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announced by solemn tokens? Would there not be harbingers in the sky to proclaim it ? Could any tokens be too solemn for its annunciation ? But here is that in the moral creation which shall triumph over all material changes, that great aim of life, that great design of being, whose goings forth are to eternity ; and is it not proper that its adoption and progress should be signalized by tokens equally significant and striking? We will not submit to any worldly judgment in this matter; for that judgment will say that we talk all in figures, and it will feel as if we spoke only of useless forms, or of forms disproportionate to the importance of the subject. But let us suppose the transcendent power, and the all-engrossing importance of religion, to be felt among us, as they ought to be, — felt as if all things else were but the passing shadows of existence - and would form and avowal be thought such great matters as they now are, and possession and reality so small, in the comparison ? For really the feelings of many go to this extent, that they think more anxiously of a profession of religion, than of the possession of it; that emblems are more serious things to them, than realities; that the sacramental service is more solemn to them, than the feelings which it is designed to express and confirm. Let religion be the great reality that it should be, possessing the whole soul with its unspeakable grandeur (and importance, and then forms, representations, avowals would fall into their proper place, - would assume their just character. They would be put on as an easy and appropriate costume, and not as the strange and awkward mummery of a masquerade habit, where the wearer is thinking more of his dress than of himself. They would be worn as a suitable and graceful garment, to clothe, to cheer, and strengthen, and not as rigid fetters, hindering every free and manly step of the mind.
Expressions, emblems, forms would then be natural, and not the artificial things which they now usually are. It is a weak and low state of spiritual feeling, or a narrow range of reflection; it is a spirit of bondage, and not of liberty, that makes them the artificial or the awful things which they now are to many. For we contest altogether the common idea, that a high degree of religious expansion and refinement of mind, naturally lead their possessor to entertain an inveterate dislike or dread of forms. He who can look
the communion but as an awful, a fearful rite, seems to us, to be yet in an early stage of Christian experience. The full liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and made us welcome, too, to this feast of remembrance, will enable us to partake of it, with a mind, as calm, as free, as natural, as that with which we approach any other religious duty. The truth is, that some who think themselves too far advanced for the use of forms, are not yet advanced far enough, are not yet liberal enough for the right use of them. They are as much in bondage to the dread of forms, as others have been in bondage to the admiration of them. They are as superstitious in the rejection, as others have been in the observance of them. The same superstitious feeling is experienced by the communicant, when he is possessed with a peculiar and almost painful dread, at the moment of partaking of the elements; as if it were the emblem, rather than the occasion, the eating or drinking, rather than the great avowal, that is solemn. This is a relic of the doctrine of the real presence.
But to return; we say that forms are natural to the mind. They are so in every thing besides religion, and there is no just reason why they should not be in that. What are forms indeed, but expressions of the mind within ; and, in this respect, of the same nature with language. The marriage ceremony is essentially nothing else but the expression or declaration of a certain purpose. It is a formality in some respects, very trying to most minds, inasmuch as most minds naturally shrink from so public a declaration of some of their most interesting sentiments and purposes. But its utility vindicates it; so that he is generally considered as the most dangerous enemy of society, who would propose its abolition. We might cite many other instances, and derive an argument a fortiori for forms in religion. An entrance upon civil office is solemnized by forms, by oaths of inauguration. May not the entrance of the mind upon its great religious work be marked likewise by solemn and repeated professions of its intention and by vows of fidelity? The privilege of citizenship in our country cannot be obtained but by passing through certain forms of naturalization, by giving pledges of allegiance to the government. May not those, who would be no more strangers, but of the household of faith,' who would be citizens in the kingdom of Christ, may they not properly be called upon to make similar professions and give similar pledges ? Nay, and a man will not enter upon extensive trav
els without announcing his purpose, and giving many indications of his purpose. May not the traveller to eternity enter upon that course, which is to conduct him onward for ever, with similar declarations of his solemn purpose, and with tokens equally distinct and prominent of the stupendous undertaking he has set before him?
