Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

wordt date and gives i ntede ameating

pereen

sets aside the literal meaning of the The object of this paper is not to word day, and gives it the meaning pronounce a judgment on these difof extended and undefined duration. ferent theories of creation. My pur

4. Dr. McCausland's Theory, pose is to describe and not to adjuwhich takes up Hugh Miller's and dicate. I shall leave this summary applies it to the six days of the view of the thoughts of many minds creation as well as to the three in on this interesting subject to the which vegetables, reptiles, and ani- thoughtful attention of my readers. mals were created.

RELIGIOUS CHARACTER: THE MEANS AND HINDRANCES

OF ITS GROWTH.

BY REV. E. W. CANTRELL.

Nothing can be more important than religious growth, since our present happiness and usefulness, and our future destiny, depend upon it. Our present and future do not rest entirely with ourselves—God renders to us supernatural assistance, or we could not escape from the consequences of sinbut they depend upon the religious state which, with the assistance given by God, we attain. If misery is a consequence of moral perversion, and joy the fruit of moral rectitude, the nearer we get to a right inoral state in this world, the more shall we possess of at least the highest species of joy which can dwell within the human breast We are not to live unto ourselves; we are to live for the good of men and the glory of God. The world is a field of religious labour. Our life is to be spent in holy toil. Our work is raising our fellow-creatures from a state of corruption to a state of purity; and the nearer we get to a state of perfect purity ourselves the more effective will our influence and labours be in raising others. We know, too, that without holiness we cannot see God. A right moral state is necessary to fit us for the society, the joys, and the employments of heaven. We may reasonably suppose that, just as one star differs from another star in glory, so a difference will exist between glorified saints, and that difference will be a consequence of the difference in their religious state in this world. The more fully religious character is developed, the greater will be our joy and usefulness here, and the greater will be our glory hereafter.

Religious character does not apply exclusively either to the inner or the outer man. It includes both. The two great requisites in the present religious economy are faith and works, the fruit and evidence of faith. Those outward moral works which, with resolute determination, can be performed even when the heart is not right, may secure acquittal in the sight of men, but not in the sight of God. “Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." Character includes both the inner and the outer life. But the outer life comes from within; hence religious character is ruled by the inward state, and corresponds to it. Solomon 'said, “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life." Our Saviour has taught 118 that from within, out of the heart, all evil proceeds. The heart is the seat of moral as of physical life. The whole religious character depends upon the heart, and the growth of religious character depends upon the culture of the heart. If the inward religious state is improving, religious character is growing.

Amongst the MEANS of religious growth a serious and earnest attention to religious exercises may be mentioned. All religious exercises are means of growth;. private devotions are, perhaps, the most important. Daily meditation and prayer nourish religious life. The Word of God is food for the soul, and prayer is its native atmosphere. Physical life cannot be maintained and developed without food and air ; neither can religious character grow without meditation and prayer. That these exercises may be effective the attention given to them must be serious and earnest. It may be feared that in many cases private and family, as well as public devotions, are mere forms. The Word of God may be passed over with a mere cursory perusal, and a string of words and sentences may constitute the professed devotional ex ercise. Such a formal attention to religious exercises can be of no avail. It is only when we closely meditate on God's word that we can derive nourishment from its stores, and the Holy Spirit can apply it to the development of our piety. Prayers which come from the heart are the only prayers which God hears and answers ; consequently if prayer proceeds only from the lips, no blessings will be bestowed in answer to it. The influence which attends real devotion produces a holy effect upon us. The intercourse we hold with God intensifies religious feelings, and matures religious character. In religious exercises, therefore, the thoughts should be fixed and the spirit should be devout.

