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one whose face beams with the benignity of humble and holy love, and whose heart is warm with gratitude to God in Christ; whose thoughts find their highest delectation in contemplating the Divine perfections; whose brotherly interest in all mankind is manifested by a never-tiring zeal for their welfare ; whose daily talk, aud, still more, whose set discourse, is marked by an elevation of tone and a seasoning of grace which show their naturalness by their consistency; who finds it as easy to pray as to breathe, as difficult to sin presumptuously as to die ; who uses the mystery of Providence as the test of faith, and earth as a stepping-stone to heaven ; who rejoices in Christ Jesus, and has no confidence in the flesh ; whose dearest hope is, that erelong he shall see the King in His beauty ;-shall it be said of such a man that he has no life, because he has not eaten the bread of a certain table ? that is to say, bread which, as some dream, can only be made sacramental by a certain mode of consecration ? And, on the other hand, shall it be said of one devoid of these affections, that he does live, even though all the genealogies of Christendom prove him to be a member of the catholic Church, and though an apostolic man, or an Apostle himself, may bave conveyed to him the consecrated elements ? Where, then, would be the difference between the shadow and the substance? Thanks be to God, the gifts and graces of the Spirit of Christ issue in something more than an abstraction. The Holy Ghost is the Lord and Life-giver. Through Him, faith feeds on a whole Christ, and lives now, and lives for ever; and the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, even with its vivid and realizing symbols, “profiteth nothing,” except so far as it is accompanied by this priceless gift. The church groans for a living Saviour dwelling in living
for the bread that comes down from heaven, and not that which men, in their presumption and superstition, pretend to lift to heaven. Sympathizing in that anguished desire, we pray, as the disciples once prayed, and perbaps with a deeper meaning than their conceptions could embrace, “Lord, evermore give us this bread !”
A PLEA FOR SERIOUSNESS.
SERIOUSNESS is opposite to frivolity. Without uncharitableness it may be affirmed, that even among professors of religion there is too much of the latter quality, and too little of the former. Observation cannot but confirm this statement. It is impossible to have been frequently in parties, composed of religious people, without a painful conviction that there is too great a predominance of the trivial, to the exclusion of what might contribute to substantial improvement. This is a great evil, and unquestionably productive of much mischief. It involves the loss of precious time, and is calculated to make an unfavourable impression upon the minds of the irreligious. For, however addicted such persons may themselves be to frivolity, they will be sure to regard it as an inconsistency in those who hear the name of decided Christians.
We cannot but regard seriousness as an important part of personal godli
To speak in the mildest terms, the piety which wants this element must be superficial. Nothing can tend so obviously as religion to correct levity and to awaken thoughtfulness. A mind pervaded with views and sentiments such as cannot fail to grow out of an enlightened acquaintance with great, sublime, and infinitely momentous truths, can have little taste for what is trifling. This affirmation is made deliberately, without overlooking the diversities of constitutional temperament. Religion was not meant to obliterate natural peculiarities; but it will not fail to bring them under suitable regulation. Whatever may be the buoyancy and airiness of a man's spirit, habitual and unrestrained levity is quite incompatible with holiness.
Not that we plead for what is gloomy and melancholy. It may be that in some former times religion assumed too much of a forbidding aspect ; and there may be good people still who express themselves in a way that is neither discreet, nor fitted to challenge the admiring homage and affectionate veneration to which Christianity is entitled. It is not wise to make religion repulsive by caricature on the part of those who are anxious for its acceptance and wider diffusion. They should exhibit it in the attractions of its heavenly beauty. Let not religion be identified with distorted features or a long face, with severity of speech or affectation of sanctity. These may sometimes be its grotesque accompaniments ; but they belong not to its constituent elements. They are not ornaments, but blemishes. They do not spring from superior piety, but from mistaken views. It is the bounden duty of Christians to guard against eccentricities and extravagances, and to put away from them whatever would needlessly awaken prejudice or provoke contempt. Religion claims to be exemplified in the unadorned sinplicity of its native charms. Seen in its own light, it is a very angel of celestial loveliness, and cannot fail to win more or less of admiration even from those who hate what they deem the tyrannical strictness of its requirements. It is so with the Author of Christianity. His personal character, which was a living and most beauteous exemplification of the religion which He came to establish, has, by its spotless sanctity and matchless benevolence, elicited the admiration of multitudes who refused, nevertheless, to submit to His rule.
