Imatges de pÓgina
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made to keep them down, or root them out. Particularly is this the case when the freedom of thought and of speech is curtailed, or taken away. For men, who cannot cheerfully consent to the incarceration of their bodies, can much less consent to the imprisonment of their souls. They feel it a yet greater outrage, that their minds should be put in chains, that their opinions and convictions should be laid in irons, that they should be hindered knowing what is to be known, believing what appears to be true, and professing what is believed.

They who persist in treating men as if they were children, shall find that they have made them to resemble children only in their want of power to restrain their passions, and to govern their conduct. And

governments, which have presumed to encage the mind of their subjects, have generally discovered to their own cost, that they have turned the man into a wild beast, who only watches an opportunity of tearing his keeper in pieces. Mobs and rebellions are the periodic scourges of all despotisms in all quarters of the world, and in all ages, in ancient and modern Rome, in Turkey, in Spain, and every where else. And what an exhibition of the state of those priest-ridden and police-ridden Continental populations! Where rational Liberty durst not utter a syllable, behold myriads of preachers of full-blown anarchy ! Where Heresy durst not whisper her doubts, you may hear Atheism proclaiming her blasphemies, with applause, from the house-tops. The catastrophe is horrible, but it might have been expected: they whom it has overthrown or scattered, prepared the combustibles which have exploded to their destruction. If we comprehended the whole facts more completely, we should, no doubt, see more distinctly, what yet is not obscure

, that the Continental governments, which have been and are now the great sufferers from the convulsions of Europe, have also been the great sinners. Yes, the judgment of God is according to truth" As we sow we shall reap.” “ The effect of righteousness is peace," of injustice is trouble and distress. “ Say ye to the wicked, It shall be ill with him, for the reward of his ways shall be given him.”

It may be not improper to ask, what will be the probable effect of these wonderful changes which we have been called to witness during the course of the present year?

The immediate effects, no doubt, are calamitous enough. But, without being visionary or over-sanguine, we may confidently antic pate that, after the confusions, consequent on all great changes, have subsided, these revolutions will issue in a great improvement in the state of the Continental population in regard both to civil and religious freedom. The press can hardly again be forbidden to publish the truth, and to discuss all public questions, above all the great questions relating to religion. Freedom of conscience, we may hope, is won, not only in name, but in fact and substance. And if it be so, it is cheaply purchased by all that has happened, or is likely to happen. In the wise and holy governinent of God, we see that while the wicked are punished and are made to read their sins in their chastisements, yet good is still brought out of the evil, and from the darkness of the past, light springs forth to guide man along his future way.

But, there have been other histories going forward during this

to us.

year than those of the great world—than those of nations and empires. Our family histories too, and our personal histories, have not stood still; and these, though insignificant in themselves, when compared with those others, are both more interesting, and more momentous

And as we naturally survey our worldly affairs, and so far settle them, at the close of the year; so it is most useful and necessary that we should also look into our moral and spiritual concerns.

For if it be blameable to neglect what is going on in the world without, it is ruinous to be ignorant of what has happened, and is now passing in the world within our breasts. An acquaintance with our own moral history is so needful for each of us, that all real virtue and all true religion are connected with it, and are impossible without it.

Now the inward spiritual state of each of us may not unaptly be compared to the condition of the nations of the world. One man's soul is lying in the torpor of death, his passions are exercising an absolutely despotic authority over him. The voice of reason is silenced ; conscience is thrown into prison; all the higher and purer principles of his nature are disfranchised: this is the withering despotism of sin“ such is the man dead in his trespasses."

Another man's soul is in rebellion. There, reason and conscience are neither dead nor dumb: but their authority is disputed, their commands are disobeyed. The passions form a faction so powerful as constantly to resist and break the law : and the man is kept in everlasting tumult and distraction by the contention of the opposing principles at war within him." What he does he allows not; what he would, that he does not: when he would do good, evil is present : A law in his members wars against the law of his mind, and brings him into captivity,constraining him to cry out "O wretched man thut I am, who shall deliver me!

