Billeder på siden

one moment disparaged. Oh, that there were more of it among those who are the partakers of the still higher principle of divine grace! But let it not be mistaken for a proof of true piety. It may spring from another source. It does spring from another source in the case of all those who have no fear of God, no love of Christ, no hope of salvation, before their eyes. Our goodnsss must also be godliness, else we have reason to fear that hitherto we have been only almost Christians."

One more criterion of true piety will engage our attention, and only one: the interest that we take in Christianity, in its public services, its ordinances, and its ministers. Besides benevolence and conscientiousness, as fundamental parts of human nature, there

may be in a soul as yet destitute of vital godliness a genuine regard for Christianity as a system, together with a considerable amount of pleasure in the public services of religion. This may be the result of mere educational training. Hence the necessity of a careful scrutiny of the motives by which we are induced to support the cause of Christ in the world, and to give liberally towards its propagation in foreign parts. Hence also the necessity of examining the pleasure that we feel in the different parts of the public service. Do these motives and these seasons of enjoyment bear the marks of a heavenly origin? Do we love the sanctuary, because it is the house of God ?Do we take pleasure in its songs, because they are the praises of God ? Does the sermon afford us satisfaction, as being a faithful exposition of God's truth, or as being a faithful representation of our own opinions and sentiments ? After we have made due allowance for the force of habit, for the force of conscience, and for the intellectual, social, and sensuous gratification that is furnished by a well-ordered public service, does there still remain a perceptible residuum of real delight in it as being the service of God; a delight that increases with the increase of devoutness and spirituality that may pervade the whole engagement ? If we cannot reply satisfactorily to questions such as these, again we have reason to fear that hitherto we have been only almost Christians.

Let us now, before passing on, gather up the results of our investigation. We have carefully reviewed some of those elements of character which seem to be possessed both by the almost Christian and by the Christian indeed. We have found that we may have pious people among our most intimate friends, good religious books among our constant companions; we may give alms bountifully and secretly; we may be conscientious in our ordinary dealings, and strongly attached to Christianity, to its doctrines, and to its ordinances ; and, though possessing any or all of these, may yet be only dwellers on the borders of the Saviour's kingdom-« almost Christians.”

Does this decision seem to you severe ? The disciples said to our Lord, “Who then can be saved ?”—and yet you cannot have travelled with us thus far without perceiving how essential is the difference between these two classes, though they seem so much alike. You must have felt that this resemblance, when traced to its source, ceases altogether; and that God, who beholds the heart, will approve the one, and reject the other.

Oh, how glorious a thing is it to have the heart influenced by the gospel of Christ ! to trust in Christ as a person, rather than in Christianity as a system! to build our hopes on Him as a person, rather than on any outward forms or human ceremonies ! to be thus born again! to possess this spiritual life! Where these divine principles reign within, Jesus will be “the chiefest among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely !" “ Without this heaven-born love," however correct our doctrinal views, however strict our outward observances, however laudable our exertions, however pure our morality, we shall be “as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”

Once more, gentle reader, permit us to repeat the important truth, that if our goodness be not also godliness, we are only almost-Christians; for the scriptures assure us that “without faith it is impossible to please God." Though no human eye can discover, and no human judgment determine with certainty our spiritual position; though human judgments concerning us may be, as they often are, and always ought to be, exceedingly charitable, we are what we are, and not what others kindly take us to be. Hence the importance of a most solemn, careful, and candid scrutiny of our own hearts-a scrutiny, that for its severity and exactness shall anticipate the judgmentday-and, if needs be, lead to a reversal of its awful decision.

And now let us turn once more to that interview between the young

ruler and our Lord, with a reference to which these reflections commenced. The result of the conversation was, that he went away; not indifferent, not unaffected, but agitated and sorrowful. The love of wealth and of the pleasures of this present world triumphed over his better feelings and purposes. True, it was a very severe test that the Saviour applied, but it was only by an investigation so searching that one so near the kingdom of heaven could be made to see that there was still a great and fundamental deficiency. He was called to make a decided choice ; to render a whole-hearted obedience to the Redeemer, whatever it might have cost him; and an ample return was promised : “ Thou shalt have treasures in heaven.”

And what will be the result of the perusal of these reflections on the minds of those who read them? What impression will they make? Will this little tract be laid down carelessly, or with deep thoughtfulness ? with sorrow, or with satisfaction ? with a resolution soon to read it again, or with a determination that it shall never be again permitted to awaken doubts that cannot be easily satisfied, and fears that cannot be soon allayed ?

