« ForrigeFortsett »
religion. It is not a proper time now to enter into of the arguments for the truth of Christianity, otherwise it would be impossible wholly to pass over that which arises from this remarkable conversion, and which has been so adınirably illustrated by a noble writer (Lord Lyttleton) whose tract on this subject is in every body's hand.
Next follow the EPISTLES, which inake a very important part of the New Testament, and you cannot be too much employed in reading them. They contain the most excel. lent precepts and admonitions, and are of particular use in explaining, more at large, several doctrines of Christianity, which we could not so fully comprehend without them. There are indeed, in the Epistles of St. Paul, some passages which at an early age are hard to be understood : such, in particular, are the first eleven chapters to the ROMANS, part of his Epistles to the CORINTHIANS, and some chapters of that to the HEBREWS. Instead of perplexing yourself with these more obscure passages of Scripture, you may employ your attention chiefly on those that are plain; and thus judge of the doctrines taught in the other parts, by comparing them with what you find in these. It is through the neglect of this rule, that many have been led to draw ibe most absurd doctrines from the Holy Scriptures. Particularly, be careful to peruse the 12th, 13th, 14th, and 15th chapters of the Epistle to the Romans. In the 14th chapter, St. Paul has in view the difference between the Jewish and Gentile (or Heathen) converts at that time; the former were disposed to look with horror on the latter, for their impiety in not paying the same regard to the distinctions of days and meats, that they did; and the latter, on the contrary, were inclined to look with contempt on the former, for their weakness and superstition. Excellent is the advice which the Apostle gives to both parties : he exhorts the Jewish converts not to judge, and the Gentiles not to despise; remembering that the kingdom of heaven is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost; endeavour to conform yourself to this advice: to acquire a temper of universal candour and benevolence; and learn neither to despise nor condemn any persons on account of their particular modes of faith and worship: remembering always, that goodness is confined to no party—that there are wise and worthy men among all the sects of Christians--and that, to his own master, every one must stand or fall. · Read those passages frequently, which, with so much fervour and energy, excite you to the most exalted piety and benevolence. If the effusions of a heart, warmed with the tenderest affection for the whole human race-if precept, warning, encouragement, example, urged by an eloquence which such affection only could inspire, are capable of influencing your mind; you cannot fail to find, in such parts of his Epistles as are adapted to your understanding, the strongest persuasives to every virtue that can adorn and improve your nature.
The Epistle of St. James is entirely practical, and exceedingly fine; you cannot study it too much. It seems particularly designed to guard Christians against misunderstanding some things in St. Paul's writings, wbich have been sometimes perverted to the encouragement of a dependance on faith unaccompanied by those good works which can only prove its reality.
The Epistles of St. Peter are also full of the best instructions and adınonitions, concerning the relative duties of life; amongst which are set forth the duties of women in general, and of wives in particular. Some part of his second Epistle is prophetical; warning the church of false teachers, and false doctrines, which should undermine morality, and disgrace the cause of Christianity.
The first of St. John is written in a highly figurative style, which makes it in some parts hard to be understood : but the spirit of divine love, which it so fervently expresses, renders it highly edifying and delightful. That love of God and of man which this beloved apostle so pathetically recommends, is in truth the essence of religion, as our Saviour himself informs us.
The Book of Revelation contains a prophetical account of most of the great events relating to the Christian church, which were to happen from the tiine of the writer St. John, to the end of the world. Many learned men haye taken a great deal of pains to explain it; and they have done this in many instances very successfully : at some future period there may be no objection to your attempts ing the study of this part of scriplure. May you love and reverence, as it deserves, this blessed and invaluable book, which contains the best rule of life-lhe clearest declaration of the will and laws of the Deity--the reviving assurance of favour to true penitents and the unspeakably joyful tidings of eternal life and happiness to all the truly pious through Jesus Christ, the Saviour and Deliverer of the world!
THOSE who are aware of the inestimable value of prayer themselves, will naturally be anxious not only that this duty should be earnestly inculcated on their children, but that they should be taught it in the best manner; and such parents need little persuasion or counsel on the subject. Some children are, however, so superficially instructed in this important business, that when they are asked what prayers they use, it is not unusual for them to answer, * The Lord's Prayer, and the Creed.” Not understanding that the one is no prayer, but a confession of their faith, and the other the model for their supplications!
