Sidor som bilder

much such attentions as these, kept up, and | with that argument is listened to, which goes to set forth the efficacy of Christian doctrine, or to magnify the office of him who delivers it.

We can offer no computation that will satisfy such antagonists as these, of the importance of Christianity even to the civil and the temporal well-being of our species; and we shall, therefore, plead the authority of our text, for extending its lessons to every

made to play in busy and constant recurrence upon one local neighbourhood; it is not yet known how much and how powerfully they tell in drawing the hearts of the people towards him who faithfully and with honest friendship, discharges them. They will make the pulpit which he fills a common centre of attraction to the whole territory over which he expatiates; and we need not, that we may see exemplified in human so- creature-for going forth with it to every ciety the worth and importance of the pas-haunt and every habitation where immortal toral relationship, we need not go alone beings are to be found-for not merely caramong the sequestered vales, or the far and rying it beyond the limits of Christendom, upland retreats of our country parishes. It but for filling up with instruction the many is not a local phenomenon dependent on blank, and vacant, and still unoccupied geography. It is a general one, dependent places, teeming with population, that, even on the nature of man; on those laws of the within these limits have not been overtaken. heart, which no change of place or of cir- What! shall we be told, that if there is a cumstances can obliterate. To gain the man under heaven, whom the Gospel has moral ascendency of which we speak, it is not yet reached, it is but obedience to a last enough if the upright and laborious clergy- and solemn commandment, when the misman have human feelings and human fami- sionary travels even to the farthest verge of lies on every side of him. It signifies not our horizon, that he may bear it to his door where. Give him Christian kindness, and this will pioneer a way for him amongst all the varieties of place and of population. Beside the smoke, and the din, and the dizzying wheel of crowded manufactories, will he find as ready an introduction for himself and for his office, as if his only walk had been among peaceful hamlets, and with nought but the romance and the rusticity of nature spread out before him. It is utterly a wrong imagination, and in the face both of experience and of prophecy, that in towns there is an impracticable barrier against the capabilities and the triumphs of the Gospel-that in towns the cause of human amelioration must be abandoned in despair--that in towns it is not by the archi-milies? "Be of good cheer," says the Spirit tecture of chapels, but by the architecture to the apostle, "I have much people for of prisons, and of barracks, and of bride- thee in this city;" and that, a city, too, the wells, we are alone to seek for the protec- most profligate and abandoned that ever tion of society-that elsewhere a moralizing flourished on the face of our world. And charm may go forth among the people, from still the Lord's hand is not shortened, that village schools and Sabbath services, but it cannot save. Neither is his ear heavy, that there is a hardihood and a ferocity in that it cannot hear. It is open as ever to towns, which must be dealt with in another the cry of your intercessions--and on these, way, and against which all the artillery of we would devolve our cause. We entreat the pulpit is feeble as infancy-that a foul the fellowship of your prayers. We know, and feverish depravity has settled there, that all human exertion, and eloquence, and which no spiritual application will ever ex- wisdom, are vain without them-that, lacktinguish for amid all the devisings for the ing that influence, which is gotten down by peace and order of our community, do we supplications from on high, sermons are but find it to be the shrewd and sturdy appre- high-sounding cymbals, and churches but hension of many, that all which can be naked architecture-that mere pains are of achieved in our overgrown cities, is by the no avail, and that it only lies within the comstrength of the secular arm; that a stern pass of pains and prayers, to do any thing. and vigorous police will do more for public morals, than a whole band of ecclesiastics; that a periodical execution will strike a more salutary terror into the hearts of the multitude, than do the dreadest fulminations of the preacher's voice; and this will explain the derision and the distrust where

shall we be told of the thousands who are beside us, that, though their souls are perishing for lack of knowledge, we might, without one care or one effort abandon them? Are we to give up as desperate, the Christian reformation of our land, when we read of those mighty achievements, and those heavenly outpourings, by which even the veriest wilds of heathenism have been fertilized-or, with such an instrument to work by as that of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which in the hands of the Spirit of God, hath wrought its miracles on the men of all ages, shall we forbear, as a hopeless enterprise, the evangelizing of our own homes, the eternal salvation of our own fa

And we, indeed, have great reason for encouragement, when we think of the subject of our message. When we are bidden in the text to preach, it is to preach the Gospel-it is to proclaim good news in the hearing of the people-it is to sound forth the glad tidings of great joy-it is to tell

even the chief of sinners, that God is now willing to treat him as a sinner no longer; that he invites him to all the honours of righteousness; and that in virtue of a blood which cleanseth from all sin, and of an obedience, to the rewards of which he is freely and fully invited, there is not a guilty creature in our world, who may not draw nigh. Should he who preaches within these walls, turn out the faithful and the energetic expounder of this word of salvation-should the blessing of God be upon his ways, and that demonstration which cometh from on high, accompany his words--should he, filled with zeal in the high cause of your immortality, be instant among you in season, and out of season-and devoted to the work of his sacred ministry, he make it his single aim to gather in a harvest of unperishable spirits, that by him as an instrument of grace, have been rescued from hell, and raised to a blissful eternity-should this be indeed the high walk of his unremitting

toil, and his unwearied perseverance then, such is the power of the divine testimony, when urged out of the fulness of a believer's heart, and made to fall with the impression of his undoubted sincerity on those whom he addresses; that for ourselves we shall have no fear of a good and a glorious issue to this undertaking; and, therefore, as Paul often cast the success of his labours on the prayers of them for whom he laboured, would I again entreat that your supplications do ascend to the throne of grace for him who is to minister amongst you in word and in doctrine-that he may, indeed, be a pastor according to God's own heart, who shall feed a people here with knowledge and with spiritual understandingthat the travail of his soul may be blest to the conversion of many sons and daughters unto righteousness-that he may prove a comfort to all your hearts, and a great public benefit to all your families.


On the Distinction between Knowledge and Consideration.

"The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider."-Isaiah 1. 3.

It would appear, from this verse, that great want of comfort in a family; and the children of Israel neither knew nor con- what stands in fine and beautiful contrast sidered-but still there is a distinction sug-with this, you may have witnessed the union gested by it between these two things. of very humble means, with such a skill And in the book of the prophet Malachi, and consideration in the guidance of them, we have a similar distinction, when the as to have yielded a respectable appearance, Lord says to the priests, "If ye will not and a decent hospitality, and the sufficienhear, and if ye will not lay it to heart." It cy of a full and regular provision. And so, is, in fact, possible for a man to do one of with the treasures of intellect, the acquisithese things, and not to do the other. He tions of the mind, whereof one may be rich, may know the truth, and yet he may not being possessed of most ample materials in consider it. He may hear, and yet not lay all knowledge and information, and yet to heart. Nay, he may have heard of a have an ill-conditioned mind notwithstandparticular doctrine so often as to have got ing; and another destitute of all but the it by heart, without ever laying it to heart. most common and elementary truths, may And this, we hold, to be the just and the yet, by a wise application of them, have applicable complaint that may be uttered of attained to the true light and harmony of many professing Christians in our day. the soul, and be in sound preparation both for the duties of time, and for the delights of eternity.

And thus it is, that we may gather the difference which there is between knowledge and wisdom. The one is a specu- All have so learned to number their days lative acquirement. The other is a practi-as to know the extreme limit of human cal faculty or habit. By the latter, we turn life upon earth; yet all have not so learnto its right and profitable use the former. ed to number their days as to apply their Thus it is, that there may be great folly hearts unto wisdom. They are aware of along with great scholarship; and, on the their latter end, but they consider not their other hand, may an unlettered mind be il-latter end.

lustrious in wisdom. You have, perhaps, I. This distinction between knowledge seen when there was great wealth, and yet, and wisdom, is abundantly realized even from the want of judicious management, on the field of earthly and of sensible ex

perience. The man of dissipation may inquiring neighbourhood, when the word have his eyes open to the ruin of character spreads that some one of their friends is and of fortune that awaits him, yet the dying; and the frequency of those funeral tyranny of his evil desires constrains him processions that pass along our streets, and to a perseverance in the ways of wretched- so mingle the business of death with the ness. The man of indolence may foresee moving throng of the people and the carthe coming bankruptcy that will ensue on riages, which the business of life has pressthe slovenly management of his affairs, yet ed into its service; these are the rememthere is a lethargy within that weighs him brances that ever and anon hold up the down to fatal inactivity. The man of lesson of our mortality, and one might prone and headlong irritation, may be think, should effectually keep it from sinkable to discern the accumulating mischiefing for a single hour into oblivion. But that he raises against himself in the hos- how is it truly and experimentally? That tility of those who are around him, and death of which we all know so well, is scarcemay even look forward to the time when,ly ever in our thoughts. The momentary deserted by the friendship of all, he shall touch of grief, and of seriousness, wherelive a neglected outcast from all human com- with we are at times visited, speedily goeth panionship, yet continue as before to be into utter dissipation. With as cheerful and hurried away by the onward violence that assured footsteps, do we tread the face of seizes him. In all these instances, there is this world, as if it were the scene of our no want of knowledge in possession. But immortality; and the latter end of life is there is a want of knowledge in use, or totally unseen in the obscure and undefined knowledge in application. The unhappy distance at which we have placed it, on the man has the truth of the matter in his head. field of our contemplations. It argues for But he does not lay it with the authority of the strength of that recoil with which nature

sent urgency carries it over all thought of the future consequences. He has received the truth, but he does not give heed unto the truth. He does not charge it upon his attention, or give effectual warning of it to his fears, or to his sense of prudence and of interest. It is not of his ignorance that we complain, but of his inconsideration. And thus, apart from the things of spiritual contemplation altogether, and on the mere ground of every day life, with its passions and pursuits in this world, may the distinction to which we now advert, be abundantly exemplified.

a commander upon his practice. The pre-shrinks from the thought of its own dissolution, that all these loud and repeated demonstrations pass so unheeded by-and that walking though we be, over the accumulated ruins of so many generations, we nevertheless will talk as merrily, and lift up our heads as securely, as though beings who were to live for ever. It seems not to work the slightest abatement in the eagerness of man after this world's interests, that a few years will sweep them utterly away; and when we look to the busy engrossment of all his faculties with the plans and the pursuits of earthliness, it is but too manifest, that it is one thing to know of death, and another to consider of it.

II. But what we have now affirmed, even of those events and consequences that take place along the journey of this world, is still more strikingly apparent of that great event which marks its termination. There is not a human creature of most ordinary mind, and who hath overstepped the limits of infancy, that does not know of death, and with whom it does not rank among the most undoubted of the certainties that await him. And it is not only that of which he is most thoroughly assured; but it is that of which, in the course of observation and history, he is most constantly reminded. And many are the aids and the accompaniments which might serve to deepen his impression of it. The horror of every death that he witnesses; and the pathos of every death which he deplores; and the distress, even unto the measure of tragic sensibility, which is felt when some tie of near and affecting relationship is broken; and every act of attendance on those last obsequies, when acquaintances meet to carry one of their number to his grave; and the aspect of seriousness that gathers upon every

This heedlessness of our latter end, is of a character still more obstinate and incurable than any such heedlessness as we have already quoted, of reputation or fortune in the world. It needs no impetuous appetite to overbear the thought of death; for in the calm equanimity of many a sober and aged citizen, you will find him as profoundly asleep to the feeling of his own mortality, as he is to any of the feelings or instigations of licentiousness. It needs no overweighing indolence of temperament to be all listless and unmoved by the fears of our coming death-bed; for many are to be found, who consume every hour in the activities of business and of daring adventure, without one emotion of seriousness on the awful catastrophe that awaits them.

It needs no imprudence, or unguarded violence, to betray a man into the forgetfulness of death: for many is the cool and practised calculator, and many is the sage of tranquil philosophy, and many is the

crafty politician, who can look far into consequences, and is skilled in all the expedients of his vocation; and of whom it may be said, that the mind of each is steeped in the oblivion of death. We are heedless of much that is before us, even in this world; but as to its last and closing scene, there is a peculiar inveteracy of heedlessness that we do not have as to any of the other futurities of our earthly existence. Death is the stepping-stone between the two worlds; and so it somewhat combines the palpable of matter, with the shadowy and the evanescent of spirit. It is the gateway to a land of mystery and of silence, and seems to gather upon it something of the visionary character which the things of faith have to the eye of the senses. It is not a thing unseen; but being an outlet to the region of invisibles, there settles upon it a degree of that faintness and obscurity wherewith the car-earth, and to break that accursed spell by nal eye regards all that is told of the mat- which you are so bound to its lying vanities. ters of eternity. And so, amid all the va- You have enough to dislodge from your rieties of temperament in our species, there bosom the spirit of the god of this world; is a universal heedlessness of death. It and O! therefore, that you were wise, that seems against the tendency of nature to you understood these things, that you conthink of it. There is an opposite bias that sidered your latter end. ever inclines us away from this dark contemplation, towards the warm and living realities of the peopled world around us. The mind refuses to dwell on that dreary abode of skulls and of sepulchres, and makes its willing escape from all this hideous imagery, to society, and to business, and to the whole interest and variety of life. Instead of some mighty impulse being required to dispossess us of the thought, it costs an effort of unnatural violence to uphold it in our bosoms. The thing is known, but it is not considered: and the giddy dance of life

does he not seek to grave upon your softened heart the lesson of mortality in characters of deeper remembrance? Has he not tried to find access for the truth, through the varied avenues of feeling, and of observation, and of conscience? And living, as you do, in the land of dying men, have you not seen enough of this world's changes to make the history of your life one continued sermon upon the grave? God has not been wanting in those demonstrations of Providence, which should have riveted a seriousness upon your hearts, and transformed you out of the careless, and gay, and worldly creature that you still are. We protest, by the many sick-beds over which you have hung, and by the deaths which you have witnessed, and by the tears which you have shed over them, that you have long ago had enough to loosen your hold upon


There is no topic on which the distinction that there is between knowledge and consideration stands more palpably before us than that of death. All are assured of its coming, yet how few so bethink, or so bestir themselves, as to be prepared for its coming. The position which this event occupies in the line of our existence, gives to it a peculiar advantage for illustrating the distinction in question. It stands on the extreme horizon of what is sensible, and beyond it lie the dimness and the mystery of an untrodden land. On this side of

is carried onwards, as if there were no de-it are the matters of experience. On the other side of it are the matters of faith. Now, it partakes with the one in the certainty wherewith all must regard it; and it partakes with the other in the nullity of its practical influence, over the vast majority of our species. As an object of knowledge, there belongeth to it the assurance of a most unquestioned truth; as an object of consideration, there belongeth to it the airy light

stroyer upon the way-the tide of human existence is borne as restlessly along, as if there were no grave to absorb it.

This might serve to convince us, how unavailing is the mere knowledge, even of important truth, if not accompanied by the feeling, or the practical remembrance of it. The knowledge, in this case, only serves to aggravate our folly, and to bring, on the utter heedlessness of our lives, a more fullness of a vain and visionary fable. It is and emphatic condemnation. And on the believed, but it is not minded; and while, subject of death, we would ask, how is it on the one hand, it ranks among those expethat your fatal insensibility can be justified? rimental realities which are most assuredly Has God left this matter without a witness? known, it, on the other hand, ranks among Has he not strewed the whole path of your those illusions of the fancy which are pracexistence in the world with the mementos tically and habitually disregarded. It stands of its affecting termination? Has he not forth to the eye in all the plainness of ocupointed the eye of your experience to the lar demonstration, and yet with as little agonies of many a death-bed, and brought power as if it were a tale of necromancy. it irresistibly down upon your convictions, It is quite obvious, that in the things of that these are the very agonies through faith, there is a want of ascendant power which you have to pass? In every death over the life of man; and, to justify man, of an acquaintance does he not lift a voice this has been ascribed to their want of eviof warning unto yourselves; and when dence. But where is the want of evidence that acquaintance is a relative or a friend, in death? This is not a thing of faith, but

that region, and which man hath not seen
by his eye, or heard by his ear-to the awful
realities that will abide in deep and mysteri-
ous concealment from us, so long as we are
in the body, and which not till the body is
dissolved, will stand in direct manifestation
This character of unseen and
before us.
spiritual, is not confined to things future.
There are things present which are spiritual
also. There is a present Deity, who dwelleth
in light, it is true, but it is light inaccessible

