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to instruct the judgment and to impress the heart, than that presented by our exemplary deportment, as the children of God and the imitators of Immanuel.
By far the greater part of mankind are instructed more by objects which appeal to their senses, than by arguments directa ed to their understandings. Example has frequently done much, where the most convincing reasoning has effected nothing. A sinner, morally blinded by the dreadful bandage of iniquity, can, till God enlighten the eyes of his understanding, judge of the excellence of religion in no other way than by his senses; and through this mediurn many a inan has received the salvation of his iminortal soul. Some brilliant example of. spiritual religion caught his eye, and carried this conviction to his heart, that there was a something in real godliness of which he was destitute : while, on the other hand, how many, who, by, some passing event, were awakened to a momentary consideration of their danger, and who began to flee for their lives, till, meeting with some professed Christian in or near the paths they were abont to forsake, they received a quietus for their conscience, sunk down again upon the pillow of carnal security, and slept on the sleep of Death..
Since, then, your conduçi must be the medium through which unregenerate men look at the gospel, consider, I beseech. you, the infinite importance of maintaining that exemplary piety which shall give them a just idca of the spirituality of true religion ; and here I musi ilgain insist upon the necessity of your godliness being 'visible in all your conduct before the " world; it must slune in the minutest actions of your life; and especially in those which fall under the cognizance of unregenerate men; for, as the very smallest speck upon the glass of'a telescope would alter the appearance of the heavenly bodies, or the thinnest cloud floating in the atmosphere, obscure, in part, the brilliancy of the sun, --so even these parts of your conduct, which are but the slightest deviations from the dignified behaviour of a Christian, alter the appearance and hide much of the beauty of true godliness. It must, however, be acknowledged, that in the most holy and upright characters there will be spots. Still, if we would walk worthy of the Lord, we shall be exceedingly anxious that they be like the spots in the sun, lost to the eye of the observer, amicist that blaze of glory with which their situation is surrounded and their iniluence counteracted, and not like the dark black shadows of a total, or even a partial eclipse. And here, my alcar friends, I would remind you that false ideas of religion are circuated, and prejudices against it excited, not merely by ihe misconduct of those who fall into flagrant impiety, alino' be mischiet occasioned by such backslidings is incalculable: it is shocking, indeed, to behold the dreadful exhalations frein human corruption, which are continually ascending into the . atmosphere of the church, beclouding its lustre, and rendering it less attractive to the eye of the unregenerate': but there are those also whose conduct, tho’ less replete withflagrant impiety, is full of those minor acts of inconsistence which do incalculable harm to the cause of true religion. With what exquisite anguish has my heart been wrung, when, with a malignant and exulting sneer, I have been told of the mean, dishononrable, almost unjust, shuffling of one professing Christian, -the greedy insatiable craving after wealth of another, the avaricious disposition of a third, the oppressive cruelty towards the poor of another, the proud, haughty, imperious, spirit of another, - the spiteful, angry, revengeful, temper of another. Oh, how iny soul has bled to see the enemy of religion turn from such scenes as these, and, hugging his vices closer to his heart, renew his covenant with Death, and establish afresh his agreement with Hell, on the ground that any sin was .more venial than hypocrisy! The inference which a spiritual mind draws from such sickening views of the imperfections of the religious world, is of a different kind : he glories to think, through how many discouraging circumstances, he can still Jove, - still delight in the gospel : he is drawn nearer to his God; he clings closer to his throne; his faith waxes stronger with the assurance, that the system which could outlire, not only so much external violence, but so much internal convulsion, must be divine! Not so the wicked ; approaching the temple of Religion, if not immediately to worship, yet to see the nature of its service,approaching, I say, behind an inconsistent professor; who can wonder that, shocked on the very threshold, he should determine to go no farther; and make a precipitate retreat with this language,. It is vain to serve God.'
Remember, my dear friends, that the seemingly delightful communion with God in secret, the nearest approaches to his throne, the most profound humility, and the deepest repentance there, will not counteract the mischief of a habitually inconsistent line of conduct in public. The men you have offended by your ungenerous, dishonourable, undignified behaviour, will not follow you home to the bosom of your family, to witness your prostrations before the domestic altar; nor will those, Rhose disgust against your own character, as a religious man, and whose prejudices against religion itself you have excited during the progress of the day, follow you into your closet at night, and there hear the gospel cleared of the blame of your conduct, by listening to those chapters which you read to your family, and to yourself, which would teach them, and ought to have taught you, that Jesus Christ, not only enjoins upon his disciples to love God with all their hearts, soul, and strength, but their neighbour as themselves. Nor are they, perhaps, present in the assembly with which you publicly worship God, to see the air of devotion, the appearance of real godliness, which stamp your whole frame; and of what advantage to the character of your religion would it be if they were present while your conduct forced them to exclaim, I wish he appeared to as much advantage in the world as he does in the church!
