תמונות בעמוד

Now the character which we are recommending would go far to remedy this evil, if it were duly cultivated among christians. They would be drawn by it nearer to each other, in their feelings and plans of benevolence. They would be more assimilated one to another. They would love each other more, and study to promote each other's happiness. They would, individually and as a collective body, exhibit a lovelier spectacle to the world; so that the most careless would be forced to see, that there was a beauty and an excellence in the character here referred to, which they could not but

approve and admire. There are dangers, also, resulting from the want of this character among christians, which are by no means unimportant, and which ought to be distinctly laid open. One source of danger on this subject is, that christians will be led to adopt mistaken views respecting many important points of doctrine and duty. When the mind is occupied with a disproportionate concern about a few things in religion, there is danger that other things, equally important perhaps, will be lost sight of, or misunderstood, or, not improbably, looked upon with contempt. For example, let a man's mind be wholly absorbed in attempting to set forth and defend any supposed truth in physics, or any assumed doctrine of revelation, and let his feelings become heated by opposition; and how extremely apt is he to lose sight of another truth, (of very high importance in all our inquiries on all classes of subjects,) to wit, that mankind, disputants as well as others, ought to love one another, and to seek each other's happiness, and to be tender of each other's reputation and each other's peace of mind, even when they are called to oppose each other's errors and sins. When the feelings of the mind, in any case, become strongly and exclusively interested in one particular thing, there is in that fact a tendency to make the mind look upon every thing else as being comparatively unimportant, and thus to induce a false judgment respecting it. In this way it often comes to pass, that a wrong view of things is taken or confirmed, unhappy prejudices are created, as lasting as lise, and errors even of the very worst kind are embraced. By such a mind very many things of interest and importance are not seen at all, as they truly are ; while other things which do come under the notice of the mind, are seen only in a partial and distorted light. The reason of this is, that certain views and feelings of the soul are unduly cultivated, and others are neglected. Now there is no way of effectually providing against the danger here referred to, but by cultivating that happy symmetry of religious views and feelings, which we have undertaken in this article to set before our readers.

Another danger on this subject is, that parties and party strifes will be perpetuated in the church. Parties among good men are

usually formed, by their looking exclusively at a few points in religion, and by cultivating, exclusively, or chiefly, a few of the christian virtues, while other points and other virtues are passed over and comparatively neglected. This it is which makes the stickler for Arminjan sentiments in theology so unreasonably tenacious of certain favorite points connected with the self-determining power of the will, and so decided that his opponents on these points shall be in the wrong, and oftentimes so uncharitable toward them; as if they were among the worst of heretics, and had given up all truth that was worth contending for. This it is, also, which makes the ultra Calvinist so tenacious of certain peculiarities in his belief, and sometimes leads him to feel as if his opponents on the other side could hardly be entitled to his charity for them as christians. This it is, chiefly, which makes one man a violent abolitionist, and another man a violent colonizationist. This it is which is contributing, at the present moment, no small share of influence to throw the church in this country, and the country itsell, into a state of unusual collision and alarm. And we see not low, while this disproportionate attention of christians to some points of faith and practice prevails, to the neglect of other things of equal or bigher importance, seuds and dissensions in the church are ever to come to an end, or how the peace and happiness of millennial times can ever take place.

Another danger arising from the same source, is, that a false and unhappy view of christianity itself will be exhibited to the world. Christianity never appears in its own characteristic excellence and loveliness, except when it is seen as a whole, in the proper symmetry and proportion of its various doctrines and duties. Its just claims to the attention of mankind, therefore, can never be impressed upon men's minds, so long as it is set forth, in the lives of its professors, only in broken and disjointed fragments. The world must have the entire representation set besore them, or else they will have a false view given them. They must see christianity in the whole, as one barmonious system, one consistent, self-agreeing, symmetrical exhibition of what is reasonable, and right, and lovely, both in doctrine and in precept, or else it will not be seen by them truly, and as it is; consequently it will be seen under an unfavorable view of it, and will make an unfavorable impression.

Another danger is, that good men will come in this way to cherish toward each other feelings of asperity and unkindness. It is hard for men seriously to differ in their religious views, without the result being mutual alienation and distrust. How many instances might be named, in which fast friends have in this way heen separated from each other in their feelings, and become R harder to be won than the bars of a castle.” They began by contending disproportionately for certain points, some taking one view of them, and some another. These different views which they took became magnified as they dwelt upon them, till at length, those who set out, as friends, to differ slightly, or on subjects of little importance, have ended confirmed and open enemies; each contending loudly for what each deemed essential truth, and each claiming, with no small self-complacency, the victory in the contest. When will religious disputants learn to cultivate the whole of christianity,—the power as well as the form,—the spirit of its practical inculcations,—no less than a belief in the doctrines which it sets forth.

