Page images
PDF
EPUB

were Separatists or Puritans, and as the next day was Communion, in their Church, either the husband or the wife must fast and abstain from all wordly concerns, the evening preceding. He added, that Mr. L. had a great quantity of hay out, then ready to go in, and must take the charge of his hands, in securing it that night, and his wife was undergoing the affliction, necessary for them both, before the Communion. Any other time, he said, Mrs. L. would be found a tender-hearted, good woman as lived in the world. He appeared perfectly serious and candid in his statements. Musing, as I rode along, I was led to inquire, what analogy the

Separatist principle had to Christianity. It was easy to demonstrate, however, that the woman was a separatist; for her profession had separated her from reason, religion, and the natural benevolence of her own heart.

I concluded there was a good opportunity to try an experiment. Soon discovering to men at a door, I asked them, if they knew of a wicked Universalist in that vicinity! One replied, that he knew of Universalists; but did not know as they were more wicked than other people. A man, he continued, who professed that faith, passed a few minutes before, and had gone home; pointing across a stream to his house. Without making further inquiry, I went to his door, and called. “ Whose there ?" said the man within. A poor beggar, destitute and neglected, I replied. He soon opened the door, saying, My house is the home for all such. You will want something to eat, I suppose-what will you have ?” “Not any thing, said I, for myself; but my beast will want feeding. “ Your beast!” he replied ; " I thought you were on foot-I hope you are not so wretched as I was afraid-have you met with any great misfortune that you should have to beg for entertainment?" I told him I had met with nothing more, than to be denied a bed on which to sleep, because it was Saturday evening.

Having provided a light, he began to gaze and smile, saying,

“ But it appears to me you don't look much like a beggar-I should have thought you were a minister.” His lady calling him to the bed-room, told him with a low voice, she had mistrusted it was the minister, who was to preach there the next day. He returned, and looking me earnestly in the face, without further ceremony, embraced my hand,

[ocr errors]

though totally unacquainted, and with eyes as full of tears, as his heart was of joy, declared, he never so sensibly felt the force of the passage of the good Book, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers : for thereby have some entertained angels unawares."

The Editor has not published this comparatively trifling, but really true account, neither for the sake of amusement nor unfair crimination of others' conduct. The principal motive is, to admonish my readers, against imbibing those superstitions in profession, which prevent the exercise of the natural, generous feelings of the heart. As much as ministers declaim against the corruptions of our nature, those of tradition and 'bad habits, are much worse. The most critical examination of the subject will justify the remark. Several things are peculiarly observable in the account just given of profession and practice.

1. Notwithstanding the dear woman was naturally possessed of a kind and generous disposition, and had the esteem and friendship of her neighbors, and would commonly do honor to the christian profession, still, there was one evening in four weeks, in which her conscience forbade her showing mercy to the weary sojourner! Hence it is evident, that her improper conduct was the result of a mistake;. no censurable motive being ascribable to that article of the Puritan profession. It is really unaccountable, that the dominion of priestcraft and superstition should, so long, and in so many different ways, be perpetuated, in this enlightened age and country. That people should read the scriptures in their own tongue, be conversant with the history of our blessed Lord, of his benevolent professions and miracles of mercy, read his 'solemn and reiterated commands to his followers, to do unto others, as they would be done by, and yet, suppose his religion would forbid the entertainment of strangers, is truly astonishing; more strikingly marvellous is the consideration, that the good woman was undergoing a preparatory affliction, for the sacramental commemoration of our Saviour's sufferings and death. May we not venture to suggest, that if their profession of religion had embraced the sentiment, that his death was designed for the good of all men, natural and revealed religion would have co-operated and the one served to strengthen and do honor to the other?

2. This exlibition of superstition is commendable, in comparison with many instances of it, discoverable in the Christian community. There was no inquiry, whether the traveller was a professor or not; whether of one denomination or another. In this respect, the profession and practice were impartial. But how often is it the case, that a man, or his helpless family, is left to the mercy of the elements, or put to the most cruel death, for a supposed heretical faith? How frequently, éven at this day, do we see neighbors and former friends, standing at scornful distance from each other, on account of different views on religious subjects? Brothers will be at variance, parents and children contend and almost fight, and husband and wife exercise the bitterest feelings, merely for difference of opinion ! All these things are the unholy offspring of priestcraft and superstition. An abuse of the kindest blessings, generally produces the worst consequences.

A noble institution dishonered, is an almost irreparable injury. Not so with a mean profession; that only forms a contrasť with something better. But a mistaken judgmert makes abused Christianity coalesce with the most mischievous' institutions, and from that circumstance, draws inferences unfriendly to the whole, and confirmed infidelity is the consequence. O, ye professors of our holy religion, strive to cultivate peace and good will among men, that the cause of our Lord be not wounded and dishonored by yoứr means.

3. The Universalist, on whom the beggař called, hesitated not a moment in opening his door, and bidding him welcome. O, ye of like profession, imitate his example. Of all men, you are under the greatest obligation to be liberal and merciful. It is hoped that this recorded instance of christian generosity, so honorable to our holy profession, will be duly noticed and imitated, by the readers of the Intelligencer, their example prove salutary with others, till Christianity universally prevail, and the reign of human wretchedness be exchanged, for scenes of rational rejoicing and delight.

3

ILLUSTRATION OF PARABLES, No. I. “ And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands, to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched : where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.Mark ix. 43, 44.

1. This Parable was designed, more particularly, for the disciples or apostles of Christ.

Singular as this statement may appear, the following consideration will

prove

it correct. In the gospel of St. Matthew, 9th Chapter, from the 1st to the 9th verse, we have, in substance, the following: The disciples, by which I understand, the apostles, loosing in a measure the spirit of their mission and that meekness for which they were usually distinguished, inquired, who should be greatest in the kingdom of God. Jesus took a child, old enough however to believe in him, and presenting it to them, reprimanded them, saying, that he who was most humble should be most renowned ; and lest their unreasonable solicitude for exaltation, should lead them to treat with contempt, their brethren who were weak in the faith, he admonished them against giving them offence. Had the professors of the new religion thus conducted, it would not only have brought a woe on the world, by preventing the spread of the gospel, but the man who caused the offence would also be wretched. To prevent his followers from thus dishonoring themselves and abusing his religion, he gave them the solemn warning in our text: “Therefore, if thy hand offend thee, or cause thee to offend, cut it off, &c.” The strife for exaltation, which the apostles exhibited, merited this rebuke from their Master.

But the account given by St. Mark, next preceding the passage under consideration, is, if possible, more to my purpose than the former. By him, we are told that, the apos tles went so far as to dispute, who should be greatest in the kingdom of God, and that after Jesus had silenced them, and had informed them that such strife would abase, instead of exalting them, he made the same exhibition of a believing child, as in the other account, and endeavored to suppress the spirit of persecution which began to prevail

among them : for John acknowledged they had seen one Gasting out devils, and because he did not follow them, they forbade him. To this degree of persecution and abuse of power, Jesus objected, and told them that if their hand offended in that manner, to cut it off and cast it from them.

But we are not to suppose they did persevere in this persecuting spirit, but reformed on receiving this direct and pointed rebuke from their Lord ; nor have we reason to suppose they were reduced to the necessity of complying with the command to cut off a hand, as it ceased to give offence. Neither are we told that the same spirit greatly prevailed among them afterwards. Had there not have been a reformation, they would not so honestly have confessed their errors, and with their own fingers interwoven them with their narration, as a warning to future generations, against a persecuting spirit. This passage is most applicable to professors of religion, and had the church in every age received it as such, and profited by it, the earth would not have been drowned with showers of human blood, 'nor the unavoidable sufferings of life been unnoticed, mid the horrors of persecution.

2. The offence was against others, not themselves.

The passage ought to read, If thy hand cause thee to offend. The whole connexion requires this explanation and understanding of the subject. After bringing a young believer before the contending apostles, Jesus said, "It would be better for a man to be drowned in the sea with a millstone tied to his neck, than to offend one of these little ones that believed in him; and adds, If thy hand cause thee to offend them, cut it off.' He doubtless means, it would be better for an innocent man to be drowned, than to incur the guilt of such an offence. This is the most natural and easy construction of the Evangelist's language; and the only one, I think, which can be made to appear rational.

3. The maimedness occasioned by the loss of an eye or a hand.

The authority which the apostles received as teachers of a new religion, to demand a christian walk and conversation of those who joined their school, and become brothers by profession, was properly represented by a right hand. This authority they appeared inclined to abuse; and had their

« PreviousContinue »