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puts on a more serious aspect; and by unveiling the reality and purity of true holiness, casts a dismal shade over the most illustrious heathen.
The celebrated Boerhaave has observed, that "our Saviour knew mankind better than Socrates;" and truly we may see this saying beautifully illustrated, by comparing the observations and precepts of our holy Redeemer, with the precepts and lives of heathen philosophers. It is not sufficient for the christian to abstain from the outward act of sin; he must abhor its very imagination. The heart of man in its natural state is shewn to be depraved, and, even when partially sanctified by the Spirit of God, he confesses it to be "deceitful and desperately wicked above all things." While the self-righteous heathen looked down upon his more immoral fellow-beings with pride and complacency, he who has made the greatest attainments in christian holiness has only learnt to be more humble, and more susceptible to the conviction of his own sinfulness. The true christian disclaims all pride and haughtiness of heart, and, like St. Paul, finds his most painful task in boasting of his own advantages or attainments in religion.
There was likewise in the superstitious rites of the Pagans much that was flagrantly immoral. The orgies of Bacchus, and the feasts of Venus, displayed scenes at which reason revolts, while the barbarous cruelties of other ceremonies overwhelm the mind with horror. Should we even lay these aside, and take the refinements of philosophy as the best specimen of their religious notions, we cannot but perceive how little they were calculated to suit the great mass of mankind. Where their different systems were not at variance with each other, so much was abstruse, that none but a gifted few could comprehend, much less put in practice, what was inculcated. But if we turn to the christian religion, we see, that, though its doctrines and precepts evince a profundity which has never been entirely fathomed by the most pious and learned, it is so obvious and simple, that the unlettered peasant can understand and put its requisitions into practice.
Though it is a system so original, that it is entirely distinct from all others, yet its moral code is so perfect and harmonious, that, rejecting all that is unreasonable, it contains every duty that can be conceived of, whether to God or man. For this purpose, history and precept mutually assisting each other, both are explained; so that though there are precepts sufficient to comprehend every supposable case, yet in the
page of sacred history are sketched personages of various characters, and under all the circumstances of human life, that every bearing of the law of God may be distinctly marked out.
It is in the Scriptures that we read what before was scarcely suspected, though experience now confirms the truth, namely, the natural depravity of the human heart. "There is none that doeth good, no, not one." The knowledge of this truth is evidently necessary to the salvation of man; for where there is no consciousness of guilt, there can be no repentance. This truth is stamped on the sacred pages in examples that cannot be controverted, and serves to discourage any thing like pride or self-suffi. ciency in the uninformed convert. He sees that he has incurred the curse as well of actual as of original sin, and recompense must be made before God can be reconciled.
But while the christian reads, that man is a sinner, and condemned to death and eternal misery, for sin can only be expiated by death, he discovers that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." Though an atonement for his sins cannot be procured by himself, since no future obedience could cancel past offences, yet there is a sacrifice offered for man, even the death and sufferings of an incarnate God, who hath thus dearly purchased his church with his own blood. He reads that no one can reasonably expect to derive any advantage from this sacrifice but by repentance and faith, since without these there can be no remission of sin; that repentance and faith are the fruits of a regenerated heart, a heart influenced by the Spirit of God, who has promised to 66 create all things anew."
Faith is an unbounded confidence in God; and, though a voluntary exercise of the mind, it only arises from that disposition of the heart induced by the grace of God. Faith, as a consequence, produces virtuous obedience, and thus becomes instumental in the justification of man, whether this virtuous obedience is enabled by the providence of God to manifest itself, or not; for it is not by works, that man can be saved. It is the disposition which faith generates, that evinces its genuineness, and this disposition can only spring from the operation of the Holy Spirit. Thus it is, that faith is the means, while the grace of God is the source, of the christian's justifi cation. But this is not all; he possesses a hope which cheers him through all tempt
ON THE INFLUENCE OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.
ations and sorrows, and, like the pale moon, sheds its soft and benignant rays over the gloom of night, to cheer those dark desponding hours which await man in this vale of tears. It is a hope that "maketh not ashamed," but enables him in serene confidence to bear the storms and trials of adversity, because it has fixed its anchorage beyond the veil of sense, even within the antityped holy of holies, where are treasured up the ark and covenant of God.
The difference of these two graces, faith and hope," Archbishop Leighton observes, ❝ is so small, that the one is taken for the other in scripture; it is but a different aspect of the same confidence-faith apprehending the infallible truth of those divine promises, of which hope doth assuredly expect the accomplishment, and that is their truth; so that this immediately results from the other."*
The other grace, which forms a promineney in the character of the christian, is love. Love to God implies delight in his nature, gratitude for his goodness, and an entire devotedness to his will; thus it forms a plain principle of duty and affection. Love to our Creator and Redeemer necessarily induces love to our fellow-creatures, for, inquires St. John, "He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" And here we must admire the wisdom and goodness of God, in thus comprising the whole duty of man in the word love, that the true principle of the christian's obedience may be obvious to all. This most prominent of the three graces mentioned by St. Paul, has been beautifully characterized by Cowper, as
A plant divinely nursed,
Fed by the love from which it rose at first. 1. Exuberant is the shadow it supplies,
Its fruits on earth, its growth above the skies.' Between these three graces there is a striking union, as the pious divine just cited writes, "there is an inseparable mixture of love with belief and pious affection, in receiving truth; so that in effect, as we distinguish them, they are mutually strengthened, the one by the other, and so, though it seem a circle, it is a divine one, and falls not under censure of the schools' pedantry.*
The christian's life is peculiar to itself, consisting in spiritual communion, in humility, self-denial, and mortification of all unhallowed desires; hence his hopes and fears, his joys and sorrows, are not those of the world. But the most important recom
Commentary on Peter, 1 Epist. chap. i. ver. 13. Comment on Peter, 1 Epis. chap. i. ver. 8,9. 2D. SERIES, NO. 12.-VOL. I.
mendation of the religion of Christ is, that this alone can support man struggling under the afflictions of life, can take away the terrors of death, and unfold to him a joyful eternity. Whatever else may not deserve consideration, these should have their due weight, and induce man to flee for refuge, to lay hold upon the only hope that is set before him.
Now, let us ask what system, either of religion or philosophy, can produce these important effects? What system is there, besides the christian, so comprehensive, as to apply equally to every individual, and furnish direction and consolation under every circumstance? We answer, None. Alas! for infidelity. Scepticism is in itself very painful; but in its consequences most appalling. Painful indeed must it be, when it robs man of so much happiness, when it darkens the most sober visions of hope, and generates a recklessness of conduct which can only proceed from despair. But then, if there is the least ground for the supposition, that the christian alone builds his hopes upon a rock, how dreadful must be the fate of those who have endeavoured to stifle every conviction of truth! And how imperious the duty, that we should endeavour not only to examine the evidences of reason in its favour, but so to live, as to insure happiness in this vale of tears, and the endless bliss of an hereafter!
But has experience never whispered her lesson to the thoughtless and indifferent? Yes; often must she have declared how unsatisfactory have been all the attempts of procuring unadulterated water from broken cisterns;" how the enjoyments of the present life, great as they may be, at length pall, and leave "an aching void" in the mind, which obliterates every sensation of past delight! Why should they attempt to stifle the conviction that it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment?" The existence of such a truth, or the idea of its existence, can never be crushed by the united efforts of an army of infidels. As well might they endeavour to annihilate the vast ocean, or exterminate its least wave. As well might they remove from its shores, and retire into the secluded regions of a continent, to dispossess themselves of the imagination of its being. Still would its waters roll, and still would the mists rising from its bosom pour upon them, and remind them of its reality. The awful dispensations of Providence, and that voice which is clothed in thunder will bear a testimony which nothing can silence.
We said that the frame of mind which scepticism induces, is painful. It doubts
all things, it fears all things, till it rushes into the determination of disbelieving the plainest evidence. It brings forward "the mystery of godliness," as its important objection. It would enter the sacred presence, as it would gaze upon objects of sense, till it is confounded and lost in the subtle mazes of reason. Baffled at every point, yet proud in his ignorance, the infidel at length asserts that religion is a fable, providence chance, and his Maker a nonentity. Thus infatuated do those become, who forsake the service of God, to follow the idols of their own imagination.
Yet, if we turn to the opposite picture, and contemplate the upright man, "whose delight is in the law of God," who is "like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper;" we are struck by the beautiful contrast, and cannot but exclaim with the psalmist, "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace."
ON THE FOLLY OF DISCONTENT.
SUCH is the weakness of our nature, and the imperfections of the human condition, that every state of life, and every sphere of action, is exposed to temptations peculiar to itself, whether we are fixed in scenes of adversity or prosperity, the one has its deluding snares, and the other its harassing difficulties. These two opposite states are equally dangerous to virtue, unless they are strictly guarded by the most unwearied circumspection and unsleeping vigilance.
It is no less true, that we often form mistaken notions of the advantages or miseries which we suppose uniformly to attend on certain conditions of life, that they are either necessarily exempt from cares, or perpetually embarrassed with anxieties. Poverty is certainly an evil, which it is the incessant endeavour of most men to avoid; and hence, their arduous exertions and vigorous efforts to attain a competence, that will completely exonerate them from the galling shackles of penury; but still, though it is a state attended with many privations, it is not without its counterbalances of good.
To be entirely destitute, and incapable of procuring the common conveniences of life, are circumstances unquestionably unfavourable to happiness, in many respects hostile to peace of mind, and inimical to composure of spirit. But even those in higher stations, and with larger resources,
on the loftiest pinnacle of prosperity, are frequently more wretched and discontented than very many individuals in much humbler situations; we often find their lives to be embittered with calamities, and soured with disappointments, either imaginary or real, and expressing wishes that are doomed never to be gratified, hopes subverted by opposition, and desires promulged, but never obtained.
There is no crime more prevalent with the great mass of the world, than that of discontent at the situation, or its inseparable concomitants, which providence has been pleased to appoint as the bound of their habitation, either openly avowed, or reluctantly concealed. But, discontent at the government of the world by a Supreme ruler, and invidious remarks at the allotments of his providence, if we reflect on the subject with that calm and dispassionate attention which it requires, will evidently appear quite as preposterous, as the suggestion is conspicuous for its impiety.
One of the readiest methods which we generally employ, to ascertain the importance and excellence of what we deem valuable, is, that of comparing it with another, somewhat analogous in quality, and of observing which is productive of the greatest portion of happiness or profit, in the same time, and with the same facilities. Hence it is, that they who repine at the infelicities of their lot, often err widely from the truth, by erroneous estimates, drawn from merely external appear ances. They suppose themselves to be more miserable than some with whom they are acquainted, and imagine that the afflic tions and distresses with which they are visited, are distributed with a partial hand. But, on a closer inspection, and a nearer observation of the requisites for happiness, it will probably be found, that the equilibrium does not materially preponderate to the other side; nay, perhaps those whom they view as enviably situated, have, when duly considered, more urgent cause to complain-so that their decision, as might be expected from the inadequacy of their means for judging on such disputable points, frequently terminates in erroneous conjecture and vague hypothesis. We can not determine, with any degree of certainty, that others are more happy than ourselves, by the prosperity of their fortunes, their accessions of grandeur, or the renown of their exploits; unless we could discern the inmost recesses of their hearts, and were intimately acquainted with all their operations.
That which is exposed to the vulgar
ON THE FOLLY OF DISCONTENT.
gaze, is only the bare superficies of character; we must explore further, and penetrate deeper, to judge correctly of the grand constituents which so eminently conduce to tranquillity of mind. These adventitious aids they may probably possess in profusion; but how often is it the case, that they are only the wretched solaces of a mind distracted with perplexities, and harassed with phantoms of terror, produced by guilt, and heightened by remorse; as such the poet depicts them in the following lines, and the original is but too often to be found in the more exalted walks of life: "The gay parterre, the chequered shade,
The morning bower, the evening colonnade,
Reflections on their past conduct incessantly haunt them in their slumbers in the night season, and, unscared by any attempts to elude the spectral presence, attend them through the hours of each successive day, whether they engage in the cares of business, or hurry to scenes of dissipation, flutter at courts, or preside at banquets. Prosperity and happiness are very far from being synonymous terms; though too often confounded in their signification, by those who view the higher ranks of society with suspicion and envy, and consider the tinsel glitter of wealth, greatness, and power as conferring the highest contentment and satisfaction; but, on embracing a more extensive survey, and by instituting a more rigorous inquiry, it will be found that their real import is quite different.
It intimately concerns us, as men and as christians, since all are inevitably exposed to trouble and calamities, to prepare our thoughts, and familiarize our minds, to contemplate the day of adversity, lest it come suddenly, and with such an overwhelming force, as to tempt us, at the first discovery of the change, to repine at the event, and to involve us in the guilt of "charging God foolishly." He who has accustomed himself to consider that he is incessantly under the protection of the supreme Being, and that all the events of his life are connected and carried on in direct subserviency to a beneficial and ultimate end, though to his finite vision they may appear in the highest degree mysterious and inscrutable, for "His ways are in the deep;" happily gains fortitude to withstand those temptations which prostrate some minds, not guarded by an habitual sense of the divine presence, to the most humiliating state of moral degradation. The consciousness of his cheering influence is to him as the sunbeam of hope and consolation in the darkest hour of trial, and the invincible panoply of confidence
and trust, in the fiercest contest by which terrestrial virtue has ever been assailed.
Whenever we suffer, we may rest assured that God does not afflict us unnecessarily, but that it is to avoid more momentous evils, to restrain us from aberrations to wickedness, to recall us from levity, and to secure us from the baneful effects of a course of folly; to reinstate us in virtue, or to accelerate our progress in holinesss. The purposes of discipline and improvement are best effected and advanced by salutary intermissions of success; and occasional depression of spirits purifies the moral atmosphere from pestiferous exhalations, dissipates the illusions of sense, and eradicates that over-weening fondness for the pleasures of this life, which before held undisputed sway over the affections and the heart.
It behoves all to rest contented and cheerful in that station in which it has pleased the great Disposer of all things to place them, as long as he deems fit they should continue to occupy it; without envying or depreciating those who are more prosperous in temporal affairs, without any preposterous anxiety to alter their condition by improper means, or arraigning the justice of providence, in fixing them in a less splendid sphere than they proudly imagined their extraordinary virtues or talents deserved. By nourishing unbounded desires for such extravagant objects as lie too remote for their probable attainment, and being dissatisfied with every thing that transpires around them, they embitter that enjoyment, and likewise deprive themselves of those advantages, which the present state of mortal existence is so eminently capable of affording, in a rational manner, and with more sober expectations.
One of the most efficient correctives of a discontented spirit, is, that of pondering and considering, for the purpose of simple investigation, how little we can claim on account of meritorious actions, and how immeasurably great are the blessings we enjoy from the divine bounty. As to the deserving of recompense from our gracious Benefactor, for "works of righteousness that we have done,” we know that we have no plea to urge in our behalf, and must feel convinced that the very idea is utterly absurd and contemptible; for what minute particle can we boast of, that we have not received from the Source of all felicity and life, which sustains the hierarchies of distant worlds, and from whence the meanest animalcule receives its functions, and abides in existence by the primitive laws of its being? We all stand on a mutual equality, both high and low, rich and poor, before
the august presence of the Governor of the universe, as guilty sinners in a rebellious portion of his dominions, and therefore have no title to expect actual favours as our due; but, rather, to rejoice and be exceedingly glad, at his unutterable display of clemency and goodness, that we are not totally consumed, and long before this entirely “cut off from the land of the living."
Positive happiness is alone reserved for the next, and not to be attained in this life, otherwise it would defeat the object of a probationary career, which the great Creator of man has primarily in view. Such, however, as is negative, may be secured, as far as the internal state of our minds can contribute to this desirable end; but this can only be when the temper is properly regulated, the desires uniformly moderated, and the passions effectually controlled.
A contented mind is the primordial root whence the flower of sublunary felicity germinates and expands into vigorous maturity, that at once emits a fragrance, and adds a beauty to surrounding objects. But the Eternal has decreed, and it cannot be reversed, that true and genuine contentment, under every variety of external condition, can only spring from one, and that a fertile soil, where no weeds abound; that, exclusively from a good conscience, a holy life, a calm and serene hope of the blessed fruition of the heavenly state, can it alone indubitably spring. They who imbibe a principle that will enable them to rise superior to the vaunted support of the world, who enjoy "that peace which surpasseth all understanding," can alone remain undisturbed by its ever shifting vicissitudes. These regulate their lives according to those sublime maxims recorded by the pen of inspiration, that, "in whatsoever state they are, therewith to be content." This far surpasses, in practical utility, the gloomy pride of the ancient philosophers, such as the precepts of Epicurus, and the dictates of Zeno, who taught their disciples and followers to look with entire apathy and indifference on external things.
Leicester, October 5, 1831.
ESSAY ON FRIENDSHIP.
HISTORY and experience combine to corroborate the divine statement, that " man is born unto trouble." We need not enter the haunt of misery, too oft his dwelling, or witness the writhing agony of his sick-bed, for a practical proof of its truth. In whatever station we view him, whether moving in the circle of royalty, or buried in the
obscurity of the cottage, the expressive sadness occasionally settling on his brow, the mournful sigh heaved from his breast, and the doleful utterance of his heart-felt wo, indicate the bitterness of the draught of life. Many are the evils by which he is surrounded; and, from the dawn of his existence to the evening of his day, he is exposed to bodily pain and mental anguish.
But man, amid all his troubles, carries with him an irresistible evidence, that he is qualified for the enjoyment of happiness; though we behold him oppressed by the effects of moral evil, the prolific source of his wretchedness, still we recognize the operations of principles implanted in his soul by the hand of Him who is love.
Among these, sympathy, or mutual sensibility, has peculiar claims which merit our regard. It is this that forms the foundation of the fabric of society-the spring which so regulates the movements of a community, as to promote individual comfort. The degrees in which it exists are various. The brutal ferocity by which some men are distinguished, leads us to suspect the almost total extinction of this noble feeling. In many, its influence is manifested by a general esteem of the virtuous: and in some, we see it displayed in reciprocal emotions, and endearing attachments; and under this aspect it assumes the designation of friendship, the subject of our present
This quality has allured to its praises the philosopher and divine, who often have accurately described its nature and influence, and have bestowed upon it their highest encomiums. The contemplation of it has not yet ceased to be a source of delight; it has still a powerful charm, which thrills the soul of him who gazes on it with a sweet enchantment. Previous to the consideration of the subject, it will not be amiss merely to allude to the false appearances of it assumed by men for purposes the most culpable.
It is not uncommon to see the great surrounded by a host of servile courtiers, and the influential encompassed by a band of admirers. There are motives which urge men to the pretension of esteem, when the heart is by no means affected; and the representations of the tongue often belie the emotions of the breast. Deeds of kindness are performed with apparent disinterestness; and tokens of regard are given, when the gratification of self is the only object. Nothing can be more remote from the spirit of friendship, than these its counterfeits. Dissimulation, flattery, and hypocrisy, in