Seriousness is, by many, confounded with dulness. Attention to religion is viewed with a sort of shuddering dread, as though it involved an exclusion from all that is genial and exhilarating. There cannot be a greater mistake. Seriousness has its enjoyments, with which the pleasurable excitements of frivolity may not be compared in depth, or stability, or the power to satisfy. This perennial fountain gushes with pure and crystal streams, which spread verdure and gladness as they flow,-8 well of water opened in the inmost depths of the soul, and springing up unto everlasting life.
It becomes every human being to be serious and thoughtful. Nothing can be more obviously fitting on the part of a creature possessed of such
capacities, charged with such responsibilities, and the heir of such destinies ; one who has been redeemed by the blood of incarnate Deity, and who may everlastingly perish. Small reason have the gay and the frivolous to congratulate themselves. We might address them in the solemn language of the Lord Jesus Christ,—“Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.” That reckless bravado is but a momentary gleam of wintry sunshine, to be presently succeeded by dreariness and darkness. He only occupies a firm ground of joy, who has made his peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. His chief interests are inviolably secure. He may encounter the loss of many things; but he is abundantly compensated by the possession of celestial riches. He may be afflicted ; but it is a salutary discipline by which he is to be purified from the defilement of sin, and the inordinate love of the world, and prepared for all his Father's will. He may see death approaching ; but it is without dismay. He who is thus dignified and blessed, ought not to yield to depression. It is his duty and privilege to “rejoice evermore,” yea, “ with joy unspeakable, and full of glory.”
It may be well to advert, more particularly, to the manifestations, causes, and cure of that frivolity against which a warning voice is raised.
There is too much disposition, on the part of many, to convert religious exercises into a species of entertainment. Services are attractive, as they are supposed likely to afford gratification to the appetite for novelty; and sermons are estimated and commended because of their adaptation to please and amuse, rather than because of their tendency to contribute to spiritual edification and profit. There is, moreover, a disposition to attend worldly amusements and to covet worldly distinctions,—to gratify “the lust of the Resh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life,”—which our more spiritual forefathers eschewed as inconsistent with their profession, and incompatible with religious progress. If we feel these things necessary to our happiness, it is because we are unacquainted with those satisfying enjoyments which flow from consciousness of pardon, access to the Divine throne, activity in doing good, and the brightening prospect of heaven. He who realizes purer and higher bliss, will not covet the low, superficial, and transient pleasures of this world.
Among the causes which have contributed to a prevalence of frivolity, are the following :—Some professors have endeavoured to draw worldly men to religion by meeting them half-way, and accommodating the forms of religion to worldly tastes and predilections. This is a highly perilous and altogether unauthorized expedient. We may not hope to make worldly people religious by becoming like them,-by imitating them in speech, dress, and amusements. The enmity of the carnal mind is not to be overcome in this way. It must be assailed with more than “ carnal weapons," if it is to be vanquished. Good people must not allow themselves to be beguiled by such plausibilities. They are required to “come out” from the sphere of worldliness in which they formerly found their element and home; to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of
darkness,” but rather to “reprove them.” “No man can serve two masters.” It is at our peril that we attempt such a compromise. Without ostentation, there must be the maintenance of a distinct character and demeanour. The barrier between the church and the world must not be broken down. We need not make ourselves ridiculous, or needlessly punctilious; but let us not be too ambitious of the popular approval. “ The friendship of the world is enmity with God.”
With laudable design, some have attempted to insinuate the lessons of sacred truth, and to enforce its claims, through the medium of fictitions representations. If attempts of this sort are not to be absolutely and universally condemned, yet their general utility may be doubted. They are but ininistering to a morbid appetite, using worldly expedients to promote spiritual ends. People are not to be cajoled into godliness. Religion, to be influential, must be exhibited in its authoritative claims, in its own Divine purity and love.
