Sivut kuvina

ticular interests should absorb our sympathies ; but our hearts should flow out in sensibility to every thing which concerns humanity, so that the pursuit of particular objects may expand and exalt our whole power of good, and free us from all narrowness of spirit or fanaticism. A minister should be possessed with the consciousness of a higher law than public opinion, iraditionary usage, prevalent fashion. Sirictness, sternness, may often be demanded of him to whom conscience is the supreme law; and power and majesty belong to him who yields himself up in willing obedience to the absolute rectitude of God.”

“ A bold, free tone in conversation, the decided expression of pure and lofty sentiment, may be influential to change the whole temper and cast of thinking of society around us. Are we not traitors to great truths, when we suppress the utterance of them, and let the op. posite errors pass unrebuked? Ought not the spirit of the world to be continually be met with mildness, yet unfaltering firmness? It cannot be opposed too steadily and uncompromisingly. To bring out a noble spirit into daily intercourse is a more precious offering to truth than retired speculation and writing. He who leaves a holy life tehind him, to bless and guide his fellows, bequeaths to the world a richer legacy than any book. The true, simple view of right should be presented without disguise. High principles are to be advanced as real laws; the vague uncertainty wrapped round them by unmeaning professions and practical renunciation is to be stripped away, and they are to be firmly set up as standards for the judginent of all men, public and private. No air of superiority, contempi, anger, no fault-finding, cynicism, no thought of self, should mingle with this testimony to right; but a true love of mankind, a reverence of virtue, a desire to elevate all men to the nobleness for which they are destined, should manifest the depth and purity of our moral convictions."

Our greatest anguish is internal, connected with those efforts which transpire in every thinking soul, as it gropes in that partial night wherein Providence has thought best to leave the reason of man, with respect to his origin, his nature and his destiny. In relation to the most important matters we acutely and coustantly feel the need of a guide, one who can arrest us from the labyrinths of doubt, and transport us to the regions of light and security. Christ is that blessed guide, who, by his own severe experience in our flesh and among our toils, escaped from the cold and gloomy abstractions of heathen philosophy, rose above the confused jargon of the schools, resolved the problem of human destiny, and unveiled life and immortality to the feeblest vision and the dullest heart. He demonstrated that for the simplest and rudest mind to embrace true religion, it had but to seize on a few salient and saving truths. It had not to entangle and confound itself amid a maze of manifold claims, conflicting authorities and impossible

persons. Supreme love to God, obedience to the Great Teacher sent, and devotion to the welfare of our brother man, these coustituted the one great doctrine which gleamed in all his discourse and was exemplified in all his career. With Christ, religion was not a mere theory, but a holy and radiant fact, a prolific and powerful life, adapted through its urgency and agency, example and appeal, to qualify its subjects, struggling to vanquish oppression without and within, to rise above feverish excitement and fainting flesh to serene heights in the skies, where Jehovah welcomes the champions from earth, and crowns them with joy forevermore.

In his own person Christ naturalized human affection and intellect, as well as set it free. At the time of his advent, the earth groaned being burdened, as at the present day, with a surplusage of mechanical contrivances to force arbitrary principles upon man, crushing his unfold. ing faculties, instead of promoting their natural evolution, the growth of the mind itself. Spiritual faculties, susceptibilities and tastes of the highest power and progressiveness, lie wrapped in that germ of vital intelligence which has been planted in every human being; and it is the budding forth, the legitimate unfolding and expansion of this manifold embryo, which demands our chief care. All the kingdoms of knowledge on earth, and all the appliances which can by any means be produced, only form the compost out of which the living germ grows, extracts aliment, and assimilates all strength and fruitfulness to itself. It is just so far useful, and no farther, as it contributes to develop and fortify the faculties around which it is accumulated and applied. The growth of the inner and essential man is all that is needed, and this only is valuable. The mind of man is not a soil, and its varied information the diversified flowers and harvests that root themselves therein ; on the contrary, mind itself is the plant of immortal worth, and knowledge the soil to be drawn around, not to overwhelm it, but to promote the growth of its roots and to ripen its fruits. Christ came - to plant the tree of Life, to plant fair Freedom's tree," simultaneous with the growth of which, every soul should expand its roots and stretch its boughs, imbibing vigor from all healthful elements and producing fruit in every land. He would not have the plant of righteousness

cooped in the effeminate air of Pharisaic conservatories, nor boxed within the contracted dimensions of Sadduceean creeds, but rooted and grounded in the firm soil and granite of world-wide truth, where the free mountain winds of Heaven's own divinity might have leave to blow against it.

Christianity is as flexile in its adaptation, as it is potent in its efficiency. It is a power which can cope with the grossest systems of idolatry, or eradicate the last stain from a saint; kindle in an infant the first gleam of devotion, and thrill the highest angel forever with aspiring thought. What the world most needs is, to be brought under the influence of a religion so happily adapted to its constitution and wants.

