Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

of his character, and the infinite uncovenanted mercies of the Saviour, which may exist, and which we may acknowledge without compromising our faith, will call him to the flock of the first-born. May we not deduce this conclusion, very fairly, from St. Paul's words?"When the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law; these having not the law (yet) are a law unto themselves. Which

66

show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts meanwhile accusing, or else excusing one another;"excusing them in such a degree, as their conscience was enlightened concerning good and evil; or, excusing them to such a degree, as some good was done, or some evil avoided by them." This argument, instead of lessening, should increase the ardour of the missionary. The soul being in peril, the passenger in the desert is as worthy of being directed into the right road, as the passenger by the common highway side.

The great and good Bishop Butler seems to consider the case of the heathen with great kindness and moderation and his argument for preaching the Gospel to them, is as strong as his presumption in their behalf is humane. "We are strictly bound," said he, “to consider these poor unformed creatures, as being, in all respects, of one family with ourselves, the family of

[blocks in formation]

mankind, and instruct them in our common salvation; that they may not pass through this stage of their being like brute beasts, but be put into a capacity of moral improvement; how low soever they must remain as to others, and go into a capacity of qualifying themselves for a higher state of life hereafter." He argues still further on the light of nature compared with Christianity; there are persons of small capacities for inquiry and examination, who yet are wrought upon by it to deny ungodliness, &c., in expectation of future judgment by Jesus Christ. Nor can any Christian, when he understands his religion, object that these persons are Christians without evidence"."

Note." In the native inhabitants of Tahiti, one of the South Sea Islands, natural questions have arisen in their enlightened minds, not to shake their unhesitating belief, but to trouble and distress them. They asked their teachers, if none of their ancestors, nor any of the former inhabitants of these islands, had gone to heaven? "This," says Mr. Ellis," to us, and to them, was one of the most distressing discussions upon which we ever entered. To them it was peculiarly so; for we may naturally suppose, the recollection of the individuals whom many of them had perhaps poisoned, murdered without provocation, slain in battle, or killed for sacrifice, would, on these occasions, probably occur to their minds; and at these times many a parent's heart must have been rent with anguish, to us inconceivable, at the remembrance of those children, in whose blood their hands must have been imbrued ?”—“There was a degree of painful emotion among

1 Bp. Butler's Sermon for the Propagation of the Gospel, 1738-9.

XIII.-Self-scrutiny.

"THERE cannot be imagined a higher contempt of God," says the pious and judicious Bishop Sanderson, well known for his accurate judgment on subjects of conscience, "than for a man to despise the power of his own conscience, which is the highest sovereignty under heaven, as being God's most immediate deputy for the ordering of his life and ways." There cannot, therefore, be a crime of greater malignity in man, than to feel the power of conscience, and neglect to apply the holy unction to his soul. If a doubt be excited in his breast, it demands instant investigation :

them whenever this subject was introduced-a feeling at times so overpowering as to suspend the conversation, or make an abrupt transi tion to some other subject necessary." At such times the missionaries themselves were led to entertain opinions more wise, more just, and more merciful than those of the school in which they had been trained: they said, It was not for them to say what was the state of the departed; that the heathen had not been left without the admonition of conscience, on the evidence of which witness, they would be acquitted or convicted at the awful bar; and that whatever crime they had to answer for, rejection of the Gospel would not be one, which would be the heaviest condemnation on those by whom it was neglected or despised."—(Ellis's Polynesian Researches during a residence of nearly six years in the South Sea Islands. 1829. See Quarterly Review, No. LXXXV.)

enabens 1 Serm. ad Clerum, No. 4.

and if he acts contrary to his conscience, his case is desperate, and his punishment certain. A tender conscience therefore is his best defence; and that will prompt him, not barely to keep within the boundary of discretion, or the letter of the law, but to endeavour to apprehend its spirit, to commence his inquiry upon sure grounds, to be assured in his own mind, by consulting carefully and dispassionately, "what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God 1."

if

Every day that a man of pure reflection makes this inquiry, he will become better acquainted with the purposes of his own heart; and if he be a man of simplicity and godly sincerity, as well as a man of reflection (St. Paul's man, if I may so say,) he will be also the prophet's man, and confess that "his heart is deceitful and desperately wicked "." This secret, it be a secret to him, will become doubly valuable by the application. That the heart endeavours to conceal its depravity is evident from its being called deceitful; and as man is capable of deadly sin, and offends either internally or actually, desperately wicked will be too often applicable to his case. Self-scrutiny, deep and serious personal investigation, becomes here a salutary, a necessary duty: it is a Lenten duty, at all times appropriate, but indispensable when we commune with our own heart in secrecy and silence. If we neglect, or reject this scrutiny, we stand convicted criminals

1 Rom. xii. 2.

2 Jer. xvii. 9.

before our own tribunal. We cannot here say that we have been deceived by others; for, "if we say

that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." This is an aggravation of our offence, unsuspected, perhaps, by us, but adding one count more to our indictment.

It is some evidence, indeed, of a chastened spirit, to call our recollection home, and inquire within us, whether these things are so? If the answer is unfavourable to the high expectations of Christian purity, to the honour and dignity of an accepted son of the Gospel; much less, if the standard be far, far below the humblest conception of any called by the name of Christ, let him not presume to imagine that he is one of Christ's family. For the highest member of it has no claim to distinction, but through the kindness and philanthropy of his Master. Prayers, and supplications, and confessions, are truly means of grace; but they are means only, though indispensable means; the sole cause of our salvation, the most unexpected, the most mysterious and overwhelming cause, which the natural man could neither know nor discover, is communicated in few, but splendid, words:-"while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us?."

O blessed revelation! which communicated such joyful tidings to a benighted world! If Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, righteous as they were,

1 1 John i. 8.

2 Rom. v. 8.

« ForrigeFortsæt »