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may have been the lot of some, but their numbers must be small, for the few days of man are full of trouble, Such persons, however, as have felt no deeply impressed cause of
sorrow, should not expect that their years will still flow on in a like current of calm placidity; cares, and troubles, and anguish are before them; and now when their spirits have rest from the annoyances of the world, they should be endeavouring to learn those precepts and to imbibe those heavenly principles which will unbarb the dart of sorrow when it comes; they should be thankful to their God; and whilst he is merciful to their weakness, not permit their hearts to be elevated by pride, or smitten by the love of a world in which they are at best but “strangers and sojourners.” If sickness has not entered their dwellings, nor misery taken up its habitation in their houses, they should not suppose that this has arisen from any merit of their own which demanded such a reward from their heavenly Father; but they should seriously reflect upon their spiritual state, lest they should not be amongst the number of those whom the Lord loveth and therefore chasteneth. How fervent should they be in their supplications to the throne of redeeming love for the blessing of God to be upon them, lest their hearts should be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, or lest they should forget, amidst the enjoyments of time, the unsearchable riches of Christ, and the nobler joys and glories of eternity.
But it cannot be supposed that the providence of God has been thus externally propitious to all-what sorrows, what bereavements may have been the lot of some—death has invaded the habitations of many, and numbers bave been gathered to their fathers, and have slept with their fathers. The tenderest ties of affection, the fondest ligaments of love, have. been torn asunder, and our tears have been shed at the grave of those, whose names shall ever remain deeply engraven on our hearis. The truth of the declaration of the word of God has been abundantly established by melancholy fact—" Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble; he cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down; he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.' But there is consolation brought to the soul of the afflicted mourner when he sheds the tear of sorrow over the departed believer-he has. hope, he has comfort in the midst of his anguish ; for, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth; yea, saith the Spi-. rit, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.” The stream of time, however, is flowing on, and we cannot check its rapid progress ;-we may sport us on its surface, but it will not delay with us for the enjoyment of our follies; we know not whether we shall, even in this world, see the close of another year; but if we even should, the time will come when others, in the retrospect of the past, will have to weep over our departure, and remember us as the inhabiants of the tomb. Other
the loveliness of summer, or upon the stern features of winter, when we observe not the smile of the one or the frown of the other. Other tongues shall speak the words which we now utter, when we have closed our earthly career for ever; and other feet shall tread our dwellings, when we are sleeping in the silent loneliness of the grave. How solemn, then, should be our feelings, as we meditate upon the change which awaits us ; with what unremitting earnestness should we seek after the kingdom of God, so that “when the earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, we may have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” The year is at its close, ask yourselves what you have done for the glory of God, what for the cause of Christ, what for the salvation of your own souls during its passage over you? Answer to God as you will be called upon to do at the last day.
AGES as well as men have their besetting sins, and these it is our duty to mark and expose. During a long season, şuperstition, like a dark cloud, weighed heavily on the church, benumbing all her energies, and almost quenching the feeble spark of spiritual life. In the last age infidelity reared its hideous form on the earth, speaking great swelling words of vanity, and threatening to sweep away every thing sacred in a flood of blasphemy and wrath. But in our own time a more subtle and deadly enemy is preying upon the vitals of the church. We mean that insidious liberalism, which under a Christian exterior, is doing the work of infidelity as well as its most eager partizans can desire. By this term we understand not any well-defined system of principles, clearly laid down and professionally taught, but generally those lax, pernicious maxims that spring from inadequate views of the importance of truth, and of the nature and importance of faith, and that meet us under every variety of form in the commerce of life. This vagueness will render ft more difficult to grapple with the evil, and may seem to impart some degree of uncertainty and indecision to our statements; but we hope to make them sufficiently intelligible to all who will
compare them with the religious aspect of our times. The first principle of liberalism is, to depreciate the value of the truth. By the truth we understand the great distinguishing doctrines of the Gospel as the manifestation of the divine nature in the mysterious relations of Father, Son, and Spirit—the guilt, corruption, and ruined condition of fallen man-the abundant mercy of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—the atoning sacrifice and justifying righteousness of the Son—the renewing work of the Spirit-the headship of Christ—the glorification of his body, the church, and all the doctrines vitally connected with these. These are the doctrines which are essentially and pre-eminently the truth—doctrines that stand out in bold resief on the 'imperishable pillar of God's word-doctrines revealed with such clearness and fulness of evidence, that“he who runs may read.” Be it remembered, then, that we assume these doctrines as the truth. This we are entitled to do; for our present controversy lies not with those who deny the truth, but with those who degrade it. It is not for the purity, but the importance of the truth that we are now to contend. Our modern liberal may hold any system of doctrine, "provided always," that he attaches no serious importance to it. He is more of the scoffer than the heretic; he despises rather than disputes the truth. It is true he is generally found to profess some anti-evangelical system as being favourable to his practical infidelity; but have we not often seen the most determined liberal garbed in an Orthodox profession?
Assuming, then, the above view of the truth, we repeat, that the first principle of liberalism is to depreciate this pearl of great price. It is a curious trait of the liberal school, that Gospel truth alone should be treated with contempt. Moral, natural, political truth, all are allowed to be important—all should engage our eager inquiry, and excite our liveliest interest; but Gospel truth must be regarded with perfect indifference, and any zeal in this cause betrays, forsooth, a narrow mind and overheated temper. A principle so convenient, relieving men at once from all serious, prayerful inquiry-90 extensive in its use, applying to the whole range of Gospel truth-so indulgent to error, releasing the conscience from that solemn responsibility felt cleaving to its decisions ;-in a word, a principle subversive of all that is important in Chris
tian doctrine and exalted in Christian character, must needs be a mighty instrument in the hands of the adversary. Accordingly its baleful influence is deeply felt. It paralyses every effort of Christian benevolence with infidel objections, cold neglect, or insolent contempt. It belies its pretended indifference by its' real hostility to the truth. It opposes the cause of Bible instruction in our native land by the most injurious methods, and lends all its influence to perpetuate a blind superstition. It pours unsparing contempt on the missionary cause, the noblest and best known among men-regards the condition of the heathen with great complacency questions whether the Gospel would contribute much either to their present or future well-being--deprecates the spirit of proselytism, and boldly denounces every scheme for enlarging the kingdom of Christ asinexpedient, absurd, or impracticable.
Such is a faithful picture of liberalism under one aspect, as it regards the importance of truth, let us now view it in another light not less interesting, as it regards the nature and importance of faith. These are kindred subjects, and insensibly merge into one another. Faith is expressed by the apostle as “the belief of the truth.” Now, if the truth itself is so far depreciated, we may reasonably expect the same contemptuous treatment of faith. Accordingly, on no subject do sentiments more lax and dangerous prevail. Faith is represented as an intellectual and not a moral principle, as a mere exercise of the understanding, no wise related to the heart; and hence it has been boldly inferred, that belief, and doubt, and disbelief are involuntary states of the intellect severally induced by the nature of the evidence”-states “which we can no more change than we can the hae of our skin or the height of our statúre”—and that " if a man is een
Atheist or an Infidel, it is his misfortune, not his fault."*
* The three members of which this quotation consists are taken from three distinct sources the first from “ Observations on an Essay on the Formation of Opinions,” in a publication styled “The Bible Christian," vol. I. p. 142-3-the second from Mr. (now Lord Chancellor) Brougham's Inaugural Discourse, addressed to the professors and students of the University of Glasgow-and the third from a speech delivered by the same gentleman in the House of Commons, on presenting a petition from the notorious infidel, Richard Carlile. We have cast them into this conse cutive order, because they all embody the very same sentiment. In the first it is mystified into a kind of metaphysical proposition, in the second it assumes the air of a popular argument, but in the third it stands forth in its naked deformity as an insolent apology for the rankest infidelity. That the sentiment which is couched in the first number of the quotation Nay, these blasphemous sentiments have been proclaimed by the patrons of liberalism over the length and breadth of the land, as the very "form and pressure" of rational christianity. Again faith is represented as a speculative principle, and therefore by no means essential to the Christian character, or to acceptable obedience. We are told that a man may be a very respectable Christian with any creed, or no determined creed at all, and that every duty of piety and benevolence may be fully discharged by him who is an utter stranger to the principle that “purifies the heart," "works by love," and
overcomes the world.” This is a favourite sentiment of liberalism, and one admirably suited to the careless, superficial temper of the age. Accordingly you meet it in every variety of form, and have doubtless heard it a thousand times repeated with all the pomp of oracular wisdom in the foolish lines of the poet
"For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight,
We observe only at present, that a sentiment which di. vorces faith from practice, principle from character, motive from act, must not only be subversive of the Gospel, but at variance with every principle of moral science and the true philosophy of the human mind.
When Gospel truth and Gospel faith have been thus far depreciated or misrepresented, it is an easy and natural step in the progress of liberalism to ridicule all religious differences. The controversies that unhappily divide the church are represented as the offspring of faction or fanaticism, the doctrines debated are treated as trifling or unintelligible, the earnest contendings for the faith once delivered to the saints are denounced as intolerance and persecution, an. affected wailing is raised over the grievous disorders of the church, and every man who holds truth and a good conscience above time-serving maxims, is arraigned, tried, and convicted
is essentially the same with that which is avoned in the third, is evident from the whole tenor of the “ Observations." The writer plainly denies that belief or unbelief can assume a moral character; for be argues, that “as these states of mind are not dependent on our ' volitions, they are neither praise nor blameworthy.' And in conclusion, he quotes some sentiments of the Essayist, which, while affecting merely to assert the cause of religious liberty, insinuate the most dangerous Latitudinarianism. The whole article bears the editorial stamp, and may be fairly identified with the periodical in which it appears.