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have already alluded to it in the extract wbich is placed at the commencement of these remarks. It is the just estimate he has made of the duti s of common life, of the duties of that particular station in which every man finds bimself placed in the present condition of things. This is kept continually in view. Every thing is brought to bear on this issue. It is the axis thought, so to speak, on which the author's whole scheme of Active and Social Duty turns.
In no one point, perhaps, are there such great speculative and practical mistakes, even among those who mean to be Christians, as in this. On the one hand, we see persons make religion to consist almost exclusively of the cultivation of certain states of feeling; viewing with great horror those influences which emanate from what they are pleased to call the “world ” ; detaching themselves, as far as possible, from all hearty concern and earnest participation in ordinary affairs; devoting themselves, often in a neglect of these interests, to a ceaseless round of religious services; hankering, with unappeasable desire, after religious excitements; and, in a word, acting continually on the principle, that the more they disengage themselves from things present, the more perfect is their preparation for things eternal.
This mistake existed, in analogous manifestations, in an Oriental Philosophy, long before the establishment of Christianity. And, in an especial manner, it dates back to a very early period in the bistory of this Spiritual Faith, and, in forms more or less modified by the progress of religious knowledge, bas existed ever since, and will always be found the besetting infirmity of a certain order of minds. In former times, it led, as is well known, to an absolute seclusion from business; to a solitary life; to a denial of social engagements; to monkish seclusion ; to an excessive multiplication of religious ceremonies ; to pilgrimages; fasts; voluntary poverty; bodily maceration; and to other varieties of self-infiicted torture. And not a little of the same spirit may be seen, at the present day, in the conduct of those who have adopted certain mystical and fanatical views of religion, which in various forms are yet, unhappily, so widely prevalent. And there is one species of this mistake, which is not unfrequently made known to those intrusted with the religious confidence of others, which is greatly to be deplored. We mean a feeling more or less distinctly developed, which is seen to pervade the minds of tender, susceptible, and serious persons, who are deeply impressed with a sense of their religious obligations, — namely, that there is sometbing opposed or unfriendly to their spiritual progress, in those cares and duties, with which, for the most part, they are obliged, by their condition in life, to 611 up ibeir time and boughts.
But common as these apprehensions are, and affecting and mournful as is the condition of many minds in consequence of them, they are altogether erroneous.
No such necessary opposition between earth and beaven, things seen and things unseen, things temporal and things eternal, exists, or can exist. No such abstraction from ordinary calls and cares is required, or is permitted, in the religion of Jesus Christ. This life, with all its interests and engagements, is as much a part of the “ Kingdom of God,” as the life to come. He it is, as we have seen, who has placed us here, in the precise spot and sphere in which we find ourselves, with that peculiar environment of circumstances, which solicit or claiin our attention ; and it is here, and here alone, and by these especial means and opportunities, that our religious character is to be forned, our religious welfare secured.
How then, it may be asked, are those very numerous and prominent passages of the Christian Scriptures to be understood, which run thus : - "Set your affections on things above, not on things of the earth ;” “Look not at the things wbich are seen and temporal, but at the things, which are unseen and eternal;” “ Labor not for that meat wbich perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life"? The New Testament is pervaded by language like this ; — what does it mean?
It is obvious enough, in the first place, that these passages are not to be literally interpreted, since, in this sense, they are irreconcilable with various other passages wbich place life, and all it is and has, before us as solemn Trusts to be fulfilled, and make fidelity in a “few tbings," the condition of receiving "many things ;” – irreconcilable with the present condition of life, which was an earlier revelation of God's will, than his recorded word; — and irreconcilable with the whole example of the Saviour, whose life was any thing almost, rather than a religious dream, a state of musing and abstraction, of mere contemplative piety and spiritual imaginings, and gave absolutely no countenance to fevered and brain-sick excitements of any kind.
What then, the question recurs, is their true interpretation ? Their general import is very plain.