Vigilant and faithful self-examination is another means of religious growth. Self-examination assists prayer. Prayer is irksome and formal when it is vague and indefinite. It is difficult to be earnest in giving utterance to a few general requests which, from their frequent repetition, have become so familiar that they form a part of every prayer whether appropriate to the time and circumstances or not. By selfexamination we become conscious of errors and needs; and if we approach the throne of grace to ask for deliverance from known errors and for a supply of blessings which we feel that we need, we can more easily enter into the spirit of the exercise. Hence selfexamination should come before prayer. Self-examination assists us in guarding against sin. If we know our failing and deficiencies we can more easily guarded against the one and supply the other. Self-examination should be vigilant Evil is subtle, so that if we are not vigilant it may creep upon us unawares. Self-examination should be faithful. We are apt to exaggerate our virtues and overlook our faults. Self-accusation is painful; hence, for the sake of sparing our feelings, we may deal treacherously with ourselves.

Faults may be overlooked for a tine, but they cannot be always overlooked The longer they are passed over the more difficult will it be to eradicate them. If we are vigilant and faithful in self-examination, errors will be traced ; against them we can guard, and from them we can supplicate deliverance. Thus religious character will grow.

Watchfulness is another ineans of religious growth. Christ has told us to watch and pray. Growth of religious character requires not only the eradication of evil and the development of good which already exist in the heart, but also defence against the encroachments of sin. There are enemies of religion in our own passions, and in the inducements which the world presents. The author of evil employs a varied and subtle agency to attack the heart and lead it captive. Against attacks we must watch, so that on the approach of temptation we may prepare to defend ourselves. We often fall into sin almost unconsciously. Sometimes temptations come upon us with a sudden and irresistible force. If we watch we shall not be led into sin unconsciously, and for what would otherwise be an irresistible attack we shall be prepared. By this means the deadening influence which sin produces on religious character will be avoided.

Social intercourse may be made a means of religious growth. Intercourse with our fellow-creatures produces an important effect upon our character. If two hold frequent converse they become assimilated, and their character becomes better or worse according to the predominance of virtue or vice. Sometimes a remarkable change is produced in the whole character of a man by a change of society. Association with others helps to mould our character. If, in our social intercourse, there is a due proportion of the religious element, it will foster religious growth. It will produce a more substantial and lasting effect than any other means besides fellowship with God. The religions element is often neglected in general intercourse. It is confined too much to the sanctuary, or at least to those seasons which are specially set apart for religious exercises. The converse of Christians

frequently degenerates into ordinary arise from his circumstances, or from gossip. We may and should converse the peculiarities of his physical, menon all profitable and interesting sub- tal, and moral cast. Close observation jects, but religion ought not to be over- will trace these. But some hindrances looked. If we introduced this elementare general. more frequently into conversation, un- One of these is irregularity in attenbosomed our difficulties, trials, tempta- tion to religious exercises. Attention to tions, and joys, the mutual sympathy religious exercises has been mentioned which would be awakened, and the as a means of growth. If the attenmutual assistance which would be ren- tion given to them is irregular, the dered, would add greatly to the rapidity irregularity counterbalances the effect of our religious growth.

which the exercises theinselves should Sanctification of all engagements and produce. We need fresh strength conevents is another means of religious tinually, and the omission of one exergrowth. Religion should be our chief cise which procures strength gives concern. It should not be lost sight advantage to opposing influences. The of amidst the bustle and excitement of desire to omit any religious exercise secular business. All the events and arises from carelessness, and the omistransactions of life produce an effect sion fosters a spirit of carelessness. upon character. Everything that we The soul, like the body, requires do without regard to religion fosters regular support. If we are fitful in a spirit of carelessness in regard to taking support for the soul, instead of it. Every transaction in which we promoting spiritual health and strength, are guided by religious principles it causes languor and weakness. Regustrengthens the hold of those principles lar attention should be given to all upon our minds. If we act habitually religious exercises, especially private according to these principles, religious devotions. Irregularity in regard to feelings will become more intense, and time must occur now and then, parreact upon our outward conduct. We ticularly in some cases; but the exershould keep religion always before our cises should never be omitted, and as minds, and make every event subser- far as possible the same parts of the vient to the development of piety. day should be occupied.

Living continually under a sense of Another hindrance to religious growth God's presence is another means of is a want of consistency in discharging religious growth. God is invisible to religious duties. There are those who human eyes, and in consequence of are very scrupulous in regard to some His invisibility we are apt to forget religious duties, but readily pass over that He takes cognizance of our deeds. others. For instance, some, looking We give most earnest attention to upon baptism as non-essential, neglect that part of religious life which is open it, although they admit it to be a duty. to the gaze of the world. Secret sins If we treat any religious duty lightly, do not afflict us with nearly so much it increases carelessness. Religion is remorse as those that are known to pot simply a round of duties, some of others. Religion has relation both to greater importance and others of lees, God and men, but chiefly to God. It but also an inward state; hence if we is to God that we are responsible, and allow ourselves to omit one, even if it no thought, feeling, or action, can be appears upessential, such an omission hidden from Him. Under a sense of blunts religious feelings and encourages His presence we should always live. disregard to the claims of God. If we A perpetual consciousness of the pre disregard the claims of God in relation sence of Him to whom we are respon to little things, we shall soon disregard sible, will produce reverent feelings, them in relation to greater things. It stimulate to obedience, and be a safe- is only by acting with a conscientious guard against sin both in private and regard to all the requirements of God public life.

that we can promote religious growth. There are many HINDRANCES to Another hindrance is indulgence in the growth of religious character. practices which, although not positively Nearly every one has some hindrances sinful, are associated with sin. There peculiar to himself-hindrances which are practices which are associated in

the mind with sin, and, if indulged in, and mental powers, so exercise develops almost invariably lead to sin. Some religious character. Inactivity makes times such associations are peculiar to life feeble and languid. It is itself individual minds. For instance, an weakening. Even if food is taken, it amusement, innocent in itself, may be cannot properly accomplish its design associated with positive wickedness, as without activity. But inactivity imthe exercise of the bowling-green with pairs the appetite, so that little food the tavern and intemperance, or the can be taken. So in regard to religious card-table with gambling. These character. We may partake of the things are not necessarily associated, stores of spiritual nourishment, but if yet they have been, and this associa we are inactive they will not be tion springs up in the human mind. digested. If we are inactive the Association exerts a powerful influ spiritual appetite will soon be lost. ence, and in some instances indulgence Examples show that those who are in innocent amusements may lead to active enjoy the greatest share of the sins with which they have been religious life, and that those who are connected. This is not the case with inactive gradually lose their relish for all, but it is with some, and they at spiritual things. least should refrain from them. Such Another hindrance is substituting things are lawful, but not expedient. outward activity for personal culture. Temptations presented by positive sin Activity is a means by which religious are sufficient, without the additional growth may be promoted; but there influence of association.

may be activity without the progresAnother hindrance is pusillanimity in sive culture of the heart, and even relation to hostile influences. There are without piety. Young and inexpethose who fear to take a bold stand rienced Christians especially are in against the enemies of religion. Some danger of making this substitution. fear to acknowledge themselves Chris- The Christian religion is eminently a tians. Fear lest they should disgrace religion of the heart. Service renthe profession deters them. Such dered to God, to be acceptable, must pnsillanimity causes many failures. spring from a principle of love. AcFirmness and courage will conquer tivity will not mature religious characwhere timidity will be conquered. An ter unless it is the outflow of the enemy who presents a bold front does inner life. If the cultivation of the not expose himself to greater danger, heart is neglected, nothing can supply but awakens fear in the breast of his its place. The inward spiritual state opponent. One who is shrinking and must have the chief attention, and if timid awakens courage in his oppo- that is improving, the outer life will nent. If we are shrinking, wavering, correspond to it. timid, when we meet with spiritual These are some of the means and foes, we shall be unmanned, and their hindrances of religious growth. There attacks will come with double force. are others which are general or pecuIf we expect to be overcome we are liar to certain classes. If the means sure to be overcome. We should take are used and hindrances are avoided, a firm stand, and not dally with religious character must grow. As temptations, but be determined to the spiritual is infinitely more imporresist them. If we take such a stand, tant than the temporal, as the service instead of causing us to disgrace our of God has greater claims upon us than profession, it will be a means of main any secular engagements, as the future taining our position and honouring our world is in every respect superior to profession. “A tone of humility be- the present world, it behoves us to use comes us when we approach to God, a all means which will promote spiritual tone of command when we come in growth, qualify us for the service of contact with foes."

