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on the sure testimony of divine revelation. As simple and important facts which connect time with eternity, and heaven with earth, they belong equally to men of every order, and are directly calculated to produce those emotions of awe and reverence, of faith and hope, and reliance on the Divine presence, providence, justice, and benevolence, of which the consequences must be in the highest degree moral.”*
· And we may add, that of all the methods of communicating the knowledge of these important facts, that of catechetical instruction has been found by long experience to be the most useful and the most impressive. The direct question secures the attention of the learner, and the expected reply requires some degree of recollection; while the different forms in which the same question may be put, gives an opportunity of knowing whether or not he understand it, prevents languor, and adds to the variety, and therefore to the pleasure, of the exercise. And in learning the proofs from scripture annexed to the questions, his mind is stored with heavenly wisdom, in the words which the Holy Spirit teaches: and there is an energy in them which, as one remarks, “ exceeds all human compositions as much as the sound of thunder exceeds a whisper.” If additional proofs be required and expected, he will acquire a habit, in all his difficulties, of searching the scriptures for himself, which may hereafter be useful on other and more trying emergencies.
These religious exercises are attended with many important advantages even in a temporal point of view. The habits of diligence and attention, of reflection and enquiry, which are thus excited and improved, together with the thoughtful turn which piety inspires, will furnish the understandings of the young
useful maxims for the regulation of their conduct, and will enable them, as life advances, to converse more sensibly and act more prudently in matters of daily and ordinary occurrence, than those who have not enjoyed the same advantages. To what but to this are we to ascribe the superior discernment and intelligence which foreigners have remarked in the character of the peasantry and common people of Scotland, and which give them so distinguished a pre-eminence above those of other countries ? Whence does this pre-eminence arise ? Our country did not always possess it. The picture which our historians have drawn of it about the period of the revolution, exhibits the lower classes as sunk in the deepest ignorance, and the greatest wretchedness. It is since that period, when the doctrine and discipline of our national church were completely established, and were permitted to exert their unrestrained influence and energy, that the change has taken place. And it is the peasantry of Scotland who are taught in our parochial schools that creed, which ignorance and prejudice have so grossly misrepresented, that are so superior in religious knowledge and moral conduct to those of other countries. It would, indeed, shew the same ignorance and pre
judice which we are condemning in others, to ascribe the improvement that has taken place in our national character, since the period alluded to, wholly to our church standards and catechişms; but surely the doctrines which they inculcate cannot be of a pernicious, but of a very opposite tendency, since they have been found, after so long a trial, to raise the character of the people who are instructed in them above that of any other people
But the chief value of religious knowledge cons sists in the relation which it bears to the life to come. That acquaintance with divine things which we acquire from the scriptures, will probably serve as the principles of knowledge to assist the enquiring mind through eternity itself. We now view the things pertaining to the kingdom of heaven through a glass darkly, and even the most advanced Christian speaks as a child and thinks as a child concerning them; but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away. Let us in the mean while study to acquire that knowledge, and those habits and dispositions, which will fit and qualify us to unite in one blessed society, with angels and with the redeemed from among men, and to enter upon the full enjoyment of that rest, or keeping of a Sabbath, which remaineth to the people of God, and of those pleasures which are at God's right hand for evermore.
ON COMMUNING WITH THE HEART.
PSALM IV. 4.
Stand in awe, and sin not; commune with your own
heart upon your bed, and be still.
This psalm appears to have been composed on the same occasion with the preceding one, during the unnatural rebellion which then existed against David in favour of his son Absalom. It is supposed to have been an evening hymn composed for the occasion, and sung by the psalmist and his party previously to their going to rest. The text, whether considered as an apostrophe to his subjects who were then in arms against him, or to his few faithful adherents, conveys a very important admonition, and is of universal application. The Septuagint version, which is quoted by Paul, Ephesians, iv. 26. translates the first clause of the text thus, Be ye angry and sin not; that is, if
think that ye have just cause to be angry, consider the matter again. Do nothing rashly, nothing which conscience may reproach you for having done, when you call yourselves to account in the evening, or when you awake in the silence of the night. Converse with your own heart.
angry, and if
Do this on your beds, if the harrassing, and fatiguing, and unnatural warfare in which we are at present engaged, has left you but little leisure to attend to this important duty during the day.
We, my friends, are placed in far more favourable circumstances for self-reflection than the persons here originally addressed, and we must, therefore, be much more inexcusable if we neglect to converse daily with our hearts, when we have retired from the world and the world from us; when the tumult of the soul subsides, and is succeeded by the solemn stillness of the evening; or, when we awake in the night, and darkness prevents the interference of sensible objects, and invites the eye of the mind to look inward and inspect the state of the heart towards God, and towards our brethren of mankind—It is our design at present, in humble dependence on divine aid,
I. To consider the obligations which we are under to converse with our own heart in secret.
II. To shew some of the many advantages attending the faithful discharge of this duty, in regard both to our happiness in this world, and to our preparation for the world to come.
I. Let us consider the obligations which we are under to converse with our own heart in secret. And,
1. We ought to do so, because we are rational creatures capable of thought and reflection, and the only creatures upon earth capable of religion.
The inferior animals are guided by instinct, and