Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

Many shall see it and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.”

a

[ocr errors]

When we hear of any of our fellow-countrymen who has gone to foreign parts, having conducted himself with such intrepidity or generosity, that strangers, taking him as a specimen of Scotchmen, bave been induced to form a favourable opinion of our national character, and to praise the land of our birth, our sensations are peculiarly pleasurable, and we heap our acknowledgments of gratitude on the name of him who has gained honour for us all. On the other hand, when any of our countrymen has, in similar circumstances, conducted himself so ignominiously, that foreigners, reasoning from his case, undervalue our national character, and speak of us discreditably, our sensations are peculiarly painful, and we are filled with indignation against the traitor, as having disgraced the whole of the community.

When not only our bonour, but more substantial interests are involved, our sensations of pleasure or pain are more lively or acute, and our feelings of gratitude or resentment much stronger.

We may be thus interested various ways. We

may be interested, for instance, as merchants, whom our countryman's conduct shall recommend or disrecommend in

the competition of the market; or we may be interested as travellers, for whom his behaviour shall prepare a hospitable or inhospitable treatment, when we visit those scenes through which he has passed before us. Suppose we were interested in the following manner: that by some afflictive visitation our country had been greatly depopulated, so as to make it desireable that foreigners should resort hither, and settle in the midst of us,—in these circumstances, would not that man be the object of our warmest gratitude, who, by his conduct, would so recommend the character and manners of our people, as to induce strangers to emigrate to our shores, in the persuasion that they would be benefited by our institutions and neighbourhood? And, equally, would not that man be the object of our hottest resentment, whose improper conduct would so operate as to deter them from coming to mingle and consort with us, lest they should sustain injury by the change ?

Professed Christians, the Church, if not our native, is our adopted country; and when we mingle with worldly men in the necessary intercourse of life, we may be regarded as Travellers in a Foreign land, where we have not only our country's honour to support, and a favourable reception to secure for those of the brethren who

may

afterwards pass through the same scenes, and transact business with the same merchantmen; but where we are in the predicament of him who is charged with the responsibility of so recommending the land of his nativity or adoption, that strangers should be induced to resort to it, and replenish its solitudes. We have a fair and spacious kingdom, brethren, and an all-glorious King. But, alas, how thinly the territory is peopled! How few there are to unite with us in rendering our Sovereign homage ! In what comparative solitariness we dwell; and how feeble is the shout of our loyalty! How forcibly, then, the question addresses us, Have the world such an exhibition made in our character and deportment of the nature of the Christian king

dom, as has a tendency to induce them to leave their present situation, and take up their dwelling where they shall be admitted to a participation of our privileges, and be made happy in the enjoyment of our companionship?

There is a previous question, however, of still more forcible appeal. Among ourselves—at home in the kingdom of the church-what is the example we set one another ? What encouragement have we in one another? From what we receive at one another's hands, are we cherished in the love of our adopted country? How melancholy is the fact, that the conduct of some professors of the Christian faith is such, that not only have strangers been deterred from entering the church; but some who had entered it, been so disgusted with the hypocrisy, the pride, the impurity, the contention, and hard-heartedness they witnessed there, or of which they were the victims, as to retire from it, blaspheming its King and government, and protesting, that out in the world they would find more honour, more honesty, candour, and generosity! It is a frightful evil that brethren should cause brethren to apostatize; that professors, instead of being mutually helpful, should be mutually destructive !

Assuming, however, brethren, that none of us is a stumbling-block to the members of the church, (I would I could assume it with greater liberty of mind,) I proceed to inquire into the nature of the recommendation which we make of the kingdom of Christ to the world. The inquiry is not, If we argue and plead for its doctrines, and be of a zealous proselytizing spirit. It is undoubtedly incumbent on us that we be thus distinguished. But there is an advocacy of the religion of Christ, compared with which all such pleading in words is weak and inefficient. The question at present is, What is the state of our advocacy in respect of the recommendation which we make of the Christian church, by the excellence of our behaviour ? Is it such, that when irreligious men survey our lives they are forced to admire us, and envy us our condition, and wish they were altogether such as we are, excepting, it may be, our poverty and sickness ; so that they feel loudly called upon to enter, and take up their abode in our kingdom, and place themselves under the administration of our King ?

The power which lies in the correct conduct of the professors of any system, as an argument for the truth of that system, is universally acknowledged ; and the stronger it is, the more are we responsible for employing it. It was in an especial manner by their vigorous employment of it, that the primitive Christians succeeded so well in the propagation of the Redeemer's cause. In answer to all scorn and sophistry, they made their appeal, Behold what our faith has done for us! how it has made us happy, and pure, and industrious, and peaceable, and just, and affectionate, and charitable, and useful ! There was the argument which nothing but malice could resist; and even malice of no common degree was necessary for the task. Brethren, do we argue like them? Is our conduct such, that we can reasonably complain of irreligious men, that they do not close with the cause of our Lord, when we make that conduct our plea for their conversion ? Have we confidence in making this appeal to them, Come with us and be made like us. Made like you!' some ungodly men might well exclaim with scorn, in reply to the soliciations of some self-denominated Christians, Made like you !-every thing honourable and generous forbid! In that case we behoved to make a miserable change for the worse—to descend from an elevation of virtue, to a condition of meanness, impurity, fraud, and illiberality!' 0, wo, to them who thus bear false witness against the Son of God! Who assume his name; but, instead of recommending him to the world as a Master in whose service the character will be improved, proclaim by their conduct, that if He do not

6

[ocr errors]

deteriorate and degrade it, He at least permits it to remain as he found it, vile and ignoble, unprofitable and useless, if not prejudicial to society.

Before I proceed, however, to particularize any of those virtues by which the Christian recommends the kingdom of Christ to worldly men, it seems requisite that I warn you of the danger of making the favourable opinion of unbelievers the rule of your conduct. There are many things by which it is our duty to be characterized, which they not only do not appreciate, as having any worth or beauty in them, but which they despise, or even resent with indignation. Almost every thing which appertains to our discharge of the duties commanded in the First Table of the Law is of this nature. Prayer, humble confession of sinfulness, expression of dependency on the pardoning efficacy of the Redeemer's sacrifice, expression of dependency on the sanctifying agency of the Holy Ghost, recognition of the hand of Providence in all events, zeal for God in rebuking the immoral and profane, or in faithfully executing, or causing to be executed, the discipline of the church on offenders—these, and similar duties, when duly performed, instead of gaining credit for you among those who are strangers to the kingdom of our Lord; are more likely to occasion you their contempt, for weakness of mind and enthusiasm; or to bring down on you their indignation, for hypocrisy and illiberal bigotry. Just so much the more, brethren, is it necessary

that exercise ourselves with diligence in the practice of these virtues which they can appreciate, and on account of which the kingdom of Christ will appear profitable to them. We may not relax in the discharge of these duties of Devotion which to their depraved minds are contemptible or offensive; but for what is offensive to them let us make compensation, by exhibiting in our conduct what they themselves will be compelled to acknowledge as being excellent. Having, for the sake of

we

« PreviousContinue »