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UPWARDS of fifty clergymen, of five Christian denominations, and belong to sixteen different
states, most of whom are well known to the public as autho have allowed the Editor to expect from them Sermons for this work ; amg whom are the following
Rev. Dr. Richards, Professor in the Theological Seminary at Auburn; R
No. 7. Vol. 9.)
NEW-YORK, DEC. 1834. [WHOLE No. 103.
By Rev. GEORGE C. BECKWITH,
ZEAL IN RELIGION. Gal. iv. 18.-It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing.
The truth of this maxiin is readily admitted in every thing but religion. All commend zeal in the affairs of this world, and seem to expect strong excitement wherever great interests are at stake. Who censures a resolute pursuit of wealth or learning, of honor or power! Would you reproach the philanthropist for his zeal in behalf of the suffering, or the patriot for his ardor in defending the liberties of his country? Where life or health, property or reputation is in jeopardy, wakeful solicitude is not only allowed, but demanded. At the death-bed of a friend, amid the perils of an ocean-storm; on the eve of a batile that must decide not merely the fate of an army, but the destinies of a nation or a continent for ages, could any mau refrain from deep emotion ?
But the maxim of our text is far more applicable to religion. If the interests of time so powerfully excite us, how ought the realities of eternity to rouse, and thrill, and agitate our inmost souls! Surely a concern touching our dearest hopes both for this and the coming world, should awaken the strongest emotions.
Let us then reflect on some of the reasons for such excitement in matters of religion.
I. Man was made to feel deeply. His very nature requires ex. citement. He is neither a snail, nor an oyster, but a being whose element is activity, and whose nutriment is emotion. His mind rusts by standing still, and cannot remain long in a state of entire repose. He must and will have excitement of some kind ; and if he finds it not in the service of God, he will seek it in the vices or the vanities of this world. Can we hesitate which to choose? Is not the excite.
Voz. 9-No. 7.
ment of a Christian preferable to that of a worldling, the rapture of saints and angels in heaven to the deathless agonies of devils and damned spirits in hell ?
II. But look at the obvious DESIGN of the gospel. Is there not in its history and its principles abundant evidence of its having been intended to pour through every bosom a tide of strong and exquisite emotions? If God has taken such pains to reveal his will by patriarchs, and prophets and apostles; if he has given up his Son to the death of the cross for our redemption; if he has sent his Spirit to transform us into his own pure and blessed image; if he has appointed his ministers, his Sabbaths, and all the means of grace to impress his word on our minds with saving efficacy; if he has brought before us the most powerful motives that heaven, earth and hell can suggest, and pressed them upon us in a thousand forms; does he design by all this to produce on our sensibilities no deep, no abiding impression ? If he intended no excitement, why provide so much fuel for the flame, and then send coals of fire from heaven to kindle it to an intense, an everlasting blaze? III. Consider, also, THE TENDENCIES OF DIVINE TRUTH;
say whether the gospel is not adapted to excite strong emotion. Contemplate the character of God, radiant with glory, and endeared to all holy beings by the displays he has made of himself in the works of his creation, providence and grace. Must not these touch the heart ? Can we gaze unmoved on his infinite power and wisdom, on his inflexible justice, on his spotless purity, on all the matchless wonders of his love to fallen man ? Will that character whose transcendent loveliness waked the psalmist's lyre, whose awful glories overwhelmed the prophet's soul, before whose overpowering splendors all the seraphim veil their faces, and bow in transports of admiration and praise-can such a character fail, when properly contemplated, to kindle our hearts into high and delightful emotion ?
Look at the atonement with its cluster of wonders; see mankind so ruined, that no created arm could rescue them from endless woe; behold God so loving the world as to give his only begotten Son for their redemption ; see the Lamb of God bleeding on the cross to atone for their sins, and restore them to his full and everlasting favor: is there nothing here to melt the heart ? If the very name of a Howard has thrilled the bosom even of those who had never been blest by his philanthropy; if when the father of our country died, the nation wept in grateful sorrow; if his companion in arms, on visiting our shores after the lapse of half a century, was hailed by all with overy possible
de monstration of respect and gratitude; can we refrain from emotions far deeper, while contemplating the grace of Him who, being "the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, yet made himself of no reputation, but took upon him the form of a servant; and being found in fashion as a man, humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,” and consented there to be wounded for our transgressions, to be bruised for our iniquities, and to bear that chastisement by which alone our peace is procured?
In the same way I might glance at all the truths of the gospel; but take only the subject of regeneration, with its kindred and inseparable doctrines. If the Bible represents man as an apostate, as a rebel ; as fallen, polluted, ruined; as alienated from God by wicked works, and so utterly dead in sin, that he must be created anew in Christ Jesus, before he can taste the joys of heaven; is it possible for any one to bring such truths as these home to his bosom without being strongly excited ? Must they not touch the very main-spring of his soul ?
IV. All this excitement, moreover, is required by the INTERESTS at stake. What are those interests? Property or reputation, health or life, the friendship of man, the favor of monarchs, torones and diadems, all the riches, honors or pleasures that this world can give ? No; something more than all these--the favor of Him whose smile is heaven, whose frown is hell; an immortality of ever-increasing joy or wo; interests high as the throne of Jehovah, deep as the bot. tomless pit, lasting as eternity; interests, in comparison with which all that can be crowded into the utmost limits of earth and time, dwindle into nothing
Would you faintly conceive the value of these interests ? Ask not the worldling; he has no arithmetic for such calculations. Ask the sinner when wrung with remorse, and trembling in fear of the wrath to come; ask the recent convert while clasping to his bosom those hopes which he would not exchange for the whole world; ask the advanced Christian while sweetly communing with his heavenly Father, and rejoicing with joy unspeakable and full of glory; ask he man whose spirit hovers on the brink of eternity, just ready to plunge into the pit, or to soar on angel wings to celestial bliss ; ask the saints above as they bow before the eternal throne; ask Him who made the soul, and knows its capacities for endless enjoyment or suffering; or Him who came from heaven to the cross for its redemption : then go down to the world of despair, and ask those