Billeder på siden

try which

must be subject to change, and the system of chemis

may suit the present age may be quite antiquated in less than half a century; but the doctrines of both natural and revealed religion, because they are immutable truth, are unalterable.

Is it objected to creeds and confessions, that they arrest the progress of knowledge, and are a hinderance to the human mind in the freedom of its inquiries? Does not this objection take for granted, that christian theology varies in different ages like those sciences which owe their existence, as well as their progress, to human discovery? A system of doctrine, which has been designed not to amuse but to save mankind, and which has its origin in the revelation which God has given to man, must be the same in all ages. Some of its truths may be more distinctly apprehended, and more impressively felt at one time than at another; but they are in themselves essentially and always the same, and among the things most surely believed by all who hold “the Faith once delivered to the saints.” In this respect the nineteenth century has no superiority over the first; and the most distant and enlightened age will be sanctified and saved by the same discoveries of truth and mercy which gladdened the hearts of patriarchs and prophets, and for the excellency of the knowledge of which apostles, and martyrs, and confessors, counted all things but loss. The revelation which God has given of himself and of his counsels, has long ago been completed; and, there. fore, there can be nothing added to its great and fundamental doctrines. The denunciation is fearful against him who makes the attempt: “ Though we, or an angel from heaven, preached any other gospel unto you than that which we preached unto you, or than that which ye have received, let him be accursed *.' .

IV. The doctrine of Paley authorizes us to commit an act which, on the principles of common honesty, is unjustifiable. It allows us solemnly to declare, that we believe what in fact we do not believe. Should not the man who would thus act in the intercourse and transactions of human life forfeit the reputation of uprightness ? Paley maintained his view of subscription to the thirty-nine articles on the principle of exper diency, a principle, which as was formerly noticed, the oppressors and scourgers of mankind have ever professed to follow.

I take leave of this subject by remarking, that what: ever opinion may be formed respecting the propriety of making articles of belief terms of communion in a christian church, every principle of equity and uprightness forbids us to subscribe to a confession of faith, unless we can bona fide declare, that it is substantially the expression of what we believe.

Gal. i. 6.





Man, doubtless, is laid under the most sacred obli. gations to feel concerned for his own moral improvement and happiness, and to use all proper means to secure and promote them. These are duties which he owes to himself; and the violation of which is peculiarly criminal in him,-since he thus so far frustrates the glorious design of his being, by rendering himself unfit for discharging his obligations either to God or to man. Is it not in proportion as he takes pains in enlightening his understanding and conscience, that he is capable of clearly and readily discerning the will of God, and of forming just and enlarged conceptions of the rule of duty ? Is it not in proportion to his diligence in cultivating the purest and best feelings, and in forming the best habits, that he rises in the scale of moral excellency? Is he not bound, therefore, by ties which it is guilt and misery to dissolve, to improve the means and opportunities with which Providence favours him for advancing in the attainments of piety, righteousness, and true holiness?

The obligations which more immediately terminate on himself, and which may therefore be styled the duties which he owes himself, may be classed under the heads of moderation and contentment, fortitude and a diligent attention to the formation of good habits, and prudence, or a suitable regard to his own happiness: we shall also notice some of the evils opposed to these.



MODERATION and contentment are in themselves nearly allied, involving the same views, and implying the exercise of the same virtuous dispositions and habits. The person who is truly temperate, from a practical knowledge of the will of God in reference to the chief ends of his being, is contented with the divine dispensations, persuaded that they are all directed by infinite wisdom and benevolence, and shall issue in great and eternal good. The chief elements of his happiness are within, in peace of conscience, the favour of God, and in the hope of everlasting felicity; he is therefore freed from the pain, and disappointment, and misery, of pursuing and substituting shadows for realities, and of repining at the difficulties and trials incident to his lot.

The duty of temperance or moderation is strongly recommended to us by the light of nature ; and this recommendation revelation enforces by the weight of its authority. It enjoins its disciples to let their moderation be known unto all men ; to avoid anxiety for the provision of the future ; to be painfully solicitous for nothing ; but to live in the exercise of trust in God; and to have continual recourse to Him by prayer and supplications with thanksgiving.

Temptations to the neglect of this duty are numerous. There are many tendencies in human nature which would lead us to overlook its fulfilment. There are those desires which moralists term acquired, whose operation is often at variance with the dictates and the rules of temperance. The desire of wealth attaches an undue value to riches, and presents to our view the gaudiness and pomp of earthly grandeur, as highly conducive, if not essential, to a great share of enjoyment. We have imbibed, from our earliest years, prejudices and prepossessions which have gradually acquired strength and vigour from the working of passion within, and from the habitual pursuits of vanity from without, till at a more mature period of life their influence is so completely confirmed, as to bias and pervert the affections and judgment, and turn away the heart from the truth.

If this remark be true, to no inconsiderable extent, of mankind in general, how unquestionably is it so of him who has been nursed in the lap of luxury-whose wishes were no sooner formed than gratified-who has grown up, surrounded by all the symbols of wealth and fashion, and who is led by the circumstances of his lot, almost without reflection, to believe that life is not worth the possession unaccompanied with these its adyentitious decorations. How natural for him is


2 H

« ForrigeFortsæt »