Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

We say

he will bestow on any of his creatures, and what he will withhold; and he is unchangeable in his purposes. If he has determined to bestow any blessing on me, he will bestow it if I do not pray; and if he has determined not to bestow it, he will not if I do pray. This is the common objection. But let us take this reasoning and apply it to any other concern. to the objector, If God has determined, that you shall live for ten years to come you will live; there is no uncertainty about it; God is unchangeable in his purposes, and he has power to execute them all. If it is one of his purposes that you shall live for ten years to come, he will certainly secure the eventyou will certainly live. But suppose you know this to be the purpose of God, and upon your knowledge of it, should say, It is useless for me to take sustenance, or to use the means for preserving life. I shall certainly live, without the use of these means, for God has determined that I shall live; and suppose that you act in accordance with your theory, what would be the result? The result would be, you would die! and the man who makes the objection knows he would die. What! when God has determined he shall certainly live? Yes, he would certainly die, notwithstanding, unless he use the means of preserving life. If we have run into difficulties here, he is the man to extricate us; for we have only followed his principles and his honest convictions to their legitimate results. We have only to say about it, that the reasoning which involves such absurdities is itself most absurd. If men were governed by the principles of our objector, there would be an end at once to all human exertions.

Nor is it difficult to detect the radical error of the objection. It lies on the face of it; and any one must have been blinded by his own conceits in not seeing it. It assumes, that God has determined the end and not the means :-a principle at variance with common sense, and with the divine revelation. Sustained by these, we say to the objector, the means in this case, and in every other, are as much the subject of the divine determination as the end. If God has determined to prolong your life for ten years, he has equally determined, that you shall use the means for its preservation. How do you know, we ask him, but that if God has determined to bestow blessings upon his creatures, he has equally determined to be inquired of by them to do it for them? Until you disprove this, your objection goes for nothing. Moreover, when you remember, that God requires men to pray, and excites them to it by the most powerful encouragements; and further still, when it is known, that the very

exercise of prayer is followed by unspeakable benefits to the suppliant, we ask if it is not most impious, as well as absurd, in the face of all this, to talk of the uselessness of prayer ?

The believer will bear with us, if we suggest, that if he is faithful to himself he will not suffer this subject to pass from his mind without receiving the merited reproof which it furnishes for his want of faith in the efficacy of prayer. A believer of the bible, and yet doubt the utility of prayer! What ! when that bible expressly enjoins the duty, and holds out the most precious encouragements to the performance! Especially have you ever felt the sanctifying influence of prayer, (as you have if you have ever prayed in sincerity,) and yet do you deem it a useless ceremony to pray? By the renewing grace of God, have you ever been brought to feel the spirit of adoption, and yet do you feel no enjoyment in communion with this Father ? Have the children of God in all ages found prayer efficacious in obtaining blessings from him, and have you doubts of its efficacy? Beware, doubting believer, lest thy title to the inheritance of the believing and the prayerful finally fail thee! Beware, lest it be found in the end, that thy religion throughout is wanting in that life and power which alone can render it acceptable to God!

We cannot bring our remarks to a close without briefly adverting to the views and feelings with which we should come to the place of prayer. If the views we have taken of this subject be correct, we fear it furnishes rebuke to many who are accustomed to assemble for prayer. Imperfections mingle with all we do; and in nothing perhaps is this oftener true than in our attempts to perform the duty of prayer. Is it not sometimes the case, that persons engage in this duty because they fear to neglect it? Prayer is so generally regarded as a duty, and the propriety of assembling for united prayer is so generally acknowledged, that it is hardly consistent with a professed regard for religion to be absent from such seasons. A regard to consistency, therefore, or the fear of rebuke for neglect of duty, may be the motive which brings many to the place of worship. We fear, that such instances are not rare. But if the whole church and the whole world should engage in the duty from such a motive, instead of offering an acceptable sacrifice, they would only offer insult to the Most High.

Others, perhaps, engage in this exercise on account of the personal enjoyment which they find in seasons of prayer. This is a better state of mind than that we have just considered. But such should not be the state of mind which brings us to the performance of this duty. No doubt the christian who performs the duty aright has enjoyment in the exercise. His own enjoyment or personal gratification should not, however, be the object for which he comes to the place of prayer. That one object should be, to prevail with God for the bestowment of blessings. Suppose we were met to pray for the life of a fellow being; we should have no thoughts about our own enjoyment or suffering. Our one single thought and our one single object would be to plead for his life. Just so if we are met to pray for the life of the soul; for a revival of religion; for the success of missions; for any thing, no matter what;—our whole souls should be absorbed with the one single object before us,—to prevail with God for the bestowment of the blessing for which we have met to pray. If prayer is appointed as a means of obtaining blessings from God, then we cannot well misjudge with what views and feelings we should engage in the exercise. Prayer is a business. A meeting for prayer is a meeting, not for personal enjoyment, but for business. We know there is danger, that we secularize and degrade the subject by such expressions. But we cannot better express our views of the nature of this transaction than to call it a business transaction; and business, too, the most important and solemn, that mortals can engage in : and this, whether we consider the object to be accomplished, or the majesty and holiness of the being with whom we have to do. Such are the views we should entertain of prayer. In our apprehension, prayer will never amount to any thing better than a mere ceremony of solemn mockery, and never will blessings rich and abundant, come down in answer to prayer, until the church give up their unbelief and doubts, and feel a confidence in the truth of the divine declaration, that the fervent prayer of the righteous man availeth much with God. If God revives his work in any place, and by his renewing Spirit converts and saves the souls that are now ready to perish, it will be in answer to fervent, agonizing prayer. Some of God's people will be found who are pleading before him for the salvation of sinners ;-pleading with an importunity that cannot be denied ;-pleading, expecting to prevail. The promise of God is pledged for their encouragement; and the whole past history of his dealings with the church confirms the prom

When his people pray, in reality, then the Spirit descends to renew, to sanctify, and to save.

ise.

ART. IV.-A CRITICAL AND MORAL EstimaTE OF THE NIGHT

THOUGHTS.

The author of the Night Thoughts holds a conspicuous place among the British poets, and is destined to be read and admired as long as the language in which he wrote shall exist. Common opinion has not, perhaps, assigned him to the highest class; and yet there are those who do not hesitate to view him little if at all below the first in fame. Occasionally, readers are found who would be considered very competent judges of poetic and literary merit, who think of no one more highly than of Young, and profess an unbounded admiration of his great work. We once heard a man of taste and genius remark, that if he wished to know a person's intellectual character, he would ask him how he liked the Night Thoughts—a fondness for this poem being the inquirer's criterion of a fine mind.

The critics have variously estimated this author. All of them probably allow, as all must feel, the elevation of his genius; but his obvious faults have afforded matter of censure, and a few, who are disposed to overlook a beauty if they can find a blemish, have not been loath roundly to condemn the poet and his book. Others, and the much larger part, while they are not insensible to the imperfections of the Night Thoughts, claim for the work that consideration which is due to sterling excellence, and to a classic of the English tongue. In their estimation of its intellectual and moral beauty as a whole, they are willing charitably to excuse its lesser defects. The difference among readers, in respect to constitutional feelings, but especially as to religious views, readily accounts for the diverse opinions which have been entertained of this book in certain cases.

We are not sure but that Young is, in a degree, neglected, and would be apt to be neglected in such an age as the present. It is a bustling, active age, and by no means distinguished by deep, meditative thought. The minds of men seem to be absorbed in matters of practical moment, and immediate, palpable utility. Moralizing, melancholy strains, beautiful theoretic truths, fine religious painting, and lofty flights of fancy, are little to the taste either of enterprising worldlings, or of working philanthropists. These things can be appreciated only in the study in the retirement of the mind; and for this, our innumerable secular engagements and imposed or assumed laVOL. X.

33

bors of charity, leave us but little time, or furnish but slight inclination. Is it on this ground, a celebrated foreign critic, a few years since, announced the opinion that Young had enjoyed at least as much reputation as he deserves ? And is there a fear with some few, that he should not be forgotten, amidst the excitements of a physical, mechanical, utilitarian age? It is happily a vain fear, should it be felt. Human hearts and human sympathies will ever respond to strains such as are embodied in the Night Thoughts. They awaken the profound sensibility of the soul, and their effect on many minds is as thrilling as the deep tones of an organ on a musical ear, and not unlike such an effect. The excitement of the age will not always last in its present form. Men will seek again the more intellectual, spiritual, and devotional works which the sages and saints of former times have produced. Perhaps they will themselves create others, as able, and still more appropriate to their wants, or congenial to their feelings. From these, they will derive the aliment of new and more heroic labors. The active, benevolent tendencies of the age can be manifested, for a lengthened period, only as they are fed from the fountains of truth. Clear thought, impassioned sentiment, profound reflections, the rich hues of fancy and taste, in immortal works of genius, contribute to that energy and aptitude of mind, whether in the individual reader or the reading public, which are required for the prosecution of plans of extensive usefulness. It is not then ungrateful to our feelings, as promising a return to meditation and study, and to a correct appreciation of the masters of thought and of song, in by-gone days, that we have lately seen, we cannot recollect where, a notice of the Night Thoughts, in which the writer places the author of this work immeasurably above every poet of his class. If we mistake not, the piece referred to his power of moral painting, and presented examples of it showing his vast superiority in that department. If Young has been neglected of late, he cannot always be neglected.

This apology is not needed, nor is any needed, for laying before our readers some thoughts, of the kind indicated in the caption of the present article. They have been suggested by refreshing our memory with a production so suitable to us in afflictions, which, like those of the poet, may be expressed in his own emphatic line

“ Thy shaft flew thrice, and thrice my peace was slain," though at longer intervals, as his were in reality, than, with poetic license, he has assigned to them. The dark days of

« AnteriorContinuar »