« AnteriorContinuar »
As another means of cultivating this lovely virtue, tre must endeavor to obtain clear views of the great design of the Christian religion. That it is not to furnish subjects merely for speculation, to awaken the curiosity, and heat the imagination; but to array before the mind powerful motives to a holy life, to aid us in controlling our passions, subduing our appetites and directing our wills; and in bringing all our powers into subserviency to the glory of God-to the best good of society, and the salvation of souls. And if Christians would acknowledge this to be their appropriate work, and conscientiously apply themselves to it, they would find enough about which to employ their thoughts, and neither time nor occasion to be prying into the infirmities of their neighbors. They would see how unwise it is to be jealous and suspicious of others' wrongs, when 80 much remains to be corrected in themselves. There is a sort of moral derangement in such conduct, just as if a man should quarrel with his neighbor about a penny when his house is on fire and his family ready to perish in the flames. The Christian has no moral difficulties to contend with that are of so serious a character as those he finds in his own breast. These reqnire his attention, diligence, and strength to subdue. And he will discover so much in himself to censure, and so little to approve, that he will hasten to forgive the trespass of a brother, and extend to him the charity which he himself so much needs.
Furthermore, we should avoid all passionate and angry disputes on the subject of religion. Charity and truth both suffer in such conflicts. When passion takes the field reason and judgment retire. When the waters are agitated and fouled there is no seeing to the bottom. It is the calm investigator that arrives at the truth and convinces his opponent, while the hot disputant only creates clouds which shut out the light, at the sacrifice of love. If truth rather than triumph be our object, we shall let reason assert her rights and charity maintain her dominion over the soul. We may differ from a brother in our religious opinion, but when we are inclined to assail him vehemently, let us remember the fable of the sun and the wind contending for the traveler's cloak. The wind blew with violence, and the more it blustered the closer did he draw his cloak about him, at length the sun beams out with calm and penetrating rays and gently warmed him into a disposition to take off his cloak himself. There is nothing so convincing and subduing as love : nothing has such power to disarm and paralyze the errorist. Approach him in this temper, and you are sure to gain his respect and esteem, if you fail to dislodge his errors and win him over to the truth. As passion and prejudice bear sway he is sure to adhere closer to his errors, and be. come less susceptible of benefit.
It is true that we are commanded to “contend earnestly for the faith that was once delivered to the saints." But the faith here meant, does not consist in points of doubtful import, but in the fundamental doctrine that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, accompanied with a holy life; the persons against whom the primitive saints were to contend were the ungodly that denied the only Lord God and Our Lord Jesus Christ. For essential and fundamental points like this, we may, and ought to contend earnestly, yet in love : but contention about lesser and uncssential points is called by the apostle perverse disputing, and is more the result of pride and ignorance than of enlightened rational zeal.
Beirare also of a heated sectarian zeal. In the furnace which is kindled by zeal for a religious party, charity is often dreadfully scorched, if not entirely consumed. If our adherence to a particular churcb or denomination arises from an honest and sincere belief that it is equally if not more Christian in its doctrines, spirit, usages and practice than other branches of Zion, than we are consistent, and our motives may not be questioned. Such an adherence is perfectly consistent with that enlarged liberality and charity towards others who may differ from us in religious opinions and sympathies, that never faileth and is always kind. But our attachment to a church or de. nomination merely from love to a party, or from a belief that it may better promote some private end, is sheer selfishness. And yet in connection with this latter spirit we generaliy find the most intemperate sectarian zeal. Persons of no higher attachments than these are generally the most opinionated and censorious, and often look upon Christians in other church relations with denominational pride and contempt, and affect to thank God that they are not like these publicans. They charm themselves with the fond imaginings of their own light, and fancy all others to be in darkness. They beap to themselves teachers, and in their man-worship exclaim, I am for Paul, or I am for Apollos, or I am for Cephas ; this man is a powerful reasoner, or that man is eloquent, or such a one is liberal; wbile they in turn assure their people that they are God's chosen and favored church !
Such views and feelings are unfriendly to charity, engender animosities and persecutions, and cherish the worst passions of the human heart. We have a striking illustration in the description which Jude has given us of the sectaries in bis time. He distinguishes them by various unmistakable marks. By their vain conceits : bence they were dreamers. By their insolent opposition to government: hence they despised dominion, and spoke evil of dignities. By their ignorance and inalice : hence they spoke evil things they knew not. By their unkindness and cruelty to their brethren : hence their relapse into the way of Cain. By their murmurings against their rulers : bence they perished in the gainsaying of Core. By their false pretensions to virtue: hence they were clouds' without water. By their inconsistency : hence they were carried about by winds. By their violent and furious temper : hence they were raging waves of the sea. By the irregularity and danger of their course : hence they were wandering stars. By their discontent: hence they were murmurers and complainers. By their stubbornness : hence they walked after their own lusts. By their self-conceit and pride of party : hence their mouth spoke great swelling words. By their fond admiration of their own people : hence they had men's persons in admiration. By their sectarian pride and scorn : hence they were called mockers. By the echismatical spirit : hence they were those who separated themselves. By their real sensuality: hence they were justly called sensual, having not the Spirit.
