Page images
PDF
EPUB

ART. VI.—THOUGHTS ON DEVELOPEMENT OF .

CHARACTER.

It has been frequently asserted that this life is the education of the Spirit of Man for Eternity. It is as constantly observed that this education does not increase his happiness.—Yet knowledge is power, and the exercise of power one of the highest gratifications of humanity, a shadow of the attribute of the Eternal. Whence, then, arises the blight of disappointment in our experience ?

Great and unknown powers lie hid in the human soul, and we may believe that to make man acquainted with his own powers and capacities is one of the great purposes of their exercise upon the things of Time. To educate is to develope, to draw forth, not to create. It is most true that here “ we see through a glass darkly," and that it hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive the things that shall be hereafter, yet God is constantly teaching us by facts, and our reception of these facts constitutes the most vital difference between one individual and another. The truth, the right exist in God alone, and the nearer approach that the creature makes to view creation as the Creator does, the more elevated becomes his character, and the more extended and unchangeable his capacity for enjoyment.

But to attain this blessedness we must listen to the still small voice within, which is our only present communication with the Father of our spirits, and we must most ardently strive that the voices of fellow mortals shall not be mistaken for our own convictions and experience. At all times in this life, this danger must be around us, for that which acts upon us from without appears to give impulse, (that is, thought and feeling) to our own actions. Our own power of self-command decides what influence we allow to individual circumstances. The struggle to banish or to encourage particular trains of thought or feeling, is oft-times fearfully severe, yet it is but the Christian warfare, on which we should rightfully expend that energy of spirit, that in the past history of man has shed over this beauteous earth the orphan's and the widow's tear; and after the battle with the weapons which Christ hath given to us, shall we not inherit his best legacy of peace, and feel, deeply feel, the reward does indeed more than repay the suffering? As soon as we become conscious that in following the ways and words of those around us, we are not faithful to the voice within, the warfare commences. We then make our choice to serve God or Mammon; to love the world and the things of it, or to give up all for

Christ's sake. In some this independence of thought appears never even to be called up; the sport of their own and other's passions they pass on their way in alternate temporary triumphs and strugglings,—the past brings no teachings of experience, the future opens to them no visions of better grounded hope,for they have not stepped aside from the din and bustle of the world to commune with their own hearts and be still,—they have not prayed to their Father in secret, when they have shut the door of outward influence,—they have cast aside the high privilege of man, the poetry of his nature, through the seen to view the unseen : and without an effort to realize the bright visions which surely do visit every youthful heart, they follow in the beaten track of folly, indifference or sin, with perchance one scarce acknowledged sigh over those departed dreams.

But still if they have felt them, they were once real. Could they but remain, what joyous light would they cast over the whole of our existence! What thought so calculated to make us enthusiastically elevated above all the petty trials and vexations that cast a gloom over the fair countenances of the children of this world, as to view the One Great Spirit in every event-to realize in all around the workings of His will towards a result which we know not yet. And is it not in the power of man to cherish this supporting truth, that it shall not, like the early dew of morning, only throw refreshing fragrance around his first awakening, but by sinking deep into his strong convictions, becomes the unseen, yet vital spring, that gives force and energy to withstand all the withering influences of the world's noon-tide glare? If we take the world's opinion, and we shall generally find it correct as to the past-we must look into our own spirits for the future, the happiest time of life is youth, with all its glorious dreams of beauty and adoration of perfection—when the spirit yet untarnished by the selfishness of after years, and ignorant of the sin of temptation yielded to, has most recently departed from the hand of its Creator. It hath never felt the withering breath of disappointment, nor hath the dark curtain of sorrow been drawn before the bright light of confiding faith. Oh blessed youth! thou art indeed a lovely vision—why art thou so fleeting? Because, in thy loveliness, there is no strengththy innocence is not virtue; thy ignorance is bliss, but it cannot last; and though thy God hath made thee upright, thou wilt seek out thine own inventions.

And yet knowledge, experience, is power—a fearful power for good or evil, for lasting happiness or woe. Its evil consists in its imperfection, its partiality. In the present the past is constantly forgotten. It is as real and the memory of past happiness should lead to the power of its reproduction, by a true deduction of cause and effect. In the life of a moral agent, experience speaks of successive enjoyments and sufferings. Every individual we may suppose has been conscious at times of the “ brighter happier hour” in which he has felt that mere existence was a blessed boon from on high. We are then made capable of happiness, we have faculties whose exercise, and affections whose gratification are productive of exquisite enjoyment to us. But this does not last. The scenes that once called them up affect us in the same way no longer. Because one of the laws of Man's nature is progression. It is intended that we should put away childish things, but that our powers should be evolved, not new ones created that on higher and still higher objects they should be exercised. Now sufferings here spring from the sins of others, as well as our own. This was the case in the sufferings of Christ, our perfect example: thus he “ bare the sins of the whole world," and thus we must be partakers with him while living in a world of sinners—men who depart in aught from the will of God. It becomes, therefore, a great and holy duty to separate in our experience the results of our own actions and those of others; and herein we constantly deceive ourselves. When swayed by strong feeling or passions that have led us out of the moderation of perfect sanity of thought, we ever accuse others as the cause of our griefs ; while the gentle-hearted who have yielded the inward voice of conviction to the felt firm tones of authority, when the long-cherished hope is past for ever, and they hear around but those demon words of human pride, “I told you so," scarce dare to listen to that inward voice which yet will whisper, “had I followed my own judgment it might have been different.” If fear of man has wholly closed the eye of faith, they deem as erringly that more self-knowledge has indeed been sent to check the presumptuous daring of their souls, and from the trials in which they would willingly have offered up their lives they carry but the memory and the prospect of being the occasion of added sins and sufferings. But, oh! let them turn to our unerring guide. His words will lead through all earthly entanglements; and while gratefully embracing every means to their brighter comprehension afforded by the written or spoken words of others, in acting, let them never, never forget we must follow our own interpretations alone, or “ we are ashamed to confess Him before men.”

A. N.

Art. VII.-AN APOSTOLICAL HARMONY OF THE GOSPELS : founded upon the most Ancient Opinion respecting the Duration of our Saviour's Ministry, and exhibiting the Succession of Events in close accordance with the Order of the two Apostolical Evangelists. With Dissertations, Notes, and Maps. Second Edition. By LANT CARPENTER, LL.D. 8vo. pp. clxii, 304. London, Longman and Co.; Philp and Evans, Bristol ; James Munroe and Co., Boston, U.S. 1838.

“ WHATEVER alterations in the translation, or in the arrangement of the passages for comparison, the Author thought likely to render his work more useful to the Scripturalist, he has deemed it a duty to make; and in every other way in which he believed he could improve it, whether in the Harmony itself, or in the Dissertations, he has done all in his power to bring it into a state in which he might leave it with satisfaction to himself, to prepare other works which he has for many years had in contemplation.”—p. viii.

We have much pleasure in calling the attention of our readers to a Second Edition of this very valuable and carefully elaborated work, and tendering our best thanks to the Author for the aid he has afforded to the Christian student who desires to know the certainty concerning those things wherein he has been instructed.

Into the critical considerations connected with harmonies of the Gospel history in general, or with the distinctive features of Dr. Carpenter's arrangement in particular, we do not now enter, as the whole subject has been discussed in recent publications, accessible to most of our readers, in connexion with the former edition of the work before us.* We will only express the conviction, founded on a careful and continuous examination of the recorded deeds and words of the Prophet of Nazareth, that the fundamental principles of the “ Apostolical harmony," viz. the Bipaschal Duration of Christ's Ministry, the general preferableness of Matthew's Order, and the reference of John vi, 4, to the Passover of the Crucifixion, are those in which the majority of inquirers will ultimately acquiesce. The Author has, we conceive, been eminently successful in combining that simplicity of result which is a characteristic test of truth, with a cautious economy of conjecture, and a grave deference to documentary

* See Christian Teacher, March 1837 ; Christian Reformer, November and December 1837; and Boston Christian Examiner, March 1837.

evidence, which are among the rarest virtues of the simplifying theorist.

The alterations and additions of the present edition, although merely in matters of detail, and such as to leave the value of the former essentially unimpaired, are yet sufficiently numerous and important to claim for it the careful attention of the student. They consist chiefly in—a different arrangement of some sections of Luke's Gnomology, restoring them to the order in which the historian left them; analyses of Mark's and Luke's Records of our Lord's Ministry in Galilee, and of Luke's Gnomology (superseding Appendices C and D of the first edition); observations respecting the origin of the first three Gospels, with reference to the question, whether, and to what extent, the Evangelists employed one common record; notices of the seasons and weather in Palestine, from Buhle's Economical Calendar,' exhibiting results remarkably confirmatory of Dr. C.'s arrangement as compared with that of the earlier Bipaschal Harmonists; and a revision of the translation, together with copious additions to the notes. The translation, in particular, we regard with much satisfaction. It appears to us the happiest attempt yet made to unite with that venerable simplicity of the Common Version, which the heart will not relinquish, every emendation that critical accuracy and the present usages of our language really require.

We hope that this admirable volume will not be laid by on the book-shelves of our brethren in the ministry, in company with those works of reference which are never referred to. The essential advantages which it offers to the theologian, enabling him to 16 retrace with readiness, and in a clear and simple succession, the most momentous occurrences in the records of the human race," may be imparted by every Christian teacher to every Christian congregation; and we can scarcely think of any greater service that a minister could render to his hearers than the popularizing of this lucid and beautiful Calendar of the Acceptable Year of the Lord. Of all the forms in which religious and moral instruction can be imparted, we can imagine none more efficacious,-and efficacious for a greater variety of purposes,—than a continuous series of discourses exhibiting the facts of the Gospel history in their real dimensions and relations, as well moral as historical. Distinctness of conception, depth of conviction, variety and yet unity of interest, force of moral appeal,-every result of the preacher's art may, we believe, be attained more readily by this very simple agency, than by any other that the nature of pulpit instruction admits of. Whatever of good there is in our lectures on the evidences,

« PreviousContinue »