Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

We pronounce their

very existence in a republic to be wrong, essentially wrong. They are injurious to religion, and dangerous to free governments, and at the same time furnish evidence of the want of that virtue which is the effectual safeguard of liberty. If the citizens were under the influence of the gospel, mere difference of opinion on political subjects would not array them against each other in hostile bands. Instead of having the spirit of combatants, they would feel " like brethren of the same principle,” and would say, in the language of a distinguished statesman, "We are all federalists, we are all republicans." Christians cannot be aware of the immense evils arising out of political warfare. It is the very essence of civil war; it excites and nourishes that malice which is murder, sows discord in families and neighborhoods, and

causes divisions and offenses” among brethren of the church. It encourages vice and discourages virtue, and brings over the minds of christians a worldliness and lethargy which cause the ways of Zion to mourn. The spirit of party which is fostered by political strife, is deaf to the voice of reason, and blind to the evidence of sense; it binds together its votaries with the strong cords of interest and passion, and prepares them for desperate efforts and ruinous measures. “Where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work."

Such a warfare is interminable. Neither party can hope to achieve a victory which is worthy of a triumph. Truth, however weighty, cannot do it, while the great mass of the community are under the influence of party feelings. One side and the other may occasionally prevail, as passion, or prejudice, or zeal, or artifice, or accident, may give the preponderance; but generally the advantage will be on the side of those who are least scrupulous about means, and who have least reliance upon principle. Men who love their country will never despair of the republic, and of course never cease to contend under the banners of party. Their principles will bind them to this course, until they become convinced that the contest is as unpromising as it is unholy. Ambitious and unprincipled men will not yield; contention is their element, and party their only hope. Restore peace and harmony to the community, and you deprive them of the means of gratifying their ambition.

Religion and civil policy, duty and interest, require that the spirit of party should be extinguished, and that the minds of the people should be brought under the influence of the spirit of the gospel; that all political combinations which retard the progress of moral reform should be done away, and that the energies of all men should be employed in promoting the kingdom of the Redeemer. Why should our peace be any longer disturbed, and our government endangered, by intestine divisions ? Why give our Vol. VII.


time to “ questions and strises of words, whereof cometh envy, strise, revilings, evil surmisings, and perverse disputings"? Love will melt down the rancor of party feelings, and burst the strongest cords of party. The polls need not and should not be deserted. God has ordained that civil government shall be maintained, and the citizens are responsible to him for a faithful exercise of the elective franchise. Having discharged this duty without any improper bias, and in the fear of God, they should feel no anxiety for the result. Obedience is ours, the blessing comes from God." The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.”

The civil and religious privileges which we enjoy, and the distinguished place we occupy among the nations of the earth, render it highly important that we should exbibit the exemplar of a republic which it will be safe for them to imitate, and which will commend itself to their approbation. This civil community, like the church, should become the light of the world, and teach all nations, by their example, the true principles of republican institutions. Too long have party strife and sordid passions, and the maxims of worldly policy, held us back from our high destinies, and held the world in suspense respecting the permanence of our government. The moral transformation by which the kingdoms of this world are 10 become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, should be hastened. To this object let all our political zeal be directed; to this work our hearts and our hands should be consecrated. Measures of policy, and even constitutional provisions, are comparatively of trifling moment, and should not be permitted to divert our energies from this holy enterprise. Political improvements will follow in the train of moral reform. “Take no thought, saying, what shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewithal shall we be clothed ? for after all these things do the gentiles seek; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."


Six Sermons on The Nature, Importance and Means of Eminent Holiness throughout the Church.By Rev. President BEECHER, of Illinois College.

We hail with much satisfaction every new indication which this age of religious enterprise and activity is affording us, that some of the most gifted minds in the church are turning their attention to the inquiry, What are the best means of imparting to the spirit of religious enterprise and action at the present day, a more equable and

permanent character, by raising the standard of holiness in the

church, and by keeping it up steadily to a higher point ? This subject we regard as one of vast importance. No interest in the church at the present moment demands, we think, inore attention than this. There is an unsteady, fitful zeal, directed exclusively to some particular objects in the wide field of benevolent enterprise, and sustained by no broad and general principles of benevolent action, which will ultimately accomplish but little good, and which may upon the whole do much hurt. If there ever was a period of the world, which required in an eminent degree the influence of a deepseated, comprehensive, and all-controlling principle of piety in the hearts of christians, the present is that period. The conversion of the world,—the object to which the church seems now to be beginning to address herself in earnest,—is an undertaking of very great difficulty, and one to which the present amount of faith and selfdenial among the people of God, is by no means equal. The day is far off, we fear, when “the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the whole earth as the waters fill the seas," as things are now going on. There must be more holiness in the church. There must be more christian principle,-a stronger sense of duty, —more of the light and power of conscience, in the efforts of the church to spread the knowledge of salvation over the earth. This we regard as certain ; and it is a point which we have before and repeatedly urged, with what ability we could, upon the attention of our readers, in the pages of the Spectator. We are glad that other and abler pens have, from time to time, come to our aid in this matter, and lent their efforts to promote the same design. In particular, we bare regarded the Six Sermons of President Beecher of Illinois College, which are now lying before us, and which we intended to have noticed earlier, as a most timely and valuable contribution in aid of this object. We were glad to see these sermons in the National Preacher, and stereotyped, and scattered by thousands (as they have been) over the East and over the West. They are of so high a character for originality and strength, and adaptation to the times, that they will be read ; and being read, they cannot fail to do much good. The esteemed author has done a public service to the cause of christianity through the land, by writing and publishing these sermons. Will not his other engagements permit his giving us more such ? It would afford us great pleasure to enter into some analysis of these sermons, and to present to our readers a more extended account of their contents, did not the length of time since they were published, and the wide extent to which they have been spread abroad, render it quite unnecessary. A single extract from the opening of the first sermon, will sufficiently make known the author's design, and be all which, under the circumstances of the case, we feel it needful to transfer to our pages.

