صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

In proportion to the zeal with which we seek the alvation of our own souls, will be the ardor with which we shall set : the salvation of our fellow men. True religion has nothing mon volizing in its tendency. It prompts its possessors to say to all those o whom they have access, “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” If it be asked, who are most engaged to have the religion of the gos, el universally diffused, it may be answered, they who are most desirous to have its influence thoroughly pervade their own souls.

Personal duties harmonize with the duties of godliness. To live soberly, prepares the way to live godly. The man who neglects the means appointed to promote his own sanctification and enjoyment of God, will neglect all the duties of godliness : but he who faithfully uses these means, will walk humbly with God. The most thorough application of the divinely prescribed means of promoting one's own happiness, will lead to the first particular in this class of duties, namely, the worship of God. He prays, because he would give unto the Lord the glory due to his name; also, because his necessities drive him to the mercy-seat. To restrain prayer, would seem to the Chris. tian to be as inconsistent with his taking proper care of himself, as to neglect to eat his bread or put on his apparel.-Nor can he be faithful to himself

, without seeking to become acquainted with that inspired word, which was given to be a light to his path through this dark world. A suitable regard to his own good, will excite him both to read and hear the word.—There certainly can be no disagreement between a man's seeking his own best good, and his keeping holy the Sabbath day; for the Sabbath was made for man—not for his observ. ance only, but for his benefit. There is no other day of the week so essential to man's good, as that day which the Lord has hallowed and set apart for himself. Nor is there any way in which we can spend its sacred hours so advantageously to ourselves, as in that very way prescribed in the fourth commandment—that very way that does most to honor the Lord of the Sabbath. The making a profession of godliness, does not interfere with a single injunction relating to our own personal interests. The church is called a commonwealth ; and it is enjoined upon all its officers and members not to look on their own things, (that is, exclusively,) but to look also on the things of others. The constitution prescribed to this spiritual commonwealth, manifestly forbids all selfishness in its members. But he who gives up his selfish interest for this common interest, will have more enjoy. ment in seeking a common good, than he could possibly receive in any other way.-There was another duty of godliness specified, name. ly, the consecration of a portion of our property to the service of God, for the purpose of supplying the wants of the poor, supporting the minig. ters of Christ, and furnishing the means of widely extending his em. pire of holiness. They who have identified the duties they owe to themselves with selfishness, will be apt to imagine that devoting property to the Lord, is at variance with that personal obligation which

the same reason, exercise more of the love of complacency towards his own character, because it is his own? But would not this be in repugnance to the apostle's direction to every man among us, not to think of himself

more highly than be oughi to think ? Again he said, “ Lot each esteem other better than himself."

[ocr errors]

every man is under, to take care of his substance and see that it be not wasted. But let him be reminded, that of all the uses of prope erty, the one just specified is the last which should be deemed a waste of it. Property thus devoted, is seed sown in a fruitful soil. A har. vest of good will be produced ; and he who sows the seed, (provided he does it heartily to the Lord,) will receive a rich share of the har, vest. See 2 Cor. ix. 10, Eccl, xi. 1, 2.

It is conceded, that there is no harmony between a sefish attertion to our personal concerns, and the service of God. The man who laye eth up treasure for himself, that is, makes himself his ultimate end, can not be rich towards God, But it is not at variance with disinter. estedness, or unfeigned piety, that he should value his own happiness at as high a rate as God does. As seeking the best good of our fel. low men, is in accordance with love and obedience to God, so it is with the performance of the duties we owe to ourselves, In both ca. ses, the good of the creature should be made subordinate to the glory of the Creator.

To show the harmony between personal duties, and those holy affec. tions which constitute the religion of the heart, I need not advert to more than two or three Articles of the experimental series, If we can discover an agreement between personal duties and the first, third, and tenth of those Articles, there can remain no doubt that the harmony is complete, Let us see whether the duties in question accord with the şubject of the first Article, namely, benevolence,

Universal good will must include good will to myself, since I cop stitute a part of the universe, True benevolence is regardless of ro part with which it is made acquainted. Ps. cxlv. 9. Our minds are so limited, that we have very imperfect conceptions of the extent of the universe, We can not be affected with the interests of creatures, whose existence is problematical, or whose mere existence is all we know, as we can with the interests of those whose circumstances are not only known to us, but are capable of being meliorated by efforts that we can make, Our services are due to those creatures that are placed within our sphere of action, Hence it is, that without saying a word against the disinterestedness of benevolence, or in favor of par. țial affection, we can teach that we owe duties to our own world, which we do not to other parts of creation; that we owe duties to our own country, which are peculiar; also, to the city, town, or congregation in which we live; still more, to our own families, in distinction from the families of our neighbois; and lastly, that we owe duties to our selves, which we do not owe to the other members of our families. By conceding this, we do not say that selfishness is right; or that the law of God tolerates the least degree of it, All Christians have more or less selfishness; but so far from deeming it a virtue, they confess it as a sin, and as furnishing evidence that they are sanctified only in part, But they do not confess that all the attention they pay to themselvesto their own bodies and souls, is selfish and therefore sinful, On the contrary, the neglect of their personal, no less than of their other due ties, is very often the means of humbling them before God,

Some may think there is no consistency in one's making such efforts for his own salvation, after he has unconditionally sulmitted hier self

[ocr errors]

to God. [See Part II. Art. 111.) Submission to God can not be too unconditional. But I trust there is nothing in the personal duties that have been inculcated, which stands opposed to the most entire sub: mission. Suppose you have a child that is sick ?-ought you not to feel entirely submissive to God about its recovery?

But when you have exercised such submission, have you no other duties to perform? Must you now cease to pray for the child's recovery? Are you to disa continue the use of medicine? No: your submission, if it be genuine, will have no tendency to make you relax in your efforts to effect the recovery of the child; for your submitting this matter to God, did not imply that it ceased to be an object of your earnest desire.

Let this illustration help us understand the subject before us. If you have not only been convinced that you deserve to be punished for. ever for your sins; but if you have felt that you would approve of the justice of God, in case he should see fit to inflict the deserved punish. ment, it still remains your duty to seek to be saved. Certainly, you can have no right to refuse to repent of your sins and believe on the Son of God. These duties you owe to God; and these duties you owe to yourself; for there is a promise that if you do repent, you shall be forgiven, and if you believe, you shall be saved. While you have a right, and are under obligation, to submit your body and soul to the disposal of the Most High, you have no right to neglect either soul or body:, and certainly not the soul. It is still your duty to provide for your bodily wants; and especially is it incumbent on you to labor for the meat which endureth unto everlasting life, and to fear, lest a promise being left of entering into his rest, you should seem to come short of it.

The duties ie owe to ourselves, ought not to be considered as at vas riance with the spirit of self-denial ; which makes the tenth Article in our experimental series. Self-denial does not discourage the perform ance of one of these duties. It stands opposed to selfishness, and will therefore lead us to make personal sacrifices for the good of others. The apostles made a sacrifice of property, reputation, bodily ease and comfort, and even of life, for the benefit of their fellow sinners. But ell this did not imply a neglect of personal duties. Paul informs us, that God had given him such a spirit of self-denial, that he could have consented to be accursed from Christ, for the sake of that multitude of his Jewish brethren who were about to perish in unbelief; and yet we know that this high degree of self-denial did not render him inattentive to the concerns of his own soul. He still pressed toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. If he had not done so, he would have given no suitable proof of the sincerity of his professed anxiety for the salvation of his kinsmen.

Personal duties are in harmony with the doctrines of truth. They harmonize with our first doctrinal Article—the existence of an infinite God. Duty to myself does not make it necessary that I should forget Him, or balance my interests against His. Our second Article is this; that God made; and is managing, all things for his own glory. If God made all things, I am one of his creatures. Though created by him, 1 constitute no part of him: I have individuality, and am totally distinct from my Creator. He is good in himself; and is doing good i therefore in seeking his own glory, he sceks the good of his creatures, and my good among the rest ; for his tender mercies are over all his works. Now one important way in which he seeks my good, is by informing me by what means I myself ought to seek it. He lets me know that it would disturb the harmony of the system, and be altogeth. er improper for me to make myself the ultimate end of my actions ; since I am so infinitely little in comparison with my Creator, and so inconsiderable a part of his creation. He requires me and every other intelligent creature, to make a common interest with himself—to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. To seek his right. eousness, is to seek a personal conformity to his moral image : and this is done by all who seek first the kingdom of God; that is, who make it their chief end to advance its holy interests. And this agrees with the third Article of the doctrinal series, which represents the Su. preme Being as establishing a moral government over the intelligent creation. All his rational creatures are required to possess a holy character. To possess such a character, is a duty they owe to the eternal King, to their fellow subjects, and to themselves.

