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The converted, in the former case, falls at once; the latter is equally subdued, in a more gentle but not less effective manner.
Having eradicated evil by outward means, under the impression of an inward religious feeling, the next step is to introduce good, and here temperance, as a Christian grace, is a happy instrument for this purpose. When the mind is cleansed of all extraneous impediments, then the Spirit of God is ready to take possession of the transformed man, and to smooth the path of righteousness before him. But to rise to this proof of duty is a long and laborious task. It is not the effort of a day, nor the abstinence of an hour; but an established habit formed on the purest principles of religious faith.
Our Lord says, "take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness ;" and, on another occasion, he intimates that these kinds of spirits can only be cast out by fasting and praying. It is not possible to establish a rule suitable to every case; Scripture therefore is silent in the application of this duty. "Health is the great gift of God, and the fairest beauty of man or woman; therefore it must not be hurt, neither with overmuch abstinence, neither with dissolute living." After remarking, every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all
1 Luke xxi. 34.
2 Matt. xvii. 21.
3 Bp. Hooper, Fathers of the Eng. Ch. p. 346. Vol. V.
things," St. Paul observes, "but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection1;" lest the prevalence of intemperate appetites or passions should obstruct his progress in his Master's service.
Temperance is in fact the application of abstinence, both to the mind, and to the body. There is no difficulty in appreciating the temporal advantages to be derived from a strict adherence to this principle. It is indeed an external precept, and speaks its own value. The application is not lost when the Church authoritatively connects temperance with practical religion. But there may be an intemperate use of temperance itself; namely, when a superstitious extreme, changes a wholesome medicine to a pernicious poison. Attaching merit to extreme mortification of body, has effected this baneful purpose. I do not dwell on this, as the days of ascetic discipline have passed away. The danger of fruitless pilgrimages, and the infliction of personal torment on religious grounds, are little to be apprehended. Temperance of body has no connection with such unnatural practices; but temperance of mind takes up the question on its true foundation. It is the etherial part of man which gains the advantage of a sound arrangement of the mind. The body is but the instrument by which the soul acts. Sin, in many cases, shows its malignity by the external members of the body, and indicates
1 Cor. ix. 27.
an inward kingdom that requires a ruler. Outward applications therefore are of small avail; the conquest must be within. Being of a spiritual nature, we must apply a spiritual remedy. Purity of heart is that spirit which will expel all the rest that would stir up a commotion in the soul. It is the grace of God alone which bringeth salvation, that can purify this source of evil. Apply, by the means of the prayer of faith, for the sanctifying spirit of divine grace; and he who spreadeth out the heavens as a curtain will allay the tempest that breaks upon us, as oil upon the wave. Every happy effect of subdued passions will inevitably follow; "for what clearness is to the eye, that purity is to our mind and understanding ; and as the clearness of the bodily eye disposes it for a quicker sight of material objects, so does the purity of our minds, that is, freedom from lust and passion, dispose us for the clearest and most perfect acts of reason and understanding 1." Under this happy temperament of the mind, every turbulent passion will retreat from the bosom of the reformed man, and the blessed effects will be quietness and assurance for ever.
1 Tillotson's Serm. V. I. S. iv.
V.-Cursings of the law.
THAT the weak and the ignorant, the wicked and abandoned, should take offence at the severities of denunciation in the Commination-service at the entrance of Lent, is no wonder; but that it should produce an unpleasant feeling in the pious and devout, is much to be regretted. The days, I trust, are not gone by, when the faithful worshipper is ready to confess his sins, and guard himself against the repetition of iniquity. If we allow that all have sinned, as the foundation of vital religion, we shall be sufficiently humbled to prostrate ourselves with the Publican, rather than to stand at a disdainful distance, and exult over the fallen, with the supercilious Pharisee. To curse our neighbours, as it is vulgarly and disgustingly called, is certainly no duty of a benevolent Christian. To throw the first stone is too bold an experiment. But neither one nor the other is the object of this admirable service of the Church. Sin is assuredly cursed whoever commits it; a truth, which the convinced servant of the Gospel must admit. But the curses are from God; the admission of their malignity is from man, in submission to the law of obedience promulgated by the Almighty. The forgiveness of sin, and the motives on which it is forgiven, is another consideration. To reason the seal from the bond is
impossible; but if the creditor cancels the deed, from whatever cause may seem to him most expedient, then only is the debt paid. This argument may be overlooked by the weak, or by the wicked, but without a substitute for sin, the curse will remain in force, and the parties may scoff in vain.
This question may be perfectly understood, and answered by a reference to St. Paul, "As many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them1." As the moral law of Christ is confirmative of the moral law of Moses, perfect obedience is as necessary in the one case as in the other. But our obedience is imperfect; consequently we are under a curse. And if the aphorism be true, that all have sinned, our inquiry is, what means a merciful God has provided for our delivery from that curse which is thus denounced against all, who, owing obedience to the covenant of works have fallen short of the perfection which it requires? Christ has redeemed us, by becoming in his own person a curse in our stead; for such, according to the express language of the same Scripture, he has literally been, 'Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree. And this he did, in order that the blessing which was promised to the children of Abraham might extend
Gal. iii. 10, &c.
2 Deut. xxvii. 26., 、、