Images de page

our national doctrine being hostile to the great interests of virtue, I must first inquire into the state of our national character. We know not a broader or stronger basis on which to try this question than a whole nation of Calvinists; and it it be true, that the theology of our pulpits is fitted to stand the withering blasts on all the moralities of the human character, what is the explanation that can be offered, if, notwithstanding an influence so baneful, it be found that Scotland, throughout all her parishes, can lift so erect a front among the nations of Christendom, not for intelligence alone, but for the worth and practical virtues of her population. There are many who can tastefully admire the loveliness of the cultivated scene, but who have neither skill nor taste for the coarse operations of husbandry: and there are many who can gaze with delight on the beauties of the moral landscape, when they utterly nauseate the principle that sustains them. Let not the deep and didactic theology of our land be exchanged for one more slender than itself, if on its basis the charities, and integrities, and sobrieties of its people are said to be upholden? Oh, let us not think lightly of that culture which yields an efflorescence so gracious as that of a virtuous and well-trained peasantry; May God grant that pure and undefiled religion shall long continue to be preached in our pulpits, and practised in our families ; and in the presentation of a people for eternity may it be seen, that in their virtuous habits and thorough moral education, we have not only fitted them for heaven, but rendered to heaven its best and highest offering, I add no more—may God command his blessing.



Printed by C, Roworth and Sons, Bell-yard, Temple-bar.


Patronized by the Clergy and others.





At St. Bride's,

Text--" Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips

I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer."--Psalm

xvii. 4. “ Satan himself,” said the Apostle Paul, “ is transformed into an angel of light.” It is no wonder, therefore, that his ministers should be in appearance as the ministers of righteousness-his works, as the works of holiness; his words, as the words of truth.

Evil, if it were always unveiled and unvarnished, and undisguised, would make but little way among the calculating and reflective portion of mankind : for those would avoid it from policy, who did not abstain from it on principle. It is then most dangerous, because most deceptive, when it assumes the semblance of good. To see actions in their proper colours, and to call things by their right names, is a part of true wisdom not frequently practised, because not commonly attained : for in truth there is but one way of attaining it, and that is pointed out in the text;

concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer."

It is peculiarly worthy of observation, that the Psalmist does not here speak of the crimes, or the faults, or the follies, or the errors, but simply of the works of men; and he obviously implies the prudence and necessity of testing all our own works by one infallible standard--the word of God. The reason of this is evident, all who make any

[No. 13.)


pretensions to what we may term the practice of Christianity, separate themselves, as if from an instinctive impulse, from the detected cheat, the notorious drunkard, the gross blasphemer, the avowed infidel, the abandoned profligate, the convicted liar: but how few in comparison are on their guard against the lax morality of interest, the licensed intemperance of conviviality, the temptation of shining in company by a wicked jest, even though it may verge on the profane, the latitude of expression or allusion which by outraging female modesty overthrows one of the barriers against sin, the equivocating language which has all the effect of falsehood without any literal deviation from the truth! These, and such things as these, are so common in our intercourse with the world that we often take no note of them, and therefore do not guard against them ; yet from these, far more than from open and flagrant immoralities, do our temptations and our perils arise. Let us consider, therefore, how we may traverse a world that lieth in wickedness, without partaking of the pollution of its vanities, or incurring the defilement of its sin--how we may navigate our course along the ocean of life, without making shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience.

To such considerations we are directed by the text; and may God vouchsafe to guide us by his Spirit into all truth while we examine, first, THE DANGER TO WHICH WE ARE EXPOSED OF ENTERING ON THE PATHS OF THE DESTROYER ; and next, THE ONLY SURE MEANS BY WHICH THIS DANGER


The danger, as we have intimated, arises from our necessary intermixture with the worst of men. We all form a part of the great social system, we have each our proper place and function therein; there are pursuits and associations, yea, even duties of every day, which necessarily bring us into contact with those who are living “ without hope and without God in the world.”

Now these persons are not invariably what we popularly term profane. Oftentimes they are mixed up with those around them, they are not deficient in general benevolence, in practical morality, in social usefulness, and sometimes, though very rarely, they are in all these respects such as even some professing Christians would do well to imitate. But whatever form it may exhibit to the outward sense, the principle of their conduct is radically defective. Their aim is too low, their view too circumscribed, their object too mean for such as are destined to and designed for an eternal duration. To express all in one word, “ they mind earthly things," and act in reference to mere secular considerations. Oftentimes they attain their object, and verily they have their reward. Whatever other benefit the obtaining of it may impart, it does not keep them from the paths of the destroyer. A man of what is termed “ a high sense of honour," may be a man of very low morality; and a state of outward decency before man is quite compatible with disobedience of, or disaffection towards, God. It is not necessary that in those who are alienated from God there should be manifest pollution without; the white and garnished sepulchre may be full of dead men's bones within ; though there may be a fair exterior, the interior displays only a miserable morality; and what the man calls forth on the part of religion, is like a gourd into which a worm has eaten and caused it to become cankered at the root. We marvel not therefore, however we may mourn, when one of the honourable of the earth is degraded from the eminence of his glory, degraded below the level of ordinary men by some act of sordid meanness or special depravity. The inconsistency readily explains itself: the man had been building on a false foundation; he thought he stood, instead of taking heed lest he should fall, and walked presumptuously in the way of his own heart, never dreaming or remembering that it was not the way of God. “ But he,” saith the Scripture, “ that trusteth in his own heart is a fool,” and to those who are guilty of this folly, whatever be their comparative worldly wisdom, the works of man and the paths of the destroyer will be one and the same.

But who is that mysterious being here designated as " the destroyer.To this we reply, that there is but one source from which it is reasonable to seek information concerning it, and if that information run parallel with our experience, so far as the experience goes, we may also infer correctly in that which is beyond or above our present experience. It is true of the destroyer as it is in relation

to the Godhead, that invisible things may be correctly inferred and clearly understood from the things that are seen ; and we feel that that man, and he alone, may deny the existence of the tempter, who can aver that he is himself inaccessible to temptation, that he is at no time induced to do that which he ought not to do, or to leave undone that which he ought to have done. But wherever the tendency towards evil has been detected, and wherever - which is the necessary consequence, it cannot be denied -a state which must include all who enter one of our churches, and unite without reservation or hypocrisy in the confession of our liturgy, there it is evident that temptation exists, and that existing it must proceed either from the heart itself, from the baneful influence of some malignant power, or from God.

Now the last is impossible ; at least on the supposition that the Scripture is the word of truth ; "For God,” we are told, “cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man;" and though the same authority testifies that every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lusts and enticed,” yet the heart though a prolific is not the exclusive source of temptation ; for it is again declared, “ Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour.” Here, then, we at once identify the devourer of the New Testament, and the destroyer of the Old; and the mystery regarding the nature of the infuriate spirit-the mystery which envelopes his mode of existence, the extent of his power, and the precise form and process of his operations against the soul of man, while it makes our conception of him the more fearful, does not render our information respecting bim in any whit less credible. Concerning the word of God we may assume as a first principle, that if ever from the imperfection of our reason, or the bias of our will, it seems scarcely possible that it should be true, yet it not only seems, but it is altogether impossible, that it should be untrue, and it would be a conclusion as periluus as precipitate, that certain parts of the sacred volume cannot be reconciled or explained just because we are not competent to reconcile and explain them. We may sever the knot of many mysteries by the keen edge of the Sa

« PrécédentContinuer »