In the soul of a third is experienced the peace of God that passeth all understanding. For there the law of God is recognized as the supreme rule, and God himself as the supreme authority. The interpreters of that law, Reason and Conscience, here sit in the highest seats, their rightful place; and all the inferior passions, propensities, and appetites listen to their voice, and do their bidding; and by serving, aid the commonweal, which they subvert and ruin when they command. This man walks not after the flesh, but after the Spirit ; and the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus makes him free from the law of sin and death."

There is as great a contrast between the spiritual state of these three persons, as there is between the outward condition of a nation, freo, enlightened, prosperous ; where the laws are just, the people loyal, orderly, and happy-the government strong and respected—where Righteousness has made the crooked straight, and the rough places plain, so that Peace rides triumphantly through it every where : and the state of another nation, where tyranny has created disaffection, and disaffection has called forth a sterner tyranny-where laws, bad in themselves, are yet worse administered; so that terror, distrust, and hatred separate the governor from the governed, and set one class of the community against another, till at length the smoldering fires burst out in a

volcano of rebellion, and the lava of popular fury buries all things under its fiery tide.

When we look at a kingdom in rebellion, we are awe-stricken. A wide-spread conflagration or flood is not so terrible. But what think you of a soul in anarchy ; rebel against God; mutinous against the better part of itself; torn with intestine war ; with the struggles of factions, whose feud is implacable and deadly? And, when, from the end of the year, we look forth on the condition of the kingdoms of this world, is it not becoming that we should turn our eyes inward, and see what may be the condition of that little, but not insignificant kingdom, which lies within our own breasts? All external objects and events should suggest the spiritual to us, of which, indeed, they are types and symbols. How, then, is thy soul, O man! Is it lying now in the despotism of moral death ; all that is true and right, all that is pure and good, benumbed, prostrate? Or is thy nature in active hostility, one part against the other? the high against the low, the right against the wrong, the true against the hollow and the false ; and thou enduring the ceaseless horrors of this seat of war? Or, is the kingdom within thy breast a province indeed of the kingdom of God; where his high law has obtained the complete ascendant, and where his peace descends like the dew of summer, to refresh all things? It is the end of the year.

We have minded our business. But have you considered what your chief business is ? It is the end of the year. We have worked hard, and been frugal. But have you remembered what that work is, which God sent you to do ; and that he is a prodigal who lays not up for eternity, and makes no provision for the world to come? It is the end of the year; and we, while it passed, have observed the Sabbath ; attended Church; said our prayers ; read our Bible. But have you learned that this is the Christian Sabbath, to cease from your own works as God did from his ? that the word you have heard in Church will condemn you if you have not been doers of it; that your prayers will rise up in judgment against you, if you have not striven to live as you prayed ? and that the Bible, which you boast is the religion of Protestants, will only aggravate your guilt, if you have not sought to learn from it, what may be the mind and will of Godinstead of taking this on trust from men, whom you acknowledge to be fallible, who may deceive you, and may themselves be deceived You have given to the poor during the year that is near its end; you have been zealous for religion ; you have preached and exhorted! Have you remembered that though you gave all your goods to feed the poor ; though you spoke with the tongues of angels; though you gave your body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth you nothing? Since the year commenced “ I am one year nearer to my grave."

one year nearer to eternity, and the presence of my Judge! Am I nearer to heaven, or to hell? Am I a wiser, a jister, a holier man? Have I more faith, more love to God and to man, than I had on the last day of December, 1847 ? Am I less worldly? Is my affection more set on things above ? Am I more superior to this world, its prosperity and adversity, its good and evil? Are my patience, my fortitude, my temperance, my meekness, increased ? Da

May each of us say,

I delight more in communion with God, in prayer, and meditation on divine things ? Is my hope more sure and confident; my peace and joy in God greater? Am I, in short, discharging better the grand work of life; and am I better prepared to leave it for another and higher life.

These are thoughts, with which it is profitable to question our hearts at this season, and, indeed, at all seasons. May God teach us what we are, and make us what we ought to be, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen,

THE APOCALYPSE.

Popular Readings in the Revelations. By a Minister of the Church of

Scotland. Edinburgh: Myles Macphail. 1848.