The next Article in our doctrinal series, relates to the fall of man. By the fall, man withdrew allegiance from his Creator, and became an enemy to his fellow creatures. And though he did not cease to love himself, his love lost its dutiful character, and he wronged his own soul. « Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself," is applicable to every transgressor of the divine law.

The next two Articles present to our view an atonement, provided for the children of Adam, and freely offered to every one who comes within the sound of the gospel. And does not this ample provision for our redemption, and this kind offer, lay every one of us under obli. gation to return to God through Jesus Christ ? And does not every one owe this duty to himself, as well as to the merciful Redeemer ? If our country were visited with sore famine, and we were dying with hunger, should some one, at great pains and peril, procure and present us a supply of food, would not duty, both to our benefactor and to our. selves, require us to eat and live?

The doctrines contained in the eighth, ninth, and tenth Articles, es hibit the distinguishing grace that is displayed in the conversion of sinners. But there is nothing in these doctrines calculated to make us neglect personal duties-nothing to destroy the force of those com. mands which require all men to believe on the Son of God and be sa. ved. These discriminating doctrines do not impose an obligation on a part of the race to neglect their duty, and, sluggard-like, to sleep away their day of grace. They do not suppose the non-elect to be discharging any duty, by continuing in impenitence and unbelief, and thus losing their souls. But while these doctrines, when properly un. derstood, have no tendency to make the despisers of gospel grace feel innocent in the neglect of the duties they owe themselves, they are calculated to render grateful them who, like the son in the parable, at first refused to go and work in their father's vineyard, but afterwards repented and went. Though even these did not commence their attention to religion, from any knowledge or belief of their own election, but rather from a conviction of their ncedy condition ; yet they now

ascribe that conviction and the change which ensued, to that distin. guishing goodness of God which these doctrines assert. May we not show forth the praises of Him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvelous light, and yet not be considered as thereby furnishing an excuse for them who abide still in darkness, and prefer it to light, because their deeds are evil?

The obligation to personal duties accords with the doctrine of a general judgment, in which every man must give account of himself to God. Every individual of the race must stand before God in judgment, and receive a sentence of approbation or condemnation which shall never be revoked. And this sentence will be according to the char. acter which is formed in this life. Can any one consider this funda. mental Article in the Christian scheme, and not feel that he has per. sonal duties to perform? All which others can do for him, will fail of preparing him for this solemn account, should he neglect a personal attention to the concerns of his soul. Let the doctrine of a general judgment have its practical influence, and its tendency will be power. ful in constraining us to take heed to ourselves. We know this was its influence on the holy apostles. “Wherefore we labor,” say they, " that whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seal of Christ ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."

66

REMARKS.

1. In view of this Division of our practical system, we are led to remark upon the important difference between one's taking care of himself from selfish motives, and his doing it as a part of his duty. That man who is influenced by selfish motives in preserving his life, may, without any change of character, become a suicide: but he who preserves his life as a matter of duty, will never feel that he has a right to leave his post till he is called away by Him who placed him there. He who is governed by nothing better than selfish motives in preserve ing his health, may sacrifice it to his intemperate desires, when they plead hard to be gratified. They who are industrious from selfish mo. tives, may from similar motives become idle : but that industry which results from a sense of obligation to God, will not be exchanged for idleness. There is a great difference between that vindication of one's character which is prompted by self-love, and that which is underta. ken from love to God and a desire for usefulness. A man who is so sensitive as to expose his life in a single combat, in defense of his sul. lied reputation, may afterwards rob himself of every thing like a reputable character, by indulging in the most degrading vices. His sen. sibility and insensibility proceed from a common source. So, that man who has once been zealously engaged in seeking salvation, but merely for the sake of securing his own happiness, may after all this not only neglect that salvation, but treat it with entire contempt.

Let no man think that he discharges that class of duties which are personal, merely because he loves himself and seeks his own happi.

« السابقةمتابعة »