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nature of the Christian ordinances. They are not signs or seals of a religious compact, but simply outward modes of religious acknowledgment, or outward means of religious improvement. They do not create our obligations as such, but only present us with new incentives to Christian gratitude, and new helps to spiritual advancement and growth in grace. Our obligations, we must remember, have their foundation in the
very nature of our condition as moral and accountable beings, gifted with reason, and illuminated by the light of heaven in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are immutable, being based on everlasting relations. We cannot enlarge or diminish them by chaining ourselves to human creeds or standards, nor by the observance of an outward form of religion which may quicken and excite us to our Christian duty, and stir up and strengthen our pious feelings, but can do nothing more. In baptism we present ourselves or our children to receive the ancient token of adopting the name of Christians; and in the Lord's Supper we commemorate, by the significant symbols appointed by Christ, his services and sufferings, his life and death. No one, it seems to me, who looks at these institutions from the true point of view, can doubt that they are adapted to be exceedingly salutary and edifying. But still they are only the means of religion, not the source of religious obligation. We should pray and strive to improve by them; and if we use them aright, we shall improve by them. But we do not in them stipulate to do, or to be what we are required to do, and to be, by the very fact of being Christians, and the subjects of God's government. If then, church covenants are framed in such a way, as to imply a compact between the Almighty and man, they do but embody in another shape, or revive
the antiquated Jewish conception. If any thing in this form must be had, it would be better to call them expressions of faith, or of religious duty, or by some equivalent name, rather than covenants,—since this term is exceedingly liable to leave wrong impressions, or to accustom us to false apprehensions.
Remarks of a similar character might be made with respect to vows, which some individuals consider as a compact, into which they enter with God. If they concern those duties, which as moral beings, and as Christians, we are bound to perform, then they are useless; if they are understood to create an obligation to other duties, they may be worse than useless, - they
may be dangerous. The views now presented, if rightly understood, will lead us to true and spiritual conceptions of the relation, in which we stand to Him in whom “we live, and move, and have our
being." From our thoughts concerning this relation, every thing that is narrow and exclusive,-every thing borrowed from the doings, or the passions that grow out of human imperfection,-should be utterly banished. We can enter into no stipulations or covenants with Infinite Goodness, and Infinite Power. We are the subjects of a government arranged for us by One, whose wisdom cannot err, whose justice cannot do wrong; and as such, we stand in our lot, as a portion of the vast system of things constituted by Knowledge which measures, and by Benificence which blesses, the universe. The child does not contract for the duties he owes to his father, nor for the favors he is to receive from him. No more can we do so with respect to our heavenly Father. Our relation to Him is one, in which we stand by the very fact of entering into existence as natural beings. His mercy is around us wherever we turn. His instructions are proclaimed to us from the heavens above, and from the earth beneath, from our moral constitution, and from the Scriptures of truth. His justice is manifested in the world's history, and in our own experience. His promises and threatenings are announced in the laws of nature, and by the solemn voice of revelation. All these we know; under all these we are born and live; all these have respect to us; and hence our duties, hence our obligations, as subjects of the divine government. We do not assume or throw aside responsibleness at our pleasure. We came under it by the fact that we live, and that we enjoy moral privileges and spiritual blessings; and we can no more shake it off, than we can shake off our being. We do not enter into an agreement, and become one of the parties to a covenant. It is our condition, our very constitution, to be bound to render to God all the service, which reason and his revealed will require, and no act of ours can create or modify these requirements. God will do for us, without any covenant, whatever Wisdom and Goodness determine as best to be done
Of that we are fully assured, and we want no more. We can expect or demand no pledge of God's favor, except what we find in the arrangements of his Omnipotence and Mercy, and in the instructions of his Spirit; but that is enough, largely, abundantly enough. The pledge is written in broad and beautiful characters, not to be mistaken, on his works and in his word; it is written in the economy of his providence; it is written on the constitution and operations of nature; it is written on all that He gives us, every hour we breathe and act; it is written in all the inwardness of the spiritual being, in that imperishable soul which bears His image; it is written,
-more than all, and better than all,—in that volume of heavenly instruction, by which we are made wise unto salvation, and in the pages of which ever shines the light of the upper world. Here are the pledges that God loves us, cares for us, and would educate us to the inheritance of saints in light.' Shall we not rest on these, and “press on to the prize of our high calling?” Shall we look for covenanted mercies, which are not found here, and by which we may enclose ourselves on some peculiarly appropriated spot in the spiritual world, separate from our fellows? No, the bow of mercy spans the broad arch over us,—the assurance that God will not forget to be gracious, and the remembrancer that we must work hard while the day lasts, in the tasks of improvement and duty. Here is our covenant; and what other can we want?
A COUNTRY CLERGYMAN.
FRAGMENT OF A LETTER TO A STUDENT OF DIVINITY.
I see you in some country town
And saving from your salary
What little surplus there may be,
Sustain each drooping head;
Weep o'er the humble dead.
As rise the flames or fall;
And you the lord of all.
Philip Van Artevelde; a dramatic romance, in two parts, by
HENRY TAYLOR, Esq. “Dramatica Poesis est veluti Historia spectabilis." Bacon de Augmentis. Cambridge and Boston: James Munroe, & Co. 1835.
These volumes have met with as warm a reception "as ever unripe author's quick conceit,” to use Mr. Taylor's own language, could hope or wish, and so deservedly that the critic's happy task in examining them is to point out, not what is most to be blamed, but what is most to be praised.
With joy we hail a new poet. Star after star has been withdrawn from our firmament, and when that of Coleridge set, we seemed in danger of being left, at best to a gray and confounding twilight; but lo! a ray of pure white light," darts across the obscured depths of æther, and allures our eyes and hearts towards the rising orb from which it emanates. Let us tremble no more, lest our suinmer pass away without its roses, but receive our present visitor as the harbinger of a harvest of delights.
The natural process of the mind in forming a judgment is comparison. The office of sound criticism is to teach that this comparison should be made, not between the productions of differently constituted minds, but between any one of these and a fixed standard of perfection. Nevertheless it is not contrary to the canon to take a survey of the labors of many artists with reference to one, if we value them, not according to the degree of pleasure we have experienced from them, which must always depend upon our then age, the state of the passions and relations with life, but according to the success of the artist in attaining the object he himself had in view. To illustrate. In the same room hang two pictures, Raphael's Madonna, and Martin's Destruction of Nineveh. A person enters capable of admiring both, but young, excitable, he is delighted with the Madonna, but probably far more so with the other, because his imagination is at that time more developed than the pure love for beauty which is the characteristic of a taste in a higher state of cultivation. He prefers the Martin, because it excites in his mind a thousand images of sublimity and terror, recalls the brilliancy of oriental history, and the stern pomp of the old prophetic day, and rouses his mind to a high state of action, then as congenial with its wants as at a later day would be the feeling of contented absorption, of perfect satisfaction with a production of the human soul, which one of Raphael's calmly beautiful creations is fitted to cause. Now, it would be very unfair for this person to pronounce the Martin superior to the Raphael, because it then gave him more pleasure. But if he said, the one is intended to excite the imagination, the other to gratify the taste; that which fulfils its object most completely must be the best, whether it give me most pleasure or no; he would be on the right ground, and might consider the two pictures relatively to one another, without danger of straying very far from the truth.
This is the ground we would assume in a hasty sketch, which will not, we hope, be deemed irrelevant, of the most