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These, reader, are some of the consequences of neglecting religion - some of the things which to the full extent of our power we must. do, if we will reject it, and be consistent. Other things equally, and more than equally dreadful might be stated; but neither my own feelings, nor I trust yours, will permit me to proceed. Has not enough been said already to make us shudder-enough to impress on us more deeply than any abstract reasoning could, that this side of the question must be abandoned, that it will not do to disbelieve and reject the religion of the gospel.
But if we dare not reject this religion, and be consistent; then let us embrace it, and be consistent. Let us at least be consistent somewhere. .
I shall proceed, therefore, in the second place, to shew what consistency will require of us, on supposition we conclude to receive the Bible as truth. And,
I. If the religion of the Bible is a reality, we ought to attend to it immediately. If this religion is a reality it is a tremendous reality. If its doctrines are true, they are truths awfully and immediately interesting to mortals. Here we are represented as fallen, guilty, ruined creatures, exposed to the instant wrath and vengeance of heaven. It is moreorer represented, that an infinite Saviour has consented to die for us, and that easy offers of mercy are made to us. If these offers are immediately accepted, we may be saved; but if we persist in rejecting them, we must sink, with an endless and vastly aggravated condemnation. Such is the representation of the Bible respecting us; and if it is the truth--if our case is really $0 ; why we are deranged, if we neglect religion, and reject the offered mercy, a single moment. What in the world is there, which we can be justified in attending to, to the neglect of this ! « What. shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ?” and yet he is in imminent danger of losing it, every moment that he neglects religion. If we will suffer any thing to intervene-if we will allow any idle thought, any business, care, or concern, to come between the present moment, and our fixed and hearty attention to religion; we do it in face of all consistency, and at the hazard of our everlasting welfare.
II. If we would be consistent in admitting the reality of religion, we must attend to it, not only immediately, but constantly. My meaning is, not that we are to be constantly engaged in the services of religion, but that we are to be constantly under the influence of religion. Whatever we do is to be done religiously. Wherever we are, the principles of the gospel must be predominant in our minds. That it is required of all those who receive the Bible, is evldent, because it is enjoined in the Bible. We are there commanded to “ live no longer unto ourselves, but to him who died for us and rose again;" and “ whether we eat, or drink, or whatever we do,” we are to “ do all to the glory of God.”—But if there was no command on the subject-the religion of the Bible is so great and important, and other things so little compared with it, that those who receive it must feel their obligations to bestow upon it their constant and affectionate regard. It has been frequently and
justly said, that if this religion was any thing it was every thing, If it is in truth a reality, according to the supposition now before us, it rises to a height, and swells to a magnitude and grandeur, which cause all other things to look small indeed. Other concerns must indeed be attended to, but this must uniformly rise above them. The daily avocations of life must not be neglected, but they must be pursued in the fear and for the glory of God. It will be madness, reader, in the extreme-admitting the reality of our holy religion—if we suffer its purifying, sanctifying influence ever more to escape from our hearts.
III. If we would be consistent in receiving the Bible as true, then its truth must be permitted to sink deep into our hearts, and interest our feelings. These truths are not merely speculative notions. They are not ideas which can be admitted to float in the head, while they exert no farther influence. They are awfully interesting truths; and where they are really and consistently received, must take hold of, and try, the feelings of men. It is not possible that a person should believe the representation of the Bible, respecting his own sin, guilt, and ruin-respecting the ransom which has been paid for him, the offers which are made, and the everlasting consequences which are depending on his acceptance or rejection of these offers ; and still his heart remain unaffected, and his feelings unmoved.
IV. If we would be consistent in admitting the reality of our religion, it must be suffered not only to interest our feelings, but to regulate our daily practice.-Our Bible contains precepts as well as doctrines. It is a book to be practised as well as believed. It is vain indeed therefore to pretend to believe it, unless we will obey it-to pretend to admit it as a system of truth, unless we are willing to practise it in our lives. I add,
V. If we would be consistent in admitting the reality of religion, we must make all other things subservient to it. This must be with us a supreme object, a central point ; and other things must be esteemed or scorned, pursued or abandoned, according as they bear upon our religion. Many persons, instead of making every thing subservient to religion, will make religion subservient to other things. They wish as much religion as they think will subserve their own private interest; or they will shew as much regard to it as they think necessary in order to render them respectable and no more. But this, obviously, is not loving religion at all. It is merely using it, as an instrument for promoting a private selfish end. If we believe religion to be a reality, and mean to be consistent in this belief, our religion will be with us a matter of affection, and an object to the advancement of which we shall desire to make all other things subserve. This is not placing it too high. It is not attaching to it an importance to which it is not justly entitled. True religion is indeed a great subject. If it is any thing, it is every thing. Compared with it, in its everlasting consequences, what are the riches, honors, and pleasures of this life ? Or what indeed is life itself?
The subject under consideration, I think every reader will perceivę, places us in very solemn and critical circumstances. We have a Bible in our hands, purporting to have come to us from the God who made us, and to contain his words. This Bible we must receive, or reject ; and either of these conclusions, we have seen, implies a great deal. If we will reject this holy book as falsehood, and the religion it inculcates as a delusion, and be consistent in it; we have indeed a hard and dreadful task to perform. For in making this conclusion, we must go, not only in face of the clearest light and the most conclusive evidence, but in opposition to the influence of education, and the unqualified dictates of our own bosoms. And when we have fought our way thus far, and, the conclusion is adopted, our difficulties have but just begun. Having rejected the Bible, we must go on with this rejection, and carry it through. We must wage everlasting war with the Bible, and with the religion it inculcates. We must do all we can, that every Bible on earth may be destroyed, the Sabbath abolished, every christian temple thrown down, every minister silenced, every church dissolved, the ordinances done away, that the voice of prayer be hushed, and in short, that no vestige of the false and exploded religion may remain, Now this, my readers will perceive, is dreadful work, and the miserable creatures who will reject religion, and be consistent, have a hard and dreadful task to perform.
Suppose then we shrink from this conclusion, and adopt the other. We will receive the Bible as truth, and the religion it inculcates as a reality. But this also, let it be remembered, implies a great deal. To be consistent in a belief of the Bible, to carry this conclusion through, is no trifling concern. It is something more than merely to think well of the Bible, and to entertain an idea of attending to it occasionally, and at some future day-something more than a mere opinion of its correctness, an opinion floating in the head, which has little or no influence upon the heart and practice and something more than a willingness to have just about as much religion as will be conducive to one's own supposed respectability or interest. When once we have concluded that the religion of the Bible is a reality, if we will conduct with any face of consistency, we must embrace it immediately, and be under its influence constantly we must suffer it to take a strong and deep and everlasting hold of our affections-.we must adopt it, both as the standard of our faith, and the rule of our life and we must consent to place it (where, on account of its intrinsic importance, it is justly entitled to stand higher in our regard than any thing else, and make all other things subservient to it. If we admit the Bible to be a reality, we cannot, with any appearance of consistency, stop an inch short of this. For if this religion is a reality, it is a great reality. It is a tremendous reality. To trifle with it, is to trifle, not with earthly riches, pleasures, and honour's-not with thrones, or kingdoms, or the globe itself—it is to trifle with everlasting things..
May none of my readers be guilty of such dreadful trifling. May none be left to conduct with fatal inconsistency, in respect to their soul's concerns. We admire consistency in every thing else ; let
us then exhibit it in our religion. If we believe this religion to be a reality, let us conduct as though it were so. If we believe it to be the greatest of all concerns, let us not cast it into the back ground, and treat it as though it were a trifle. Let us consent to live, as though time were short, and eternity long—as though death and judginent and invisible worlds were near. Thus to live, rest assured, is no hardship. It is in this life a way of pleasantness and a path of peace; and it conducts, with infallible certainty, to glory, honour, and immortality hereafter.
ON CHRISTIAN PRACTICE.-NO. II.
HAVING, in my first number, briefly brought into view the standard of christian morality, the criminal deviations of many professors of religion from this standard will next be noticed.
It is a melancholy fact, that when no fiery trials are experienced by the church as a body, from open persecution or some other sore calamity, that its members are wont, commonly, to abate in their love and zeal for the Saviour. And in such cases, the wise virgins are too apt to slumber and sleep with the foolish. Or at best, there follows a great declension of vital piety. And when things fall into this lax state, numbers, who view the external badge of Christianity conducive to their honour or worldly interest, are ready to seek admission into the visible church, how conscious soever they may be to themselves, that they never experienced a change of heart. In such a low state of things, they have but small apprehensions that they shall be strictly examined respecting their christian experience, or be called to render a particular reason of the foundation of the hope that is in them. Nor do they imagine, that their daily walk will be strictly scrutinized by their christian brethren. They hope to escape painful reproach and admonitions, and the lash of ecclesiastical censure, for their uncircumspect walk. This, therefore, is a suitable season, in which, for the enemy to sow tares, in Christ's field, and for graceless members to come in unawares. It is not uncommon for persons who are strangers to experimental godliness, to come forward with a professed belief of all the fundamental doctrines and precepts of our holy religion, and openly avow themselves the cordial friends of Christ. When religion and church discipline are in such a low condition, they, like the subtle adversaries of God's church in the days of Ezra the priest, will say, “ Let us build with you, for we seek your God, as do ye, and we do sacrifice unto him."
Hence, among our modern professors of religion, I have noticed Avarus, Epicurus, Hilaris, and Libertinus, who are all agreed in setting up a different standard of christian morality, from that established by Christ and his inspired Apostles.
Avarus generally attends on public worship and the Lord's supper, at their stated seasons. But he is so deeply immersed in his
secular concerns through the week, that he seldom finds time to pray in his family, except on the Sabbath. Nor does he let slip his opportunities to transact some worldly business, upon that sacred day. His conversation in the interim of the public exercises, does not “ savour the things that be of God, but such as be of men.”
Though he professes his belief that Saturday evening belongs to holy time, yet he frequently so arranges his worldly business, as not to accomplish it until a number of those sacred hours have elapsed. In what an unsuitable frame nust Avarus be to attend to the devotions of his family, or to meet with God and his people in the sanctuary ! And how must his perplexities of mind, bis entanglements with the affairs of this life, surprisingly retard his progress toward christian reflection ! And how does he crouch down under the pondrous weight, which he is attempting to carry while he thinks himself on his way to the kingdom of heaven !- Who would imagine, if he judge from the daily conduct of Avarus, that he was one that called himself a friend of Christ, or entertained a hope of being saved. But notwithstanding the repeated declarations in the divine word,“ that no covetous person shall inherit the kingdom of God," Avarus expects admittance into that blessed kingdom at last.
Epicurus, has also attempted to model his standard of christian morality, so as to make it comport with sensual gratifications. His sumptuous manner of living, and his free use of ar lent spirits, prepare him to appear at the sacramental table, with the physiognomy of a man gluttopous and a wine-bibber! His intellects are so fettered by their connection with such a mass of unhallowed corpulency that he appears to be in a poor condition to run the christian race successfully. And this idea is confirmed by Paul, in the following words ; “ Évery man that striveth for the mastery, is temperate in all things.” Notwithstanding, Epicurus has such false conceptions of what is essential to constitute a christian, that he hopes for salvation, though he should die in his present condition !
Hilaris, after he had united himself with the church, for a short season laid restraints upon his volatile passions. But he soon begun to discover his high taste for balls, and parties of pleasure. And no sooner had his children arrived at a suitable age, than he placed them under the tuition of a polite dancing master. He freely paid his expensive quarter bills for the acquisition of what he deemed a very necessary refinement. With much less expense and a far more approving conscience, could Hilaris have educated his children in the school of Christ, whom he professedly calls his Lord and Master. I fear he has never suitably noticed the solemn exhortation of an inspired Apostle to christian parents, to “ Bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
I think that the conduct of Hilaris cannot be accounted for, unless he imagines that the fearful woes which God denounced by bis prophets, upon the members of his ancient church, who spent their time at balls and impious festivals, have become obsolete, since the commencement of the Christian era. But if Hilaris will not hear Moses and the prophets, let him attend to the voice of Jesus Christ