' self into favour.' Interest is perpetually requiring this. compromise of principle, this most dangerous species of conformity to the world, --opinion. But, after all, perhaps the true source of the love of money, so disgraceful to the professors of a religion of self-denial, of diffusive charity, of believing expectancy, and of implicit reliance, may be traced to a secret desire of a more unlimited independence than that which regards our fellow-creatures. We are discontented with our allotment ; we are impatient of the uncertainties and wants, which are calculated to mortify our self-sufficiency, and to exercise our faith; we distrust the future, and would entrench ourselves in riches against the calamities inflicted by a chastising Providence. We would willingly trust in Him for heaven, if we might but be permitted to secure to ourselves the possession of earth. Such is the heart of man. But in no instance does it more awfully exhibit the hardening influence of riches, than in that of men who profess to be religious, and who may be considered as radically sincere and devout Christians; who build upon the only true foundation, but whose work is “wood, “ hay, stubble,” destined for burning, though they themselves be saved. Is there a more melancholy spectacle than that which often presents itself under forms of the greatest respectability,--a man in whom all the youthful affections, the bloom of character, the generous warmth of feeling, have been nipped and blighted by the spirit of the world; and in whom a cold calculating policy has poisoned the sources of virtue? The liberality, by means of which such persons pacify their conscience, is often little better than a tax paid to public opinion; a part of the ex; penses of their character : and they “ have their reward." How would such individuals, could they when young have surveyed as in a prophetic mirror, their future selves dwarfed by prosperity, wrecked in the calm of life, have shrunk from the prospect, and devoutly implored the Almighty not to “give “ them the desire of their hearts," and " send leanness into

their souls !" The fifteenth chapter is . On the Genius of Christianity as seen in St. Paul its applicableness, as a system, to the wants of man, as fully developed in his writings, and its practical effects, as exemplified in his character. The chapter consists of a series of general observations sufficiently connected, and happily illustrative of the subject. It opens with the following striking passage.

· Had a sinful human being, ignorant of Christianity, labouring under the convictions of a troubled conscience, and dreading the retribution which that conscience told him his offences merited, had such a being, so circumstanced, been called upon to devise the means of pardon and acceptance from an offended Creator, how eagerly, in

[ocr errors]

the hope of relieving his tormented spirit, would he have put his imagination to the stretch! How busily would he have sharpened his invention, to suggest something difficult, something terrible, something impossible ; something that should have exhausted all human means, that should put nature to the rack, „penances, tortures, sacrifices-all Lebanon for a burnt offering, thousands of rams for an atonement, rivers of oil for an oblation;mstill concluding that he must perforın the act with his own hands, still expecting that himself must be the agent of his own deliverance.'

* But when a full offer of peace, of pardon, of reconciliation, comes from the offended party, comes voluntarily, comes gratuitously, comes, not with the thunder of the burning mount. but in the still small voice of benignity and love,-free love. benignity as unsought as unmerited ; --who would doubt that, overwhelmed with joy and gratitude at the report of a world redeemed, he would eagerly fly to lay hold on an offer, not only beyond his hope or expectation, but beyond his possibility of conception ?'

• But while God, by a way of his own devising, by a process of his own conducting, had made foolish the wisdom of this wocid, and baffled the vain and impracticable scheines of impotent man, for effecting his deliverance by any conception or act of his own,--does not man's unwillingness to partake of the offered mercy, look as if his proud heart did not choose to be freely forgiven, as if his haughty independence revolted at a plan, in which, though he has all th“ benefit, he has none of the merit ? Does it not seem

as if he would improve the terms of the treaty ? as if he would mend the plan of salvation, and work it up into a kind of partnership scheme, in which his own contribution should have the predominance ? pp. 124-127.

Mrs. More does not omit to remark, and it is surely one of the most essential characteristics of the system of Christianity as taught by the Apostle, that St. Paul demonstrates, that God ' is the fountain, not only of our mercies, but of our virtues.'

• If we turn, it is He who turns us ; if we pray, it is He who invites us; if we apply to Him, it is He who first draws us ; if we repent, it is the Grace of God which leads us to repentance.'

The truth thus explicitly stated, is what we have so often wished to see more fully insisted upon by practical writers of acknowledged excellence. It is as really essential to a system of morals, as to a system of theology Its vast importance arises not merely from the Divine authority on which it rests, but from its practical efficiency in that respect in which the superficial moralist has entertained a secret distrust of its tendency. Its power as a motive, no less than its animating influence, has been uniformly testified by experience, to exceed all the inducements which the wisdom of philosophy has devised.

We must pass over, very summarily, the five succeeding chapters. They are entitled, “St. Paul's respect for constituted

authorities ;' His attention to inferior concerns ; ' St. Paul on

the Resurrection ;''St. Paul on Prayer, Thanksgiving, and * Religious Joy ;'St. Paul an example to familiar life.'

Although in the first four of these especially, the thoughts are sometimes too much attenuated, and the observations too widely irrelative to the subject proposed, we could with pleasure extract many striking passages Upon the subject of prayer, we meet with the following sensible remarks.

• The success of prayer, though promised to all who offer it in perfect sincerity, is not so frequently promised to the cry of distress, to the impulse of fear, or the emergency of the moment, as to humble continuance in devotion ; it is to patient waiting, to assiduous solicitation, to unwearied importunity, that God has declared that he will lend his ear, that he will give the communication of his Spirit, that he will grant the return of our requests. Nothing but this holy perseverance can keep up in our minds an humble sense of our depen. dence. It is not by a mere casual petition, however passionate, but by habitual application, that devout affections are excited and maintained, that our converse with Heaven is carried on.' pp. 230, 231.

