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to do next year is no apology for omitting what you ought to do to-day.
Nor because there are difficulties should you refuse. Duty is always set in difficulties, and often in reproach. It is hopeless to wait till the sun has no spots, till light has no shadow, and the rose no thorns. Aim at the highest good, but avail yourself of the nearest and readiest, though imperfect, possibilities of achieving it. Do not talk only, but give and do.
This leads us to consider the way in which it is to be done" with thy might." Christianity demands what it is reasonable and dutiful to give. Love God, not with more than your heart, but with all your heart. Do not give, not with more than your might, but " with your might.” God does not require impossibilities. Give not merely superfluities, but in proportion to income. Let your motive force be not only your love to Christ, but His love to you. Enthusiasm in the heart, sympathy with souls that perish, and with Christ who died for us, thankfulness for blessings you do not deserve, and responsibility for a stewardship you have accepted by accepting what God has given, ought to be within you irrepressible springs of action and sacrifice. Doing good is the greatest luxury, and the doer of the largest good is longest spared. It is the barren fig-tree that is first cut down. It is wasted opportunities that cry, "Cut it down." There is something in the church for every man to do, and in the world to help or heal. "Occupy till I come," is the order of the Divine Master; and it will be found that the greatest happiness is secured in the closest attention to it.
It is no light reason for carrying out the prescription we have been considering, that they who need our help pass away and are daily placed beyond our reach. A continuous current of souls is rushing on to the everlasting state. Lost by nature, they can be saved only by grace, and, as far as we know and are concerned, through our instrumentality, for we have the knowledge and the means which they need. Surely the most painful recollection on earth is that of having had it in our power to be useful to those who have left us, and having neglected or lost the opportunity. But no slight encouragement to do what the hand findeth to do with our might is found in the words of the Lord “Inasmuch as ye did it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto Me." Thus the mite cast into the treasury on earth is seen in heaven. Thus what is done for Christ, by a loving heart, to a sick, or suffering, or ignorant, or perishing fellow-creature, is recognised by our loving Lord as done to Him.
Thus let love for souls burn in every heart, and prayer for sinners ascend from every lip, and bounty to mankind drop liberally from each hand, and words of salvation be on every tongue.
A COMMON fault to be guarded against in teaching religion to children is best described as sentimentalism, by which I intend the habit of
* Reproduced from the “Sunday School World.” Earnest attention to these important suggestions is urged upon all readers of the Ě. O. who are in anyway responsible for the Teaching and singing in Sunday Schools.
Observer, Apr. 1, '75.
attering, in speech and song, sham aspirations, and the language of spurious affection. The object of all right spiritual training surely is to make the learners genuine, real, and true, in their characters as servants of God. This they will learn by the inspiration of sympathy and example, if we are genuine and true ; but, if we set them an example of habitually uttering false sentiment, we shall so far train them to be insincere in the very heart of their religion.
My words shall be of the uprightness of my heart, and my lips shall utter knowledge clearly." This was the text from which Mr. Binney preached at my ordination ; and the main lesson which he enforced was sincerity in prayer, singing, and preaching, and, with that view, moderation in tone, so as not to overstep the limits of genuine emotion. Every preacher's experience warus him against the ruinous habit of saying to God or man more than he feels. How many who have indulged in artificial bursis of eloquence and seeming affection, which did not spring naturally from the depths of actual life, have suddenly broken down, even in morals, and exposed a fearful bollowness of character to an astonished world! All teachers are near to danger here, including Sunday school teachers. The suck of the vortex towards the utterance of warm or exalted emotion is very strong; it requires a firm hand on the helm to prevent our vessel being drawn into it. And there is nothing more corrupting than this habit of falsely expressing what is not honestly felt. Whole congregations are carried away by the sympathy created by numbers and by harmony. The Rev. Rowland Hill, of Surrey Chapel, a shrewd observer of men and women, was once standing in the gallery of Surrey Chapel, along with the late Mr. John Clayton, when at the close of a great missionary sermon the congregation was singing with intense enthusiasm the noble words of Dr. Watts's hymn
“Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Demands my soul, my life, my all,” when Rowland Hill turned round to his companion, who had been joining in the song, and said to him, with a solemn look, That's only singing, John.
The collection is to follow !” The value of the lesson may perhaps excuse the quaintness of the anecdote. The test and measure of our sincerity in feeling is action, and no one, old or young, should be encouraged habitually to express more feeling than they are prepared to act out in life.
Under this view teachers ought to be very careful in the selection of hymns for Sunday school use. Sunday schools have learned from adult congregations to sing, as apparent acts of worship, metrical statements which it is almost impossible for a child to feel healthily in its own life. There is not only an artificial and unmanly tone in many of the hymns which boys and girls are set to sing-a sort of dreamy, flowery effusiveness in the incessant references to paradise and the world to come ; but, worse, there is a bad habit encouraged of singing falsehoods to God, which cannot but strike at the root of all genuine and durable integrity of character. I feel that the utmost tenderness and restraint are needed in referring to this matter, but the evil laas
reached a height which requires sharp criticism. Let me ask, then, what can be the spiritual benefit of leading a child, who above all things wishes not to die, to sing to a cheerful tune,
“I want to be an angel,
And with the angels stand," or any other of the numerous hymns which express an ernest desire to finish life's pilgrimage and be gone to glory? I will say nothing of the utter unscripturalness of most of these metrical descriptions of the state of souls departed, or their flagrant neglect of the Scripture precedent which leads us to associate future “glory” with the resurrection of the body at the second advent of Christ. But I do say that the extravagantly large proportion of hymns in Sunday school “ collections such as
“Shall we gather at the River ?” where the smallest amount of sense is joined with the utmost amount of efforescent imagery, exercises a distinctly pernicious influence on children's minds. No references to the future eternal world ought to be made before children, except such as are fitted to lift up their thoughts with awe and genuine desire to that great hereafter. The descriptions of heaven given in a large number of hymns are not such as to rest in a boy's mind afterwards with any ennobling or sanctifying effect. The issue, I think, of some years of Sundays spent in singing unrealities cannot be good. I plead, therefore, for closer adhesion to scripture example in all references to the future world in its majesty and glory, and, if but a few hymns can be found of this sort, let us sing fewer hymns about heaven, and more about religion on earth.
There is in many minds a delusive impression that in order to reach children's minds a man must become unmanly and childish. But children themselves are not childish in a bad sense. They are only child-like, and child-likeness of a genuine sort is closely akin to true manliness of thought and true womanliness of feeling. Much condescension of tone towards the young is wasted. Usually the part of a sermon which really does good to the adults is the part which the children of the congregation can also understand. And I feel certain that if a hymn-book were compiled for Sunday school use, in which there should be a decided diminution of those artificial aspirations after death and paradise, and a far larger infusion of hymns bearing on actual life, and expressing the real feelings of children, such a book would be an invaluable aid in the education which is “after godliness."
The first condition of obtaining genuine emotion is to get rid of the spurious sort, and then to bring the mind in close contact with those facts in God's working, and in our Saviour's life, death, and mediation, which are the causes of love in His sincere disciples. And it may be adde:1 that close dealing with the consciences of children is the way to awaken those moral and spiritual feelings which are healthy, bumbling, purifying, and likely to endure. Every expression of general feeling strengthens principle and leads to active obedience. Every artificial expression of feeling weakens the awe and influence of God on the soul, and strikes at the root of real delicacy of sentiment and robust integrity.
THE DUE TIME.
(A COMPILATION.) “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." Romans v. 6.
At the time when our weakness bad reached its lowest point, then Christ died.
It was the time which God had previously determined, and in such a manner, that the Redeemer died neither too soon, nor too late.-Bengel.
The due or proper time will appear in the following particulars :
First. Christ was manifested in the flesh, when the world needed Him most.
“For when we were yet without strength,” i.e. spiritual strength; this is the condition of moral weakness: weakness and sin border very near, upon each other.-Olshausen.
The original word signifies, weak through sickness, and is used to show the pernicious influence of sin, in weakening all the faculties of the soul.- McKnight.
