and, in the case of Christianity, in her mother-in-law. And a man's opposition to the very tenor of the foes shall be they of his own housereligion itself, which presupposes, hold." And so also in the parallel and addresses itself to, a fallen con: passage of St. Luke, he says, that dition of human nature, and, at most he is come to send fire on earth : therefore, can only be held responsi- aptly illustrating by the analogous ble for a very partial and limited expressions of fire and a sword, the

grievous personal afflictions which Still, however, we can hardly di. would be consequent on the preachvest ourselves of that wrongful ing of the Gospel of peace and gen. prejudice by which we confound tleness; as if he had said, “I am the natural efficacy of our religion come, indeed, to bring peace on with its positive and visible effects. earth--my coming is to mankind the We still expect from it more than kindest gift which God could have we actually see, and are scandalized vouchsafed them--but the folly and when we find that it is not that uns malignity of those to whom I am mixed delight which its divine nature come will pervert that blessing, so bespeaks it. Men perversely ima. that I shall not indeed send peace gine that it has disappointed them to them, but a sword--the bitter of its fair promise, whereas they animosity which they will unhappily bave themselves only frustrated the feel to the reception of my doctrine, happy consummation of it. On will become hatred against its beholding the scene of confusion teachers and professors-to such a and misery which the world pre- degree, that even the closest ties of sents, notwithstanding the benign kindred will afford no protection influence of Christianity now for so against the malice of persecution. many ages exerted for its reforma. Destruction and unhappiness are in tion-on reflecting on that moral the ways of men, and therefore will chaos which still reigns throughout they not know the way of peace, it; although the quickening Spirit of though that way is through me God has moved upon its face, and made plain before their face.” carried light into its darkness—we Be it our endeavour to turn this are sometimes tempted to forget gracious warning to our advantage, ourselves, and almost to join in the that we may contemplate the state expression of disappointment utter- of religion in the world with proper ed by the two disciples on their way feelings, and prepare ourselves to to Emmaus-"We trusted that it had meet the peculiar exigencies of the been he who should have redeemed condition in which we are placed Israel”-altogether overlooking the with regard to it. rude and untractable and stubborn In the first place, we shall profit materials on which the Divine Word by it in our own hearts, if it rightly has to operate, and which must un- instil into us the conviction, that, avoidably impede and mar its gra- from the nature of the case, religion cious effects.

cannot be entirely in this world a It was to obviate this prejudice way of pleasantness and peace. that our Lord, who knew the secret Our Lord has told us that he came springs of the human heart, so point- not to send peace on earth, but a edly forewarned his disciples, in the sword, and so must even the best words of the text-" Think not that among men experience it according I am come to send peace on earth : to his word. There is that within I came not to send peace, but a them, even in such as are regene.' sword. For I am come to set a rated by the word of truth, which man at variance against his father, will not readily conform itself to and the daughter against her mo. the guidance of the Spirit--the law ther, and the daughter-in-law against of the members they find to be con

tradictory to the written law of God peace. Can there be any peace for —and their life is a perpetual strug- us, so long as we are in the flesh, gle of contrary principles within and there remains any sin within us themselves contending for the mas- to war against the soul? Can we tery. What they would, that they presume that all is safe, because we do not; and what they would not, feel no immediate assaults of tempthat they do. The pride of the flesh tation Rather, on the contrary, let and the lust of the eye still assert us be assured that great present their hereditary dominion over them, tranquillity is an omen of future diswith a diminished power indeed, quiet-a stillness which forebodes but far from being altogether sub- an impeuding storm. “Woe uuto dued and crushed. The tyrant that you,” says our Saviour, “ when all was too strong for them has been men shall speak well of you!" curtailed of his too ample preroga- (Luke vi. 26.) That is, woe unto tive, but within his limited sphere of you, when your compliance with an action he is still himself.

evil world is such as to obtain in. Hence it is that the religion of discriminate approbation from the Christ is to them, in its actual ef- bad as well as the good; for it imfect, a sword-it has to clear its plies that we do not scrupulously way through an obstructing mass of adhere to the rigid law of our faith, corrupt dispositions, to penetrate and timidly avoid singularity of de that body of death which invests votion to the one only good cause. the soul to establish the throne of Such is the uncompromising nature grace in the heart, by daily and in- of our holy religion, that it is imposcessant conquest over a powerful sible that it should suit the tastes of enemy-an enemy within ourselves, all men; neither therefore can its already in preoccupation of the professors, if they be fully imbued ground on which the battle is to be with its holy doctrines. When, fought, and firmly intrenched within therefore, we find ourselves in too the citadel. Hence the religion of high favour with the world, let us the true Christian is a sword, which pause to examine ourselves, whether can never be sheathed; for the we have not erred from the simplipeace which he would make with city of evangelical doctrine, and his enemy is no peace his adver- sacrificed some portion of its dues sary is only repulsed, not finally to the opinion of men. Internally, vanquished, and only waits the op- indeed, the more possessed we are portunity to rise again in arms, and with the spirit of true religion, the renew the assault.

greater joy and consolation we must If this be the true state of the feel in it; and the greater, conse. case, ought we not to suspect our quently, must be the perception of danger when we find ourselves too its natural efficacy. But, on the much at ease, and to think that all contrary, in proportion as we are cannot be right with us, when all more actuated by religion, must be proceeds too well? Christ has warn- the frequency and violence of oppoed us that our religion must exposesition from the circumstances of an us to tribulation in the world--that untoward world, and the less cousewe must not calculate on its proving quently its actual external effect. A & source of peace to us; and expe- lukewarm profession of religion may rience adds its testimony to the be maintained in ease and supineness Scripture truth. Let us not then an energetic faith calls for labour deceive ourselves, where the truth is and pains. so openly declared to us—let us not In the next place, the assurance lay a flattering unction to our souls, which our Lord has given us, that and proclaim peace to ourselves, his doctrine will be as a sword on where there is in fact no ground for earth, ought to fortify our minda

against all vain dejection and disap. more than wonted presumption lays pointment, when we do not perceive its dismembering hand op every that unmixed peace and comfort consecrated thing--when prostituted wbich naturally follow in the train talent descends from its own elevaof holiness and piety. He has al- tion to be the purveyor of all that ready intimated to us, that the ob- is disgusting and offensive, to satiate stacles from the world to the suc. the low appetite of the vulgar, and cess of the truth are so great, that to turn the taste of mankind from his word cannot have free course, the pure nourishment of spiritual but must, if we may so express it, iustruction. It is not now, as for. fight its way onward. Sball any one merly, when sceptical ingenuity asthen complain that his endeavours sailed religion with laboured arguafter Christian holiness are not re- ments and insinuations, which were quited with their full reward in such accessible only to the learned few. a condition of the world ? Shall heThe infidelity of the present day is wonder, that while he is yet a mem- of a more open and profligate stamp. ber of the Church militant, he ob- It shews its front in the public ways, tains not that rest which can only and mingles in the conversation of belong justly to the Church trium- the people. Once it was only a phant? It may for a moment, in- contagious malady derived from the deed, grieve the sincere Christian, touch of a distempered philosophy, when he sees the ungodly in such -now, unhappily, it infects the prosperity, (Ps. lxxiii. 3.) while he very air which we breathe. Need is comparatively depressed and kept we, then, any more striking proof back from enjoyment—but it will than that which the present times only be for a moment-for he will afford, of our Lord's assertion of immediately have recourse to the the hostility which his religion would sanctuary of God, as the Psalmist raise up against itself in the world ?says, to explain the difficulty which Hitherto argumentative attacks have was otherwise too hard for him—he been chiefly made on religion, and will recal to mind what his religion have as invariably failed, because teaches him, that outward good is they assailed its strong holds—but no criterion of the favour of heaven now the attacks are made on those —and that bis slight affliction, en- vulnerable points which it presents dured for the sake of righteousness, in the passions of its professors, “ worketh for bim a far more exceed- and they too fatally succeed. Só ing and glorious reward.” Looking far, bowever, should the wide spread to this bright recompense, he will of infidelity in modern times be rejoice rather that “all the day from causing dismay of heart to the long be has been punished, and sincere believer, that he should bechastened every morning.” He will hold in it the sure fulfilment of his behold, in his privation and disap- prophecy, who said, “He came not pointments, the sword, which the to send peace on earth, but a world places in the hand of religion sword;" and derive an argument to smite him, and he will cheerfully for the strengthening of his own submit to be wounded in the flesh, faith. It should, at the same time, that he may live in the spirit. convince him of the purity and per

Again, to have been apprized fection of that religion, which can beforehand of the actual effect only be endangered by the increased which should follow the preaching corruption of the world—which only of the Gospel, may serve as an recoils from mankind when they beauxiliary antidote against the sin of come too polluted for its reception. infidelity and apostacy. We live in If the infidelity of the present day an age wben the spirit of dissension is more alarming in its character, walks fearlessly abroad, and with and more difficult to be repressed, it is only because iniquity more lancing evil. For instance, by our abounds because the passions of personal example, what advantage men are now warped to antichristian may not accrue to the cause of reprinciples, and the original impedi- ligion? While the life of ore man ment which exists in the flesh to the presents at least an approximation progress of the word, sufficiently to that way of peace, which is the great without any aggravation, is proper natural effect of religion—I increased ten-fold.

