Page images
PDF
EPUB

301 from the predestination, or irreversible decrees of the Almighty, before the world was created; but they wrap

themselves

up

in the calm assur ance,

that their names are written in the book of life, and that they are among the elected few that shall and must be saved. By these daring and presumptuous additions to the word of God, it is evident that his justice is converted into cruelty and caprice, and that his mercy is not only diminished, but rendered inexplicable, and almost extinct.

Without extending our observations, therefore, to other subjects, we may understand the great duty of studying the Holy Scriptures with reverence and humility. The pride of reason, the infirmities of passion, and the influence of prejudice, must all be laid aside, and we should “receive the word with meekness," as the apostle exhorts, “which is able to save our souls." For this reason, our blessed Lord declares, “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God,” that is, the truths of the Holy Gospel, “ as a little child, shall in no wise enter therein”- meaning that the mind of the sincere Christian must be equally pure, teachable, and free from the dominion of prejudice and error. In short, the best exercise of the understanding is required,

as still

in order to learn what our duty is, and the reli. gious government of the heart, aided at all times by fervent prayer for the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit, is absolutely necessary to enable us to fulfil it as we ought. Without this, we are in danger of enlarging the divine commands, or contracting them, according to the peculiar bent and character of our own minds. Religion might thus be made to encourage human frailties, instead of correcting them; and we might resemble those infatuated persons, whom St. Paul represents, seeking their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's."

With respect to 'us, my Reverend Brethren, the usefulness of ourcharacter, and the efficieney of our labors, seem to depend, most essentially, on the strict observance of the law, which the great Jewish legislator has laid down: for, in the most important concerns of life, there is as much danger, and as much evil, resulting from one excess, as from another. We may be too strict, or rigid, in interpreting the laws of God; and we may be too lax, or indulgent. We may be too much addicted; also, to speculative tenets, and mere forms of worship, and not sufficiently attentive to the great practical duties of a Christian ; or else, forgetting the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel, we may be disposed to reduce its divine sanctions and authority to the mere morality of heathen philosophers, and the idle speculations of their different schools.

Farther, we may think too slightly of learning, or pride ourselves on it too much; and, indeed, unless it be made subservient to the true interpretation of the Holy Scriptures,—to the establishment of a sound faith, and right practice, in opposition to the disgusting profligacy and irreligion of the day, the display of it (in the pulpit at least,) must be ostentatious and illtimed, if not vain and useless.

With regard, also, to the different orders of the community, we are bound not to "have the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ with respect of persons." We must, therefore, exhort with long-suffering, and reprove with all gentleness, the rich and the poor, the young and the aged, the

prosperous and the afflicted. As far as relates to our temporal concerns, we should consider ourselves “ as ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God." In this respect, as well as in our spiritual office, we are servants, not masters ;-stewards of the goods, which we dispense for the short period. of human life, and by no means lords of the in heritance. Here, therefore, it behoves us to pay a sacred regard to the warning of the apostle, who observés, that." it is required of a steward, that a man be found faithful.God forbid that, in such times as these, any minister of Christ should be indifferent to the uncommon distress, which presses upon those with whom he is ebps nected! But let him bear his own portion of it, without encouraging fraud, selfishness, and oppression. Be assured, no man is respected the more for being made the dupe of knavery and deceit, much less he, who is bound to teach men, among other things, the substantial duties of honesty and truth. On these occasions, also, we should consider others as well as ourselves. If we suffer the Lord's heritage to be wasted, or plundered, while we are its ministers and stewards, we shall hereafter be called to account: for our sinful neglect.Our widows, or representatives, perhaps, will be stript of their scanty pittance to repair the devastation, which we, às slothful servants, suffered to go on from year to year; and those who come after us may be deemed rapacious and oppressive, for no other reason, than that we were selfishly indolent, and. by a sort of base timidity, under the cloke of peace and quietness, invited oppression and wrong

..!!, At the same time, the rule of right should, in our case, I apprehend, be always relaxed, rather than over-strained: but, remembering that, "Render unto all their dues," is the command of Holy Scripture, we should not suffer our dues to be fraudulently withheld, or frittered away; but should regularly claim them on all proper occasions, that we might teach those who are committed to our care to practise what is right; that they might be grateful for what is afterwards given, or remitted ;-and that our successors might not have any just cause to complain of our mismanagement and neglect; or of establishing customs productive of permanent loss, and ruinous litigation to the Church. A 6 But the admirable rule, which Moses prescribed to his people in the words of the text, is by no means confined to the right interpretation of religious doctrines, and the faithful discharge of ministerial duties ;--it applies, with equal efficacy, to every obligation, which, as social and dependent creatures, we are required, in this life. of discipline, daily and almost hourly to fulfil. In the general conduct of life, the highest point of attainable perfection will be found to consist

х

« PreviousContinue »