« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
nature. Deeply, therefore, do we lament that so many of our most popular devotional works have proceeded from menwhose sincere and unaffected piety we love and venerate-but whose doctrines are so different from what we conceive the scriptures to teach. And of such works we acknowledge our fear is, that the good influence they might otherwise have on mankind, is in a considerable degree counteracted by the errors, which it is their direct and necessary tendency to disseminate.
A third rule to be regarded in selecting such devotional works as ought to be recommended, relates to the manner and spirit with which they are written. It is not difficult to notice a material difference among them when considered in this point of view. Some are written in a style that is chaste and manly, and others in one that is puerile and vulgar: some breathe a spirit that is mild and amiable, and others one that is gloomy and bitter : some are calculated at the same time to enlighten the mind and enlarge the heart, while others can only tend to flatter men's prejudices and inflame their passions. Such, in short, is the temper of some of these productions, that their immediate tendency must be to promote, and such the temper of others, that their immediate tendency must be to destroy, the influence of that heaven-born charity, which is the beginning and end, the alpha and omega, of every thing that is good among the children of one common Father. Here, then, there is vast room for discrimination, and vast need of it. The importance and necessity of this must be particularly felt at the present day, when a multitude of books of a devotional cast have been thrown upon the public, which do not seem to indi. cate in their authors those qualifications of mind, or in many instances, we are sorry to add, those qualifications of the heart, which are absolutely indispensable in a good devotional writer. We must be allowed to consider them, that is, many of them, as poor, and low, and paltry things, wholly unworthy of favour or respect. We fear they are doing much to take from piety its respectability, and to make devotion itself only a term of derision. As therefore we wish for religion without cant, and for devotion without vulgarity, we conceive it to be incumbent on all, to read and to recommend only such devotional works, as to zeal add knowledge, to knowledge good feeling, and to good feeling a pure and dignified style.
These are the rules, upon this subject, which we think it most important to lay down. By observing them it will at once be perceived, that many books of devotion now in repute, must be exchanged for others of a far less exceptionable character. This we conceive is an exchange devoutly to be wished; for we are deeply impressed with a conviction, that many of the present popular works on devotion, are such as to give us very defective views of the nature of religion, mislead us as to the way in which its graces are to be found, deceive us as to the true grounds of christian bope, and form in us characters, which will possess enough perhaps of seriousness and zeal, but be deficient in those chaste and manly virtues, that high tone of moral feeling, and those generous and exalted motives and aims, which ought preeminently to distinguish the follower of Jesus.
It cannot be supposed from the course of our remarks, that we would discourage the reading of all devotional works. On the contrary, we conceive them to be, next to the scriptures, the life and support of practical religion. They should be taught to children, to imbue their minds with early piety. They should be put into the bands of youth, tbat their characters may be formed in the school of Christ. Men engaged in active life should read them continualiy, that they may counteract the influence, which their worldly business might otherwise bave, to contract their feelings, and corrupt their hearts. And it is to them, that the aged also should go for those supports and consolations, which religion only can give, gilding with the beams of the sun of righteousness the evening of their days. Indeed so fully are we persuaded of the utility and importance of devotional works-so entire is our conviction that they should be numbered among the most powerful of those religious excitements, by wbich the slumbers of the thoughtless are to be broken, and the consciences of the vicious to be alarmed-that we cannot refrain from expressing our regret, that there are so few books of this description which we can'recommend, without qualification. Some, however, there are, and it is also a subject of extreme regret, that these are not more generally known and read. Law's Serious call to a devoul and holy life ; Thomas a Kempis, On the Imitation of Christ; Scougal’s Life of God in the Soul of Man ; Holy Living and Dying, by Jeremy Taylor ; and Hannah More's Practical Piely ;- these are all works of acknowledged merit, and works which we can recommend with very little abatement of that praise, which Christians of all persuasions, have alınost unanimously lavished upon them. What then shall we say of Mrs. Barbauld's Hymns for Children ; Merivale's Daily devotions for the Clusel; the Devotional Discourses of Newcome Cappe; and the Sermons of our late lamented Buckminster-books easily to be obtained-books
which deserve the bighest praise ; and of which it would not be too much to say, they should always be found lying by the side of our Bibles, that we may recur to them continually, to deepen our religious impressions, to strengthen our holy resolutions, and to fill our minds with the consolations and hopes of religion. “By the frequent reading of such books,” says Bishop Burnet, “ by the relish that one bas in them, by the delight they give, and the effects they produce, a man will plainly perceive whether his soul is made for divine matters or not; what suitableness there is between him and them, and whether he is yet touched with such a sense of religion as to be capable of dedicating himself to it.”
