« AnteriorContinuar »
From this source we should learn which are marked out in deep and the fervent, simple piety of primi- broad lines. All this and much itive times; and as those times more would appear from the serwere, for the most part, exempt mons of different ages, could they from the heresies which afterwards be compared together. abounded, we should perceive the Were we, moreover, to extend want of critical knowledge, and our researches, on this subject, into the comparative speculative laxity different countries, we might dethen prevalent, on the deeper mys- termine the particular characteristeries of religion. From such a tic traits as to the religion of those collection, it would appear, what countries. We should discern and subtilty of discussion and violent discriminate the deadly fanaticism animosities obtained afterwards, in of Spain—the weak superstitions of consequence of the heresies and di- Italy--the gay infidelity of France-visions which distracted the Church, the critical coldness of Germanydown to the period of the complete the licentious formality of a portion establishment of the Papal Hierar- of the Anglican church--the pure chy. We should ascertain the jar- morality of Presbyterian Scotland, gon of pbilosophy, the dominion of and the sober habits and discipliAristotle in the Christian school, ned piety of Congregational New the childish conceits, the base su- England. The recorded labours perstition, the fierce fanaticism, of the pulpit would show these disand the almost universal corrup- tinctions in the religious or irrelition of faith and manners, which gious character of different counmarked the ages that followed tries : and each country would be down to the Reformation. From seen to possess some shades or that period to the present, we features varying from those of eveshould notice the spirit of contest between the powers of darkness The ministers of religion in their and the champions of the truth, public ministrations either catch the banded efforts of the enemies the manners of the times, or give a of God on the one hand, in diffu. tone to those manners. Their dissing atheism, infidelity, heresy, and courses are founded on the notions, licentiousness; and of the friends principles, duties, virtues, errors, of God on the other, in opposing or vices, that prevail-on the great these errors, and in maintaining the changes that take place in the morinterests of truth and righteous- al, and sometimes in the political ness. We should learn the vari- world-on the state of the Church ous errors of different ages—the at large, or that division of it to great points of attack or defence in which they are more immediately theological controversy, and what related ; and in proportion to their subjects most interested the minds faithfulness they expose the evil, of men.
We should discover in and they commend and insist on regard to the present era, the sin- the good. In proportion to their gular mixture of some of the best ability, connected with their faithwith some of the worst traits of fulness, they present a true and any age,—the evangelical purity, forcible picture of the religious benevolence, and religious excite- condition of the community; and ment of primitive times--with the where they are stated pastors, of corruptions, selfishness, heresy, that of their own particular charand licentiousness, of the dark ages. ges.
In relation to the latter, it We should perceive the gross ig- may be truly said, that their preachnorance and the bright light which ing is almost necessarily appropristand opposed to each other, and ate-hinged on the religious pe
culiarity of their people, so that any other time; and has published one can scarcely exchange labours the sermon to convince his fellowwith his next neighbour on the townsmen that he is neither afraid sabbath without omitting in his nor ashamed of giving the utmost discourses, some representations, publicity to his opinions, convinced that he has reason to believe none as he is, that they are in accordance but his own stated hearers would du with the principles of that sacred ly appreciate, or feel to be relevant. volume, which by every one but an So unconscious is this adaptation of infidel must be acknowledged to their public efforts to the state and be the only arbiter in all questions wants of their congregations, that of a moral and religious nature." probably the history of their preach- The author, the Rev. J. A. ing, in most cases, would be the James, has deserved well of the history of religion in their particu- religious public in a very valuable lar parishes. In looking over their little work not long since published, manuscript sermons, they would entitled, “ The Christian Father's perceive how these glowed with Present, to his Children,” a book warmth, or were chilled by cold- which we regard as among the best ness, or at least failed in animation, of the class to which it belongs, though not perhaps in usefulness and which we could wish were in altogether, according as their hear- the possession of every family ers felt interested or otherwise, on whether it had any juvenile memthe subject of their souls' salvation. bers or not. In that work he ap
This spirit of adaptation evidently pears to be (and the discourses exmarks the Sermons, at the head of hibit the same character) a good, this article. It possesses all the zealous, sound, and evangelical interest of a reality ; and if it indi. Certainly we should not be cates the same state of things in apt to mistake him for another regard to England at large, that it reverend gentleman in the same does in respect to the particular town (probably there are others place where it was preached, it such) who, as one that resides there must suggest many melancholy re- and is acquainted with him tells flections to the Christian mind. us"dances at quadrille parties, The writer was evidently surround- appears on the grand Stand at ed by scorners, and molested and horse races, frequents the theatre, perhaps fretted by their impieties. and sometimes gets not a little, but From the short preface to the Ser- a great deal the worse for liquor." mon, we should judge there was If one of the latter description were something peculiar in the effect to preach a sermon on scoffing at produced, as well as in the occa- religion, he might perhaps say that sion. • The outline of the follow. which is correct; but he would be ing Sermon,” he
says, was drawn more apt to exemplify that which is nearly a month ago, and consequent wrong.
The scoffer would probaly before it was possible for the bly appear in the preacher, even author, to anticipate the circum- while he should be eloquently adstances, that have lately occupied monishing his peccant hearers relaso much of the public attention in tive to this sin. Birmingham. To these events the The Sermon before us is an Eng. discourse bears no other relation lish copy, nor do we know that whatever, than that of a coincidence, there is a reprinted edition of it seasonable, it must be confessed, in this country, or that there will be but altogether uncontrived. The one. Our readers, however, will, author has said neither more nor we think, not be disobliged by a less than he would have done at brief analysis and few extracts by
means of which they may learn the to reject it; they laugh at it but do substance of it, as well as be im- not, because they cannot, argue against pressed by the truths it presents on it... In the grand conflict between a very important and practicable christianity and infidelity, they carry
on a sort of guerrilla warfare. They subject. it may gratify also their have neither skill nor accoutrements, curiosity to know how a topic of which can gain them admission to the this pointed character is handled line of well disciplined troops, but they by a preacher in a populous town can skirmish, and it is admitted that in our mother country.
Nor is it in a certain way do much execution. the least of our object to improve I mean the men who under a profession the occasion afforded, by some
of general respect for revelation, are seasonable remarks in reference to exposing, and ridiculing, what their
ever busying themselves in finding out, the awful crime as committed shallow and unsanctified minds imagine among us.
to be difficulties, absurdities, and objecThe author's text is 2 Pet. iii. tions. How will they divert for hours 3d. Knowing this first, that there at a time the circle in which they move shall come in the last days scoffers, with witty, ironical, or ludicrous rewalking after their own lusts. Af marks, perhaps upon some of the scripter a neat introduction, his object ture characters. The account of Jo
ture narratives, or some of the scripis announced in the following pas- nah and the fish; and the sins of David, sage.
“ As this sin, (viz. scoffing, with other things of a similar nature or scorning,] “is lamentably com- are couverted by them into matter of mon in the present age, I have endless ridicule. Two topics there are thought necessary to call your at- of fearful mystery, of awful gloom, and tention to the subject, and to put of dreadful reality, necessarily connectyou on your guard against its per been employed, perhaps more than any
ed with revealed truth which have nicious influence and impious at- others by such scoffers, to season their tacks.” This purpose he executes mirth, and to give a relish to their sinin a number of remarks or heads of ful jokes : and these are the state of discourse, not previously stated but punishment prepared for the wicked, following one another, after a reg- and the existence of the devil. Hell
, ular, though perhaps not strictly whether it mean according to the views logical method in all respects.
of some, a purgatorial fire, a disciplinaThese general topics are four in my chastisement, or according to the number. The first gives a repre
Scripture a state of eternal torments;
and satan, whether he be a real existsentation of the vice itself and tra
ence, or only a figurative personificaces it through its various forms and tion of the evil principle, are subjects modes of operation. The next con- of merriment and diversion. Unhapsiders the causes of scoffing. The pily the monkish legends of Popery, third exhibits the characters of this prurient as they are, with all that can vice. And the last describes the shock the reason, and offend the sober punishment of the scorner. Under piety of the enlightened Christian, have the first head, after setting forth the and monstrous stories on these appal.
furnished so many absurd, ludicrous, professed atheistical scoffer and the ling themes, that the most terrific and deistical scoffer, he comes to anoth
dreadful of all possible topics, have er character which he distinguishes become the most sportive of all.pp. from the latter, and which he des. cribes in the following manner.
After describing atheistic, and But there are many, who, though
deistic, and this last, which may be they have all the malignity of deism, called semi-deistic scoffing, he adhave not its desperate hardihood. They verts to another form of this vice, are infidels without avowing it; they
and that is, as he expresses himdespise revelation without professing self, “to pitch upon the extrava
gances and imperfections of good fitted by violence, either by being men, and to expose them to public stretched or lopped. pp. 14, 15. ridicule and contempt.” Concern
With a rather loose reference to ing this he remarks as follows.
the terms of his first head, he next
speaks of the place and time at It may be, their imperfections are only eccentricities, mere dust upon the which the practice of scoffing is inpetals of the flower, but not a canker dulged in. Here he enumerates at its roots, which candour would the theatre, the social circle, and overlook or conceal, in consideration many of the publications, and much of the genuine excellence with which of the periodical literature of the they are associated; and which char- present day. We extract one pasity would never ridicule, lest the piety sage under the second article here with which they are united should par- mentioned as possessing rather a take of the derision. It is a very easy achievement to make corrupt minds fine pathetic cast. laugh at the most admirable qualities, when they happen to be connected
Religion, like her divine author with even trivial eccentricity; for he when he was led into Pilate's hall, to who laughs at the garment, will soon
be a laughing stock to the Roman solbe led by an easy transition to despise diers, is introduced only to furnish
One the wearer, however respectable. But merriment for the company. how hateful is the malignancy, which calls her an impostor, practising her delights to throw all the valuable and
arts on the credulity of mankind; anpraiseworthy parts of the character, other helds up the vices of her false into the shade of one ludicrous truit! third tells a ludicrous anecdote of one
disciples as chargeable upon her; a -pp. 13, 14.
of her sincere and honourable votaries. He speaks of one other misera- Then derided by all, defended by none, ble device to which many have had with no one to speak on her behalf. recourse, and that is to select the and not permitted to speak for herself
she stands, like the man of sorrows, & absurdities of fanaticism, and the silent object of derision, the swearer's hollow pretences of piety, as they jest, the drunkard's song, yet majestic have been exhibited in some false still in grief, and dignified amidst surprofessors, and thus to raise a pre- rounding scorn. How much of tavern judice against all spiritual religion. alehouse mirth is derived from this Concerning this practice he makes impious source.
