« AnteriorContinua »
formity with the language of our Redeemer.
" In patience possess ye’your souls." “ Be faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Hope is given us for our consolation; and consolation is intended for those who need it. The nature of this heavenly grace implies that we are at present subjected to trials, which prove and exercise our faith; which are sufficient to arouse and invigorate the mind, but never to overwhelm it. The Christian's path is beset with snares; and happy, happy they, who at the close of life, when they cast their eyes backwards, can behold the traces of suffering, but not of sin. Tears and anguish of heart are indeed the proper consequences of guilt, at once its punishment and its cure: the tears that flow for any other cause, are only yielded to the infirmity of our nature. And these are quickly wiped away, where the heart is right with God. For patience, courage, and fortitude, are as essential to the character of the complete Christian, as the fairest graces of piety. We dishonour God, if we distrust his faithfulness; we deny our Redeemer, if we are afraid “to take the cross, and follow after him." The road is not long, and it leads direct to heaven. How can we think it sad, when we recollect who it is that sustains, and whither he conducts us!
Still unmoved let Hope remain,
Fixed on true substantial joy:
Pains torment, or cares annoy:
Smile with charins unknown before,
Mourn her blasted joys no more:
Though earthly glories fade away,
Yet still more bright the prospect shall appear,
Brightest far the parting ray:
Till death at length shall burst the chain,
Then shall Hope her power resign, Lost in endless ecstasy,
And never-fading joy in heaven's full glories reign*.
Poems and Essays, by the fate Miss Bowdler.
CHRISTIANITY, among its many excellencies, has this peculiar advantage over every other system of ethical instruction, that it exhibits to its disciples, in the image of their Divine Master, a perfect model of all the virtues and graces which it enjoins. In the character of Him who died upon the cross for our redemption, we behold every element of Christian perfection, happily and harmoniously combined; occupying its proper station, exhibited in its just proportions, and actively exercised towards the only worthy ends of our existence, the glory of God and the welfare of our fellow-creatures. The picture of Jesus Christ pourtrayed by the Evangelists differs from the divine and moral precepts embodied in their writings, as a living man from his anatomy; so that to a mind deeply versed in the Sacred Writings, and imbued (through the power of God), with their true spirit, there is perhaps no method for solving practical difficulties so short and satisfactory, as to conceive for a moment a scene in Judea, and consider what course of conduct our Saviour would have adopted himself, or recommended to others, under similar circumstances. Only we must recollect, that it is always necessary to study a model accurately, which we propose to adopt for an authority.
If this living image of Christian excellence be deserving of our most attentive contemplation, for our instruction in the true spirit and proper limits of the active and social duties, it possesses a still higher value in respect to those spiritual sentiments which form a very large part of the Christian character, and distinguish it so advantageously from every other. These it is plainly difficult to define by a written rule; and as they are not so directly and visibly connected with the system of social life as the principles of justice and benevolence, to determine their nature and offices expérimentally proves a slow and somewhat ambiguous process. Hence perhaps, in part, it has happened, that many persons, whose imaginations have been affected" by religion, without any real conversion of heart, have been enabled, by exhibiting extraordinary appearances of spirituality in their conversation and manners, to deceive :: for a time some truly pious and experienced Christians Thus Montanus and Manes acquired, in former days, a share of credit and consequence which their practical merits never would have produced for them; and Munzer, and the other celestial prophets, as they were called, who, i in the days of Luther, excited the rustic war, and at last perished miserably in their sins, were able, for a time, by a sort of ecstatic devotion, and lofty claims to inspiration, to deceive even the excellent and sagacious Melancthon. Hence too, in part, it may be explained why many pious Christians have, in different ages, been led into injudicious and mischievous excesses, which have supplied topics of ridicule to the profane and ignorant, while they have awakened the concern and exercised the humility of their Christian brethren. Instances of this second description will occur, I fear, but too easily to every reader. I need
only allude to the old Ascetics, the French Quietists, and the followers of Swedenborgh * in the North. Each of these is entitled, as a class, to be numbered among real Christians, and all certainly subjected Christianity to some reproach by their departure from the Gospel-standard of spiritual perfection.
Much of the delusion, and many of the errors and irregularities, which ecclesiastical historians have in general too faithfully recorded, would, doubtless, never have occurred, had Christians in every age been more careful to consider and appreciate the character of their Divine Master. The spiritual affections which glowed in his bosom, were equally tranquil and energetic; neither breaking forth into wild and ecstatic fervours, nor sinking into contemplative inactivity. Their internal warmth and vigour undoubtedly exceeded all that we can think or speak; yet these appeared, not in the vehemence of his emotions, but in the activity of his benevolence, the constancy of his fortitude, his steady disregard of worldly gratifications, his unconquerable devotion to the service of his Heavenly Father. Every holy principle knew in him its proper station and office; all acted harmoniously together; and all concurred to form that heavenly temper which was visible in the whole tenor of his ministry, which raised him above the world even while he was in it, and which (from the imperfection perhaps of language) we have no better term to designate, than-Spiritual-mindedness.
* The reveries of Count Swedenborgh were very strange and enthusiastic. Yet he appears to have been sound in the essentials of faith and practice. Those who knew him, represent him to have been a pattern of benevolence and humility. See his Treatise concerning the New Jerusalem, particularly the articles, Repentance, Regeneration, and on the Lord.