« ForrigeFortsæt »
to look for its moral beauties, its holy influences, its delicious and soul-satisfying fruits, in the mass of professed christians, so much as in the hearts and lives of individual disciples. The subject should be brought home to our own bosoms, and exert its legitimate, its sustaining and sanctifying influences upon our hopes, our tempers, our conduct, in all the relations in which we are placed; that it may accompany us in our trials, shield us from temptations, strengthen our virtue, increase our faith, reconcile us to the dispensations of a just and wise Providence; and, in short, to qualify us for the duties and sufferings of life, and to afford us the blessed prospect of immortal beatitude in the spirit-land.
In considering this subject, with special reference to our individual condition, as "strangers and pilgrims on the earth;" in reflecting upon its direct bearing upon our spiritual interests, as creatures destined to pass away from all earthly scenes, the mind can conceive of nothing, however grand and sublime, that can transcend its value, or be brought into competition with it. The re
ark is a trite one, yet it is immutable truth, and worthy of frequent reiteration, that nothing of an earthly character, however splendid
in appearance, or desirable to the senses, can satisfy the mind of man. No station, however exalted, no pageantry, however gay and fascinating, can ever afford that calm serenity of soul, that quiet and perfect rest to the spirit, for which he often sighs in bitterness and despondency. Religion, daughter of Heaven, pure and purifying, speaks peace to the troubled soul, calms the boisterous waves on the agitated ocean of life, and gives the most perfect rest to its possessor. It smoothes the uneven and often rugged pathway of life, begets in the mind a firm trust in the infinite wisdom and rectitude of the Divine government, and draws out the affections of the human heart to God, as to the Giver of all good, and the portion of the soul forever.
Experimental religion should be regarded, not merely as intellectual in its character, and therefore attainable by the learned only; it should rather be considered as adapted to the capacity, and within the reach of all, without distinction of nation, color, caste, or grade; equally meeting and satisfying the spiritual wants of the humblest cottager, and him who stands highest on the roll of fame. It is equally adapted to the monarch seated upon his throne, and the lowliest peasant in
his dominions. As taught and exemplified by Jesus and his Apostles, the poor, the needy, the ignorant and those who were out of the way, were objects of its heavenly solicitude, and sharers in its mighty and life-giving energies. It is indeed, a religion for the people; for the WORLD. And as this is a subject in which no particular sect, or party is exclusively interested, but which commends itself equally to all, we should endeavor, as sincere and candid inquirers after truth, to obtain a clear understanding of it. We should not suffer ourselves to be blinded in regard to its true character, by considering experimental religion as an inexplicable mystery, which we cannot fathom, and of the operations of which, upon ourselves, we can give no satisfactory or intelligible account. We have great reason to fear that many who have entertained this view, have thrown around the whole subject such a drapery of mysticism, that thousands have been perplexed and bewildered in their anxious researches after "the one thing needful." The labors of this class of divines, have, as we verily believe, had a direct tendency to "darken counsel by words without knowledge."
Neither should we be led astray by exhor
tations to surrender the reason which God has given us for wise and noble purposes, in our investigations upon this subject. No, beloved reader; experimental religion is perfectly compatible with the free and untrammelled excercise of reason and sound philosophy. Nor yet should we too hastily imbibe the sentiment, that before we can have any knowledge of experimental religion, we must undergo a radical, total change of our nature; that some new faculties must be given us, differing entirely from those with which the Creator originally endowed us.
The doctrine of a radical, supernatural change of man's nature, in our opinion, receives no support from the Scriptures, when rightly interpreted; and not only so, but we believe it operates as a direct and powerful hindrance to many, by 'shutting up the kingdom of heaven" against them. It undoubtedly originated in the doctrine of innate, total depravity. If, therefore, it be shown that the latter is not taught in the Scriptures of truth, it follows then, that the former is not to be relied on. They must stand or fall together. And with a view to present this subject in all its proper light, and to exhibit the true doctrine of revelation, as a foundation
on which the whole superstructure of religion is reared, we will here introduce the text : "And were by nature the children of wrath, even as others."
It may not be improper to observe in this place, that the language of this text, and that of several other passages of similar import, has given rise to much perplexity in many strong, inquiring minds. Owing to a false education, and the power of tradition, aided by the unhappy influence of a disordered imagination, very many have been led to conclude that the inspired writers have given countenance to the monstrous sentiment, that mankind in a "state of nature," or destitute of a saving knowledge and influence of " grace and truth," have always been the objects of the unmitigated wrath of an offended Deity! This sentiment has been so widely diffused, and has gained such general credit in the christian community, that it is next to impossible to find an individual who has not at some period of his life, experienced its bitter and withering effects. Under this impression, some have been disqualified for the appropriate duties of life; the cup of innocent joy has been poisoned, destroying all relish for rational enjoyment and even for social inter