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include the sum total of our existence, our interest and our happiness would be wholly confined to its concerns; and our religion, if religion in that case were supposable, would correspond with the littleness of our being. But when we contemplate this life as only a preliminary step or passage to a nobler, to a life of endless duration, and in every respect infinitely better adapted to the intention of our moral and rational powers, we must assume very different ideas, and designs; ideas and designs more suitable to our real predicament, and to the real nature of things. In short, we must assume ideas, and cultivate sentiments and con. duct more conformable to the genius and to the precepts of that holy religion, which the christian scriptures inculcate. This religion, which is a constitution of the most perfect wisdom, purity, and goodness, has taught us to “ live above the world;" to " set our affections on things above, and not on things on earth,” to be “ spiritually minded;" to have “our conversation in heaven;" to “ deny ourselves, and to take up our cross, and to follow the Redeemer.” Whatever our earthly bias, or short-sighted wisdom may suggest, this is the religion, and the only religion, which is favourable to the real interest and happiness of the world; and a religion it is, which in its nature evidently involves, and in its precepts evidently requires, all that spirituality and elevation of sentiment, all that abstraction from the world, and all that selfcorrection and self-denial to which, or to the tendencies of which, you object.
It must be admitted, that if this religion in its proper experience and practice were universal, the appearances of things in the world, especially such as are the effect of human industry and art, would be different from what they now are, or in the past ages have been. Those appearances, which you hold in so high estimation, and as so indispensable, are, far the greater part of them, the product, not of the wisdom which God and religion approves, but of the wisdom, that is to say, the vanity, the pride, the ambition, the avarice, the luxury, and even the caprices, of the depraved heart.
Timocles. This, I suspect, is the case in regard to many of the productions of human industry and art; and it is not to be wondered at, if some of them should be useless. But, because some are useless, and even in some respects hurtful, are we therefore to suppose ourselves bound by religion to cherish a frame of mind, which is, I may say, inimical to all, or which at least indisposes to a becoming attention to them?
Eusebius. Forgive me, sir, if I suggest, that your ideas are in
a great measure founded in a misapprehension of the proper ten dency of religion. Its radical principle, as has been observed, is a superior commanding love of God, and benevolence to our fellowmen. Now, where this principle prevails, it will prompt us to a becoming attention to whatever is most pleasing to God, and beneficial to mankind. Whatever in the compass of art or science; whether commerce, or agriculture, or manufacture, or works of mechanism or taste, accords with this pious and benevolent in. tention; or, in the words of the apostle, “ whatever things are just, and true, and pure, and honourable, and amiable, and of good report,” it will think on these things; so think on them as to praca tise them as far as occasion shall require, as ability shall enable, and duty shall prescribe. In this case, the occupations of life will be the proper occupations of religion; their ruling principle will be a principle of religion; and the spirit of religion will be their in. forming and most efficient spirit. I do not say, that in this case, the works of industry and commerce, of taste and genius, will be so numerous, or always so forcibly, or highly wrought; but they will be sufficient in these respects for human use and rational enjoyment: and what need we more?
Timocles. True: but will you allow nothing for the amusement of life, the gratification of fancy, the love of fame, or the passion for civil distinction and renown in arms?
Eusebius. How far, in the several degrees or varieties of them, they may accord with religious principle, our time, I presume, will not permit us to state. We must distinguish them as to their kinds, their measures, and occasions; and some of them we must perhaps altogether reject; at least as altogether unne. cessary either to society or the individual. The love of God and a well regulated benevolence to our species, I believe, would sel. dom prompt us to much ardour and exertion in the most innocent of them. And particularly as to civil distinction (excepting indeed what arises from offices of dignity and usefulness, well executed) and to military glory, I have pleasure in believing, that when genuine, vital, and practical religion shall become universal, as, according to our prophetic scriptures, in some future period it will, there will not only be no need of war, or titles of nobility, but they will be wholly expelled from, and unknown in the world.
Timocles. Well, sir, our time being limited, as you suggest, and as I do not approve of disputation merely for victory, or of discussion for the confirmation of prejudice, I am free to own, that I have not much more to say in support of my assertion; that for my sentiments I am partly indebted to my education,
partly to the prevailing habits and manners of the world, and yet more perhaps to a principle within, or a wantonly indulged habit of thinking too congenial with the general weaknesses, or with, what you justly call, the depravity of mankind. There is propriety and force in much which you have said; and I am convinced that it is more agreeable than my inconsiderate position to the sense and instructions of our holy scripture. Be assured, sir, I shall not with our conversation relinquish the subject, and if, on farther impartial examination, I shall be induced to adopt your way of thinking, I shall not doubt your good wishes, that it may be followed by a competent reformation.
Lusebius. My dear sir, I honour your candid and well meant concessions. You will accordingly allow me to close this dialogue after the manner of St. Paul on a well known occasion: I would to God, that, in event of your proposed examination, you may become, not only almost, but altogether a christian.
OF APOSTATE ANGELS.
