« PreviousContinue »
our fears, but the danger apprehended was very easily accounted for we were not of the true faith.
As we knew from the first all argument would be in vain, and that the least opposition to their creed would probably deprive use of their friendly conversation, we carefully avoided everything which might be offensive to their religious opinions, and endeavoured to do them good, by judicious observations, intermixed with appropriate passages of Scripture. .. That was our only chance of reaching their hearts; and we made the effort, trusting and praying that God would fasten the truth on their minds, and thus lead them to a saving knowledge of himself. Their company beguiled our time, but did not shorten the journey, and reaching Pettigo, we found it was near ten o'clock. Where the pilgrims found accommodation for the night, we knew not; but reaching our inn, we very soon retired to rest, grateful for the blessings of Providence, and still more deeply impressed by a sense of our obligations to divine grace.
(To be continued.)
THE BACKSLIDER RECLAIMED.
BROTHER B-was convinced of sin and converted to God in early life. For a season he made religion his duty and delight. The Bible, the closet, the services of the sanctuary, and the communion of saints, were wells of salvation from which he frequently obtained large communications of satisfying joy. But after awhile he fell from his steadfastness. In an evil hour of temptation he tasted the cup of worldly pleasure and lost the favour of God. Then he ceased to meet in class, turned away his feet from the house of the Lord, and became a companion of those who sought happiness in carnal gratifications. One sin led to another, and he went from bad to worse till he became exceedingly vile, fulfilling the desires of the flesh by drunkenness and its attendant iniquities. Personal debasement, and heartfelt misery, were the fruits of his wickedness. His character was lost, his peace was broken up,
memory was filled with painful recollections, and his soul was overwhelmed with the horrors of remorse. At length, the mere sight of his Bible and hymn-book became hateful to him. They reminded him of holier and happier hours, when he walked in the way of righteousness, and rejoiced in hope of the glory of God. With the design of preventing the recurrence of these anguish-exciting reminiscences, he removed those precious books from his habitation. Years rolled away, and children grew up around him, exposed to the polluting and destructive influence of his ungodly example. But this did not restrain him. Not caring for his own soul, he cared not for their souls. Suddenly death entered his family and struck down one of his little ones. Still he did not stop in his mad career. The startling event was treated with indifference. He hardened his heart, buried his loss in forgetfulness, and persisted in working wick earnestly with both hands. God might justly have cut him off in his sins, and consigned him to everlasting woe; but justice lingered, and mercy triumphed. Another breach was made in his domestic circle; a second child was taken seriously ill, and the sickness was unto death. This child had been a scholar in Woodside Sabbath-school. , The instructions given to her had produced a salutary impression upon her heart; hence, when ready to die, she prayed that the blessing of God might descend on her sisters, and brothers, and parents. The last Sabbath in the year 1844 was the day of her departure into a better world. A short time before she expired, having lifted up her voice in prayer
for the other members of the family, she inquired for her father. It is a melancholy fact, that although the day was the Sabbath, and his child was dying, he was indulging in sottishness at the ale bench. He was sent for.
When he came, the voice of the dying child poured forth a fervent prayer to God in his behalf, and soon afterwards it became silent in death, while the soul which had prompted its utterance ascended to heaven. A solemn scene ensued. There stood the conscience-stricken father--there lay the corpse of the sainted child, and around it were gathered his weeping wife and surviving children. This stroke of Jehovah's rod fell effectually on his rocky heart, and penitence and prayer gushed forth. With trembling, he locked the door of his habitation, and fell on his knees amidst his family, imploring the mercy of God. The next Sabbath—the first in the year 1845~he wandered anxiously into the burial-ground of Salem Chapel, and being found there by brother Collins was encouraged to enter the Chapel, and unite with the congregation in religious worship. He continued to attend the house of God, sought salvation with his whole heart, and became a member of our society. In a few months he obtained, by prayer and faith in the blood of Christ, a sense of forgiving grace; his backslidings were healed; he was loved freely, and the Holy Spirit was sent into his heart crying, “ Abba, Father.” He continues to run well, rejoicing in the Lord, and usefully employing his talents as a teacher in Woodside school. Our hope is, that he will be kept by the power of God through faith unto eternal life.
P. J. WRIGHT.
THE POWER OF NATURE OVER THE HUMAN MIND.
The works of nature were designed by our Creator to exert a powerful influence over the human mind. They were brought into existence to represent his character and exhibit his ineffable glory. A revelation, spiritual in its nature and objects, would not be suitable to impress us, had it not the material universe for its foundation. The laws of intellect, as found in man, require that there should be an appeal to the senses, before there is an appeal to the spiritual part of our constitution; and, consequently, such a system as Christianity presupposes a prior manifestation of God, through a material medium. Our ideas of omnipotence, omnipresence, and eternity, are inseparably associated with the physical universe. If the mind desire to enlarge these sentiments, it involuntarily resorts to this instrumentality, and amid the wonder of a far-extending universe, quickens its conceptions of the native grandeur of Jehovah. It is therefore not strange, that the inspired writers should pay so much deference to nature. If they were not philosophers by profession, they were in fact; and prompted by its instructions, they maintained the importance and dignity of the elder revelation. Had they depreciated na
ture to elevate inspiration, there would at once have been an interruption of their harmony, and so far from gaining any advantage thereby, Christianity would have lost one of its strongest authentications.
The introduction of sin has so weakened the intellect and corrupted the heart, that the influence of nature has been diminished. It has not, however, been destroyed. All morbid action of mind and matter is but a diversion of said action from its original law. The power of nature is now seen in the false uses made of it. First of these abuses of the material universe—first in its intellectual connections--and first in its pernicious agency,
is the doctrine of Atheism. It is the most remarkable form of that original sentiment--the love of nature. The essence of this system is a subordination of the intellect to the senses. The laboured reasonings of an atheistic mind are based on the supposition, that nature gives evidence of a God; and thus the Atheist and the Theist start at the same point. The position of the Atheist is offensive--that of the Theist is defensive. No mortal man is competent to the task of sustaining the withering hypothesis of Atheism. The variety and number of the objects indicating a supreme wisdom and a sovereign power, render the undertaking of the Atheist perfectly hopeless. To decide this momentous question, he would have to make the circuit of the globe, and investigate all its laws and collocations. If he were to omit the examination of a single flower, or neglect a solitary object, that flower, that object might be the very thing that would demonstrate the being and attributes of God. If he were to avoid one secluded vale, that vale might teem with the proofs of a divine skill, and smile in the glory of the creative hand. The usual evidence employed by Atheists to establish their system, illustrates its weakness and its entire want of adaptation to the popular mind. The metaphysical argument, on which so much stress is laid, cannot be comprehended by the ordinary classes of intellect, even supposing it had any claims to credence. To be an Atheist, it may be safely said, a man must leave the common and familiar paths of reason, and resort to labyrinthine walks of pure metaphysics. How can the crowd ever be induced to do this? The history of Atheism proves the truth of this observation. Its tenets were confined to a few philosophers in ancient Greece and Rome. Despite of the genius of Hume, it made no progress among the less erudite classes of society. The best safeguard against error is generally found in strong, manly, common sense; and common sense is usually the inheritance of those who have not educated their genius to the destruction of their native wisdom.
Men too often overlook the great fact, that intellect is only safe in its moral investigations when the heart, regulated by honest principles, accompanies it. The rise and progress of Atheism have been marked by intellectual features alone. The truth of the divine existence addresses the moral sense and the moral feelings as much as the intellect. It is by their instrumentality, that we chiefly sympathize with it. A man may forget his moral nature, if he be demonstrating a problem in Euclid, but not if he be sitting in judgment on the probabilities of Jehovah's being. The cases are not similar; the same principles and laws are not involved. Is it at all singular, then, that in the intellectual days of Greece and France, when moral principle was so much discarded, that intellect should have elevated Atheism on the imagined ruins of the Divine throne? There is a blindness that springs from gazing too long and too intently on the dazzling sun; and is this to be charged to the want of light, or to its abundance ? Thus it is with mene intellect Without reverence for the sublime name of God-without affection for the attributes of God with out a veil for its profane visionit rushes into too close contact with Him. who dwells in unapproachable light, and, omitten with sudden darkness, turns to the humble multitude, and pours forth its teeble vengeance in denying the existence of the universal Sovereign,
The social feelings of man have two objects. The ope is God; the other is his fellow. The noblest form of these sentiments is religion. A man is just as much necessitated to seek society in God, if he would realize the dignity and pleasure of his social nature, as he is to have in tercourse with the brotherhood of the world. If now, the human tendencies of our social feelings were diverted from their appropriate channels-if man were to blot out the memory of all those whose images constitute the inner companionship of the spirit--and turn coldly away from the friends that share in his sorrows and joys, could he replace the vacancy with any object in nature ? The same fact applies to the other form of the social sentiment. If man exclude the idea of God from his mind, and cast away the golden censer, with which, as a worshipping priest, he should minister humbly and thankfully before the high altar of the highest heaven, what can he expect, but that a melancholy want, of intercourse with God should torment his bereaved spirit? The idea of God is powerful even with those who do not profess personal religion. It is a refuge in distress. It is the endorsement of virtue. It is the pledge of immortality. It is the safeguard of truth. It is the defence of law. It is the preservative of life. It is the basis of morality. Tell us not, if this idea be abandoned, man can find companionship in the works of nature. Tell us not, that the circling skies and the fresh landscape will charm his spirit and minister to his delights. Never, never. If the material universe be chance work, it is nothing to us, for there is no provision within us for sympathy with chance, and, of consequence, none with its productions. Separate God from his universe, and the beauty of the stars fades, and the splendour of the sun vanishes; a double curse then falls upon man--the curse of depravity, and the curse of orphanage!
The power of nature is seen in the superstition that it engenders in uncultivated and misguided minds. Whenever superstition assumes the form of religion, it becomes the dominant principle of the bosom, and sways a sovereignty of the most fearful character. The elements of true religion, are wisdom, fear, and hope; the elements of superstition are ignorance and fear. The check on fear is removed by the absence of hope, and the channel in which it should run is destroyed by the prevalence of ignorance. Invested with the supremacy of the inner nature, bound by no law, fear becomes the tyrant of the spirit. Its requirements are without mercy, and its punishments without compassion. It changes good into evil. It has no blessings to bestow, except at the expense of the direst tortures. Its eye is fixed more on hell than heaven. Wherever intellectual imbecility has been found, there it has met with its congenial soil. Asiatic nations, reposing under a sultry sky, and luxuriating amid the riches of nature, have ever shown its horrible features in the fullest degree. If Mohammedanism did no other good, it served to curtail its power, though in the end it developed principles pernicious to morals and society. The milder forms of superstition are built upon
appearances and occurrences of nature. If they have not a religious cast, still they are to be viewed as injurious to the mind.
Thelcroak of the raveni near the house will alarm thel timid mother's and lead her to apprehend that death is approaching with its uplifted seeptre. The howling of a dog before the door will awaken similar apprehensions. The fall of a looking-glass will throw the fancy into a violenti state of feverish excitement. A dream will haunt its subject from day! to day. Any undertaking commenced on Friday must needs result. unsudeessfully. Various other forms of popular superstition abound. The foundation principle of all such superstitions is an erroneous view of the economy of Providence. The policy of that economy
Its wisdom is anrevealed_its purposes are hidden. If it were revealed, its nature would at once be changed "and its objects thwarted. Does not superstition arrogate far too much to itself when it presumes to determine on the divine procedures by such insignificant circumstances ? Does it not invade Jehovah's own chosen dominion, girted around with dark clouds, and take the attitude of his anointed prophet? If such things be worthy of regard, it must be either because they belong to nature or miracles. Do they belong to nature? No, for their unnaturalness is the supposed ground of confidence in them. Do they belong to miraculous interferences ? Then, where is their warrant? where is the promise on which they are rested? The ancient object of miracles was to attest truth, bat, in this instance, it is to announce truth.
The faults of early education, no doubt, give rise to these superstitious tendencies. A foolish nurse may impart such a bias to a child's mind, as'! that its imagination will be ever divining futurity from the most familiar circumstances. Impressions made upon the susceptible intellect before reason can think and decide, seldom obey the laws of a regulated mind. Arguments cannot reach them. The channel of the canal may be dug, but who can draw lines by which the river shall run? The wayward faney often gets the start of reason and becomes uncontrollable.
Any warrant drawn from certain facts in Scripture, in confirmation of 1 superstitious signs, must be regarded as unauthorized. If Jehovah did, in olden times, speak in dreams and visions, it was in fulfilment of a great plan that he was executing. Are circumstances similar now? If the prophetical system were maintained once, does it follow that it is now in operation? The object of all those miraculous interferences was to bring the world into such a condition as to render miraculous interferences undesirable and unnecessary. That condition has been secured. No man has now any right to look for the will of Jehovah beyond the Bible, and the fixed ordinations of nature. If he do, he depreciates these standards, and by multiplying forms of revelation, enfeebles the great principles on which true revelation stands.
Nature is full of charms to the contemplative mind. There is a charm in the silent roll of the seasons, is there not? See the spring coming forth crowned with flowers. Beautiful, most beautiful. The morning stars are almost ready to sing again over it. Let them be still; we ask not their music; spring has its own songsters. The choir of nature is complete; all tenor and treble voices. If the raven put in his hoarse bass voice, we will not listen, for the sound is not sweet. All tenor voices ! Bush and tree, vale and hill-side, all vocal with the inspired and inspiring melody. Let no man undervalue music; it is God's gift to the birds God's gift to our hearts; for many a tune is sung within, that the voice cannot utter! Do you complain of the capriciousness of spring? Pray,