Sidor som bilder

foundation of amusement and trifling? What must be the spirit of him, who can divert himself over the grave; who can make death the topic of wit; who can laugh before the bar of the final judgment, and sport with the miseries of perdition ? He must, indeed, have forgotten the God that made him, and lightly esteem the Rock of his salvation.

Secondly; The same irreverence is exercised, when the Scriptures are neglected. Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy Name. Psalm cxxxviii. 2. This passage is thus paraphrased by Dr. Watts :

I'll sing thy truth and mercy, Lord;
I'll sing the wonders of thy Word;
Not all thy works, and names, below,

So much thy power and glory show.” If God, then, has magnified his Word in this manner; if he has rendered it the means of displaying his character so much more perfectly, than the works of Creation and Providence ; if he has thus rendered it immensely important to mankind; if he himself appears in it so immediately, so clearly, and so gloriously; how inexcusable must we be, if we do not regard it with the solemn concern, the deep attention, and the profound reverence, due to his infinite majesty ? But negligence of the Scriptures is the absolute prevention, the certain death, of all such emotions. What veneration can he possess for the Bible, or for the Author of it, who leaves it to moulder on a shelf; or who reads it, when he reads it at all, with carelessness and stupidity; who is equally regardless of its doctrines, and its precepts; and who renders to it, universally, less respect than to a novel, or a play?

Thirdly; The same irreverence is exercised towards the Scriptures, when we do not duly respect their authority. When the Scriptures are acknowledged to be the Word of God, an end is put to all questions concerning the truth of their doctrines, and the reasonableness of their precepts. If they are his Word; every thing, contained in them, unless it be some error of a transcriber, or printer, is true, and right. Nor is this all. As all Scripture is given by inspiration of God; so he has declared the whole to be profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in right

As they are ; he has declared, that they are the genuine means of perfecting the man of God, and of furnishing him thoroughly unto every good work. The plain duty of all men, therefore, is carefully to understand, implícitly to believe, and exactly to obey, them. ' If, then, we find some doctrines partially revealed; some mysterious, and inexplicable in their nature ; and these, or others, contradicting our own pre-conceived opinions : if we doubt, or disbelieve, such doctrines, because our own philosophy is unsatisfied with them, opposed to them, or unable to explain them: sre wholly fail of the reverence, due to Him, who has declared



them; and, in a manner highly affrontive, impeach his wisdom and veracity.

The Bereans received the word, preached by the Apostles, with all readiness of mind : and, to be satisfied whether it was true, did not appeal to their own reason, but to the Scriptures; which they searched daily, for this end. All, who possess the liberal and nobleminded disposition, ascribed to them, will pursue exactly the same conduct; and will say, with St. Paul, Let God be true, but every man a liar. It was from this disposition, that they believed, in the Evangelical sense, and were saved. All

, who possess

the same spirit, will share in the same faith, and the same salvation. What can be more preposterous, more indecent, more irreverential to God, than for beings of yesterday, who know nothing, to question the wisdom, and the truth, of his declarations; and, instead of believing what he has said, upon the ground of his veracity, to insist on perceiving, before we give credit to it, the truth and reasonableness of the doctrines declared, by means of our own philosophy. To men, whose sincerity we consider as proved, we readily yield our belief, whenever they declare such things, as they have had opportunity certainly to know. God knows all things with absolute certainty. Ought he not, then, to be believed, in whatever he is pleased to declare? Is not his veracity greater than that of men ? If, then, we receive the witness of men, the witness of God, saith St. John, is greater. He, that believeth not God, hath made him a liar. What wonderful irreverence is this towards God! What an impudent insult! How tremendous a profanation of his glorious character !

Fourthly; of the same nature is the Contempt, Obloquy, and Ridicule, often cast upon the Scriptures. The Scriptures, in instances not very unfrequent, receive this treatment from those, who professedly believe them; and much more frequently from Infidels. A man, who has not, hitherto, seen sufficient evidence to prove the divine origin of the Scriptures, may be fairly considered as warranted to withhold from them his assent. At the same time, he is indispensably bound to investigate this evidence as fast, and as far, as he is able ; and to yield himself to it, whenever it is perceived, with candour and equity. But nothing can justify, or even palliate, the manner, in which Infidels have conducted their opposition to this book. There is no mode of attack, which they have thought too gross to be adopted in this warfare. The frauds, which they have practised upon Christianity, have been without number, and without limits. All the weakness, folly, superstition, and enthusiasm, inherent in the nature of man, they have charged upon its doctrines ; although these very doctrines contradict, and condemn them all. All the vices, inwoven in the human character; all the enormities, perpetrated by the pride, injustice, and cruelty, of man; they have charged upon its precepts; notwithstanding these very precepts prohibit every one of them, and threaten them, VOL. IIJ.


universally, with endless punishment. The Religion itself they have regularly styled Superstition, Enthusiasm, and Fanaticism; and have thus endeavoured to prepossess, and to a vast extent have actually prepossessed, great multitudes of mankind against it, under the mere influence of Nicknames. Where they could not convince, or refute; an evil which has universally attended their efforts ; they have succeeded, at least equally well, by perplexing, and entangling. Instead of open, direct arguments, fairly stated, and fully discussed, they have insinuated doubts; started difficul ties; and hinted objections; leaving the minds of the young, the ignorant, and the unskilful, to embarrass themselves by dwelling upon these subjects, which they had neither learning to investigate, nor capacity to understand. In this situation, such minds are as effectually overthrown, from a consciousness of their ina. bility to defend themselves, as by the power of an acknowledged demonstration.

What they have been unable to effect in these modes, they have endeavoured to accomplish by wit. A book, professing to be the Word of God, to communicate his Will to mankind, and to disclose eternal life, and eternal death, to every human being, together with the terms, and means, by which one of these may be obtained; and the other must be suffered; a book believed truly to sustain this character by a great part of those, to whom it has been fairly published; particularly by most of the learned, and by almost all, whom their fellow-men have regarded as wise and virtuous; has unquestionable claims to be examined with solemn thought, and unbiassed investigation. The question concerning its divine Origin is of infinite moment to every child of Adam. He, who can sport with this subject, would with the same propriety laugh, while he heard the sentence of death pronounced upon and dance around the grave, which was dug to receive him. Sup. pose the Scriptures are in fact the Word of God: suppose the Infidel at the foot of Mount Sinai: suppose he heard the trumpet sound, and the thunders roll; saw the lightnings blaze, the cloud embosom the mountain, and the flame of devouring fire reach the heavens; and perceived the earth to tremble beneath his feet: suppose the final day arrived, and the same Infidel to hear the call of the Archangel, the trump of God, and the shout of the heavenly host; and to see the graves open, the dead arise, the Judge descend, the plains and the mountains kindled with the final conflagration, and the heavens and the earth flee away: would he be inclined to jesting, to sport, and to ridicule? The Scriptures declare themselves to be the Word of the glorious Being, who spoke from Sinai, and who will again come to Judge the quick and the dead. The very terms, by which the Infidel, and all his fellowmen, will be tried on this dreadful day, the Scriptures profess to unfold; the very terms, on which, to us, are suspended both heaven and hell. Should the Scriptures be indeed the Word of that God;



what will become of the Infidel? Should they not; what will he lose by believing them? Where, then, is the place for his sport? where the foundation for his trifling?

Could the contempt, or the ridicule, which he employs, really affect the question; and exhibit it in any new light to the understanding of man; something, at least, might be pleaded in extenuation of this conduct. But ridicule, however gross the banter, or refined the wit, cannot be proof. A sneer cannot be an argument. The question, after every effort of this nature, is left just where it was : while the inquirer is ensnared, deceived, and ruined. How melancholy an employment, to destroy a soul for the sake of utter. ing a jest!

