« السابقةمتابعة »
The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet, from the midst of them, like unto me.
MOSES, at his birth, was saved from the general slaughter of the infants of the Israelites, which took place by a tyrant's command, and was afterwards compelled to flee into a foreign country to save his life. Moses, accredited by the signs and wonders which he was enabled to perform-the meekest of men-and the most distinguished prophet, whom the Lord knew face to face, was the deliverer of his people from Egyptian bondage. He was the lawgiver of Israel. He was their leader in their journey through the wilderness to the promised land; and above all, the mediator of that covenant which God made with them. When receiving the law, he fasted forty days and forty nights; and when he descended from the mountain, his face shone with the reflected glory of God. In these, and in many other respects, Moses resembled Jesus Christ, with whom also his parents were compelled to flee into a foreign land, to escape from a Ayrant's slaughter of the infants in the place where he was born; who was meek and lowly, but approved by signs and miracles which God did by him. He is the great deliverer of his people from the bondage of sin and death. He is their lawgiver. The mediator of the new covenant made with the house of Israel. The Leader and Captain of their salvation, leading them through the wilderness of this world, in which they are pilgrims and strangers, to the promised land of rest, which Canaan may prefigure. In entering upon his work, he fasted forty days and forty nights. When he was in the holy mount, "his face did shine as the sun. Jesus Christ was that Prophet, whom Moses foretold God was to raise up like unto him. "Moses verily was faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were spoken after, but Christ as a Son over his own house." Let us search all the records of universal history, and see if we can find a man who was so like to Moses as Christ, or so like to Christ as Moses. If we cannot find such an one, then we have found him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God.
The leading feature in the character of Jesus Christ, unquestionably was, devotedness to the service of God. He lived only to do his will. It was his meat and his drink; his daily, hourly, momentary occupation. From this, pleasure had no charms to seduce, pain no power to terrify him. At the table, in the temple, on the mount, by the way-side, weary, hungry, defamed, by night, by day, in every state and every place, weeping over the grave of Lazarus, riding triumphantly into Jerusalem, praying in the garden, hanging on the cross, Jesus was still the same,-"he did the will of the Father who sent him." Fancy can imagine nothing more sublime than the unity of that great purpose.
This devotedness of spirit was sustained by an unfailing trust in God. "He committed himself to him that judgeth righteously." Faith, the great principle of the second covenant, Jesus studiously magnified in his preaching, he nobly illustrated by his example. Whatever unbelief might be found in others, the faith of Christ never faultered. Though vexed with the opposition of the Jews, and discouraged with the dulness of his disciples, he stayed himself upon his God, and persevered unto the end.
Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And he said unte them, When ye pray, say, Our Father, &c.
GOD is called Father, as he is the Creator of all intellectual beings, and as they in some measure resemble him. He is our Father, as he sustains and helps us ; but particularly as he has adopted us, by christianity, into his kingdom, and we become his family below, as angels are his family above. He is ready to hear reasonable requests, and requires our trust, love, resignation and obedience. His name is hallowed, when we cherish such just sentiments of his goodness, justice, purity and grace as produces suitable affections and conduct towards him.-May thy kingdom come, i. e. may christianity, which consists in piety and benevolence, spread through the world and consecrate every heart.-May thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven; may the rational beings who are left free to obey or not, shew the wisdom of the blessed spirits above, by cheerfully and sincerely serving their Creator. Next in order to God's glory, man's happiness is mentioned. By daily bread is meant not what disorderly fancy and foolish custom, and pride and luxury and vanity may have made in a manner necessary to us; but those things which, day by day, are necessary to human nature; those things which God has promised to them who seek first the kingdom of God and the righteousness thereof.—By praying God to forgive us our trespasses, we are reminded that we are sinners, and must seek forgiveness by reformation. The condition of our forgiveness is put into our own hands, for as we exercise charity for the unkind conduct and uncharitable opinions of others, so will our failings and sins be estimated by mercy. To be led into temptation, and to enter into temptation, signify, in scripture language, to be overcome by it. When, therefore, we pray God not to lead us into temptation, we desire that he would not place us in circumstances, wherein we shall be overcome by the temptation; we beseech him, that he would not suffer us, for the punishments of our sins, to be deprived of his aid, and to fall into circumstances which will prove destructive to us.-Deliver us from evil, i. e. from the evil of sin, which is the consequence of yielding to temptation, and from the untoward circumstances of life.