It is not certain that the existence of evil spirits, in the usual acceptation of the word, was known either to the Greeks or the Romans. Their infernal deities, even their furies, were not supposed to possess degenerate natures, but to be divinities to whom were entrusted the punishment of wicked actions. It is the part of revelation alone to put us on our guard against a formidable enemy, and either to show what conduct exposes us to danger, or to secure us against every effort of hell to effect our ruin.
It is evident, that the enemy has great advantages against the irreligious.
Let a man habitually take God's name in vain; let him think contemptuously, and speak contemptuously of God's word and ordinances; let him throw off the restraints which the sabbath im. poseth ; deprived of God's grace, and left a prey to the enemy, he grows worse and worse, and the longer he lives, he is the more hostile to religion. In health, he says, there is no God; in sickness, he blasphemes; he discovers much of the temper, and familiarizes himself to the language of those who are in hell. I have known such to evince a bitterness against religion, which could hardly have been supposed to exist in human nature. A person of this character, reading the curses pronounced, in the book of DeuteroDomy, against the wicked, with the fury of an infernal, tore out the leaf and committed it to the flames. Another, with a rashness quite in character, glossing falsely a command of scripture, cut off his right hand, and in the agony of despair, gave up the ghost. However lightly irreligious persons think of their courses, let them be assured, that these expose them to the attack of the roaring lion, and issue in death.
The worldly man is in danger from the enemy. Some, right or wrong, by justifiable or unjustifiable methods, must possess wealth, without any respect to God's providence, or dependence on his blessing. Such fall into temptations and snares; they err from the truth, and pierce themselves through with many sorrows. Such practices cannot be too strongly reprobated. They disgraced the character of Judas. He attached himself to Jesus with worldly Fiews; to the world he sacrificed his soul. Many imitate Judas; every thought is absorbed in this one, how to get rich. I have known some bold enough to avow that this was all their aim, to which every consideration of a moral or religious nature was made to bend; and others, who have not the same degree of effrontery, discovering too plainly by their conduct, that they sacri, fice to Mammon cnly. Nothing so besots the mind. God will never dwell with such persons; he will withdraw, and permit those kindred spirits, whom they so much resemble, to tyrannize over them. Alas! alas! that men should so far forget the dignity of their natures, that they should be so bent on their own destruction, and rush with a mad fury to the regions of despair.
The self-confident fall an easy prey to the enemy of souls. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. In us dwelleth no good thing. Should the will be good, in the performance we often fail. Ignorant of this, many boast with the champion of Israel, when weakened by his own folly, I will arise, as heretofore, and break loose from these Philistines; but God, his strength, was departed from him, and he became the slave and sport of these enemies, who lately dreaded his frown. None are in more danger than those who depend on their own strength. This temper brought Peter among shoals and rocks where he nearly suffered shipwreck. Be jealous of yourselves Happy is he who feareth always. By the grace of God you are what you are. Tremble at the thought of any conduct which might provoke him to leave you, assured that in such circumstances, the enemy
shall prevail against you. Be stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; then evil spirits will have no power over you. They may devour others; Gol will secure his own fold. If at any time they be admitted within the enclosure, for the
trial of your faith, or the correction of your folly, he, to whom you have committed the care of your soul, will most certainly rescue you from the mouth of the devouring lion.
ON THE EVIDENCE OF AN INTEREST IN CHRIST.
MY DEAR SON,
Your last was a letter of much consolation. It produced a very sensible and pleasing verification of that adage of Solomon, that “ a wise son maketh a glad father.” Your general regularity indeed, and your apparent attention at times to “ the things which belong to your peace," before you removed from your father's house, were to me very grateful and promising; yet they did not altogether prevent a degree of painful anxiety, lest, when involved, as you necessarily must be, in the more extensive commerce, multiplied cares, and promiscuous society of the world, your mind should be gradually warped and seduced, perhaps into certain indulgences, which I know you had seriously regretted, and with seeming resolution renounced. Blessed be God, who, in his sove. reign grace, has been pleased thus far to obviate the dangers I so much dreaded, and even more, as I trust, to give you part in that portion, which cannot be taken away from you. Would lo heaven, I could say the same of your otherwise amiable brother. But he is indeed too giddy and wild. Our worthy pastor, however, often tells me I must not despair.
From the account which you appear to have so candidly and unreservedly given, of the recently renewed exercises of your mind, it is evident, that the good Spirit of God has been very impressively dealing with you. And I cannot but presume, that he has led you into such views of yourself, of your need of Christ, and of the freeness, riches, and power of his grace, as to induce you to make an entire surrender of yourself unto him, and to resolve in good faith, that, through his grace enabling you, you will henceforth, as a true disciple, “ deny yourself, and take up your cross and follow him.” For your years, (though your good sense, united with uncommon filial respect, prevented you from the excesses of many others) you had known enough of the ways of vanity and the world. I hope you have now attained to some ex. perimental knowledge of the difference between their pleasures, and those of that wisdom, whose ways 6 are ways of pleasantness, and all whose paths are peace."