Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

of the soul. In no part of his character, however, do they appear to us so amiable and just, as in his views of the station and duties of the clergyman. He revered the office of an ambassador of Christ, and felt that it was not to be lightly assumed. He looked upon it as an office demanding no common gifts and discipline, and even after years of toilsome preparation, he shrunk from its labors and responsibilities, as too great for his unaided strength. We cannot but commend his example, in this respect, as teaching a salutary lesson to the young men who, at every stage of their academic or theological studies, are ever ready to anticipate the duties for which they are preparing, but for which they are not yet prepared. In his view (and we apprehend, that most intelligent Christians are of the same opinion), this readiness to stand in the place, and undertake the duties of an appointed minister of the gospel, would be alike inconsistent with the modesty of youth, and injurious to its intellectual and moral improvement. At best, we have but little respect for the practice, so prevalent in this age, and particularly in this country, of elevating young men to be counsellors and guides of the people. We should be slow to believe, that the republic has derived the slightest political benefit from the youthful conventions which have been so frequently held, since these days of party strife began. But this practice assumes a graver character, and deserves a more decided reproof, when it calls from their appropriate discipline, students of our academies and colleges, before they have even begun their theological studies, and places them in the pulpit, in the high capacity of teachers of religion. Whatever may be said in its defence, we are persuaded this practice is productive of most serious evils. It lowers the standard of clerical character; it diminishes the authority and sanctity of the pulpit, and, too often, destroys in the youthful mind its respect for an assembly of immortal beings, and for the holy services of the sanctuary, and begets, in its place, a feeling of self-sufficiency and a thirst for applause that ill become the candidate for so sacred and venerable an office. As it seems to us, the days have gone by, when this is necessary or even excusable. The glorious gospel of the blessed God is a theme too vast, and too sublime, and the instruction of men in righteousness a work too great and responsible, to be entrusted unnecessarily to undisciplined tyros.

If there is a class of men on earth, whose minds should be free from the dominion of whatever is narrow and gross, and be made the home of all that is pure and lovely, who should be models of lofty character to the young, and pioneers of the people in all the nobler interests of life; that class assuredly is the pastors of the Christian church. The station which they occupy, if rightly understood, is one of the most elevated and ennobling which society presents. When filled by piety, by dignity, and by intellectual and social worth, the pastoral office can hardly fail to command the respect, and promote the best interests of all classes of men. On the contrary, when its nature is mistaken, and its dignity inadequately conceived of, when it is filled by narrowness or ignorance, by dulness or recklessness, its influence may be pernicious, and the pulpit, instead of being

“ The most important and effectual guard,

Support and ornament of virtue's cause,” may become the oracle from which precepts of error and discord are delivered to the people.

We have met with few men who seem to have thought and felt more justly, on the character of the clerical profession, than the subject of this sketch. His early resolution never to obtrude himself on the public, and on all occasions to act on the principles of Christian honor and magnanimity, he seems never to have departed from. He had no relish for the bustle and tumult even of religious affairs. He formed opinions for himself on all subjects, and when occasion demanded, he fearlessly expressed them. But it was more congenial with his own taste, and, as he conceived, more in harmony with the dignity of the Christian minister, to retire from the grosser strifes that agitate the spirits of men. He loved “the still air of delightful studies,” and the calm prospect of the glory and grandeur of outward nature. His spirit drank in exquisite delight from the bland sympathies of friendship, and from the hallowed associations of private and social worship. He loved, too, the duties of the pulpit, and, though it was with feelings of reverence that he stood forth as the ambassador of God to guilty men, yet he was no timid preacher of the gospel, no sanctimonious seeker of popular applause.

He has been summoned away from the stations of usefulness and honor, which he seemed so well fitted to adorn, and has gone down to an early grave; but we rejoice to know that the light of his example is still around us, and that his character still lives enshrined in the affections and respect of all who knew him.

Article VII.

PRACTICAL KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.

We use the term, practical, in the title of this article, in distinction from theoretical; yet we do not intend to represent them as really opposed to each other. For theoretical knowledge may agree with practical, and greatly enhance it. Still they may exist independent of each other; at least one may possess theoretical, without practical knowledge. He may be acquainted with the character of another from mere general description, or he may be acquainted with it, from intimate converse, and reciprocal affection. “And this is life eternal,” said the Saviour, in that affecting prayer which he offered for his disciples, just before his death, “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent."' But "life eternal" cannot be the result of simple or theoretical knowledge, however profound; for we may understand “all mysteries and all knowledge,” and yet be “nothing.” “Many shall say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? Then shall I profess, and say to them, I know you not; depart from me, ye workers of iniquity.”

That knowledge, then, of God, and of Christ, which constitutes eternal life, is intimate, practical, endearing. It is a knowledge derived from fellowship and sympathy, a knowledge that binds and blesses. Of course, such a knowledge is founded upon scriptural and adequate views of the Divine character; but it goes far beyond this, and like the intimate acquaintance of two friends, which hinds

VOL. IV.-NO. XIV.

35

Mented as the are in Christ, and his he precise con of man

heart to heart, and soul to soul, it binds the spirit of man to the spirit of his God. This is the precise connection subsisting between Christ and his people. Christ is in them,—they are in Christ. Thus our Saviour is represented as the head of the church, just as if one heart animated them both. In the same manner, Christians are united with God. “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” One glorious bond of knowledge, affection and sympathy unites them all. “Ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's.” How beautiful and impressive is our Saviour's prayer, when viewed in this light! “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word ; that they all may be one: as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us ; I in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.”

It must be evident to every one who looks abroad, with an observant eye upon the great mass of mankind, that most indefinite and erroneous views prevail among men with regard to the character of God, and the relations in which, as rational, responsible, and immortal beings, they stand to his government. Sin hath blinded their eyes, and extinguished the light of heaven within the soul. And although ample means have been provided in the gospel of Christ for dissipating the gloom, and recalling the light, yet such is the perversity of the heart, that men will not come forth from the dark region of unbelief in which they have entrenched themselves. The Sun of righteousness shines brightly around them, and all nature is instinct with the spirit and power of God; but they love the darkness of their own prison more than the light of heaven's effulgent luminary. It is not for want of information that men are ignorant of God; nor of capacity to take advantage of that information. The fault is in the will, or rather, in the disposition of the heart, which is alien from God, and full of opposition to the strict purity, and spotless perfection of the Divine character. The affections frequently control the intellect; and, since the heart has become adverse to God, the intellect does not recognise “the truth as it is in Jesus.” It is too holy to be even understood, still more to be received and cherished. “Because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not,” said our Saviour to the proud and self-righteous Pharisees, who rejected the gospel, for no other reason than its perfect purity. “The natural man discerneth not the things of the Spirit, neither can he know them.” This, however, does not happen because the natural man has no capacity for believing it, but because he hates it, and turns away from its high and holy claims. “God is not in all his thoughts ;'' or if he gives his mind to the contemplation of the Divine character, he looks at it through the imperfect medium of disordered affections. Hence, his very heart is enmity to God, is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." But let his heart be purified, and he will form and cherish the true conception of the Divine character; for he will then gaze upon it through a pure medium. Again, the light is offensive to him, because it discovers his corruption. The truth of the gospel pains his apostate heart, as the rays of the sun do a diseased eye. Hence, he will not come to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. This is always painful; it must always produce either contrition or despair, feelings from which it is natural for guilt to recoil. A right acquaintance with God would make him happy; but he dreads the process through which the mind in such a case usually passes. Conviction must precede conversion; the pang of conscious guilt must usher in the birth of immortal hope. This transition, from a state of comparative indifference to one of agitation and dread, and through this to hope and joy, is greatly disrelished by the sinner.

It is true, men often conceive of a God whom they can love, and upon whose image their minds can repose with complacency; but this is only a figment of their own imaginations, as unreal as the forms with which the ancient Greeks peopled Olympus. Nothing is more common than to measure the Deity by a human standard, and bring him down to the narrow limits of our own views and feelings. The consequence of this is, the formation of a great variety of fictitious deities. They are of course suited to the conceptions and the feelings of the various individuals who form the great mass of unsanctified humanity. Were it possible for all such idols, now enshrined in the hearts of men, to start into palpable forms before our eyes,

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »