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united efforts of all his friends; to each of whom he has given a talent or more, which they are bound to use for his profit, under the penalty of receiving, in case of dis obedience, the retribution of a wicked and slothful servant. Every Christian is a servant of Christ;, and he has work to be performed by every one of them; suffering no one to stand idle, without administering to him reproof, and urging him on to labour.
The nature of the service required of Christians, demands that they make in their lives an exhibition of the excellency of their principles, that the world may behold in them a contrast to their own, and perceive with a single glance the superiority of the religion of Christ, even as the light of a candle in the darkness of night can be perceived at once by the eyes of a beholder. Their character must present not only the shining qualities of light, but also the durable and preserving quality of salt, to preserve the world from corruption. Their affections and efforts must not be confined to the limits of a congregation, or the bounds of a sect, but their benevolence must embrace the whole human family, and the effects of their benevolence must be diffused, like leaven, through the whole mass of mankind. They should manifest their supreme love to God by evincing their readiness to forego any of its possessions and enjoyments, if thereby they can advance the extension of his kingdom. They ought to show their affections to be in heaven, by soaring above the maxims, customs, and follies of the lovers of the world. It ought to be apparent to those who observe their conduct, that they are seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; in all their dealings, they should practise strict honesty, as in the sight of God. They should owe no man any thing, not living above their income, not contracting debts which they
have not the prospect, upon prudent calculation, of discharging; and avoiding entanglements and hazards in their business, they should escape those insolvencies which so often wreck the character of the Christian professor, and injure the cause of religion. Nor should they be partisans in those political excitements which, however they may be in character for those who do not habitually look beyond this world, are not becoming those who profess to be pilgrims and strangers in the earth. They ought to show their superiority to the selfishness of ungodly men, and their consequent quarrels and contentions, by living, as far as is possible, peacably with all men.—It is necessary above all things that they have fervent charity among themselves. "Hereby shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
It is only by a faithful exhibition of Christian 'charac ter, that the light of Christians can so shine as to have a converting influence upon sinners. This stands prominent among the means of grace ordained of God to convince a gainsaying world. So long as Christianity is merely or mostly represented to them as a theory unsupported by the lives of its professors, they find little difficulty to evade its claims upon them. They judge of the theory by the exhibition of it made by those who pretend to have embraced it; and when they observe many who in their works deny it, or manifest a spirit much below its holy requirements, why should we wonder that the unbelieving sinner, instead of glorifying God from the exhibition made of religion by its professors, should take occasion to blaspheme his name, and contemn his cause?
The direct way to reunite the church of Christ, is to
elevate the standard of religion. This is of much greater importance than an increase of numbers. What avails the multitude of servants, when they refuse to do their master's work; or the multitude of soldiers, when they decline the toils, privations and dangers incident to the life and duty of a soldier? Of what value are those disciples who spend their lifetime in learning the requirements of their teacher, but are never ready to reduce them to practice? How few are there of the multitudes admitted into the church, who understand the nature of their calling, if we may take their actions as a true exhibition of their attainments in knowledge.
To what cause must we ascribe the low state of religion among professors of the gospel? Making all just allowances for the remains of corruption in the hearts of believers, and the influence of the world, and other temptations that seduce them from a life of godliness, much of the prevalent defect of Christian character and conduct must, we apprehend, be attributed to the partial and injudicious system of teaching and training adopted in the churches. There are many honourable exceptions, which we do not design to include in our remarks, and whose example we wish were generally followed. We speak of the mass of congregations in this country, at least as far as our information extends. Great pains are in many instances taken to make what are called good Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, or Baptists, but how little, in comparison to its relative importance, is done to make men faithful soldiers of the cross, and faithful labourers in the harvest of the Lord? In the reception of members into the church, much more of anxiety is manifested to ascertain what they believe, than what they do, or what they
design or are willing to do, for advancing the interests of Christ's kingdom. Such is the influence of the sectarian spirit which mingles itself with all the concerns of the divided church, that the laborious self-denying duties of Christianity are thrown into the back ground, seldom brought into view, and then in a manner betraying feelings of little or no interest. Ministers have not courage, or they have not the zeal animating them to inculcate openly and fearlessly the vanity of an empty profession, and to point out in what it consists. They deal in generals, when they ought to descend to particulars. Not that we would desire (for we deprecate most earnestly) that rudeness of reproof, personality, and censoriousness, which is inconsistent with the gentleness, prudence, and charity, inculcated in the Scriptures. A public teacher may be plain, particular, and pungent, upon the Christian duties of benevolence, diligence in the work of the Lord, self-denial, deadness to the world, honesty, purity, humility, forgiveness of injuries, and the like, without being rude, personal, or imprudent. Jesus Christ and his apostles, as well as John the Baptist, in the public addresses, as well as the private discourses they delivered, were less urgent on matters of faith not immediately connected with practice, than our public teachers, in these sectarian times. They insisted more on duties, and the points of faith inseparable from those duties; and in their instructions they were exceedingly plain, giving to each class of persons, and in less public discourses, to individuals, their portion in due season. John the Baptist preached the doctrine of repentance, insisting with his hearers on the performance of those duties which evince the actual exercise of repentance. He was pointed in his instructions, direct
ing the publicans to cease from false accusations, the soldiers from violence and discontent with their wages; and admonishing the people generally to throw off their selfishness, and impart liberally to the wants of others. He demands that every tree bring forth its appropriate fruit, or that it would be cut down and cast into the fire. Luke iii. 9-14. It needed no metaphysical discussion nor formal definition, at that time, to explain what was repentance; nor is it needed now, for the nature of the duty has not changed since the days of John the Baptist, and never will. The Saviour is equally plain and pungent. There is no misunderstanding his injunc tions and requirements; he employed no intricate and complex demonstrations, nor such generality of application as to admit of exceptions according to the taste or inclination of the individual. The preaching of the apostles was of the same character, and that of all these was in harmony with the prophets who preceded them.
We are not the advocates of new men or new measures unwarranted by scriptural authority; but we deprecate the squeamishness, the generality, the indistinctness of modern days, in the inculcation of Christian duties. It is from this cause that there is upon the minds of professors of religion so little sense of the obligation to perform the duties clearly taught and imperatively enforced in the Bible. You see it in the general neglect of those duties. You hear it in the discourse of Christians, which, when not directed to matters of a mere worldly nature, is much more on matters of controverted belief and the externals of religion, than on the duties enjoined upon them as the friends and servants of the Lord, and as brethren to each other. It is as