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ON WORLDLY CONFORMITY.
JULY 2, 1836.
THERE is a mode of scriptural interpretation which is altogether unsound, and which has tended in a very great degree to lower the standard of religious feeling; it is that which confines many of the apostolic injunctions to the peculiar circumstances of the early converts, at the time when the epistles were written, under the plea that these injunctions cannot, in any sense, refer to Christians at the present day. Now there can be no doubt but that the situation of these converts was very different from ours. The greater part of them had very lately been immersed in all the darkness, and consequent licentiousness, of heathenism. Their admission within the pale of the Christian Church was accompanied by a striking and manifest renunciation of their former notions, habits, and practices. The Corinthian or Ephesian convert, for example, had openly and avowedly come forth, and desired to be separate from those with whom he was formerly associated. He was exposed to peculiar difficulties. Peculiar temptations surrounded his path: and in order rightly to comprehend the apostle's meaning in each of the epistles, it is necessary to have a clear and distinct view of the peculiar circumstances of the Church to which he wrote. Yet the apostolic injunctions appear to be of universal application, suited to men of every age and of every clime; and not to be confined to the early converts. And there can be no question but that the humble, prayerful Christian of the present day, who studies any one of the epistles, will find the peculiar exigencies of his case as fully met as if he were a converted Roman, Galatian, or Thessalonian.
VOL, I.-NO. VI.
The subject of this essay is Worldly Conformity-the point to be arrived at is, in what does this conformity consist? There can be no doubt that it is forbidden by the apostle; for he expressly says, "Be not conformed to this world." (Rom. xii. 2.)
The question is, what was St. Paul's real meaning when he uttered this solemn precept, and to what extent is that precept binding now?
It may be maintained by some, indeed, nay, it has been maintained, that such a passage as this refers simply to the peculiar circumstances of those to whom it was addressed. By the world, it is maintained, that the apostle meant the heathen world, with all their idolatrous practices, obscene rites, and impious worship; and that when he calls upon the Roman converts not to be "conformed to this world," he simply means, be careful not to be drawn aside to an indulgence of your former habits; not to countenance any of those gross violations of God's law, of which you were formerly guilty; not to bring disgrace upon yourselves, and discredit on the religion which you have so lately embraced. A similar interpretation is given, when one evidence of being " born of God" is said to consist in overcoming the world.
But this is a very low standard of interpretation. If it be the correct one, it may indeed well be affirmed, that the apostolical precepts very little concern us now. writings of the apostles may indeed be well worthy the study of the divine; but they may safely be expunged from the Bible of the private Christian. St. Paul's admonition, however, unquestionably contains a decided injunction to the disciples of Christ
of every age, and of all ranks and degrees, not to be conformed to, not to be moulded after, not to be influenced by, the world or age in which they live. And by "the world" is to be understood, not the licentious pleasures, the profane rites, the disgusting obscenities, of those on whom the light of Gospel truth has never shone, which strikingly manifest the deplorable condition of man, not in a state of barbarity only, but even of civilisation and refinement, when ignorant of God's truth; but those maxims, and habits, and amusements, and indulgences, which are not only permitted, but even patronised as fashionable, and esteemed innocent, in a professedly Christian land; which have not unfrequently the sanction of great names, and a conformity to which is by many deemed perfectly compatible with the Christian pro
and more calculated to further the Divine glory. The spiritual benefit, for instance, which has accrued from men of piety, holding commissions in the army and navy, is incalculable. Incalculable blessings have resulted from true Christians being found in the legal and medical professions, and among those engaged in mercantile and scientific pursuits. Would the cause of Christianity have been more benefited by such persons ministering at the altars of the Church? Unquestionably not. A pious layman may be, and often is, the instrument of more extensive good than the most devoted and zealous clergyman.
But the subject leads more directly to the consideration of worldly habits and amusements. What are, and what are not, compatible with the Christian character? A test has very frequently been laid down-and it is perhaps difficult to find a better-that every habit and indulgence should be tried by the effect which it produces on the mind with regard to religion; whether the train of thought to which it gives rise is of a serious character; and whether the individual would be willing to be summoned from such a scene or occupation to the judgment-seat of Christ. It may be said, there is nothing new in all this. The aim of these remarks is not novelty, but usefulness-not to attract the imagination, but to improve the heart. And the above test may very safely be employed in all ordinary cases.
