« AnteriorContinuar »
Supposesoforo instance, to illustrate oun observation, that simple reason were appealed to on any subject not religious; and suppose, to make the case parallel, that the reason of the man on that subject were very much perverted, that he was very much prejudiced and misled. Yet would not the argument be directed to his reason, as a principle actually existing in him, and, as a principle to be confided in and to be recovered from its error ? Would not every tone of the argument and of the expostulation show confidence in the principle addressed ?
Oh! what power might religion have had, if it had breathed this tone of confidence; if it had gone down into the deep and silent places of the heart as the voice of friendship; if it had known what dear and precious treasures of love and hope and joy are there; ready to be made celestial by its touch; if it had spoken to man as the most affectionate parent would speak to his most beloved, though sadly erring child if it had said, in the emphatic language of the text: “Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of men: lo! I have set my love upon you—-upon you, men of the strong and affectionate nature, of the aspir' ing and heaven-needing soul-not upon inferior crea: tures, not upon the beasts of the field, but upon you have I set my love. Give entrance to me, not with fear and mistrust, but with good hope and with gladnessit: give entrance to me, and I will make my abode with you, and I will build up all that is within you, in glory, and beauty, and ineffable brightness.” Alas! for our erring, and sinful, but also misguided and ill-used nature. Bad enough, indeed, we have made it, or suffered it to be made: but if a better lot had befallen it
if kindlier influences had breathed upon it; if the parent's and the preacher's voice, inspired with erery tone of hallowed feeling, had won it to piety; if the train of social life, with every attractive charm of goodness, had led it in the consecrated way; we had ere this-known what now, alas! we so poorly knowwe had known what it is to be children of God and heirs of heaven.
My friends, let religion speak to us in its own true character, with all its mighty power and winning candour and tenderness. It is the principle of infinite wisdom that speaks. From that unknown period before the world was created—so saith the holy recordfrom the depth of eternity, from the centre of infinity, from the heart of the universe, from “the bosom of God,” its voice has come forth, and spoken to usto us, men, in our lowly habitations. What a ministration is it! It is the infinite communing with the finite; it is might communing with frailty ; it is mercy stretching out its arms to the guilty; it is goodness taking part with all that is good in us against all that is evil. So full, so overflowing, so all-perrading is it, that all things give it utterance. It speaks to us in everything lowly, and in everything lofty. It speaks to us in every whispered accent of human affection, and in every revelation that is sounded out from the spreading heavens. It speaks to us from this lowly seat at which we bow down in prayer—from this humble shrine veiled with the shadows of mortal infir. mity; and it speaks to us alike from those altar-fires that blaze in the heights of the firmament. It speaks where the seven thunders utter their voices; and it sends forth its voice-of pity more than human, of
agony more than mortal—from the silent summit of Calvary.
Can a principle so sublime and so benignant as religion speak to us but for our good? Can infinity, can omnipotence, can boundless love speak to us but in the spirit of infinite generosity, and candour, and tenderness ? No; it may be the infirmity of man to use a harsh tone, and to heap upon us bitter and cruel upbraidings; but so speaks not religion. It says—and I trace an accent of tenderness and entreaty in every word—“ Unto you, O men, I call ; and my voice—my voice is to the children of men.”
O man! whosoever thou art, hear that voice of wisdom. Hear it, thou sacred conscience and give not way to evil ; touch no bribe, touch not dishonest gain, touch not the sparkling cup of unlawful pleasure. Hear it, ye better affections, dear and holy! and turn not your purity to pollution, and your sweetness to bitterness, and your hope to shame. Hear it, poor, wearied, broken, prostrate, human nature! and rise to penitence, to sanctity, to glory, to heaven. Rise now, lest soon it be for ever too late. Rise at this entreaty of wisdom, for wisdom can utter no more. Rise,-arise at this voice—for the universe is exhausted of all its revelations—infinity, omnipotence, boundless love have lavished their uttermost resource in this one provision, this one call, this one gospel of mercy!
SPIRITTAL INTERESTS, REAL AND SUPREME. ,
Joax vi. 26, 27. Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily,
I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ve did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto eternal life.
The contrast here set forth is between a worldly mind and a spiritual mind : and so very marked and striking is it, that the fact upon which it is based may seem to be altogether extraordinary--a solitary instance of Jewish stupidity, and not applicable to any other people, or any after-times. Our Saviour avers that the multitude who followed him on a certain alcasion did so, not because they saw those astonishing miracles that gave witness to his spiritual mission, but simply because they did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Yet, strange as it may seem, the same great moral error I believe still exists; the same preference of sensual to spiritual good, though the specific exemplification of the principle can no longer be es hibited among men. But let us attend to our Saviours exhortation, " Labour not for the meat that perishetti, but for that meat which endureth unto eternal life.
The word labour refers to the business of life. It is as if our Saviour had said, Work, toil, care, provide for the soul. And it is in this sense of the word, as well as in the whole tenour of the passage, that I find the leading object of my present discourse; which is to show that spiritual interests, the interests of the mind and heart, the interests of reason and conscience, however neglected, however forgotten amidst the pursuit of sensual and worldly objects, are nevertheless real and supreme; that they are not visionary because spiritual, but that they are most substantial and weighty interests, and most truly deserving of that earnest attention, that laborious exertion, which is usually given to worldly interests.
So does not the world regard them, any more than did the Jews of old. It is written that the “children of this world are wiser in their generation," i. e. after their manner wiser “ than the children of light.” But the children of this world, not content with this concession, are apt to think that they are every way wiser. And the special ground of this assumption, though they may not be aware of it, is, I believe, the notion which they entertain that they are dealing with real and substantial interests. Religious men, they conceive, are occupied with matters which are vague and visionary, and which searcely have any real existence. A great property is something fixed and tangible, sure and substantial. : But a certain view of religion, a certain state of mind, is a thing of shadow-an abstraction vanishing into nothing. The worldly-wise man admits that it may be well enough for some people ; at any rate he will not quarrel with it, he does not think it worth his troubling himself about it; his aim; his plan,