Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

gregation who lament the early death of their minister, with all the blossoms of promise upon him, which led them to look forward to a long and useful connection; but, as exhibiting to the professors of Christianity at large, the superior tendency of Unitarian views of the character and government of God, to produce calm resignation to the will of our heavenly Father, and peace and happiness under the trials and difficulties of the present life, while they strengthen and invigorate the hope of immortality, founded on the promise of him, wbo, through sufferings of an hour, leads his children to an endless state of felicity, and to those joys that are at bis right hand for evermore.-B.

The following Hymn written for the occasion, was sung after the Funeral Sermon:

“ He being dead yet speaketh."-HEB. xi. 4.
Hark! Christians, to the tones that fill

Each listening mourner's ear,
“ He being dead yet speaketh still,”

His voice is hovering near.
Oh listen now, though once the sound

Might coldly touch thy breast,
Those gentle accents float around

From mansions of the bless'd.
They speak to youth in warning strain

To shun temptation's way,
Nor venture midst the pleasures vain

Of life's delusive day.
They speak to those in manhood's pride

As they were wont to speak,
To lay their worldly trust aside,

And better riches seek.
· And gently to the infant band,

They tell of heavenly things,
And speak of that enduring land,

Where endless pleasure springs.
And to the Christian bent with years,

They breathe in words of love,
And bid him lay aside his fears,

And find his rest above.
Oh, not in vain his death shall be,

Whose life so brightly shone,
For “ being dead yet speaketh be,”

In accents all his own.
So, though we ne'er shall see him more,

Within this hallow'd Fane,
Yet let us live his virtues o’er,

Nor make his labours vain.

CHRISTIAN PIONEER.

No. 57.

MAY, 1831.

Vol. V.

On the Missionary Enterprise.

The month of May is the season when the annual meetings are held in London, of the numerous religious and charitable societies, for which Great Britain has within the last half century become signalized. The period of the

year is an auspicious one. There is, it appears to us, a harmony between the season and the objects of these institutions. A spirit of kindness and reciprocity is felt in spring, through the wide range of animal and vegetable existence. The earth begins to put forth her ample treasures for man and beast-the trees bud and blossom to regale the senses--the

song

of the bird is poured profusely forth, gladdening and quickening the heart—the heavens assume a fuller and a brighter radiance. The bountiful spirit of beneficence seems in activity through the whole frame of nature. What exquisite forms, what inimitable colours, come forth on every side! How rich and pleasant to the eye is the covering of the fields!

On every tiny leaf, creatures abound, happy in their being and useful to

No where does the eye fall, but it is met by instances of the beauty and affluence with which the band of God now strews the lap of nature. What is the voice of these several tokens of the divine love? Do they not bid the intelligent creation to go and do likewise? . Are they not fitted to kindle the flame of benevolence in the human breast? Is there not a holy contagion in the season? Is it surprising, that when the earth and the heavens smile and are glad, for the gifts which they convey from God to man, that the recipient, catching the spirit that prevails, should feel his heart warming with love-teeming with benevolent plans—and prompting him to do good and to communicate? Is it surprising, that when the physical creation is gathering riches

and loveliness on every side, that man in imitation of his Maker, should seek to spread verdure and abundance over the waste and desert places of the moral world? The season with all its varied influences, prompts the buman mind to feel benignantly,

man.

[ocr errors]

and to act generously. It is natural for it to infer, that if it has received, it is under an obligation to give. It is natural, we say, for traces of this inference are to be found in every period of the world's bistory. In primeval times, the sense of the obligation here implied, led to the institution of sacrifices, by which a portion of his bounties was consecrated to the Deity in acknowledgment of his goodness and the offerer's gratitude. But more acceptable to God, and more honourable to man, are the oblations of mercy and beneficent deeds, by which the Christian now seeks to express bis sense of gratitude and accountableness to the Giver of every good and perfect gift. The conviction of the duty under which he lies, to communicate happiness, is likely to be felt jy man chiefly when he is receiving most largely of its blessings. In spring, therefore, when the contrast between privation and abundance-deformity and beauty_cheerlessness and gaiety, is the most strongly marked--when old things are passed away with all their chill and penury, and all things are become new and glorious and abundant, the human heart will, if ever, glow with love to God and good will to man, and seek to find the proper exercise of its affections, in promoting the purposes of the one and the happiness of the other. Accordingly, we find that in May the Romans, confessing the quickening power of spring, made sacrifices of their plenty to Bona Dea—to the earth, that is, considered as the prolific source of human happiness. But while the gods were honoured, man was neglected. They sacrificed the sacrifice of thanksgiving, but not the sacrifice of mercy. This fault attached to all the services by which they sought to express their homage to a superior power. They knew not, that God is honoured when man is benefited; they knew not, that to relieve the sufferer, and to enlighten the ignorant, are sacrifices with which the common Father is well pleased. No, of these great truths they knew nothing. Their conduct was in unison with their ignorance. Where in the writings of the ancients, can we read of plans of godlike mercy, and deeds of large benevolence? If cases can be named, they are few and far between-they stand a few insulated exceptions. Beneficence was not a principle of action to bodies and to nations. It brought not together the hearts and energies of thousands. No congregated masses were under its acknowledged sway. The ills of our nature were, to say the least, as heavy and pumerous then as they are now. There was the sick man, without a physician-and the afflicted, without solaceand the ignorant, without hope of instruction-and the poor, without bread to sustain, or a roof to shelter him. Yet the voice of mercy was not heard, the deed of mercy was not done. Of what was falsely deemed honour to the gods, there was abundance. Enough was squandered in empty shows—in supplying the altars, or supporting priests, to have, if well expended, informed the minds and amended the hearts of depraved myriads. But the ignoble vulgar attracted the attention of the legislator, the patriot, or the pbilosopher, only so far as was needful to promote their own selfish views.

Whence arose this general neglect of the ignorant, the infirm, and the destitute, but from the absence of divine guidance? The human mind was in its essential features the same as it is now-as fitted, considered in itself, to originate schemes of benevolence, as in this day, wben they abound on every hand. Yet no such schemes were devised. How then is it, that they now exist, and that BO abundantly? How is it, that the human mind has taken a direction entirely new? How is it, that beneficence is now the recognised principle of action to societies and individuals so numerous? Here is a change, a great and a wide extended change, in the conduct of men. Whence is it? Does not the existence of a fact, no less novel than striking, require the admission of an extraordinary cause? That cause we find in Christianity. "Look at its spirit and teachings, and you will see how fitted they are to give that direction to the mind, which it has assumed. In them you see an influence more than adequate for the production of the effects in question, and you can find that influence in no other quarter. This system only was equal to give that direction and impulse to the mind, which we know it received cotemporaneously with the publication of the Gospel; which, amidst ten thousand hostile influences, it has never lost, and which it is now beginning to feel in something like their proper efficacy. Modern and ancient times are contrasted by many circumstances, but by nothing more strongly than by the spirit of beneficence. We do not know that there is one charitable institution, even the germ of which can be traced up to an age prior to the introduction of the Christian religion. Certainly, the majority of them grew up subse

[ocr errors]

among the

quent to, and in consequence of, the prevalence of the Gospel.

Here, then, we have an entirely new state of mind produced, and need in consequence an entirely new instrument to account for its existence. Christianity, we therefore conclude, is not composed of scattered fragments of heathenism. It had no existence prior to its promulgation by Jesus Christ. It arose with him. It began forthwith to change the aspect of the moral world. It trenched forthwith on the dominion of selfishness, by introducing a rival power. A new spirit was created under its influence, and therefore it was itself a new creation. We

argue further, that this creation was a work not of man, but of God. An adequate cause of the merciful spirit by which it is characterised, can be found in nothing short of the God of all mercy and love. Are the elements for the formation of Christianity, to be found Jews, whose narrow spirit is described in the parable of the good Samaritan with equal truth and beauty? How could a system of universal benignity, be originated by a people whose exclusiveness and illiberality were matters of remark and condemnation, even among the heathen? If the Jew was unable to frame and expound the law of universal love, shall we succeed in finding a cause equal to its production among the Greeks or Romans?

We have already spoken of the practical indifference to human wants, which prevailed throughout the heathen world. Were there then any speculative principles, any striking example, that could lead to the formation of a system, of a spirit so benign and beneficent as that of the Gospel? We

say, without hesitation, No. Were not the efforts of all the ancient philosophers—the best of them, Socrates not being excepted—limited to a few chosen disciples, who could promote their teacher’s fame, or augment his influence or his wealth? At the utmost, did they extend beyond the precincts of a petty state, or of a people itself but a fraction of the human family? The ancient philosophers seem never to have had the idea of extending their regards to the many. On the contrary, they generally held the multitude in contempt, as unworthy of their notice, unable to appreciate their speculations, or designed by nature to live and die in servitude. Even if they had set themselves to give to their fiction of a perfect man, a ocal habitation and a name, they would never have thought

« FöregåendeFortsätt »