• How great the privilege, and how great the responsibility, of living in an age like this ! and to one who deeply feels this responsibility, and the shortness of life, how natural the inquiry,—How can I do most to secure the end in view ? My time is short, the work is great. I desire to enter into it with all my heart and soul, and to be supremely engaged in some department of action. Which shall I select?

The inquiry is appropriate. A man cannot be supremely devoted to all departments of action. He must lay out his main energies in some one. He needs and must have a ruling passion, an all-absorbing purpose of the soul, of power to draw all else into its current, and render all else subservient to itself. And the natural course is to select some one of the great enterprises of the present age, and throw into that all the energies of the soul. Nor is it difficult to find an enterprise large enough to absorb the whole soul. Any one is vast enough to give exercise to more than all the energies of the highest mind, and, to him who meditates much and deeply on it, to fill the whole horizon of his vision, and to seem more intimately connected than any other with the salvation of the world. Thus to one the cause of Sabbath-schools may easily become the most important of all; to another, foreign or domestic missions; to another, the discussion and defense of doctrinal truth, and the exposure of error; to another, the abolition of slavery ; and to another, the circulation of tracts, or of the word of God. These and similar enterprises are, without doubt, great and glorious beyond conception. But neither one of them is or can become the leading and most important enterprise of the present age. Neither one of them can deserve to become the all-absorbing object of the soul, nor can safely so become.

This prominence belongs to one enterprise, and only one, -an enterprise at present not at all recognized as a great enterprise of the age, or as an enterprise at all ; and on which public apathy is deep and general. Yet, on reflection, it must be seen to be the only one which deserves the first rank, and the only one to which it is safe to give supreme and all-absorbing power in the soul, so as to compel us to view all other subjects only in their relations to it. The enterprise to which I refer is this :-THE IMMEDIATE PRODUCTION OF AN ELEVATED STANDARD OF PERSONAL HOLINESS THROUGHOUT THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH, -SUCH A STANDARD OF HOLINESS AS GOD REQUIRES, AND THE PRESENT EXIGENCIES OF THE WORLD DEMAND.' Nat. Preacher, vol. x. p. 194.

Our specific object in this article is closely connected with that announced in the foregoing extract ; and hence we have made this distinct reference to the above named publication, and placed its title at the head of these remarks. But our object, though kindred to that of President Beecher, is not precisely the same ; his was to set forth the need of more eminent holiness in the church; ours is to recommend, what we conceive to be scarcely less important, a greater symmetry of christian character ; to dwell upon that due proportion and harmony of the christian graces, which gives such a finish and such a beauty to the character of him who possesses it, and wbich ought ever to be cultivated by christians, especially at this day. It will be remembered, that one of President Edwards' signs of a gracious state, in his work on the religious affections, is this same proportion and harmony among the christian virtues, of which we are speaking. We think it is something more than simply an evidence of a gracious state ; it marks a high degree of maturity and vigor in one's growth in grace, and ought to be cultivated with much assiduity and care, as a pre-eminent means of recommending religion to others, and of securing to one's self a larger measure of usefulness among men.

We will state what we mean by symmetry of christian character; the need there is of it; some dangers resulting from the want of it; the best means of cultivating it; its effects on the prayers and labors of the church, and in their general intercourse with the world ; refer to an illustrious pattern of it in the life of our Savior; and present some motives to the cultivation of it, drawn from the existing circumstances of our own age and country.

By symmetry of christian character, we mean this : That no one virtue or set of virtues should be cultivated singly and alone, to the exclusion or neglect of others; but that all the graces of the christian spirit, to whatever objects they relate, and so far as there is occasion for their exercise, should be cultivated in due barmony and proportion; so as to form when summed up together, one consistent and beautiful whole, running one into another, and relieving and strengthening each other, like the blending of colors in the

rainbow, or the thousand intermingling varieties of form and hue i in the one general lovely aspect of the summer landscape. We

mean, more particularly, not that faith should be cultivated to the neglect of the practical doing of God's will; nor that practical obedience should supersede the exercise of faith. We mean not that. penitence for sin should be the only thing relied on as evidence of christian character, while a reformation of life is pretty much overlooked and forgotten; or that a reformation in the outward life should be made every thing, while the inward sensibilities of the heart are left untouched by any emotions of true re

pentance. We mean not that duties directly owed to God should 1 be made to swallow up all one's time and attention, or that one's

thoughts and feelings should be exclusively occupied about the discharge of those duties which are more immediately owed to our fellow-men. We mean not that men should pray exclusively to promote the cause of religion, or converse and labor exclusively for this end, or give their property, and do nothing more. We mean not that men should be strict in hallowing the sabbath, and be all the rest of the week (as some are) absorbed in the world. But we mean, that there should be a just proportion and harmony between men's attending to all these different things, and to all

[ocr errors]
« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »