« PreviousContinue »
1834.] EPISTLE FOR THIRD SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY. 327 Far from thinking ourselves deserving of honour from men, it will lead us, “ in lowliness of mind, to esteem every man better than ourselves.”
But true humility, though it teaches us our own weakness, and inability to help ourselves, leads us not to despair. It teaches us also where to look for strength and help. It bids us cast all our care upon Him who careth for us, knowing that he is able and willing to supply all our need, and that He will, if we now abase ourselves in his sight, hereafter “exalt us,” in His own good time; for he giveth to the humble “ grace” here, and everlasting glory in his presence hereafter.
Neither doth true humility lead us to slothfulness in the great work of our salvation. The humble Christian, whilst resting for support on the everlasting arms of his Father, still knows that he has need of watchfulness; that many enemies lie in wait for his soul; that Satan, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. He is therefore sober, lest by intemperance he should be surprised into the commission of sin; vigilant', lest indolence should render him unfit for the active duties which his station in life calls upon him to perform. He stedfastly resists every temptation, trusting in the defence furnished to him by the Captain of his salvation-even “ the shield of faith.” If the enemy of his soul seeks by affliction to shake his trust in the love and care of his Heavenly Father, he faints not in the fiery trial, for he knows that he “must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God;" “ that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed;" that the God of all grace, who hath called him unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, will, after he hath suffered awhile, make him perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle him: that, having fought the good fight, having kept the faith, “ there is laid up for him a crown of glory, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give unto all them that love His appearing."
L. S. R.
FOOLS MAKE A MOCK AT SIN.
me, and so I hope will your readers, that nothing ought ever to be said or done, which may be likely to give encouragement to error and vice, or to prevent them from appearing in their proper colours : and yet, Sir, many moral, well-intentioned, and religious people are very frequently betrayed into a habit, from which a vast deal of mischief arises ; I mean the habit of laughing at the follies, failings, and sins, of their neighbours; of treating them with levity, of making them the subject of a joke, a matter of amusement for the company. I well know that this practice is countenanced by many of my betters; but it is not on that account the more inno. cent or excusable; nay, rather it is the more injurious, from the greater sanction it unhappily receives. I have heard light and irreverent jestings repeated, as coming from the lips of a great or seemingly good man, which I believe would otherwise have been little thought of.
The worst habit of all, in this respect, is the jesting with sacred things, with the holy Scriptures, or with the services of the Church. A person has heard a passage of Scripture, owing to some whimsical error, placed in a ridiculous light; he tells it in a humorous manner, and it excites a vast deal of merriment. Now, in the first place, this is exceedingly wrong and offensive, because it is a trifling with God's word; and what is the consequence? why, every time you read that passage afterwards, the ridiculous circumstances you have heard are likely to come again into your mind, and spoil your holiest meditations. Even in the house of God, even in the most serious moments, I have known a smile to force itself upon the countenance, from the recollection of an absurd story about some scriptural passage, or about the blunderings of a parish clerk.
I remember, some years ago, being told of an anecdote which was related by some excellent clergyman, at a public meeting. The reverend gentleman was observing, that many people, who have the Bible, neglect to read it; and in order to make good his declaration, he men
FOOLS MAKE A MOCK AT SIN.
329 tioned the case of an old woman, who had lost her spectacles for several months, and had sought them in vain high and low, all over the house : at last, she found them where she left them, in her Bible, which, during all this time, it would appear that she had never opened. Now this story raised, as it was intended to do, a great laugh; and was very much enjoyed by the whole assembly. But I could not understand why the sinful negligence of a poor old woman, was to become a subject of rejoicing, why a number of persons should laugh at the grievous neglect of that holy book. You see, Sir, that there was not, in the enticement of the joke, the smallest compassion or concern for that spiritual slumber, of which a clear example had been produced, to the dishonour of God and his word.
Again: I have heard a story told, of the laughable incidents of a drunken frolic, and have seen many respectable persons in a state of great enjoyment over it: and I have witnessed a drunken man in the streets making his foolish gambols, and a number of bystanders convulsed with mirth ; not merely persons like himself, who were given to excess, or thought nothing of intemperance, but really sober, decent sort of people. Now I say, that a man who tells amusing stories about drunkenness, or is amused with the reelings of the drunkard, tends directly to encourage this odious vice; he makes people think lightly of it, when it ought to be viewed as one of the most abominable of all sins, as the parent of miseries untold and unspeakable. I am assured, Sir, in the book of truth, that no drunkard can inherit the kingdom of God: and I cannot laugh at a man for an act, by which he is incurring so awful a condemnation.
I would therefore recommend to your readers to use the strictest caution, the greatest watchfulness over themselves against being ever tempted either to turn serious things into ridicule, or to sanction, by laughter, things that are vicious and wrong. Religion is sufficiently derided by her enemies; and vice is sufficiently encouraged by its friends: there is no need for the Christian either to mar the one or help the other. But one word more : no true
Christian can do so, knowingly and wilfully; as soon as he is told of his error, he will seek to correct it.
Your obedient Servant,
J. S. B.
Composed with a View to assist the Devotions of the Members of the Church
of England at this important crisis.-By A LAYMAN. O ALMIGHTY and Eternal God, by whose good Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified, we, thy humble servants, entreat thee to look, in condescending goodness, on that division of it planted in this kingdom, and to support it under its present trials and apprehensions of danger. Pour out the fulness of thy sanctifying grace on every minister and member of the same, that, by unwearied exertions in well-doing, they may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. Endear the Lord Jesus in his person and work, his blood and righteousness, to all who have been baptized into his name, that vital religion may flourish in their souls. Give wisdom and strength of faith, as well as energy and decision, to those who are entrusted, whether as spiritual or temporal rulers, with plans and measures of proposed improvement, that the wheat be not plucked up in the removal of the tares: and grant that all the changes which may be permitted to take place, may tend, through thy blessing, to the conversion of sinners, the edification of believers, and the glory of thy great name. May none multiply differences: may none aggravate acknowledged evils: but may unity and concord, with truth and holiness, become the objects of unceasing and prayerful pursuit to us and all our fellow-Christians. We would also present our supplications before thy mercy-seat, О heavenly Father, on behalf of all who have been led away from thy paths, that, by the light of thy pure word, and by the effectual teaching of thy Holy Spirit, they may be restored to the enjoyment and experience of the truth, as it is in Jesus. Preserve also those who are in danger of being deceived, by implanting in them a spirit of watchfulness and prayer; and, to all who stand, be pleased to give a deep sense of their
331 dependence upon thee, as the Author of their future, as well as past, support and stedfastness. Fulfil, we beseech Thee, o gracious Lord, these our requests, not weighing our merits, but pardoning our manifold offences, personal and relative, for Jesus Christ's sake, thy dear Son, our only Saviour. Amen.
The example of holy men has far less effect in converting others, and thus extending the blessings of the Gospel, than might reasonably be supposed. How obstinately do many of the children of this world shut their eyes against such light! to what shifts do they resort ! to what holes and corners do they creep to avoid it! With what dexterity and readiness do they ward off the blow which is directed against them! When a pious individual is held up as a model for general imitation, or on account of any single duty, all the weight of his example is set aside by the discovery of some real or imaginary flaw in his character. One is unworthy of attention because he is an enthusiast, who carries things too far; another was immoral and profligate in his youth; another is vain and proud; another is dull and melancholy; another is unsociable and rude; another is uncharitable, because he exclaims against the ungodliness around; and another is inconsistent in his conduct. Thus do numbers manage to overturn the arguments, which such characters afford for the necessity of vital religion, and to quash the evidence which they afford to the power of Christian faith. As the most trifling obstacle will sometimes divert an arrow from its course, so the slightest blemish in a righteous man, is suffered to turn aside the force of his example. Let those who are afraid of going too far be assured, that it is the safer side on which to err, that it is infinitely better than not going far enough; and that it will be time to stop, when they have reason to fear that they shall serve God too earnestly. Reserve, shyness, and awkwardness, are frequently