We have now stated the views which have impressed our own minds, not indeed with the supreme importance, but with the reasonableness and utility of that avowal of religious purposes, which is implied in an attendance upon the communion. We have not thought it necessary to take up any space in our pages with urging it as a prescribed duty. It has seemed to us, that it is too much regarded as a mere duty, as a thing necessary to be done, without any distinct conceptions of its propriety or advantage. We have therefore dwelt on these. We fear there are many, that actually partake of the communion, who would retire from it, if they did not feel that the bond of an express injunction is on them. It must indeed be difficult, as we think, for any man, with the New Testament in his hands, to free his conscience from that bond. But still it must be unfortunate, that it should be regarded as a injunction, binding for no intelligible reason, strengthened by no obvious ties of interest, or intrinsic fitness. A duty which is performed more as a mechanical than as a moral action, which is done, because it presses on the conscience as something that must be done, while there is no experience or hope of advantage or improvement, is scarcely the duty of a rational being
We are aware, let us add in passing to consider another mode of avowal, that it may be thought that the strongest objection to the observance in question lies in the very view which has been presented of it, as an avowal of religious experience. It may be said by many, that the avowal required goes beyond their experience, that the pledge is one which they are afraid they shall not redeem, and that altogether it places them in an unfair position before, society, and must subject them to a scrutiny which they are unwilling to undergo.
This objection, as it applies equally to all the other modes of avowal, we will reserve for examination, till we have gone through with the whole subject. We proceed then, in the next place, to consider that acknowledgment of God and of
religious truths and interests, which ought, as we think, to be made in our families.
When we look upon a family, when we contemplate it, as a company of human beings passing through a most solemn and perilous trial for happiness and heaven, when we observe there the most intimate of all relationships, exerting too the most direct and powerful of all moral influences, when we know that nothing but the true love of God, and of one another, can make that family happy, that this alone can make all duties easy, and alleviate all trials, and smooth all difficulties, and soften all harsh and angry thoughts; when we consider how soon it shall pass away from the earth, away to its everlasting destiny, — how soon and how certainly sickness, separation, death shall come in the midst of all its earthly joys and hopes, — we ask, if nothing of all this shall be openly and fully recognised in its dwelling ? That dwelling itself is mouldering to dust, and a century or two hence the passing winds shall bear no sound of mirth or grief from all its desolate chambers; shall no altars be set up there to the hopes that are immortal, and no voices be lifted to the regions of everlasting life ? Toils and temptations, and cares and anxieties and tears are in that dwelling; shall there be no prayers, no holy communing with the sacred page, no common, no united resort to the sources of relief, and comfort, and strength ? Youth is there taking its deepest impressions, and it is going forth to struggle with the perils and sorrows of life, – the youth of the immortal is there, and it is there taking its eternal biases ; shall not religion be listed up before its eyes visibly, as the great hope of a happy life, and of a blessed eternity?
Why shall it not ? The objection that there is a want of time is too trivial to be discussed. The want of competency on the part of the heads of families cannot be fairly alleged. If it were so,
one felt himself unable to lead the devotions of others, or if he felt it difficult to present himself in so new a character before his family, could he not, at least, daily read the Scriptures in the presence of his assembled household ? Might he not introduce, as a part of his domestic arrangements, the practice, at some hour of the morning or evening, of reading the Bible or some book of devotion, for religious improvement; and would not silent meditation and prayer, or more direct and formal worship, very soon and nat
N. S. VOL. VI.
urally follow? If any one says, that a stated practice of this kind might sometimes call upon him, when his mind was unprepared or averse to it, and might thus lead him into bondage or mockery, instead of real and free devotion, then, at least, let him begin to do this occasionally, and endeavour to acquire the habit, which he might do, of making it constantly interesting. Or, if any one says, that he doubts about' formal services of any kind, but that he will often speak to his children and domestics, of moral principle, of inward purity, of the love of God, and of prayer, as the chief interest and end of life, then let him do this faithfully and heartily. Let him do this, with feeling and fervor, and it will not be long, we are persuaded, before he will feel it neither strange nor irksome, to bow in solemn and cheerful worship before the Father of spirits and the God of all mercies.
We are not strenuous about the form, but we do insist that in some form, or in some way, religion should be acknowl-, edged in our families more than is usually done, as the supreme object of life, and the only guide to eternity. Circumstances never assume their proper character, things never take their just place, in our families, till religion is thus elevated to its rightful supremacy among us.
Till this is done, domestic life has no lofty aim ; events, that are daily taking place in every family, have no clear interpreter; success and disappointment, sickness and health, are mere earthly accidents, and fulfil no high or sacred ministry. Is it not suitable that religion, Heaven's chief agent and interpreter and guide, should stand thus visibly before us? When Moses had delivered the great commandment to the Israelites, saying, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might,' he add
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart, and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and thou shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house and upon thy gates.'
This passage was literally interpreted and obeyed among the Jews, though it is thought by most commentators, that in making frontlets, or pieces of parchment, with certain senten