Images de page
PDF
ePub

step of his

Am I told, by way of objection, that it is difficult to maintain it amid the world's exposures ? I know it is so. But I know as well that it is more difficult to be a thorough Christian in solitude. Unitarianism does not profess to remove all difficulties from our path, though it does enable us to surmount them. It is not indeed the easy way of faith without works, of devotion without virtue, of feeling without practical effort; and I thank God that it is not. Difficulty is appointed to man in great kindness. Our character would be weak and puny, if we had nothing to struggle with and overcome. What is the plant that grows up in the shade ? What is the mountain oak that has wrestled with the storm ? Even Jesus Christ, had difficulty to encounter, and this too at every

progress. But who will say that he did not reap benefit from it? The scriptures tell us, that he was 'made perfect through suffering.' And then, too, his reward was the greater for it. It was 'for enduring the cross and despising its shame,' say the same scriptures, that he was exalted at the right hand of God. To the Author and Finisher of our faith we are to look for a pattern. God has placed us in this world of virtuous men and of vicious men, this world of toil and temptation, this world of difficulty and sorrow, not that we should escape from its trials and its duties ; but that we should be in the midst of them, bearing ourselves manfully and religiously, and perfecting holiness, in his fear, by combating and vanquishing the evils of our lot. Yes, it is in the world, in the diversified relations of life, in the daily pressure of multiplied pursuits, whether at home or abroad, in the shop or in the field, in the office or in the mart, that the reality of our religious experiences must appear; and if it appears not there, it is in vain that it does so here,

He that is not a Christian in his common, every day dependences and avocations, is not a Christian at all. A man who is a tyrant in his family, or a knave in the place of his business, or immoral anywhere, may talk of his experiences, if he please;—but, let me tell him, they have, in the sight of the omniscient God, no more desert than the breathings of the winds, or the playings of the sunbeams. Look then, to your life, Christians. Here is the true test of the genuineness of your experiences. Other evidences may deceive you ; this never can. Others may be misunderstood ; this bears signatures intelligible to men and angels.

IV. Thus, I have answered, as I was able, the question, what is religious experience ? We perceive there is no mystery about it. It is a plain, practical matter, to which every one is competent, who will apply the principles of God's revelations according to the methods of his appointment. What are these methods?

1. I take it upon myself to say, first, it is his appointment, that we aim to make the thought, that we are able to apply these principles so as to become the subjects of experimental religion, one of our most familiar thoughts. And I say this, because every page of his holy word addresses us as free agents, capable of moral obedience, responsible to him for our actions, and destined to reward or punishment according to our doings and character. Has God, then, given us the ability, and thus made it our duty, to experience religion ? Let us not hesitate to think that we can experience it. Here is the beginning of every great achievement. That this is true in business, every one knows. It is true in religion. He who imagines himself impotent, will be likely to be impotent in fact Form no low estimate of the power which your Maker has given you. It is ingratitude to the Giver to despise his gifts. It paralizes effort to fancy that little or nothing can be done. Think that you can do much, and you will attempt much. I have small hope of him who is always brooding over what he calls the worthlessness of human nature. I have great hope of him, who, while he thinks and speaks modestly of his attainments, believes he has faculties given him by God for noble acquisitions.

2. In the next place, believing that we can experience religion, we are to regard it as God's appointment, that we give attention to the subject. Nothing of course is to be expected without this. Religious acquisitions are subject to the same law with other acquisitions. They demand that we apply our minds to serious, intense, and prolonged consideration of religious topics. We may find the task a difficult one at first. What then ? Do we not know that this is the case with almost all new subjects ? Have

we not found the same to happen in our worldly concerns ? Yet, by strenuous and repeated effort, have we not found the repugnance to grow less and less, till at length we came to be pleased with what before was irksome? And so it is in spiritual concerns. Let it be, that religion has little attraction for us at first. This is not a sufficient reason for abandoning it. We should rather force ourselves to contemplate it; should compel our wandering thoughts to dwell

it once aj again; should remember that if we dismiss it now, because it does not suit our taste, it will certainly return at last to suit our taste still less, and perhaps to find us incapable of feeling its power and enjoying its comforts. At the same time, we may assure ourselves, that, by persevering in efforts of attention, we shall infallibly gain the mastery over our reluctant thoughts, and finally shall come to love what, in the beginning, was a subject of indifference, if not of disgust.

upon

3. Finally, in seeking to be the subjects of experimental religion, we must consider it as God's appointment, that we use all the means which he has given us, adapted to fix its principles within us, and to impart its spirit to our conduct. These means are various. One of them is, to avoid as much as possible the influence of profligate associates. Another is, to have nothing to do with books that disguise impurity under the name of wit, and soften licentiousness by the coloring of fancy. A third is, to seize, amid secular pursuits, every moment we can, for serious reflections. Again, we must inquire of history for the wisdom of the wise and the examples of the good, and ask of nature and providence what they can teach us of the divine character and purposes. It is, also, to be a settled principle with us, to mingle our sympathies and devotions, as we have opportunity, with those of our fellow men in the temple of the Most High. Then, there are the holy scriptures, which speak of the Father of all, of the Redeemer, of heaven, of hell, and of man's duty, to be read and pondered. The ordinances of the church, too, are the appointed helps to the perfection of our experiences. There is prayer, moreover, that means of wonderful efficacy-private and domestic prayer, which we are no more to neglect than our daily food. And last, though not least, there is action-useful action, from which, God has ordained, there shall come back to the heart a quickening and sanctifying power, making that, which is the purpose and end of the affections, also the means of rendering them holier, stronger, and more efficient prompters of all the virtues.

[ocr errors]

UNITARIAN CHRISTIANITY

FREE FROM

OBJECTIONABLE EXTREMES.

By SAMUEL GILMAN.

SECOND EDITION.

PRINTED FOR THE

American Unitariant Association.

BOSTON,
GRAY AND BOWEN, 141 WASHINGTON STREET.

1831. Price 4 Cents.

« PrécédentContinuer »