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RELIGION A SOLACE AMID FAMILY AFFLICTIONS.
Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
RELIGION prepares us for all events. If we succeed, it keeps our prosperity from destroying us: If we suffer, it preserves us from fainting in the day of adversity. It turns our losses into gains; it exalts our joy into praises; it makes prayers of our sighs—and in all the uncertainties of time, and changes of the world, it sheds on the mind a "peace which passeth all understanding." It unites us to each other-not only as creatures, but as Christians; not only as strangers and pilgrims upon earth, but as heirs of glory, honour and immortality. For you must separate-it is useless to keep back the appalling truth-it was the condition upon which your union was formed. After so many mutual and growing attachments to separate!-What is to be done here ? O Religion, Religion, come and relieve us in a case where every other assistance fails. Come and teach us not to wrap up our chief happiness in the creature. Come and bend our wills to the pleasure of the Almighty. Come and enable us to say, "It is the Lord, let Him do what seemeth to him good; the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, and blessed be the name of the Lord." Come and tell us that they are disposed of infinitely to their advantage; that the separation is temporary; that a time of re-union will come; that we shall see their faces, and hear their voices again.
Take two Christians who have been walking together like "Zachariah and Elizabeth in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." Is the connection dissolved by death? No. We take the Bible along with us, and inscribe on their tomb, "Pleasant in life and in death not divided." Is the one removed before the other? He becomes an attraction to the other; he draws him forward, and is waiting to "receive him into everlasting habitations." Let us suppose a pious family re-uniting together, after following each other successively down to the grave. How unlike every present meeting! Here our intercourse is chilled with the certainty of separation. There we shall meet to part no more; we shall be for ever with each other, and for ever with the Lord. Now affliction often enters our circle, and the distress of one is the concern of all. Then we shall "rejoice with them that rejoice," but not "weep with them that weep," for "all tears shall be wiped from our eyes, and the days of our mourning shall be ended."
Come then, my afflicted friends, and accept the religion of the blessed Jesus--this one thing needful-this universal benefactor of mankind. It has "the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come."-It secures our individual and our relative happiness-it brings peace into our bosoms, and joy into our dwellings. Let us resolve to pursue it ourselves; let us enforce it upon our connexions. Let us dedicate our tabernacles to God; offer the morning and evening sacrifice of prayer and of praise and whatever be the determination of others, let us say for ourselves, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
Is there no kind, no lenient art,
O let religion then be nigh,
Beginning at Jerusalem.
CHRIST Commanded the blessings of repentance and remission of sins to be first offered at Jerusalem. They had crucified him, yet they were uppermost in his care, foremost in his pity. How different from revengeful man!-Christ was truly compassionate, as this first offer of eternal salvation to the inhabitants of Jerusalem amply proves. As if our Saviour had said-'It is true, my death sealed the new covenant, and its object was to establish a religion of truth and hope, by which the gentiles might be brought nigh, and all ends of the earth see the salvation of God; therefore, my apostles, go evangelize all nations. But, lest the poor house of Israel should think themselves abandoned to despair, the seed of Abraham, mine ancient friend, as cruel and unkind as they have been, go, make them the first offer of grace; let them have the first refusal of gospel mercy: let them that struck the rock drink first of its refreshing streams; and they that drew my blood be welcome to its healing virtue.
"Tell them, that as I was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, so, if they will be gathered, I will be their shepherd still. Though they despised my tears, which I shed over them, and imprecated my blood to be upon them, tell them it was for their sakes I shed both; that by my tears I might soften their hearts towards God; and by my blood establish a better covenant. Tell them I live; and because I am alive again, my death shall not be their condemnation; nor is my murder an unpardonable sin, but that the blood of Jesus cleanses from all sin, even the sin by which that blood was drawn.
'Tell them, you have seen the prints of the nails upon my hands and feet, and the wounds of the spear in my side; and that the marks of their cruelty are so far from giving me vindictive thoughts, if they will but repent, that every wound they have given me speaks in their behalf, pleads for the remission of their sins, and enables me to promise it; and by those sufferings, which, they may be ready to think, have exasperated me against them, by those very wounds, court and persuade them to receive the salvation these wounds have ratified.
'Nay, if you meet him who thrust the spear into my side, tell him there is another way, a better way, of coming at my heart, if he will repent and look upon him whom he has pierced, and will mourn. I will cherish him in that very bosom he has wounded. And tell him from me, he will put me to more pain by refusing this offer, than when he drew my blood forth. In short, though they have gainsayed my doctrine, blasphemed my mission, and abused my person, taken away my life, and what is most valuable to every honest man, endeavoured to murder my reputation too, by making me an impostor, and imputing my miracles to a combination of Beelzebub: however, go to Jerusalem, and by beginning there, show them such a miracle of goodness and grace, as they themselves must confess too good for vice to have any hand in, too godlike for bad men to be assisting.'
The Saviour yielded his life as his last testimony to the truth of his gospel. That gospel enjoins compassion. If we possess it not, we are none of Christ's.
EXCELLENCE OF THE HUMAN MIND.
The inspiration of the Almighty hath given him understanding.
MIND is a source of all that is great and beautiful, and mind is the proper subject of beauty and of grandeur. It is the infinite mind which, beaming through this material frame, diffuses a radiance over it; and the indications of infinite intelligence, power and goodness, constitute the beauty and grandeur of the material world. And it is mind in man which recognizes these indications, and, like a mirror reflecting the sun-beam, refers them to their great original. What would the noblest conformation of material things, and the most exquisite disposition of their parts, avail to the glory of God, or to any purpose worthy of infinite wisdom, if there were not intelligent beings to experience and appreciate their happy results? It is mind which marks the order, harmony and consistency of nature; which traces the connection and design of its parts; which combines them in new associations, and draws from them endless stores of thought and reflection; extracting, by its peculiar powers, from inanimate and senseless things, the observations of the naturalist, the deductions of the philosopher, and the enchantments of the poet.
Contemplate the vast results of mind. Behold that feeble creature man, by his superior intelligence, subduing animals of strength and activity far surpassing his own, and employing their powers in his service; see him controulling the vegetative powers of the earth, directing its fertility, and changing the barren wilderness and impenetrable forest into a fruit field; see him overleaping the boundaries of country, and guiding his bark through the trackless waves of boundless unfathomable ocean; see him not satisfied with the ample disclosures of nature, subjecting her to experiment, and forcing her to reveal her secrets; see him collecting, from a survey of the history of man, the accumulated wisdom of past ages, and applying it to the improvement and comfort of the ages to come; see him, not confining his researches to the plants he treads on, and the animals around him, but following the stars in their courses, ascertaining their motions and revolutions, and demonstrating, at once, the immensity of the works of God, and the simplicity of the laws by which they are regulated. Behold him in a different aspect, united to his species by a thousand ties; in the family, seeking solace and repose in scenes of domestic affection; in the state, forgetting himself in zeal for the many, and studying only the interests of mankind. Finally, contemplate him distinguished as the subject of the moral government of God; with thoughts, desires, and affections that address themselves to objects beyond the sphere of created being and mortal existence; endowed with conscience, the delegate of the Most High; accosted by prophets and apostles, the oft-returning messengers of heaven; and, O last effort of all conquering mercy! visited and reclaimed by a Son and Redeemer. Ah! could we but learn to estimate our souls by the price God has set upon them, we should not so basely vilify their powers, or so boldly misapply their godlike attributes.
If the mind of man is the noblest work of God, which is subjected to our inspection, how should we learn to see God in it, to hear his voice in the alarms of conscience, and to feel his presence in its approbation.
CLOSE OF THE MONTH-MORAL DISPATCH.
It is high time to awake out of sleep.
THE close of another month calls us to self examination; to repentance for past delay, and to new energy for future action. Of the longest life, he surely discovers a want of wisdom, who loses any part. The more time any man devotes to the cultivation of virtue, the greater must be the moral eminence and perfection, at which he will arrive; and consequently, according to that accurately equitable distribution of rewards and punishments, which both reason and scripture instruct us hereafter to expect, the more splendid will be the honours conferred upon him in the future community of virtuous spirits; and the more serene and steady, while he remains in this world, will be his hope of "heaven's bliss" in those situations of distress and depression, in which, doubts of final acceptance in the sight of God are apt to disturb the tranquillity of recent reformation, and late repentance. And let it, at the same time, be remembered, that of that future, which remains to him by whom the past has been lost, a part proportioned to that past must be employed, in restoring him to that advantageous situation for moral progress, in which nature placed him. He that enters upon the path of duty, after having for some time departed from it, must not expect, at his first setting out, to walk in it with the pace of him, who starts in that race with the freshness of innocence and youth, and who is unwearied with the wanderings of vice.
