Imágenes de páginas

times by silence answered their impertinent quibbles.” He studied their disposition and temper, that he might be enabled to bring his counsels and admonitions home to their business and bosoms; and he told them their faults with such prudence, delicacy, and modesty, that if he failed in producing the effect he wished, he still retained their respect and their love. He cherished with the tenderest affection, those students who appeared to him to be truly pious, and earnestly desirous of serving God with their spirit in the Gospel of his Son. He exhorted them to stir up the gift of God which was in them, by frequent retirement, self-communion, fasting, and prayer. He earnestly pressed them to weigh well the motives by which they were induced to aspire to the holy ministry. He cautioned them against the workings of vanity, ambition, or the love of popular applause; and charged them to look with a single eye to the glory of God, the service of Jesus their Master, and the edification of the members of his mystical body. * Considering,” as Dr. Gairden expresses himself, “ self-will to be the root of all our sin, and an entire resignation to the will of God to be the very spring of all our duty, he directed them to frequent and constant acts of self-denial and resignation.” He held up the Cross to the view of candidates for holy orders; and the following saying of his deserves to be recorded : “I account him not worthy of the name of a minister of Christ, who cannot patiently suffer injury, contempt, and envy.”—“Thus faithfully and prudently” (to recur to the funeral sermon already so often quoted) “did our dear friend manage his charge, in serving the interest of his blessed Master; and we might have hoped confidently, ere long, that, by the joint endeavours of his reverend colleague and himself, through the wlessing of the Alunighty, we should have seen another face on our whurch; but, amidst all his pious

designs and cares, he is called by his great Master, in an hour that we thought not of, from his stewardship here, to an higher employment in the other world.” About the twenty-seventh year of his age, symptoms of consumption. appeared, which wasted him by . slow degrees, and at last put an end to his valuable life, on the 13th of June, 1678; before he had completed the age of twenty-eight. Dr. Gairden thus speaks of his deportment on his death-bed:—“The end of his life was no less Christ's,. than the beginning and the whole course of it. The time of his sickness was as cheerfully spent, in suffering the will of God, as the former was in doing it. He manifested the greatest meekness and cheerfulness of spirit, throughout the whole course of it. He used not the least harsh expression, either to any of those that waited on him, or concerning the present providence. He expressed a perfect indifference as to life and death, and an entire resignation to the will of God, to dispose of him as he thought meet. He found himself never more sensible of the vanity of this world, nor ever, felt more ardent acts of love to God, than at that time. He was wrapt in admiration of God's goodness to him, and the little returns he said he had made to it; and acknowledged his own great unworthiness, and his humble confidence in the mercy and goodness of God, through the merits of his blessed Saviour. And, thus meekly did he pass his sickness and resign his spirit,without any trouble from the world, or great pain of body, or any anguish of mind. ‘Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright,for the endos that man is peace!” To which are subjoined the following animated reflections:—“Truly, if we look upon our dear friend, and consider what he hath been, what he now is, and shall be to all eternity; it will make us sensible how much we ought to resign ourselves to, and glorify, the will of our heavenly Father, in his wise disposal

of him. Christ, so to ' due is gain. O how may this, after the example of the

ancient Christians, fill us with joy

and comfort, in the well-grounded hope of the happiness of our dear friend! Well may we think we hear him say, Why do you mourn for me? Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves; for to me to die is gain. And O how happy is our friend, who now enjoys an absolute freedom from all the pains, and griefs, and troubles of this miserable world ! who is out of the reach of all its temptations and snares; whose soul is put beyond the possibility of ever sinning ; which now only begins to live, being now all light, and life, and love, and motion; seeing and

enjoying God; joining in pure and .

holy friendship with angels and archangels, and the spirits of just men made perfect, in admiring and adoring his Redeemer! O let us not bewail the absence of our friend, with fruitless sighs and tears; nor sorrow as they that have no hope; but let us always endeavour, after his example, so to live to Christ in this world, that our death may be the same gain to us as to him!” Professor Scougal left his books to the library of King's College; and the sum of five thousand merks to his successors in the chair of Divinity. He was buried on the north side of the college chapel, opposite the high altar, afterwards called the bishop's seat, or desk; with the following inscription on his tombstoile. Memoria sacrum HENRICUS SCOUGAL, Reverend, in Christo Patris, Patricii Episcopi Aberdomensis filius, Philosophie in hac Academia Regia, Per quadriennium, totidemque annis Ibidem Theologiae Professor. Ecclesiae in Auchterless, uno antistite, Pastor. Multa in tam brevissimo curriculo Didicit, praestitit, docuit. Caeli avidus, et coelo maturus, Obiit Anno Dom. M.D.C.LXXVIII. AEtatis suae XXVIII. Ethic exuvias mortalitatisposuit.

As to him to live was .

family sermons. No. XLV.

Matt. vi. 6.- But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet; and when thou hust shut thy aoor, pray to thw Father which is in secret; and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

Paivate prayer differs from family or public prayer in several respects. The proper subjects of public or social prayer are such wants as belong to men in general. In private prayer, the wants of our particular state, our peculiar trials, dangers, and temptations, form the proper subjects of our addresses. Hence private prayer is a peculiarly interesting part of devotion. It may also be considered as more spiritual in its nature. In public prayer, there are many outward things to excite the affections: the surrounding multitude, the union of many voices and many hearts in the worship of God, the soothing or elevating strains of music, the solemnity of the house of God; all have a tendency to produce an artificial kind of devotion. This is not said in order to lessen the value of such helps to devotion : far from it: in our present state, we need every help. Still it must be owned, that the less our devotion arises from outward causes, and the less it depends on these, the more likely is it to be the genuine feeling of a pious heart, actuated by gratitude to God, admiration of his perfections, love to his character, confidence in his providence, and faith in his promises. Private prayer, therefore, is far more likely to be the result of a real fear and love of God. It cannot, at least, be the offspring of ostentation; nor is it easy to conceive that it should flow from hypocrisy. In general it may be regarded as the genuine expression of the feelings of the heart, offered up from the purest motives, and in the most spiritual manner. There may be even no voice heard, no form used ; yet the ardent desire of the soul, the unuttered aspiration, the Penitent sigh, will be perceived and accepted as the purest worship by that God who seeth in secret. : Private prayer is also a better test or index of the state of the soul, than public or social worship. £ory man is what he is in secret. When * Ro eve is upon him, then his true character and feelin-ts shew themselves. If then he sincerely and .devoutly pours out bis heart before -God; if then he truly mourns his sins, and servently desires to obtain divine grace, to pardon and sanctify him, there is good ground, for beJieving that he is a real disciple of Christ. But if the person, who in social worship seems animated by a glow of devotion, and deeply affected by a sense of sin, feels no holy swarmth or penitent sorrow in priwave prayer; if he can often omit secret duties, or perform them only in a cold and careless manner; he has reason to fear lest bis devotion in public should not be the offering of a sincere heart. Prayer is the intercourse of the soul with God the Father of spirits: an intercourse not carried on by the hearing of the ear, or the uttering of sounds, but by the union of mind with mind. It tas been an old objection against prayer, that God does inot need to be told our wants, or to be entreated to supply them. This 30bjection proceeds on a mistake as to the true nature of prayer. It does not consider prayer as the intercourse or communication which subsists between the Lord and Creator of the universe, the Chief of all spiritual beings, and the spiritual beings whom he has created. The angels in heaven thus hold constant communion with H.m in whom tiley live, and move, and have their being. Norisit to be supposed, that, because they have no sins to laument, they have therefore no need of praver : the very continuance of their state of perfection, of strength and desire to do the will of God, may be the subjects of constant prayer—of dewout acknowledgment that all good {Proceeds from 43 od, of humble confidence in him, of servent praise for

left without hope.

mercies enjoyed. . And in answer to such prayer, where may be vouchsafed fresh manifestations of the Divine presence, a renewal of strength, an increase of light, an accession of bliss: so that all wisdom, power, and goodness may appear to flow directly from God, the only Fountain of good. In this way, might Adam

converse with God in paradise. But

when he fell, this intercourse was destroyed; and since that period, men have lived in a state of alienation from God. But though communion with God, that invaluable privilege, has been forfeited, still man is not A new way of access to God is opened. He has given his only Son to be a Mediator between himself and his fallen creatures. They draw near to him on a thrope of grace, through Christ, and he receives them for the sake of his beloyed Son, And that this privilege may be rightly used, he has given them his Spirit to incline and teach them to pray, to help their infirmities, and to sanctify Aheir desires. Thus have we access to God, through Christ, by the Spirit. The throne of grace, where Jesus is seated as the High Priest and Advocate of his people, is now the place where God holds intercourse with man, and communicates to him the fulness of his grace. There, all his faithful servants are found. There they meet their God and each other; and the blessed intercourse of heaven is kept up by prayer, dictated by the Spirit, aud offered up through Christ. It is by means of our relation to his Son that God becomes in a peculiar sense our Father, and that we are encouraged to draw near him as such, in the confidence that with a father's feelings he will receive and bless his returning children. Thus our intercourse with God is renewed, and we enjov in our measure and degree that blessed communion with him on earth which the angels enjoy in heaven; and we then most nearly partake of the life, the enjoy ment, the employment of angels, when we are engaged in prayer to God.

And as this freedom of access to God by prayer is the highest privilege we enjoy, so the benefits of it are of the highest order. Let us remember that God is the only source of all good, of all wisdom and strength, of all honour, happiness, and glory ; and that whatever we have of these we must obtain immediately from him. But it is a law of the Divine government, that spiritual gifts should be connected with prayer to God, and with the acknowledgment of our dependence on him. The life of heaven is spoken of as seeing God; dwelling with him; beholding his face conti

Dually. No inhabitant of heaven is

insensible to the presence of God, but holds constant intercourse with him in the exercise of dependence and gratitude, adoration and praise; and the perfection of religion on earth consists in partaking of the same benefits, and exercising the same affections. And how great is the value of those benefits which he bestows on such as maintain communion with him by prayer: All worldly blessings were but a small thing for him to bestow : he gives freely infinite blessings—eternal life, tlernal glory, the eternal enjoyment of happiness. These are blessings worthy of God to give, and of an immortal being to receive ; and these are all communicated through the medium of prayer. To prayer, the ear of God is ever open; to prayer, the pardon of innumerable sins and deliverance from every evil are granted; by prayer, the victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil is obtained; by prayer, the weak are made strong, the helpless are protected, the corrupt are sanctified, death is disarmed of its sting, and the grave of its spoil; by prayer, the gates of heaven are opened, and an entrance obtained into the regions of eternal light and glory. And now, seeing that such is the privilege, and such the benefits, of prayer; and that we are invited, and even urged, to share in them; is it not * matter deeply-to-be regretted that Christ, OesrRy, No. 29.

so many should live without prayer nay, that prayer should be even a trouble and a burden to them? Every day does the sun behold innumerable, rational beings, preserved and supported by God's bounty, endued by: him with many noble powers, and graciously invited to partake of all the blessings of his favour and of." eternal glory, averse to communion, with their God; rising in the morning without thanksgiving or prayer; lying down at night without acknowledging his mercy or desiring his presence; and who say to him in effect, “Depart from us; we desire neither to know thee nor to receive any blessing from thee.” Fain would I bring all who thus feel and act, to a sense of their duty; fain would I convince them of the high privilege of being permitted to pray to God. May. God himself, who alone can touch the heart, make the present endeavour effectual to that end; may he awaken in them better feelings, while I lead them to ask their own consciences why it is that they neglect to pray.—Is it that God is a spiritual Being whom you do not perceive by your senses, and therefore cannot converse with ? But are there not innumerable persons who find no such difficulty in addressing the Author of their lives * There is no more difficulty in addressing a being whom you do not see, than one whom you do, provided only your belief of the presence of both be equally strong. If, indeed, you entertain a doubt whether God is present with you, and hears you, then indeed there will be no earnestness or seriousness in prayer, Unbelief, then, is one great cause of the neglect of prayer. But surely even ... the evidence of our senses is not stronger than that which proves, beyond all question, that there is an Almighty Being, who knows all things, who is ever present with his creatures, and attends to all they say and do. Everything above us, beneath us, and around us, proves this. Our own existence, is not more certain than. His; and, if He 4 C

exist, He must possess attributes which shew him to be near to us, about our path, and surrounding us on every side. And will He not hear if we address him He that made the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see * He that gave man understanding, shall he not perceive? All nature and all revelation confirm this, and proclaim God to be every where present, and at all times observant of his creatures. Well then may we adopt the language of the Psalmist, and say, “ Lord, thou hast searched me and known me; thou. knowest my down-sitting and my up-rising. . Thou understandest my thoughts afar off. Thou compassest my path and my o down, and art acquainted with all my ways: for there is not a word in my tongue but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.” Let us be persuaded, them, that at this moment, at every moment, there is an Almighty Being near us, who observes all we do, and say, and think, though we see him not; and this Being, in his word, requires us to maintain a constant intercourse with him. We are, therefore, bound to pray to him daily. Shalbwe, then, refuse to pay him our just tribute of homage and obedience, and to hold communion with him, when he invites and entreats us to do so? But the true reason why we neglect to pray te God is probably a secret sense of guilt, and a dislike or dread to approach him. We know that God is a holy God, who requires holiness in all who draw nigh to: him; but our minds are averse to holiness, and though we cannot conceal ourselves from him, yet we vainly endeavour to hide him from our view. We do not like to have such a witness of all we do; and we feel an awe and constraint in the thought of his presence. Besides, to pray, while we do not forsake our sins, appears to be such plain mockery of God that we cannot persist in it. In short, to use the language of Scripture, “thecarnal” or unrenewed

“mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Now this is the very state from which the preaehing of the Gospel is intended to deliver men. By nature men are alienated from God. and the Gospel is intended to reconcile them to him, and to bring them back to their heavenly Father by repentance and prayer. acknowledging the injury they have done to the best of Beings. O that we were all convinced, that in keeping at a distance from God we keep at a distance from our best friend and kindest benefactor' He wants not our services, but we want him. and his grace. He humbleth himself even to listen to the adoration of angels: yet such is his wondersul condescension that he stoops from heaven to listen to the groans and supplications of the lowest and most abject of his creatures. He waits to dous good, and to shew us mercy, if we call upon him, Our unwillingness to pray to such a Being shews most strongly our need of prayer; for sarely this alienation from God, this aversion to holy intercourse with him, must be removed, if we would dwell with God hereafter in heaven. Surely, if we knew him aright; if we could see the infinite fulness of his compassion, the overflowing benignity of his disposition, the vast extent of his bounty, we should not act thus. It is his presence which gives glory to heaven and fills it with joy; and ought not we also to rejoice in it? Consider only his mercy : He hath not withheld his Son, his only Son, from us, but has given him to be a propitiation for our sins. Does this look like a stern, unpitying Being * “But ..he is a just and holy God.” Yes, But, though both just and holy, he delighteth not in the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his way, and live: and to effect this, what pains has he not taken; what arguments has he not used; what invitations has he not given; what promises has he not made 1 But, alas! till the heart is in some

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »