Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

with you : (John xiv. 16; Matt. xxviii. 20:) no more would you desire to be released from any part of due discipline, or from one part more than from another. For there being, as I signified before, these two parts of discipline, the formal and the essential, from which of the same two could you desire to be released upon your ordination? Would you have been allowed the privilege of assuming either a sapient look, or an uncouth carriage thereupon? Or would you rather, because you were qualified thereby for the dignity of a curate, have been permitted the mighty boon of FASHIONABILITY, the privilege of laying aside the modesty and sincerity that you took from home with you, and had for a miracle preserved entire among the dangers and difficulties of a modern education ?-Would you so; because you were going home again, or at least into a degree of solitude compared with the gregarious life that you had been leading for two or three years ? Would you then, I ask, or would you now? “Behold the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof. And it shall be as with the people so with the priest.” (Isai. xxiv. 1, 2.) I flatter myself, that the invisible curate could never have any objection to an even footing with the people in point of discipline, nor yet to a fuller measure of it if required, considering his greater responsibility: if he could, let him come forward and plead his immunity, that he may shew himself and be seen, and be no longer an invisible curate. Do shepherds fear responsibility as long as they love work? “Woe to the idle shepherd that leaveth the flock ! the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened.” (Zech. xi. 17.)

You will excuse my freedom and phantasy, I hope, this time; as I have not much room for a display of imagination in general, and also am not prophesying now before the Lord as usual, but rather writing friendly, and

as it were, familiar letters to his friends. (John xv. 13, &c.) Therefore, as he says, “Let not your heart be troubled : ye believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, ye may be also. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (Ib. xiv. 1, &c.) For, as the apostle says, “ Beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak :” (Heb. vi. 9 :) observing that when you returned to the country, and to a solitary part, though not to an unsocial life, it was carrying the same modesty, sincerity, and good feeling home with you as you took out, and still preserve through the influence of that invisible monitor before-mentioned, giving and supplying to you, who "were by nature a child of wrath, even as others;" (Eph. ii. 3;) to you who “ were dead in trespasses-new life continually, and therewithal a natural repugnance to every sort of vice-to fashionability, the more prevailing sin, or siN OF THE WORLD, especially.

For whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin : for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (John I. iii. 9.)

And now I am about to proceed as well as I can, with another epistle directed to this very purpose, the confusion of such deadly sin by a new life unto righteousness : which is and ever has been the immediate object of Christian discipline; as the forecited St. John well observes, “ For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil:" (John I. ii. 8:) though in setting myself to expose the sin of the world, I cannot of course expect to be received by the world with a willing attention. But in times like the present when the value of such discipline is found by its loss, the invisible curate at least, and perhaps some other invisibles with him, will be interested in the subject: his heart particularly will be right with my heart, as my heart with his, in our way from the commonest sphere and circle of human discipline to the most select, from that which concerns ourselves in common with all, with children as well as men, and with poor men as well as princes, to that which concerns us more particularly-first, in common with “ the perfect ” and particularly disciplined ; next, with the ministry or teachers of such discipline, and also other ministers by calling or profession.

That commonest circle of discipline, which I have also termed inceptive, and considered as the lowest or outermost, is not however to be considered as vile likewise according to the vulgar meaning of commonness; as if nothing could be good for any thing that was cheap, that existed in abundance and was accessible to all ranks and classes, like the water of which we all drink, and the air that we all breathe : when God knows that through his bounty in making the best things cheapest, and the cheapest things best, there are not two more valuable commodities on the face of the earth. And what these two things, or elements rather, air and water, are in a natural respect -the commonest sphere of society and the commonest circle of discipline will be in a moral, each in its waythe most valuable commodity of the kind; as it is written, “ Nay, much more those members of the body which seem to be feeble are necessary.” (Cor. I. xii. 22.) For while it is first in this wide range, the commonest sphere of society, that all Christendom has its communion or common being and beginning, it is also, secondly, in the discipline of this sphere, the commonest circle of discipline, that its numerous occupations all commence and are concentrated. Whence it follows, that in proposing this common or inceptive circle, as I intend, I shall be laying a foundation for the doctrine of the other two, as far as they may be also“ necessary;" another ivstance of the prior if not superior necessity of common discipline, according to the apostle's forecited position on the inferior

members of the body answering to our common sphere. For the other two species are only in limited request, and may be dispensed with accordingly more or less; but without this common species for a beginning there cannot be any; and indeed, its demand is, like itself, so common and universal that it cannot be dispensed with on any other terms but a wretched incapacity or actual impossibility. It is not needful, that the generality of mankind should be either rulers or adepts, or, as St. James says, be “ many masters :” (Jam. iii. 1 :) but it is necessary, within the terms aforesaid, that they should all be masters of themselves to a certain degree, let them be as feeble or as common as they will.

But sometimes the stronger members in outward respects, or those who happen to engross the stronger positions in society, shall be none of the stronger in selfgovernment or discipline. They may be even the reverse; perhaps they shall be rather some of those who still remain as nature made them; or perhaps they shall be much worse,-having lived long enough in the world, and ill enough also at the same time, to fill up the measure of their iniquity, or to develop the extent of their evil principle, and prove themselves past mending-a bad case for them! And no great reason, indeed, have any of us, to boast our beginning : for we are not artists by nature any of us,-we are not born in any useful occupation,-whatever our parents may be: no, not even in the humble degree of tent-making, which was the “craft,” or acquirement, of St. Paul, (Acts xviii. 3,) and is no craft but a natural gift with many birds, beasts and insects, which, like the song of the nightingale, is inherited from their parents. The best of our arts we owe to immemorial tradition, and must be regenerate also in these, as we must in every good work, before we can practise them with instinctive precision—by “God, our Maker: who giveth songs in the night, who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven”-(Job. xxxv. 10, 11)-merely, as it may be said, by the effect of art, or discipline.

We are naturally, indeed, not only ignorant of every good part, but even averse to the thought of it; being born with aversions, if not with ideaș. For man having once deserted, or degenerated, from a very high state of discipline which he enjoyed under the immediate command of God his Maker, it is not in the nature of things, that he should ever return spontaneously to his primitive rectitude; or, as it is said in the epistle to the Hebrews, “If they shall fall away, to renew themselves again unto, repentance,” (Heb. vi, 6,) if they can even renew their acquaintance with those superficial gifts of a cleverer epoch which they have lost in any adequate degree of perfection. Therefore, considering our quondam excellence and dignity, when we talk now of “ going on unto perfection," (Ib. 1,) it is not meant of going on directly in the blissful path of improvement,—but indirectly, by the rugged road of repentance, and up the steep track of reformation : and our discipline is now also to be considered accordingly, as the discipline of soldiers degraded and sent to drill with great odds of armour and weapons for correction, rather than the happy, light-armed progress of aspiring recruits, who are simply forwarded in their profession. Meanwhile, only the rawness of recruits will suppose the presence of imperfection, to say nothing of their waywardness : so that we cannot at all be considered as men in an even state; and whether we look backward to what we have been, or forward to what we might be, we can only appear in the light of faulty beginners, or of beginners from a faulty condition. Let a man look at the savage or undisciplined state for example, and see what that is, if he be inclined to doubt my position: for that will teach him that men are not merely to be prepared in the excellent part of sound discipline at this time of day,—but first, and in order thereto, be reclaimed from the savage state into which they are fallen ; for it is, as the Preacher observes,

« AnteriorContinuar »