Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

wrath ; and they know not in what frame their feelings should settle down. This state of mind is inexpressibly lamentable, since it is often that of the best christians, and they lose the highest reward of religion, a pure, unchecked and fearless love of God.

But now there are two views of future punishment which will not damp this love; since, instead of supposing any anger in God, they rather illustrate his benevolence more resplendently.

The first is, to consider the penalties of sin as designed to be corrective,-imposed in kindness to heal the diseases of the soul, as the physician heals the maladies of the body with bitter drugs or painful surgery, and we thank him for it. If we are willing to submit to the amputation of every limb, in order to enjoy a few more fleeting years of bodily health, should we not regard it as the truest kindness in the most High, to inflict the merciful severities of his discipline, excruciating as it may be, in order to restore us, if we will, to the enjoyment of an endless existence ? So we may fear and love at the same time without the slightest inconsistency,-fear the sad consequences of sin, and love the appointer of them even for the stern kindness of the appointment. Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth ; we have had fathers of our flesh who corrected us ;

them reverence ; shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of our spirits and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure ; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness."

But again, we may regard these consequences as simply the natural effects of sin, over which the Almighty

we gave

of man.

may exercise no command at all, and which in fact he could not prevent without destroying the moral nature

We are acquainted already with some penalties of guilt, over which it is easier to conceive of him, with all his omnipotence, pitying and lamenting, than able to suspend without annihilating the guilty. Almighty to effect all possibilities, he yet can do nothing contrary to the nature he has stamped on any object, without destroyiug that nature.

We may take the influence of habit for an example, and even of any one of the merely mental habits ; take any malignant affection ; envy, for instance. This is a terribly prevalent and terribly destructive vice. There is no more insinuating moth, gnawing away in secrecy and silence the tranquillity of the breast. We know we should be happier without it, and we resolve, we strive to root it out of the mind; but when habit has once grounded it in, there it is likely to stand in spite of our efforts. We lament it ; we pity and condemn and despise ourselves for it ; we try stratagem as well as force, to expel it ; we determine to seal up our lips in silence whenever the envied person's name is mentioned before us; or we determine in spite of ourselves to praise him with the lips, and smother the boiling enmity of the heart into acquiescence with the praise. But it will not do. There sits envy still, like our evil spirit, on the heart, mocking at our endeavors.

Now all we can conceive of God's doing to disenthral us from it, short of exterminating our free will, which would be the annihilation of our present nature, is to present motives. But motives have been presented, ay, and felt through the whole of life. We

are abundantly satisfied it would be better for us to cherish only the most disinterested benevolence toward all mankind ; and yet it is but very slowly and uncertainly we emancipate ourselves from envious affections, if at all, when once they have received the stamp of habit and become, without a figure, a second nature.

We have to fear, then, not our most merciful Father, but ourselves, our own evil habits, while we love Him supremely for pitying them tenderly, though He, even He, cannot be expected to eradicate them in a moment, by force, as a gardener plucks up a noxious weed from his ground.

Or let us take for our example, the memory. We need have no more direful demon to haun: the guilty, than the memry of a dreadful crime. How is it to be driven away? Only by long and bitter penitence. Even in this dimly lighted world, the faint day-break of moral sentiment just beginning to glimmer, as it were, and in which, of course, the turpitude of sin cannot be fully illustrated, there are crimes we never forgive ourselves for. Let the hardened ruffian murder his benefactor, and then remorse touch his heart, and there is little peace for him here again. But in the spiritual world, where the full blaze of moral truth shall throw the light of the perfect day on conscience, will his sense of guilt be less pungent? Will the blood stains on his memory look fainter in that nightless and sleepless world? God may look upon him with compassion; but what should he do?Blot from his spirit all recollection of his deeds? That is, destroy his consciousness of personal identity; which is equivalent in effect to annihilating his spirit and creating another in its place ? Alas! annihilation is a dreary prospeet to be one's best hope. But it may be he will do this, as the kindest procedure the case admits, though it would be a precarious calculation to depend upon it.

But whatever he will do, the important impression to be kept on our minds, is, that it will be adapted 10. confirm our love to him; never to make him directly. and personally an object of fear; though the natural and unavoidable result of abusing the moral constitution he has given us may well be so. He himself is only to be loved with a perfect, unmingled, confident love. This is the prime glory. and blessing of religion, and it is a thousand pities any mistake should. throw the least speck of a cloud upon its joyfulness.

The fear of the Lord so often enjoined in the scripe. tures, is more properly an affectionate reverence. Accordingly we meet with such expressions as the following: There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.' They shall fear the Lord and his goodness.' That is, venerate his character and dispensations with gratitude and love..

M.

MEMOIRS OF MOSES MENDELSOHN.

Memoirs of Moses Mendelsohn, the Jewish Philosopher, inclu. ding the celebrated correspondence on the Christian Religion with J. C. Lavater, minister of Zurich : by M. Samuels.

This is an interesting and instructive volume. The name of Mendelsohn has long been held in honor among his countrymen, the Jews, and with the wise and good.

of all names in Europe. For his wisdom and virtue, he has been called the Socrates of his nation ; and, to adopt the words of the author of this memoir, Few more instructive examples exist of the nature of an elevated and philosophical mind, amidst obstacles so utterly unfavorable to its developement. It was the lot of this eminent philosopher to encounter, at the very commencement of his career, not only poverty, sickness, and all their attendant discouragements, but all the prejudices, which everywhere in some measure, and in certain portions of Europe in a special measure, attach themselves to the name and religion of a Jew.

The events of his life are not numerous, and may be soon related. He was born in 1729 at Dessau, the eapital of one of the smaller principalities of Germany, where his father was a 'transcriber of the Pentateuch, and an instructer of a little Hebrew school. Even from childhood he gave indications of the intellectual energy, which afterwards distinguished him. He was early smitten with an enthusiastic admiration of the Hebrew Scriptures, which he made his principal study, committing large portions of them to memory. The Hebrew language itself he wrote with purity and elegance ; of which, as well as of his poetical skill, he has lest evidence in his metrical version of the Psalms, and of some of the prophetical books. • But his incessant search after knowledge, and particularly his intense study of Maimonides, the great Jewish expounder, brought on a nervous disorder, which produced a deformity in his spine, and made him a valetudinarian for the remainder of his life. Upon the removal of his friend and teacher, Rabbi Frankel, to the capital of Prussia, he prevailed upon his father to allow him to ac

« AnteriorContinua »