« הקודםהמשך »
Almighty collected the gleamings into a great globe of light, and set the sun in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night. So the Ineffable, in tracing out with his finger this globe, and in writing its history, when as yet none of its stupendous events were fashioned, being imperfect”-reserved this continent to be the firmament of the sun of human Freedom, into which should be gathered and condensed all the hopes and aspirations of bards and prophets, and of all devout and earnest true-hearted souls, who have loved their race and labored and prayed for their emancipation from error and sin. It is in the teachings of Revelation, that the world is to be filled with the glory of God; in the institutions of modern civilization, which are chiefly the effects of the gospel, and are necessary in order to the fulfilment of its glorious mission on the earthin the promises, prophecies, and coming glorious realities of Messiah's reign, that we see the unfailing hope of Republics, and the undying elements of their perpetuity.
In all ages and in all countries, wherever the faintest effulgence of liberty has gleamed upon the soul, there have been earnest striving after its plenitude. True liberty, under constitutional forms, the sole passion of the generous heart, is the only treasure worthy of being coveted. Its victories are those of intellect, and not of brutal force; its principles pass not away, but are eternal. It holds all men to be brothers-recognizes no legal authority, but that of responsible magistrates, no moral superiority, but that of virtue. Such liberty is destined to see pass before it, the stormy flight of absolute empires, like those clouds that dim for a moment the purity of a serene sky, and will at no distant day, see disappear before her triumphal march, all custom-house barriers and secret tribunals, all prosecutions for political offences, all aristocracies, monopolies, close corporations, standing armies, censorships of the press, of schools, and of religion; and in a holy alliance in the name of Right, Independence, and of a common interest, and of civilization, tranquillity, happiness, and religion, will confederate national congresses confer for the amicable settlement of all national differences, and the sword shall perish for ever.
LIBERTY, which has been the midnight meditation of the sage. and the inspiration of the poet, and the long desired Messiah of those that have been sitting in chains and darkness for ages,
and for whose almighty avater the very tombs of the past have cried out, has at last descended from heaven upon the earth to redress and embellish it; to be the life of commerce, and the inspiration of the fine arts, the first aspiration of youth, and the sublime invocations of old age, and the pathway to fadeless glory. And after that she shall have broken the chains of ignorance, meanness, covetousness, superstition, error, and bigotry; liberty will lead forth her illuminated procession with palm branches, amid hymns of glory to attend the last and eternal funeral of civil and religious despotism. AMEN.
“And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus receive my spirit! And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.”—Acts 7 : 59, 60.
This brief record of the death of the first martyr to Christianity is a complete refutation of one objection, which its enemies have urged against it. They have asserted, and often with an air of triumph, not merely that its doctrines are absurd, but that its spirit is degrading to the dignity of human nature. In their estimation, the lofty aspirations of ambition, the indignant spirit, which kindles at every affront or injury, and visits it with implacable resentment, and the sanguinary exploits of renowned conquerors, constitute the elements of true greatness. Hence the homage, which in all ages, has been paid to the daring enterprises of cupidity and ambition ; the prompt and cheerful obedience, which has been rendered to the laws of honor, falsely so-called; the indignant infliction of evil for evil, and the valor and skill which have been displayed in waging sanguinary wars. Those who place these achievements, and the spirit which prompts them, among the characteristics of true greatness, in the temper and morality which the gospel inculcates see nothing to admire. Its devout, meek, patient, and forgiving spirit, they consider not adapted to elevate, but to depress men in the scale of true dignity and greatness. That this sentiment is false, and fraught with danger to the temporal and eternal interests of men, we hope to make evident.
We have not time to notice all the distinctive features of the Christian spirit. We shall confine our attention mainly to those which entitle it to the character of genuine magnanimity. We cannot accomplish this purpose, however, without subserving another of amazing moment to the professed disciples of the Lord Jesus. It will furnish them with a safe criterion of character-a test by which the validity of their claims to membership in His family may be tried.
What, then, are the elementsoftrue greatness,-of real magnanimity,-embraced in the spirit which the gospel inculcates, and which instrumentally it originates and sustains?
I. Its greatness is shown by the victories which it achieves over the corrupt affections of the human heart. The existence of these affections is denied by few, eren of those who withhold their assent from the statements of the Bible respecting the extent of native depravity. By the unsparing censures which they pass upon those who give unbridled indulgence to impure and malevolent passions, they make it abundantly evident that they believe in their existence. Nay, many attest their existence in their own bosoms, by pleading in self-justification their inability to control them.
None who profess the Christian spirit, doubt that by nature there dwelleth no good thing in them ;—that the heart, unsanctified by the Spirit of God, “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” With them, the corruption of the heart is a inatter of painful consciousness. From the pollution and power of sin, they pant to be delivered; but all human expedients for its expulsion, are vain. Philosophers and uninspired moralists have given wise rules for the government of the appetites and passions. The authority of human law has restrained from acts of impurity, fraud, and violence. But neither the teachings of philosophy, nor the authority of law, nor both combined, have eradicated the passions which prompt to deeds of evil. And they have often been insufficient to hold them in check. To cleanse the corrupt fountain whence issue the streams of pollution and misery, which desolates families, societies, and nations, they have done nothing. They have never expelled from human bosoms, selfishness, pride, envy, impure affections, the inordinate love of the world, repining under the afflictive dispensations of Providence, and enmity toward God or man. All that human wisdom and power have been able to do, is merely to restrain the grosser ebullitions of depravity.
