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There are some sorts of admonition and reproof which do not seem so proper in the pulpit as elsewhere. Censure, that strikes at the pride of domestic life, the love of show, and many other circumstances that are relatively criminal, does not often prove beneficial to a large auditory. Each individual is disposed to look around in search of some one, to whom the admonitory address may better apply than to himself. Thus it happens, that he for whom the remarks may have been principally intended, is nothing the gainer, but may be much the loser. Now a public journal obviates this difficulty. The man who turns over its pages and discerns a fair portraiture of his own life, delineated in the most striking colours, cannot parry off the blow, and fix the charge on his neighbour. He feels the address to be altogether personal; and if he be none the better for what he reads at the time, he will doubtless find his advantage in it hereafter, unless he be given up to the delusions of the devil.
Let it not be supposed that I object to any sort of wholesome truth from the sacred desk. All I insist upon is, that some subjects may be more advantageously treated out of the pulpit than in it; and of this description is the topic now about to be considered.
The pride of life, it is to be feared, greatly mars the beauty of many a promising profession, and tarnishes many a character which, under different circumstances, might shine with increasing lustre. Alas! the pride of the human heart is its greatest curse; it was the first canker-worm that despoiled a human soul, and it continues to be the peace-destroying serpent whose poisonous venom taints the streams of life. Oh what havac is it now making in our world! How is it polluting the sweet: Vol. II.-Presb. Mag.
est joys of Christian fellowship, and luring the soul from the path of virtue! Oh too little is its secret influence regarded, too seldom are its ravages seriously attended to.
* * * * * * * * * * * is an amiable man, possessing many pleasing qualities, a Christian in name if not in truth. He has occupied for many years a high rank in the religious world, and has appeared to be not merely a hearer of the word, but a doer also. He has a family around him who, for many things, deserve to be styled amiable. The voice of salvation and praise has long been heard in his tabernacle, and his household' have been regarded as a household of faith. Formerly prosperity gilded his path, he lived in affluence, was charitable and humane. His mansion was the welcome resort of the pious, and beneath its hospitable roof many an ambassador of peace found a comfortable, a friendly home. It was among the sweetest of his delights to entertain the ministers of Christ; and, in short, he seemed ever ready to do good as he had opportunity. And, so long as he had the ability thus to act, it was not merely proper that he should thus deport himself, but it was his indispensable duty. There are, alas, too many professing Christians who devote but little of their substance to works of piety, and from whom every dollar seems to be forced, that is obtained at all.
But riches take to themselves wings and fly away. All earthly prosperity is ephemeral in its nature, and calculated only to disappoint and perplex the soul. Thus was it with him whose character we are portraying.
Reverses of fortune crowded upon him, and he soon ceased to have the means of conducting as heretofore. But, alas, he had not yet been sufficiently disciplined in the school of humility. Although affliction succeeded to affliction, and loss followed loss, yet all was in vain, if we might judge from the evidence of the senses ; pride of appearance seemed to be a deep-rooted principle in his family ; to this every other consideration was made to bend, even character itself seemed destined to fall a victim at its shrine. He incurred debts vastly beyond his ability to pay, and all this to gratify his family in their desire to sustain former appearances. It did seem occasionally as if some sacrifices were made, some superfluities laid aside, but it proved to be merely a faint effort to lop off a few trifling branches from a tree, whose vigorous root, kept far out of sight, was daily shooting forth new branches and transmitting fresh vigour to the old ones. In the meanwhile creditors were pressing, and friends admonishing by distant but well meant hints, yet all to no purpose. Pride with its scorpion lash goaded him on from bad to worse, from folly to folly, and his own conscience at the same time reproved him with its biting sting. Amidst all this scene of inconsistency
and madness, he maintained the same Christian profession, though it required not the spirit of prophecy to determine that his heart was in tune with none other than the notes of sadness. Noisy murmur ran to and fro on every side, and tales too true were published to his hurt. His religious character suffered not merely in the estimation of his brethren, but abroad in the world. He became the subject of the sneers of some, the suspicions of others, the bitter reproaches of not a few, and, in his defection, the cause itself has probably received a lasting wound.
Oh, gentle reader, examine for thyself, and tell me if thou hast never seen an individual who might have sat for this likeness. Knowest thou not some one whose case is here described, or does not conscience tell thee, "Thou art the man?" Would to God the whole were fancy's fairy work, a dream, as unsubstantial as the wind! But, alas, the character is but too common, and we fear is by no means diminishing in its prevalence.