Consider then the necessity of Christian conduct, - of shining as lights in the world. You are not to imagine that your influence upon society extends only to the temporal concerus of your fellow-creatures. No; as it respects their eternal destiny, you touch them on every side. It is a truth little known, and still less felt, that the holy lives of Christians are one of the appointed means of God for the conversion of the world. The preaching of the pulpit is to do much, but not all, in this great work. The silent, but convincing eloquence of an exemplary life, preaching a constant sermon even to the eye of the unregenerate, may be expected to be eininently useful; and the only reason why there is so little of this kind of usefulness is, because there is so little of this kind of preaching. You abhor those teachers of religion, who, by suppressing every thing essential to the gospei, starve immortal souls ; but are you not involved in the same condemnation? - for you can with as little excuse rob immortal souls of the benefit of a holy life, as they can of a faithful ministry; and unless you are anxiously endeavouring to shine by a holy lite, you rob the worid of an ordinance which God has appointed for its salvation : for, said the apostle, ' ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God with your body and with your spirit, which are bis;' and, said the Author of inspiration himseit, “ so let your light siune before men, that, seeing your good works, they may giorify God your heavenly Father.' You would tremble at the idea of taking up the pen to prove that the oniy difference between Christians and other men was in name. risk at the oracle of Conscience, Whether you are not more effectually proving this to the conviction of the unregenerate, by a line of conduct which seems to establish the point at once. What would you think of the conduct of him who, with indifference, saw a neighbour mingling a cup of poison, - saw him apply it to his lips, and even encouraged him to swallow the liquid death?' Is he entitled to the peace of a guiltless, bloodless conscience ? Apply this to yourselves. Are there none, whose spiritual, mental murder you are helping on by the inconsistencies of your own conduct? Do not, l'entreät you, close the perusal of this paper without asking, In what degree your holy life and conversation have glorified God? I will now close with mentioning an Anée dote of Louis xiv. of France : - It is recorded, that when ilie Eddystone light-house was building, one of his small vessels of war came so near the British coast as to take the inen prisoners who were employed in rearing thie fabric; who,
with their tools, were carried to France. As soon as the monarch heard of it, he ordered the nien to be sent back again to their work, declaring, that althoát war with England, he was not at war with Humanity:- My dear friends, will you be hostile to the eternal welfare of immortal souls, by extinguishing these lights which God has appointed to guide men in safety, to the haven of eternal bliss ?
. A COMMENTARY
ON A PASSAGE OF
Sec. it impliere very fab of a perhapun be
“ Perhaps, their mode of life that of the Primitive Christians)
in its form and habit, was not very unlike the Unitas Fratrum, or [that] of Modern Methodists. Vol. i, p. 34, 12th edit.
I HAVE been often struck with the justness of the above remark, and wondered it has not excited more attention; but perhaps the greatest admirers of Dr. Paley's writings in general, would be among the last to admire this, though I think none, of his observations more true, and few of them more important.
However, before I enter on my Commentary, I would pręs. mise two things :
1. That the words themselves evidently imply more than they express. When the Doctor says that the Methodists and Primitive Christians are not very unlike the Unitas Fratrum, &c. it implies that there was an evident similitude: in short, that they were very like ; and this I shall endeavour to justify, even without the salvo of a perhaps. .
2. When a parallel is thus drawn between the Primitive and Modern Christians, I remark, the former are compared only with Methodists and Moravians; and not with the generality of Christians of the present day. The change which Christianity made in them, says the Doctor, we do not easily estimate; because ourselves, and all about us, being habituated to the institution from our infancy, it is that we neither experience nor observe;" ihat is, we neither experience in ourselves, nor observe in others, the change which was produced in priinitive times. No; this is now only found among Methodists and Moravians,
Let us-recur to our text, and observe the chief points of resemblance between Primitive Christians and the Unitas Fratrum, cr Modern Methodists.'
1. 'After men became Christians, much of their time was spent in prayer and devotion. While they remained Heathens, a little cereinoņious idolatry sufficed; for though they
said prayers to the objects of their devotion, they seldom or never expected to be heard or answered. Their gods had eyes which could not see, and ears that could not hear ; but when men became Christians, religion became then a serious concern. “Much of their time was spent in prayer and devotion, early and late, at home and abroad, alone or in company with each other, they prayed always; that is, they desired to preserve a spirit and habit of devotion, even in their coinmon concerns of life. Pliny, in a fainous passage, quoted at length by our author, says, They assembled before day and sung hymns to Christ, as to a God: an exact description of the practice of the early Methodists and Moravians, who were remarkable for holding meetings carly of a morning before, the usual hours of business, as well as for singing hyinns to Christ as God. Dr. Haweis has composed a volume on this idea, which he calls, in the very plirase of Pliny, Carmina Christo. It is remarkable, that one of the charges against the heretic bishop, Paulus Samosatenus, was that he abolished those hyinns which were wont to be sung in the churches to the honour of Jesus Christ, as a novelty, and, as coinposed by modern authors: the very reason, by the way, given by some modern Socinians, for rejecting the hyinns of Dr. Watts.
2. Much of their time was spent in religious'meetings, particularly' in celebrating the Eucharist, or Lord's Supper.' This they usually did every Sabbath; in which some of the Methodists have exactly cupied them, and, in general, are remarkable for the frequency of their coinmunions, most of the popular chapeis having it administered once a fortnight; and, as in the Primitive Church, at different parts of the day, to suit the contenience of different communicants; and many of them once a month, early in the morning, as Pliny relates of the Christians of his day
« In conferences, in exhortations. These expressions refer evidently to the Private Meetings of the Church-Meinbers, as described by St. Paul, in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, chap. xiv, and elsewhere. Those too have been exactly copied by the Methodists, who hold their societies and class-meetings; at which they relate to each other their religious feelings and experiences; and where the lay-preachers and gifted brethren engage in prayer, give out hyinns, and deliver alternate exhortations. . 3. Frequent preaching is another characteristie both of early Chrįstians and the modern Methodists. The former, we are told, used to hear two or three sermons at a sitting; and sometimes different preachers cagaged, both ecclesiasties and laymen. The Methodists are so fond of preaching, that it is said, Mr.Whitefield preached 15,000 serinons; and Mr.Wesley (who was the longest liyer) doubtless, inany more ; and as to