« ZurückWeiter »
But from that time to the present (for one party of christians instigated that first christian emperor to harass and persecute the other), there never has been such a state of things, in which there was no trouble, or loss, or danger, impending over some classes of christians, for adhering to and following the dictates of conscience in the innocent profession and practice of their religion.
As the heathen magistrates had made it a capital crime to be a christian,-so, unhappily, in all countries where christianity has been the religion of the state, it has been made penal in different degrees, frequently in the highest degree, for any to write in defence of or to profess any species of the christian religion, or to practise any method of worshiping the great God, but that of the magistrates making or countenancing; and men of whom the world was not worthy were burnt alive in Smithfield in this metropolis, and in the city of Litchfield, by a protestant king and bishops, so late as in the reign of James I,
Cruel and unjust laws still remain in force against the rights of men and of conscience, though the spirit of the times forbids their
execution, and, we hope, in no long space of time, promises their repeal.
But in the mean while many are afraid, or ashamed of being singular, of making open profession of what they believe, and of worshiping God according to their consciences, differently from what the laws have established. And this is the trial of many now.
As in former times they were deterred by the dread of torments and loss of worldly substance, now they cannot endure the reproach of going out of the common track, and being unfashionable in practising what they are persuaded to be their duty and the truth. How different this from that noble suffering spirit by which our religion was first propagated, and by which alone it can be consistently maintained and promoted !
We do not enough consider the great subject before the apostle, which moved those worthy persons whom he mentions, to be baptized for, or on account of, the dead,--of those christian heroes, who did not count their lives of
any value, but voluntarily parted with
them, in testimony of the truth, and in full assurance of a resurrection to an endless existence. We do not lay this to our hearts as we ought, or we should all of us behave in a different manner; show a greater zeal for the purity and prevalence of our religion, and boldness and self-denial in the practice of it.
What indeed can excite us, if we are not affected by the consideration of the immense benignity of our Creator, of which we have the knowledge and assurance by our Lord Jesus Christ, and of which his resurrection is a pledge to‘us, that we are not to lie for ever in the grave to which we are going ; but that as he was brought to life, after a few days passed in the sepulchre, by the power of God, and now lives, and will live for ever, high in bliss, and in his favour, so shall all his faithful followers in their degree and due appointed time.
But into those happy abodes, which our Maker hath in reserve, we are told (Rev. xxi.) there shall in no wise enter any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie. All characters that are and remain such will for ever be excluded. But what purification and constant aim at
moral perfection is necessary, our Saviour's precepts, and above all his example, teach.
There must be a predominant piety, and love and reverential fear of God, to influence us in all our actions, and to dwell with us. A love and preference of truth and righteousness are to be cultivated by us, so as to become part of our make as it were, and to be always with us. And we are to strive to keep up a constant ardour to promote the present and future good of others ; unabated as little as may be by the selfish passions, which we are always to be striving to combat and to subdue. Small and imperfect at the best will be the attainments of this our beginning state; but the utmost sincerity and integrity are to be sown and incessantly attended to and cultivated, if we expect to reap any thing hereafter.
We have seen above, that in the first ages of our religion the virtues and sufferings of its professors made numerous converts to it. The blood of an eminent martyr baptized whole cities. This is what the apostle signifies by being baptized for, or on account of, the dead, as I have endeavoured to explain to you. We are not put to the difficult trial, we are not called out to die for the truth of the go
spel; but it should be our thought and labour every day, by our lives and in every other way, to endeavour to recommend it to others.
If this aim and desire be in us, and habitual piety to God, and benevolent exertions for our fellow-creatures' good in its fullest extent be cherished and increasing in us ;-we shall in the same proportion become qualified for the company of virtuous beings, and for our unknown happy employment hereafter, in making progressive improvements in all that is excellent'; for which our next state will be fitted in ways
and methods that we know not of, in a long succession, through infinite never-ending ages; and for which we must lay in the preparation now, according to the means put before us, or suffer loss for ever.
In the beautiful moral imagery of our great Master and heavenly Teacher, we are to be careful to have our lamps always burning, and oil in them, lest we be called away.
suddenly to meet the bridegroom, when unready and unprepared, and the door of admittance
be shut upon us.
Unto God be g'orr and thanks for all bis mercies to 115.