Page images

importance; but, at the same time, he avoided observation, or the affectation of austerity. His meals were early, regular and temperate; and his life retired, when compared with that of most men, in the same situation in society. He was entirely a stranger to the ordinary pleasures and amusements of the world, nor was he accustomed to consult his own ease or indulgence in any particular; yet his cheerfulness was noticed by all who conversed with him, and he habitually appeared well satisfied and happy. His fear of alienating his time from more important uses, rendered him on some occasions, apparently too averse to go into almost any company. But where the motive was so good, and the use made of time thus redeemed, was so worthy of imitation, surely this may be mentioned to his commendation, rather than as a failing, especially as it increased only with his advancing years, and evidenced a mind more and more occupied with the thoughts of that blessed world, into which he expected so soon to be removed.

His unaffected and deep humility may be considered as another distinguishing feature of his character. His liberality, his useful industry, and his piety, though he was zealous and abundant in them all, appeared not to himself in any degree meritorious Nay, he was convinced, that in every respect he fell short of his bounden duty, and was entirely dependent on the mercy of God in Christ Jesus for the pardon of his sins, and for final acceptance and felicity. In truth, he estimated his own character and conduct by

comparing them with the strait rule of the divine law, and not with the crooked principles and practices of the world: For he considered himself, and all the race of men, as being naturally in a state of apostasy from God, and exceedingly prone to evil; and he was very earnest in spreading this opinion, as a fundamental doctrine of the Scriptures.

This sentiment, as far as it was applied to himself, will be admitted to have been a source of humility; when applied to others, it is sometimes thought to be of a contrary nature; for a conviction of the general depravity of the human race is frequently imagined to spring either from spiritual pride, or from a harsh and severe disposition.

Now, as the sentiments entertained by our late honoured friend, concerning the fallen state of the world around him, undoubtedly made a material part of his character, I shall enter more fully into this circumstance; and the candid reader will then judge, how far this his persuasion was consistent with the general benevolence of his character, which, to some persons, may appear ambiguous or unintelligible.

The main ground, on which this and the rest of his religious opinions were founded, was the plain declarations of the Bible; and to that book, which he studied day by day, endeavouring to imbibe every instruction which it contains, I must refer the reader for a fuller explanation of the subject. Our late friend, I say, implicitly believed the doctrines of it; and conscious of his own demerit, all his hopes of salva

tion were derived from it. He
expected eternal life, as the gift
of God through Jesus Christ,
according to the revelation of
mercy, and the precious prom-
ises contained in the Scriptures;
and he found that these were
matters in which human reason
or authority could give him no
assurance or satisfaction. If,
then, on the one hand, he believ-
ed the promises of the Bible,
and derived all his consolation
from them, how could he disbe-
lieve the threatenings of God
contained in the same book, and
the repeated declarations of the
inspired writers, concerning the
degeneracy of men, the wicked-
ness of the world, and the com-
parative small number of those
that are in the way of salvation?
Indeed, that kind of charity
which we often hear pleaded for,
can only be expected, on any
grounds of reason, from infidels
and sceptics, who, consistent
with their principles, may deny
that there is an hell, or that the
way is broad and thronged which
leads to it. But in proportion as
these sentiments prevail, the
sinews will be cut, of every ef-
fort to bring sinners into the
narrow way of repentance, faith
and holiness, in which the word
of God requires them to walk.
If any, therefore, who would be
thought to believe the Bible,
compliment their worldly neigh-
bours with unscriptural hopes,
or teach them to make light of
their danger, it must be owing,
(though they may not suspect it)
to no small degree of scepticism
mixing with their views of
Christianity; and it is difficult
to conceive how they can derive
any actual hope from the gospel,
who discard all serious fear, and

who neither lament nor perceive that state of condemnation, under which (according to the word of God) every one around them lies; unless he be renewed in the spirit of his mind, and believe in Christ Jesus, lead a sober, righteous, and godly life; or, at least, be striving to enter in at the strait gate of repentance, and conversion to God and holiness. It is observable, that the Scripture seems to know but of two descriptions of men, namely, those who serve God, and those who serve him not: he who is not the servant of God, but serves some other mas ter, or aims at some other end, lies under the condemnation of the Bible, though he be free from disreputable vices; and whether the multitude around us are in good earnest serving God, or whether they are pursuing their own selfish ends, let any man of common observation determine.

It must therefore appear to every candid inquirer, that when religious persons entertain what are called uncharitable opinions of their neighbours, they are in truth compelled to it by the united evidence of facts and Scripture; and not inclined to it by a mere conceit of their own superiority, or any severity of disposition.

These sentiments may be often observed, as in the present instance, to reside in the same breast, with the most melting compassion, the most expanded benevolence, and the most unequivocal tokens of deep humility. It is not then an inconsist⭑ ency to think mankind very cor rupt and wicked, and yet to abound in compassion and chari

ty towards them. This evidently accords to the judgment and conduct of God himself, as it is every where represented in Scripture: "He commended his love to us, in that, when we were sinners, ungodly and enemies, Christ died for us." The blessed Saviour was hated for testifying of the world, that the works thereof were evil; yet he "went about doing good," and at length laid down his life as the propitiation for our sins. St. John, the beloved disciple, who was eminent for the greatness of his charity, says, "We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lieth in wickedness:" and St. Paul, with a mixture of sound judgment and genuine charity, says to the Philippians, "There are many, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things." These are a few passages out of vast numbers that might be produced and, it may be added, that the world (signifying the generality of mankind) is scarce ever mentioned in Scripture, without something being added, which implies a condemnation of it.

. It is obvious that these sentiments must be unfashionable and unpopular, and must exceedingly deduct from the character of every religious man in the opinion of the world, how much soever he lays himself out in doing good to the bodies and souls of men.

Some persons indeed are not aware, that they who believe the

Bible, do thus, in their judgment, condemn the world around them; and they can therefore bear with many true Christians, on account of their philanthropy, having never approached near enough to understand this unpopular subject. It is proper that such persons should be undeceived, and should know, that they who believe the word of God, however kind and obliging to them, entertain the most serious apprehensions concerning the state of their souls, and are far more alarmed for them, than they are for themselves. There are also others that have some sense of religion, and secretly assent to this offensive doctrine; but joining much with the world, they deem it convenient to disguise their sentiments. Nay, they frequently behave in a manner so inconsistent with a serious conviction of this kind, that they are never suspected of it; they conform to the world, and seem to be a constituent part of it; and who could imag ine that they join with the Scripture in the condemnation of it? These are indeed the more popular characters; yet if their sentiments were fully known, perhaps they would meet with less favour, than they, who profess them without disguise, and sep, arate from the pleasures and vanities of the world, and from a needless intercourse with it upon that account. The latter are certainly the more honest men, and would probably, if the whole truth were known, be deemed the more honourable characters, the people of the world themselves being judges.

It is not, however, here meant to be insinuated, that pious per

sons never form too harsh a judgment concerning their neigh bours. A certain precipitancy of temper, and a vehemence in some points of doctrine, or a contracted acquaintance with some sect or party, often betray them into mistakes of this kind. Yet whilst we censure a seeming want of charity in others, we should be careful not to fall into real uncharitableness ourselves; and not to condemn any religious persons, merely for abiding by the standard of the Bible; lest we should thereby be guilty of condemning the Bible itself, while we are fondly valuing our selves on our superior Christian charity.

But the person of whom we speak, though attached to the church of England, both in respect of its genuine doctrine, worship and discipline, was equally a cordial friend to pious persons amongst the dissenters but, undoubtedly his most intimate connexions lay amongst those of them who accorded in doctrine with his own church; for this description of them appeared to him more occupied in, and more earnest for, the salvation of the souls of men. His rule of judgment, therefore, ought not to be considered as merely having respect to party; nor was it determined by a minute regard to his own sentiments in the more disputable points; but it was formed on the great outlines of doctrine and practice, which are evidently contained in the Scriptures.

Our attention should next be directed to the composed manner in which this honoured and useful servant of God looked forward to the approach of death. Though he was in general healthy, and of a good constitution, yet for a long time before he died, he was sensible that he grew old, and often spake of his nearness to the eternal world with a serenity that shewed such reflections to be familiar, and even satisfactory to him and when indeed it became evident that the solemn season was arrived, there was no occasion to conceal his real situation from him. He considered his sickness as a summons from his gracious Lord, and calmly prepared to comply with it being surrounded by his children, and recommending them and theirs to the blessing of that God and Saviour whom he had trusted, and with whom he had walked ; recommending to them his ser yice and salvation, and then calmly resigning his spirit into his gracious hands; he put many in remembrance of dying Jacob, blessing his twelve sons, and then yielding up the ghost :—and the impression made upon the minds of those, who beheld the tender, instructive, solemn, and animating scene, will probably not soon be effaced. "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace."


Religious Communications.


(Continued from p. 547. vol. ii.)

In a former number we gave a brief display of the nature and properties of zeal, considered in a personal sense. We will now consider it as a duty we owe to the cause of God, and the best interests of our fellow creatures. Here, likewise, it has a very extensive and important sphere.

It will operate in befriending truth and opposing error. We are exhorted by an apostle to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints." And although, in an age of affected and extravagant liberality, like the present, this is but an unwelcome and thankless office, yet no real friend to God, and the souls of men, will reluct from it on that account. Indeed, what is that liberality, so celebrated and so fashionable, but one of the numberless forms in which the divine truth is opposed, and the best interests of immortal men sported with? To represent every kind of religion, as equally safe; and all those, as in the sure road to heaven, who are only faithful to the opinions, which they embrace; this, with many, is the essence and perfection of liberality. But more properly, it is the essence and perfection of absurdity, and of cruelty. And we are called upon, each in our respective spheres, by every motive of Christian benevolence and compassion, as well as of piety, to make a bold and vigorous stand for the truth of God, opposed,

explained away, despised and trampled on, as it is by multitudes. And if we have the true spirit of primitive Christianity, and pious zeal, we shall do it.

But this surely is not all. The interests of practical holiness and virtue demand our faithful and ardent exertions. Nor shall we, if we are consistent Christians, think it enough to be zealous for speculative truth, without a corresponding zeal in favour of the power of godliness, and against every form of licentiousness and vice. The serious and benevolent child of God feels, tenderly feels, for the honour of his heavenly Father, and for the immortal souls of men. When therefore he looks around him, and sees iniquity prevailing, vice triumphing, and multitudes travelling the downward road in peace, he is pained and grieved. Thus we are told that in a day of great degeneracy among God's ancient people, the pious few, who kept their garments undefiled, were found sighing and crying for all the abominations which prevailed in that guilty land. And they were mercifully distinguished and spared in a day of general desolation and destruction. If we have any thing of the spirit of these holy and happy men, we shall mourn over the sins of the time. And animated with zeal for God and his cause, we shall strenuously exert ourselves to counteract and arrest that awful torrent of iniquity which threatens to deluge our country-to deluge it not only with crimes and confusion, but

« PreviousContinue »