Some will lay it down silently, and with sorrow; for it will declare to them a very unwelcome truth, a truth, perhaps, that they had never discovered before. Oh, that such, having discovered their fatal deficiency, may never rest until it is supplied ! Oh! that they inquire, as they have never inquired before, both of the Bible and at the throne of grace,_"What must I do to be saved ?" Having been thus awakened, they may, without fail, discover in the word of God both promises and petitions that suit their case; promises which say encouragingly,—“A new heart will I give you, and a right spirit will I put within you;" “If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him ;" and prayers, the burden of which is, “ Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me;" “O Lord, open thou my lips; and' my mouth shall show forth thy praise !"



THERE are multitudes who never transgress the bounds of morality; who discharge punctually and cheerfully all social and relative duties ; who are upright and honourable; who display a large-hearted philanthropy; who are true patriots; and who enjoy the respect of all who know them ; but of whom there is not the slightest reason to believe that they have experienced that great change which is indispensable to the enjoyment of the divine favour on earth, and without which none can be admitted to heaven. They still lack one thing ; but that is the greatest of all, the “ one thing needful.” It often happens that there is far greater difficulty in leading such minds as these to the acknowledgement of their sinfulness, and to a practical, saving acquaintance with the truth, than many others whose conduct has been marked by much that is glaringly wrong This is especially the case when the habits and sentiments we have described have been confirmed by years. It is comparatively seldom that we find an aged man of this class, and particularly one who has all his life enjoyed the advantages of an evangelical ministry, receiving "the kingdom of God as a little child." But there are such instances; and some of them are so interesting, so replete with encouragement, so fraught with instruction, that they well deserve to be recorded. Such an instance will be found in the following brief narrative.

Mr. B—- was the son of respectable, though not wealthy parents, who resided, at the time of his birth, in a small village situated in the beautiful valley of the Ribble, about a mile from Preston, in Lancashire. His father subsequently removed to the town itself; and the subject of our narrative, who had previously, whilst residing with a maternal uncle, attended the grammar school at Hawkshead, where the poet Wordsworth was his schoolfellow, completed that part of his education which he received at school, in an establishment of a similar kind in Preston. At the time he left school, his father was a cotton-spinner, and it was intended that he should follow that business. His preferences, however, led him in another direction. He had a taste for intellectual pursuits, and thinking that the business of a printer was more favourable to mental cultivation than the trade of his father, he was, at his own request, apprenticed to a printer and stationer in Preston, with whom he remained till he was about twenty-one years of age. Desiring

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a situation where he would have greater scope for improvement, he then made arrangements with his master to give him his indentures, the term of his apprenticeship wanting still two years of its completion. He journeyed on foot to the town of L- and obtained employment in the office of one of its newspapers, resolving inwardly as he entered that office, that if he once obtained a footing there he would never leave it. He gained the entire confidence of his employers ; established a character for sobriety and integrity, as well as ability; and very shortly became the proprietor of the establishment which he had entered as an adventurer in search of employment. He found friends who were willing to render him temporary assistance ; formed a matrimonial connexion with a person of great energy

and worth--a connexion which exerted no slight influence on his future success ; was diligent, energetic, temperate; gradually, though safely and surely, extended his business, and raised the circulation and character of the newspaper which he published, till at length he had the satisfaction of seeing it occupy the first rank amongst provincial journals. He took a prominent part in the principal public and philanthropic movements of the day. There was scarcely a benevolent institution in the town in which he lived to which he did not extend whatever support was in his power; and he was a warm friend to everything which was calculated to advance the social and intellectual progress of his fellowtownsmen and of the country at large. Notwithstanding the jealousies of party, few men have secured a larger amount of respect. He had the honour of being elected by his fellowtownsmen to serve them as their representative in three successive parliaments, when he retired, in consequence of declining health and advancing age. His parliamentary career was most honourable to himself. His gentlemanly bearing; the sound sense and ability which he displayed whenever he claimed the attention of the House ; and his business-like habits, obtained for him the esteem of men whose political views were the very antipodes of his own. That his services in parliament were highly appreciated by his constituents, is apparent from the number of times which they chose him as their representative, and from the fact that on his retirement from public life they united in presenting to him a costly testimonial, inscribed with a most kindly and flattering inscription.

We have sketched these particulars very briefly, because it is our purpose rather to dwell on Mr. B- -'s religious character. His life was blameless; he was a model of gentlemanly courtesy; he was one of the kindest and most judicious parents ;

« ForrigeFortsæt »