Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

Paul; amidst all the vicissitudes of his earthly lot, never lost sight of his high calling, nor was ever unprepared to speak of the subjects that lay next to his heart-the things of another world. Even at this period, when his fate seemed to hang in suspense, his mind was calm and his conduct unembarrassed. His spirit, absorbed in his work, and contemplating his high reward, rose superior to this world. Hence, instead of endeavoring to conciliate favor, he chose a theme, though he knew it would be far from pleasing. But the season was favorable and might never return; he therefore gave him advice that might save his soul. Knowing that we have to do with a holy and righteous God, upon whom depends our everlasting destiny; a judge, who acknowledges no distinction in men but that of righteousness and unrighteousness, he began to speak, and calmly to reason of that righteousness, without which there is no salvation. He would explain its nature-lay down a rule to measure it argue for its necessity-and point out its end. Righteousness, he would tell him, is a conformity to the will of God. How long has the light of revelation shone upon the world, and yet, in the place of this obvious definition, others, almost heathenish, are continually substituted. The discharge of duty in the social and civil relations of life, is considered as the object of all religious systems; and provided the end be attained, it is thought needless to raise objections about the way.

[ocr errors]

1

This may be morality, but it is not religion. It comports very well with a system of atheism; because if no future state is to be expected, we must be satisfied if we can but see happiness and good order in this, but it can never be held in consistency with the revelation which we profess to admit, in that, to love God with all our heart, is declared to be the first and great commandment. Duties to God form a distinct and separate part of the code of laws given to us for the regulation of our conduct: so that we are no longer left at liberty to suppose that when we have satisfied one another, God is satisfied too. And the reason is evident enough. We are preparing for another state of existence, where the relations of parents and children, husband and wife, will be known no more. We shall be brought into a nearer relation to God himself; and for that some appropriate discipline is necessary here. On these points Felix needed information. St. Paul would therefore tell the Roman that valor was not necessarily virtue, nor humility meanness; that a romantic friendship was often passion, not duty; and patriotism but a small part of Christian love. He would warn him against measuring the virtue of an act by its apparent expediency; and instead of admitting that a practice held in general esteem was estimable, to be cautious of admiring what men admire, since many things are highly esteemed amongst men which are abomination in the sight of God, but in all things to consider it his duty, hence

forward, to ascertain the will of God and make that his rule. It is neglect of the scriptures that makes men, calling themselves christians, not only live heathen lives, but defend their unsound practices by principles still more unsound, and make such gross mistakes in what they profess to know, as in any other subject they would blush to be detected in. Having told him what morality was not, St. Paul might proceed to rectify his views of religion, and would tell this benighted idolater that religion was something more than spectacles and processions--sacrifices and festivities; truths, which in another form, those need to be reminded of who put the external church for the real, and think nothing has been left undone when the church has been attended, and the sacrament has been received. He would let him know that God was a Spirit, who must be worshipped in Spirit and in truth-in secret, as with the multitude; and that the preparation of the heart was noticed by him, rather than the construction of the prayer, or the repetition of it; that as we are here in this world in a state of preparation for another, where, if fit, we shall dwell with God, holy tempers and holy habits must be formed here by communion with God, in persevering prayer, and never-ceasing supplies of his Holy Spirit. We cannot conceive St. Paul, while speaking of righteousness would omit intimating to Felix, as far as he was able to hear it, something of those deep truths respecting the righteousness

of Christ which it pleased God so fully to unfold to him, and on which he expatiates so largely in his writings, and which he seems to have conceived more fully, and lived, and acted upon, and rejoiced in more habitually than any other human creature. It was impossible therefore that Paul would let him remain ignorant of Christ: indeed the context expressly proves that Felix heard him concerning the faith of Christ. He would by no means let him suppose that the life of devotion he preached to him was to be the purchase of heaven, but would make him know that the Son of God having in mercy come down to fulfil all righteousness as the surety for sinners, and suffered the penalty due to their sins, they who believe become entitled to the reward of eternal life. New and strange would appear to Felix a system from which human merit was excluded. Alas! that it should remain incomprehensible to many amongst ourselves, who are zealous for morality against those doctrines, the ultimate effect of which is to promote morality. If, however, any one be really so deluded as to think that the orthodoxy of his creed will atone for the irregularities of his life, let him observe, that the Apostle reasoned also of,

Temperance, or self-denial. The natural opposition of our nature to the will of God, is the foundation of the duty of self-denial. We are born in sin, we delight in sin; we must be torn from sin, or we shall never leave it. The

leading agent in the work of self-denial, is the Spirit of God, and the man in whom he works will be temperate in all things, he will restrain his passion and pride. To be meek and lowly as the Lord-to be poor and patient in spirit -to forgive injuries-to abhor himself for his iniquities, is the duty of the highest as well as the lowest of men: a duty incumbent upon the soldier as well as others, and public opinion or practice cannot alter God's word. All love of human praise, or vain glorious self-complacency, from the possession of honors, or the distinctions of talents or opulence, birth or beauty, or any other quality natural or acquired, must be mortified and crushed as utterly irreconcilable with that self-abhorrence which lies so deep in the nature of repentance and humility. To check all impurity of heart is also a necessary part of temperance. Whatever, therefore, has a tendency to inflame the passions, in look, reading, or imagination, christian purity requires us to avoid; much more therefore all that may pollute our bodies, which we are taught to consider as sacred, the temples of the Holy Ghost. Worldly-mindedness is another species of intemperance, less suspected than bodily excess, but more destructive. It is the sin of riper years, a propensity which time, instead of weakening as it does many other inclinations, has a tendency to strengthen. To them who are enslaved by this principle, death as it comes nearer appears more indistinct; more provision must be made for the way, as the way grows

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« ПредишнаНапред »