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THE CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHER.
ON THE FIXED STARS.
The fixed stars are so called, because they always appear in the heavens at the same distance from each other, and do not, like the planets, change their places. Astronomers have arranged iheminto eighty constellations, or systems of stars, called by the names of different animals; as the Bear, the Swan, 8cc. The stars in each constellation are frequently denoted by a letter in the Greek alphabet, the most conspicuous being marked «, the next /3, and so on. The stars appear of different sizes, and are usually classed into six or seven magnitudes; some of them have a periodical increase and decrease. In 15y6, Fabricius observed a remarkable star in the neck of the Whale, whicp. has since been found to increase and decrease: its period is 334 days; but jt does not always return with the same lustre. Other stars .have been found to appear and shine with great splendor for certain periods, and then disappear. In 1572, a star equal in brightness to the planet Venus appeared in Cassiopeia; afterwards it gradually lost its lustre, and in three months became invisible.* It is certain that the distance of the stars is immense: so little proportion does the diameter of the earth's orbit, whieh is 190,000,000 of miles, bear to this distance, that from whatever part of that orbit they are seen, they always appear in the same situation. " A cannon-ball moving with a uniform velocity, would not reacli the nearest of the stars in 600,000 years. It is evident that the stars shine (like the sun) by their own light, or otherwise their distance would render them invisible to the naked eye; for it is only by a telescope that we can see the satellites of Jupiter, whose distance bears no proportion to that of the stars,but who derive their light from the sun. It is highly probable, therefore, that they are suns which give light to systems of planets which revolve round them; nor is it any objection to this conjecture that we see not these planets; for if they bear the same proportion to their respective suns as the planets in our system do to our sun, their "vast distance must render them invisible. There is reason to believe, that, like the sun, the stars have a rotary motion. The number of these luminaries is as surprizing as their distance; and though with the naked eye we can never discover more than 3.80, jet the telescope proves them to be innumerable. In some parts of the heavens we perceive white clouds, which, on examination, prove to be clusters of stars; those are called Nebulre. The most remarkable of these is the Galaxy, or Milky Way.
• NichoLcn's Philosophy, vol. i. p. 176, 177.
xtu. ,3 D
What an idea does this give us of the works of the great Creator! when, instead of one world and one sun, we find thousands and thousands of suns arranged around us at immence distances, attended by innumerable worlds, and these all in rapid motion, yet calm, regular, and harmonious, observing, without the slightest variation, the path marked out by Him who ruleth among the armies of Heaven,—and these worlds perhaps, peopled by myriads of intelligent beings! When we take a view of the universe, how little does the earth itself appear!
—— "A spot, a grain,
An atom, with the firmament compar'd:
What then is man, who, to use the words of Dr. Paley, "m
"And sow'd with stars the heavens thick as a field,"
bowed his heavens and came down !" w as born of woman .' ,lived and died!" Died, that he might make peace between weak guilty man and the Lord God omnipotent! He arose again for our justification, and ascended on high. And now he sends forth his heralds to proclaim peace, and, as the ambassadors of God, to beseech and intreat these rebels that they receive not the grace of God in vain. Yea, more, he sends forth his Spirit into the world to give effect to their labours, and, to this end, to take up his dwelling in the hearts of men.
Sov'reign of nature, all is thine;
The air, the earth, the sea;
And cherubs live by thee.
Rich in thine own essential store,
Thou call'st forth worlds at will;
Would hear thy summons still.
What treasure wilt thou then confess,
And thine own portion call f
Imperial Lord of all?
Thine Israel thou wilt stoop to claim,
Wilt mark them out for thine;
For goodness so divine! Doddridge
THE SUPER-EXCELLENCY OF THE CHRISTIAN.
What do ye more than others? Watt. v. 47.
This question is just and reasonable, when applied to the Professors of Christianity in general, and to genuine Christians in particular: many are tlieir privileges, valuable are their advantages, great are their obligations; and, the Creator of the universe, the Redeemer and Judge of mankind, the Blessed Spirit of God, the friends of Christ, and even the enemies of Religion, enquire with just authority, " What do ye more than others?" To silence the reproaches of enemies,—to confound the hopes of the hypocrite,—to vindicate the character of the true believer,—we shall endeavour briefly to display the super-excellency of the Christian.
In many of those pleasing accomplishments which are so highly prized in this polite age, the Christian may be safely defective; he regards the sentiments, the temper, the conduct of Christ, more than the maxims and morals of Chesterfield; he is not the mirror that can receive every colour, and reflect every passing object, but, as the epistle of Jesus Christ, he wishes to be known and read of all men.
Do the enemies of religion load the character of the Christian with the varied crimes that have been found in some who profess the religion of Jesus? we say, that it is ungenerous and unjust to reproach a man for an error in judgment, or in practice, which from his heart he abhors, of which he truly repents, and never repeats. If a true Christian should unhappily andf unwarily sin like others, he does more than others; he goes out and weeps bitterly, returns to the path of duty, and walks humbly with his God.
It may often be observed, that in the externals of religion, Hypocrites may exceed real Christians. The sole object of Hypocrites is to be seen of men, and they otten have more talk, more bustle, more splendid gifts, than others; for this is all their salvation and all their desire; yet alter all that may be conceded to every other character, the Christian is abundantly superior.
