« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
allowed to commit those we love to his care and guardian ship; and that we can do it without raising up a rival in his affections! In the arms of his mercy there is room for all. He can embrace in them, at once, the whole race of mankind; and the more we intercede in our prayers for others, the surer we are of his kindness to ourselves. To him we seldom fail to have recourse in our own distress. There are cases in which we fly to him by a kind of instinctive impulse ; in which, without the utmost violence, we cannot restrain ourselves from prayer. If then we have any real good will to our fellow creatures, we shall implore the same mercies, and with the same earnestness, that we do for ourselves. If we have any love for our country, we shall not fail to give it a place in our devo. tions, and to pray most ardently for the prosperity and stability of our Jerusalem
In what manner our prayers can be granted, or by what means God can avert calamity from those we recommend to his protection, without doing violence to what is called the ordinary course of nature, it is no concern of ours to inquire. If God has commanded us to pray for others, it is our business not to philosophize, but to obey. Let us give ourselves no trouble about the course of nature. It is perfectly safe in the hands of its divine author. There may be no difficulties to Omnipotence, where we see nothing but impossibilities. Let us leave God to manage his own world, and perform his promises, as he certainly will, in his own way. All we have to do, is, to make a faithful use of that valuable privilege of INTERCESSION, which he has graciously allowed us, for the benefit of our fellow-creatures. The most indigent man may say to his neighbour, as St. Peter did to the cripple at the gate of the temple, “ silver and gold have I none; but such as I have, give I unto thee.” My wishes, my intercessions, my prayers, you shall have. On earth, indeed, I can do nothing; but I will try to move HeaVEN in your favour. This puts it in the power of the meanest member of society, if he is but religious and devout, to be as essentially useful, both to individuals and the community, as those that fill the highest and most active stations of life. From the deepest solitude, and from the humblest cell, his prayers may reach the throne
of God; may there touch one of those celestial springs · which set the world in motion ; may be among the rea
sons that induce the Almighty to give a new turn to the great wheels of the universe, and to rescue individuals, families, and empires, from destruction. Improbable, and even ridiculous, as this may seem to the profound reasoners of this world, the Scriptures, both of the Old and New Testiments, are full of the powerful prevalence and astonishing effects of prayer; and unless we absolutely renounce all faith in the Gospel, and all confidence in the promises of Christ, we must admit the truth of the doctrine ; we must acknowledge that the “ the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man," either for himself or others, “ availeth much.”
Let then, every sincere Christian, unmoved by the cavils of the sophist, or the insults of the scorner, steadily E and resolutely persevere in that most benevolent office of
interceding for all mankind. Let him beseech the great Sovereign of the universe, to enlighten the ignorant, to strengthen the weak, to confirm the doubtful, to convert the infidel, to reclaim the profligate, to soften the unmer-. ciful, to restrain the violent and vindictive, to redress the injured and oppressed, to protect the innocent; to reconcile the interests and calm the passions of contending individuals, and hostile nations ; to avert from this hitherto favoured land, those bitter evils with which other countries are now so cruelly desolated and overwhelmed; to direct the councils and prosper the just designs of
those whom Providence has set over us; to unite the E hearts of those they govern, as the heart of one man, in
sentiments of Christian charity and constitutional obediP, ence. Let him implore, in fine, (as he naturally will)
the peculiar blessing of the Almighty, on those he holds most dear; as our liturgy very sublimely expresses it, " through His most mighty protection, both here and ever, they may be preserved both in body and soul; and that he being their ruler and guide, they may so pass through things temporal, as finally to lose not the things which are eternal.”
Extract from a Discourse delivered 8th Fanuary, 1812,
at the request of the Virginia Students, in the Univer. sity of Pennsylvania ; on the occasion of burning the Theatre in Richmond, (Va.) 26th December, 1811, by the Rev. ARCHIBALD ALEXANDER, D. D.
Romans, ch. 12. v. 15. Weep with them that weep. ONE leading difference between the system of ethics prescribed by the Stoics, and that inculcated by Christianity, is, that whilst the former aims at eradicating the passions, the latter endeavours to regulate them, and di. rect them into their proper channels. The attempt of the first is as impracticable as it is undesirable ; the ob. ject of the last, is, by Divine aid, in a good degree attain. able, and in it consists much of the dignity, perfection, and happiness of man.
The great author of our being has implanted the principle of sympathy deeply in human nature ; and has made the susceptibility of feeling the sorrows of another, as extensive as the race of man. It is common to the untutored savage, and to the man of refinement and education : and traces of it are even discovered in the animal creation; many species of which appear to be strongly excited, as often as any great evil threatens, or befalls, any of their own kind.
This principle of sympathy, whilst it indicates the unity of our species, seems to form a mysterious bond of connection between all its members. The spectacle of suffering humanity, however great a stranger the object of distress may be, will always excite our sensibility, unless the feelings be blunted by vicious indulgence, restrained by prejudice, or extinguished by the long prevalence of malignant passions. Simply considered, it is not of a moral nature ; it is, however, friendly to virtue, and intimately mingles itself with the most benevolent and pious affections of the human heart; and the want of it always argues a high degree of moral depravity. Refined and cultivated, as it may be by education, it has a great share in forming the character which is termed amiable and interesting. But like other original principles of our nature, it is liable to abuse and excess; and
the evils thence resulting to human happiness, are not few nor inconsiderable. Instead of being the ally of virtue, and prompter of benevolence, it may become the most successful auxiliary of vice. In fact, a morbid sensibility has, with many in this age, usurped the place, and claimed the honour, due to moral principle and religion. Genuine pity, and compassion for objects of real distress, have been perverted, and almost extinguished, in a multitude of persons, by the artificial excitement of a set of spurious feelings, produced by the contemplation of scenes of ficticious distress ; which tend to no valu..ble end, and are sought only for the mumentary gratification of the possessor. But, however sympathy may be abused, there is a legitimate and proper exercise of it, to which we are not only prompted by nature, but directed by reason, and exhorted by religion. There are occasions, when not to sweep with them that weep," would be rebellion against every principle which ought to govern us, as well as against those which commonly do influence men. If the sufferings of an enemy may be such as to affect us--if we are excited to weep at the woes of a stranger-what must our feelings be, when we recognize, in the cry of unutterable anguish, the well known voice of an acquaintance, a friend, a brother, or a sister? Such a cry of distress, from the capitol of our native state, has recently pierced our ears, and filled our hearts with grief. The sons of Virginia, resident in this place, are to-day called upon to mourn, and to mingle their sympathetic tears with those of the whole state.
A calamity, as great and distressing, as it was sudden and unexpected, has fallen upon her ! A calamity, which in its circumstances of real wo and great distress, has scarcely a parallel in history! In most occurrences which pierce the soul with anguish, there are some alleviating considerations which sooth the aching heart, and mitigate the pangs of grief. But here there are none ! Every fresh recital, every additional fact and circumstance, only serves to increase the horror of the scene, and more deeply to interest our feelings. Had her honourable men and valuable citizens fallen in the field of battle, like those of a sister state, bravely resisting the enemies of their country, and covered with honourable wounds, however
bereaving and distressing the dispensation, still there would have existed some ground of consolation. Had her respected matrons and fair daughters been swept off by the desolating pestilence, however melancholy the scene, yet still there would have been some warning, and some opportunity of preparing for the event. The last words, and the last looks of tenderness and affection, would have left a pleasing impression upon the memory : and at least, surviving friends would have enjoyed the satisfaction of beholding the bodies of their beloved relatives entire and unmangled; and of gazing upon their well known features undeformed with burns and bruises. But even this meagre consolation was wanting. In the midst of healthin the moment of mirth and exhiliration, in the full flow of earthly joy, perfectly thoughtless of futurity, and unsuspicious of any danger, more than a hundred respectable citizens, are overwhelmed in one promiscuous ruin ! Neither genius, learning, power, wealth, youth, beauty, nor accomplishments, avail any thing to rescue their un. fortunate possessors from destruction. Almost as rapid as the fall of lightning from Heaven, Death, in his most frightful and resistless form, rushes on them! O! the dismal scene of horror, of misery, and of death, which here presents itself to our view !-But to pourtray this shocking scene is neither practicable nor desirable. Per. mit me, then, to drop the curtain over the catastrophe of this dismal tragedy! The impression which this awful occurrence has already made on your minds is indelible. You need no highly wrought description to make it deeper. The lapse of time can never obliterate it. The wound in the feelings of some here present, will never be completely healed, on this side the grave! The mere circumstance, that these unfortunate sufferers were crea. tures of our species, would have been sufficient to awaken all our tender sympathies; and much more, to know that they were our countrymen, who had been accustomed to breathe the same air and tread the same soil, and had been nurtured and educated in the same institutions with ourselves. But the ties by which the most of you, my young countrymen, who have consecrated this day to sorrow, are connected with the unfortunate sufferers and disconsolate mourners of Richmond, are of a much more