« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
ON CHRISTIAN MANNERS.
Quid deceat; quid non.
It will very easily be owned by any man conversant with the religious world, that the effect of divine truth in the life rarely keeps pace with the speculation of it in the head; and that the experience of the gospel falls evidently short of the profession made of it. Nothing entertains the invidious enmity of the world more than the proofs, too often given, of this melancholy circumstance. People, void of religion, fancy they can draw a fair plea for their sins from the slips and failings (to call them by no harsher name) of those who set up for devout professors; and they will readily circulate the tale, and possibly with some additions of their own, throughout the compass of their acquaintance. They have no eyes to see, or they will purposely turn from, all the evidences of grace in the person accused; but are ready enough to give full scope to the developement of his foibles and frailties. It is a pity it should be so; but a greater pity still, that there should really be so much occasion for it.
The apostle gives a weighty caution upon this subject, which ought to be written, if not upon the walls of every church or place of worship, according to a good old custom, at least upon every believer's heartWALK CIRCUMSPECTLY, NOT AS FOOLS, BUT AS WISE,
REREDEEMING THB TIME, BECAUSE THE DAYS ARE EVIL. · The Christian, for this end, should be a very severe censor. morum respecting himself, and a very candid observer of all the world beside.
In domestic relations, particularly where some of the family are not made happy with the love of divine things; it becomes the serious professor to watch over himself with abundant caution; and to pray earnestly, that his whole conversation and conduct may be so ordered, as to give no just cause of offence to those, who will not only lie in wait for his failings, but who will also have the most frequent opportunities to observe them. Unless divine grace prevent, one of his infirmi. ties will give more occasion of reproach to the truth he professes, than a hundred of his most serious discourses or expostulations can furnish proofs to its praise.
A vast deal of gracious prudence is especially necessary in a believer's conduct, whether male or female, in the conjugal state, in order to avoid all unnecessary prejudices, and to render truth no more exceptionable than it always will be to an unregenerate mind. There is a certain delicacy of grace (if I may use the expression) or tender method of representing and practising religious duties, which leaves the opposite party without excuse for brutality or roughness, if there be (as is often the case) even a natural inclination to show them. On the other hand, there is an offensive, and sometimes an ostentatious display of religious profession, which only tends to harden and incense; whereas the object should be, to melt down by that meekness of wisdom, which
ought ever to be employed by those who have hope as the children of God. Such a conduct seems a sort of pious impiety, and puts religion itself into so ill a dress, that people, who do not thoroughly know her, are often ashamed to acknowledge her in the face of the world. It looks like a satire upon the gospel itself, to rank the spleen and sourness of mere human nature among the beauties of holiness.
Morosus is a good man, and has many of the real evidences which distinguish the sincere Christian. He is conscientious in all the leading duties of a religious life, walks in the fear of God, and is carried very much above the spirit of the world. Yet, with all the reality of grace, there is but little appearance of its happiness, either in himself or his family. He wears a gloomy face, as though he thought it sinful to entertain a chearful one. That lively seriousness, which well becomes the inward tranquility of the divine life, is considered by him as a species of criminality; and he thinks, that to be strictly grave, a man must be always sad.
It is easy to conceive what effect this opinion must have both in his temper and his family. His children, who are growing up to maturity, look at the gospel as a scarecrow, which is to frighten them away from all the comforts of life; and, under this impression, they consider the strictness of their father's conduct as a fetter, and his house as a prison. The same dismal apprehensions run through all the servants. The respect, which their master really deserves, is turned into fear; and they approach him with a degree of horror, rather than with that pleasurable reverence which should be seen in the
domestics domestics of a Christian family. The ungodly part of them are rivetted in their natural prejudices; and the rest, if they are serious, are quite put out of countenance, and can say nothing in behalf of religious happiness, without indirectly condemning their master.
How different is the conduct of Evender! To high rank, and many distinctions of outward advantages, God hath added (what is very unusual) all the humility of the lowest Christian, with a great share of the deep knowledge and experience of a divine. The mild benevolence of his aspect, and the winning attraction of his manners, engage your heart in his favour before he utters a word. His looks bespeak him happy, and a wish to make you so. When he converses, it is with such a glowing affability, that the charm increases; and the good-nature and good sense of his discourse, enlivened and enriched by the truth and power of grace, might work an infidel into a temporary reverence for the gospel, but will certainly impress a believer with a fresh instance of its loveliness. The most profligate worldling sees something in Evander, which he cannot but wish to be in himself. His unaffected complacency carries with it a conviction to the most dissolute debauchees, that there is a heart-felt delight in real religion, which is not to be found in any of their pleasures.
If you look into his family, the master's serenity goes through the whole of its veconomy and behaviour. His children love to hear him speak of divine things, because with their own force he shows by his representation of them, that they are good things, and tend to heighten all natural as well as spiritual bliss. They are not frowned Ef4
into seriousness, but engaged into devotion; and though po earthly parent can give grace to his offspring, he at least can show them the felicity of it, and may prove it, or at least ought to do so, by its effects upon himself, Evander is of this mind, and cannot believe that a long face, and a set of features stiffened into a fierce kind of dulness, are any fit representations of the excellencies of grace, or any recommendations to the person who wears them. If this were religion, the most hardfavoured visage might be deemed a blessing; but it is not a monstrous appearance that will frighten off the devil, whatever it may do with mankind.
In a word, Evander not only enjoys, but recommends, THE TRUTH to his family and the world; while Morosus approaches her indeed, but seems so little fayoured by her sweetness, as to make the ignorant believe she has none to bestow. Evander, like the spies sent to visit Canaan, produces the rich clusters of grapes; that is, shows the felicity of God's chosen in the possession of his love; but Morosus can only talk of difficulties and sorrows, and so (though unintentionally, brings up an evil report upon the good land.
Gospel-truth should be accompanied with gospel manners. If these are at variance in any man, his profession is wrong. Seriousness is no enemy to civility; nor is devotion a stranger to kindness of heart and life. The apostle's exhortation is admirable upon this subject, and should be treasured up in every Christian's mind, for his rule of conduct upon all occasions: Put on (as the elect of God, holy and beloved) bowels of mercies, kindress, XENOTOTITA, a sweet benignity of sowi towards others,