Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

rope, they had not yet learned the refined principles of religious toleration. But when we call up the recollection of them, and exhort you to become better by their example, it is not implied that you are to adopt all or any of their views, without examination. It would be, in truth, to falsify our descent from them, if we should put our minds into the shackles even of their opinions ; if under pretence of proving their attainments, we should become indifferent about our own; and should abandon their spirit while we boasted their names. We show the truest reverence to them, when we do with regard to them as they did with regard to their fathers; examine their opinions with respect, but still with freedom and independence; make the best use in our power of the lights and aids, in many respects, no doubt, superiour to theirs, which Providence has put into our hands; draw, like them, all our sentiments from the Scriptures alone, and then be faithful like them to the dictates of conscience, whatever they may be.

2. Another sentiment which is naturally inspired on leaving this house, is that of gratitude for the favours of heaven toward this religious community. Its annals are short and simple. There was nothing of the spirit of schism in the origin of this church ; and its progress has never been marked by any controversy with any other. Its history affords a pleasing proof of the success of the great experiment, never fairly made in any

other country, whether man may not be safely trusted with a greater degree of religious liberty than has ever before been granted. The spirit of this church has always been peaceful and liberal. The terms of church communion have never been narrow and exclusive. Our records display a very reinarkable degree of unanimity in almost all important measures. Your pastors have been elected without dissension; and no permanent root of bitterness has ever sprung up to trouble you. Is it not then a cause of gratitude, that the religion of Christ, a religion so simple, practicable, reasonable, divine, so full of the most ennobling principles, and hopes so perfectly adapted to the condition and wants of our nature, has for a century of years been here preached in security and peace; that we are permitted to hope, that many hearts have here been gladdened by its tidings of great joy ; many consciences roused to reflection by its motives; many passions regulated, lusts subdued, and virtues nourished and sustained by its influence ; many sorrows assuaged by its consolations; and many souls fitted by it for a purer world.

My friends, we ought not to forget, that the privilege of hearing such truths as have here been preached, however lightly we may have prized them, and with whatever insufficient ability they may at times have been uttered, is one which was not granted to kings and prophets, to philosophers and sages of other times. In order properly to estimate it, you must think of the moral condition of those lands over which ignorance broods, and superstition waves her torch of cruelty and terror; where God is not known in any thing of the truth and loveliness of his character; where the altars of idolatry smoke with bloody sacrifices, and a system of senseless and demoralizing rites and ceremonies are the substitutes for piety, virtue and benevolence. You must think even of those Christian countries, where the light of the gospel is so imperfectly enjoyed; where its purity and simplicity are marred by so many corruptions; where an ambitious and immoral priesthood find their interest in keeping the human mind in darkness, and conscience in chains. Have we not cause then, my brethren, when we think of these things, to bless God for the religious privileges, which our fathers have here enjoyed, and the rich inheritance of which they have transmitted to their children.

3. While we thus think of the favours of God to this church, and are grateful for our share of them, we are each called to inquire what account we can give of the use which we have made of them, Look back, my friends, on the hours passed within these consecrated walls.-You, particularly, whose infancy was here dedicated to God; who here first joined in public adoration of Him; who have here so long heard of his providence and perfections, of Christ and eternity, of holiness and piety, of your duty and expectations. How have your privileges

been improved? Can you hope that the great purpose of all religious institutions has been in any degree answered ? Has the gospel had any thing of its proper influence, its regenerating and sanctifying influence, on your hearts and lives? Has it ever waked in you the sentiment of gratitude to God; of disinterested kindness and good-will to man? Has it ever lessened this world in your regard? Has it ever made you feel penitence and abhorrence for sin, taught you to love goodness, and inspired you with desires after a world of purity ? And if you can humbly hope that these effects have in some good degree been produced, still have you not cause to lament that many of your hours here have not been more profitably spent ? Can you not remember many cold and mechanical, many forced and lifeless services? While God has been upon your lips, has not mammon been sometimes in your hearts ? Has not your motive for coming here been too often only to comply with habit and usage; to be amused perhaps, and occupied by the discourses here delivered, or to pass your verdict on their merits or defects? Have you not sometimes, instead of арpropriating the admonitions of the preacher to yourselves, and seeking to become better under his reproofs, employed yourselves only in considering how closely they apply to the failings of your neighbour ; and thus instead of using the instructions of the sanctuary as a means of personal holiness, turned them into nutriment for private malignity? In one word, can you say that the means of grace, which have here been furnished you, have been employed, as they ought to have been, in fortifying you against the temptations of the world, and the seductions of sense and appetite; in enabling you to gather new strength to your good principles; in making you more vigorous in your warfare against sin, and more conscientious in the discharge of your christian duties ?

But, my friends, when I speak of the sins which this house has witnessed, I do not mean that they have all been confined to you! He who speaks to you could also tell of languor, and want of interest and zeal in his duties; of too low a sense of his responsibility to God; of too much regard to your approbation and favour. Ah, my friends! the recollection of too many broken and polluted and unworthy services must now force itself upon the minds of us all, and ought to send a pang of sincere contrition to our hearts. Let us pray to God to forgive us for every opportunity which we have here neglected. Let us examine ourselves fairly. If we have never been faithful to ourselves before, let us be so now. Let this house witness at least one act of conscientious self-inquiry. Let there be at least some moments spent here, which God will approve and bless. Let us not leave this temple without resolving that by the grace of God we will not enter another, without better dispositions for

« EdellinenJatka »