What a supply of the following sensible remarks.
merriment would be cut off from the
sons of Belial if religion, and all the We are told it is not rational piety denly, by some mysterious power op
subjects connected with it, were sudthey deride, bu: only the disgusting erating upon their mind, either forgotexcesses of enthusiasm and insincerity. ten or dreaded. p. 17. This mask, however, is too ill constructed to conceal the visage, and this veil too thin to disguise the form head of discourse the causes of
In enumerating under the second of the scorner. Hypocrisy in any thing needs no effort ernployed against scoffing, he resolves them into it, to render it hateful; there being no pride—a prevailing and indecent vice which is more generally or justly levity of mind—a silly affectation abhorred: and as for fanaticism, like of novelty, combined with a wish the ignis fatuus, it may be left to it to be thought superior to the terself, for it will soon expire without any rors of superstition-the power of effort to extinguish it. Besides, fa- fashion, and the contagion of evil naticism is a term so undefined, that it is a difficult matter to regulate its company—inability to attack reli. application; and on the other hand, gion in any other way-indulgences the phrase " rational piety” is with of lusts according to the idea intithose who use it, like the bed of Pro-mated in the text,—and finally, crustes, to which every thing must be fear united with dislike. On the
consideration respecting the indul- religion to allay if possible the rising gence of lusts, the following pas- alarms of his own conscience, and to sage is worthy of notice.
disengage himself from the terrors of
his own affrighted imagination. May The truths and the precepts of rev. I not appeal to some who read this
for elation are enemies to pride of intel.
the truth of what I say, when I affirm lect, and depravity of heart; and it is
that the sneering countenance is oftenmatter of little surprise, that they who heart, and of a trembling conscience.
times the impious mask of a cowardly cannot be reconciled to humility and purity, should scorn the system which p. 28. enforces such virtues. As children in a school, who have most to fear from a
In exhibiting, under the third master's displeasure, are the most ready head of discourse, the character of to treat him with ridicule behind his this vice, he speaks of it as irrationback, and as the whip will be generalal-as rude and uncivil-as a cruel ly treated with most merriment by and inhuman sin—as a most hardthose who are most in danger of itsening vice-as impious in the sight lashes; so they who have most reason to dread from religion, will be more
of God beyond all description--as forward than others to scorn it, and
a contagious and injurious vice. they who are in the greatest danger of
On the hardening character of the quenchless fire, will like other mad- this vice he observes, men, be the first to sport with its flames. Religion frowns upon every
It marks a dreadful progress in sin ; rebukes, accuses, and condemns the career of sin, manifests a peculiar every sinner. A man cannot swear or boldness of iniquity, and plainly proves take the name of God in vain, or break that the transgressor is still going forthe sabbath, or indulge in the least ward to greater obduracy of heart. act of uncleanness, but this representa. That man who can allow himself the tive of God in our world, censures the liberty of scoffing at religion as a sin, and threatens the sinner. Like the whole, or any part of it, who can allow angel of the Lord resisting the hireling himself to sneer at the righteous, or prophet in his path, it opposes itself to divert others with any thing pertaining the transgressor in his way, and with to their character or conduct, has a a drawn sword and a voice of thunder, conscience already partially benumbed, exclaims, proceed at thy peril! Inter- and which will soon be seared as with rupted, perplexed and resisted in his a hot iron. Nothing so rapidly hardiniquitous career, rendered uneasy ens the heart as this; nothing closes and less capable of enjoying his lusts ; so fast the avenues of moral percep. the sinner becomes angry, and like a tion, nor so completely petrifies the rude youth impeded in his lawless spiritual sensibilities. The mocker sport, he derides his monitor and abu will be soon past feeling. Neither ses him with ill names. pp. 26, 27. the terrors of justice, nor the loveliness
of mercy make any impression on his There is something clever, accord- heart: to admonish him is almost a
The sacred writers ing to the English meaning of this hopeless task. term, in what the author says of the able. The Greek version renders the
speak of a scorner as almost irreclaim. scorner's fear.
word scorner, by a word which signi.
fies incorrigible.-pp. 33, 34. The scorner secretly trembles at the idea of a God, and of a judgment On the punishment of the score to come. In spite of himself he fears that there may be a reality in it, and if ner, under the last head of disthere be, what is to become of him.
course, he has a few pithy sentenThe poor creature, like a scared child ces respecting the remorse somewhistling as he passes through a church- times felt by the scorner in this life, yard to keep up his courage, or laugh- or on the bed of death. But he ing at the story of a ghost to conceal dwells chiefly on the scorner's punthe palpitations of his heart, ridicules ishment in eternity. After quo. Vol. 1.-No. VII.