We know it is a hard, a painful thing to descend from the hill of prosperity to the lonely vale of adversity. The pride of our nature is on no occasion so severely assailed, as when necessity impels to such a reverse of circumstances. Here we can sympathize with others, for we too have felt in some measure what it costs the heart of sensibility thus to change conditions in life. But there is a principle, implanted by a divine power in the human heart, that is stronger than the pride of our nature; the principle of grace, which should actuate our conduct on all occasions. When duty prompts us to a humiliating course of conduct, and when Christian obligation points the way, saying, walk ye in it, why should we halt, when halting may be ruinous? Oh, what is earthly splendour when put in competition with that peace of mind which worlds can never purchase? What! can the real Christian doubt which course to pursue, in a strife between integrity of character and the false gratification of carnal desires? Can he deliberately wrong his creditor to procure the means of displaying generosity of character, or of making a show among his brethren? And is not this the conduct of some who are celebrated for hospitality? They entertain the same sort of company and to the same extent as formerly, because old appearances must be maintained, when, in honest truth, they are not worth a solitary farthing. Their family expenses are, it may be, much greater than those of their heaviest creditors, and both at home and abroad they make precisely the same display of plenty, that was observable in their days of affluence.
Oh! professing Christian, whoever thou art, if this be thy condition, thou art awfully circumstanced indeed. Stop, I be
seech thee, consider thy course, lest thou make shipwreck of faith and become a cast-away.
The most powerful motives present themselves to deter us from such unchristian conduct. Peace of mind, tranquillity of soul, are objects too dear to be bartered for a little false glare, an ignis fatuus that glitters but to deceive. The good opinion of our fellow Christians, and the world at large, more than counterbalances all the enjoyment of evanescent splendour. But how do all terrene pleasures sink into nothingness when we attempt to contrast them with the smiles of an approving God! His favour is life, his loving kindness better than life.
Does any one inquire how an individual should act, whose circumstances are such as we have described? The answer is at hand : let him resolve, in despite of what the world may say, in opposition to the pride of his own heart, that, by God's assistance, he will be honest: let him at once declare his actual pecuniary condition, trusting to his heavenly Benefactor, and the kindness of his creditors : let him determine to begin the world anew, to be industrious, attentive to business, frugal, and thus to gain an honest livelihood : let him be encouraged in these resolutions by a becoming deportment on the part of his family, and he need not fear that by their united exertions every lawful want will be fully supplied. Far better would it be, in the sight of God, to live by private munificence on the humblest fare, than to riot in luxury on resources unlawfully obtained. The time for every change for the better is now; do the work at once, and dream not of deferring it to a more convenient season ; the longer we procrastinate, the more painful will be the effort whenever we shall make it; delay will only wound the soul, make work for deeper repentance, and incur more of the displeasure of Jehovah. Nay, so long as this unhallowed course is persisted in, with the conviction of its sinfulness, so long is Christian profession defective in the evidence of its sincerity.
M. August, 1822.
FOR THE PRESBYTERIAN MAGAZINE.
I Synopsis of the External State of the Church, from the com
mencement of the Sixteenth Century, to the death of the Emperor Charles the Fifth.
(Continued from page 164.) Luther's remonstrances, against the sale of indulgences, was soon followed by the death of the emperor Maximilian. That event having been announced, Francis I. king of France, and Charles of Spain, declared themselves candidates for the impe
rial crown. But the German electors, alarmed' for their own privileges, rejected both competitors, and offered the sceptre to Frederic, elector of Saxony: but that amiable prince, influenced by patriotic motives, refused to comply with their solicitations; he mentioned, however, several circumstances in favour of Charles, who was, in consequence thereof, immediately elected.
Charles, upon his accession to the imperial throne, was earnestly requested by his holiness, to seize Luther and put him to death. Frederic, on the other hand, represented the propriety of submitting the matter to the cognizance of a deliberative council. The emperor, unwilling to offend a person to whom he was under such infinite obligations, ordered for that purpose, a diet to be convened at Worms, and a safe conduct was granted to the delinquent during his attendance before that august assembly.
Luther, it is true, by the intervention of his illustrious patron, had obtained more advantageous terms than he could otherwise þave expected, yet still he was in the most imminent danger; for John Huss, and Jerome of Prague, charged with the same accusation, before the council of Constance, in the beginning of the fifteenth century, were barbarously put to death, although the imperial faith had been solemnly pledged for their personal security. And Luther's friends, aware that the diet at Worms was convoked rather for the purpose of his condemnation, than for a candid and dispassionate investigation of his doctrines, endeavoured to dissuade him from his undertaking. But he observed, with his characteristic intrepidity, “ that he was lawfully called to appear in that city, and thither he would go in the name of the Lord, though as many devils as tiles upon the houses were there assembled against him.”
His reception at Worms was of the most flattering description. His apartments were frequented by princes and personages of the highest distinction, who treated him with the utmost deference; and the populace, in numerous assemblages, collected to see him whenever he appeared abroad. But neither popular approbation, nor his eloquent defence, was capable of making any favourable impression upon the diet. The emperor recommended unconditional submission, as being the only means by which he could extricate himself from inevitable destruction. He boldly replied, that he would not submit until his doctrines were shown to contravene the sacred scriptures; for that these, and not the decisions of councils and popes, were the criterion by which the religious sentiments of mankind should be regulated. Menaces and entreaties having proved equally ineffectual, the diet, with the concurrence of the emperor, issued a decree, prohibiting all princes from affording him any protection; and soliciting all persons to unite in apprehending him as soon