Jst, He is actuated in religion by superior motives. Some are influenced by custom: they have been accustomed to the paths of Christianity, and they would feel uneasy if they were to forsake them. Others continue in a profession of religion from pride of character; they would be ashamed to neglect the duties of Christianity as much as to appear in polite circles in dishabille. Some have friends and patrons to please; while ofhers, with scrupulous attachment", conform to many ceremonies, that by them they may atone for indulgences they have ijo desire to relinquish. They will regularly till up their places
3 D 3'' on the Sabbath, that they may cheerfully pursue their vanities all the rest ot" the week; and, 1 fear, there are to be found in our religious assemblies, some who have no better motive for attending the Lord's Supper, than that they may more quietly indulge a life of presumptuous security. I dare not assert a Christian never felt any of these base motions in his heart: but he does more than others. His regard to religion is from principle; his eyes are enlightened to behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ; the desire of his soul is to the remembrance of his name; he has an errand at the throne of grace; he comes with thanks for covenant mercies, with tears for manifold sins, with supplication for timely help, and with a sincere intention to surrender himself to his Redetmer and his God. Does he tread the courts of the Lord's house, where the treasures of divine wisdom are displayed? He is not the thoughtless unprofitable spectator there, to hindei, to perplex, and to grieve those who wish to benefit and be benefited; but he is the diligent merchant, " seeking goodly pearls:" he considers his wants., attends with expectation, hears with care, approves with caution, and, having found " the pearl of great price," makes it his own, and rejoices as one that has found great riches.
2d, He is sincerely dependent on the Lord Jesus Christ for the blessings of eternal life. All others have a dependence on some outward privilege, or internal qualification, something done for them or by them, on the purity of their party, the orthodoxy of their creed, or the abundance of their revelations; or if, for decency's sake, they talk of the merits of Christ, their own good works are to entitle them to the claim of interest in Jesus the Mediator, and they are to be co-partners in the work. The genuine Christian differs here; he does not despise external advantages, holy dispositions, or uprightness of conduct; he regards the congregations of the upright, loves the truth as it is in Jesus, prays for the teachings of the Holy Spirit; but he does not, he cannot, depend on any of these as the foundation of his trust, as the ground of his acceptance with an holy God. Christ and his complete righteousness is his only, his all sufficient plea; he comes as a guilty sinner, for a free, a full pardon, and though greatly desirous of vital holiness, it is not that he may make satisfaction for his crimes, but that he may be useful in the world, happy in his own soul, and glorify his God.
3d, The Christian is earnestly concerned for purity of heart; the Pharisee seeks for a fair outside only; the deluded Hypocrite runs after comfort; this is his chief good, though no more entitled to comfort than Amaziah was to peace. The Christian does more than others here; he is not indifferent to outward appearances, nor comfort of heart; but what he most ardently Jongs for, is an heart purified from sin: he feels, he laments tfce remains of a body of sin and death; it is the chief burden of his life; he loves an holy law, an holy gospel, holy ordinances, and an holy heart, with desires alter purity; he attends to the duties1 ol Christianity, he heats, he reads, he prays, he communicates; nor will be satisfied till he awake up in the likeness of God.
4th, He lives to the glory of God. The Pharisee and the Hypocrite live to their own glory; to be seen of men, to be admired in the religious world for their good deeds, their judicious knowledge, their deep sorrow or high consolations. The Christian gives God the glory of all, while, with genuine humility, he takes the lowest place; this one object, the glory of God, teaches him when to be silent and when to speak, when to be active and when to rest. This teaches him where to hear, whom to hear, and when to hear; with whom he is to worship, and what connexions he ought to form; when he is to be liberal, and when to be frugal; what cause he is to support, and what to suppress. He pursues his temporal concerns with the same mind. Is he diligent in business?—it is that he may live honestly; or if he look forward toward affluence, it is that he may better adorn his profession, better promote the gospel of Christ, and the best interetts of mankind. The Christian then does more than others, and unless this mind be in us in some degree, and we are aspiring after greater degrees of it, our religion is doubtful, if not altogether vain. And yet, so deeply is the Christian sensible of his defects, so much does he see his obligations, so much love his God, that he cordially acknowledges himself "the least of saints, and of sinners the chief;" and were it not that grace reigns in the salvation of souls, he would sink into despair. Such are the distinguished excellencies of the Christian: these are glories which the world does not discern; and could they see them, they would not properly appraise them. The Christian, like an unpolished diamond undtr the workman's hand, lies obscured from vulgar eyes; but he is brightening for immortality, and shortly death will deliver him from all defilement, and he will shine with celestial lustre in bis Redeemer's crown.
THE GOOD SERVANT.
As the Good Master, whose portrait you have lately given, deserves a Good Servant, w ith your leave, I will sketch liim the character of one. The Good Servant is made so bv the grace of God, and is reconciled to his situation by the voice of God. "Art thou called, being a servant? care not for it; for he that is called being a servant, is the Lord's freed man." Knowing that it is not the station, but the manner in which we fill it, that makes us either honourable or despicable, he labours