a thing of observation; and makes it as
clear as day, that even when the evidence
is complete and irresistible, the effect may
be as utterly unsubstantial, as if it were
a thing of nought. This ought to alarm
us. It should lead us to apprehend, that
there was enough of argument, on the side
even of what is spiritual and unseen, to con-
demn our indifference to it. If the certain-
ty of death do not move us, it may not be
the uncertainty of what is on the other side
of death, that can account for the sluggish--who is encompassed with glory, but it is
glory which we, in the body, cannot ap-
proach unto-who stands revealed to angels
and adoring spirits; but whom no man hath
seen, neither can see. He is the King eter-
nal and immortal, but he is also the King
invisible-who, though not far from any
one of us, is remote as infinity itself, from
the ken of our earthly senses-and shrouded
in the obscurity of his own unfathomable
nature, is he so veiled and darkened from
all human contemplation, that we cannot
behold him.

And yet, even of this great Spirit we may be said, in one sense, to know, however little it is that we may consider him. There are averments about God which we have long recognised, and ranked among our admitted propositions, though we seldom recur to them in thought, and are never ade

ness of our obstinate and unmoved carnality. One thing is certain, that we can see an acquaintance fall into his grave, and yet continue to live here, as if this were our eternity. And does not this make it probable,that though that acquaintance were to rise again, and to tell us of the world of spirits upon which he had entered, we should be unaffected as before by the real eternity that is awaiting us? Christ says to us himself, that if we believe not Moses and the prophets, neither should we believe though one rose from the dead. This is the way in which we meet the demand of infidelity, for more of proof, and more of information. The fact is that thousands have died before us, and are still dying around us, and yet the heart of man remains unvisited by any practical sense of his mortality. And the presumption, there-quately impressed by them. We know, or fore, is, that though one of these thousands think we know, that God is; and that all were to revive, and to re-appear amongst other existence is suspended upon his will; us, fraught with the tidings of heaven's and that, were it not for his upholding arm, glory, and hell's unutterable despair, we the whole of Nature would go into dissolushould still keep our ground against him, tion; and that while he sits in high authority and the heart of man be unvisited as before over all worlds, there is not one individual by any practical sense of his immortality. member of his vast family, that is overlookIt is not more of evidence that we want. ed by him; and, more particularly, that he There is as much as ought to convince looks with the eye of a wise and a watchful us now--and if not convinced, there is as judge, into every heart, and every conmuch as will condemn us afterwards. The science; and that he claims a right and a cause of our irreligion is not that we could property in the services of all his creatures; not know, but that we do not, and will not and that he is more absolutely the owner and the master of them all, than is man of consider. the machine that he hath made, and to whose touch all its movements are subordinate; and that he is a God of august and inviolable sacredness, in whose presence evil cannot dwell, and between the sanctity of whose nature and sin, there is a wide and implacable enmity; and that he does not sit in lofty and remote indifference to the characters of his children, but takes deep, and perpetual, and most vigilant concern in them all-loving their righteousness, hating their iniquity, treasuring their thoughts, and their purposes, and their doing, in the book of his and that, with a view to the remembrance; manifestation of them, on that day, when time shall be no more, and each of his accountable offspring shall have their condition awarded to them through eternitywhen the mystery of God shall be finished, and the glory of his attributes shall be made

This is a great practical use to which our insensibility about death is capable of being turned. It proves, that our insensibility about eternal things, may be due to something else than to the defect of that evidence by which they are accompanied. It causes us to perceive, that a truth may be surely known, and yet not be pondered, or not be proceeded upon. Surely to know it is one thing-seriously to reflect upon it is another; and thus it may be, that the irreligion of the world is due not to the want of a satisfying demonstration on God's part, for this might have excused us; but, to the want of right consideration on ours, and this is inexcusable.

III. Let us now pass onwards, then, to the invisibles of faith-to those things which do not, like death, stand upon the confines of the spiritual region, but are wholly within

« FöregåendeFortsätt »