Billeder på siden

solicitudes, from what oppressive burdens, from what servile fear, from what terrors has this instance of thy mercy freed us! By having brought us to the light, thou hast called us to liberty, to inward peace, to purer virtue, to higher happiness. If this light be yet not so generally diffused among us, not so unclouded, not so vivid as entirely to dispel the darkness, still the dawn allows us to hope for the bright rays of the morning, and then for the meridian blaze. Yes, thanks be to thee, o Father of light, for the genial rising and the gra. dual progress of it! Oh cause it to shine ever brighter, to spread ever farther; and grant us by its influence to become ever wiser and better! Grant that none of us may be guilty of fhutting their eyes against it; none of us impede its activity and progress; none of us abuse it to fin, none of us walk in darkness! But let each of us zealously strive to advance constantly farther in the knowledge of the truth, and by the truth to become incessantly more free, incessantly more virtuous, and incessantly more accomplished! May cach of us in his place, and according to his station, prove a burning and a shining light enlightening far around him, and promoting the greater intellectual improvement of his brethren as far as he is able! Affist us powerfully to this end, most gracious l'ather! Teach us to recognize our special privilege, and ever more faithfully to use it. Grant that we may all walk before thee as children of light, and thus assert the dignity to which thou hast promoted


us as men and as christians. Bless the reflections we are now about to make on these important objects. Let them awaken in us the sentiments of gratitude and joy for them ; let them excite in us a satisfaction and zeal in the unwearied prosecution of our course to the prize of perfection. These our supplications we offer up unto thee in the name of Jesus Christ, our lord ; and steadfastly relying on his promises, address thee further as he prescribed us: Our father, &c.

EPHES. V. 8.

Now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.

HE times we live in, my pious hearers, are

frequently called enlightened times; and in fact they are not absolutely undeserving of that epithet. Less ignorance in general prevails at present, less superstition and blind credulity, than in the days of our forefathers. At present it must be owned, far more persons reflect upon moral and religious subjects than perhaps ever did before. There are now a hundred perfons who employ themselves in reading, and in acquiring fome notions and science, for one that did so, I will not say in the days of yore, but even at the commencement of the present, and in the course of the last century. Many kinds of knowledge are now dissemi



nated amongst all classes and conditions of men, which were heretofore confined to the learned. In our times a man is ashamed of many errors, many prejudices, many superstitions, childish opinions and usages, which formerly were held facred by princes as well as their subjects, by nobles as well as the vulgar. At present the pursuit of truth, and the free investigation of it, are more general than formerly. Accordingly there actually is more intellectual light, there is a greater proportion of knowledge, there are more means and incentives to it among mankind, though neither the one nor the other be near so great and fo general as numbers pretend. -- But does this greater intellectual light give our times a real precedence above the foregoing? Are they actually more valuable on that account ? On this head the judgments are extremely various, according to the point of view in which the matter is beheld.

Indeed this accession of light, particularly at first, and before it be come to a certain degree of perfection, is attended with many evils of various magnitudes. It excites doubt; it makes the faith of many weak perfons to waver; it puffs up the proud; it often begets scoffers ; it occasions at times fad confusions and disturbances; it is often misused by the wicked, for excusing and palliating their vices and follies; in some respects it promotes or favours a disposition to luxury and oftentation, too great a propensity to dissipation and public


amusements; it probably weakens and enervates many, by refining their taste, and employing their mind to the detriment of their body; it misleads numbers to meddle with things quite out of their sphere, with which they have no concern whatever, and thereby to neglect more serious affairs ; it frequently renders certain serviceable and useful insti. tutions, methods, customs, writings less effective, as people are enabled to spy out their defects and errors, but are not yet able to supply their places with better. All this is undeniable. And yet the

greater proficiency of a nation in knowledge remains, notwithstanding, a real and desirable advantage ; it is always far preferable to its opposite. The evils of the former are not general; they are at least only transient, and will be far overbalanced by the good which is the natural consequence of that proficiency. And this, my pious hearers, is the topic that I intend now to discuss. We are doubtless a people greatly enlightened, and we begin to enjoy the advantages of our proficiency. As the apostle in our text says to the christians : “ Now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light :” as christians ye are brought to the knowledge of truth, think and live as persons who know the truth; so may we also address you : as men and as christians, you are in possession of more means of instruction and improvement than many other, perhaps than the generality of persons and nations ; you are already then capable of being



farther enlightened than they ; it therefore behores you to conduct yourselves conformably to these privileges. In order to incite you to this, my pious hcarers, I will represent to you the value of the greater intellectual improvement of a people or community; and then deduce from it a few rules for your conduct.

The gradual improvement of mankind is a natural consequence of the constitutions and regulations which God has established in the world, and the course he has prescribed to the human mind. As, in nature, the dawn succeeds the night, which in its turn gives place to the bright effulgence of day, and every creature feels itself produced anew to life, in. cited to the fresh exertion of its powers, and to proceed onward to its object: so likewise the knowledge and perceptions of mankind are perpetually increasing in extent and perspicuity, and their minds are constantly struggling for greater activity, for higher perfection, whenever the progress of the former and the efforts of the latter are not violently obstructed and confined. This general proficiency in knowledge is therefore perfectly in the order of providence, as a part of the plan laid down by God, in his moral administration. It must therefore be good; it must have a real and great value, even though we should not allow it. In this manner are we taught hy religion to judge of it, and our reflections convince us that this judgment is true. For, how various and considerable are the advantages


« ForrigeFortsæt »