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truths to have their legitimate bearing upon the heart and conduct. But all this does not alter the position that knowledge of these things is essential to pure christian character, and that ignorance of them is censurable. We are enjoined by Peter to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh us a reason of the hope that is in us :" but how are we to comply with this precept without knowing what christianity is, and upon what considerations we found our hope? Paul exhorts us to “ earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints.” But what success could we expect in carrying out the spirit of this direction, unless we had well acquainted ourselves with the nature of those articles of belief, and by what authority they are sustained. Nay, to be an efficient christian, there must be knowledge.
Negligence as to improvement in this particular will also appear reproachful, if we consider the nature of future happiness. Many curious notions have been and are yet held respecting the nature of the joys which await christians in eternity. It appears to me however very plain from the constitution of man and the general tenor of revelation, that the chief basis of future happiness will be knowledge. Moral purity and freedom from pain will of course be subjects of joy, but these are rather to be looked upon as means or qualifications for enjoyment than as elements entering into the nature of happiness. Sin and misery are now the great shackles which bind us down and hinder our spirits from entering the fields of true pleasure, but when these are stricken off the free and intelligent soul will roam the 'wide creation of God, search out the history of the eternity that is past, and drink in--feed on—and praise the wisdom, goodness and power and glory of Jehovah through all the eternity that is yet to come. The christian's grief is now, that he only sees through a glass darkly;" but his transporting hope is, that then, he “ will know even as he is known.” The farther then he advances in sacred wisdom in this life, the more he shall enjoy of heaven on earth. And if he fails to advance to the highest possible stage, it is to be laid down to his shame.
I conclude then from what has been said upon this point, that it is the duty of all christians to endeavor to cultivate their minds, and to improve themselves in the theory and practice of the principles of Divine philosophy. All that I have yet to say, relates to the practical question, how this is to be done?
And here I may remark, what is evident to all, that there must be more careful, systematic personal investigation of the Holy Scriptures. There are many people in the church who depend entirely for their knowledge of the Bible upon what ministers say, and what they may catch from the conversation of friends. There are some to whom we might quote Shakespeare and tell them it was the language of inspiration, and they would believe it, and probably repeat it in support of some particular opinion of their own as the most unquestionable authority. Many a blunder of this kind has come under my own observation. The great reason of it is, that such people never read their Bibles; and if they have read in the holy Book, they have never read all that is in it. Now there is no tolerable excuse for a christian not being acquainted with all that is in the word of God. I know that people try to frame excuses. One says, he has such a bad memory that it is impossible for him to retain what he does read. But is not that a reason why it should be read more frequently? If you are prone to forget, you ought the oftener to refresh your memory. Another says, that the Bible is a large book, and that it requires the patience of a Job and the energy of a Hercules to go through it. It is admitted that the Bible is a considerable volume; but what is such a book, or hundreds of such books to men who live in this world twenty, thirty, forty and fifty years. I contend that one year is enough for a common laboring man to read all that is in it. It contains but 1189 chapters, and some of them consisting of no more than two and three verses. And if you read two pages every week and five pages every sabbathor fifty-four verses every week and twice that number every sabbath--or three chapters every day and five on every sabbath, you will get to the close of Revelations before the year is out. Certainly this is no difficult task. It only requires at the outside an average of ten minutes ordinary reading each day of the year.
But it is not sufficient merely to read the Bible, it must also be studied. And for this every christian family should be furnished with at least a few well selected books and commentaries. But
Here I will take occasion to recommend the Publications of the American Tract Society, both for cheapness and valuable matter. As to commentaries—anong writers of our own church, " The l'opular Exposition by Morris and Smith,” though it extends as yet (1946) only over the Gospels, possesses many excellencies. “Barnes' Notes" on most of the books of the new Testament, are also admirably adapted to the use of the common reader. To which I would add " The Comprehensive Commenlary" upon the whole Bible, as a work for the student and for family use. The commentaries of Scott and Henry are so universally appreciated, as to need no commendation from me.
you may say, you lack the means to procure books. Then save a few of those dollars which you spend for little delicacies, and at senseless exhibitions, and you will have enough and to spare. And permit me to say to you, parents, that a well chosen little library will profit your sons a great deal more than your dollars or your farms. Nor dare to tell me that you have no time to read. If you were to take but a few of those evening hours which you now while away in the stores, work-shops and bar-rooms, &c., in conversation about every body's business and every imaginable nonsense, and devote them to books; I can assure you it will be better for your heads and your hearts. Tell me not you have no time to read, whilst what I daily see passes before my eyes. Time there is, and time enough, if you will only appropriate it to the proper
A good religious family newspaper, is also highly valuable in enlarging christian views of doctrine, benevolence, and general intelligence. No family should be without one.
The Bible-class must also be sustained. It is here where we enter into a social discussion of the teachings of select portions of the word of God. And as a proof of the efficiency of such classes, you will always find, that those who most regularly attend them, and take most interest in them, are always the most intelligent and consistent christians.
The Sabbath School must be kept up and diligently attended to. It is here that the truths of revelation are brought down to the comprehension of children, and that the young are taught the way to heaven. Nor can any one doubt the excellence of this institution, who has observed the man who was brought up in the well-regulated sunday school.
Such, my hearers, are the principal means of improvement in Divine wisdom, and of advancement “ in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” And in conclusion I would affectionately and sincerely urge upon every one here present professing christianity, and all others desiring the salvation of their souls, to give them your diligent attention. Read your Bibles, study your Bibles, using every help which you can call into requisition. So will you be prepared for the highest offices of usefulness here; and when you reach the world to come, you will be prepared to enter upon the investigation of those sublime fields of wisdom and of thought which spread themselves to the view of the redeemed.
THE FUNDAMENTAL DOCTRINES OF CHRISTIANITY.
Heb. vi. 1, 2, 3. Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us
go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permit.
When we look at the doctrines of the Bible in their connection with the great scheme of the Gospel, we find such a mutual relation and dependence between them, that all seem to be equally important and indispensable. There are some however, which, from their nature, and the places they occupy in the history of redemption, require to be more thoroughly understood and more confidently received than others. In religion as in all science, there are primary rudiments, which serve as the foundation upon which the superstructure is to be reared. These first elements are all essential in every instance to the formation of christian character. As flesh, bones and blood enter essentially into the composition of our bodies, so these first principles enter into the constitution of all valid piety. These fundamentals we have enumerated in the text, and to a brief discussion of them shall our whole attention be directed this morning. The following is a paraphrase of the passage before us :Omitting now to insist on the first elements of christian doctrine, let us proceed to the consideration of the more difficult principles of religion, not discussing at present the doctrines of repentance, faith, baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permit.'
1. The first essential element of christianity is—Repentance. This is the first step in christian life. It is a doctrine which claims your particular attention.
Probably the most effectual way of removing false conceptions of this matter will be, to show what it is not. 1st. It evidently does not consist in a mere confession of sins. This is one part of Repentance, but not all of it.
A man may condemn himself in the most debasing language, and sit down in sackcloth and ashes, and
all without avail. The Pharisees confessed sins after the manner of their formalism daily, but very few of them repented. 2nd. Nor is sorrow and weeping on account of the privations and distress brought upon us by our sins, to be regarded as genuine repentance. We may be sorry for a course of conduct because it brought us into serious difficulties, and not hate that course of conduct itself. Esau weep bitterly because he had lost his birth-right, but evinced no sorrow for having eaten the pottage. 3d. Nor are the occasional meltings of natural affection, marks of true penitence. Some are constitutionally more soft and yielding than others. A sermon may dissolve them into tears—the tale of the Savior's mournful his. tory may melt them to tenderness, without approaching the borders of Repentance. Orphah wept, and filled Naomi's ears with lamentation, but while the tears were yet on her cheeks returned to the idolatry of the Moabites. 4th. Nor is deep conviction and remorse for sin repentance. Felix trembled under the pungency of his conviction, but turned away his apostolic instructor. Judas was overwhelmed with remorse for his guilt in betraying Christ, and hanged himself for relief from its goadings, but it is said he was a devil, and went to his own place! 5th. Nor is a glad hearing of the Gospel, and compliance with its outward requisitions, evidence of repentance. Herod heard John gladly, and did many things which be taught, but afterward beheaded him for the gratification of a damsel who danced at his birth-day! True Repentance embraces conviction of sin-contrition for sin-confession of sin—and abandonment of sin. Different individuals may experience these states of mind, and these dispositions of heart in different degrees according to their various constitutional temperaments, previous histories, and intellectual cultivation; but in every instance they are indispensable qualities of a genuine penitent.
“When convicted of sin, the individual clearly sees and deeply feels his natural depravity and practical wickedness: his conscience, awake to guilt and exquisitely sensitive, becomes painfully oppressive; and his spirits droop under the dread of final condemnation and endless punishment. This conviction is wrought by the agency of the Holy Ghost, through the instrumentality of Scriptural truth. That it is not a natural and original operation of the mind itself, is evident from the indisputable fact, that the uniform tendency of sin is to darken the mind-harden the heart--and sear