Such is Jude's striking portraiture of a class of religionists in his day, who in their pride and self righteousness withdraw from the communion of the Christian brotherbood under pretense of greater holiness. And such has ever been and will ever be, the sad results of man-worship, or sectarian zeal in the absence of Christian charity.
Finally, prayer is an eminent means of promoting the charity that never faileth. For, the spirit of prayer and ot unkind. ness have no affinity. The Christian cannot go from his closet where he has had melting views of his own unworthiness; where he has beard the groans and seen the agonies and the blood of bis Redeemer; and hate and injure bis brother. Let the love of God and man warm his heart in prayer. and it will burn up all censoriousness, and unkindness; and his very countenance will radiate the light, love, and benevolence of his inner man. Men have come down from the mount of prayer, and put in motion some of the grandest schemes of Christian benevolence that are now blessing the world. Had their been aught of unkindness and misanthropy in their hearts they could not have given birth to such plans nor put them in execution. If then, my brethren, you ever become selfish, and sour, and worldly in your feelings, go upon the mount and remain there till you have prayed them all away—pray till you are melted into repentance and love, till all your passions and affections are sweetened and chastened by Divine Grace, and you can embrace in your arms of piety and benevolence the whole human family-all who are the offspring of a common Parent- the subjects of a like apostacy and redemption--the brethren of the same adoption-beirs of one common glory..
The field is the world. Then let your hearts be enlarged until you can take in the world; until you can feel that every man has an immortal soul, whose redemption is unspeakably precious; that every man is your brother, and youn neighbor, and may become through grace a bright seraph in heaven. Go to Gethsemane and listen to its agonizing prayers. Ascend Cal. Vary and bear the groans and heart-rending cries of tho stúci: fied One. Comprehend, if you can, the deep, unfathomable love of the “ Man of sorrows," as he prays for his murderers. Go often and linger long upon the mount of prayer, until you bathe your souls in the pure streams of Divino grace, and drink deeper than ever at the fountain of Divino love. Charity never faileth: your bodies will be consigned to the grave; your earth. ly hopes and affections quenched in the darkness of death: but love to God never dies it is lifo everlasting; and having acs complished its blessed mission in this world of sin and sorrow, it will put on immortality, and shine and rejoice forevermoro in the kingdom of heaven.
A SHORT SERMON.-BY THE EDITOR.
THE JOY OF ANGELS.
“There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repent
eth.--LUKE 15 : 10.
The joy of angels is over the repentance and salvation of sinners. Such a view have they of the misery, guilt and doom of transgression, and of the amazing worth and preciousness of eternal redemption by Jesus Christ, that the repentance of but one sinner renders all heaven joyful, and is celebrated by angels as an event of infinite interest and value. Said the Lord of angels : " I say unto you, t) at likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance.” The recovery of a lost soul to God; the salvation of a sinner from the law-incurred penalty, from sin itself, and from the doom of an endless hell : his salvation by means of that Cross which so honors God and sustains His law while it redeems and reconciles, is a stupendous achievement. Where, in the universe, can anything be found to equal it, in interest, importance, blessedness, true sublimity? The most thrilling events of a merely temporal, social or political character; the creation or destruction of material worlds and systems; the rise and fall of kingdoms; the setting up of new and the casting down of old dynasties : and all the pomp and honor and power and wealth of the world--lost or gained-all t) ese, in the sight of Heaven, are of less importance than the rescuing of but one priceless, lost soul from eternal ruin.
It is for the SALVATION of men that the thoughts of Heaven are mainly concerned. The sympathies, desires, hopes and anxieties of angels respect man as a sinner--a child of guilt and yet of hope - lost and yet within reach of salvation--under the power of death and yet immortal--on trial for life eternal-running a race for beaven or for heil! What men call the great events of time are trifles in their sight: what men call mean, emall, of no moment, they count grand, vast, chief, everything. As they wing their flight over this once fair but now blighted world, and survey its varied scenes--the din of its business, the glitter of its wealth, the pride of its greatness, the temples of its learning, the tread of its armies, and the war of its pavies, the tumult of the nations, and the crash of falling kingdoms—these are not the events which arrest their attention and excite their