intention of getting the mind enlightened, the conscience awakened, and the practice directed, by their impression.

The eminent Author of the work which is now. republished in the ensuing pages, has a Discourse

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »