Abbildungen der Seite

would have been welcomed to a share of divine honours along with other deities, were his followers resisted even unto blood, when they advanced his claim, not to be added to the list of those deities, but utterly to discard and dethrone them.

Now, it may be thought that there can be nothing analogous to this process in the present day, and within the limits of Christendom. But the truth is, that what obtained among the literal idolaters of a former age, is still most strikingly exemplified by

, those of the present, who in the spiritual and substantial sense of the word, are chargeable with the whole guilt of idolatry. There may be among us the most complacent toleration for a mitigated and misconceived Christianity, while there is no toleration whatever for the real Christianity of the New Testament. So long as it only claims an assigned place in the history of man, while it leaves the heart of man in the undisturbed possession of all its native and inborn propensities--so long as it confines itself to the demand of a little room for its Sabbaths and its decencies, while it leaves the general system of human life to move as before, at the impulse of those old principles which have characterized the mind of man throughout all the generations of the world- -so long as it exacts no more than an sional act of devotion, while it suffers the objects of wealth and fame, and temporal enjoyments, to be prosecuted with as intense and habitual a devotion as ever-above all, so long as the services which it imposes are not other than the services which would have been rendered at all events to the idol of interest, or the idol of reputation; then Christianity, so far from being the object of any painful recoil on the part of man, is looked upon, by very many in society, as a seemly and most desirable appendage to the whole mass of their other concerns. It is addmitted to fill up


what would be felt as a disagreeable vacuity. The man would positively be out of comfort, and out of adjustment without it. Meagre as his Christianity may be, the omission of certain of its rites, and certain of its practices, would give him uneasiness. It has its own place in the round of his affairs, and though what remains of the round is described very much in the way it would have been, had there been no Christianity in the matter; yet would the entire and absolute want of it make him feel, as if the habit of his life had undergone a mutilation, as if the completeness of his practical system had suffered violence.

And thus it is, that Christianity, in a moderate and superficial form, may be gladly acquiesced in, while Christianity after it conies to be understood in the magnitude of its pretensions may be utterly nauseated. When it offers to disturb the deep habit and repose of nature—when instead of taking its place among the other concerns and affections of a disciple, it proceeds to subordinate them all when instead of laying claim to a share of human life, it lays claim to the sovereignty over it-when not satisfied with the occasional homage of its worshippers, it casts a superintending eye over their hearts, and their business, and their lives, and pronounces of every desire which is separate from the will and the glory of God, that it is tainted with the sin of idolatry,—when it thus proposes to search and to spiritualize, with the view of doing away all

that is old, and of making every thing new, ancient Rome was never more in arms for her gods, than modern humanity is in arms for her obstinate habits, and her longing propensities. And yet if Christianity

. would tolerate nature, nature would in return tolerate Christianity. She would even offer to her the compromise of many hours and many services. She would build temples to her honour, and be present at all her sacraments. We behold an exhibition of this sort every day among the decent and orderly professors of our faith ; and, it is not till this antipathy be provoked by a full disclosure of the spirit and exactions of the gospel, that the whole extent of that antipathy is known.

We may expatiate on the social or civil virtues, such as justice, for example, without coming into collision with the antipathies of nature. Even worldliness herself may listen with an approving ear to the most rigid demonstration of this virtue. For though justice be a required offering at the shrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it may also be, and it often is, both a required, and a rendered offering at the shrine of honour and interest. The truth is, that a man may have his heart fully set upon the world; and a portion on this side of time may be the object in which he rests, and upon which all his desires do terminate; and yet, he may not feel himself painfully thwarted at all by the demand of an honesty the most strict and unviolable.

A compliance with this demand may not break up

his other idolatries in the least. In the practice of a truth and an integrity as unlimited as any law of God can impose, may he be borne rejoicingly along on the

full tide of prosperity; and by every new accession to his wealth, be multiplying the ties which fasten him to the world. There is many an intense votary of gain, who will bear to be told that he should be perfectly fair and upright in the prosecution of it, and who will not bear to be told, that the very intensity of this prosecution marks him out as a child of earthliness—makes it manifest, that he is striking all his roots into a perishable foundation-proves him to be the victim of a disease, the symptoms of which lie much deeper than in his external conduct -proves him, in short, to be unsound at heart, and that, with a principle of life which will survive the dissolution of all that is visible, he, in strenuously labouring after its fancied interest, is fast heaping upon it the wretchedness of eternity. That morality which barely ventures to regulate the path that he is now walking toward the objects of this world's ambition, he will tolerate and applaud. But the morality which denounces the ambition, the morality which would root out the very feelings that hurry him onwards in the path ; which bids him mortify bis affections for all that this world has to offer; which tells him not to set his mind on any created thing, but to set his mind on the Creator, and to have nothing farther to do with the world, than as a place of passage and preparation for an abode of blessedness in heaven,—the morality which tells him to cease his attachment from those things with which he has linked the ruling desires, and all the practical energies of his existence,-such morality as this, he will resist with as much strenuousness as he would do a process of annihilation. The


murderer who offers to destroy his life will not be shrunk from in greater horror, or withstood in a firmer spirit of determination, than the moralist who would force from him the surrender of affections which seem to be interwoven with his very being, and the indulgence of which has conferred


it all the felicities of which he has yet experienced it to be capable. A revolution so violent, looks as repulsive as death to the natural man; and it is also represented under the image of death in the Scripture. To cease from the desire of the eye, is to him a change as revolting as to have the light of the

eye extinguished. To cease from the desire of the flesh is to crucify the flesh. To cease from the pride of life, is to renounce the life of nature altogether. In a word, to cease from the desire of the old man, is not to turn, but to destroy him. It is to have him buried with Christ in baptism. It is to have him planted together with Christ. in the likeness of his death. It is not to impress a movement, but to inflict a mortification.

But there is another very general misapprehension of peculiar Christianity, as if it dispensed with scrvice on the part of its disciples, as if it had set aside the old law of works, and thus' superseded the necessity of working altogether, as if in some way or other, it substituted a kind of lofty mysticism in the place of that plain obedience which is laid down for us by the ten commandments—sweeping away from its new dispensation the moralities and observances of the old one, and leaving nothing in their place but a kind of cabalistic orthodoxy known only to the initiated few, and with the formal profession of which they look mightily safe and mightily satisfied.

« ZurückWeiter »