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a double blessing ; for there are few who will not see in them the proofs of a sincere and disinterested regard. This conviction once established, a way will be opened, through gratitude and affection, to the reason and conscience.
In the present state of society, reproof, to be efficacious, must be personal—almost private. Official rebukes are an unmeaning form. Church censures are an empty sound. Reproofs addressed to individuals from the pulpit would produce alienation instead of amendment, and its general admonitions are applied by those who hear them to any one rather than to themselves. That when given by the pastor to the erring members of his flock, by the parent in the family, by the master in the household, or by the teacher in the school, it should be wisely given—that it should be adapted, in manner and in measure, to individual character—that it should never seem to proceed from prejudice or personal feeling—that it should be delivered with calmness, dignity and temper—is of the utmost importance, both to those who administer reproof and those on whom it falls. Like all powerful medicines, it is dangerous in unskilful hands. Happily the skill that is required need not be sought in books of deep science. Good temper and good sense, the instinct of natural affection, the guiding principle of Christian love, will enable any one to become a a wise reprover.”
“DWELLING IN LOVE, DWELLING IN GOD.”
BY REV. EDWARD TAGART.
1 John iv. 16 :
“He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.”
Many are the passages of Scripture which are in themselves the best of sermons, the most eloquent discourse. Among such I should be disposed to give the text a foremost place, as indicating briefly and beautifully the essence of religion, the spirit of Christianity. It intimates to us, that in cultivating a union with the Divine nature, in seeking to know and delight ourselves in God, we have only to put forth our best and sweetest affections, to take the warmest interest in the objects around us, to indulge in all the most generous emotions, and engage in the most kindly offices and service towards the beings by whom we are surrounded. It tells us that the most religious man is he whose breast is the seat of the warmest, most numerous, most disinterested attachments, and whose life is marked by the most abundant proofs of beneficent regard for his kindred, friends, country and mankind. “He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him." Surely it is a sentiment outweighing in value all the creeds that ever were adopted by churches for their exclusive distinction, or constructed by theologians in their speculations on the ingredients of a saving faith. The only question which it seems necessary to ask ourselves in connection with the text is, What may be understood by dwelling in love? And though there may be no difficulty in supplying an edifying answer, yet I conceive our thoughts as Christian worshipers can hardly be more profitably employed than in considering some of the details which dwelling in love may be supposed to include. We have only to ask what are the legitimate objects of attachment, to the love of which the Christian may heartily and unreservedly devote himself, in order that he may feel “dwelling in God, and God in him.” My brethren, right associations of this kind, worthy conclusions on such a topic, cannot but be of salutary tendency, and must help to preserve us from grievous errors in morals and religion, in sentiment and practice.
Now the answers which I would suggest, will lead us to dwell, first, on the love of nature as God's work, on all the objects of creation which speak most sweetly and powerfully of his providence ; secondly, on the love of our fellow-beings and those most intimately associated with us by ties of blood, of friendship, of connection, of society; thirdly, the love of the duties appropriate to our sphere, whose right discharge brings with it a large reward ; and, fourthly, the love of divine truth, of those great principles respecting our religious and moral being, which throw the brightest light upon our destiny and expectations, which afford the greatest play for the three evangelic virtues, the Christian graces, faith, hope and charity, of which last the text is the consummation. Oh! my brethren, could we always keep within us and uppermost in the mind such thoughts as may be included under these heads, no more could be needed to make us rich partakers of the Divine nature, and lift us to an unclouded height of holy and happy being
1. He that would dwell in love must cherish a high appreciation of the beneficence that reigns in nature as God's work.
It is the characteristic of pure religion to imbue the mind with the love of nature, and also of a taste for the beauties of creation around us to prepare the mind for the exercises and feelings of devotion. Where, indeed, do we meet God more impressively than in his works, which speak, more powerfully than words can do, of his greatness, his wisdom, his bounty, and power? The heavens declare the glory of God in their ever-varying aspect; the earth also is full of his riches. The most superficial minds are not wholly insensible to the impression ; but they who direct their thoughts more closely and attentively to the secret and less obvious processes of nature, who cultivate a somewhat more intimate acquaintance with her phenomena,—who delight, as it were, to seek the Creator in retired paths, to dive into the deeper chambers of nature's vast storehouses and treasuries of art,—they receive impressions proportionately deep of that Being “whose goings forth are from everlasting.” They, if they have any tendencies to devotion within them, exclaim with the greatest fulness of estimation, “Oh Lord ! how manifold are thy works; in wisdom hast thou made them all !" It is a common observation, that professed naturalists are generally men of tender and humane dispositions, and of a highly devotional cast of mind. Their thoughts are carried into channels far different from the ordinary scenes of human ambition, excitement and strife. Many examples might be mentioned, but they will readily occur to you. Other impressions commonly fade away and become effaced as new objects cause fresh sensations ;. but the love of nature, once become a settled principle, is more permanent, and influences the condition of the feelings as long as the occupations of life preserve any interest in our minds. “As a child," says one of these quiet companions of the fields in his journal, “I viewed the wild field-flowers and cropped them with delight; as a young botanist, I culled with rapture the various species, returning again and again to my almost
exhaustless treasures in the copse. And even now, in the sere and yellow leaf of age, when in some mild vernal evening I stroll through the grove, and see the same floral splendour which
year has been spread before me, I mark it with admiration and surprise, I find it enchanting still, and fancy the present loveliness superior to all that has been before.” Such is an instance, among many, that “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.” Human faces may frown upon us; human hearts may be estranged; the tongue of flattery may deceive, and the faithful may be snatched away. It is probable that we ourselves shall outlive many whom we have loved the most. But if we have courted an intimacy with the works of God, while reason and feeling remain there will be, even in the air we breathe, in the simplest of nature's quiet scenes, a presence and a power to soothe and elevate the mind. The dark veil of cloud will be removed; the hoarse rushing of the storm will cease; and nature will again put on her smile and come forth in gay attire, as if to cheer and to caress the faithful, though wounded heart.
“See the wretch, that long has tost
On the thorny bed of pain,
But it is not only of these restorative effects of nature, of which all partake as the bounteous gift of Providence, that I would now speak as connecting the love of nature with the love of God. Among all the sought-out pleasures and recreations of life, I should say none are more satisfactory, none more dignified, than the investigation and survey of the workings and ways of Providence in this created world of wonders,