The expulsive power of the Christian spirit has done more. By its introduction into the heart, its native darkness and impurity have been partially expelled ; its pride, selfishness, and inordinate attachment to things earthly, have been diminished; and it has been expanded with benevolence, not toward friends merely, but foes, and love and devotion to God. Imperfect as is the degree of it in the present life, by its introduction into their hearts, its subjects are wonderfully transformed. Old things pass away, and all things become new. The passionate become meek, the fraudulent just, the niggardly generous, the intemperate sober, the violent gentle, the impure chaste, the profane prayerful and devout, and the vindictive forgiving. The worshippers of mammon, by its transforming power, become spiritually-minded, and "seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.”
What we have said concerning the purifying efficacy of the Christian spirit, is not disproved by the fact that those who give decisive evidence that they possess a measure of it, often give mournful proof of remaining depravity. In this life they are but partially sanctified. Nor is the fact of the change wrought in the heart by this spirit set aside or weakened by the admission, that many who profess to have received it exhibit none of its celestial fruits in the life. An apostle has taught us, that “they are not all Israel that are of Israel." 6 But what is the chaff to the wheat, saith the Lord ?” No fact is more clearly established than that multitudes of all ages, from the little child to the old man leaning upon his staff-of every grasle of intellect and of all ranks and conditions in every period of time, and in every condition of society, have experienced the change of which we are speaking. They have abandoned courses of evil which they had before eagerly pursued, resisted temptations to which they had yielded, and been eminent examples of meekness, spirituality, benevolence to men, and zeal for the glory of God.
And who exhibit the greatest magnanimity? Those who give indulgence to unhallowed affections, or those, who by the grace of God, labor to exterminate them? Those who live after the course of this world, or those who are crucified to it by the cross of Christ, and strive to " perfect holiness in the fear of God ?"
These inquiries admit of but one answer. There is no magnanimity in self-indulgence-in following the corrupt inclinations of the heart; but there is real greatness in Christian self-denialin the victories of holiness over sin. There is real moral grandeur and heroism in cutting off the right hand and plucking out the right eye that offend, and governing the heart and life by God's holy and immutable law.
I. The greatness of the Christian spirit is evident from its superiority to the principles, spirit, and practices of this world. Many of the practices in which the men of the world indulgemany of the maxims by which they regulate their conduct and prevailing spirit, are in direct conflict with God's requirements. With them, pecuniary advantage, honor, or the indulgence of the appetites and passions, separately or combined, is the paramount object; and, provided the pursuit of it be so conducted as not to transgress human law, many seem to think they have done nothing deserving censure, even though the feelings of others are outraged
and their rights disregarded. If, in the pursuit of their favorite objects, they do not transgress human law, they take it for granted "they do not the Divine. That an act may be legally right, and at the same time morally wrong, seems not to have entered their min Is. With many, public opinion, however erroneous, and human law, though in direct conflict with the Divine, constitute the standard of morality. Hence the pleas so often urged in vindication of the traffic in intoxicating drinks, divorce on the most trifling grounds, the desecration of the Sabbath, public amusements of corrupting tendency, licentiousness, and offensive war. Nay, duelling, suicide, the holding of men " for filthy lucre's sake,” in involuntary bondage, and converting them into mere “goods and chattels, and even the accursed slave-trade, have their advocates.
We rejoice to state that many, who prefer no claim to the possession of the Christian spirit, hold the things just mentioned in utter detestation. They are distinguished for the exercise of the humane and social affections, have a keen sense of justice and honor, and are noble examples of a disinterested love of country. But these amiable attributes of character, notwithstanding they give their chief attention and regards to the interests of this world, and live as exclusively to themselves and the objects of their selfish attachment, as if there were no God to whom they owe their supreme homage. They refuse to deny themselves for His sake, and offer to Him the sacrifice of humble and grateful hearts. They form their plans, transact their business, and seek their own pleasure, to the utter neglect of the great end for which He dignified them with a rational and immortal existence. This class of amiable rejecters of the claims of God to their love and service, embraces many who seem wholly to overlook the necessity of right motives and affections to render actions, which are correct in form, acceptable to God. Provided their words are truthful and kind, and their visible deportment correct, they pass no sentence of condemnation upon themselves, though pride, envy, discontent, impure affections, and enmity, burn and rankle in their bosoms.
Infinitely superior to the system of the world's ethics, is the course to which the Christian spirit prompts men. So far as they are influenced by it, they do not inquire whether an act or course of conduct have the sanction of human law or public opinion, but whether it be right ?-whether the Word of God approve it? Him they strive to please and honor. To receive His approbation and promote His glory, they cheerfully sacrifice their ease and pleasure, their worldly interest, and the friendship of men. Abraham, when called of God to leave “Urr of the Chaldees," and his kindred, for a land to him unknown, obeyed the heavenly mandate, and“ went out, not knowing whither he went.” By