An intelligent mother will seize the first occasion which the child's opening understanding shall allow, for explaining, in an easy and familiar way, the Lord's Prayer, taking every division or short sentence separately. The child should be led gradually through every part of this divine composition; she should be taught to break it into all its regular divisions; she should be made to comprehend, one by one, each of its short but weighty sentences.
When the child has a pretty good conception of the meaning of each division, she should then be made to observe the connection, relation, and dependance, of the several parts of this prayer, one after another; for there is great method and connection in it. We pray that the &« kingdom of God may come,” as the means to “ hallow his name;" and that by us, the obedient subjects of his kingdom,“ his will may be done."
The young person, from being made a complete mistress of this short composition (which, as it is to be her guide and model through life, too much pains cannot be bestowed on it) will have a clearer conception, not only of its individual contents, but of prayer in general, than many ever attain, though their memory has been loaded with long and unexplained forms.
Forms of prayer are not only useful and proper, but almost indispensably necessary to begin with. But if children are thrown exclusively on the best forms, if they are made to commit them to memory, like a copy of verses, and to repeat them in a dry customary way, they will pro. duce little effect upon their minds. They will not under
stand what they repeat, if we do not early open to them the important scheme of prayer. We should give them knowledge, before we can expect them to make any progress in piety, and as a due preparation to it.
It is not enough to teach them to consider prayer under the general idea, that it is an application to God for what they want, and an acknowledgment to him for what they have. This, however true in the gross, is not sufficiently precise and correct. They should learn to define and arrange all the different parts of prayer : and, as a preparative to prayer itself, they should be iinpressed with as clear an idea as their capacity and the nature of the subject will admit, of Him with whom they have to do. On the knowledge that “God is,” that he is an infinitely holy Being, and that he is the “ rewarder of all them that diligently seek him,” will be grounded the first part of prayer, which is adoration. The creature devoting itself to the Creator, or self-dedication, next presents itself. And if they are taught that important truth, that they need help, they will easily be led to understand how naturally petition forms a most considerable part of prayer : and divine grace being among the things for which they are to petition, this naturally suggests to the mind the doctrine of the influences of the Holy Spirit. And when to this is added the conviction which will be readily wrought upon ingenuous minds, that as offending creatures they want pardon, the necessity of confession will easily be made intelligible to them. Thanksgiving also forms a considerable branch of prayer: in this ihey should be habituated to recapitulate not only their general, but to enumerate their peculiar, daily, and incidental mercies, in the same specific manner as they should be taught to detail their individual and personal wants in the petitionary, and their faults in the confessional parts. The same warmth of feeling, which will more readily dispose them to express their gratitude to God in thanksgiving, will also lead them more gladly to express their love to their parents and friends, by adopting another indispensable, and, to an affectionate heart, pleasing part of prayer, which is intercession.
When they have been made to understand the different natures of these several parts of prayer, and when they. clearly comprehend that adoration, self-dedication, confesşion, petition, thanksgiving, and intercession, are distinct heads, which must not be involved in each other, you may exemplify the rules by pointing out to them these successive branches in any well-written form. And they will easily discern, that ascription of glory to that God to whom we owe so much, and on whom we so entirely depend, is the conclusion into which a Christian's prayer will naturally resolve itself. But let it be particularly regarded, that as all prayer must be offered to God, as the sole object of our religious worship, and under the influence of his Holy Spirit; so our every request must be presented to the Father in the name of the great Mediator. For there is no access to the throne of grace but by that new and living way. No man, saith Jesus Christ, cometh to the Father, but by me.
The habits of the young pupil being thus early formed, her memory, attention, and intellect, being bent in a right direction, and the exercise invariably maintained, may we not reasonably hope that her affections also, through divine grace, may become interested in the work, till she will be enabled to pray with the spirit and with the the understanding also.
As a pattern and help to the young Christian, several Forms of Prayer, which she may consult, will be introduced in the course of the work.
ON THE REGULATION OF THE HEART AND
You will have read the New Testament to very little purpose, if you do not perceive the great end and intention of all its precepts to be the improvement and regulation of the beart: not the outward actions alone, but the inward affections which give birth to them, are the subjects of those precepts; as appears in our Saviour's explanation (Matth. v.) of the commandments delivered to Moses; and in a thousand other passages of the gospels, which it is needless to recite. There are no virtues inore insisted on, as necessary to our future happiness, than humility, and sincerity, or uprightness of heart; yet none more difficult and rare. Pride and vanity, the vices opposed to humility, are the sources of almost all the worst faults both of men and women. The latter are particularly accused, and not without reason, of vanity; the vice of little minds, chiefly