Some of the best means of cultivating a proper symmetry of christian character, we think, are the following. First: Let christiaus ever cherish a deep sense of the feebleness of their intellectual powers. Their powers, at least, are feeble, when compared with the abstruseness and difficulty of many subjects about which we should be glad to know more. Now nothing tends to give to the mind of man a wiser or more efficient and proper control of its own powers, than just views of its weakness; its real weakness, its actual incompetency to grapple with a vast variety of questions, that it may wish to discuss and settle, and that will continually offer themselves to its notice. It will in this way save itself from a great and useless expenditure of time and strength, that will otherwise be quite likely to be incurred. An undue reliance on our intellectual acumen, an over-sanguine confidence that we are able to resolve difficulties which have baffled other minds, is ordinarily one of the first steps which men take, in running into those endless errors and doubtful disputations which have divided and disgraced the church. Let us ever remember, that we are short-sighted beings; that we know and can know but a few things in this world with absolute certainty. When we have carried our inquiries on most subjects only to a very small distance, we come into a region of comparative obscurity; objects and their relations are seen dimly by us ; and so doubtful is the truth in relation to them, that merely a very small change in the position from which we view them, changes entirely their appearance, making what before seemed right, now seem wrong, and what before seemed true and important, now seem doubtful and of little importance if true. One of the surest methods, therefore, of keeping the mind from running into wild and extravagant notions of things, and of maintaining a proper balance in its views and affections, is, to set out with the distinct impression, that our powers of discernment are adapted only to a small circle of objects; that at best we can know but little, compared with what will remain unknown by us; and that much of what we call our knowledge, is in reality but conjecture, with different degrees of probability. When therefore we are urging our favorite opinions on any subject to an unusual length, so as to take a position on these subjects wbich had not commonly been taken by any one before, let us at least pause long enough to remember the feebleness of our powers; let us consider that possibly we may be mistaken ; and let us be quite sure that our supposed discoveries of truth, which had eluded the search of others, are real discoveries of truth, before we allow ourselves to rest in them as such.

Secondly: Let christians be fully aware of the depravity of their hearts, and their consequent proneness to neglect their duty, especially in some of its more self-denying forms, though they may attend to it in some other forms which are less so. There are, in consequence of human depravity, some truths of the gospel, and some duties, which are peculiarly unwelcome, because they are peculiarly opposed to our natural evil inclinations. Let christians be fully aware of this fact. Let them watch and see what truths and what precepts of the bible their hearts are most apt to oppose and reject, and seek to get rid of, and there let them set the strongest guard; there let them take the most pains; there practice the greatest self-denial ; and there let them endeavor to bring their minds to the cordial belief of every revealed truth, however crossing to their pride, and to the cordial practice of every known duty, whatever sacrifice of ease and self-interest it may cost.

Thirdly: Above all, let christians cultivate a humble and teachable frame of miod, desiring and seeking in prayer guidance from above in the path of their duty, that their religious character may be kept free from all foolish and hurtful eccentricities and defects, and that they may be led to show forth, in their life and conversation, a true and genuine copy of the spirit of the gospel.

The effects of the state of mind here described, on the christian's labors and prayers, and on his general intercourse with the world, would, we scarcely need say, be exceedingly happy. This fair and lovely exemplification of what christianity is, this true and faithful representation by christians, in their lives, of what the gospel can do for mankind, to remove their native asperities of character, and to render them beloved and happy even in this world, would do more to recommend the gospel, and to bring its claims into contact with men's hearts and consciences, than all the set and formal defenses of christianity that were ever written. There would be a consistency in the christian's conduct; a harmony of one thing with another in his views, and feelings, and principles of action; an obvious reasonableness and proportion in the various articles of his belief; and an adaptation in the things believed, to mold his temper and life into a delightful conformity with his duties and relations as a creature of God and a candi

date for immortality, so that he could not fail to be a better and a happier man. This the world around him would see. They would perceive what a blessed change the gospel had wrought in his soul; how consistent he was in his whole christian character; how conformed to what is 6t and proper; how ainiable, useful, and respectable; how free from those sad defects and unseemly extravagances, by which the usefulness of so many christians is impaired, their piety disfigured, and the cause of religion itself dishonored in the eyes of the world. They would see that happy combination of religious fervor and deep humility; of unwavering attachment to the doctrines of the gospel, and love to men's souls ; of zeal for missions to the heathen and labors to save sinners at home; of love to God and love to man; of faith and practice; of retired intercourse with the Most High, and active and laborious obedience to his will; which happy combination of these things, in the christian's life and character, is so important to make the right impression upon men's minds, and the want of which has done so much to prejudice men's minds against the truth. The effects on christians themselves, also, in respect to the augmented amount of good that they would do, would not be less happy. How differently would christians labor, and pray, and make sacrifices for the advancement of the Redeemer's cause, if they possessed more of that delightful symmetry of character of which we are speaking! What a settled, uniform, ever-active, and neverdying spirit of love, and watchfulness, and prayerfulness, would they exhibit ! How much more good would they accomplish in their intercourse with wicked men ! What an additional weight of character in their eyes would they thus acquire! How much nearer to the primitive pattern would they come; how much nearer to the spirit and example of their Master in heaven!

In adverting to the pattern which our blessed Savior has set us on this subject, we are at once struck with the peculiar beauty and excellence of that pattern. What a perfect and lovely symmetry of character did he exbibit! how harmoniously and exactly did the different virtues which compose his character fit in with each other, and blend together, in forming one perfect whole of moral excellence, one great and beautiful picture of whatever is most desirable and attractive in human conduct, in all the various circumstances in which, as a man, he was called to act here on earth! Think of the circumstances of his early childhood. At twelve years

of age, having been taken up to Jerusalem by his parents, to attend one of the great religious festivals of his country, and having distinguished himself there among the learned doctors, by his questions and answers, he unambitiously returns to his humble lot again, as the child of an obscure family in Galilee, and was subject to his earthly parents, "until the time of his showing unto

« הקודםהמשך »