« السابقةمتابعة »
a man who has been enlightened and impressed by God's truth; a man who has vowed to serve him! Oh! let the heart break as it reviews the past ; such a length of time spent in backsliding! How many days has it been; how many months; how many years? And all this time the soul has hung in fearful suspenso over the hypocrite's hell. All this time there has been a reckless indifference to the welfare or the woe of others' souls. Surely the evil heart of unbelief is the evil to be lamented above all that generally causes grief. What is the loss of property, of health, of friends, of human favor compared with it!
Both professors of religion and those who have made no such profession should inquire, in view of the admonition we have been considering : Is there in me an evil heart of unbelief? “Take heed," is the word of warning. “ Brethren" dressed ; for it is certain that all that are not united to Christ and
! his people by faith have in them an evil heart of unbelief. Brethren are addressed, because neither their profession nor their experience prevents them from having this fearful possession. Any of you,” says the warning voice. Your station, your pretensions, others' estimate of you, will not make it impossible in your case. Look within : “lest there be in you an evil heart of unbelief.” And to guide your research it may be well to inquire about your views of God himself. Do they affect the heart, either awaking reverence, or love, or trust, or godly sorrow? When you think of God, do you desire his favor above all good; do you lay your property, your plans, your person, your interests at his footstool ; do you desire to cast down every barrier between your soul and him ; does his loveliness, his glory, his love satisfy your soul? Inquire after your plans in life, what are you living for; what pleases you most, or with whom and where you are most contented. Inquire after your ordinary thoughts ; in what channel they run, when you are in the Lord's house, in company, in business, alone. Inquire after your habits of reading, the character of the books you read, your motive in reading them, the impressions they leave on you. Inquire after your conversation; whether the general tenor of it is to promote faitlı or unbelief. There is not so much mystery about the loss of spiritual light and religious joy as many imagine. It is the withdrawal of God's Holy Spirit that accounts for it all. But the reasons of his departure may ordinarily be seen in some of the moles of grieving him here alluded to. We depart from God in one of two ways: by neglecting either the law or the gospel ; by ceasing either to believe or to obey. If we try to obey without faith in Christ, we depart by a legal spirit from the God of grace. If we trust in Christ that we may be saved without obedience, benevolence, self-denial, activity, earnestness in doing right and doing good, we equally depart from the living God. The life of faith may be summarily defined: making Christ our trust, and Christ our example.
BY REV. R. H. SEELEY, SPRINGFIELD, MASS.
THE RELIGIOUS FEELINGS AND ACTIVITIES OF THE UNREGENE
RATE, NOT GENUINE PIETY.
" Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? 0 Judah, what shall I do unto thee ? For your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away."HOSEA 6: 4.
Man was made for religion, just as he was made for human society. He is no more truly adapted by his social nature for association with others of his kind, than he is adapted by his moral nature to possess the affections and fulfill the duties of a religious life.
The entrance of sin into the world has essentially and sadly affected man in both respects. The proper operations of his social nature are marred, misdirected, obstructed, or destroyed by the prevalence of selfishness and evil passions. In like manner the faculties of his religious nature are misdirected, perverted, (or " depraved,") abused, and (80 far as the purposes for which they were created are concerned) destroyed by the selfish and corrupt tendencies which sin has introduced.
Man's abuse of his social nature discovers itself in the contentions, the cruelties, the crimes that are witnessed in families, neighborhoods, and nations, to such an extent that the earth seems like a vast Golgotha covered with the grim and ghastly remains of those who have spent their earthly career in preying on each other's hopes, and happiness, and life.
His abuse of his religious nature appears in the atheisms and impieties, the false religions and superstitions, the errors in doctrine and in practice, which cause the world to appear like another Sodom, in which there is scarcely the proportionate number of the upright to save it from destruction.
Nevertheless, though they are thus seriously and sadly affected in consequence of the fall, neither man's social nor his religious nature is entirely eradicated. Both remain, and, under certain conditions, may be brought into a right state of activity; since proper cultivation in the one case, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost in the other, may give the supremacy to better principles, and bring him to the development of a character for which he vas evidently intended by his Creator.
But if this be so, if man's religious nature is not annihilated, but simply depraved by the fall, it is not unreasonable to suppose that its activities and deveopments in the unregenerate may sometimes resemble those which are witnessed in the truly regenerated children of God.
The text, as we understand it, contains a reference to a case of this kind. The children of Ephraim and Judah are reproved because their “goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew."
The “ goodness" here spoken of is not genuine piety, because those by whom it was exhibited were exceedingly rebellious against the Most High, and were charged with the commission of many severe offenses. But, at times, they appeared to take pleasure in knowing duty and performing it. They were occasionally moved with devotional feelings and made a fair show of piety. But this “goodness" did not spring from the depths of their being. It was not a perpetual product of their life. It was not a "fruit of the Spirit.” Their religious feelings and activities were transient, ineffective, and worthless. They were like a "morning cloud," that, at the opening day, gives promise of a refreshing shower, but which has not sufficient density to keep it together, and, after floating about for a time without results, finally evaporates and disappears. They are like the "early dew,” which looks refreshing and beautiful, as its diamond drops hang trembling on each leaf and flower, but which is dissipated and gone
with the first beams of the risen sun. The text thus teaches us the following important truth, viz.: that the religious feelings and activities of the unregenerate are not genuine piety:
In illustrating this truth, let 118,
I. Contemplate the fact that religious feelings and activities are frequently witnessed in the unregenerate.
This fact may be clearly demonstrated by examples drawn from the Holy Scriptures. In the thirty-third chapter of Ezekiel we are informed that the hearers of the prophet took delight in listening to the truths he spake, and exborted each other to attend the sanctuary. They worshipped with much outward decorum and apparent devoutness, and professed much affection for the prophet, for the truth, and for its Author. But notwithstanding these appearances of piety, they failed in deeds of righteousness. They would not forsake their sins. They were but passive receivers of religious impressions, which were as transient and ineffective as the einotions aroused in the soul by the voice of a pleasant singer, who skilfully accompanies his song with a well-tuned instrument.
The hearers of the prophet Isaiah presented still stronger indications of piety. They sought the Lord daily, and delighted to know his ways. They desired the ordinances of justice, and took delight in approaching to God--in performing the acts of devotion. It is evident, from the description, that their religions na: ture was not annihilated, and that their religious sensibilities were awakened. But they were not truly religious. They still
were wanting in that which constitutes the essence of genuine piety. They still cherished the love of sin, and the prophet is commanded to "cry aloud, and spare not," while he charges their wickedness home upon them.
The case of Herod may also be noticed as somewhat remarkable. He "feared John, knowing that he was a just man, and a holy.” He also took pleasure in listening to his messages of truth, and “ did many things” which John pointed out as religiously right. Nevertheless he was a sinner of the most abandoned character, and soon added to his other crimes that of mur. dering the very man whom, as a religious teacher, he reverenced and on whose words of soberness he hung with gladness.
But perhaps the point on which we are dwelling is nowhere more lucidly illustrated than in the parable of the sower, as ex. plained by our Lord himself. “He that receiveth seed in stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it: yet he hath not root in himself, but dureth for awhile ; for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among thorns, is he that heareth the word ; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful."
Here is at least one class of hearers of the gospel (and perhaps two) who received it with joy—whose religious emotions and activities are aroused by its presentation. But the root of the matter is not in thein, and their essential deficiency is discovered, if they fall into "tribulation or persecution”-into circumstances adapted to test the genuineness of their principles and the strenzth of their religious-devotedness.
What we thus learn from the Holy Scriptures is frequently corroborated by what falls under our own observation. We behold those who are much interested in the truths of the gospel; who fors:ıke their sins to a great extent, for a time; who apparently conform to the Divine requirements, display much religious zeal, and seem to possess much feeling and to have much religious enjoyment. Yet the result proves that they have never experienced the renewing of the Holy Ghost; and when their defection takes place, so much have their religious exercises and activities resembled those of the truly pious, some of us are in doubt whether the genuine children of God have not fallen ; while there are those who are ready to affirm the fact.*
These things are sufficient to convince us that there is, even in fallen human nature, a susceptibility to religious impressions ; that the unregenerate are capable of exercising religious feelings, and putting forth acts of devotion. Indeed, we behold proofs of the fact in the religious emotions and deeds of the barbarous, the pagan and the Mohammedan, as well as of the nominally
• The Arminians.
Christian world. It is seen in the life-long fanaticisms of some devotees of heathenism; and equally as well in the short-lived enthusiasm of some who hear, yet do not permanently profit by the gospel.
II. Let us inquire how these religious feelings and activities are awakened in the unregenerate.
1. In some they may be the result of Education.
Education can produce this effect only on minds naturally of mystical tendency, and such may be trained to it amid the fables of heathenism, and the truths of Christianity.
From time immemorial there have been those among the idol. atrous religionists of India who have practiced methods for bringing the mind into a state of high religious feeling, and even of rapture. For this purpose they observed silence, tranquility, solitude, and contemplation, as the prime conditions of success. To these they added bodily mortifications and exhaustions by means of fasting, denying all the appetites, maintaining a fixed position, and by endeavoring thus to give the soul the complete superiority and control over the body.
From the East these practices were probably introduced among those who professed Christianity in the early ages of the Church; and substantially the same methods were pursued, with substan. tially the same results. It would be difficult to decide which were the most successful, the disciples of Brahma, or those who called themselves by the name of Christ. Both practiced a rig. orous asceticism ; and when bodily privations and exhaustions had, in a manner, overcome the mind's balance, so that a partial insanity was produced, both reached high degrees of rapture, and were, alike, considered saints.
Now there are minds, naturally grave and austere, yet capable of high-wrought feelings and fond of retiring within themselves, which, when educated amid the corresponding influences, are easily and deeply affected, and display strong tendencies to mysticism. If the gloomy, the dreamy, and the austere, rather than the cheerful, the practical, and the social features of religion are presented to them; if they are trained to silence, meditation, and reverie, to practice self-mortifications and think transcendentally; they will probably be gradually moulded into the form of religion of which we are speaking. They will in time be admitted to the experience of its raptures, or its mental and moral quietude, whether they are educated to believe in the Shasters or the Bible.
2. In persons of somewhat cxcitable temperament, religious feelings and activities may be awakened by stirring appeals to the passions.
There are those whose temperaments are nervous, whose sympathies are easily enkindled, over whom the tones of the human voice, modified by the passions, and employed by an ardent, enthusiastic speaker, have a tremendous power. If the intellect of such persons is well cultivated, well disciplined, and well