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age, resort to public meetings for the same reason as many a guilty votary of pleasure does to public amusements,-to forget his own condition, and to turn away his ear, for a short season, from the voice that speaks to him from within. Individuals are known to us all, who, amidst the greatest zeal for various public institutions, are living in malice and all uncharitableness, in the indulgence of a predominant selfishness, and uncontrolled wrath. But it will not do. This is not piety. Could we support the whole expenditure of the Missionary Society by our affluence, and direct its councils by our wisdom, and keep alive its energy by our ardour, and yet at the same time were destitute of love, we should perish eternally, amidst the munificence of our liberality.
And of those who have the grace of love, and who are real believers, some are far more deficient in its influence and activity than they should be; and endeavour to quiet an accusing conscience with the wretched sophistry, "that as a Christian cannot be supposed to excel in every thing, their forte lies in the active virtues of religion more than in the passive graces; and that, therefore, any little deficiency in the latter is made up by their greater abundance of the former." This reasoning is as false in its principle, as it is frequent, we fear, in its adoption. Where, in all the word of God, is this species of moral composition of duties taught or sanctioned? This is really carrying the popish principle of indulgences into our own private concerns, and creating a surplus stock of one virtue to be available for the deficiencies of another.
It is to be apprehended, that as every age is marked with a peculiar tendency, either to some prevailing error or defect, the tendency of the present age is to exalt the active virtues of piety, at the expense of the passive ones; and, while the former are forced into an increasing luxuriance, to permit the latter to wither in their shade; or, at least, there is a disposition to devote all that time and attention to the culture of one which ought to be shared between both. It cannot be denied that our love of activity and of display will generally incline us to prefer the cultivation of public spirit, rather than the more private and self-denying tempers of meekness, humility, and forbearance; for it is inconceivably more easy, and more pleasant, to float upon the tide of public feeling towards the objects of religious zeal, than to wade against the stream of our own corrupt tendencies, and to accomplish an end which he only who seeth in secret will duly appreciate.
5. May it not be said, that in many cases a PROFESSION of religion seems to release individuals from all obligation to cultivate the dispositions which it necessarily implies; who, instead of deriving from this circumstance a stimulus to seek after the Christian temper, find in it a reason for general negligence?
They have been admitted as members of a dissenting church, and have thus received, as it were, a certificate of personal religion; and, instead of being anxious from that moment to excel in every virtue that can adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour, they sink into carelessness and lukewarmness.
profession of religion, unsupported by Christian love, will only increase our guilt here, and sink us immeasurably lower in the bottomless pit hereafter. Woe, eternal woe, will be upon that man who bears the name of our Lord Jesus without his image. Woe, eternal woe, will be upon those members of our churches, who are content to find their way into the fellowship of the faithful, without adding to their character the lustre of this sacred virtue.
Thus have we shown how many things there are, which, though good in themselves, when performed from right motives and in connexion with other parts of religion, cannot, in the absence of love, be depended upon as unequivocal evidences of personal piety. Let us beware of self-deception in this awfully important business; for it will be dreadful beyond the power of imagination to conceive of, to find ourselves the next moment after death, amidst the horrors of the infernal pit, instead of the felicities of the celestial city. Love is required by God, as an essential part of true religion; and the total absence of it as necessarily prevents a man from being a true Christian, as the want of temperance or purity. Besides, this is the temper of heaven; this is the unvarying state of mind in the innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect; this is the heart of Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, and the image of God the Judge of all. Without this, there would be no meetness for the society of paradise, no fitness for an association of which the bond of fellowship is love; without this there can be no grace here, and, therefore, no glory hereafter.
ON THE PROPERTIES OF CHRISTIAN LOVE, AS STATED BY THE APOSTLE.
By a beautiful personification, the Apostle has described this grace under the figure of an interesting female, who, like an angel of light, lifts her cherubic form and smiling countenance amidst the children of men; shedding, as she passes along, a healing influence on the wounds of society, hushing the notes of discord, driving before her the spirits of mischief, bringing the graces in her train, and converting earth into a resemblance of heaven. Her charms are sufficient to captivate every heart, if every heart were as it should be; and her influence such as every mind should court. "Love suffereth long, and is kind: love envieth not: love vaunteth not itself; is not puffed up; doth not behave itself unseemly; seeketh not her own; is not easily provoked; thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."
1. The first remark which I make on these properties, is, that they describe such expressions of our love as have a particular reference to our TEMPER.
By the temper, we mean the prevailing spirit and disposition of the mind, as it respects the irascible or selfish affections. If we examine, we shall find that all the qualities here enumerated, bear on these dispositions. There are other operations and manifestations of charity, beside those which are here specified-such, for instance, as justice, and chastity; for it is impossible to love mankind, and violate the rules of either of these duties: but the apostle restricts his specification to those properties of it, which are comprehended in the word temper. Nothing, surely, can teach more clearly, or more impressively, the great truth,- that religion must govern the temper, than this chapter. It is strange, but true, that many seem to think that temper is that part of a man's self and conduct, over which religion has no legal jurisdiction. They admit their obligations to be holy, and moral, and devout; but they do not feel, at least do not acknowledge, that it is their duty to be meek, gentle, and kind. They may not affirm so much in words, but it is the secret and tacit system of conduct which they have adopted. Hence it is, that although they are correct in their morals, and regular in their attendance on the means of grace, they are withal so apt to receive offence, and so forward to give it; they are either so passionate, or so sullen; so implacable or revengeful;-that the real excellences of their character are lost sight of in the deep shadow of their infirmities, and the ways of godliness are spoken ill of on their account. This arises from their not being sufficiently convinced of the evil of such infirmities; and this blindness itself is the consequence of a supposition, that the removal