It is the opinion of those expositors whose names are held in highest consideration throughout the Church of God, that the Apocalypse is designed by its pregnant figurations to shadow forth the leading events from the time when the wrapt seer beheld the wondrous visions to the consummation of all things. A rocky and bare island, washed by the waves of the great Ægean Sea, became the high watch-tower from whence was viewed a series of stupendous visions, designed to present in shadow the main features of all future times. The yail that wraps futurity from mortal ken, and shrouds in mystery the destines of the human race, was there for the last time lifted up, and before the prophetic eye of a lonely banished man, a vista lay stretched far into future time, lighted with a strange unnatural glimmer, and filled with a succession of stately and impressive pageants. The fluctuations of em. pires, the ebb and flow of human affairs, the majestic triumphs of truth, and the final discomfiture of error, of which the earth is destined to be the theatre, were revealed in symbol, or by the exalted and impressive utterances of heavenly voices; and thereby was disclosed a linked succession of all great events, from the standing-point of the prophetic watchman to the day of final doom,

It will not be wondered at that the Apocalypse should attract believing minds with irresistible fascination, when we reflect how curious men have ever been respecting future events, and how God has so far justified their inquisitiveness by writing for them in cipher the history of the future, and inviting them to inspect it with holy and persevering scrutiny. And especially must it ever deeply interest believers, since the history traced there by the finger of God is the history of their own future fortunes, or the history of the Chureh of Christ in her militant state and during her onward march to final conquest. To betray indifference concerning a theme that comes home so personally to all, may vail over a cold or scornful spirit of scepticism, but can certainly never be regarded as a proof of superiority.

A calm and philosophic impassiveness deserves to be admired only when maintained upon points of temporal and evanescent concern: when still preserved in matters of high faith it can only be viewed as the mark of a proud unhumbled heart; and, consequently, the dignified reserve which some so carefully cultivate upon points of religious belief, or the grave censure passed upon the rash' handling of the word of God, is often nothing but the polished mask of infidelity. It would have been as easy for Moses and the Israelites to have been unconcerned about the words traced upon the tables of stone by the finger of God, as for any true believer to be indifferent about any portion of the Scriptures of truth ; and if any part of Scripture be of difficult in. terpretation, as the Apocalypse confessedly is, it is not on that account to be coolly and carelessly dismissed. It is a wiser course to imitate the example of Daniel, who sought wisdom and understanding from God, and so was able to decipher the mysterious symbols traced by the fingers of a man's hand over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king's palace.

It is not a befitting thing, therefore, that the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ should be permitted to remain under a clasp when the spirit of wisdom promised to the Church can furnish the key of its hidden meaning ; and although it is not the intention of prophecy to disclose future things so clearly that they can be with exact definiteness anticipated, still an accurate enough general conception may be obtained to serve for reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. It ought, however, to be ever kept in view by all who would interpret prophecy, that it reveals future events, only with so much precision that the events themselves can alone discover its full meaning ; and the

grand use of prophecy is to minister constant nourishment to the faith of the Church, by the illustration of its truth which the great events of providence continually supply. In dealing, however, with unfulfilled prophecy or with prophecy in course of fulfilment, tho greatest precaution ought to be observed to avoid a minute particularity

exposition ; for just in proportion to its minuteness is the probabi. lity of misinterpretation, and every misinterpretation of revealed

truth Proportionably weakens his authority as a guide. As we can best judge of the size of a mountain compared with the others beyond, in propor

as we recede from its base, so we can best judge of the importance of events as they recede from us in the past. The events, now occurring, are too close upon us to be justly estimated; and, consequently, the right application of apocalyptic symbols to passing occurrences in their minuter adaptations, can scarcely be supposed within the range of human ability. A well balanced conjectural outline of coming things, founded upon the visions revealed in God's word, is allowable, and may be very useful in stirring

the Church to watchfulness, and in nursing her more hopeful anticipations.

We would not, however, that our remarks were construed into an approval of the conduct of those who, immediately they get a crude conception of its latent meaning, incontinently push themselves forWard as authorised expositors of its mysteries. A desire to study the Apocalypse is commendable in the ministers of Christ, and to draw

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