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JULY 13.

But when the blade was sprung up and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.

WHAT stupendous efforts were required, in former ages, when the spirit of man began to heave beneath the monstrous pile of superstitions and absurdities which oppressed his reason! But now, farewell forever-we hope forever-at least from this favoured land -ordeals, pilgrimages, solitary seclusions, holy massacres, crusades, inquisitorial cruelties, national establishments, prohibitions of the exercise of reason, impious claims to infalliblity, licenses to commit sin, together with the sale of pretended pardons, and all those worst abominations and delusions, which held the bodies and the souls even of the best and wisest, in dismal bondage. The voice of reason has not been raised in vain. Lo! christianity resumes her original beauty and simplicity. Religion and virtue, virtue and utility, are no longer unnaturally disjoined-the sacred volume is thrown open to every eye, and Jesus Christ is again the light of the world.

He has told us that God is our Father, as well as his-and his beloved apostle has told us, that "God is love." Herein is comprised all knowledge, all virtue and all felicity-God is our Father, God is infinitely kind and good, and the universe must be ultimately happy. Who can speak the value of this exhaustless mine of hope and comfort? "God is love;" our duty is love; heaven is perfect love; and when this divine principle shall reign with its full influence among us, earth will resemble heaven.

Instructed by the experience of former days, let us not in grasping at the shadows of science "that pass away," let go the substance of that heaven-born charity "which endureth for ever."

Neither let us, while instructed by the same experience, despise those aids of learning, those solid improvements of the understanding, that philosophy, "not falsely," but truly so called-in whose absence christianity itself was misinterpreted-and became a nuisance and an abomination-authorizing and multiplying the sins and miseries of our unhappy race, and, at whose return, it shone forth again, disencumbered and unveiled-and began to bless mankind anew "by turning them from their iniquities."

Finally, guided, in this age of light and liberality, by all the choicest principles of wisdom, human and divine, to that temper and conduct which is essentially and everlastingly beneficial to man and acceptable to God-let us not suffer the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, or the seductions of indolence and pleasure to blast those good fruits which superstition choked and impoverished before. Let us be doers of the will of God, and not hearers only. Let not our zeal languish, as our reason is enlightened. For surely we cannot and ought not to hide it from ourselves—that the more clearly we discern the course of pure religion, genuine virtue, and solid happiness; the more inexcusable shall we be, if we depart from it.

History has certainly taught us, that men feel power and forget right; and it as evidently shows that men have, in all ages of the church, been anxious to find some easier and shorter way to heaven, than through the path of self denial, humility, obedience and devotion. Let it be our aim to follow Christ, who found heaven only beyond the vale of tears.


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JULY 14.

A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the Lord will hasten it in His time.

GREAT and glorious as are the works of creation, how much are our wonder and reverence enhanced, when we reflect on that principle of progression which pervades all nature! The plant that springs from a single seed, shoots forth into branches laden with seed, capable of overspreading extensive provinces, in the course of time, or even of covering the globe itself with their produce.

In like manner we may consider every pure and just idea, as a seed of knowledge and virtue, sown in the mind of man; which has no sooner sprung up in its proper form of individual beauty and usefulness, than it begins to scatter fresh seeds through a wide and widening region, equally productive of social happiness and improvement; till the intellectual and moral harvest be complete.

Of this, no instance is more memorable than the rise and progress of the christian religion, from its lowly origin, to the boundless splendour of that era, when it was become the religion of Constantine and of the civilized world.