Many persons, who would be very seriously offended if their title to be esteemed true Christians were called in question, see no harm in attendance at the theatre, at the
It may not be easy, indeed, to define the bounds of worldly conformity; to state precisely, in every particular, what line of conduct is compatible with a walk with God, and what is not. The Christian is necessarily brought into contact with the world. The sphere of life allotted him by Providence may be a very active sphere. He must not relinquish that sphere, under the plea, that he will serve God more entirely as a recluse. This is not the case. God may be, and often is, served as acceptably, as sincerely, as fervently, amidst the necessary pursuits of life, as in the retirement of the cell, or the seclusion of the cloister. Nay, he is served better. Our Lord did not pray that his apostles might be removed out of the world; for they were called to activity, energy, and zeal, in preach-race-course, in the ball-room, or other places ing his name to Jew and Gentile; but he prayed that they might be kept from the evil that was in the world-a prayer which deserves the serious consideration of those who think a life of active worldly duty incompatible with a life of faith. The Christian's conversation will be in heaven, even while he is a diligent man of business. He will labour for the meat which perisheth not, even while apparently engrossed with earthly objects. It is often to be lamented, that the truth is lost sight of, that in whatever situation a man is placed, in that, he may, and is bound to glorify God, and to benefit his fellowcreatures. A man, for instance, placed in a sphere of activity, becomes more decided in his religious views, or embraces them for the first time, and his heart glows with the desire to serve God, and to benefit his fellow-creatures; and he feels that to do this, he must relinquish his former line of life, and enter the ministry of the Church. The probability is, that his labours as a layman would have been infinitely more beneficial to the community,
of public resort. They are interested with
spirit being summoned from such scenes to a heavenly tribunal? No reference is here made to the evil influence of bad example, to the discredit brought upon Christianity by such inconsistency, to the temporal and eternal ruin of thousands, which may be traced to attendance on such places as have been referred to; but simply to the effect on the individual himself, Why, also, it may be asked, is it proper for a clergyman to absent himself from such places of resort, and yet not incumbent on a layman? Does not this very statement convey a confession that all is not right? The Christian minister, indeed, has duties peculiarly his own; and these duties may render it not only expedient, but necessary, that he should not entangle himself with the things of this life; but it is difficult to prove, that what is unlawful for a minister, is not unlawful for a private Christian, in the way of recreation. Every man requires recreation, and God does not forbid it. The body requires it, the mind requires it, the whole temper and spirit require it. But the question is, what recreations are allowable, and what are not? And the above test will, in general, be found a very fair one.
As far as concerns genuine Christians, there is little or no difficulty in pointing out to them the line which separates innocent intercourse with the world from sinful conformity to it. The principles by which they are actuated will, in this case, generally keep them right. They love God, and are anxious that this love may be a reigning principle in their hearts. They seek to glorify God; they will be scrupulously cautious to bring no discredit. on religion. They aim at holiness; they will shrink from contact with sin, even under its most seductive forms and apparently palliating circumstances. They have a just awe of appearing before their righteous Judge; they will place themselves in no circumstances, from which they would dread to be summoned to his tribunal. The life-giving principle implanted in their soul is the guide of their actions; and though there will be inconsistencies, there will be heartfelt prayer that there may be none. They desire that their light may so shine before men, as to have a beneficial influence in inducing others to come to the light, and to walk as children of light.
It may seem a breach of charity to sit in judgment on a brother's spiritual state. It may be said, that we have no right to lay down such a test as that referred to; that the amusements here alluded to, and others of a similar character, are among the things which are indifferent, as to the propriety or impropriety of which, every man must judge
for himself; and that though it would be sinful for the individual to mix in them, who conceived it to be inconsistent with his Christian character, yet it cannot be sinful in those who neither think them wrong, nor are hurt in any way by them. It need only be said, in reply, that God's word, and not our own feelings, is to be the standard of right and wrong that word studied with prayer for the enlightening influences of the Holy Spirit ; and that the hurt derived, though for a season unperceived, may become a wound, which will destroy soul and body for ever.
The Bible, indeed, does not specify what amusements are lawful, and what are not. It does not say to the reader, Thus far shalt thou go, and no further; but it does more than this, it sets forth the principle which should guide the Christian's conduct; and when this principle is not only acknowledged to be true, but is inwardly engrafted in the heart, then there is the fullest security that the life will be spent, not in conformity to the world, but in habitual conformity to the will of that ever-glorious Jehovah, who is able to supply every want, and gratify every desire, of his believing people; in whose presence alone there is fulness of joy, and at whose right hand are pleasures for evermore.
Until this principle is implanted in the soul, religion will be more or less a business of forms and ceremonies, a round of observances, an external worship. It will be a matter of calculation how much of the world may be enjoyed, and how much must be overcome. The aim will be, to do just so much for God as, it is conceived, will entitle us to escape his righteous displeasure, and to enjoy the pleasures of life to the utmost extent which is supposed compatible with the soul's safety.
Nor let any one suppose, that in thus deprecating worldly conformity, a sombre, gloomy, melancholy life is the result of the views here entertained and inculcated. Quite the reverse. No one is so joyous as the true Christian, though the world may be inclined
to doubt it. No one has more reason to be so, and no one is more so in reality. Erroneous views of the Gospel may make a man sad; but correct views will make him cheerful. To the true believer the declaration is addressed, "Your hearts shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.' Religion does not consist in abstinence from this or that amusement, or in nonconformity to the world; but in the surrender of the whole man to God-a surrender voluntarily made, from the consideration that we are not our own, but bought with a price, and are therefore called upon to glorify God in our bodies and spirits, which are God's. Any thing short of
this is vain. God has a right to the heart, and to the whole heart. He will admit of no divided affection. He will not share with the world that which belongs to himself. He will permit no rival to sit upon his throne. "No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other." "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." Happy is that believer, who feels the vanity of all earthly joys, whose heart is weaned from the follies and vices which so often estrange the soul from God, and chain it down to the grovelling objects of time and sense; who can exclaim, with the ardour of the apostle, "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." T.
A GLANCE AT ICELAND.-No I.*
"From the uttermost parts of the earth have we heard songs, even glory to the righteous."-Isaiah, xxiv. 16.
RETURNING from a whale-fishing voyage on the coast of West Greenland, in the summer of 1820, we were deflected from our course by a prevalence of easterly winds, to the northern shores of Iceland. On the morning of the 3d of August, we came suddenly in sight of land in the south-west quarter, the exact situation where we expected it. Soon after midday, the fog clearing away, a mountainous country became visible, and also a long narrow point of land to the southward, jutting far out into the sea. This was the peninsular promontory of Langaness. Coasting the western side of the promontory towards Thiselfore, we fell into smooth sea; and about 3 P.M., when about a mile from the shore, we made signal for a pilot; but none came off. At 6 P.M., being abreast of a hamlet, I took boat, and proceeded to the shore. As we approached, several persons were observed watching us by the side of the hamlet, who on waving our hats to them, came running towards us. We landed on a beach of large rounded stones, the Icelanders awaiting our arrival within call. They received us cordially, and unasked gave us a hearty and effectual pull with the boat, by which it was secured from the action of the surf.
Totally ignorant of each others' language, so that our intercourse at first was mere dumb show, we proceeded directly to the hamlet, which, on examination, resolved itself into two or three humble habitations, where we were met by all the inmates of the principal cottage, consisting of a good-looking middle-aged female, and four or five children, who, with three men that accompanied us from the beach, formed to us a curious and interesting group. Knowing the scarcity of bread on the island, a bag of biscuits was brought along with us, which was emptied in the hut. The gift was most thankfully received by the good woman,
Abridged from an interesting volume, Memorials of the Sea, by the Rev. William Scoresby, B.D. incumbent of Bedford Episcopal Chapel, &c. &c. London, Nisbet. 1835.
whose dress was the common working habit of the Iceland population; a costume which, like their language, manners, and simplicity of character, has continued unchanged for at least nine centuries.
Having obtained leave to examine the cottage, I penetrated the four several ramifications, which its peculiar form-that of a cross-produced. The interior had a disagreeable atmosphere, from a quantity of sea-birds hanging from the roof, or lying about the floor, and a tub of train-oil standing in one of the compartments, and there being no windows, two openings in the roof serving the double purpose of emitting smoke, and admitting light. Connected with the cottage were two little huts, with distinct entrances; one of which was employed as a ware-room; and contained all their stockings, mittens, flocks, sheep-skins, and other articles of like nature, intended for trade. The cottage and contiguous huts were built of a framing of wood filled in with clay; the roofs were covered with sods, and the floors were mud.
To the extent of their ability the good people were disposed to be hospitable, though the only article of refreshment they seemed to have at hand was a bowl of butter-milk, which we tasted. Sea-fowl, fish, and the milk of cows and sheep, with meal, obtained from the factories on different fiords on the coast, appeared to be their principal food in summer.
The boisterous state of the weather, and our entire ignorance of the nature of the coast as to concealed dangers, somewhat interfered with our enjoyment on shore, and prevented that deliberate research which might have led to most interesting results, and hastened our departure to the ship; not, however, until we had made the people understand that we wished them to bring on board a couple of sheep.
We had not been long on board before we observed a boat, in which the Langaness party were embarked, push off from the beach. It consisted of the principal peasant, his wife, their son, and an elderly relative; and the cargo was composed of a small sheep, a lamb, with a quantity of mittens and stockings. The dress of the female had been altered and improved for the
Receiving them at the gangway, I endeavoured to dissipate the timidity which the sight of fifty men, crowding with excited curiosity as near as they might, seemed to have upon them; and after giving them a cursory view of the deck, they were conducted below. It was evident, from their amazement, that they had never seen any ship so large; nor was the amazement lessened on their proceeding into the cabin. Every object excited their attention, especially articles of use, which they seemed desirous to purchase. They were easily satisfied in their demand for the sheep, and much delighted with the various little presents which were made to them. I presented the woman with an inkbottle, pens, and a little paper, which she received with the liveliest expression of thankfulness. She read the paper I had written, and was delighted to find that my Christian name was the same as her son's. Then, at my request, she wrote with a ready hand the names of herself and friends. The general intelligence and literary acquirements of the inhabitants of this remote, frigid, and forbidding country, has been the subject of invariable admiration to travellers, particularly where the only means of education, except occasional catechising by their clergy, is, for the most part, confined to domestic tuition, there being (recently at least) but one school in the whole island.
After receiving some refreshment, of which they partook with moderation, I shewed the whole party the different compartments of the cabin and steerage, respecting which they evinced no little curiosity. But my "state room" proved the place of greatest attraction. Being fitted up with considerable neatness, its comforts and convenience formed such a contrast with
their humble bench, that it called forth, above every thing else they had seen, their unbounded admiration. The furniture of the bed, a chest of drawers, bookcase, &c. were examined with the minutest attention; and nothing could be more striking than the peculiar action, and, to us, otherwise unintelligible words, by which our female friend vividly expressed her conceptions of the happiness of the possessor of so much comfort and splendour.
The weather having become again foggy, and the night drawing in [gloomy, though not dark, I was not anxious to detain our visitors when they moved to depart. As they arose from the table, each one took my hand in succession, respectfully bowing, and pronouncing the word takker. I then accompanied them on deck, prepared only to expect a hasty repetition of the same acts on taking leave. But it was a more interesting scene, especially with our female friend. the others were about to embark, she came up to me on the quarter-deck, her face beaming with an extraordinary expression of gratitude and affection, and, seizing my hand, she kissed it with unrestrained, but modest fervour. Accompanying the action with words full of earnest eloquence, she pointed in the direction ef the hamlet to assure me of a welcome there; and then, with a combined expression of dignity, solemnity, and devotion, and lifting up her face towards heaven, exhibited her elevated feelings in a fervent and ardent prayer!
Altogether the scene was so peculiarly touching, that one of my officers, who stood by, unable to resist the impression her conduct inspired, exclaimed, in feeling accents, "Poor thing! poor thing!" whilst be wiped with the sleeve of his jacket the liberal tear of sympathy that burst from his eyes, and rolled down his manly cheeks. As soon as our interesting visitors were fairly embarked, and had been carefully directed by us in their return to the shore, we made sail, and stood out to sea.
I considered myself happy by the opportunity afforded me in this short visit to Northern Iceland, of giving the inhabitants of this remote region a favourable impression as to the character of my country. For it must be obvious to those who are acquainted with the habits of British seamen abroad, that they are generally too regardless of this. Whilst no men have more national pride, none perhaps are less carefl of meriting the superiority they claim. Some from levity, some from depraved habits, others from mere thoughtlessness (but the whole from general want of religious instruction, till of very late years, among their class), have been apt to throw off all religious principle in a foreign land; and, claiming to themselves an imperious and unwarranted superiority, have not unfrequently afforded a degrading specimen of the country to which they belong, and a miserable contrast to the character of Christians, whose holy names they assume. And as persons in general are naturally disposed to form their opinion of the character of a nation from a few individual examples rather than from an enlarged view of the people, the misconduct of a single ship's company has often, probably, done more to degrade the national character, and to bring reproach upon the Christian religion, than the labour of many years of zealous exertion, on the part of the missionaries of our holy faith, has been able to eradicate or restore. But the time, it is ardently hoped, has arrived, when, by the religious instruction of sailors, under increasing efforts on their behalf, this evil will begin to give place to the influential exhibition, through the means of pious seamen, of real Christianity to the remotest regions of the earth.
deficiency with a multitude of pictures, on panels of wood, all round the church; and to these "likenesses," no less than the Latins to their "graven images," they pay almost profound respect, bowing, touching them, kissing them, and crossing themselves before them. The fervour of their devotion to the saints is not less remarkable. If a man is ill, or meets with any misfortune, he makes a vow to some saint, that if he will recover him, he will make him an offering of a lamp of oil. "What," I have often asked, "can the saints do for you? Had you not better pray to God?" The answer has always been, "But if we pray to the saints, the saints will speak to God for us." I have quoted to them that striking passage of St. Paul, which one might have imagined should have for ever precluded this abuse: "There is one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus;" and asked where in Scripture we are taught to pray to saints? They have replied, "In the Psalms." Some of the passages which they allege as illustrative of this subject are as follow:
In Psalm iv. 3, the Greek of the Septuagint will bear translating thus: "But know this, that the Lord hath rendered marvellous his holy One," which our translation thus renders, "Know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself." Their next passage is Psalm xvi. 3, which may bear rendering, "God hath made his saints which are in the earth marvellous." But the passage considered to be the strongest, is that in the 68th Psalm; in our Bible, "O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places;" but they would render it, "Marvellous is God in (or by) his saints." To them the last passage plainly carries the sense, "God has worked miracles by his saints." Scepticism on this point is viewed by many of the more ignorant as equivalent to a disbelief of Christianity. I have therefore, in conversing with them, always admitted all that I safely could, quoting especially scriptural examples; and adding, who can. doubt but that God has often worked miracles by his saints? But this does not prove that such an one or such another had been thus honoured. Least of all does it prove that we are right in praying to the saints, which is not commanded in any of these passages quoted from the Psalms."
The Greeks have three services in the day; one at about four o'clock in the morning; the second, a liturgy, and which is the principal service, takes place about six or seven o'clock, differently in different churches; and thirdly, vespers. Every week the priests are obliged to repeat the whole book of Psalms through. By "repeating" is meant just so much as to move the lips. Often, on entering an open church, I have seen a priest sitting by himself performing this silent duty. The Psalter, as they print it, is divided into sixty-three parts, at the end of which they repeat the doxology. The common way of speaking is, that the priest recites nine doxologies a-day. Besides this, there is a large number of hallelujahs and Kyrie-eleesons to repeat. The priests are required to repeat at least three times a-day, Kyrie-eleeson! forty times: they count by beads three times forty. Surely these are vain repetitions; and were a man to multiply them a thousandfold, they would be still more vain; but he would be regarded as a very holy man.-Rev. William Jowett.
BY CHARLOTTE ELIZABETH.
ONE of those sudden and violent gales, that occasionally sweep over the fair face of summer to wrinkle and deform it, had blown so strongly during the night, that morning presented the unwelcome spectacle of a branch