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iniquity; for they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb;" perishing as that high-minded Power, which the Prophet speaks of, who sat in the seat of God, as if wiser than Daniel, and acquainted with all secrets, till at length he was cast out from the holy place as profane, in God's good time. Our plain business, in the meantime, is to ascertain and hold fast our appointed station in the troubled scene, and then to rid ourselves of all dread of the future; to be careful, while we freely cultivate the Reason in all its noble functions, to keep it in its subordinate place in our nature : while we employ it industriously in the service of Religion, not to imagine that, in this service, we are doing any great thing, or directly advancing its influence over the heart; and, while we promote the education of others in all useful knowledge, to beware of admitting any principle of union, or standard of reward, which may practically disparage the supreme authority of Christian fellowship. Our great danger is, lest we should not understand our own principles, and should weakly surrender customs and institutions, which go far to constitute the Church what she is, the pillar and ground of moral truth,—lest, from a wish to make religion acceptable to the world in general, more free from objections than any moral system can be made, more immediately and visibly beneficial to the temporal interests of the community than God's comprehensive appointments condescend to be, we betray it to its enemies; lest we rashly take the Scriptures from the Church's custody, and commit them to the world, that is, to what is called public opinion; which men boast, indeed, will ever be right on the whole, but which, in fact, being the opinion of men, who, as a body, have not cultivated the internal moral sense, and have externally no immutable rules to bind them, is, in religious questions, only by accident right, or only on very broad questions, and tomorrow will betray interests which to-day it affects to uphold.
3 Ezek. xxviii. 3. 16.
However, what are the essentials of our system, both in doctrine and discipline; what we may safely give up, and what we must firmly uphold; such practical points are to be determined by a more mature wisdom than can be expected in a discussion like the present, or indeed can be conveyed in any formal treatise. It is a plainer and a sufficiently important object, to contribute to the agitation of the general subject, and to ask questions which others are to answer.
PERSONAL INFLUENCE, THE MEANS OF
PROPAGATING THE TRUTH.
Preached January 22, 1832.
Hebr. xi. 34.
“ Out of weakness were made strong."
The history of the Old Testament Saints, conveyed in these few words, is paralleled or surpassed in its peculiar character by the lives of those who first proclaimed the Christian dispensation. « Behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves," was the warning given them of their position in the world, on becoming Evangelists in its behalf. Their miraculous powers gained their cause a hearing, but did not protect themselves. St. Paul records the fulfilment of our Lord's prophecy, as it contrasts the A postles and mankind at large, when he declares, “Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed, we intreat; we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day!.” Nay, these words apply not only to the unbelieving world; the Apostle had reason to be suspicious of his Christian brethren, and even to expostulate, on that score, with his own converts, his “ beloved sons.” He counted it a great gain, such as afterwards might be dwelt upon with satisfaction, that the Galatians did not despise nor reject him on account of the infirmity which was in his flesh; and, in the passage already referred to, he mourns over the fickleness and coldness of the Corinthians, who thought themselves wise, strong, and honourable, and esteemed the Apostles as fools, weak, and despised.
Whence, then, was it, that in spite of all these impediments to their success, still they succeeded? How did they gain that lodgment in the world, which they hold down to this day, enabling them to perpetuate principles distasteful to the majority even of those who profess to receive them? What is that hidden attribute of the Truth, and how does it act, prevailing, as it does, single-handed, over the many and multiform errors, by which it is simultaneously and incessantly attacked ?
Here, of course, we might at once refer its success to the will and blessing of Him who revealed it, and who distinctly promised that He would be present with it, and with its preachers, “ alway, even unto the end.” And, of course, by realizing this in our
"1 Cor. iv. 12, 13.
minds, we learn dependence upon His grace in our own endeavours to recommend the Truth, and encouragement to persevere. But it is also useful to inquire into the human means by which His Providence acts in the world, in order to take a practical view of events as they successively come before us in the course of human affairs, and to understand our duty in particulars; and, with reference to these means, it is now proposed to consider the question. Here, first of all,
It is plain that we cannot rightly ascribe the influence of moral truth in the world to the gift of miracles, which was entrusted to the persons who promulgated it in that last and perfect form, in which we have been vouchsafed it; that gift having been withdrawn with the first preaching of it. Nor, again, can it be satisfactorily maintained that the visible Church, which the miracles formed, has taken their place in the course of Divine Providence, as the basis, strictly speaking, on which the Truth rests ; though doubtless it is the appointed instrument, in even a fuller sense than the miracles before it, by which that Truth is conveyed to the world : for, though it is certain that a community of men, who, as individuals, were but imperfectly virtuous, would, in the course of years, gain the ascendancy over vice and error, however well prepared for the contest, yet no one pretends that the visible Church is thus blest; the Epistle to the Corinthians sufficiently showing, that, in all ages, true Christians, though