Page images
PDF
EPUB

you are engaged in this, you may consider yourself as a fellow-worshipper with her, occupied in the same pious. duties of praise and thanksgiving to Him who sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever.”

Daily self-examination he next recommends, as, says he, it will hụmble you before God, and lead you to the Rock of your Salvation. He lastly charges her to be careful to preserve in her whole deportment every Christjan grace and moral virtue, among others one highly necessary and indispensable in the Christian character, that of charity,

“ Living the life of righteousness, you will be prepared to die the death of the righteous; to triumph over death and the grave; to look to that period which is so frightful to those who are unprepared to meet it, with the calmness and composure of a Chris , tian; to say with that confidence which nothing but such a faith and such a life can inspire, 'Q death where is thy sting! O grave where is thy victory! The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law: but thanks be to Get who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Curist” (1 Cor. xv, 55.)

In the last letter he sums up the contents of the others; he sets before her the uses to be made of affliction--that life, being a state of trial and probation, it is sent as an awful lesson to ourselves, to loosen our attachment to the present world, to set our affections on better objects, and prepare ourselves to quit this mortal life, and hold ourselves in readiness to depart whenever our Lord shall come; it is sent as a correction for our past offences, as an admonition for the future. He then sets before her, in the most striking manner, the awfulness of death, when connected with futurity. “ The consideration that life or death, happiness or misery must be our portion ever after; that it closes our account for ever, is awful to all who allow themselves one moment to reflect what eternity is: who can contemplate it without alarm, who can look to it without fear, but he who is prepared to meet it, and who is at all times ready to receive the summons, as a faithful servant waiting for the coming of his Lord?

We have thus endeavoured to give a correct view of the Letters before us. Let those who are afflicted read them, that they may moderate and repress their grief with the comforts and consolations of religion, and the prospect of a future day of recompence and reward. And Those who have not known affliction-let them also read,

that

that when affliction does come, and sooner or later it must come to all, they may be able, like the author of these letters, to support their trials with Christian fortitude, and submit to them as the wise dispensations of a merciful and gracious God. The style of these Letters is simple, natural, easy, and elegant, though perhaps at times too fowery--the language correct and chaste, both admirably adapted to attain the object of their pious and afflicted author.

A t'iew of the Moral State of Society at the Close of the Eighteenth Century, &c. By John Bowles, Esq.

(Concluded from Page 195.)

THE

HE latter half of Mr. Bowles's pamphlet is occupied

by an enumeration of the several particulars wherein the state of morality in this country is evidently on the decline ; of these, the principal which he mentions are Prudence, Humility, Gratitude, Fidelity ;, “ to this the utmost consequence has ever been attached, and want of it has ever been allowed to denote complete depravity, These splendid and valuable yirtues, after being relaxed by the enervating softness of luxurious dissipation, are now held forth to scorn by that new school of morality, which, under the specious pretence of solicitude for general happiness and universal liberty, teaches its disciples to substitute vanity and egotism for every affection that can improve and adorn our nature.” Another most striking instance of the depravity of this degenerate age, is the general love of ease and pleasure, and manifest relaxation in regard to industry, regularity, and punctu. ality, which modern manners so universally exhibit.

The present disposition of time is too remarkable to be omitted. God has appointed the day for labour, and the night for rest; but man, in this as in many, nay, mo.t other instances, impiously defying the wisdom of his Maker, has thought proper to `invert the order of things, and that day which was allotted for the active diligent performance of our duty, in whatever station of life we may be placed. Iị is often urged, that those only thus employ their

to

time who have no duties of active life to perform.' But, have they no duties to fulfil? If they do not earn their daily bread by daily labour, are they therefore at liberty

pass their life in thoughtless dissipation and idleness? for far other purposes were they placed in the world; and far, very far different indeed is the account they will be required to give. Another most remarkable feature in the present times is, the confusion of all ranks, the levelling of all system. By this principle of Equality, introduced by the French revolution, all distinctions are to be swept away, and the cottager is now to be persuaded that he is as much entitled to the crown as the King who wears it: all the reverence and honour which is due to superiors is done away with. Virtue, age, learning, and authority, which would once have commanded respect, are now treated with ridicule. Youth will no longer bear reproof. Vice must no longer be reproved; the ignorant will not be instructed. We can only lament these melancholy truths, in the beautiful language of a very elegant poet:

" A time there was ; but, ah, that time is past

When stricter maxims formed the public taste;
The wealthiest listened to the voice of truth;

Youth reverenced age, and age instructed youth." External distinctions are necessary to keep alive that high degree of reverence to superiors which constitutes one chief bond of society. Of these the principal are Manners and Dress : these always corresponding with the rank of the individual; but these are swept away in the general revolution which has taken place in times and manners-—'Tis past, 'tis gone; a total change has taken place.

Damnosa quid non imminuit dies? " Such, alas! upon the whole, is the present moral state of society; such are the direful effects of luxury, co-operating with the modern systems of infidelity and phylosophy; effects which appear, indeed, in various degrees in different countries, but which are dreadfully conspicuous in all. It is obvious that such a state must, in the nature of things, lead, at length, to general disturbance, contention, and anarchy-to the subversion of all established government—and to the subjection of the human şace to the merciless and incessantly fluctuating dominion of the most ferocious and sanguinary monsters, . What less than these

dreadful

dreadful consequences can be expected to result, when human depravity, which, unless it be most powerfully checked, must continue to be rapidly progressive, shall have arrived at such a pitch, as to extinguish all religion and virtue in the human breast; to render the passions of men absolutely ungovernable; to produce an universal restlessness and dissatisfaction, an utter contempt for every species of authority, human and divine, and a hatred of every restraint, religious, political, and domestic; when, in short, it shall have effected a dissolution, not only of those broader ties of respect and subordination, in which consists the vigour of authority; but also of those finer ligaments---the social affections, the religious principles, and the virtuous habits *--which constitute the stamina of society?"

It is chiefly to the influence of the French Revolution that our present wretched condition is to be ascribed-chiefly, but not entirely; for “ that revolution has derived, if not its existence, at least its main force, from the vitiated state of society.” What then is the only means to be used to preserve this nation from complete destruction ? We

repeat the earnest recommendation of the author of a most excellent pamphlet, which has perhaps contributed more than almost any thing else to stem the torrent of licentious wickedness ; " A general and thorough Reform in Hearts and Lives."

Mr. Bowles recommends vigilance and exertion in the strongest manner to Christian Ministers : if the country is to be preserved, if Religion is any longer to dwell in our land, we do not scruple to assert, that it must be by their unremitting exertions, at this most awful and critical moment. We recommend the following striking passage to their attentive perusal and serious consideration.

“ At all times it behoves a Christian minister to recommend, with all the earnestness in his power, the performance of every duty, religious, moral, and civil, prescribed by the Christials Code, and it is particularly incumbent upon him to improve to the utmost all opportunities, which are peculiarly calculated to give effect to his exhortations. When the mind is alarmed by calamity, and softened by danger, then may the functions of the pulpit be exercised with the greatest hopes of success---in warning men, by repentance and amendment, and particularly by laying aside those sins, of whatever kind, by which the times are distinguished, to avert the displeasure of that Being, who, either by the ordinary, or the extraordinary dispensations of his Providence, is sure to requite great wickedness by severe suffer ing. Never was an opportunity for such warnings so favourable; ---never was their urgency so great---as at this moment. The mind of man must be impenetrable as the adamantine rock, if it be not now susceptible of admonition. And while, on the one hand, the extreme depravity of the age must be regarded as the natural source of great misfortunes, there seems, on the other, abundant reason to consider the severe calamities which it now suffers, as awful symptoms of Divine anger. Atsuch a time, shall not the sacred monitors cry aloud, and warn men of the evils by which they are surrounded? Shall they not explain the true causes which have led to so awful a situation, and point out those means of deliverance which they are authorized, by their mission, to offer Shall they be deterred from describing, in the strongest manner, the perils to which the religious, as well as the civil establishments of society, are exposed? Shall the pulpit be silent when the altar is attacked? Or shall its minislers fail to animate their auditors to stand forward, in defence of Christianity itself, against the host of enemies by which it is assailed! At a moment so awful as the present, shall they nego lect to avail themselves of the great advantage, afforded them by a sense of public danger, to conjure the human race to pause in their career of folly, dissipation, and wickedness, and by an instant and thorough reformation, to preserve themselves from miseries, which the tongue of man cannot describe, nor even his heart conceive!"

neser

The great importance of religion, and the evident minner in which he shews how the Divine coinmands are framed for our happiness, are expatiated upon at considerable length, and with considerable ability, and the passage is well worthy an attentive perusal.

“Of all the principles that can operate upon the human mind, the most powerful is-Religion. As a desire of happiness is the universal spring of action, Religion musť infinitely exceed in strength all other motives, because it presents to the mind eternal happiness, or eternal misery, as the consequence of our actions. Every other consideration involves only interests which, however, important, cannot survive the short period of the present lite ; but religion opens to the view “the vast concerns of an eternal scene," and stimulates to virtue, or deters from vice, by promises of endless felicity, as the reward of the former, and by threats of endless woe, as the punishinent of the latter."

The whole of the remaining part of this admirable work is well calculated to point out our present alarming situation, and it must surely be little less than the lethargie sleep of death, which will not be arouzed and awakened by the dangers which now threaten us. He

shows

« PreviousContinue »