The doxology, or praise given to God, is not to be found in St. Luke's gospel, and it seems not to have been originally in the Lord's Prayer, as given us by St. Matthew. However, as it is entirely agreeable to the holy scriptures, both in words and in sense, we need not scruple to make use of it. It may be thus applied to the foregoing words :-We pray, O God, that thy kingdom may come, that thy name may be hallowed, and that thy will may be done on earth; for thine is the kingdom, to thee belongeth dominion, and it is the indispensable duty of all men to honour thee, and their happiness consists in obeying thy holy laws. We pray to thee for daily bread, for the necessaries of life, for temporal blessings to be derived from thee the fountain of good, for the remission of sins through thy mercy, and for preservation from them for the time to come, through thy mighty protection; for thine is the power thus to supply our wants, and to keep us from all evil, and to p. rdon offences. For all these things we pray to thee; for if we do thus our duty to thee by hallowing thy name, and owning thy kingdom, and acting according to thy will, and if thou vouchsafe to pardon and protect us, thine will be the glory for ever and ever.
But wisdom is the grey hair unto men, and an unspotted life is old age.
Ir has been generally the practice of those who are desirous to believe themselves made venerable by length of time, to censure the new comers into life, for want of respect to grey hairs and sage experience, for ready confidence in their own understandings, for hasty conclusions upon partial views, for disregard of counsels which their fathers and grandsires are ready to afford them, and a rebellious impatience of that subordination to which youth is condemned by nature, as necessary to its security from evils into which it would be otherwise precipitated, by the rashness of passion, and the blindness of ignorance.
There are, indeed, many truths which time necessarily and certainly teaches, and which might, by those who have learned them from experience, be communicated to their successors at a cheaper rate but dictates, though liberally enough bestowed, are very often without effect. Thus the progress of knowledge is retarded, the world is kept long in the same state, and every new race is to gain the prudence of their predecessors by committing and redressing the same miscarriages.
To secure to the old that influence which they are willing to claim, and which might so much contribute to the improvement of the arts of life, it is absolutely necessary that they give themselves up to the duties of declining years; and contentedly resign to youth its levity, its pleasures, its frolics, and its warmth. It is a hopeless endeavour to unite the contrarieties of spring and winter; it is unjust to claim the privileges of age, and retain the playthings of childhood. The young always form magnificent ideas of the wisdom and gravity of men, whom they consider as placed at a distance from them in the ranks of existence, and naturally look on those whom they find trifling with long beards, with contempt and indignation, like that which women feel at the effeminacy of men. If dotards will contend with boys in those performances in which boys must always excel them; if they will dress crippled limbs in embroidery, endeavour at gaiety with faultering voices, and darken assemblies of pleasure with the ghastliness of disease, they may well expect those who find their diversions obstructed will hoot them away; and that if they descend to competition with youth, they must bear the insolence of successful rivals.
Another vice of age, by which the rising generation may be alienated from it, is severity and censoriousness, that give no allowance to the failings of early life, that expects artfulness from childhood, and constancy from youth, that is peremptory in every command, and inexorable to every failure. There are many who live merely to hinder happiness, and whose descendants can only tell of long life, that it produces suspicion, malignity, peevishness, and persecution; and yet even these tyrants can talk of the ingratitude of the age, curse their heirs for impatience, and wonder that young men cannot take pleasure in their fathers' company.
He that would pass the latter part of life with honour and decency, must, when he is young, consider that he shall one day be old; and remember, when he is old, that he has once been young. In youth he must lay up knowledge for his support, when his powers of acting shall forsake him; and in age forbear to animadvert with rigour on faults which experience only can correct.
And Isaac went out to meditate in the field, at the eventide. And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, Jesus went out and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.
THE love of occasional retirement has, in all ages, adhered closely to those minds, which have been most enlarged by knowledge, elevated by genius, or sanctified by piety.
The great task of him who conducts his life by the precepts of religion, is to make the future predominate over the present, to impress upon his mind so strong a sense of the importance of obedience to the divine will, of the value of the reward promised to virtue, and the terrours of the punishment denounced against crimes, as may overbear all the temptations which temporal hope or fear can bring in his way, and enable him to bid equal defiance to joy and sorrow, to turn away at one time from the allurements of ambition, and push forward at another against the threats of calamity.
From the necessity of dispossessing the sensitive faculties of the influence which they must naturally gain by their pre-occupation of the soul, arises that conflict between opposite desires in the first endeavours after a religious life; which, however enthusiastically it may have been described, or however contemptuously ridiculed, will naturally be felt in some degree, though varied without end, by dif ferent tempers, and innumerable circumstances of health or condition, greater or less fervour, more or fewer temptations to relapse.
To prevent the destructive operation of immediate worldly pleasures, the balance is put into our own hands, and we have power to transfer the weight to either side. The motives to a life of holiness are infinite, not less than the favour or anger of Omnipotence. But these can only influence our conduct as they gain our attention, which the diversions of the world are calling off by contrary attractions.
The great art therefore of piety, and the end for which all the rites of religion seem to be instituted, is the perpetual renovation of the motives to virtue, by a voluntary employment of our mind in the contemplation of its excellence, its importance, and its necessity, which, in proportion as they are more frequently and more willingly revolved, gain a more forcible and permanent influence, till in time they become the standing principles of action, and the test by which every thing proposed to the judgment is rejected or approved.
To fix this pious habit of our affections, it is necessary that we weaken the temptations of the world, by retiring at certain seasons from it; for its influence arising only from its presence, is much lessened when it becomes the object of solitary meditation. A constant residence amidst noise and pleasure, inevitably obliterates the impressions of piety, and a frequent abstraction of ourselves into a state, where this life, like the next, operates only upon the reason, will re-instate religion in its just authority, even without those irradiations from above, the hope of which I have no intention to withdraw from the sincere and the diligent.
This is that conquest of the world and of ourselves, which has been always considered as the perfection of human nature; and this is only to be obtained by fervent prayer, steady resolutions, and frequent retirement from folly and vanity, from the cares of avarice, and the joys of intemperance, from the lulling sounds of deceitful flattery, and the tempting sight of prosperous wickedness.
CRIMES CONNECTED WITH WAR.
Where envying and strife are, there is confusion and every evil work.
AMONG the dreadful results of offensive wars, besides the waste' of life, there are none which deserve to be more impressively considered than its demoralizing effects, with regard to the actors: they are indeed such as might naturally be anticipated, where man-intellectual man-reduced to the state of a machine, is obliged at the will of a superiour habitually to commit deeds of sanguinary cruelty, the most revolting to his unperverted feelings. Acts of treachery and violence, which in private life would consign their perpetrator to perpetual infamy, are in war accounted not only justifiable, but praiseworthy exploits. Is it possible that such a relaxation of moral principle should take place, without producing corresponding effects on the general character? Look at an army, a body composed of several thousand reflecting beings, subjected to the most degrading prostration of will and understanding, and valued only in proportion to their physical power what a field for the destruction of every ennobling virtue,-every sentiment of humanity, generosity and independence! Even where the troops enter with unfeigned zeal into the cause of their leaders, the result is not more favourable to morality. Repeated acts of violence generate similar habits: the injuries of the adverse party provoke reprisals,-a system of mutual ferocity ensues, and we not unfrequently see a whole people, who had originally embarked with all the purity of mistaken enthusiasm, in a cause of justice, changing characters with their oppressors, and becoming in their turn the wanton perpetrators of every atrocious outrage that can disgrace humanity. Of this fact the pages of history unhappily furnish abundant illustration.
In this guilty business there is a circumstance which greatly aggravates its guilt, and that is the impiety of calling upon the Divine Being to assist in it. Almost all nations have been in the habit of mixing with their bad passions a show of religion, and of prefacing these their murders with prayers and the solemnities of worship. When they send out their armies to desolate a country and destroy the fair face of nature, they have the presumption to hope that the Sovereign of the Universe will condescend to be their auxiliary, and to enter into their petty and despicable contests. Their prayer, if put into plain language, would run thus: God of love, father of all the families of the earth, we are going to tear in pieces our brethren of mankind, but our strength is not equal to our fury, we beseech thee to assist us in the work of slaughter. Go out, we pray thee, with our fleets and armies; we call them christian, and we have interwoven in our banners, and the decorations of our arms, the symbols of a suffering religion, that we may fight under the cross upon which our Saviour died. Whatever mischief we do, we shall do it in thy name; we hope, therefore thou wilt protect us in it. Thou, who has made of one blood all the dwellers upon the earth, we trust thou will view us alone with partial favour, and enable us to bring misery upon every other quarter of the globe.-Now if we really expect such prayers to be answered, we are the weakest, if not, we are the most hypocritical of beings.
It is an unfortunate provision of our martial code, that chaplains are attached to regiments, and called to offer prayers amidst soldiers whose feelings and situation are both unfavourable to devotion.