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of the Holy Scriptures; Bibliographical Appendix, part ii, chap. v, section iii.
The substance of this view of the verse may here be presented in a few words. To know is to be taken in its idiomatic sense, for to make known, or to reveal. It will then read thus:-" But that day and that hour no man shall make known, no, not the angels, neither the Son, but the Father." And he will do it only when the day and hour shall arrive. Considered in this light the whole is plain, and does not in the least reflect either on the divinity of Christ, or the intelli. gence of angels. And were we even to take it as it stands, and say that the angels do not know when the final judgment will occur, this would only be affirming that they have no knowledge of futurity, i. e., that they are not prescient. But this does not affect their acquaintance with the past, nor the information they may be gaining at present: it only makes them less than God; for he alone can see into the remote ages of futurity.
Thus the principal places in the Bible, where the doctrine of angelic knowledge is mentioned, have been examined and illustrated; and it remains to add a few reflections for our own personal benefit.
1. We should feel and express the sincerest gratitude to God for remembering man in his low estate, while he passed by, and left unre. deemed, fallen angels, who were originally of a higher intellectual grade than Adam and his posterity. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and love of God! The seed of Abraham was more compassionately regarded by infinite Benevolence, though of an humbler order, than the wretched spirits of darkness who once had such refined natures, and such powerful minds!
"Shout, earth and heaven, this sum of good to man!"
2. We should receive great encouragement in treading the path of literature, science, and religion, from the progressive improvement of celestial beings. We have minds of the same nature, though not of the same order. Yet we may grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. From the alphabet of a language we may proceed to the acquisition of its richest treasures. From the first principles of science we may rise to all its profound mysteries. And from the elements of religion we may ascend to its height, fathom its depth, and explain its length and its breadth, until we shall be lost in the shore. less, bottomless ocean of redemption, and God shall be all in all!
For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.
A PLEA FOR SABBATH SCHOOLS.
Delivered in Binghamton, New-York, October 6, 1839.
BY J. CROSS, OF THE ONEIDA CONFERENCE.
SABBATH schools have been appropriately denominated "nurseries of piety." They are important auxiliaries of the cause of Christ, and incalculable are the benefits which they confer upon a community. They have been "weighed in the balance," and are not "found want.
ing." They have passed the ordeal of persecution, and come forth as gold from the furnace; and under the auspices of Christian philanthropy, the labors of sanctified talent, and the blessing of almighty God, we now behold them increasing in interest and moral power, achieving wonders for the rising generation, and gradually preparing the way for the universal triumphs of the cross.
Nevertheless, by many among us, this precious institution is greatly undervalued, and criminally neglected. Now we deem it quite sufficient that aught so excellent should have to encounter the opposition of the infidel, without being obliged to languish from the supineness of professed Christians; and though the subject seems to require a more eloquent tongue, we cheerfully attempt the vindication of its claims upon the zeal and liberality of the church.
That we may see the importance and utility of early religious instruction, let us view the child both as an intellectual and as a moral being; and show the power of divine truth, both to improve the mind and to renovate the heart.
In consequence of man's dereliction from his pristine rectitude, his intellect is disordered, and all his mental and moral faculties are perverted. His mind is involved in midnight darkness, and his soul is bewildered in its alienation from God. Though we sometimes behold traces of the original magnificence of his nature, these manifestations are like the sun in an eclipse, or when seen through the convolving clouds of the storm. The ethereal denizen seems absorbed in its frame-work of flesh, and utterly unable to disengage itself from its earthly incumbrances. In poor lapsed humanity, under all its forms, and classes, and situations; its various modes of happiness, and countless sources of misery; you have a nature, entire and unimpaired in its essential properties, with its noble faculties deranged, and disorga. nized, and ruined. In the very lowest style of man, in the African and the Indian, you have a nature capable of improvement, capable of science and religion, capable of contemplating the divine perfections, and enjoying the divine communion, and formed for immortality; but a nature deeply disordered, ignorant of its own powers, reckless of its own destinies, and lost in the wide wanderings of error.
Whereunto shall I liken it? Fancy to yourselves an existence surrounded by objects of sensation, but destitute of capacity for sensation; a being whom the light of every morning invites to joy and praise, but he beholds not its beauty; and the sound of every melody comes to delight and charm, but he hears not its chorus; and the fragrance of every flower offers to regale, but he is insensible to its odor; and the teeming fruits of every clime, pouring themselves forth at his feet, strive to gratify, but he can neither appreciate nor enjoy their bounty. Fancy to yourselves such an impersonation of stupidity and wretchedness, and you have something analogous to the state of degraded, torpid, human nature; a nature surrounded with all that is adapted to draw forth its noblest faculties-the works of God, the footsteps of divinity, the revelations of almighty goodness, the immunities and blessings of the great salvation-but destitute of eyes to see, and ears to hear, and heart to feel; a chaos of darkness; a void and formless mass of commingled evils;
"A beam ethercal, sullied, and absorbed;"
a being made for the most splendid achievements, bound down by utter imbecility; a creature conscious of immortality, and apparently capable of soaring into companionship with angels, groping and groveling with the insects of an hour.
Nay, worse there is in the degraded human intellect, unredeemed by divine truth, and uninfluenced by divine grace, not only an entire incapacity for its legitimate exercise, but there is that which inces. santly propels to scenes of mischief and of misery. The ignorance and perverseness of man are laid deeply in a lively and vigorous constitution; and if he moves not on in the path of wisdom and piety he progresses with fearful rapidity in the way of error and sin. Unaided and unenlightened by the Spirit of God, he necessarily goes astray; directly, heedlessly astray, from his youth. And hence the great value of early religious instruction. What so well calculated to preserve from perilous mistakes, to give strength and energy to the pros. trate intellect, and disperse the dreadful cloud which darkens over the soul? It is universally acknowledged by those who are capable of judging, and it is borne out by facts which are familiar to all, that a knowledge of the word of God early imparted, and the principles of true religion permanently infixed, are most admirably adapted to counteract the evils of ignorance, and correct its disorganizing and desolating consequences. "The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple." The sublimity of the topics of which it treats, the nobleness of the mysteries which it unfolds, the illumination which it casts on points most interesting to immortal beings, and every thing else in the matter and the manner of its developments, combine to render it a mighty engine for uplifting the spirit of man from the deepest degradation of its powers; and consequently, we find that its attentive perusal, and the application of its truths to the understanding, and the conscience, and the heart, invariably give nerve and tone to the intellect of weak capacity; and to that of ordinary or superior strength, a more extensive range, and a more vigorous action.
There is nothing so likely to expand and strengthen the mind as bringing it frequently into contact with stupendous truths; and where do you find such truths, if not in the oracles of God? How insignificant in the comparison are the loftiest things that philosophy ever uttered, or poetry ever sung! The Biblical student moves through scenes peopled with the majesties of the Eternal. His reason travels over unmeasured space, and toils to explore illimitable regions; but after all its lofty journeyings finds infinity still challenging its flight. And who will say that such a study shall not impart to the mental powers of the learner a portion of its own grandeur? And who does not see that the mind must necessarily come forth from amid the transcendant wonders of revelation, vastly elevated and enlarged? Instances are not wanting to show that this volume has refined, even where it has not saved; has enlightened the mind, even where it has not purified the heart. But let the student ask wisdom from above to direct his inquiries, and let the Holy Spirit make an effectual application of the things learned; and there will be a surprising change in the intellect, a mental as well as a moral conversion. The soul will shake off its torpor, and come forth from its dungeon into the region
of thought, and feeling, and exertion; and you will be ready to acknowledge with the psalmist, "The entrance of thy words giveth light; yea, it giveth understanding to the simple."
We do not mean that spiritual renovation communicates any of those stores of knowledge which are acquired only by patient and persevering study; nor that it produces genius and talent, or begets any new faculty in the mind; but that it rectifies and strengthens the mental vision, wakes up and brings into action energies that lie dor. mant, and elevates man in the great scale of rational being, by making him a more thinking, more inquiring, more discriminating creature. Moreover, the evil passions, which formerly exercised an injurious influence over the judgment, are now subdued; and the stern embargo which the heart laid on the intellect is removed. There is no new power imparted, no superior measure of information; but what was previously possessed is allowed a full development, and an unfettered exercise. It is striking to observe how the contracted, rigid soul, under the influence of renewing grace, seems to soften, and expand, and quiver with life; struggling strenuously to effect its freedom from the wretched contortions in which it has so long been fixed, as by the impression of some infernal spell. We have known cases, and they are not of rare occurrence, in which a mental weakness, bordering almost on imbecility, has been, immediately upon conversion, succeeded by no inconsiderable strength and vigor of intellect. Religion has roused the giant from his slumber. The mind that lay inactive and in ruins seems to have been quickened and created anew. The individual who was formerly obtuse and unintelligent, now exhibits an astonishing quickness and animation of thought, and a surprising store of valuable knowledge. Yea, "the grace of God that bringeth salvation" has fallen, like the kindly influence of a summer's sun, even upon a child, ripening into the richness of autumn the intellectual powers, while the countenance has scarcely passed its spring of rosy loveliness. O, it is an enchanting phenomenon-the precious plant which has so long drooped and withered under the chilling atmosphere of ignorance, and been so frequently blasted by the fierce sirocco of malignant passions, springing forth at once in the maturity of its strength and beauty! and the infidel observer himself must forfeit all claim to the title of rational, if he refuse to admire; though he may travel round the whole circle of his philosophy in vain to find any adequate cause, besides the influence of revealed truth, and the agency of an almighty Spirit!
Thus, Christian instruction manifestly possesses a power, such as is furnished by no other means, to waken the slumbering energies of man, and raise him to a nobler capacity for mental exertions. Through its mighty instrumentality we have seen whole nations, in the course of a single generation, shake themselves from the pollutions and degradations of idolatry; emerging, as by the power of enchantment, from the greatest ignorance, and the most debasing customs, to the dignity of civilization and self-government, and a lofty degree of intelligence and virtue. And even in enlightened communities it has acted on the public mind like a lever, lifting it from a state of depression in which seas of superstition had rolled over it for centuries, to a mental and moral elevation truly sublime, and blooming with the beauties of wisdom and piety. Our Sunday school method of instruction, especially,
has this invaluable advantage-it accommodates itself to the mind in that period when it is most susceptible of impression. As the roots of the oak strike deeper with age, and every fibre becomes firmer and more inflexible; so continuance in ignorance and vice darkens more fully the intellect, and increasingly hardens the heart; and there is consequently produced in the soul a sterner inveteracy of evil, which will be subdued with proportionally greater difficulty at each successive period of life. It is, therefore, of vast consequence to plant in the mind, as early as possible, the seeds of truth, the elements of virtue, the principles of pure religion. These alone can overturn and effectually destroy the dominion of error.
And, hence, you see the importance and utility of the excellent institution for which we plead, as affording a favorable opportunity for the early development and cultivation of mind, and exerting a salutary influence on the intellectual improvement of pupils. Sunday school instruction is pre-eminently religious instruction; and numerous instances might be adduced, in which children with this alone have advanced much more rapidly, in all the departments of useful knowledge, than others, who, with an equal share of native intellect, have enjoyed the advantage of a daily school. In a word, the influence of sabbath schools, in expanding and strengthening the mental apparatus of the young, and refining and elevating every faculty of their souls, has been extensively realized on both sides of the Atlantic; and facts have fully demonstrated that the real greatness and permanent prosperity of a nation depend far less upon the excellence of her civil code, (abstractly considered,) and the amount of literature laid up in her libraries, and mouldering in her museums, than on the number of minds brought under the purifying and ennobling influence of divine revelation.
Now, under a free government, such as ours, a sound discriminating mind, as well as a considerable fund of information, must be, to every individual, a thing of primary importance. A community is to be governed either by knowledge or by power. Government by power is despotism, and leaves no room for the exercise of private judgment. The people of these United States neither acknowledge the dominion of the sword, nor bow to the arbitrary enactments of royalty. All are permitted, all are required, to think and to judge for themselves. Therefore, the quantum of intelligence possessed by our population, and the strength of intellect they are capable of putting forth, are matters of incalculable consequence. For, since each individual constitutes a part of the great whole, he who elevates his own character elevates the community around him; and by giving a right direction to public opinion contributes largely to the general weal.
Moreover, in this age of improvement and innovation, the mind of a great people will not be content to remain stationary. The march of American intellect is onward. There is a general demand for free discussion, for rational investigation. First principles are preferred before established institutions. Every man is inquiring, not what exists, nor what is most ancient, but what is right and expedient, and likely to promote the good of society. Hence, those who are giving our youth a sound judgment, and rules for its proper exercise, are conferring a public benefit upon their country. By dealing with its