“ An amusing story is to be found in the Spectator of a man in the pursuit of health by rule. He was possessed of a strange notion that his constitutional soundness might invariably be tested by the weight of the body. He furnished himself, therefore, with a weighing-chair, and regulated his food, exercise, sleep, and all other movements, by a perpetual reference in the index of his machine. This is a fair type of the mechanical regularity within the range of human contrivance. How different is that of nature ! There, too, we have laws, constant as the daily course of the sun in the heavens ; but laws, the special and external modifications of which adjust themselves with the nicest accuracy to the multiform conditions under which they develop themselves. The vital energy which moulds the oak, or the elm, will unerringly put itself forth according to certain definite structural rules ; and the result will be that, in the form and color of the leaf, the general grouping of the twigs, the direction of the branches, and the corlour of the whole tree, the one may be readily distinguished from the other. But with this wonderful regularity, there is combined a variety yet more wonderful. No two trees of the same species are identically alike. The inward law which secures a structural sameness, leaves its work to be modified by the innumerable external circumstances in the presence of which it exerts itself ; and accordingly, instead of having a dull monotony, wearisome to the eye and oppressive to the spirits, we have an infinite variety adapted to give play, by turns, to all our pleasurable emotions.

“ Christianity in the heart of man, say rather, in the bosom of society, is a vital energy, working by rule, clothing itself in certain welldefined and identical forms, fashioning out of human powers and passions certain structural results, weaving into a tissue of the same general character and fabric all the moral elements which constitate the material of its designs, and thus securing an external regularity and order. But the laws by which it works out these results are, to a certain extent, capable of modification by every variety of surrounding influences. The unchangeable tendencies of the vital, motive principle, which, like leaven, is to leaven the whole mass of humanity, are

found, nevertheless, to harmonize with an extremely flexible and selfadjusting system of instrumentality-a system which, retaining under all circumsiances certain leading and cognizable forms, may yet adapt itself to the special peculiarities of time, place, custom, habit, and political constitution ; and may take an outward modification of formhere, for instance, by a healthy excitement stimulating an active zeal, there by enlightened instruction regulating fervor in danger of running into fanaticism—from the peculiar moral atmosphere, the combination of outward influences, in the midst of which it grows.

The most conclusive proof of the supernatural origin of our religion is found in its naturalness, in its adaptation to our highest wants and noblest growth. It imparts to its possessor

“that inner eye which is the bliss of solitude," and causes him to “hear the veiled gods walk at night through the hushed chainbers of his listening soul.” Intellect reigns supreme, associated with invincible faith, its living soul and quickening spirit. Throned in the august temple of universal truth, the votary yields to no error, and sinks before no obstacle; fortified as he is by God on high and his own true purpose, he is destined to couquer all enemies, and work out a resistless life through self-reliance and heavenly aid. He makes his body and all its senses subservient to the higher interests of the soul, and walks abroad under the everlasting firmament, rejoicing in the light which radiates every where in the placid regions of his choice, and becomes worthy, because willing, to commune with Jehovah, face to face. The mind thus emancipated from earth-born conventionalities, and made one with great nature, has its movements measured by the movements of the universe. Stationed on the Alps of divinest knowledge and holiest delight, the devout servant of God and man, watchful and free, be. holds the effulgence of a brighter morn bursting on a world too long obscured by superstitious fear, and rejoices at the sight as an exiled angel would rejoice before the unfolding gates of heaven. These are the true disciples of Him who appeared on earth to give liberty and naturalness to the human mind. They are beacon-lights, kindled to cheer and guide the benighted race; they resemble the mountains which the pure and tranquil dawn smiles on long before the rising of common day; and which, as they were the first to hail the rising sun, so struggling

against darkness early, and late, they preserve far into night the lingering beams of his glory.

By emancipating the affections and intellect of man in his own person, and by providing for their natural growth, Jesus Christ rendered these attributes more intense and palpable to every human being. It is hard for man to become the absolute slave of custom, to efface completely from his brow the mark of his divine origin, and crush fully from his heart the dream and the daring of his immortal destiny. Yet is he often so abjectly subservient to the powers of darkness, that he needs some one who has partaken of his sorrows, but not of his guilt, to stand up with divine earnesiness and tell him how much he has deflected from virtue's path, and how much energy as well as happiness by this rebellion he has lost. This was the mission of humanity's great model and sufferer, the immortal Nazarene. His infant slumbers, his juvenile toils, his manly experience, his public ministry, his conquest over hell and trinmphant ascent to heaven, had a much more intimate connection with human history than theologians are wont to recognize. If we would follow in bis footsteps, we must develop the entireness of our energies, as he did his, loving as well as learning, doing as well as believing, since knowledge and faith are valuable only so far as they conduce to vigorous thinking and beneficent deeds. When Jesus appeared, he found power and craft leagued together, and every where employed in grinding man in the dust. Priests claimed the privilege of exercising the twofold function of teacher and tyrant; and it was against fragmentizing the human soul that he was prepared to protest with the whole force of his life and all the eloquence of his warmest blood. It was this tenderness of Christ that touched all hearts and drew the multitudes close around him, and made his frank and courageous example, as well as his benignant words, an irresistible sermon which will speak to the remotest generations of mankind. All ingenuous spirits will see the adaptation and verify in themselves the infinite worth of that religion which unfolds the harmony of our physical nature as it ascends to the intellectual; the harmony of the intellectual as it ascends to the moral; the harmony of the moral as it ascends to the religious; and when it has unfolded all the harmony of the religious, causes its

« EdellinenJatka »