« ZurückWeiter »
occasion of enmity. Ask an eccentric man a question: he will stare in your face, and look very spiritual. I knew one of these men who called out to a farmer as he was passing, “ Farmer! what do you know of Jesus Christ?" Much spiritual pride lurks under this conduct. There is want of breeding and good-sense. The world is led to form wrong associations by such characters : Religion makes a man a fool, or mad: therefore I will not become religious.”
INJUDICIOUS PREACHING increases the offence of the Cross. Strange interpretations of Scripture- ludicrous comparisons-silly stories-talking without thinking :- these are occasions of enmity.
The LOOSE AND INDISCREET CONDUCT of Professing Christians, particularly of Ministers, is another occasion. The world looks at Ministers out of the pulpit, to know what they mean when in it.
An OSTENTATIOUS SPIRIT in a professor of religion does great injury--that giving out that he is some great one. Even a child will often detect this spirit, when we think no one discovers it.
The MANNER OF CONDUCTING THE DEVOTIONAL PART OF PUBLIC SERVICE is sometimes offensive: It is as much as to say,
“ We mean nothing by this service*. Have patience, and you shall hear me !"
* Exod xii 26.
SLIGHTING THE OFFENCE OF IRREGULARITY has done much harm. It was a wise reply of a Spanish Minister to his King ; “Omit this affair : it is but a Ceremony !”“A Ceremony! Why the King is a Ceremony!"
Good men have given occasion of offence by MAINTAINING SUSPICIOUS CONNECTIONS. There is a wide difference between my not harassing and exposing a doubtful character, and my indorsing and authenticating him.
CONTEMPT OF MEN'S PREJUDICES OF EDUCATION will offend. It was not thus with St. Paul: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
A WANT OF THE SPIRIT OF THE CROSS IN ITS PROFESSORS increases the offence of the crossthat humility, patience, and love to souls, which animated Christ when he offered himself on the Cross for the sins of the world.
These are some of the stumbling-blocks in the way of the world. And woe unto the world, says our Lord, because of offences ! for it must needs be that offences come, but woe unto him by whom the offence cometh! Every man, who is zealous for the diffusion of true religion, should keep his eye on all occasions of offence, since religion, of itself and in its own native beauty, has to encounter the natural enmity of the degenerate heart.
I am fully persuaded that most religious tradesmen are defective in this duty, those especially in this great city. I tell every one of them so with whom I am intimately acquainted, and they all contest the point with
Yet there are some considerations, which, in my own private judgment concerning the thing, lead me to think that the religion of a great city is to be viewed in an aspect of its own. I say not this to those men whom I see endangered by the spirit of such a place. Give them an inch, and they will take an ell. But I learn from it to aim at possibilities, and not to bend the bow till it breaks.
I say, every where and to all _“ You must hold intercourse with God, or your soul will die. You must walk with God, or Satan will walk with you. You must grow in grace, or you will lose it: and you cannot do this, but by appropriating to this object a due portion of your time, and diligently employing suitable means.” But, having said this, I leave it. I cannot limit and define to such men the exact way in which they must apply these principles, but the principles themselves I insist on.
What I ought to do myself under my circumstances, I know; and what I ought to do were I in trade, I seem now to know: but what I really should do were I in trade, I know not ; and, because I know it not, I am afraid, in telling another man precisely how he ought to apply this principle, that I should act hypocritically and pharisaically. Stated seasons of retirement ought to be appointed and religiously observed, but the time and the measure of this retirement must be left to a man's own judgment and conscience.
I am restrained from dogmatizing on this subject, by reflecting on the sort of religion which seems in fact to be best suited to human nature itself; and especially to human nature harassed, worried, loaded, and urged as it is in this great city.
But I am restrained also by another consideration-Difference of character seems to stamp a holy variety on the operation of religious principle. Some men live in a spirit of prayer, who are scarcely able to fix themselves steadily to the solemn act of prayer.
Our characters are so much our own, that if a man were to come into my family in order to form himself on my model, and to imitate me for a month, it might seriously injure him. I have a favourite walk of twenty steps in my study and chamber : that walk is my oratory : but if another man were obliged to walk as he prayed, it is very probable he could not
pray at all.
In defining the operation of religious principle, I am afraid of becoming an Albert Durer. Albert Durer gave rules for forming the perfect figure of
He marked and defined all the relations and proportions. Albert Durer's man became the model of perfection in every Academy in Europe; and now every Academy in Europe has abandoned it, because no such figure was ever found in nature. I am afraid of reducing the variety, which, to a certain degree, may be of God's own forming, to my notion of perfection. “ You must maintain and cultivate a spirit of devotion”-I say to all: “ but be ye judges, as conscientious men, of the particular means suited to your circumstances.”
The spirit of devotion should be our great aim. We are, indeed, buried in sense, and cannot possibly attain or improve this spirit, but by proper means; yet these means are to be adapted and varied to character and situation.
“ I MUST walk with God. In some way or other, whatever be my character or profession, I MUST acquire the holy habit of connecting every thing that passes in my house and affairs, with God. If sickness or health visit my family, my