• Under circumstances of distress, indeed, prayer is adopted with comparatively little reluctance ; the mind, which knows not where to fly, flies to God. In agony, nature is no Atheist. The soul is drawn to God by a sort of natural impulse; not always, perhaps, by an emotion of piety, but from a feeling conviction, that every other refuge iso “ a refuge of lies.” Oh, thou afflicted, tossed with tempests, and not comforted, happy if thou art either drawn or driven, with holy David, to say to thy God, “ Thou art a place to hide me

• But if it is easy for the sorrowing heart to give up a world, by whom itself seems to be given up, there are other demands for prayer equally imperative.' p. 232.

Mrs. More devotes a chapter to the consideration of the superior advantages which the present age enjoys' for the at• tainment of Knowledge, Religion, and Happiness. Among these, she particularly insists upon the vast accessions which have been made to the body of external evidence. She opposes the example of St. Paul to the character of wrangling polemics ; and intimates her opinion, that

• There has seldom been less genuine piety in the Church than when intricate and theoretical points in Theology have been most pertinaciously discussed.'

The justness of this remark depends entirely on what are considered as intricate and theological points in Theology. The terms Theology and Metaphysics, have been injuriously applied to the empty conceits and disputations of mere schoolmen upon points unconnected either with real science or with practical religion. Theology, though pre-eminently entitled to

« in."

the designation of a science, scarcely admits of theory. Revelation forms the awful boundary of our knowledge. Christianity, as hath been admirably remarked, is a religion of fact and of experience. Intricacies which reason cannot unravel, as well as mysteries which it cannot fathom, attach to the simplest exhibition of its vast phenomena. Although a spirit of pertinacious discussion is not exactly the disposition in which truth should be investigated or maintained, we believe that a neglect of theological studies has proved much oftener fatal to the interests of genuine piety.

Towards the close of this chapter, our excellent Author suffers herself to be almost borne away by the fervour of her patriotism, which rises to the height of the boldest exultation.

Had any patriarch or saint,' she imagines, been allowed ' in prophetic vision, to penetrate through the long vista of

ages,' and to choose in what age and nation he would have wished to have his lot assigned him, it is more than probable' that he would have replied – IN GREAT BRITAIN, IN THE BEGINNING OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.'

She conjectures what would have been the feelings of David, had he seen the glorious accomplishment of his own predictions, in the incarnation and resurrection of Christ, the ple

nary gift of the Holy Spirit,' and ' the wide propagation of the everlasting Gospel in far more tongues than were heard on ' the day of Pentecost :'

• Had he seen, a Bible in every cottage, a little seminary of Christian instruction in every village ; had he beheld the firm establishment of the Christian Church, no longer opposed, but supported by secular powers, after having conquered opposition by weapons purely spiritual ; had he seen a standing ministry continued in a regular succession, from the age of the apostles to the present hour; had he seèn, in addition to these domestic blessings, England emancipating Africa and evangelizing India, commerce spreading her sails to promote civilization, and Christianity elevating civilization and sanctifying commerce.

• This conqueror of the heathen, this denouncer of false gods, this chosen monarch of the chosen people, this fervent lover of the devotions of the Sanctuary, this hallowed poet of Sion, this noble contributor to our public worship, this man after God's own heart, was not permitted to build one single church-we in this island only possess ten thousand!!!

And must we intrude upon this soothing twilight dream of our excellent Author, and remind her that this fantastic vision, composed of so incongruous an assemblage of ideas, is disowned by reality? We possess ten thousand churches,' and, we may add, three thousand chapels of ease! As for all the conventicles, they do not form a picturesque object in the landscape in which the village spire is seen pointing to heaven ;'


[ocr errors]

they are framed of too rude materials to delight a royal architect! But were the man after God's own heart, indeed permitted to take the survey of this favoured land, at this favoured era,--would he pass by the houses and the barns of religion, to dwell, in accents of felicitation and rapture, on the ten thousand churches which Popery has bequeathed to us? Would the mysterious name of Church, even suggest to him a building made with hands; or would the architecture of the building, rather than the purpose to which the structure was consecrated, employ his admiration ? Would he recognise the regular apostolic succession, in the standing ministry of a complicated hierarchy, and in them exclusively? Or would he identify the external prosperity of a human institution, with the firm establishment of the Christian • Church?

We do not wish to dwell on this invidious topic. Perhaps we have misunderstood our Author, and have taken her words in a more restricted sense than they were intended to convey

Perhaps the ten thousand churches' was a phrase indefinitely used, although involving in that case a considerable under-statement, in reference to the vast number of edifices which in this island are consecrated to the worship of the true God. If so, we entreat her forgiveness for so undesigned a misrepresentation. We share with our Author in the exultation which the animating prospects of the present day are calculated to excite, especially in the minds of those individuals, who remember the former days of comparative inaction and hopelessness. But let us not extend the illusions of self-love to our country, and call the glittering abstraction of excellence-Englund How long have the emancipation of Africa, and the evangelizing of India, ranked among the works of supererogation achieved by England? Can the unwearied labours of a small body of individuals, or the efforts of a few despised sectaries, who were, for a long time, the only agents in these immense fields of exertion, procure, thus easily, for their country, the honours of an Emancipator and Evangelist; when the very Government of that country so long exhibited itself in the form of decided opposition to their benevolent exertions, opposing interest to justice, and impious prudence to the authoritative dictates of Christianity ? Who are the evangelists of India ? Who were they, when in the ten thousand churches' of England, the cause of Christianity in India scarcely obtained an advocate, and England despised the missionaries who, tolerated by her Government, went to spend their lives there, in the service of their Divine Master?

But we must lasten to the concluding chapter of the work before us, which contains a' cursory inquiry into some of the

[ocr errors]


« ForrigeFortsett »