To complete this wretched pursuit of this wretched purpose, the Infidel assaults the Scriptures with obscenity. In periods and places, in which coarse manners prevail ; when the animal side of man is left naked; and the feelings and conduct of the brute obtrude themselves without a blush; this obscenity breaks out in gross ribaldry, and the shameless dialect of the workhouse and the brothel. În more chastened society, the impurity, lest it should be too offensive, is veiled by decency of expression; steals upon the mind in an innuendo ; glances at it in a hint, and peeps from behind an obscure suggestion. What a shocking mixture is here presented to the thoughts of a sober, and even of a decent, man! Obscenity, blended with the truths, contained in the Word of God. How obviously must the mind, which can voluntarily, which can laboriously, unite these things, be the habitation of devils ; the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird! How irreverent, how profane, how abominable, how filthy, must it appear to Him, in whose sight the heavens are unclean!

3dly. This irreverence is, perhaps, not less exercised toward the Institutions, or Ordinances, of God.

God has instituted, as important means of displaying his own character, preserving his worship, and promoting his religion, in the world, the Sabbath; public and private prayer and praise; the preaching of the Gospel ; public and private humiliation and fasting; the Church of Christ; its communion ; its sacraments; and its discipline. As all these are his Institutions; and seen to be his; it is obvious, that irreverence towards them is irreverence towards himself; and in this manner has the subject ever been considered in the Christian world. It will be easily seen, that the various ways, in which this numerous train of sacred things is profaned, are so many, as to render it impracticable to specify them on the present occasion. I shall, therefore, attempt only to mention such, as are most usual, or most prominent.

The Sabbath is undoubtedly the great support of Religion in the world; for wherever it is unknown or unregarded, Religion is unknown. Accordingly God has been pleased to make it the subject of one of the Commands of the Decalogue. This holy day is

profaned, and the Author of it treated with gross irreverence, whenever it is devoted to pleasure, or to secular business: whenever we ride, or walk, when neither necessity nor mercy demands : whenever we read books of amusement, and diversion; or devote our conversation to any topics, unsuited to the holy nature of this day. Nor is it less really profaned, when we spend its sacred hours in idleness, or sleep; or when, in any other manner, we refuse, or neglect, to employ them in the great duties of Religion. Equally, and more obviously, are we guilty of this profanation, when we speak of the Sabbath with contempt; and ridicule, or laugh at, others for regarding it with the reverence, enjoined in the Scriptures; decry the Institution, as useless; as injurious to the interests of mankind; and as deserving the regard of none, but weak and euthusiastic minds: or when, with direct hostility, we deny its sacred nature; labour to weaken its authority; and endeavour to destroy its holy, heavenly influence on mankind. In all these cases, we impeach the wisdom, equity, or goodness, of its Author ; declare him, when instituting it, to have acted unworthily of himself; and, in plain language, cast contempt on Him, as well as on his Institution. No man ever thought of treating with contempt this holy day, considered merely as a seventh part of time; no man ever directed the shafts of ridicule at Monday. Aside from the fact, that it was instituted by God as a sacred day, the Sabbath would be no more despised, and regarded with no more hostility, than any other day of the week. The hostility and contempt, therefore, are directed against the Institution; against its sacred nature; against its holy and glorious Author.

The Worship of God is profaned, whenever, for reasons plainly insufficient, we refuse to be present in his house, upon the Sabbath; or, when present, neglect cordially to unite in its solemn services; or spend the time allotted to them in sleep or diversion; or when we sport with the services themselves; or when our minds rise in hostility against the faithful preaching of the Gospel; or when we make the worship of God an object of our scorn and ridicule. Nor are we less really guilty of this crime, whenever we allure or persuade others to the same conduct. The worship of God was designed to be the great means of leading us to eternal life. God appears in it as a forgiving God; as a God reconcileable to sinners; as redeeming them from under the curse of the law; and as re-instamping his own image on their minds. He, who will not come to meet Him, when appearing in this most venerable and endearing of all characters, or who, when he has come, will treat him with neglect, opposition, and contempt, is guilty of an insult on the Creator, at which the stoutest heart ought to tremble. What an account of this conduct must he expect to give at the final day!

The Christian Sacraments are not often openly profaned. The elements employed have, indeed, been touched with unhallowed hands; and the ordinances themselves have, in solitary instances.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »