Billeder på siden



THE severities of earnest trials and intense conflicts are the best educators of the soul. This is both a rational and a Christian principle. Nature and Grace illustrate its truthfulness, and the Bible yields its weighty sanction. It is not the result of accident or caprice which renders it necessary that "all who will live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer persecution." It is not owing to the unavoidable persecuting propensity of the wicked, but to a merciful arrangement of Divine Providence. The necessity is created on account of its utility. The heart of man is like the pool of Bethesda at Jerusalem. The angel must come down to trouble its waters before it can heal the sick. Its heavenly virtues may be there, but their sanative influence can only be reached by collision and conflict.

"Idleness is the devil's worship"-the tare-garden, where he rears and trains plants for perdition. Here the complete ruin of body, mind and spirit are wrought out with equal success. Action, work, expels the humors of disease and invigorates every member of the body. Every faculty of the mind derives strength from study. The memory and the judgment are always faithful and correct in proportion to their use. Our meral powers are always vigorously right in proportion to their diligent exercise. (I speak of Christians.) "Exercise unto godliness," is the best school to make skilful practitioners in the art of holy living. The gospel furnishes an armor, but it will be of no value unless we are drilled in its sacred uses. There are gospel sandals, but we must be accustomed to wear them or they will pinch and cramp our progress. There is "a shield of faith," but, unless we are expert in its uses, the fiery darts will still pierce us. There is a "sword," but unless we have been taught the art of spiritual fencing, our sword will be of no use to us. How many lay this armor by, for special emergencies, for the trials of affliction or death. Alas! alas! They can't use it because they have never been drilled in its practice. Like the armor of Saul upon David: "And David said I can not go with these, for I have not proved them"-I am not accustomed to them.

Labor has a two-fold use. There is a blessing in the effort as well as in the reward. He that is unwilling to give the former is unfit to have the latter. "If any will not work, neither shall he eat." If a man won't labor, though he have money to pay for his food, he is unfit and unworthy to eat. "The sweat of thy face" is the price of thy bread. If you are willing to pay that, you will come honestly by it, and God will bless it. If not, beware, for "there is death in the pot."

The world is so much taken with the labor-saving panic, as to be no longer willing to pay the price which God has unalterably fixed. Much as can be said for the progress of invention it is not without its mischief. The diminution of labor fosters and increases the spirit of indolence. And it is to be feared that, by and by, men will wish for machines to do their thinking. Already a species of praising machines, commonly called choirs, are employed by many churches to praise God for them. They are to all intents and purposes a labor-saving apparatus, grinding out God's praise for the congregation according to order. How much labor is saved for lungs, lips and lights. Then, too, it removes the risk of contaminating our voices by contact with the mingled melodies of the poor. Shame, eternal shame on a religion that is either too nice or too lazy to sing God's praise for itself! Even ministers of the gospel are classed by many under the head of useful inventions. A large proportion of their credit and respect is derived from their labor-saving endowments. Their sermons are a sort of a substitute for Bible-reading, and save their hearers the trouble of reading through dull, dry pages to acquire religious information. And withal they perform their praying for them--that certainly is a great saving of labor. Of course, as their minister, he must not pray with them, but for them. While he wrestles with God in prayer they can be at something else; talk, fix and dust off their clothing, pick their finger-nails, survey dresses, gape and yawn. Often during the solemn act of prayer have I seen or-

Heard the everlasting yawn confess
The pains and penalties of idleness.

Of course professing Christians, who consider themselves mere spectators in this labor-saving scene, claim a right to all these privileges. When their minister has worn himself out he is cast aside, like other worn-out machines, to pine away his remaining days in ungrateful neglect.

The posture during prayer has become a matter of very serious moment with some professing Christians. It has been ascertained by experience that the kneeling posture has its disadvantages in point of labor and occular convenience. It requires some effort for worshippers to kneel. Hence some prefer a standing posture. But even that has its inconvenience. One requires grace and nerve to stand up to render his devout homage to God. Invention has relieved the Christian public of this distressing fatigue. It has been ascertained that, since God looks upon the heart, one can worship Him just as well in a sitting as in a kneeling or standing posture. And as sitting has the advantage of requiring the least bodily effort, we would betray an inventive obtuseness not to give it the preference. Our city brethren, who usually radiate the light of refinement upon the rural districts, have taken the lead in

this measure. Country congregations are gradually falling in with it. Not long ago I happened to worship with a sister church, where nearly the whole congregation retained their seats during prayer. True to my old fogy habits, I determained to assume at least an attitude of respect, if not of reverence, when I spoke with "Our Father;" I stood up. I have no doubt many pitied me in this exposure of my want of labor-saving refinement. Perhaps ere long the world will be favored with another improvement in this direction. For surely the reclining posture would seem still easier, and, moreover, more consonant with the laws of muscular inertia. Or even to lie flat down on the floor or seat would be still easier, were it not for the labor of getting up again. Beyond that, however, invention can not go, unless it can create an opiate with which to put all worshippers to sleep.

Religion itself, in the estimation of a large class of its professors, derives its chief charm from its labor-sing qualities. They do not value and cherish the divine life of Christianity in order that they may bear its corresponding fruits. but simply as a sort of a pack-horse on which conscience may load its lens of guilt. They make Divine Grace a kind of baggage-car ich they can carry their favorite sins with them through life, without discommoding their progress. Thousands profess to be Christians, who have never renounced their sins, and live in the daily violation of known duties with whom the grace of the gospel is nothing more than a general license to continue in sin, with the promise of a general pardon. Religion is made the substitute for holiness and not its producer. Grace is simply the apology of a lazy religion, for a want of piety and love to God, instead of its living, perennial fountain in the heart. A society-church is endeavoring to rear a modern Babel Tower by means of which they may get to heaven without being entitled to it. But God has confounded our language by the collisions of narrow-hearted, sectarian strife. The gospel-scheme is not a labor-saving apparatus. It only gives us power to serve God by laboring for the right and opposing the wrong. And the reflex influence of a righteous, godly activity, will strengthen and invigorate our energies, and make us more capable of doing right. Hence Divine Wisdom, out of mercy, sometimes employs Poverty or Persecution to drive men into the harness--to excite and foster manly and undamated effort.

INCENSE gives forth fragrance only while it consumes: a corn of wheat is only quickened by its own death, so it is an eternal law of grace that we can only bless others by offering up ourselves. In the day of judgment it will be found that only those who have made themselves an offering in every sense have been truly successful in doing good,



PROFESSOR AGASSIZ, in some of his remarks before the American association for the advancement of science, gave some very excellent ideas of what a science ought to be. His remarks were with more particular reference to Geology, but are equally applicable to Botany. The impression has become pretty general among a certain class of theologians that natural sciences in general are materialistic in their influence upon the mind, and therefore of not much value. We feel however disposed, to classify objections against the study of natural science on that aecount, with those of many well meaning and pious persons of yore, and some of the present day even, who do not seem to think that the ministry itself ought to be an educated one, and to submit the whole case, with a few remarks, to the intelligent judgment of the readers of THE GUAR


The Professor says that science, to be entitled properly to the name, must be the reproduction of relations and distinctions that exist in nature, and not those which may be manufactured for conventional purposes; that persons must read the thoughts impressed upon nature by the divine mind, and faithfully interpret them in their logical order; that science has a voice of its own, and speaks its own language; a book with its own alphabet that must be read, studied and interpreted. The mind then approaches it, not for the purpose of moulding a system of which the phenomena of nature are to be explained according to a procustean rule; not as a dictator, to put language, so to speak, into its mouth, but as an interpreter to give expression to its own proper meaning.

The distinction will serve immediately to put into our hand a key to unlock the characters of two quite differently disposed persons, who worship, or frequent for that purpose, the great temple of nature; at the same time it will serve to throw back upon those who urge the objections, the charge that these studies are materialistic in their tendencies, by showing that the fault exists in the mind and heart of the objector, and not in the science itself. It will be seen that the study of natural sciences have directly an opposite tendency upon them. First: the person who embodies in himself what are conceived to be the deleterious tendencies of the sciences; who has, it may be,passed through the usual routine of studies prescribed in this department of human knowledge, and has dipped perhaps somewhat deeper into this fountain than others, but has to the same extent passed over into the dreamy realms of skepticism; whose course would convey the impression that the measure of knowledge in this sphere is precisely the measure of the degree

of skepticism which seems to have been the result. We do not now refer to the lazy student who always seemed to have an apathy for, and did not like the natural sciences, for we do not conceive that he would be a proper witness in the case.

Such person can have no distinctive idea of what a science is; he has learned to define it in terms; he has caught hold of its ghost, but has never imagined that it had a soul, much less laid hold upon it. A flower to his mind, or a plant has been built up pretty much in the same manner as a house or a machine; the materials, so much carbon, so much oxygen, and the regular amount of mineral substances derived from the earth; when he has picked these apart, weighed, measured and placed them in his table, he is done; his mind is as barren as before, except the few mathematical facts, poor and lean, which he has gathered: he is indeed scarcely paid for his trouble; he has read the book from preface to finis, and all that he has gathered are the few accidents referred to. Now what might be supposed to be the impression, made upon such a mind, of the divine author who reveals himself in his works in nature? Why, those chiefly which might be made by the skilful artist or mechanic, who has constructed his machine very ingeniously indeed, but he has seen the end of it and supposes that here at all events he has fathomed the mind that made it. He treads the courts of nature's temple with profane boldness, simply because he finds nothing there to inspire his reverence; but where lies the fault, in the temple, or in the mind of him who approaches it? Do the heavens declare the glory of God, and the earth show his handiwork to such a mind? Suppose in keeping up with the better feelings of his nature he endeavors to exercise reverence he finds that it is all on the outside; his heart is not in the matter; he has begun wrong, the first requisite is wanting.

To the proper apprehension of science, in its relation to the various departments of human life, and in its relation to the whole system of truth, of which human life is but a factor, faith is requisite; to begin with skepticism, is to end in doubt; to have no sense of the relation of material objects to anything above them, is violently to sever what God has joined together, and in so doing to reap the legitimate fruit of the act, viz: to draw a film over our own eyes, so as to loose sight of that which is of much higher importance, in chasing the shadow.

This suggests our second character, who possesses what the other lacks; who begins indeed at the same place with the other, but travels off in a contrary direction. This one has faith, and ascends towards God; that one has it not, and descends towards the earth. This one approaches the temple of nature with reverence and humility, satisfied to learn what his powers can grasp, and to reverence in faith mysteries that reach beyond, reserved for his

« ForrigeFortsæt »