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or tread the ashes of Tyre, without agitating excitement ? What attraction the classic soil has for the scholar! With what awe does the Moslem gaze on the tomb of his prophet, and the Hindoo pilgrim on the minarets of Benares ! The charm arising from such associations, is universally felt ; every mind is conscious of their influence, every imagination owns their spell, and every heart renders homage to their power. It is the source of half the poetry of our nature ; gives refinement to the instructed mind; and sensibility even to the rude and uncultivated. We are not aware that the wise and prudent have regarded this feature of our mental nature as a weakness; or that they have proscribed it as a source of emotion. We may wander amidst the ruins of Kenilworth, or of Fountain Abbey, and, feeling those scenes to be brightened by the lights of history, and by the grandeur of which they are still the proud memorials, we step softly over their crumbling dust, and speak in tones of pensiveness :—and that would be RATIONAL. Good men may visit the spot where the pilgrim fathers first landed on the western continent, and while standing on the rock, feel a more glowing admiration of the men, and a deeper reverence for their principles :—and that would be RATIONAL. A Saracen, gifted with the early genius of his race, might land on the shores of Granada, to visit that magnificent monument of Moslem pride—the Alhambra; with fixed eye he might contemplate the remains of its marble pavements, its cooling fountains, its massive columns, its architectural grandeur—all firing his mind with historic associations, until it would be subdued into melancholy, or kindled into inspiration :—and that would be RATIONAL; and bards might celebrate, and philosophers applaud. The devout mind may invest the sanctuary with spiritual glory, cherish towards it reverential thought, feel it to have a sacredness of character, see the wing of the cherubim spread over it :-is that superstitious ? It is rational: it is no violation of the highest faculties, or of the purest taste, to enrich with interest every scene which retains some record of the lofty aims of human pride, the depth of human affections, and the strife of human passions. Are the sacred homes of our spirits, the earthly dwellings of our God, the only scenes around which the mind may not throw a transforming beauty? As it approaches heaven, must the human spirit become more materialised? Is it forbidden to make the walls of the temple echo back the voice of prayer, in sweeter than human tones? Must it see no vision of glory on the altar?–We cannot admit that it is unsound in principle to allow, and even to cherish such sacred associations. They tend to chasten the spirit, and to solemnise the mind of the worshipper, when he enters the house of prayer: they give force to the impression that he has come into the presence of God, and add power to serious and devout thoughts.
Finally, our public worship itself should be adapted to excite and sustain the devotional spirit. There is room for improvement here, but it is a question too extensive and important to be discussed at the close of these observations.
Great and difficult duties are evidently coming upon us as a denomination. Soon we must advance beyond our present position, or retrograde from the point we have gained. Trials, temptations, sacrifices, will be associated with fidelity to our personal convictions, and to our public principles. We cannot more safely prepare for them, than by drawing nearer to the mercy-seat, to have closer communion with God. From Him we must derive the heavenly energy, the calm fortitude, the holy zeal, and the blameless spirit, needful to make us unwearied in well-doing, and “faithful unto death.”
ON THE NATURE OF A CHRISTIAN INSTITUTE.
BY THE LATE T. WEMYSS, ESQ. To institute, is to form according to a certain plan, and implies that the matter so formed is in itself new-new at least as to its design and application.
It is always the immediate act of some agent, who has original or derived authority for so acting.
It is properly of a public nature, and has reference to a society, on whom the observance of the institution is incumbent.
It is considered to be permanent, so long as the dispensation or economy with which it is connected, continues ; or so long as the society for whom it is formed, exists.
A distinction has been made between ritual observances and moral duties; and they are so far distinct, that the former may be said to originate in the will of the founder ; while the latter have their foundation in the reason and nature of things : but the observance of positive institutions is in itself a moral duty, inasmuch as it implies submission to the will of a superior.
Institutions are generally intended to serve the purpose of commemoration ;-hence, if there be no outward or public observance of them, the commemoration is lost, and the object of the founder nullified.
It belongs to the very nature of an institution to have external symbols connected with it. An institution commemorated or observed in or by the mind only, would be an absurdity. Institutions appointed to human beings, are appointed to them, not as spiritual creatures, for purposes of mental abstraction, but as men, compounded of soul and body, whose whole frame is to be engaged in the observance.
The Christian institutions can never reasonably be supposed to have been enjoined with a view to God only, as the Searcher of hearts, who might see and judge, by Divine inspection, how far they were inwardly attended to ; but, rather as outward signs to men; signs of obedience to Him; signs of union and co-operation among themselves, as one body of disciples ; signs of gratitude for benefits received, but especially the unspeakable benefit of the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and all the blessings flowing from it. It is this stupendous event, which the Lord's supper is understood to commemorate, and to which, indeed, it is confined. They are visible rites; by conforming to which, we exhibit our adherence to a community, who profess to be attached to a certain order of things, as being of Divine appointment.
Such have been ordained in all ages ; before the law, as the Sabbath and circumcision ; under the law, such as the ceremonial institutes given to the Jews; and under the Gospel, which, though a more spiritual dispensation, neither alters the nature of man, nor finds it altered, but applies to him as a compound being, in whose observances the body has a share, as well as the spirit. It belongs to the human character to have, on every important occasion, not merely tacit or implied contracts, but external symbols, whereby the engagement is rendered more significant, and considered to be more lasting: for outward actions, with all their circumstantial accompaniments, make a stronger impression on the mind of man than a mere latent knowledge of intention and purpose.