Yet this auspicious dawn of heavenly truth and wisdom, was, through the pride and folly of its votaries, to suffer a dark eclipse. No sooner did the followers of the humble and disinterested apostles, succeed to the dignities and emoluments of the heathen priesthood, than the same corrupt passions began to disgrace and to embroil the professors of a purer faith while a similar display of pomp and pageantry, with an almost equal relaxation of good morals, showed that superstition was diversified, not extinguished, in the christian church. The lowly preacher of repentance and humility began to breathe the spirit, and to assume the ensigns of earthly domination and beneath the shade of ignorance, the most dangerous and pernicious tenets were cherished by the rulers of the church, as fruitful sources of extortion, and employed as instruments of daring and profligate ambition. By a regular gradation of powers and dignities--one usurpation following another--rose the hierarchy of Rome-held together in firm union by the central and super-eminent power of the Roman pontiff-who, at length, towering above all civil as well as ecclesiastical authorities, boldly arrogated the attributes of the Supreme Being,-usurped the throne of almighty judgment, and affected to utter the oracles of infallibility. To this deplorable state of corruption was sunk the divine religion of the gospel scarcely were its native features to be distinguished amidst the profuse and ostentatious decorations by which it was disfigured; and had not this mysterious veil of darkness and deformity been at length partially withdrawn; it might have been at least questioned, whether the promulgation of such a system, as that to which the religion of Jesus Christ had been reduced, were a blessing or an evil. We may therefore regard the era when the monstrous fabric of Romish superstitions and usurpations began to be shaken-about three centuries ago-as little less than the second birth of christianity; as worthy of being celebrated with similar thanksgiving, through all succeeding generations.-Let us ever thank God, that he provided an antidote to these wide spreading corruptions of his holy truth.



JULY 15.

A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the Lord will hasten it in His time.-Men who hazarded their lives for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, when the pride and luxury and oppression of the pontiffs were copied and multiplied by all the subordinate rulers of the church-monks, bishops, and priests of every degree-when the provinces of Europe were drained to enrich this spiritual tyranny-when the ignorance of the people was -the jest and gain of their pretended teachers-and pontifical licences and pardons of all kinds of immoralities had become the infamous traffic of the church-in short, when the "mystery of iniquity" had attained its crisis-an obscure person arose in a remote province of the papal empire-whom divine Providence, it seems, had singled out as the champion of truth, against the confederate principalities and powers of darkness. One capacious mind, which had embraced all the learning of the times, sacred or profane; and which was armed by nature, principle and habit, with a resolution and magnanimity that no earthly power could bend, was destined to attempt and to achieve a glorious change. It cannot be doubted, that all the engines of spiritual tyranny and artifice, were directed against the devoted head of Luther.

When the Romish agents found that his spirit was inflexible to menace and severity, they endeavoured to subdue his resolution by the blandishments of intreaty and persuasion; and finally to destroy him and his associates by the sword. But the light of truth had broken with such splendour, upon the understandings of men, high in rank and power, that, under the shade of their protection, the illustrious reformer was enabled to prosecute his important labours; and thence to spread, far and wide the antidotes of superstition. Not only a considerable part of Germany, but the realms of France, Sweden, Denmark, and England began to burst the ancient shackles of spiritual bondage; and the helpless, enraged pontiff beheld nation after nation asserting the rights of reason and conscience. Then, no longer waiting the result of more insidious arts, the popish adherents combined to crush, by force, the religious liberties of mankind; and the protestant princes rose in arms to defend them.--While this terrible storm was impending, Luther, who recommended prayer and patience, as the only arms worthy of a christian, died in peace--leaving a successor in this great cause, not less inflexible in integrity, and moreover, formed by the most winning mildness and the gentlest humanity, to conciliate all parties, and to diffuse, along with the light of truth, the genial warmth of christian benevolence. This was the amiable Melancthon, who had been the colleague of Luther, had adopted his views, and shared his labours; and whose truly christian principles, engrafted upon native sweetness of disposition, combined with extensive learning, fertility of genius, and elegance of soul, were not less powerful in attracting the affections, than in convincing the judgment of mankind.

During the time that Luther and Melancthon were attacking the fortress of Romish superstition, in Germany, Zuinglius, in Switzerland, animated with kindred zeal, gave a mortal wound to the papal usurpation over the consciences of men, in that country.



JULY 16.

A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the Lord will hasten it in His time.-Men who hazarded their lives for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

THE Reformers did much, and left much to be reformed. The full light of day is long after the dawn.-To retrace all the steps of our forefathers; and to enter into a full detail of the rise and progress of those liberal and truly christian sentiments, which make religion amiable and endear it to the heart, and whereby the more crude, gloomy and unfounded notions of illiterate enthusiastic sects have been considerably countenanced or modified, and which may be expected, by their own weight of wisdom, and the blessing of heaven, to prevail and spread more and more-would exceed our present limits.

But what, it is natural to ask, has been the general result of the most attentive reasoning and impartial study of the holy scriptures? Where at last, have hitherto terminated, for the most part, on this subject, wise men's inquiries, and good men's prayers? and on what foundation have they most generally agreed-notwithstanding lesser differences to rest our hope of salvation, and, consequently, direct our practical pursuit of eternal happiness? I presume, that almost all men of reflection, who belong to the school of Christ, have united in this conclusion-that God is good; that he wills the happiness of all whom he has made; that the plan of his paternal kindness is boundless and immortal as his nature; and that the education of the soul of man, for a world of everlasting love and harmony, for the society of heavenly minds, for communion with God himself, is the great, the glorious end for which this world was made,-more especially is it the object of the dispensation of christianity; that to fit us for this high destination, faith and hope to enlighten and animate our views and our endeavours; humility to discern our faults, and penitence to heal our spiritual maladies; love to unite us to our brethren; devotedness to our heavenly Father to conduct us through every path of duty; and resignation to enable us to improve the various events of life, are all alike inculcated by reason and by the gospel, as essentially conducive to our final felicity-that by prayer and self examination, and the study of our Saviour's life and doctrine, and especially, by daily exercise and improvement in all that is "just, and lovely, and praiseworthy," we are to seek, and, according to our faithfulness and assiduity, may hope to attain "peace which the world cannot give" and "joy which endureth for ever."

That, together with these vital and universal stamina of the christian character, various unfounded, and, separately considered, pernicious notions should have been left standing, or should have sprung up amongst that diversity of sects, into which the christian world separated, on emerging from popish darkness-and which have, under various modifications, descended to this day-ought not to afford cause of scandal, or to irritate an unadvised impatience-but to provoke mutual candour, and generous emulation-to excite stronger attachment to those grand principles, in which all good men might join harmoniously on earth, as we cannot doubt they will in the choir of celestial spirits; notwithstanding a thousand times greater diversity of minor sentiments, when "they shall come from the east and the west, the north and the south, and sit down together in the kingdom of their Father."

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JULY 17.

A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the Lord will hasten it in His time.-If any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

THE experience of successive generations should have taught us -that, although our understandings are not exactly similar-that, as the emperour Charles V. somewhat too late discovered, it would be as difficult to bring all men's judgment to one standard, as to make all clocks strike at the same instant-and that, though we can no more be expected to be all, in every particular, of the same opinion, than of the same stature or complexion-still, we have all one common interest to pursue; and by one common means-sincerity and charity-that most excellent way, without which "all knowledge, faith, and even martyrdom, are nothing."

What practical inferences should we make from this epitome of ecclesiastical history?

The first is, we must be meek. A quarrelsome christian is a contradiction in terms. A forgiving spirit is essential to the christian character. It was the spirit of Christ. When he was reviled, he reviled not again.

The second is-we must be humble. Humility is the first step in christian exaltation. The benediction on the "poor in spirit," takes the lead in the beatitudes. It has the promise of heaven. It was the spirit of Christ.

The third is-we must be benevolent. He who is unkind, unfeeling and contracted, belongs not to Christ. How can an uncharitable, censorious spirit be conjoined with christian principle? Light and darkness will as soon mingle. Love is the fulfilling of the law. On love to God and love to man, all true religion depends. Christ's spirit was all compassion, affection and charity.

The fourth is-we must be devout. If the inner temple of the soul is not filled with genuine christian faith and genuine christian piety, there can no acceptable oblation ascend from its altar. We must love to pray to God. We must love God ardently, sincerely, constantly. We must feel that the Father is with us; and our wills must always sink into his.-If it is now asked, where is the true church? I answer-where there are meek, humble, benevolent and devout christians.

In the account of Paul's shipwreck, we read that some trusted themselves on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship; but that all got safe to land.

Happy for us, if amidst the variety of religious notions and religious forms, we can adopt such as are most correct and most perfective of our nature--or, at least, if we can truly enter into that "spirit of Christ, without which we are none of his," that spirit of forbearance, gentleness and love,-which, under every mode of worship and doctrine, constitutes the very essence of our religion, as it is the principle of a divine and heavenly character, and the seed of immortal happiness. May this blessed spirit prevail more and more through every order and denomination of those who bear the christian name! "May a little one become a thousand; and a small one a strong nation." May the Eternal Father bring forward this joyful era, at his wisely appointed time !--Glory be to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will towards men."

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