Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

how we are to discern the holy influences of so high an agent; the answer is and you are here solemnly cautioned against the imagining that you know it in any other way by the experiencing of what are defined to be “ the fruits of the spirit, in all goodness and righteousness and truth.”* In proportion as there is a sensibility of this, not in evanescent feelings, which have their seat in the animal economy; but in dominant dispositions, moulding the inward character to a like. ness of the adorable excellencies of God himself; we may discern in these holy influences the operation of that spirit of grace, from which only they can proceed. In the view of possessing a test of a Christian state and what serious mind can be indifferent to satisfaction in this important matterit is well said by a very pious and intelligent writer,t that he preferred the test here proposed, to the being told by an Angel from Heaven, of the recording of his name in the book of life. 3. In regard to profession before the world, there can be no mistake as to what becomes us; if there be kept in view the ground of it, which is in our social nature and condition. For we are constituted in such a manner, and so are all the relations of life, that ex. ample and mutual incitement have a most powerful influence. It is indeed so great and so necessary, that were we to conceive of a man possessing a truly Christian disposition, and manifesting it in the course of his general conduct, and yet not showing any evidence of that fear of God which is in reality the beginning of all religious wisdom; the example of such a man would not only be without its legitimate influence, but would countenance one of the most insidious opinions ever propagated for the corruption of mankind that moral theory, like the physical, may safely be rested on the relation of actions to their consequences; all belief of a God and of a future state being excluded. To this dreadful extreme there tend all the considerations, which would restrain us from an acknowledging

• Ephes. v. 9.

The Reverend Henry Scougal.

1

of the obligations of religion before the world: And therefore this is an imperious duty; whatever miscona struction or whatever scorn it may provoke from ungodly men, who cannot but consider it as an implied censure on themselves.

Such however being the end of religious profession, it is evidently lost sight of, in whatever has no use but the exhibiting of self; whether with the view of gaining the praise of piety with some, or for the creating of a contrast to the deficiencies and the faulty practices of others: for each of these motives originates in an infirmity of nature, which may be the occasion of great sin. Let there then be carefully avoided ostentation in every shape: and under this name may safely be includ. ed all affectation of singularities, having no real connexion with religion, but inviting attention to the person. Matters of this sort belong more or less to the class of actions, described by our Saviour as done to be seen of men; and therefore interfere with the duty, of doing all as to the great Being who sees in secret. The mischief does not end here; for the professor becomes thereby the more exposed to sin, in some of the most insidious of its approaches. And of this result there is especially danger, when he accommodates his profession to the object of bringing disrespect or disesteet on uthers.

There is indeed another line, in which no measure of attainment can be too great, and no rectitude of conduct can be too strict. It is what was noticed under the terms of evidencing the sincerity of the profession and the existence of the inward principle, by a holy life and conversation. You cannot read the Scriptures, under the desire of religious improvement; without perceiving that this is the object, to which whatever they contain whether of doctrine or of duty--whether of precept or of example-whether of promise or of threatening is directed. Accordingly St. Paul, intending to state the ultimate end for which “the grace of God, bringing salvation to all men, had appeared,”* defines it to be,“ that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, they should live soberly, righteously and godly, in this present world.”+

Although this is the most important lesson there can be addressed to the consciences of any, whatever may be their ages or their conditions; yet it comes the most seasonably before the minds of persons in early life: and of this description are the greater number of those who have just now dedicated themselves to God in the ordinance of the occasion.

My young friends; we might as soon believe, that God suffers us, without reserve, to “walk in the ways of our own hearts and the sight of our own eyes,” from the beginning to the end of life; as that he has dispensed with the obedience of our early years: so much the most favourable to the establishing of habit of any sort; and the innocency and the usefulness of which have so near a relation to the tranquillity and the consolations of age. If indeed there were necessarily brought the cloud of gloom over the mind, with the objects presented to it by religion; it might seem inconsistent with the characteristick cheerfulness of youth. But far from this, religion gives the only solid ground for an immortal mind to rest on: she opens to it satisfactions not otherwise to be obtained: and she is the only safe directory of the conduct; which, under her bright influence, becomes a path illumined by “a shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”

The world before you abounds with temptations, varying according to your different stations and dispositions: But here is that which will carry you triumphantly through every difficulty and danger; and which will not merely protect your characters from any just reproaches of the world, but also prevent the reproaches of your own hearts.

However unclouded the morning of your day, you cannot be sure, that it will not be overcast before the

[blocks in formation]

uoon of life. All the outward blessings which you enjoy, are at the mercy of unforeseen events; and should they be continued to you, yet there may be a want of health or of spirits for the enjoyment of them. Even in apparent friendships, there may be faithlessness: and if it should be otherwise; yet by the time you, shall have reached the mid !le stage of life, the year will seldom close, without finding you bereaved, during the course of it, either of some one to whom you were linked by the ties of affection, or at least of some one, who contributed in one way or another to your happiness. But you will find the consolations of religion more substantial and lasting. If they cannot shield you from misfortune, they can support you under it: and after having been the monitor of your youth, and the counsellor of your riper years, they will go

with you to grey hairs, and be your comforter under the infirmities of old age. What is most of all, they will extend your prospect beyond the present life of uncertainty and sorrow; giving you even here, an interest in that better life of immortal happiness and glory, which will be the sure reward of your persevering piety and obedience.

LECTURE VII.

SUPPLEMENTARY.

OF THE MINISTRY.

1.

Motives to tbis Lecture.--Article XIX. Article XXIII.

Article XXXIV. Article XXXVI.-The Ordinal.-Divine Institution. Independence on foreign Jurisdiction.. Episcopacy.--Scripture.Primiuve Church.- Question of Necessity - Advantage.

IT has been wished by some judicious divines of our Church, that as she has expressed, in her Articles, her sense of the institution of the gospel ministry; something to the same effect had been introduced by her, into her Catechism. Without entering on the question, of the expediency of such an addition of matter to this instrument, a confessedly desirable property of which is brevity; it will be pertinent to remark, that there is clearly recognized in it the kindred subject of the divine institution of the Christian Church; which cannot be from God, if yet the ministry, by which he carried his contemplated object into effect, were of man. The existence of such a Church, with the title of “Catholick,” to express its extension over the world, has been thought worthy of a place in the short formula of the Apostle's Creed: And when we are said to be made by baptism-“Members of Christ;" there is manifestly a reference to the figure, by which St. Paul has described the social mass of professing Christians, in the twelfth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, and elsewhere. Ac. cordingly, in the answer in the Catechism here re. ferred to, although an all important spiritual benefit is comprehended; yet it is not without a regard to the membership of an outward and visible so.

« PoprzedniaDalej »