Hence the various forms of law, usages of states, and the greater part of the customs and manners of society, by which men express their minds or purposes, and oblige themselves to the performance of any contract. Carry the principle of the sufficiency of inward feeling to its full length, and it leads to a dangerous extreme, inasmuch as the public worship of God and the recognition of religion by any observance whatever, might be evaded on this ground. If transactions between man and man require all the solemnity of witnesses, of fixed conventional language, and significant actions, is it not reasonable to suppose, that in transactions with God, in presence of his creatures, something similar, but still more solemn, should be resorted to?
So condescending is the Divine Being, that, knowing man's nature and existing customs, he was pleased to confirm his promise to Abraham by an oath, though surely the affirmation of God might have been deemed sufficient, and would have been received as such by the patriarch himself. On this, as on numerous other occasions, God showed that he did not deal with men as immaterial spirits, but as creatures consisting of soul and body, and who are little affected by anything which does not concern both the parts of which they are compounded. The body without the soul is not the man, nor yet the soul without the body; and the whole man becomes consecrated to the Divine service only by actions which are in part performed by both. Hence we find an apostle saying, (1 Cor. vi. 20,) “Glorify God in your body, as well as in your spirit, both of which are his.” And in another place, “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost ?" And again, “I pray God that your whole spirit, and soul, and
body, may be preserved blameless to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When our Lord assumed human nature, he had a human body, which he not only offered on the cross, but translated into heaven. And as his incarnation showed the regard he has for the body as well as the soul of man, so all the precepts and institutions of the Gospel have a relation to both.
If we trace back in ecclesiastical history the first examples of a purely spiritual worship, we shall find they originated with persons of no esteem in the Christian church. Porphyry, a man of study and learning, who once embraced, and afterwards renounced the faith of Christ, being ashamed to go back to the fooleries of paganism, which by that time had become too absurd for any rational man to countenance, professed to find out a new way,—placed all Divine worship in mental prayer, and so far rejected every outward and bodily service, that he pretended the devotions of men were polluted by anything of that nature, (see Eusebius' and Porphyry's own writings,) and that they were rendered unacceptable to the Deity; that they were never sufficiently pure, if they were expressed by the voice, but were then in their highest degree of perfection, when they were all contemplation. The very same notions were taught hy Apollonius of Tyana, an impostor, whose life is recorded by Philostratus, and whose actions have been impiously compared, by some, with those of our Saviour, though no two characters could be more diametrically opposite.
The Divine method of proceeding with man as a creature, endowed with bodily senses, and not capable of being sufficiently affected by things spiritual and abstract, may be further illustrated in the case of Noah, to whom God was not content to give assurance in words, that the earth should no more be destroyed by water, but graciously pointed to the visible sign or symbol of the rainbow in the heavens, as a standing and visible memorial of his kind determination. Whatever is inward and invisible, is absent to sense, and whatever is future, requires something present to represent it. Such is human condition, and God has been pleased to arrange his dealings with man in conformity. The spiritual welfare of the soul is made to depend on the bodily faculties in some measure ; for instance, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. And of what use had miracles been, if there were no eyes to witness them ? The hands also are the instruments of charitable distribution, and of many good works. If in moral actions the soul acts wholly by the body, so in spiritual actions the soul may receive advantage by the body's co-operation.
Apply all this to water baptism, and judge how far there is truth in these observations, to say nothing of the case of those who plainly and certainly submitted to that rite, after they had received the Holy Ghost, see Acts x. 47; a passage it is impossible to set aside by any fair process of reasoning, to the depreciation of that ordinance.
Apply these remarks also to the Lord's supper, the perpetuity of which is expressed rather than implied, in the language used by our Lord, Luke xxii. 19: “This do in remembrance of me”-a very limited remembrance, if the whole institution ceased to be outwardly observed, and was so intended, after the full establishment of Christianity. But the language of Paul is still more decided, 1 Cor. xi. 26 : “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.” Is the Saviour already come, that we may venture to set aside his own injunctions, given on the very night in which he was betrayed, as antiquated, obsolete, suited to what we choose to call the infancy of the church, and only to be observed now, in a mystical, inward, and spiritual manner? Did he abrogate all this during his forty days' abode on earth after his resurrection, as a matter proposed during a moment of intense feeling, but which he now thought fit to recall ? Or did Paul, the latest called of the apostles, receive any commission to disannul it? Does he not rather repeat and reinforce it in more express terms? Does either Jesus or Paul say, that the accompaniments of bread and wine were to be laid aside, in a more mature state of the church ; or is there an entire silence upon that subject?
It is said, if these two institutions are binding, so also is the washing of the saints' feet, which has been disused for many ages, without giving scandal to the Christian church. Let us see how far the cases are parallel. The Lord's supper is mentioned by three evangelists, the latter ceremony only by one. The former is enjoined upon the disciples as a token of commemorative affection—the latter as a pattern of private humility. The former had an immediate regard to Christ himself, and to his atoning death, the ground of our acceptance with God—the latter had regard to the performance of a menial, but kind and hospitable office, at all times customary among the Jews. The former might be observed as a religious solemnity- the latter, from its very nature, never could, but was evidently a private or domestic transaction. The whole words used on the occasion (John xiii. 13-15) may be fairly understood as a general declaration of the obligation which Christians are under, to perform kind and condescending offices one towards another. It is further to be remarked, that in cold countries, and in those where the feet are less exposed to the heat of climate, or the dust of roads, the washing here referred to would be rather a troublesome than a friendly office—an objection which will not apply to the Lord's supper, which may be conveniently observed in all places and at all seasons. But what puts the matter out of doubt is, that Paul expressly confines this transaction to a certain order of persons, showing it was not a public, but a private act, for he specifies it as the duty of widows (1 Tim. v. 10) in particular, which plainly intimates this office not to have been performed by all, for then it would not have been made a distinguishing character. Add to this, that there are no