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THE scripture emblem of complete righteousness is an unsullied robe of white. Such robes are worn by those who walk the golden streets of New-Jerusalem, and such should be the attire of Christ's disciples on earth, if they would be recognized as seeking that better country. By general consent, even among strangers to the inward influence of grace, spotless integrity of soul, affections elevated above the base control of earth to a rational and holy exercise, and that active benevolence which seeketh not its own, ought to be the inseparable concomitants of christian hope. The religion of the gospel asserts an exclusive claim on all that she redeems from the bondage of Satan. She leaves no active power of man at liberty to serve the God of this world, and no passion of his bosom to be the pander of forbidden pleasure. He that bows before the throne of God, cannot turn round and do homage to the shrine of . Mammon. He cannot, at the same time, run the career of disinterested benevolence and the race of worldy ambition ; nor can he lay up riches in the skies while his heart is brooding over an earthly treasure. He cannot seek with supreme desire, the glory of Christ and his own private distinction among men; neither can he prefer the Divine approbation, while he feeds upon the breath of fame. And alike incompatible with the regular delights of religious hours, is the unbridled love of sensual indulgence. Between these extremes of character there are many degrees of holiness and sin which our poor discrimination cannot easily separate. Yet each has its characteristic influence on the heart ; and by this influence it may soon be infallibly known. For every spark of grace that is kept alive and cherished in the soul continually warms into celestial being, additional energy and zeal, and throws a purer light upon the christian's narrow path. In the same manner every relic of depraved inclination, however subtle its operations may be, at first, if left unguarded and unrestricted, will gradually obscure his spiritual perceptions, give new allurements to temptations, and turn his feet aside into the treacherous and destructive ways of sin. The christian then who would make advances in the heavenly life, must be very jealous for his purity. If religion is the queen of his affec
“ These things which now seem frivolous and slight
“Will prove of serious consequence.” THAT is a valuable endowment of the mind which enables us occasionally to glance upon the years that are gone, to trace back through the labryinth of early vicissitude the devious progress of the soul, and to learn from past events the probable issue of our existence. It is chiefly from the annals of experience that we are to ascertain the outlines of our original constitution, the gradual transformations which it has suffered from the influence of external causes, and the character which it will finally assume. In some respects there is a striking analogy between the past and future. Although human life is full of changes ; although too many scenes that sparkle to-day in the sunbeams of delight may to-morrow be shrouded in the gloom of sorrow, or deluged by the storms of adversity; still the report of antiquity has borne testimony to an essential uniformity in the operations of providence, through each succeeding period of time. By this analogy we are enabled to make an important use of many occurrences long since obsolete. From the past circumstances of our lives we are taught to expect a similar coincidence again ; and, from their effect upon our former character, interests and happiness, to infer the consequences of their future influence.
It is the design of this paper to notice the manner in which incidents, comparatively insignificant, may contribute largely to the formation of character.
I have often conversed with men who would distinctly trace down one or more of their own predominant passions, prejudices,or motives of action, to the insensible agency of some frivolous cause.
And almost any one, who will in the same manner observe the progress of his intellectual career, may find in the fleeting casualties of a day, the origin of some sweeping propensity, which paralyzes the energy of reason and which religion will not easily restrain. However we may regard the operations of those who maintain that the intellectual powers and moral dispositions of all men are originally the same, we must admit that much of the diversity of character which men exhibit in the later periods of life, originated in the influence of circumstances.
The knowledge we have of the manner in which the mind yields to the influence of arbitrary events, even when they are hostile to its prepossessions, justifies the supposition, at least, that in passing through the series of its early fortunes, its character will be formed corresponding to their natural control. For, if in advanced life, when conscience is grown callous, it may still be penetrated by the keen point of conscious guilt ; if, when sensibility has been frozen by abuse, it may again awake to the softest sentiments of tenderness and pleasure; if, when the understanding has learned dexterity in the obstinate arts of resistance, it may still be forced by the un"welcome persuasion of truth ; with how much more effective sway do secondary causes rule the soul in earlier days, while its free susceptibility is unguarded by suspicion and the springs of its emotions unadulterated by prejudice and guilt.
There is a season when the mind is free from the tyranny of the world abroad, and feels no slavery at home. There is an hour when the vital spark glows within itself; when it is warmed by its native fervour, and enlightened by the beams of its own radiance. And, though in this condition the field of intellectual operations is but a comparative point, and the generous affections are scarcely germinating in their embryo buds; yet we must deprecate that acquaintance with the world which takes away the soul's primeval simplicity, before religion has purified its desires and taught it a system of scrupulous self-discipline. It is mainly owing to a want of principle in the breasts of the young, that so many, when in life's deceitful morning they have launched forth their unwary bark beyond sight of the beacons which parental solicitude has erected, fall into the breezes of fashion or folly or dissipation, and are carried to a port far distant from the haven of rest. Without principle, man is without much reflection or foresight ; and, by consequence, profits little from experience of the past, and rushes upon the future with a presumptive indifference. In this condition, he yields habitually to temptations which grace would enable him to resist. With perceptions too dim for the scrutiny of moral causes, and a mind unqualified to apprehend their issue, he passes on with complacence in his fancied security till he finds himself in a course which he would gladly change, and yet urged by a momentum that defies re. sistance.
