Imágenes de página

lead the understanding, and to corrupt the heart: how is this tendency to be counteracted ? By the virtue of the people, To be virtuous, they must be enlightened ; for ignorance is only the parent of vice. It weakens and perverts the moral principle, and thus takes off the only natural restraint which heaven has imposed upon the human heart, in order to check its turbulent depravity. When the people are generally instructed in the ways of righteousness, their example must have an influence on public men. Princes and statesmen, like other mortals, are in a great degree the creatures of circumstances. If the people they govern are ignorant and vicious, they will take advantage of the moral darkness, and perpetrate crimes from which the surrounding light of knowledge and religion would effectually deter them. When the thinking faculty of a whole nation is constantly awake, and its aggregate principles always operating to produce the géneral good, sovereigns will even lose the inclination to tyrannize.

There is a majesty in truth and virtue, which when seen in an individual, commands an involuntary homage ; and when that majesty sits on the brow of the community, even a king will feel himself impelled to bow down and worship it.' pp. 38-40.

Some very beautiful reflections almost immediately follow : these are a few of them.

4 What a delightful subject of contemplation is the nature and progress of religion! If the contemplation of earthly excellence fills us with admiration, how much more does that of heavenly! If the charms of a perishable world, and the faculties of mortal creatures, excite pleasurable sensations of wonder, how much more must the glaries of the celestial kingdom, and the attributes of God! We are pleased to explore the progress of society, and the policy of princes, but how much nobler is it to trace the designs of providence, gradually unfolded amidst the revo, lutions of human affairs ! How much more delightful to watch the developement of his scheme of mercy, from the first dist closure, to the final consummation of his purposes ! If light in sweet, and it is a pleasant thing to behold the material Sun, how 'much more ravishing and extatic to trace the course of the Sun of Righteousness, and be absorbed in the contemplation of his splendour ! The progress of religion is the progress of knowledge, civilization, and happiness. It encounters the darkness of superstition, and rolls it away; it meets as a mighty host, the innumerable evils of the world ; they maintain an obstinate struggle ; during the conflict, .our hearts are appalled with terror; but the Captain of salvation conquers ; he goes forward, “ travelling in the greatness of his strength;" all nature smiles at his approach the bloom of paradise enriches every scene; the music of heavenly discipline and social order, more enchanting than the music of the spheres, wraps the soul in extacy;: multitudes of voices are heard in high strains, in new and lotty measures, celebrating the triumphs of divine benignity : while celestial fingers entwine the brow of the victor with the unstained laurels of all-subduing love.' pp. 41, 42.

The second discourse is entitled, “ The Whole Family in Heaven,” and presents some peculiarly seducing views of this exceedingly great and enchanting theme. An additional check, however, might have been advantageously imposed on the preacher's imagination in some places—and the language inay be advantageously stripped of some glitter. There is, however, deep pathetic earnestness in the following address.

Our own salvation should not be the only object of our constant solicitude ; but the everlasting happiness of those to whom we are unitéd by the tenderést ties of nature, should equally engage our attention. Are we ourselves partakers of religion, or is this inestimable blessing confined to one head of the family, while the other is altogether a stranger to its influence ? Should this be the case, the final period of your intercourse is drawing nigh; you will soon separate, and separate for ever! Oh, then, let me conjure you, ere it is too late, by all the endearments of your mutual love, by all the tender sympathies that have mingled in your hearts, to seek with equal ardour the same heaven! On the day of judgement, why should “one be taken and the other left ?" Are we blest with children? Do they grow up as olive branches round about our table? Let us remember, there is but one thing that can render them an eternal inheritance ; this is genuine piety. Without “this, we must relinquish them at death; we must reckon them only as earthly comforts ; and if we stretch our thoughts into a future world, what an agonizing scene distracts the imagination! But if our household are regulated according to the principles of the gospel; if the fire on the domestic altar never suffered to go out; if religious instruction be infused into the opening minds of our offspring, and the claims of eternity impressed upon their susceptible hearts; if example follows precept, and we are concerned to “ point to heaven and lead the way,' we have every reason to hope, that a gracious God will crown our endeavours with his blessing, and that our “ Whole Family” will meet in heaven. Oh, happy parent! who, at the last day, will be able to exclaim, addressing the Judge of all, “Behold, here am I and the children whom thou hast given me !" !

We are disposed to prefer the next sermon, on the " Design of God in blessing us,” to almost any in the volume. There is in it, to our taste, a union of deeper and juster thinking, compacter proportion, chaster ornament, easier utterance, and wiser feeling. In the following short characteristic passage, it is impossible not to be remindefl of an admirable writer's profound and eloquent Essay on Decision of Character.

• The varieties of human characters are numerous; but that which most excites the admiration of the world, is energy. Indeed, it is the nature of this quality to force itself into notice.

pp. 71-73.

A man who has this element in his constitution, must be active. You see him pressing forward when any thing is to be achieved. He is never intimidated by difficulties : Alps rising on Alps arę no check to his adventurous spirit: the tumultuous flood, the dashing foam, the lowering heavens, interpose in vain between him and his purpose; this energy bends the most adverse circumstances to his will ; and that which affrights the timid, inspires him with confidence. While others hesitate, he acts; while they are alarmed, he has met and overcome the danger. Even failures and defeats become to him only lessons of experience; he is not discouraged from attempting again, because human power is limited. You find him incessantly employed; the accomplishment of one design is, with him, but a prelude to the commencement of another. This quality is generally united with a superior in. tellectual capacity, and perhaps is, in some degree, the effect of it ; but whatever are the subordinate causes by which it is produced, whether it arises from great mental powers, or from physical organization, or from both, it is unquestionably a blessing which cometh down from the Father of lights.' pp. 79, 80.

We must be indulged with one more extract from this excellent discourse, and we present the following as a fine specimen of the author's impressive eloquence. He proposes the question, "What is necessary to convert a power to bless into an actual blessing ?? and replies :

A vital principle of religion in the heart, is pre-eminently requisite. All the blessings of life are so many poisonous ingredients in our cup, till religion purifies them, and destroys those noxious qualities with which depravity has tainted them. Let religion mingle with these, and every evil vanishes. Religion furnishes genius with its noblest theme; it affords the fullest employment for all the energies of the most intensely active mind; and even inspires with energy the timid bosom, which was before appalled by the slightest dangers. It proposes to the man of wealtli, an object to accomplish which, “ He who was rich, became poor,” and it assures the man of influence, that the glory of God, and the happiness of our fellow-creatures, are the only objects for which a good man ought to live, and în promoting which he should even be contented to die. That these objects may be pursued with persevering earnestness, religion supplies motives of irresistible cogency

Its influence is a eontinued sacred impulse to the exercise of benevolence. It makes us conscious, debtors to all mankind; and will not allow us a moment's satisfaction while we neglect to discharge the obligation. Nor is this all; it enlists heaven on the side of human agency, and crowns our exertions with divine success; a success which, considering the depraved state of the world, no efforts of ours alone could command. When a man of religion devotes his powers to the great cause for which they originally were bestowed, mysterious voices prompt him to high and holy 'meditations-he listens with rapture to the dictates of infinite

sider as

wisdom and universal love! The full ripe purpose in his mind, thus induced, becomes active; he goes forth into the world, to do what he has designed ; "a thousand liveried angels" wait upon him, and smooth the difficulties from his path, which by his own strength he never could surmount; so guided and accompanied, he engages with confidence in what his astonished enemies cona

Utopian schemes,” and more than realizes what his heatt fondly anticipated. Knowing the omnipotence of prayer, which "

moves the hand that moves all things," he makes it precede and follow all his endeavours. By its potent agency he charms all good things in the universe around him, and miraculously converts all evil things into blessings. By prayer he sanctifies all events, and combines them to his advantage. Thus he is equally befriended by disappointment and success. These ate only different words to express the different feelings of his heart in reference to the great end of his being : that end is ac complishing when all things seem to conspire against it, his labours are secretly blessed, his prayers are really answered. Of this he may not himself be conscious, but in the amazing chain of causes and effects, which he will view complete in the light of eternity, he will perceive that his defeats were vietories; that he counted most where he seemed most to fail : that his fears and anxieties arose from his ignorance and impatience. The energies of piety are never wasted; the prayer of faith is never offered in vain.' pp. 84-86.

The fourth and fifth sermons on the “Spirituality of God," and the “ Abominable Nature of Sin,” we have already had occasion to notice in a separate form, nor do they seem te re. quire from us any new remarks, exoopt in one respect, wherein we must doubtless have been anticipated by most of Mr. Styles's admirers. We possessed them before, and wished to llave more new ones. Money is very scárce, and books are very dear.

The sixth discourse is entitled the “ Mortality and the Destiny of Man," and is replete with solemn feelings and reflections naturally arising from subjects so awfully interesting. Although we could easily extract from it passages of a character directly opposite, yet we have resolved to produce here a paragraph which certainly exhibits in the strongest manner, Mr Styles's most censurable defects. We have no

con jecture what temptations could beset him, to write in such a strain of frigid extravagance-except he maliciously meant an outrageous caricature of some of the very worst passages of a certain amiable writer, whose volumes, he tells us, discover eloquence, learning, and piety, which entitle him to the respect of every wise, and the love of every good man.' Contribution is levied from both Milton and Shakespear to heiguten its deformity.

O Faith, assisted by thy broad telescopic eye, what do I see? First, the cold dood of death, a thousand shivering beings driven by its strong tide, soon reach the opposite shore. Now they feel that they exist; they have sprung up to life, and a vast eternity is before them. But who can describe the anguish and the bliss, the terror and the rapture, which are obvious in different countenances ! Covered with unutterable confusion, behold those victims of horror and despair-they are driven away in their wickedness -I follow them in my mind's eye," to a cavern hideous,

“On all sides round, as one great furnace flamed," and through volumes of sulphur and smoke, I read in characters of blood, " Reserved in everlasting chains of darkness till the judgement of the great day;" my soul sickens, and I turn from the scene. I wander with the blissful throng-heaven's innumerable doors are thrown open-I see them enter the beloved of God are in bis immediate presence ; they hear the songs, they join in the hallelujahs of paradise, now they are lost in the blaze of glory: pp. 187, 188.

But we hasten from a piece of affected rhetoric, which stern impartiality, alone could have induced us to transcribe, to the next sermon on the “ Joy of Angels over the Repentance of a Sinner ;" and copy its excellent introduction as a specimen of its merit. .

• How many are there in this congregation, who are strangers to genuine repentance ! who have yet to 'sorrow for their transgressions, and to turn from the error of their ways! The eye of the eternal Being marks their number, ascertains their guilt, and his power could destroy them; but he is waiting to be gra. cious; he would not that they should perish in their sins. I live,” saith the Lord God,' “ I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth ;” nay more, the Saviour assures there is joy in the presence of the angels of God, over 'one sinner that repenteth." I come not then this evening to alarm you with the thunders of divine, vengeance against impenitence; my aim is rather, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, to soften the obdurate heart, and to excite the tears of pious sorrow in those who have never repented “after a Godly sort;" and what a motive have I to urge to secure your attention, and to interest your minds ! Every angel before the throne of God is concerned in my success or failure. Imagine that you see me surrounded with thousands of these glorious beings, who are waiting with anxious suspense to know the result of my deavours. Imagine too that they are all your friends, and that they second with their compassionate looks, every argument and every appeal which I may address to the understanding and the heart. This will impress an unusual solemnity on your spirits, and who can tell but this very night, we in this assembly, may furnish the harps above with a new song of rapturous joy. That this expectation may not be visionary, O Spirit of Grace VOL. X.

: K

[ocr errors]


" that


« AnteriorContinuar »