The prophet Isaiah has used the same metaphor of the people of Israel ;-" The whole head is sick, the whole heart is faint; from the sole of the foot, even unto the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores." And such was the case with the whole world, when Christ appeared among men; spiritually they were in a weak dying state, infirm and helpless; neither able to resist sin, nor do any good ; utterly unable to extricate themselves from the misery of their situation.—Comp. Matt. ix. 36.
Plunged in a gulf of dark despair,
Or spark of glimmering day.-Watts. The catalogue of vices found in Romans i. brings out strikingly, the absolute need of Redemption; but man's extremity, was God's opportunity
In that chapter Paul sketches from the life, a picture of their monstrous immoralities; his design being to manifest their guilt, and their need of a Redeemer. God had been degraded, not only beneath the divine, but even beneath the human dignity, being represented in the form of a beast.-Tholuck.
Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools ; and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God, into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.".
How unreasonable to worship God under the image of a beast; for what king, prince, or honourable man, would permit himself to be represented in the form of an ox or hog.--Starke.
The grossness of Pagan idolatry is only equalled by the revolting character and frightful extent of the immoralities, which it fostered and consecrated; and so strikingly is this to be seen in all its essential features in the East at this day, that, as Hodge says, the missionaries have frequently been accused by the natives of having forged the whole of the latter part of this chapter, for they could not believe that 80
Observer, Apr. 1, '75.
accurate a description of themselves could have been written eighteen centuries ago. Let us then
Praise Him who look'd from heaven and saw
Not one who trod the narrow way;
And all, like sheep, had gone astray.
And show the riches of His grace,
To die aud save the rebel race.
Those who are acquainted with the increasing profligacy of the heathen world, as exhibited in Greek and Roman history and literature, are aware that the picture drawn by the Apostle is fully borne out by
that it is no exaggerated statement we may appeal to Plato, Aristophenes, and Lucian, to Tacitus Ovid, and the Roman Satirists. See Tertullian, 1, p. 73, 455, etc. T. & T. Clark, Eilin.
Seneca, the philosopher, brother of Gallio, and contemporary of Paul, gives a dark picture of heathen corruption in his own time. 6. All is full of criminality and vice; indeed much more of these is committed than can be remedied by force. Day by day the love of sin increases, and shame diminishes. All respect for goodness and justice has disappeared, and desire rushes whither it will. Crime no longer hides, but exposes itself unabashed to the gaze of all. With such publicity indeed has vice appeared, and such is the power it has attained over the minds of all, that innocence is not merely rare, but for the most part utterly absent."-De Ira ii. 8, 8.
In the same manner does Marcus Aurelius complain that, "faith and honour. justice and truth, have vanished from earth, and departed to heaven." Juvenal laments that “The good are rarely to be found, they are hardly as numerous as the mouths of the Nile, or the gates of Thebes." The best men of those days knew po remedy for such a state of affairs, but expected the end of the world, and despaired of mankind.-Luthardt, Fundamental Truths of Christianity, p. 208, 315.
Even in A.D. 81 Piganism reigned almost solely in Roma, few Christians could be found amongst her iminense population. The city contained four hundred and twenty temples, crowded with statues of their deities. Their system of idolatry necessarily produced all kinds of impurity; how could it be otherwise, when the highest objects of their worship were adulterers, fornicators, and prostitutes, such as Jupiter, Apollo, Mars, Venus, of which we have a multitude of proofs from the writings of the heathens themselves.
When therefore the statesmen, the philosophers, and the priests, avowedly addicted themselves to uprighteousness; nay, when the gods whom they worshipped were supposed by them to be guilty of the same enormities, when their temples, their pictures, and their sacred groves, were all invitations to sin, and their sacrifices a horrid mixture of superstition and cruelty, then was certainly the greatest need of the gospel revelation, to make mankind sensible of their brutality, and to bring to them a more boly practice.- Macknight.
It will be remembered that in the charges which Paul makes he speaks of the most enlightened and refined nations of antiquity, and