God, and prepare us for the inheritance Another hindrance is religious inac- of the saints in light. tivity. Exercise develops the physical

Literature.

THE DIVINITY OF OUR LORD AND

SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST. By H. B.
Liddon, M.A. The Bampton Lectures

for 1866. If it were possible and proper to express in writing the admiration of this book which the reading of it excited, we should be in danger of pronouncing a panegyric which all who have not read it, and probably also which some who have, might think enthusiastic and extravagant. For good reasons, whether because the theme is somewhat in our own line of things, or because of an earnest longing for a fresher and fuller treatise upon it than we have for a long time seen, or from the expectation of something unusually excellent which had been raised by a previous publication from the same author, we hailed the appearance of this bulky volume; and we are in no respect disappointed with it. It is true that there is just a little of the chaff of sacramentalism in it-but only a little as compared with what was to be looked for in one so closely allied to the ritualistic Bishop of Salisbury. Its pages, amounting in number to between seven and eight hundred, are pregnant with the precious grain of divine truth, gathered from the field of Holy Scripture. As a contribution to theological literature we rate it at the very highest value ; because while it collects the true testimonies in support of our Lord's divinity, it deals intelligently, and as we think conclusively, with the oppugners of the great doctrine, from the days of Arius to the present time. We are aware that the majority of our readers are not addicted to theological studies, and therefore we shall not occupy our space with even an analysis of these noble lectures. It is hoped that our ministers will be able either to make them their own property by purchase, or to procure the reading of them from the libraries or book societies to which they subscribe. But to give those who may have no means whatever of making their acquaintance with the book a

glimpse of its character, we append a quotation from the closing lecture, entitled, “ Consequences of the Doctrine of Christ's Divinity." After vindicating “inferential theology" against the objections of those who disparage it, Mr. Liddon says:

“ It is natural for an earnest man to ask himself, If I believe in Christ's divinity, what does this belief involve? Is it possible that such a faith can be a cold abstraction, having a real influence on my daily life of thought and action ? If this great doctrine be true, is there not still something to be done when I am satisfied of its truth, besides proving it? Can it be other than a practical folly to have ascertained the truth that Jesus is God, and then to consign so momentous a conclusion to a respectful oblivion, in some obscure corner of my thoughts, as if it were a well-bound but disused book, that could only ornament the shelves of a library? Must I not enshrine it in the very centre of my soul's life? Must I not contemplate it, nay, if it may be, penetrate and feed on it, by a reiterated contempla. tion, that it may illuminate and sustain and transfigure my inward being ? Must I not be reasonably anxious till the great conviction shall have moulded all else that it can bear on, or that can bear on it-all that I hold in any degree for religious truth ? Must not such a faith at last radiate through my every thought? Must it not supply with a new and deeper mo. tive my every action ? If Jesus, who loved and died and rose again for me, be God, can my duties to Him end with a bare confession of His divinity ? Will not the significance of His life and death, will not the obligativeness of His commands, will not the nature and reality of His promises and gifts, be felt to have a new and deeper meaning, when I contemplate them in the light of this glorious truth? Must not all which the Divine Christ blesses and sanctions have in some sense the virtue of His divinity ?

My brethren, you are right : the doctrine of Christ's Godhead is, both in the sphere of belief, and in that of morals, as fruitful and impervious as you anticipate. St. Paul makes the doctrine the premiss of the largest consequences, the warrant of the most unbounded expectations : • He that spared not His own Son, but delivered

« AnteriorContinuar »