Page images

them, as steadily and cheerfully as if no ills within, no storms without, assailed them; as if each step they took were across the heavenly threshold, and in sight of their appointed thrones.

Without intending or hoping to supply the defects of the concluding Essay—On the Practicalness of our Lord's

Teaching—it may not be inappropriate to close this prefatory miscellany with a few practical remarks. A variety of circumstances seem to concur, in the present day, auspicious to the study of the gospel as a practical science, Two or three of these circumstances may be named.

1. The great error of religious polemics, hitherto has consisted in arguing from compound dependent truths, as if they were ultimate. The application of the inductive method of investigation, however, has taught us that, as in philosophy so in theology, we as yet possess but few ultimate truths ;--that principles on which parties have been accustomed to rely with the greatest confidence, may be easily carried to a point where they break down, and fail us;—that where two truths appear thus to clash, it is evident they cannot be ultimate ; —but that each of them having been affirmed by the God of truth concerning the same thing, there is no doubt whatever of their eventual coincidence in one comprehensive and axiomatic truth. In the mean time, we feel that we must wait patientlý, pronounce less confidently, inquire more diffidently, look at each other more charitably, and, leaving the polemics of piety, in which we differ, unite in the practice of piety. in

2. Religion has been regarded as the great monopolist of mystery; the popular ignorance of the wonders of natural philosophy has favored this error; and the consequence has too commonly been that the neophyte has brought to religion a speculative spirit, and has spent that breath in disputing which might otherwise have been spent in the race of holiness. It is a subject of congratulation, however, that as natural science advances, she is throwing a light on many of the dark things of scripture, and, at the same time, multiplying her own incredibilia; so that wonder and scepticism will have to transport their throne

which we agree.

from the region of religion into the province of science. And thus much of the strength which would once have been wasted in speculation and controversy, is now more usefully employed in biblical criticism, and the enforcement of piety, in acts of obedience to God, and in deeds of benevolence to man.

3. The present day is pre-eminently distinguished, in every department, social , national and universal ; civil

, political, and philosophical, by practical activity. Religion, also, is up and doing. In every thing proper to her peculiar province, she leads the van. Once more she appears before the world in her appropriate character, militant and aggressive. Hushing their mutual feuds, she is leading her followers forth to the conquest of a world. To fail into her train, is to swear obedience to the laws of Christ.

4. Another characteristic of the present day, whether for good or for evil we stay not to inquire, is its cui bono, or utilitarian spirit. By this test, religion glories to be examined. Godliness is profitable for all things. It can call witnesses from all classes of the community; bring evidence from all parts of the earth; and constrain even its enemies to speak well of it.

It is the boast of philosophy, that any accession to our knowledge of nature is sure, sooner or later, to make itself felt in some practical application and benefit. Every additional truth which the gospel has brought, is an additional principle of holiness, a fresh element of virtue; it is, in effect, the addition of a new mechanical power for accelerating the motion of the world towards God. It is the pride of physical science, that it can lead the very elements captive, subduing the most powerful energies of nature to its purposes, and employing them in a variety of useful ways. Spiritual triumphs, analogous to this, are familiar to the gospel. It is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. It gathers grapes from thorns, and figs from thistles. It turns the wrath of man into a song of praise worthy the harps of heaven. It takes the passions, the most intractable and unapproachable human passions, yokes them to the car of duty, and henceforth they run in the way of obedience, proud to grace its triumphs. From


elements of vice and wretchedness the gospel forms a new creature, instinct with God. These are its ordinary effects; but not only does it retain all its original applicability and power unimpaired, it only waits occasion to develope energies of unimagined value, and to fill the world with wonders of

grace. Do we admire its practical utility and power ? Then the Savior turns on us a look of personal application, while he

repeats, Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man,' 'If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. His sublimest doctrines were all practical. He would not have revealed any one doctrine contained in his word but for its moral effect. He measured beforehand the power of each to sanctify, and according to its tendency to illustrate the holiness of his divine nature, and to restore sanctity to our human, he assigned it an appropriate place in the system of truth. The moral of each separately, and of all combined, is simply this, ' Sin no more.' Reader, such are the beauty and excellence of the seal; what is its impression on your

heart and life? The character of the christian should be monumental, commemorative of the great facts and truths of the gospel; how many of these facts and truths could be learnt from your character or transcribed from your life? If ye love me keep my commandments.” ·



Epsom, May, 1835.




'He spake as one having authority;'

When, in the fullness of time, the eternal Son came forth from the bosom of the Father, he descended to a region of spiritual darkness. Ages of inquiry, conjecture, and effort, had only served to demonstrate the fact that man, by searching, cannot find out God.' Legislators, philosophers, and poets--the pride of their time, and the boast of the species—had toiled to construct a system whose top should reach unto heaven; but in vain; they built only to the clouds. Reason, confident in her resources, had sent forth her sons under all auspices, and in every direction : but they returned, defeated and disheartened; the footsteps of truth could nowhere be found. In vain had generation after generation asked, in its way to oblivion, "What is truth ?' The devotee had urged the inquiry at the shrine of his god; the priest, at his altar of sacrifice; the sage had repeated it as he walked amidst the works and wonders of creation, but nothing was heard

; in reply; nothing, but the faint and bewildering echo, • What is truth?' Darkness covered the earth, and

gross darkness the minds of the people. Nor can the state of Judea be regarded as an exception

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »