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He that killeth you will think that he doeth God service; and these things will they do unto you, because they know not the Father nor me.
THE religion of Jesus, though moral truth, purity and excellence itself, has been changed into every thing most opposite to its nature; and its genuine effects have been proportionably reversed.
The miraculous powers by which the gospel was established have been maintained to exist through successive ages to the present day; false miracles have been employed in support of the most gross subversions of the truth, the genius and the laws of the gospel.-In connection with all this, and antecedently to much of it, the very use of those intellectual faculties, which alone can judge of the truth of religion itself, or the truth, or even the meaning of its doctrines, has been proscribed as impious, though God was their author; and thus he who was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, yes, he who died to redeem us from iniquity, has been made the minister of sin.
Before I dismiss my subject, I must observe in a few words, that persecution is a natural and usual effect of false religion. None indeed, but a religion originally false, or corrupted by falsehood, could admit of injustice and cruelty. But in proportion as a religion is destitute of a foundation in truth, or abounds in absurdities, it will guard the power and wealth, which it may have gained through craft or violence, by severities, which human nature, in any other form of depravity, shudders to contemplate.
Whoever takes his religion upon trust worships an unknown God. He is always liable to fall into the most dangerous mistakes, to be deluded by the wiles of sophistry, to become the victim of superstition, and suffer the most dreadful evils which vice can entail and man can endure. Truth is always important and beneficial; and a desire to know religious truth, is the divine attribute of an intelligent being. Errour is always detrimental and dangerous. The one is good and the other bad both in itself and in its immediate influence; and their respective influence upon the remote condition of the moral world is incalculable. We have to choose between true and false religion; that which according to the degree of its prevalence, is the greatest blessing, or the bane of human happiness; that which has proved so in the history of the world; and that which ever will prove so in a community of beings capable of improving or abasing the most powerful agent, in promoting the exaltation or degradation of man, his excellence or depravity, his felicity or wretchedness.
Most effectually to guard against dangerous misapprehension, let us keep the general nature and great end of religion constantly in sight; its moral character, and its moral influence. Believing nothing, but in proportion to its evidence; professing nothing, but what we believe; employing the best means of religious knowledge, with integrity and diligence; and asking wisdom from him who giveth all good things to them who ask him, let us form our religious system upon the surest principles of reason and the gospel, and approach the Eternal Spirit, to worship him in spirit and in truth.
By profession, we are children of the light and of the day. In every view, and to all the extent of this animating allusion, let us support our character. Let us pursue and receive the truth in the
love of it.
DUTIES OF A SCHOOLMASTER.
OCTOBER 23. +
The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life.
THE Schoolmaster should be a moral father and guide to his pupils. Wo will be to that town which allows either heedless, or profane, or sensual, or infidel teachers of youth. A schoolmaster should be able, and at stated periods be willing, to explain religious truths to his pupils, and should every day lead souls to God in prayer.-History, biography, parables, &c. may be made peculiarly useful as introductory to short and familiar addresses to children. Saturday or Monday presents a fit occasion.-Instructer of youth! let your addresses be familiar, perspicuous, and natural, never losing sight of common sense. For though you may put the reason of some children asleep, and so make them christians, yet the vast majority in this inquiring age, will not yield to representations which contradict their plain understanding; and therefore the more you approve every thing to their reason, the more likely will you be to approve it also to their consciences. They must be treated as persons who are one day to be men, and who are to hold responsible situations, and not as beings of romance or creatures of the imagination. Otherwise they will regard your exhortations as child's play, or the fictions of the theatre.
But this is not enough; your addresses must also be animated, fervent and pointed. You must paint not only according to the truth, but in lively colours. You must show your hearers that you think the truth important, and are exceedingly desirous, that they should perceive it to be so. Children are so much influenced by sympathy, that they cannot see another greatly in earnest, without being ready to believe, that he has good cause for being in earnest. Here is seen the importance of addressing the affections. The state of children's minds on the subject of religion, is far more a matter of feeling than of reflection. That attachment to the world, which is constantly counteracting the influence of religious truth, is altogether a matter of feeling. And it is to be overcome and altered, not by informing their ignorance, for they already know; not by convincing their understanding, for they are already convinced; but by creating an opposite feeling, by exciting an opposite interest, by presenting images of moral and eternal things in so lively and affecting a manner, as to displace those images of earth which now fill and clog the mind. In order to this, you must speak to their feelings, must paint to their feelings, must engage their wishes, their desires, their passions, must interest their hearts. Else you may convince a thousand, without moving one. Moreover, if children are to be at all interested in the subject, the parent and instructer must do it; they will not excite themselves; they will not go out of their way to seek persuasion; you must bring it to them. They will be cold, except you warm them. A very calm, sober, learned dissertation may be borne, may be assented to; but it will leave no impression, for it will excite no emotion.
This animation and fervour, in the next place, must be distinguished by piety and devotional feeling. The relation of man to his Creator and Sovereign must never be left out of view. Otherwise eloquence will excite attention but for a season, and produce only a temporary effect. It will not sink into the heart and make a home there, unless the image of God go with it.
DEFINITION OF SCRIPTURE TERMS.
So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
SON OF GOD. An appellation by which Jesus of Nazareth was particularly distinguished; according to the general opinion, as on other accounts, so also on account of his miraculous birth; LARDNER'S LETTER ON THE LOGOS, p. 31. or LARDNER'S SERMONS, vol. ii. sermon 7, according to the opinion of some, not so much on account of any thing peculiar to him, as on account of some things by which he was eminently distinguished. This appellation is given to other individuals also, on account of some singularly favourable distinction; to bodies of men too, as, to the people of Israel first, on account of their distinction from the Gentiles; and afterwards to Christians, for a similar reason: Sons of God, Children of God, in the Jewish language, imitators of God, like God: obedient and submissive to
im: heirs of his promises. Angels, magistrates, men in authority are called Sons of God: all good men are Sons of God: Christians in particular, are often called so; and they are said to be born of God, to be begotten by him, to be begotten by him by the word of truth. In the language of scripture, reformers, teachers and instructers are called fathers; they are said to beget the converts and disciples which they make; who in correspondence with this phraseology, are called their sons, their children. The first converts to the gospel are said also to be born again, to be begotten again, in consideration of the great change which their reception of the gospel made in their minds and in their condition: whether this change be referred to a previous state of judaism; of idolatry and superstition; or of ignorance, vicious habits, doubts and fears. The Jews first, afterwards Christians, being, on the forementioned accounts, called children, or, begotten of God, by a figure of the like kind, though less bold and energetic, are said to be adopted by God; to have the adoption pertaining to them; to have received the adoption, &c.
SALVATION. Deliverance, preservation; in the language of scripture, it often signifies deliverance of Jews and Heathens from the disadvantages of the dispensations under which they lived: from the burdens of the Mosaic law; from superstition, idolatry, ignorance, sin, fear, doubt; by the gospel of Christ. It sometimes signifies God, the author of salvation: Christ, the minister of salvation: the gospel also, the instrument of salvation.
REDEMPTION. Deliverance from bondage by ransom; from any evil, by any means: deliverance, by the preaching of the gospel, whether personally by Christ, or by his apostles, from that state of darkness and corruption into which the world was at that time sunk: deliverance from the bondage of ignorance, errour, vice, discomfort, fear, &c.
REGENERATION. Restoration: renovation; favourable revolution; new, better, improved state, whether natural, civil or moral; whether of individuals or bodies of men.
TO RENEW. Connected with spirit, mind, soul, signifies, in the language of scripture, to correct, to restore, to recover or deliver from what is wrong; and also to improve, to carry towards perfection what is right.
TO REMOVE SIN. To forgive that which is forsaken, and favour the sincere endeavour to avoid it in time to come.
CHRISTIANITY WORTHY OF GOD, ITS AUTHOR.
My doctrine is not mine but His that sent me.
THE claims of the christian religion do not rest upon any single consideration only, but on works which the power of God alone could perform, wrought for purposes, immediate, remote, or ultimate, worthy of supreme rectitude and benevolence.
The gospel is the wisdom of God and the power of God, to the salvation of all those who believe. Good in itself, but the greatest good, is its genuine effect. Whatever is essentially excellent, whatever harmonizes with the infinite understanding, the absolute rectitude, and the consummate benevolence, which we are compelled to ascribe to the Deity; whatever supports, exalts, and still improves the nature of man, as it arose from the will of his Creator, and as it was designed to rise in the scale of intellectual and moral being; whatever constitutes the welfare of creatures formed in their Maker's image, and for the participation of his felicity, we find it all in the religion of Jesus. Piety and devotion, at once the most pure, sublime, ardent, just, and efficacious; good will, the most sincere, fervent, and extensive; moral fortitude, the most uniform, inflexible, and persevering, form the substance of christianity.
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and soul, and mind and strength;" this is the first and great commandment. And what is the object of this unreserved and intense regard, but a Being of absolute perfection? of whom we can form no idea but what is included in that perfection; from the love of whom there is nothing we can imbibe in affection, nothing we can imitate in conduct, but what is essential to, or constitutes, our highest dignity and happiness. And these are not only possible influences; they are sure effects of the genuine cause. Piety is a most exalted affection, but not a feeling only; for "this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments." Neither is it fanaticism or superstition; for it is essental to its nature that it correspond to its object, and exist not only in spirit but in truth. And is not such a religion the kingdom of God?
The second commandment is like to the first in its principle and influence. Benevolence is the genuine offspring of piety-for God is love; and the christian precept is, "thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." The law of charity annihilates selfishness, restrains resentment, and even renders it virtuous; excludes revenge, and prevents the perpetuity of evil rendered for evil. It makes my fellow creature my neighbour-my neighbour another self, and all mankind my brethren. Whatsoever the christian would that others should do to him, that he does to them; and he often confers more than he would ask. He is not more an individual in his own conception and feeling than a member of the social body. He suffers in the afflictions of the afflicted; he enjoys the happiness of those that rejoice; and esteems nothing foreign to himself which involves the interests of a fellow man. And is not this the filial resemblance of the universal Parent? It is the mind that was in Jesus; it is the spirit of his true disciples; and, considering the perfection of the christian code, in contrast with the defects and even obliquities of every human system on the subject of social virtue, it recommends itself to our veneration with peculiar force, as an emanation from the Father of lights and the Fountain of good.
EFFICACY OF THE LORD's Supper.
This is my body, which is given for you.
To inquire what is the efficacy of the communion, is to inquire what effects will naturally be produced by a solemn remembrance of our Lord.
The bread which we eat, in partaking of his Supper, represents his body which was broken on the cross; the wine which we drink, represents his blood, which was shed for the remission of sins. His death is thus forcibly impressed on our minds; the affecting circumstances which accompanied it are vividly painted to our imagination. The unfeeling, traitorous disciple, who came in the dead of night, at the head of a band of ruffians, to seize him in the garden of Gethsemane; the false, malicious, frivolous testimony, upon which he was condemned; the indignities, blows, and tortures, which were heaped on him in the palace of the high priest; the infuriate multitude, thirsting for his blood, and clamouring for his crucifixion in the judgment hall of Pilate ;—the awful scene of that ignominious death; the innocent sufferer, stretched upon the cross between two thieves; the soldiers and the crowd below him, for the forgiveness of whom, even at that hour, he prayed; the exclamation of bitterness which nature would extort from him; his burning thirst; his dying words ;-the darkness; the earthquake; all these circumstances and events connected with the last moments of him whose death we commemorate, pass in sad procession before us.
But we cannot reflect on these mournful scenes, without also reflecting that they took place to serve one great end-which is our salvation. We do not think of our Master's death, without also thinking of the purposes for which he died. In the natural course of human sympathy, we are strongly affected by a review of his sufferings; but this is not all-our hearts are still more deeply touched, when we consider, that it was for our sakes he bore them. We hasten from the cross to the tomb; where we are told by two angels of light, that our Lord is not there, but is RISEN! His ignominious crucifixion becomes closely united in our thoughts with his glorious resurrection; and our souls are lifted up to the heaven, to which he has ascended, and the contemplation of God, to whose right hand he is exalted. The most lively gratitude is excited by the momentous and affecting truth, that Jesus laboured thus incessantly, and suffered thus severely, to redeem us from the wretched slavery of sin, to lead us out from the thick shades of ignorance, and guide us to the path of safety and happiness; to furnish us with hopes and consolations, which should direct and animate our holy endeavours, support our fortitude in the trials of life, preserve us steadfast amid its changes, strengthen us under the burden of its woes, heal our spirits when wounded and our hearts when broken, wipe away our tears, hush our repinings, and lead us through all the vicissitudes of a fleeting world, to another and a brighter, which will never pass away.
The stated commemoration of our Lord would, however, be little better than useless, if it produced nothing but feelings and reflections. But this can hardly be the case. Feelings and reflections like those now described, are almost necessarily practical. We cannot be the disciples of Christ, unless we receive his instructions; he cannot be our Saviour, unless we obey his laws.