Obrazy na stronie

The same is true of the spiritual man. One grace cannot say to another, I have no need of thee; for each grace is needful to complete the stature of the man. A Christian's greatest moral power is derived from the union of all the graces; it is diminished by the absence of one of them. A single defect will prevent that consolidation of character, so necessary to its strength.

Let it be supposed, that a person selects a single quality, for example, courage, as that which he will cost carefully nurture, to the comparative neglect of the milder graces of patience, brotherly kindners and charity; and you will have a character destitute of some most essential features of resemblance to Christ. Ile will, of course, dare to say any thing; but he will say many things that had better not be said, or in such a way, that they will do no good. He will dare to do any thing—many things which another might not dare to do; but it is almost eertain that some things which he will do, had better be undone. Having a single spiritual faculty, a bold one, prominently developed, he will assuredly make himself felt when he moves and speaks, but it will be often with such effects as are witnessed when the equilibrium in the elements is destroyed. Such a condensation of power in one point, will create a commotion, and without a coonteracting influence it will spread desolation. Suppose the grace be one of an opposite character, as that which the Christian will mainly cultivate, and he will present another example of the loss of moral power. He may not do as much positive injury as the one just mentioned, and perhaps not as much positive good. He will be apt to hesitate and faster in those impartant duties, where sacrifices are demanded and reproach must be endured. That which will put forth the most beneficial and effective energy, is the well balanced character, in which all the Christian qualities are combined, so that each may exert its appropriate influence. That which by itself would make a man a lion, is modified by that which would make a man a sloth. A church composed of persons whose character is formed after such a model, we do not see. It is, however, a point of attainment towards which you should aim as professed servants of Christ, and bound to live for the salvation of men.

Such strength and weight of character as Christians, are greatly needed. The circumstances of the age are such, as inevitably to call out the professed friends of the Savior. Let them come forth qualified for the work that is to be done-for steady, vigorous, persevering action. Let them seek the knowledge to discern duty, the courage and patience with which to overcome difficulties in the path of duty; and all those other qualities which shall carry con. viction to the world of the truth and value of piety. The church will then not only be beautiful as Tirzah. and comely as Jerusalem, but terrible to her enemies as an army with banners. Then the Christian, like the cedars of Lebanon, will cast forth his roots deep and wide. He will not break or bend at every blast. Hə will stand


a firm and well proportioned pillar in the temple. With the panoply of grace, the sword, the shield, the helmet and the breastplate, he will be prepared to meet the enemy. He will combine the qualities which are needful for the healthiest, strongest moral power.

1. This subject may throw some light on the dispensations of God to bis people in the present world. We often fail to mark the bearing of events, as they are ordered by God, on our present good. We know that God by his providences designs to arrest sinners and bring them to repentance. Is it not equally plain, that when they have become his children, he uses such means to promote their spiritual growth? If the prosperous are self-sufficient in their prosperity, you often see their heads bowed by some unexpected reverse, that they may not learn to forget God, in the enjoyment of their earthly blessings; as well as learn the duty of dispensing to those in need. The Christian is sent to the chamber of sickness that he may learn patience. He is now made to struggle with poverty, and here and there permitted to take some unexpected supply from the hand of Providence, that he may be taught to trust in God. IIe is surrounded with objects of misery, that he may learn to exercise benevolence. In a word, he is kept a little while in this world, before he is taken to Heaven, that by its wants and woes, by personal enjoyment and suffering, as well at times by hard service, his character may be brought out in all those virtues which the Gospel requires. Our Heavenly Father lays his hand upon the child, when it is best, and where it is best, to test and to strengthen his graces. Never forget then to study providence, and faithfully apply its lessons.

2. This subject points to the responsibility of ministers of the Gospel, to whom is committed especially the training of Christian character.

A minister can exert a vast influence on the piety of a company of young converts, committed to his charge. If that influence is misdirected, hs may so affect their early growth, while yet babes in Christ, that when they become men, they will present an unsightly deformity. Suppose that he is bent on making a company of bold and fearless spirits, as they certainly ought to be; there is danger that in looking singly at that, he will send forth a class of vain-glorious disciples, knowing more than their teachers. He ought to accomplish his object without such a result. He may do it by carefully keeping the balance of character-promoting the development of the several graces in their appropriate place.

Here you will perceive the importance of that most difficult work of the minister, the rightly dividing the word of truth. The word of God is an essential means of sanctification. "Sanctify them through thy truth.” The system of Gospel truth possesses an admirable fitness to call forth and improve the Christian virtues. It is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness—to educate the character in all its parts. It has milk for babes, and strong meat for men. It has eyes for the blind



and feet for the lame. It has counsel for the young, and support for the aged. It has encouragement for the timid and temptedstrength for the weak, and restraint for the proud and overbearing. This word the preacher must open and apply with a wise regard to the necessities of character. The ministry will assuredly leave its impression on the character of the church. The pulpit is now giving a mould to the piety of the advancing generation of Christians. If they are called to look at and exercise chiefly but one class of graces, they will be a generation of Christians, with a onesided character. T'he tendency of their action will be to destroy the balance and order of the moral world—as they will be prone to see objects with a somewhat distorted vision, and to do things out of place and out of time. Again : If the pastor take these children in the family of Christ, and attempt to force their growth; putting them at once in the foremost rank, where men ought to stand who have strong muscle and sinew already formed, the consequence will be that under such hot-house culture, they will soon become pale and sickly, and never put on health and vigor. Just as the too early taxing of the promising infant mind, has often made it for life å miserable dwarf. It is no unimportant part of a minister's work to edify the body of Christ. This is among the best gifts to be earnestly coveted. It is not a department of labor that will excite so much noise and observation, as some others. But a faithful pursuit of it will prove at last to have exerted a vast instrumentality in turning the world to God.

3. The view taken of this subject, suggests one reason why Christians are so frequently destitute of satisfactory evidence of union to Christ. They see many hours when it is a serious question with them, "Are we the children of God ?" They try to decide the question by an examination of their feelings, motives and actions; and by comparing them with the word of God. Perhaps, here and there, they find what appears to be a feature of resemblance to Christ. But so many important features are not manifested, they are led to doubt whether those which seem to be such, are the real traces of the divine image.

Froin the tenor of the Bible, we infer that the generic principle of piety is love. This, however, comprehends various holy exercises, according to the relations in which the Christian is viewed ; or according to the objects toward which the heart is directed. Love is the spring of obedience. Hence in testing the heart as to the existence of love to God, the life must be examined in all the situations to which the commands of God reach. When you, as a Christian, find some departments of known duty totally neglected in certain points, you have no conscientious regard to the will of God; is not the voice of evidence of other

you are a child of God, almost silenced? And ought you not to be alarmed? Is there some field of duty to which the Gospel plainly directs your attention, which you do not love? Are you so insensible to the




condition of dying sinners around you, that you do nothing for their salvation ? Are you so indifferent to the woes of the perishing heathen, that you scarcely lift a hand, and give but a pittance, that the Gospel may be sent to them? As you go over all the commands of God, as they touch your life, at home, in the church, among the ignorant, poor and perishing, are you insensible and inactive, concerning any of these positive claims? If you are, does not Christ say to you, "How dwelleth the love of God in you? Why call ye me, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" "Can you expect a faithful trial of your charactar to produce any thing but shame, and confusion, and dismay, if you are not striving daily to do the will of God in all things?

4. This subject shows the necessity of untiring effort on the part of Christians, -"giving all diligence." With this language the text begins. The nature of the duty requires this diligence. Perhaps you are young in the Christian life, and it is with you a day of ihings in grace. Giving all diligence, you can make great atiainments. That infant at first most feeble, does often outstrip the one of high promise. The same is true of some parts of the body, which in early life were more feeble than others. Special culture being directed to them, they at length become the stronger. The Christian is often an example of a like change in the progress of his different faculties. If you find a grace wanting or peculiarly feeble, bring that point of your character under your special daily attention, and directly under the cultivations of the Spirit and the truth. Christ receives the weak in faith, but not to slothfulness. Whatever be your age in the Christian life, remember the injunction, "giving all diligence," add-keep adding. Draw largely on Christ, from whom you must derive all your completeness. Receive and apply the promise which he gives with every command; and seek the grace which he is ready to bestow with every providence. Then from weakness, you will wax strong. Probably some of the stars which now shine brightest in the firmament of glory, began to shine here with as feeble and twinkling a radiance as yours, but until the end, grace proved to be in them like the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.

[blocks in formation]


Madness is in their heart.”—ECCLESIASTES ix. 3. The language of the sacred writers is nowhere more awful, than when they describe the character and thy condition of ungodly men. In the deep emotion which this subject awakens, they reject the ordinary forms of expression, and resort to the most glowing imagery, to give utterance to the fearful thoughts which crowd upon them. Agreeably, they represent the wicked as "dead in trespasses and sins,”—“ sowing the wind, and reaping the whirlwind,"—"treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath, -tossed on a “troubl:d sea,” where raging waves and hidden rocks, and whirlpools, and darkness surround them,-or standing upon giddy and slippery heights, beneath which yawns the gulf of perdition.

But in this accumulation of dreadful metaphors none are more terribly significant than the one contained in the text. What spectacle can be more appalling than that of madness ? Look at the man, in whose mind the golden cord, which holds the intellectual powers in harmony, has been taken and left him & maniac. What a wreck of all that is lovely and valuable in humanity does he exhibit! To the calm control of reason, have succeeded the dominion of passion, the empire of fancy, and the anarchy of delirium. The eye, which once shone with the clear light of thought, now gleams with unnatural fire, or is fixed in the unmeaning gaze of idiocy; and the countenance, once beaming with intellect, and radiant with the glow of every noble affection, is vacant with stupor, or convulsed with the ravings of insanity. What extravagance and recklessness mark his actions! Behold him bartering his dearest interests for a childish toy-laboring to accomplish enterprises in their nature evidently unattainable, or using the greatest exertions to effect the most frivolous purposes-continually mistaking the objects around him, esteeming those valuable which are really trivial, and rejecting as worthless those of the highest value-flying from his friends and relatives as enemies, and caressing strangers and enemies as friends -rejoicing when his situation is most melancholy, and weeping when he has no cause for sorrow-wantonly exposing himself to

« PoprzedniaDalej »