« AnteriorContinuar »
seed; which nevertheless came out of a good bed. And here I cannot help recalling to the mind of many who are able to judge, how much sweeter, gentler, and opener to light, and to affection, the reverential spirit of the Scottish peasantry, and of the well-instructed part of the English peasantry, preserveth their souls, than doth the levelling, equalising, all-censuring and all-judging spirit of our manufacturing people, taught in newspaper lore; those political statesmen, no longer choosing to be called peasantry, but operative classes. What a difference there is between these two characters ! the character of a thoughtful reverend peasant, and the character of these self-sufficient loquacious fellows with whom our manufacturing towns are filled. Which cometh chiefly of this, that the one revereth all men in their places, and honoureth especially those to whose care the welfare of a nation is committed, is humble in his ideas of himself, never dreams of being able to judge those above him, to dispute it with a man of learning, or doctor of the church, to handling state-questions, or sit in judgment upon kings: to all which, and much more, the other thinking himself quite equal, becometh vainer and more empty than the peacock; chattereth like the magpie, and, like the mocking-bird, sitteth all day long mocking and mimicing every fowl of a deeper and sweeter song. This irreverence is the beginning of pride, pride the parent of cruelty, and cruelty of all destructiveness; while, on the other hand, reverence of a superior in place, in person, in mind, in honour, and in dignity, is the beginning of meekness, of humility, of docility, and of every gracious disposition. Nor is there
any one thing against which this nation, against which mankind have now more to be on their guard; no one thing which is so effectually scourging the soil of the world, and making it the seed of the word; which is so selling men to infidelity, and binding them over under strong indentures to Satan, as this spirit of irreverence, which in the region of the mind is called criticism and reviewing ; which in the region of politics is called radicalism; and in the region of the church, thinking for oneself, where it produceth what is commonly called personal, but is in truth selfish, religion ; that is, no religion, but the religious esteem of ourselves.
Thus, brethren, have I sought to carry you through the whole field of social life, to point out the ingredients of it, and teach you how each hath a virtue in it to become the soil of some religious plant: and altogether to produce that vineyard of good grapes, that field of productive seed, that bed of roses, and garden of perfumes, of myrrh and cassia and frankincence, which the church of Christ ought to be. It is in this, as in natural husbandry: after you have taken a crop of one kind, it may be wheat or any other grain, the soil will hardly bear another of that kind, because the quality which maketh it proper for that seed is exhausted, and it must be allowed to strengthen itself; but very likely it will bear another of barley, and after that another of vetches, and so on throughout a rotation, which, being well conducted, may be continued for a long time. Even so, a church like this to which I am preaching, and of which I am pastor, being composed of every class; masters and servants, parents and
children, gentlemen and common people; will, if every one be diligent to occupy his place and station after a religious sort, be ever productive unto God, and will not cease from a perpetual round of spiritual and heavenly offerings : but if we become contumacious in our places; heads of families fondly indulgent, children undutiful, spouses distracted from their mutual loves; servants disobedient, or masters wicked ; governors unjust, or people irreverent and ungrateful: then, be it known unto you, that though I could preach like Paul or Apollos, it were in vain. There is not soil for the seed to take root in; there lacketh the honest and worthy heart to receive it into : which I cannot give, which God giveth, and that not abruptly, but by his ordinances of human life, which are very venerable, and which he will reverence, neglect them who will. Wherefore I do exhort you, brethren, to give good and reverent heed to those things which I have spoken, as being things most necessary to be preached by every minister, and to be kept in mind by every member of the church of Christ. We ought to be lamps, burning and shining lights, above the brightness of ordinary men. We ought to honour all these offices, and magnify them, not merely implement them. We who are Christ's saved ones, ought to be saviours unto others : we who are Christ's redeemed ones, 'ought to lead others into our redemption. They, seeing our light, should take knowledge of us, that we belong to Christ, and give glory to our Father which is in heaven. Oh! then labour, my brethren, for the Lord's sake, to follow after these things. Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest; whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if their be any praise, think on these things. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and may your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
IV. We have shewn, under the three former heads, the light of life which dimly appeareth amid the darkness of nature in the vegetable and animal creation, and in the constitution of human society; and we have endeavoured to point out how the reason of man, fallen and oppressed as it is, may discourse to great profit and advantage over all those regions of God's providence, and teach the understanding and constrain the sense, so wisely and temperately to use the service and the accommodation of all these the handyworks of God, as shall be well-pleasing in the sight of the Lord, and work within ourselves such a kindly and generous disposition, such a good and honest heart, as will be ready to receive the seed of the word sown therein ; and, by the blessing of God, bring forth thirty, forty, fifty, or even an hundred fold. But there is yet another, and a much higher means of this preparatory grace of a good soil ; namely, the reverent observance of all God's appointed ordinances, or the right use of the visible church, into which we come now, in dependence upon Divine grace, to inquire. This last head of discourse includeth all the others, and addeth, to the sanction of reason, the more awful sanction of the revealed will of God, teaching and commanding us to observe all those rules of temperance; and to preserve all those feelings of superiority towards the inanimate creatures, to deal mercifully by, and help on the redemption of the lower animals, and reverently to observe and to honour all our fellowmen, in their places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals. And therefore we might now travel over all that ground again, and reinforce all our positions, with the additional authority of the church, and unanswerable verdict of the word of God: but from this we forbear, being rather minded to open fresh ground, and to take up some new positions in this great argument.
1. Concerning the ordinances of Divine appointment, it is to be observed, first, that they are all written in the Holy Scriptures, which are the word of God, and therefore towards the observ. ance of these ordinances the faith and veneration of that holy book must mainly conduce: and this is therefore the first thing we have to take into consideration, the testimonies of the written word, which, little as we do prize the book, is as much the handwriting of the Lord as were those tables of stone which Moses broke upon the Mount of Sinai. And how precious the Lord esteemed the written law, he well did signify, by requiring the ten words engraven on stone to be laid up in the Ark of the Covenant for ever; and what price he set upon the obedience of the books of Moses, and what awful issues did derive from the neglect of the same, is well shewn by these words which Huldah the prophetess spake unto the messengers of the good king Josiah, concerning the book of the law which had just been found :-“ And she said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Tell the man that sent you to me, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon this