English Baptist Minister, Bishop
English Baptist Minister, Bishop
To fill the minds of the public with hatreds, jealousies, and suspicions is to poison the fountains of public security. When this spirit is once awakened among a people, the character and conduct of its rulers seldom fail, in the long run, to be injured by it. Under disasters which the utmost wisdom cannot prevent, under burdens which the strictest economy may impose, government presents a plain, a palpable, and permanent pretext of discontent and suspicion. Misery has a sort of relief in attributing its sufferings to the conduct of others, and while it soothes its anguish by resentment and clamor it fastens on the object that first presents itself. This object will naturally be the rulers of the nation.
What a scene must a field of battle present, where thousands are left without assistance and without pity, with their wounds exposed to the piercing air, while the blood, freezing as it flows, binds them to the earth, amid the trampling of horses and the insults of an enraged foe! If they are spared by the humanity of the enemy and carried from the field, it is but a prolongation of torment. Conveyed in uneasy vehicles often to a remote distance, through roads almost impassable, they are lodged in ill-prepared receptacles for the wounded and the sick, where the variety of distress baffles all the efforts of humanity and skill, and renders it impossible to give to each the attention he demands. Far from their native home, no tender assiduities of friendship, no well-known voice, no wife, or mother, or sister, is near to soothe their sorrows, relieve their thirst, or close their eyes in death. Unhappy man! and must you be swept into the grave unnoticed and unnumbered, and no friendly tear be shed for your sufferings or mingled with your dust!
Without the permanent union of the sexes there can be no permanent families: the dissolution of nuptial ties involves the dissolution of domestic society. But domestic society is the seminary of social affections, the cradle of sensibility, where the first elements are acquired of that tenderness and humanity which cement mankind together; and were they entirely extinguished the whole fabric of social institutions would be dissolved. Families are so many centres of attraction, which preserve mankind from being scattered and dissipated by the repulsive powers of selfishness. The order of nature is ever from particulars to generals. As in the operations of intellect we proceed from the contemplation of individuals to the formation of general abstractions, so in the development of the passions, in like manner, we advance from private to public affections; from the love of parents, brothers, and sisters, to those more expanded regards which embrace the immense society of human kind.
On the one hand it deserves attention, that the most eminent and successful preachers of the gospel in the different communities, a Brainerd, a Baxter, and a Schwartz, have been the most conspicuous for a simple dependence upon spiritual aid; and on the other, that no success whatever has attended the ministrations of those by whom this doctrine has been either neglected or denied. They have met with such a rebuke of their presumption in the total failure of their efforts that none will contend for the reality of divine interposition as far as they are concerned: for when has ?the arm of the Lord been revealed? to those pretended teachers of Christianity who believe there is no such arm? We must leave them to labor in a field respecting which God has commanded the clouds not to rain upon it.
Superstition is the disease of nations, enthusiasm that of individuals: the former grows more inveterate by time, the latter is cured by it.
The fame of Locke is visibly on the decline; the speculations of Malebranche are scarcely heard of in France; and Kant, the greatest metaphysical name on the Continent, sways a doubtful sceptre amidst a host of opponents.
The system which founds morality on utility, a utility, let it be always remembered, confined to the purposes of the present world, issued with ill omen from the school of infidelity. It was first broached, I believe, certainly first brought into general notice, by Mr. Hume, in his Treatise on Morals, which he himself pronounced incomparably the best he ever wrote. It was incomparably the best for his purpose; nor is it easy to imagine a mind so acute as his did not see the effect it would have in setting morality and religion afloat, and substituting for the stability of principle the looseness of speculation and opinion. It has since been rendered popular by a succession of eminent writers; by one especially (I doubt not with intentions very foreign from those of Mr. Hume), whose great services to religion in other respects, together with my high reverence for his talents, prevent me from naming. This venerable author, it is probable, little suspected to what lengths the principle would be carried, or to what purposes it would be applied in other hands.
To have co-operated in any degree towards the accomplishment of that purpose of the Deity to reconcile all things to himself by reducing them to the obedience of his Son, which is the ultimate end of all his works,?to be the means of recovering though it were but an inconsiderable portion of a lapsed and degenerate race to eternal happiness, will yield a satisfaction exactly commensurate to the force of our benevolent sentiments and the degree of our loyal attachment to the supreme Potentate. The consequences involved in saving a soul from death, and hiding a multitude of sins, will be duly appreciated in that world where the worth of souls and the malignity of sin are fully understood; while to extend the triumphs of the Redeemer, by forming him in the hearts of men, will produce a transport which can only be equaled by the gratitude and love we shall feel towards the Source of all good.
What can be a more pitiable object than decrepitude sinking under the accumulated load of years and of penury? Arrived at that period when the most fortunate confess they have no pleasure, how forlorn is his situation who, destitute of the means of subsistence, has survived his last child or his last friend! Solitary and neglected, without comfort and without hope, depending for everything on a kindness he has no means of conciliating, he finds himself left alone in a world to which he has ceased to belong, and is only felt in society as a burden it is impatient to shake off.
You might have traversed the Roman empire in the zenith of its power, from the Euphrates to the Atlantic, without meeting with a single charitable asylum for the sick. Monuments of pride, of ambition, of vindictive wrath, were to be found in abundance; but not one legible record of commiseration for the poor. It was reserved for the religion whose basis is humility, and whose element is devotion, to proclaim with authority, ?Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.?
Laws will not be obeyed, harmony in society cannot be maintained, without virtue; virtue cannot subsist without religion.
Patriotism is a blind and irrational impulse unless it is founded on a knowledge of the blessings we are called to secure and the privileges we propose to defend.
Suppose there were a great and glorious being always present with us, who had given us existence, with numberless other blessings, and on whom we depended each instant as well for every present enjoyment as for every future good; suppose, again, we had incurred the just displeasure of such a being by ingratitude and disobedience, yet that in great mercy he had not cast us off, but had assured us he was willing to pardon and restore us on our humble entreaty and sincere repentance; say, would not an habitual sense of the presence of this being, self-reproach for having displeased him, and an anxiety to recover his favour, be the most effectual antidote to pride? But such are the leading discoveries made by the Christian revelation, and such the dispositions which a practical belief of it inspires.
The friendship of high and sanctified spirits loses nothing by death but its alloy; failings disappear, and the virtues of those whose ?faces we shall behold no more? appear greater and more sacred when beheld through the shades of the sepulchre.
The tendency of pride to produce strife and hatred is sufficiently apparent from the pains men have been at to construct a system of politeness, which is nothing more than a sort of mimic humility, in which the sentiments of an offensive self-estimation are so far disguised and suppressed as to make them compatible with the spirit of society: such a mode of behaviour as would naturally result from an attention to the apostolic injunction: Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but, in lowliness of mind, let each esteem other better than themselves. But if the semblance be of such importance, how much more useful the reality! If the mere garb of humility be of such indispensable necessity that without it society could not subsist, how much better still would the harmony of the world be preserved were the condescension, deference, and respect so studiously displayed a true picture of the heart!
To imitate the highest examples, to do good in ways not usual to the same rank of life, to make great exertions and sacrifices in the cause of religion and with a view to eternal happiness, to determine without delay to reduce to practice whatever we applaud in theory, are modes of conduct which the world will generally condemn as romantic.
What is friendship in virtuous minds but the concentration of benevolent emotions heightened by respect and increased by exercise on one or more objects? Friendship is not a state of feeling whose elements are specifically different from those which compose every other. The emotions we feel towards a friend are the same in kind with those we experience on other occasions; but they are more complex and more exalted. It is the general sensibility to kind and social affections, more immediately directed to one or more individuals, and in consequence of its particular direction giving birth to an order of feeling more vivid and intense than usual, which constitutes friendship.
Your employment is that of the Son of God; it makes no great appearance before men, but it will finally arise in majesty to overshadow all created glory.
Let me remind you that repentance is a duty of greater extent than many are apt to suppose, who, confining their view on such occasions as these to a few of the grosser disorders of their lives, pay little attention to the heart: they are satisfied with feeling a momentary compunction and attempting a partial reformation, instead of crying with the royal penitent, ?Create in me a clean heart!? They determine to break off particular vices,?an excellent resolution as far as it goes,?without proposing to themselves a life of habitual devotion, without imploring, under a sense of weakness, that grace which can alone renew the heart, making, in the words of our Lord, the tree good, that the fruit may be good also.
Perhaps few authors have been distinguished by more similar features of character than Homer and Milton. That vastness of thought which fills the imagination, and that sensibility of spirit which renders every circumstance interesting, are the qualities of both: but Milton is the most sublime, and Homer the most picturesque.
Swearing is properly a superfluity of naughtiness, and can only be considered as a sort of pepper-corn rent, in acknowledgment of the devil?s right of superiority.
The gradations even of rank, which are partly the cause and partly the effect of the highest social improvements, are accompanied with so many incidental evils that nothing but an enlarged contemplation of their ultimate tendency and effect could reconcile us to the monstrous incongruities and deformities they display, in wealth which ruins us possessor, titles which dignify the base, and influence exerted to none but the most mischievous purposes.
The true prop of good government is opinion,?the perception on the part of the subject of benefits resulting from it,?a settled conviction, in other words, of its being a public good. Now, nothing can produce or maintain that opinion but knowledge, since opinion is a form of knowledge.
To obliterate the sense of Deity, of moral sanctions, and of a future world,?and by these means to prepare the way for the total subversion of every institution, both social and religious, which men have been hitherto accustomed to revere,?is evidently the principal object of modern skeptics; the first sophists who have avowed an attempt to govern the world without inculcating the persuasion of a superior power.
What may we suppose is the reason of this? Why are so many impressed and so few profited? It is unquestionably because they are not obedient to the first suggestion of conscience. What that suggestion is it may not be easy precisely to determine; but it certainly is not to make haste to efface the impression by frivolous amusement, by gay society, by entertaining reading, or even by secular employment: it is probably to meditate and pray. Let the first whisper, be what it may, of the internal monitor be listened to as an oracle, as the still small voice which Elijah heard when he wrapped his face in his mantle, recognizing it to be the voice of God. Be assured it will not mislead you; it will conduct you one step at least towards happiness and truth; and by a prompt and punctual compliance with it you will be prepared to receive ampler communications and superior light.