« PoprzedniaDalej »
to rest the primary obligation and limitation of every duty on-the revealed will of God: " to the law and to the testimony."* For,
1. This is a rule, and an authority intelligible and conclusive, upon every subject, and to every hearer. The fitness or rectitude of an action or^habit, however certain, is not in every case so striking as in the first example which I have adduced: the beneficial consequence or tendency of it is not always so manifest as in the second: and the conclusion to be drawn from these two qualities, the conformity of the action or' habit to the will 4of God, must be weaker in proportion to the diminished force or evidence of the premises.— Besides, the judgment of every 'hearer upon the rectitude or beneficial tendency of any conduct, (however demonstrable they be to an inquiier every way competent,) depends much upon his natural perspicacity, education, habits, and prejudices; these, in every congregation, are various; rarely adapted to abstract reasoning; nor always favourable to naked truth; which scarcely can preserve her independence and influence, if she come forth, in opposition to the misapprehensions and passions of men, not protected by the divine authority, not guarded by " the shield of faith, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God."t The virtue which the hearer least affects will lose much of its native comeliness in his partial and imperfect view: and the necessity of it to the general happiness will with him, become problematical, if his passions have so far blinded him, as to make it appear incompatible with his own. The practical dictate resulting from these precarious judgments is not likely to be very correct or uniform: and there is danger that his spiritual freedom and welfare, thus left to depend entirely upon his apprehensions of the beauty or utility of a virtue, may rest upon " the staff of a broken reed, on which if a man lean, it will go into his hand and pierce it." J
2. The sanctions of virtue propounded by the word of God are incomparably more weighty and authentic, than any which unassisted reason can offer. The rectitude of an action, indeed, ensures the approbation of conscience: the beneficial tendency of it implies a probable reward in its natural effects: the conformity of it, thence inferable to the will of God, affords the expectation of his blessing here, and, upon the difficult supposition of a uniform obedience, (or, of such imperfect obedience as he shall graciously accept) a higUprobubility of his larger bounty in some future state : and the opposite qualities of an action involve consequences respectively contrary. But what proportion do these sanctions bear, either in kind, or in extent, or in certainty, to the covenanted, or mediatorial promises, and the express threatenings of the Gospel?
3. Lastly, as divine revelation holds forth to those who are so happy as to enjoy it, the clearest discovery, and the most persuasive recommendation, of moral virtue, it seems to be at once an act of reason, and an offering of duty to the gracious author of it, to look up to it as our constant and sovereign guide: " thy word is a lamp tlnto my feet, and a light unto my path."|| A contrary habit of
* Isaiah viii. 20. ')' Fph. vi. IT.
J 2. Kings xviii. 21. § Heb. viii. 0. || Ps. cix. 105.
dwelling "entirely or principally on tlie beauty and loveliness of this or that virtue, its present utility, or even the rational probability of its future recompense; this moral preaching, though it be so far correct as it delivers some unquestionable truths, yet is greatly erroneous in that it keeps back others, without which, alas! the former ones would avail us little towards clearing our prospects in another world; still less (such is the corruption of our nature, and so hath been the fact in all ages) for the effectual guidance of our manners in the present. It diverts the attention of the hearer from 'the great truths of the gospel, its doctrines, its precepts, and its sanctions; all which together form the adequate object of his faith, the law of his conduct, and the measure of his expectations. To limit your instructions and exhortations to any inferior speculations, rules, or motives, is to guide your followers with a candle after the sun has risen: it has a natural tendency to contract their views to the few small objects within the narrow circle of this imperfect vision; to make them shrink from the enlarged and more splendid prospects, which the celestial light would present to them; at length, to lead them to forget that he shines around them, or even forcibly to shut him out from their sight. To speak plainly, I cannot but look upon such mere moral discourses as the effect of considerable and dangerous inadvertency; inasmuch as, by narrowing the foundations, and weakening the sanctions, of Christian morality, they hazard the virtue of the hearer; and, by continually withdrawing from his view the Christian doctrine, they imperceptibly prepare him to renounce his faith.
The result of the whole is this. As the will of God is the adequate rule of conscience; as his will is made known to us, partly by supernatural revelation and partly by natural reason; as the precepts of revelation are to be interpreted and applied by reason, and also to be recommended by it for their intrinsic excellence; it seems meet that you should inform and guide your hearers by a careful reference to each of these heavenly monitors in due order and combination: being assured that, whenever they are properly attended to, they will agree in laying down and enforcing one measure of moral and religious duty.'
The smoothly-flowing glassy stream,
these The heart for contemplation form'd
Give me to tread the echoing wood, Or trace the margin of the flood, Glitt'ring thro'many a thorny brake Till it o'erflows the swelling lake. Give me to climb yon lofty steep, And from the point which mocks the
deep. View the contrasted tints that glow In rich variety below; While soaring larks, still hov'ring
near With watchful care, delight theear. Mocking the wording's false pretence To each refin'd delight of sense: Alas! his grosser feelings ne'er In such pure joys asthese could share; His feeble mind, unus'd to thought, Would deem such pleasures dearly
bought; Would think the labour ill repaid By contemplating light and shade; But know, proud sceptic, dare to
know, That Nature's gifts yet higher joys bestow!
IV. Within her variegated bow'r, Profusely hung with ev'ry flow'r That charms the eye or courts the
smell, Coy Meditation loves to dwell: Tis there she sits from early dawn "ill dewy eve bespreads the lawn, Marking the thrilling black bird's
note, Or parting sun-beams, as they float In length'ning lines across the stream, Till their extinction wakes her from her dream.
And when slow-pacing silent nighf Veils the rich landscape from her
sight, Unfolding, with a steady hand, , The dark-spun texture 'thwart the
strand; Nor midnight damps, nordewy chilh Nor rising mists from babbling rills, Can quench the ardour of her lire, Or bid her from the scene retire; In Nature's walks she still can find Meet contemplation for her weirstor'd mind. VI. 'Tis then that Nature's solemn stole With rapture fills her high-wrought
soul! 'Tis then that truths divinely sung Urge repetition from her tongue; • Tis then, to pure devotion given, She elevates her thoughts to iieav'n! Yes! at that still and lonely hour, When the sweet night-bird loves to
pour In soothing strains his wond'rous
note, Tuning to praise his warbling throat, Wrapt in Religion's liallow'd vest, She feels new ardours warm her
breast; And, by Hope's pinions borne on
high, Treads under foot the starry sky; Till, mingling with th'angelic train. She joins the never-ending choral strain.
VII. Hail Meditation! happy maid! With thee I'll seek the tranquil glade; With thee the lonely cell explore, Or haunt the gaily smiling shore; With thee inhale the breath of morn, Andsipthedew-drop from the thorn; Or when the sickly moon-beams
creep In silence o'er the craggy steep, With thee, instructive fair, I'll climb Those heights stupendous, yet sublime, Where tow'ring reason 'gins to nod, And Nature's wonders end in Nature's God!
HYMN ON GRACE.
When with a single eve,
The day-spring from on high!
Thro'all the storms that veil the skies,
The Sun of Righteousness he eyes,
Struck by thatlight, thri human heart,
A barren soil no more, Sends the sweet smell of grace abroad,
Where serpents lurk'd before.
The soul, a dreary province once
Of Satan's dark domain,
And owns a heav'nly reign.
The glorious orb, whose golden beams
Since first, obedient to thy word,
Has cheerM the nations with the joys
But, Jesus! 'tis thy light alone
HYMN ON FAITH.
"GOD moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
And works his sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The cloudsyeso much dread
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the lord by feeble sense.
Behind a frowning providence
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding ev'ry hour;
But sweet will be the ilow'r.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
God is his own interpreter,
LETTER fO REV. MESSRS. LEAMING ASD HUBBARD.
LONDON, April 30, 1784.
YOUR letter dated at Middletown, Feb. 5, with the papers that accompanied it, came duly to me by the packet. I also received a letter from Mr. Leaming, but no copy of the act of the legislature to which in your letter you refer. I hope it is on the way.
I have communicated your letter to the Archbishop of York, and the Bishop of London and Oxford; the last did not seem to think it quite satisfactory, but said the letter was a good one, and gave him an advantageous opinion of the gentlemen who wrote it, and of the Clergy of Connecticut in general; and that it was worthy of serious consideration. The Bishop of London thought it removed all the difficulties on your side of the water, and that nothing now was wanting but an act of Parliament to dispense with the state oaths, and he imagined that would be easily obtained. The Archbishop of Youk gave no opinion, but wished that I would lose no time in shewing it to the Archbishop of Canterbury. This happened yesterday. This morning I went to Lambeth, but his Grace was gone out about ten minutes before I got there. I shall go again to-morrow; but if I stay till I have seen him, I shall lose this opportunity of writing, which I am not willing to do.
Upon the whole, your letter will do good. It attacks the objections in the right place, and answers them fairly; and will enable me to take up the business upon firmer ground. I have determined with myself, that if the Bishops hang back, to bring the matter before Parliament by petition, and if that shall fail, the scheme will be at an end here, I fear forever. Capt. Coupar will sail from hence in three weeks, and by him I hope to be able to give you some satisfactory accounts of my procedure.
You will, Gentlemen, inform my friends at New-London how •matters are situated. I hope to be with them in the course of this summer, and shall not hesitate to trust my future prospects to God's good providence, and the kind endeavours of my brethren to render my life comfortable, nay, happy.
This is a very hasty letter. I have had only twenty minutes to write it in. My best wishes attend the Clergy of Connecticut. Nova Scotia affairs, civil and ecclesiastical, go on heavily. The Parliament is to meet May 18th. Mr. Leaming will forgive my not answering his letter now, because it is impossible. All the American Clergy here are well.
Accept, my good, my dear friends,
LEfVER tO THE REV. MR. yARVIS.
LONDON, Mat 3, 1784. Mt Dear Sir,
I EMBRACE an opportunity, by the way of Rhode-Island, to address you as Secretary of the Convention, and to inform you that 1 have received a letter of the 5th of February, signed by yourself and my very good brethren Leaming and Hubbard, for .which you all have my most hearty thanks. I am also to inform you that 1 wrote to you and them, as a committee, on the 30th of April, under cover to Mr. Ellison, by a vessel bound to New-York (the ship Buccleugh) acknowledging the receipt of the letter above mentioned. Mine was a very hasty- letter—but in it I acquainted you that I had shewn your letter to the Archbishop of York: We were broken in upon by company and he gave me no opinion on the letter; but desired that I would communicate it to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to the Bishop of London, as soon as I conveniently could. I called, in my way, on the Bishop of Oxford, who has been very attentive to me, speaks his mind without reserve, and is communicative, and hears me with patience and candour, is much of a gentleman, and a man of learning and business. He read the letter with attention—said he hardly thought it sufficient ground to proceed upon. 1 endeavoured to explain the arguments you had used, and Z