Page images
PDF
EPUB

however rudely it may be set; but how much more would they prize it, if it were set, adequately to its immense value, in the purest gold, by the hand of a master ? If men of sound and extensive learning, of true taste and eloquence, were to recommend it, with all the beauties of proper language, the field-preacher would rant in solitude, and the tabernacle would be empty. To them I refer the inquirer, who wishes to know how little the most decent and studied discourses on morality, or practi. cal religion, avail to attract the people. Let him leave a while his books and library, and read the volume of real life. We have had enough of words, enough of systems, enough of controversy ; let us study and teach what is really and efficiently useful to the mass of the people, what improves human nature, renders life as comfortable as the condition of humanity will admit, and opens a pleasing prospect, when life must be relinquished, beyond the grave.

SECTION XLI.

Bishop Lavington's opinion, respecting the Extrava

gancies and Follies of fanatical Preachers, and Pretenders to the Spirit.

“ Wherever I find great stress laid upon some imaginary, insignificant, or unintelligible peculiarities; the word of God turned into a conjuringbook; the divine ordinances either lightly esteemed or imputed to the devil; good works either undervalued or trodden under foot; wild-fire dangerously tossed about, instead of that light which came down from heaven; puffing pretensions to extraordinary revelations, inspirations, usurping the name of the Holy One; with personal conferences with God, face to face; enthusiastic ranters, comparing themselves with prophets and apostles, if not with Christ himself; the most wild and extravagant behaviour, the frenzies of a disturbed brain, or deluded imagination, the effects of fits, of a weak head, or diseased body, all turned into so many tests and marks of saintship; the spirit of pride and vanity possessing the leaders; a spirit of envy, rancour, broils, and implacable animosities, dashing each other in pieces ; a spirit of bitterness and uncharitableness towards the rest of mankind; a progress through immorality, scepticism, infidelity, atheism, through spiritual desertions, despair, and madness, made the gate of perfection; an imaginary new-birth to be brought to pass by means of real tortures, of some of the most exquisite pangs and sufferings that can affect human nature;—I say, where these are found, and many more equally horrible, one may easily discern a wide difference between such a dispensation and genuine religion; as well as the bungling hands that are substituting the former in the place of the other. One may easily see what strangers such inconsistent ramblers must be to the true devotion, as well as the comforts of a sedate, composed piety; to a firm belief of our Maker and Redeemer, and a constant reliance upon Provi.

dence; to a steady course of sincere, habitual, and unaffected religion ; to the cherishing of a warm love of God in the heart, and well-tempered zeal for the truths of his inspired word; and all this proved by the love of our neighbour; to a general observance and attendance on the means of grace, and a well-grounded hope of glory."

From the wretched follies of fanatics, the mind turns with complacency to the gentle, benignant Spirit which guided a bishop Wilson, a Watts, a Doddridge, a Nelson, and a Horne. Such men do honour to the doctrine of grace, and rescue it from the contempt under which it has fallen through the extravagance of weak devotees, and the unhappy ingenuity of scholastic theologists, explaining away, to show their skill, the strongest expressions of holy Scripture,

SECTION XLII.

Pride the great Obstacle to the general Reception of

the Gospel of Grace.

A PROUD, turbulent, and vindictive spirit is utterly incompatible with the spirit of Christianity; but a proud, turbulent, and vindictive spirit constitutes what is called, in the world, a man of honour; and who can aspire at the distinctions and rewards which the world has to bestow, without aspiring at the character of a man of honour-without zealously

maintaining it, in defiance of all which the Scriptures have taught us to consider as the will of God ? No wonder, then, that the genuine gospel, the Spirit, which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, should be utterly neglected by those who are more solicitous about the opinion of a few weak and wicked mortals like themselves, than about all that Christianity promises or threatens; who regard neither God nor man, when their own self-estimation is in the slightest degree depreciated. Submission of the temper and understanding, which is necessary for the reception of that evidence of Christianity which the Holy Ghost affords, is considered as contemptible meanness, by those who are full of themselves, and live only to flatter, for the sake of being reflattered, in the circles of self-idolizing vanity.

The doctrine of a participation with the divine nature, conceded by heaven to the faithful and pious of low degree, is highly mortifying to those who think the perfection of human nature consists in civil nobility, in blood, or in titles conferred by an earthly monarch. He who shares the divine nature, who is favoured with an emanation of Deity, is truly ennobled; for his very nature is exalted above the ordinary rank of humanity; and according to the gospel, he is become the living temple of the Holy Ghost. That a poor man, such as were the apostles, and such as are many true Christians in the present day, should possess a nature raised above whatever earthly honours can bestow, is a doctrine offensive to all who have been taught to consider, as the chief good of man, the gratification of the pride of life.

Scholars also, deep mathematicians, metaphy

sicians, and logicians, feel a sentiment of scorn, when they are told that a plain, simple, humble peasant, whose mind is rightly disposed, may receive a portion of divine illumination, which shall contribute more to sound wisdom, and consequently to happiness, than all their minute and laborious disquisitions. Philosophy, towering, like Icarus, on wings made by the art of man, to the clouds, looks down with contempt on Religion, who associates with ignorant wretches, distinguished by humility of rank as much as by humility of disposition. Philosophy leaves the company of a personage so mean, and frequently passes from a contempt of her, to downright hatred and enmity.

Thus pride is a chief obstacle to the reception of the doctrine of evangelical grace. Pride blinds the eyes of the understanding against the evidence of the Holy Ghost. Pride causes hardness of heart, a quality the most odious to the divine, and most injurious to the human nature. It teaches us to

1 The gentile or genteel philosopher too often hears with pain such sentiments of Christianity, as those of Erasmus in the fol. lowing passage :

Existimo puram illam Christi philosophiam non aliunde fælicius hauriri quam ex evangelicis libris, quam ex apostolicis literis ; in quibus, si quis pie philosophetur, orans magis quam argumentans, nihil esse, quod ad hominis felicitatem, nihil quod ad ullam hujus vitæ functionem pertineat, quod in his non sit traditum, discussum, et absolutum. Erasmus.-“I am of opinion that the genuine philosophy of Christ cannot be derived from any source so successfully, as from the books of the Gospel and the Epistles of the Apostles, in which, if a man philosophises with a pious spirit, praying rather than arguing, he will find that there is nothing conducive to the happiness of man, and the performance of any duty of human life, which is not, in some of these writings, laid down, discussed, and determined in a complete and satisfactory manner."

« PreviousContinue »