Those persons who are regarded with contempt for their base and brutal slavery to some appetite of their animal natures, have not, in most cases, sunk into this condition by any peculiar depravity of their original characters. And, could they, with their former innocence and tenderness of conscience, behold others shrouded in the same infamy, how would they recoil at wretchedness which they would suppose themselves incapable of incurring! And many are there now possessing the fullest confidence in the strength and perpetuity of their virtuous habits, who are farther down the declivity of vice than those abandoned and despised were when they began to suspect the danger of their course. To these, perhaps, a parley with enticing lust seems no approach to base incontinence, and an occasional indulgence seems even necessary to silence the importunity of desire. But they should know in season that Satan is master of his art. He is too well acquainted with the innate timidity of mortals to present them at once with the grand alternative between worldly honor and disgrace, or eternal bliss and woe. He allows them to keep their backs still turned upon the hideous gulf, while he allures them so gently to its verge that they are unconscious of receding from the fairer prospects which they ever hold in view. But o that we could learn to be suspicious of his wiles ! For the visions of beauty he presents are more treacherous than the phantoms of the morning cloud. His first approaches are modest, only that his address may be the more winning. And the lurking laughter which his bosom feels at our trifting and temporary transgressions, too often proves the prelude to his hellish exultation at our final fall.
Alas! how much testimony can professors of religion afford in support of this general position. When they have been renewed in the spirit and temper of their minds, and have been made susceptible of supreme delight in the love and service of their Saviour, they would spurn from their bosoms that influence which would at once congeal their heavenly affections, and corrupt the pious loyalty of their hearts. After feeling the pleasures of refined moral sensibility, they could not endure the guilty violence that should at once despoil them of a conscience void of offence. But they seem not to be aware that the internal monitor is of a temper so delicate as to be disheartened at the first neglect. And not a few suppose it unworthy of their sublime notions of virtue to possess any scrupulousness about items of conduct. Hence conscience occasionally receives slight and trifling wounds. And these are overlooked, because they inflict no mighty pain. But they are wounds that will not heal while the corroding sting of guilt is suffered to remain within them. They gradually spread their infection through the soul, till, too often, they destroy all its tender sensibility, and reduce it to a religious waste, producing nothing but absurd and groundless hopes of heaven.
Dejection of spirits, or native indolence of mind, may at first lead to the neglect of some trivial part of duty; and, hence, having broken down the barriers of principle, they conduct to still more important omissions, till some cardinal duties are at length dispensed with, and a heartless indifference is felt towards the whole.' Conformity to the world, in some small degree, is thought innocent and perhaps necessary, by many christians. But when these gentle claims of sin are yielded, the command keep yourselves unspotted from the world,” is broken, and we have really no security that we shall not, in the end, make the interests of this world our darling interests and its idols our only Gods.
Thus all the bliss of heaven may be put out of our possession by these trifles here. And even if it is obtained; it may be forever impaired by our being disqualified to enjoy the full banquet prepared for such as on earth have diligently enlarged every holy capacity of the soul. O, what vast results may spring from little causes! Those who forget or despise small things know not what they are doing.
Though Satan brings more to capitulate than any other foe we have, yet he takes no one by force. Many of his wiles are too sly for detection, and many of his weapons too attenuated to discover their barbed points. If we regard the event of our probationary state, it becomes us all to look well to each particular step in the course we are taking. Before we are aware, we may be already in the enemy's ambush. Nothing but fixing our eyes inflexibly on heaven, can prevent the allurements of earth from catching them and leading them astray. Nothing but the strictest adherence to religious principle, in every thing we do, can support us against the downward current of depravity.
ENEMIES TO THE CAUSE OF CHRIST.
IT will not be doubted for a moment, by any reflecting pious mind, that every messenger of good, every herald of the glad tidings of salvation, and every faithful follower of Chrst, is met with a spirit of opposition by the bold and numberless legions of Satan's subjects, in every endeavour to do good, and to disseminate Christian principles among his fellow men: nor can any fail to see, that they who oppose these efforts are those who live in opposition to the truths of the gospel. True, that class of our fellow men, who have not the love of God shed abroad in their hearts, those who have no pretensions to a godly life, being without God and without hope in the world, over whom the prince of darkness exercises absolute sway, are clearly the opposers of religion ;-in short, such is every impenitent sinner; and would to God I might stop here. What?
any who are penitent can be ranked among enemies to the cause of Christ? I will tell you; but in the first place I would ask, where shall we rank that man who hopes he has passed from death unto life, who thinks he discovers much in his affections and desires that leads him to entertain hopes of the assurance of God's favour, but who yet is classed with the world, in that he lives without having confessed Christ before men, and has set down with folded hands as those that are at ease in Zion, and extends not the hand of Christian aid and fellowship to those who are endeavouring to scatter the light of the gospel to benighted regions, to spread the spirit of benevolence among our fellow beings, and evangelize the world ? Does not such a man make a compromise with the world, and does he not, if he is a Christian, exclude himself from the most important privileges of the church, and the institutions of the gospel ? Does he not in neglecting to make a profession, weaken the hearts of Christians, strengthen and encourage the enemies of the cross, and live in the neglect of other important duties ? Has he that sense of his obligation to be active in the service of God which he would have if he had not so long lived in the neglect of this part of duty ? Is he not in danger of incurring the displeasure of that Saviour) who hath said, “whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed when he cometh in the glory of his father with the holy angels," and of deserving that denuncia tion, “Curse ye Meroz (said the angel of the Lord,) curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof, because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty?” Are we not commanded to come out from among them and be separate ?" If such say, they durst not, I ask, if you hope you are a Christian, how dare you live in the neglect of it? and if you feel that your hope will not justify you in making a profession, is it safe to entertain such a hope ? Think you that you will ever feel worthy to sit around the table to commemorate the death the Saviour? If you are a Christian you never will: and who, I ask, will ever regret that in this life he endeavoured to do the will of his Lord and Master, of having served him too much or too faithfully, of having improved