Page images
PDF
EPUB

« often prevailing against the strict rules of his duty, he « need but look abroad into any age of the world to be “convinced. To a man under the difficulties of his “ nature, beset with temptations, and hedged in with “ prevailing custom, it is no small encouragement to set “ himself seriously on the courses of virtue and practice 6 of true religion, that he is from a sure hand and an " almighty arm promised assistance to support and “ carry him through."

Let us hear also Mr. Addison, a lay divine of the first order.

“ We who have this veil of flesh standing between “ us and the world of spirits, must be content to know « that the Spirit of God is present with us, by the effects « which he produceth in us. Our outward senses are 6 too gross to apprehend him; we may however taste « and see how gracious he is, by his influence upon our “ minds, by those virtuous thoughts which he awakens « in us, by those secret comforts and refreshments which “ he conveys into our souls and by those ravishing joys " and inward satisfactions which are perpetually spririg“ing up and diffusing themselves among all the thoughts “ of good men. He is lodged in our very essence, and is « as a soul within the soul, to irradiate its understanding, " rectify its will, purify its passions and enliven all the powers of man. How happy therefore is an intellec“ tual being, who, by prayer and meditation, by virtue “ and good works, opens this communication between God " and his own soul! Though the whole creation frowns “ upon him, and all nature looks black about him, he “ has his light and support within him, that are able to “ cheer his mind, and bear him up in the midst of all " those horrors which encompass him. He knows that “ his helper is at hand, and is always nearer to him than “any thing else can be, which is capable of annoying or “ terrifying him. In the midst of calumny or contempt,

“ he attends to that being who whispers better things “ within his soul, and whom he looks upon as his de“ fender, his glory, and the lifter-up of his head. In “ his deepest solitude and retirement he knows that he « is in company with the greatest of Beings; and per“ ceives within himself such REAL SENSATIONS of his presence, as are more delightful than any thing that " can be met with in the conversation of his creatures. “ Even in the hour of death he considers the pains of “ his dissolution to be nothing else but the breaking “ down of that partition which stands betwixt his soul 66 and the sight of that Being, who is always present “ with him, and is about to manifest itself to him in 6 fulness of joy.

“ If we would be thus happy, and thus sensible of “ our Maker's presence, from the secret effects of his « mercy and goodness, we must keep such a watch over « all our thoughts, that, in the language of the scrip“ ture, his soul may have pleasure in us. We must take “ care not to grieve his Holy Spirit, and endeavour to « make the meditations of our hearts always acceptable “ in his sight, that he may delight thus to reside and 6 dwell in us. The light of nature could direct Seneca “ to this doctrine in a very remarkable passage among “ his epistles: Sacer inest in nobis spiritus bonorum « malorumque custos et observator, et quemadmodum nos « illum tractamus, ita et ille nos.' There is a Holy Spi“ rit residing in us, who watches and observes both good 6 and evil men, and will treat us after the same manner " that we treat him. But I shall conclude this discourse « with those more emphatical words in divine revela« tion: “ If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come and make our « abode with him.

I cannot help observing, that after the sour and bitter potions administered by the metaphysical sceptres of

recent times, the pages of the Spectator seem to afford the heart a delicious aliment or a balsamic medicine. If men did not too much resemble the prodigal in the gospel, they would surely rejoice to feed on manna at their father's table, rather than on husks with swine.

SECTION XIX.

The Opinion of Soame Jenyns on the fundamental Prin

ciples of Christianity.

IF Christianity' is to be learned out of the New “ Testament, and words have any meaning affixed to “ them, the fundamental principles of it are these:

“That mankind came into this world in a depraved 6 and fallen condition; that they are placed here for a “ while, to give them an opportunity to work out their 6 salvation; that is, by a virtuous and pious life to purge 6 off that guilt and depravity, and recover their lost state « of happiness and innocence in a future life; that this " they are unable to perform without the GRACE AND 66 ASSISTANCE OF GOD; and that, after their best endea« vours, they cannot hope for pardon from their own “ merits, but only from the merits of Christ, and the . atonement made for their transgressions by his suffer« ings and death. This is clearly the sum and substance 6 of the Christian dispensation; and so 'adverse is it to “ all the principles of human reason, that if brought beW fore her tribunal, it must inevitably be condemned. If 66 we give no credit to its divine authority, any attempt 6 to reconcile them is useless, and, if we believe it, pre66 sumptuous in the highest degree. To prove the REA66 SONABLENESS of a revelation, is in fact to destroy.it; « because a revelation implies information of something u which reason cannot discover, and therefore must be " different from its deductions, or it would be no revela. ution.”

The opinion of a professed wit and man of fashion may have weight with those who are prejudiced against professional divines. It has been doubted by many whether Mr. Jenyns was a sincere Christian. I am inclined to believe that he was sincere. As, in recommending Christianity, it is right to become all things to all men, that we may save some, his testimony is admitted in this place, though his lively manner of writing throws an air of levity on subjects, which, from their important nature, must always be considered as grave by all the partakers of mortality, who think justly and feel acutely.

SECTION XX.

The Opinion of Bishop Horsely on the prevalent Neglect

of teaching the peculiar DOCTRINES of Christianity, under the Idea that Moral Duties constitute the whole or the better part of it. Among the peculiar Doctrines is evidently included that of Grace, which the Methodists inculcate, (as the Bishop intimates,) not errone. ously.

BISHOP Horsley has proved himself a mathematician and philosopher of the first rank, as well as a divine. All his works display singular vigour of intellect. He cannot be suspected of weak superstition or wild fanaticism. To the honour of Christianity, the editor of Newton, as well as Newton himself, is a firm supporter of its most mysterious doctrines. I desire the reader to weigh well the words of this able divine, as they were delivered in a charge to his clergy.

" A maxim has been introduced;” says he, “ that the “ laity, the more illiterate especially, have little concern “ with the mysteries of revealed religion, provided they “ be attentive to its duties; whence it hath seemed a safe " and certain conclusion, that it is more the office of a « Christian teacher to press the practice of religion upon “ the consciences of his hearers, than to inculcate and “ insert its doctrines.

“ Again, a dread of the pernicious tendency of some “ extravagant opinions, which persons, more to be “ esteemed for the warmth of their piety than the sound. “ness of their judgment, have grafted in modern times, “ upon the doctrine of justification by faith, as it is stated “ in the 11th, 12th, and 13th of the Articles of our “ Church, (which, however, is no private tenet of the “ church of England, but the common doctrine of all " the first reformers, not to say that it is the very corner6 stone of the whole system of redemption,) a dread of the “ pernicious tendency of those extravagant opinions, - which seem to emancipate the believer from the autho: “ rity of all moral law, hath given general credit to 6 another maxim; which I never hear without extreme « concern from the lips of a divine, either from the pul« pit or in familiar conversation; namely, that practical " religion and morality are one and the same thing: that « moral duties constitute the whole, or by far the better “ part, of practical Christianity.

,“ Both these maxims are erroneous. Both, so far “ as they are received, have a pernicious influence over “ the ministry of the word. The first most absurdly “ separates practice from the motives of practice. The “ second, adopting that separation, reduces practical “ Christianity to heathen virtue; and the two, taken “ together, have much contributed to divest our sermons

de 19729B

« PreviousContinue »