Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

And though increasing years brought on their usual infirmities, there was neither any personal querulousness, nor the tendency, often originating in a subtle selfishness, which is both described and forbidden in the impressive declaration of Scripture,—“Say not, that the former times were better than these.” Her recollections of the past were grateful; but she likewise enjoyed the present. Those who knew her in middle, and especially in later, life, saw in her a fine specimen of the Christian matron, on which the youthful female might always gaze with advantage.

Mrs. Harper exhibited a most cordial, intelligent, unwavering, and increasing attachment to Methodism, amidst many inducements to a total or partial abandonment of its institutions; approving of it, at the last, even more than at the beginning; and deriving from it, to the end, those blessings-but in richer measure—which it conferred upon her in youth. To her it was “the work of God” throughout, existing in unimpaired efficiency, and crowned with continuous proofs of the divine approbation. She maintained the simplicity of early faith and piety through a long life, replete with cares and temptations. Religion was, with her, the chief, the one, thing; and it shed its lustre, and conferred its benediction, upon her whole course. It was the joy of her joys, and by it she was enabled to gather the peaceable fruit of righteousness even from sorrow. She dwelt in the secret place of the Most High, and abode under the shadow of the Almighty. The God of her fathers and of her youth conducted her safely through this earthly pilgrimage, and favoured her with an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of his glory.

[blocks in formation]

A SERMON, Preached at Waingaroa, September 8th, 1842, at the Annual Meeting

of the Wesleyan Missionaries of the New Zealand (South) District :

BY THE REV. H. HANSON TURTON.

“In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand : for

thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.”_Eccles. xi. 6.

It is observable that, amid the great diversity of style which is apparent in the sacred writings, that of which our text is an example forms a prominent part. You are aware that much of the finest

imagery, and many of the most beautiful allusions, of the sacred poets, and of our Lord himself, were derived from the practice and implements of agriculture, and from the general occupations of rural economy, in which the Jewish nation was so much engaged. Many important truths and fundamental principles of pure religion were conveyed under the similes of allegory and parable; and they were more likely to make sure and permanent impression, in proportion as the comparisons used were familiar to the mind. Of this we have a striking instance in the chapter before us, where the man of charity is likened to a husbandman, and his acts of benevolence to the sowing of seed. It is an allusion evidently drawn from the annual overflowing of the Jordan, enriching and fertilizing the neighbouring land; when the sower went forth to scatter his seed upon the soil, moistened and refreshed by the subsiding waters. “Cast thy bread," says the Preacher, (thy corn or seed,) “ upon the waters; for thou shalt find it" (that is, with increase)“ after many days.” “In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand : for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.” Since, then, the work of salvation is a labour of the greatest benevolence and the noblest charity, which equally involves in itself the present and eternal happiness of man, and the gracious acts, and attributes, and character of God, we consider the direction of the text as applicable to ourselves, and descriptive of the duty of religious instruction in which we are employed. We therefore remark, without further preliminary,

I. That the work in which we are engaged is one of moral and spiritual culture.

II. That an assiduous perseverance is enjoined upon us in the prosecution of that enterprise.

III. That this perseverance is to be maintained irrespective of success. And,

IV. That the motives which incite us to such diligence are sufficient and obligatory.

We remark, then,
I. That the work in which we are engaged is one of moral culture.

Whoever is pleased to take a cursory glance at the state of nature as it at present exists, will put it down for a certainty, that some very important change must have passed upon it since its original creation. He will feel assured, from the horrid devastation which universally presents itself to his view, either that this world is not the same world, or that it is very differently organized from what it has once been. And though, probably, he may be too sceptical to account for it on the principles of the book of Genesis, yet the fact he admits, and endeavours to answer for the correctness of it on principles more satisfactory to himself. To us, who are more credulous on this subject, the explanations of Seripture appear reasonable ; and as we vainly search in other quarters

are to be

for a convincing interpretation of the case, we are at once referred to the Mosaic account of primitive disobedience, and of the deluge as the fruit of it, as explanatory of the present condition of the world. “Cursed is the ground for thy sake: in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life." This, my brethren, is the key which opens the whole mystery ; this it is which discloses to our knowledge the primeval source of all our sufferings and our sins; and which exhibits the physical state of nature, and the moral condition of man, as involved in one common desolation. As 'the earth is covered with barrenness, so is the mind overspread with ignorance : and as the state of the former, if unheeded and uncultivated, will increasingly degenerate ; so in the case of the latter, if neglected, and unrestrained, and untutored, and unsaved, it will glide from one degree of iniquity into another, until it sink into the nethermost hell. The work, then, to which we are specially called to address ourselves is that of spiritual renovation,—the cultivation of a long-neglected soil, for the production of eternal fruit. The terms of the commission with which we are intrusted sufficiently declare its nature as one of instruction and salvation ; that we are to go “ into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature," teaching and exhorting them to observe all things whatsoever our Lord hath commanded us; and that, as the world is lost in ignorance and unrepented sin, we as “lights to enlighten the Gentiles," and "for salvation unto the ends of the earth.” But although our love embrace mankind, without distinction and without choice, abstractedly considered; and though, like the soldier with his universal commission, we should feel ourselves bound, in duty and loyalty, to labour in any part of the world which might be assigned us; yet, as New Zealand is the spot allotted for our present cultivation, by the authorities of the church, it behoves us to consider the general character of its soil, and what are the most conducive means to produce its melioration and fertility.