I can say nothing more, nothing more need be said, to impress every mind with a sense of the infinite preciousness of time. Gold and rubies are rubbish to it. "I have lost a day," was once uttered with a sigh; with what a groan should it be said, "I have lost a month!" Let him by whom the last was lost reflect, that the reduced degree of virtue, which it remains in his power to acquire, before he presents himself at the bar of God, by the deduction of another month from the portion of time put into his hand for the purpose of preparing for his appearance before it, has undergone another proportionable diminution: and, that as far as he falls short of that virtuous stature, to which he might have grown by the improvement of all his time, exactly so far shall he sink beneath that seat in the future kingdom of God, which was originally within his reach; and beneath that sublime superiority to death, in the hour of its approach, with which an earlier preparation for it would have enabled him to meet it.—“It is high time to awake out of sleep." The time that lies before him is lessening with an alarming rapidity. The little he has left himself, is now less than ever. He has lost another month. The candidate for Heaven-(it is enough to agitate a statue !)--is degraded another degree from his first-appointed rank, should he ever at length arrive, in the immortal city of God. Another beam is shorn from the crown of glory, which, at his birth, was placed over his head. That broad and ample support for confidence towards God which the dedication of all his days to his service would have placed underneath it, has lost another pillar. That peace, with which it was originally in his power to have pressed the pillow of death, is robbed of another smile.--Sufficient, sufficient subtraction his inheritance has sustained. His moral patrimony he has enough impoverished. Let what is left be seized with an eager hand.
VIRTUES OF THE DEAD CHERISHED BY THE LIVING.
When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me.-I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my judg ment was a robe and a diadem.
THE light that lingers behind the setting sun, is a blessing to the world-so is the memory of the departed christian. Have you lost a good Father? His character, was like the sound of his voice, easily recollected, yet with difficulty described. His mind was much above the common level. It was patient in investigation, clear in its views, and sometimes rapid in its conceptions. He loved nature in every form; but especially as seen in the mind of man. History and theology were favourite studies; and these he pursued by eagerly seizing the broken morsels of time which others generally waste. His mind was of the quiet and contemplative cast; yet, he delighted to give scope to playful sallies of poetic wit. A keen and delicate humour sometimes lurked in his casual remarks; and he would throw a sudden and beautiful light over a point in discussion, and thus gracefully inwreathe wisdom with flowers. His affections were cautiously bestowed; but when bestowed, were warm, free, generous, and lasting. What would he not sacrifice for those he loved! His prominent trait here was sensibility. Hypocrisy and flattery he hated with perfect hatred, for he was frank and sincere himself. His social affections were tender, though he was sometimes anxious. He delighted in conversation; and at his generous board, he remembered the Roman law of paternal kindness and pleasantry. When questions, involving the rights, liberties and comforts of society, were agitated, you would see his sensibility alive. How ardently would his spirit move within, and flash forth on the virtuous and generous side. There would be a sudden swell of feeling, his voice would rise, and rising it would falter; and as his sympathetic emotions grew too strong for controul, he would end with tears. He wished to walk among his fellow men rather with the calm and meditative spirit of a spectator, than with the energetic ardour of an actor. With simplicity of habits and appearance, he preferred the unobtrusive qualities, and set peculiar value on freedom of mind, and domestic tranquility. He was a sincere confessor of Christ—a pattern to believers. His prayers with his family were ardent, charitable and short. He believed that man was free to stand and free to fall. He valued the nature which God had given man, and felt it must be sanctified by acquiring piety to God, and by becoming useful to society. Religious liberty he advocated at the peril of his peace and station. He thought profoundly on the doctrines and hopes of christianity; and believed that rational religion will at length triumph. Controversy was not congenial to his temper. He wished the stream, on which so many enter with eager competition, to pass by him if possible, without his unmooring his own little bark from the quiet harbour of his contentment. He regarded God as a generous Father, Jesus Christ as a sufficient Saviour, and the next stage of action as one of progressive virtue. He early imbued the minds of his children with piety, believing it the guard of principle, and the silken thread in the bond of human intercourse. He directed their minds to what was noble, attractive and purifying in the works of God, and loved to show how every beam of goodness proceeds from one centre. He lived an exemplary and useful life, and he died with hopes full of immortality.