But what terms of condemnation are sufficiently emphatic, when we refer to a style of preaching, the object of which is to bring people to admire and love Christianity by amusing them ? It is inexpressibly unfortunate when important truth is exhibited in ludicrous associations. The effect must be injurious. It can tend only to produce a race of frivolous professors. Men are not to be brought to God, in penitence and submission, by jests and comic stories. The ehurch ought to repudiate all such attempts to propagate religion. It should not tolerate jesters in its pulpits.
There is yet another cause which seems to have contributed, in no small degree, to the diminution of seriousness. Allusion is made to what has become common among all denominations of Christians,—the social occasion known by the name of a “tea-meeting.” * Having had large oppor
* “ I never go to tea-meetings," exclaimed a worthy friend, some time ago, with significant emphasis. The remark implied, at least, that in his view such meetings need to be brought under better regulation. Our present correspondent is, clearly, of the same judgment. It is time to say a few plain words on this matter. First of all, Are not these gatherings far too frequent ? Why should we be continually advertising or announcing “ tea-meetings ?” and why should we ever hold them in chapels ? If the aim is to attract and benefit some particular class, or to raise money for some more general scheme of benevolence, let suitable arrangements be made and carried out by those whose very presence will repress trifling, boisterous vulgarity, and the kindred evils. But, at all events, let us have the thing in moderation, and be protected against a deluge.
Give us, however, a meeting resembling the “ lovefeast” of the primitive Christian age ; a meeting at which the sacred rites of hospitality draw the poor of the church, along with the rich, to the simple, festal board; a meeting for sweet, social, hallowed converse, like that of the discipler, fresh from Pentecost, who, “ continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.” What would they think, who of old “ continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers,”_if, passing the eighteen hundred intervening years, they were suddenly introduced to some of the modern " tea-meetings ?"-Editors.
tunities of witnessing the operation and results of such gatherings, we more than doubt their religious utility. They tend more to dissipation, than to solid improvement. There is often much levity and small talk, if nothing
We do not argue for an entire disuse of such meetings : a plea may be set up in their favour. They bring the rich and the poor into something like friendly intercourse, calculated to awaken reciprocal interest. This is their chief recommendation. But they blend religion with amusement; and the tendency of this, we believe, is to diminish the sacredness of the former in popular estimation. Holy things are reduced too nearly to the level of things ordinary. “Reverence and godly fear” are wanting. The mysteries into which “angels desire to look” are not unfrequently subjected to heedless gaze, and to a treatment which borders on profaneness. Many enter the house of God without the slightest recognition of the great Object of worship. They never bow the knee, but throw their eyes around as if they had come to view some spectacle, or enjoy some diversion. While truths are proclaimed, which every thoughtful man confesses of infinite importance, they display the most stolid indifference. These are matters to which the church and its Ministers ought promptly to look, if they would not see religion, and its services, brought into contempt. It is fair to admit the truly social tendencies of Christianity, which was meant for mankind collectively as well as individually. We have no desire for the isolation of its professors. But, while it ought to pervade all the relationships and associations of life, and not to be a mere holiday exhibition, we must beware how we bring it down from its high and sacred elevation, so as to put it on a level with earthly pastimes and pleasures.
The cure of frivolity will be found in deep, solemn, and frequent meditation upon the things of God, coupled with earnest prayer. Let us accustom ourselves to the devout contemplation of God, in the majesty of His perfections ; of Christ, in the dignity and wonders of His person, in the depth of that humiliation to which He submitted, the unparalleled sufferings He endured, and the malefactor's death to which He was doomed ; of the Holy Ghost, in His mysterious and diversified operations. Let us refer frequently to the soul's grandeur, and its fearful peril through sin. Survey we the world of mankind, overshadowed with midnight darkness, and sunk in superstition, ignorance, and pollution. Again, let us look into eternity, and muse on its extremes of joy and of woe; or anticipate the tinal · judgment, with its startling revelations and unchangeable consequences. So shall we be awed into seriousness, and inspired with humble fear.
Motives urging to the cultivation of seriousness are obvious. It is essential to all true dignity of character. Who can respect a trifter, or have any confidence in him ? Without seriousness, Christians cannot be duly influential. It is not by coming down to the world's level, that they will attain to commanding or permanent power for good. Not that every sally of pleasantry is to be repressed, as though it were sinful. Christians need relaxation, as well as others; and intercourse with kindred spirits
VOL. IV.-PIPTII SERIES.