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being overcome, then too, what we call our religious feelings are but a mere delusion, as will appear some day. This is a very humiliating thought, and what ought to be more dwelt on than it is by persons who, deceived by popular opinion and their own feelings, allow themselves in many practices of plain disobedience. And yet all the while they are not aware of it, because they will not consider, will not bow down their proud necks to the yoke of the despised and crucified Jesus.
Lastly, let persons who have had the advantages of substantial religious instruction, and who set some value on this their privilege--let such persons, above all others, be careful lest the light which is indeed in them, should in the end, to them, prove to be but darkness. To such persons it might be said, remember that “ to whom much is given of him will be much required.” If you, indeed, are blest with this highest of all knowledge, then beware lest you make a wrong use of it, or no use at all.
Therefore, rest not satisfied with the progress you have already made, however considerable you may think it, or it may really be ; but still press forward for the prize of your high calling in Christ Jesus.
Above all things avoid every shadow of pride or selfconfidence; remember that what you know is nothing in comparison of what you are ignorant of; therefore go low by the ground, and let your chief anxiety be not to obtain a mere increase of knowledge, but rather in proportion as your knowledge increases, to grow also more holy, meek, and heavenly-minded, more humble, lowly, penitent, and obedient:'more fit in short for the society of those blessed spirits whose employment and whose happiness it is in the presence of the Lord, both theirs and ours, to fulfil his commandment, and to hearken unto the voice of his words.
Thus, as time goes on, if we endeavor more and more to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior, we may reasonably hope that the light which is in us will not prove to be darkness.
But if we do not endeavor thus by the aid of the Holy Spirit to regulate our lives and hearts, neither a good character, nor good feelings, nor good knowledge will prove us to be sincere members of Christ's holy church. And unquestionably, this, if true, is well deserving the consideration of all persons who are in earnest in their religion, especially in these times of spiritual danger and perplexity.
DANGER OF MISTAKING THE SHADOW FOR THE SUBSTANCE.
2 COR. v. 9.
" Wherefore we labor,
We may be accepted of him.''
WHATEVER the causes may be, all persons of observation must, I should think, confess it to be the fact, that, in these times, there is great and peculiar danger of people's mistaking what the good Bishop Wilson most expressively calls “ shadows of religion” for the substance of it.
Of course, in every age of the church, this danger has existed, and will doubtless to the end of time. By it, indeed, very particularly, God tries men's hearts, whether they are faithful and sincere, or false and hypocritical. But this trial is, perhaps, in these latter days of the church, more than usually severe, as may appear from one or two considerations among others which might be mentioned.
Thus, it is the great misfortune of many persons, probably I may say the majority, that they have not been brought up and educated in the substantial knowledge of divine truth. Indeed it is certain, that many persons now openly avow, and more still act upon, the wild and infidel notion, that children should be taught everything but religion ; that their minds should be left free, as it is called, and unprejudiced to choose for themselves as they grow up, whether they will be of any religion or of none. As if human life were neither short nor uncertain; as if divine knowledge were acquired all at once, without time, care, and diligence; as if man's heart were naturally disposed to seek this knowledge, or to act up to it after it was acquired. The very contrary of all which we know too well to be the case.
But even where something of religious knowledge is imparted, in how many instances must it be considered as scarcely more than a shadow of the truth: at least, if what the apostles and primitive Christians believed, did, and suffered, is to be regarded as evidence of what the substance of religion is.
To go to church, or to a meeting-house, or both, once or twice a week, is, I suppose, by a considerable majority of persons reckoned “sufficient,” as they would call it, for the fulfilment of religious duties.
Men forget that the church of Christ is a vast body, or sacred society, having its peculiar rules and ordinances; requiring pains and attention, and a due measure of instruction in its members, together with a spirit of obedience and uniform regard to what may be called evangelical discipline.
And this, of course, implies constant care and seri. ousness, and positive substantial exertions-exertions taking time, trouble, and expense--and, of the two, rather unpleasant than pleasant to us.
At least, such seems to be the plain doctrine of our blessed Lord and his apostles, illustrated by the practice of the primitive Christians.
It is also worthy of consideration, as showing the danger in which we Christians of these latter days are, of mistaking the shadow of religion for the substance of it; that we are all so much disposed to take for granted, as if there could be no question about it, that wisdom, knowledge, and liberty, must, of necessity, be good things.
The Christian view rather is, or should be, that these are only good, when restrained, guided, and sanctified by true religion, that is, by the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is very plain, on a very slight reflection ; but we are too apt to forget it, as I said. And so the substance of religion is too often sacrificed before
the vain idols-popular opinion or private fancy-and in its place is substituted a deceitful shadow.
Now the doctrine of our blessed Savior, and the practice of the apostles and first Christians, as any one may easily be convinced of, on the slightest examination, is quite opposed to any views or imaginations of the kind I am now referring to.
For instance, on the present occasion, to consider only the testimony of the illustrious apostle St. Paultestimony borne no less by what he did than by what he taught-we see that he zealously and uniformly fol. lowed himself, and entreared others to follow, the substance of religion ;-the substance, that is, as distinct from any shadows or fancies of it.
To attempt to prove this by instances, would be in a manner to recount all the history of this great apostle, and to go over the arguments of all his epistles. It will be fully sufficient for the humble inquirer that we limit our attention to that passage in the second epistle to the Christians at Corinth. It will there easily appear what sort of Christian St. Paul was, and what we all ought to pray and “endeavor” (as the text says) to be.
And here let me just say, what probably I have on former occasions suggested, that if we would be careful and attentive readers of the Holy Scriptures, it is of importance that we pay regard to the marginal translations. For there are, of course, a great many words and expressions about which the translators doubted what was the most correct rendering. Consequently, the translation in the margin is often quite as much to be depended on and regarded, as what we commonly read.
To mention only two or three instances out of this second epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians.
In chap. ii. : “We are not (says he) as many, which corrupt the word of God," or, margin, “which deal deceitfully with the word of God.”
În chap. iii. : “We all (that is, as faithful Christians) beholding as in a glass and by reflection the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to