If any of our readers have yet to make themselves acquainted with the books we have mentioned, we earnestly request them to do it without delay. By neglecting it they will do themselves and their fainilies an injustice for which it may not be in their power to atone ; they may do themselves and their families an injury, which ages will not repair.
TO THE EDITORS OF THE CHRISTIAN DISCIPLE.
GENTLEMEN,–It is very possible that you do not know with what religious abhorrence certain of your doctrines are regarded by orthodox believers; or of what comipunion they are thought worthy “who privily bring in such damnable herecies.” For your information in that particular, I send you the following extracts from the sermons of a distinguished Doctor of Divinity now living and preaching in the State of New York.
“ The sentiment may be unpopular ; it may be branded as illiberal; yet, supported by the word of God, I am emboldened to utter it, that the Prince of darkness is as worthy of our communion and countenance, as the man who persists deliberately, wilfully, and avowedly, to deny the Deity of our Lord."
“ The finite mind cannot expand to conceive the complicated blasphemies which are necessarily involved in the denial of this doctrine.” Proudfir's Works, vol. i. p. 361.
“If the show of any thing, be good for any thing, I am sure sincerity is better ; for why does any man dissemble, or seem to be that which he is not, but because he thinks it good to have such a quality as he pretends to ? For to counterfeit and dissemble, is to put on the appearance of some real excellency. Now the best way in the world to seem to be any thing, is really to be what he would seem to be. Besides that it is many times as troublesome to make good the pretence of a good quality, as to have it ; and if a man have it not, it is ten to one but he is discovered to want it; and then all his pains and labour to seem to have it, are lost.”
Letter to Bishop Watson, from a young man who had read his Defence of
Sir,-Unknown as I am to your Lordship, permit me to express my obligation for your labours in the cause of Christianity, and the benefit I in particular have derived from them inestimable indeed.
Young and inexperienced, by the impious jests and conta. gious example of profligate associates, i at length abandoned the religious priociples in which I had been early instructed, and with sorrow confess, imbibed those of infidelity. In this deplorable situation I met with your Theological Tracts, and Apology for Christianity. By a careful perusal of both, I am overpowered with evidence and conviction : so that with me the truth of our holy religion stands on a foundation infinitely firmer than that of any remote fact whatever ; it is the power of God unto salvation.
In consequence of this happy change, I bope I am solicitous to conform my practice to the divine precepts of the gospel; for I have lately complied with our blessed Saviour's dying command.
Under divine influence, your writings have been powerfully efficacious in dissipating the gloom of scepticism, in which I was once so involved.
But plain and unlearned as I am, gratitude must supersede encomium. I, however, sincerely pray, that you may at least receive an approbation the most significant, “ Well done, enter into the joy of your Lord,” when, in the noble language of scripture, “they who have turned many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever.”
I have the honor to be, &c.
A few years ago an officer went into Hyde Park with an intention of shooting himself: he applied a pistol to bis forehead, but the priming flashed and no discharge followed. A man of
poor appearance, whom the officer bad not observed, or perhaps thought unworthy of his notice, instantly ran up, and wrested the pistol from his hands. The other drew his sword, and was about to stab his deliverer, who with much spirit replied, “Stab me, Sir, if you think proper. I fear death a3 little as you, but I have more courage. More than twenty years I have lived in affliction and penury, and I yet trust in God for mercy and support.” The officer was struck (as well he might be) with these reproving words, continued speechless and motionless for a short time, and then bursting into tears, gave his purse to the honest man. He then inquired into his story, and became his private friend and benefactor; but under a solemn injunction, that he would never make any inquiries concerning himself, or seem to know him, if chance should ever bring them again in sight of each other. How many suicides might be prevented, and how many miseries re. lieved, if men under the pressure of their adversity would learn from this poor man to “trust in God for comfort and support.”*
LINES TO A CHILD
ON H18 VOYAGE TO FRANCE, TO MEET HIS FATHER.
Lo, how impatiently upon the tide
* Moore's Enquiry into Suicide. New Series-vol. I.