say an appro.rimation, because But further, let this obstruction there cannot be any perfect speci. to the vital efficacy of Christianity; men,—when even one example thus which our Lord has foretold, and speaks to the world, the multitude which we so evidently discern in the of exceptions which present religion world, stimulate our own exertions, to our view only as a sword on earth to obviate the strong counteraction -as the cause of discord and quarfrom without to the success of reli- rels -- are comparatively nugatory gion, and to reinforce its strength. and insignificant. For were the The very aggravation of the present consolations of religion unreal, it case imperatively demands increas- could not bestow peace in any de. ed exertion on our parts to meet gree in


oné instance-but, the growing evil. The sword which though all concurred in rejecting is now going through the earth, the that peace which it offered them, fire which is already kindled, cry and actually made it no peace to aloud to us to gird ourselves for themselves, still this is no presumpbattle—to take to ourselves “ the tion against its capability of beshield of faith, wherewith we shall stowing real happiness—for the case be able to quench all the fiery darts may be, as it is, a perversion of of the wicked; and the helmet of the true effect arising from causes salvation, and the sword of the Spi- foreign to the religion itself. rit, which is the word of God.” Shall Especially is it incumbent on us we slumber on our post while the to take care that we add not, on the war-cry of our enemy is sounding contrary, by an evil example, any a bold defiance in our ears? Shall confirmation of that perverted view we look on with indifference, while of our religion which the world at the incendiary is scattering around large exhibits. Sufficient is the evil our temples the firebrand of deso. which reigns abroad in the world. lation ?

The spirit of irreligion already marNor let us be deterred from doing shals in its ranks a host numerically our utmost to promote the cause of formidable to the faithful remnant religion, by the thought, that, in which is left under the banner of spite of all our exertions, things Christ. Already has desertion sufmay still take their course, and that ficiently thinned our lines, and we infidelity and dissension may still remain only a small band in the continue to interrupt the real efficacy midst of our enemies. Each true of religion, as they have hitherto believer, in such a case, should act done, and to render it a sword among as if the whole burthen were laid men. For we are not to expect that on himself. He should practically such a blissful order of things will apply to himself the words of Eliever be seen on earth, as that in jah, “ !, even I only, remain a prowhich no resistance would be made phet of the Lord, but Baal's proto the success of religion. The phets are four hundred and fifty condition itself of the world is such, men.” (1 Kings xviii. 22.) And he as was before remarked, as to pre- should accordingly feel, that any clude altogether such an expecta- dereliction of duty, on bis pari, tion. Still much may be done to would materially involve the intediminish the weight of counterba- rests of religion. It is not now the

time for each individual to stand derful wisdom and goodness of God, aloof to say, I leave it to the mi- who thus bringeth good out of evil, nisters of the Gospel to fight the making the clouds and storms of this battles of the Lord. Whoever thou world the harbingers of the gloart, that namest the name of Christ, rious day-spring from on high. He it is thine to depart from iniquity- has given, we find, even the best of to come forth from the pollution of an us, now, but faint perception of that evil world to present thyself before blessedness which belongs to the God and man as the champion of the pure profession of the faith. Though Lord, pure and blameless, giving godliness hath, by his word, the no occasion to the enemy to blas- promise of the life which now is, as pheme that holy name by which well as of that which is to comethou art called.

yet, from the circumstances in which Finally, let that view of the dis- he has placed his servants, in the advantageous condition in which re- midst of a perverse and sinful geneligion is now circumstanced, ele- ration, the enjoyment which they vate our thoughts to that time, and now obtain must fall infinitely short that happy region, where, through of any solid real bappiness. Yet that the merits of our Redeemer, these very faintness of the present enjoy. obstacles shall be altogether remov- ment attached to religion becomes. ed, and its natural and actual effect the passport to that transcendant shall be found to coincide-when bliss which shall be hereafter. It the sword of discord shall be for bas taught them to wean their affecever sheathed, and the fire of per- tions from the things of this world secution for ever quenched. If, in- —10 spiritualize their nature—to as, deed, amidst the evident confusion pire to those more perfect joys which prevails in this world, we are which God hath in store for them able to discern sufficient intima- that love Him. As a portion of the tions of the true character and ten- Canaanites we find were left in the dency of our religion to diffuse land which was given to the chil. joy and peace, we have the strong- dren of Israel, to be " as thorns in est ground for believing, that when their sides,” and to preserve the present obstacles are removed, that people in allegiance to their Godfulness of joy unspeakable, and that so has our Lord ordained that our peace which passeth all understand- religion should be as a sword, to preing, which the Scriptures declare to

serve us stedfastly in the faith, and us, shall then follow it as its inse- to remind us of that God whọ heapparable accompaniments--that then eth his blessings upon us, and the persecuted and afflicted for crowneth us with loving kindnesses righteousness sake shall rejoice, and and tender mercies,-lest we should the righteous shine forth as the repose with satisfaction on present stars for ever.

things, and forget that more divine In the mean time, while we look recompense, which our Saviour shall forward only by faith and hope to hereafter bestow on all such as look this happy period, we cannot suffi- for and love his appearing. ciently admire and praise the won


« VorigeDoorgaan »