Taken in connexion with all those circumstances which illustrate their meaning, and viewed in reference to that whole train of reasoning which is fully developed in the treatise before us, we cannot doubt that they are intended, first, to meet and rebuke the natural propensity of our natures to become engrossed with present objects. They are to be considered as a strong reprehension of those who labor only for the “meat that perisbeth who make the concerns of“ this present "the principal object of pursuit. They forbid us to place our affections on things of the earth to the exclusion of things above; on things seen and temporal, so as to shut out of our view things unseen and eternal. And they are intended, in the next place, to direct our thoughts to the ultimate aim, the leading purpose, the prevailing object of an immortal being, - an immortal life. But, in thus giving a preëminence and ascendency to things future, they are not intended to call off our attention from things present, but simply to assign to these their proper place in the scheme of Duty. So far from considering these immediate objects and pursuits as unworthy of our attention, still less, as sinful in themselves, or unfriendly to moral and religious progress, they teach us to consecrate and hallow them all, as parts and means of a good and holy life. They are to be regarded as essentially belonging to one vast scheme of instruction and discipline, which, beginning on earth, is intended to lead us upward to heaven, and onward through eternity. The great duty is to employ them for this object; not to desert them; not to neglect them; not to undervalue them ; not to fear them; but to assign to them their true place and purpose; to consider them as trusts; and to enploy them as faithful stewards, who hold themselves accountable for their best use. In fine, they are to be carefully attended to, regarded, valued, used, enjoyed, - but, be it always remembered, not for themselves alone, not as ultimate objects, but in subserviency, and in reference to those higher ends and aims, which centre on an eternal state. Thus are they brought within the scope of our religious obligations; thus are they rendered parts of a religious duty; thus are they all hallowed, - even the humblest and the meanest of them, - hallowed, consecrated, sanctified, as parts of that “Kingdom of God," which our Saviour announced, labored and died to advance, and for the further advancement of which he has taught us to pray. Thus to use the things of time and sense ; thus to view them in reference to the great ends they were intended to subserve; thus to make them means and agents
in the formation of a high and pure religious character; thus to act gracefully, conscientiously, kindly, and piously, even in trifles, and in the most common occupations of life; thus to make the discharge of active offices a result and expression of Christian principles and sentiments, is to give to the Christian character its loveliest, noblest, and most perfect form.
But there is an error opposite to that now adverted to, not less gross, and yet most prevalent, and more dangerous to religious progress. We scarcely need say we refer to that of those, who, perceiving the mistake just referred to; seeing perhaps unworthy, or annoying, or ridiculous examples of it in their own daily walk, or beneath their own roof; and feeling strongly, moreover, the mischief and absurdity of neglecting ordinary claims and cares; pass over to the other extreme, and make these claims and cares, and a regular discharge of their common engagements, the whole sum and substance of human duty, — just as if all the pursuits of this life terminated in themselves, and were to be followed for themselves alone, and had no object, significance, or use beyond themselves. Examples of this extremely low, narrow, belittling view of human concerns, meet us at every turn.
Now both these errors, opposite as they are, come from a common source. And it is the peculiar, the distinctive praise of our author, that he has traced them both to their head-spring, and followed them into all their meanderings. There is no ethical treatise, within the compass of our reading, where this is so fully and faithfully done. Both errors, as is clearly shown, are to be referred to our ignorance or neglect of that intimate, necessary, indissoluble union, which exists between the things of time, and the things of eternity ; between the duties which belong to this life, and the condition of another; between the sentiments and principles which belong to us as men, citizens, friends, husbands, wives, parents, children, brothers and sisters, and the sentiments and principles which belong to us distinctively as Christians. But this is to mistake, as we have already bad occasion to observe, a mere verbal distinction, adopted for the sake of perspicuity in language, for an essential difference. No such difference does or can exist. Christian
if the terın bave any definite or intelligible meaning, are certain dispositions of the soul, and moral and religious acts are nothing less than these dispositions carried into effect. The two classes of duties, if we must continue to employ the phrase, are, in their very nature inseparable ; nay, they are identically the same, and they are not to be disunited even so much as in thought. Those principles and sentiments, which are commonly considered as being peculiarly religious, will be but imperfectly developed, if they be not carried into action in the midst of the ordinary duties and cares of life. This is their appropriate sphere. Here, and here alone, are they to be improved and perfected. And on the other hand, these ordinary cares and duties are all to be met and fulfilled under the guidance and influence of those religious principles and sentiments. It is thus and only thus, that they can be well performed, devoted to holy uses, and made to become parts and aids of the Christian character. And when thus performed, when thus done in reference to our religious obligations here, and to our spiritual destination hereafter, when thus done in a proper spirit, — we besitate not to say, that we cannot devote ourselves too earnestly to present objects.
Who then is the Worldly-minded man ? It is not necessarily he, who gives himself with earnestness and fidelity to the concerns of this world; for this it is every man's duty to do, and is, moreover, the means, and the only means, as it has been fully shown, of preparing for another world. But it is he, who gives himself exclusively to present interests, who pursues them without any reference to their connexion with his future well-being, who makes them the sole and allabsorbing objects of pursuit, whose thoughts and labors centre upon them as final results. This is the worldly-minded
This is the true child of earth. He is thoroughly of the earth, earthy; and in this earthliness of all his desires, feelings, pursuits, plans, and objects, he has no more interest, or care, or claim on the future world, than if a God-inspired soul had never been breathed into him, and a future world had never been revealed.
And who, again, is the Heavenly-minded man? It is not,