As to the primitive matter of which it is composed, we do not discover any great difference between one part of the Mission field and another, notwithstanding various degrees of luxuriancy and vigour. Its stamina are the same throughout, however different may be their organization. The natural state of man is one of atheistical crime; and however diversified may be the form and proportion of turpitude, still, wherever you meet with a natural man, you meet with a sinner, “ without hope and without God in the world.” The moral and intellectual powers of the mind are much the same throughout the species; and their intrinsic properties remain unaltered, notwithstanding the different state of improvement and vigour to which they may have arrived.

Let but the present order of human society be inverted as to its education and habits, and its use?ul operations be interrupted, then, while the man of science and religion shall sink down to the character of an Australasian savage, that

savage, in return, shall be transformed into an English Professor or Divine; and, instead of receiving us with open arms, as Missionaries to the Heathen, they shall cross the Atlantic wave themselves, and preach the Gospel of the Saviour to the pitied and benighted inhabitants of Europe! It is to the civilizing influence of education--religious, moral, and scientific education—that the notable difference of grade and character is to be imputed, rather than to any intrinsic difference, any want or overplus, of moral capacity. The Romans beheld in our ancestors, what we now behold in the savage. The athletic form, the tatooed features, the depraved and cruel habits, and the warlike disposition of the latter, are perfectly antitypical of the rude and uncivilized condition of the former. The barbarity of the New Zealander is but a reflection of the equally barbarous state of our Saxon progenitors; and, therefore, the exceeding difference between what we are, and what we have been, only serves as a rule of hope and a ground of encouragement as to what the savage may be. And whoever knows any thing of the New Zealand mind, knows this,—that its capabilities, whether of invention, or acquisition, or remembrance, when brought to the test of exercise, are equally strong and existent with those of his better-educated fellow-men. As in the field at large, so in this part of it in particular, the character of the soil is so far from being that of an unproductive sterility, that it is exuberant in the highest degree. The only misfortune is this, that its exuberance consists in what is noxious, and useless, and destructive. As unnumbered centuries have passed over it unattended, uncultivated, and self-sown, its rankness has increased by neglect; and there is now nothing left for us to look upon but an extensive and desolated waste, grown wild and degenerate.

Although this proves that the vegetative power is in active exercise, and that, were proper seed but duly sown, it would, in all probability, spring up abundantly-yet, at the same time, it proves the necessity of previous means being employed to prepare the ground for the reception of that seed. Were we indiscriminately and successively to propose all the truths of the Christian religion to the belief of a NewZealand Heathen, without first endeavouring to inform and prepare his mind, to satisfy his doubts, to answer his inquiries, to allay his suspicions, and to eradicate his prejudices, what would be the effect? Would it not be like the seed sown among thorns,—sown upon a land pre-occupied and filled with weeds of quicker growth? And might we not expect that the thorns would grow up and choke it? As it is the care of the husbandman to prepare the soil before he sows his seed, so it must be with us. The fallow ground of the human heart must be broken up; the “hidden things of darkness” must be brought to light; the deeply-rooted and widely-extending prejudices of former times must be eradicated; the obstructions presented by ignorance, or hatred, or jealousy, must be removed; the numberless streams of human folly which have moistened and supplied the whole with life,

must, as far as practicable, be drained away into one common channel; and a general clearance of every thing useless and pernicious must be effected; before the seed of the Gospel can be sown in the heart with anything like an encouraging prospect of success.

“ In the morning sow thy seed."

When the mind is thus prepared, by the operation of suitable means, -means both buman and divine,--for the introduction of the Gospel, then are we called upon to proclaim its truths in all their depth and extent, in the clearest and most convincing manner of which we are capable. The existence, and nature, and government of God; the depravity and salvability of man; the divinity and atonement of Christ; the operations of the Spirit on the heart; the necessity, and method, and results of salvation; the propriety and efficacy of prayer ; the divine origin and accomplishment of prophecy; the nature and design of miraculous evidence; the morality and spirit of the Gospel; the history of the Jewish nation; the ordinances of the church; the resurrection of the body, and the soul's immortality; the irreversible connexion between vice and misery, between happiness and virtue, between our present state and a future judgment: these, my brethren, and all other topics of holy writ, are to be proposed to the mind, are to be simplified and reduced to the comprehension of an unexercised intellect, and repeatedly urged upon its attention for acceptance and belief. The intellectual and spiritual man is to be instructed in the principles of rectitude and piety, and assisted in the recovery of that inheritance which he has forfeited, and of that image which he has lost. Is he degraded below his fellows ? the influence of the Gospel has to raise and civilize him. Is he the subject of misanthropy, of unhallowed tempers, and destructive passions ? “the grace of God, that bringeth salvation," must teach him to “ deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world ;” it will teach him to “ love his neighbour as himself.” Is he imbrued with the most shameless of vices, and practices the most degrading? there is not a section in the scale of depravity so low, but what the love of Christ can reach; there is no possible condition of man to which it is unadapted; for he“ gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."

“In the morning sow thy seed.” And 0, what precious seed is this! Whilst all other vegetation is but for a season, and of short duration, this it is alone which will “ endure unto eternal life.” “He that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption ; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Not only the present happiness and knowledge, but the immortal destinies, of the soul are dependent upon this culture for success. But for that, its present existence would be a state of cheerless, sad, impenetrable gloom, unlighted by the rays of consolatory hope ; and its future being

« AnteriorContinuar »