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and if she has not sprung into existence full-armed, she is certainly now helmeted and cuirassed, and grasps what seems both spear and shield, whilst her eye and attitude show her vigilance and determination. The Presbyterian body cannot be passed over in this enumeration. The influence of its new arrangements is not yet fully felt, but will be ere long: we need only to look at the past. On one subject, at least, that large body has never been Laodicean, and that is its presbyterianism ; the jus Divinum of the system is that single article in the creed of every member which he never doubts, and for which he is always zealous. Now, brethren, against such difficulties as these, to mention no other, what can sustain us but devotedness of heart,--a single eye to that single object, the glory of God,-a life within which is deathless,—an energy derived from a spring which cannot be choked,-a strength always renewed,-a patience which cannot be exhausted, because supplied from a source in its nature inexhaustible ? Brethren, I have not the remotest desire to cast a single reflection on any servant of God who ever laboured among us, or even to form a judgment, much less express an opinion, on the course any of them adopted; but I am clear in saying, that the nature of the field is such, that we shall retain no one worth retaining, without this sine qua non, devotedness of heart.
It is equally necessary to give the power needed to our public ministrations. Popery bases its high assumptions on infallibilityChurch-of-Englandism on its apostolic succession, and its civil support - Presbyterianism has its stern orthodoxy—Methodism its compact system. These characteristics meet the view of the world, and in their several ways are exceedingly imposing. What have we? I think nothing so striking and tangible as our public ministrations. Our system, at the best, has but little that is imposing to the
of sense. This is its glory! It is thus placed in the same category with the Gospel itself, and shows one forcible evidence, at least, of having proceeded from the same source. Its elements are simple and elevated : to appreciate them requires a state of mind very different from that of the mass.
But we seldom show the capabilities of our system. In many cases we cannot; often a disjointed, unconnected thing, is all that strikes the eye of those uninterested in it. This is the case at this moment in Ireland; and, notwithstanding the number and strength of her churches, was the case, until recently, even in England. What then is our great instrument of operation on the world? What our hold on the population of our country? I repeat, our public ministrations, their superiority should be our characteristic. And here again we would be assimilated to primitive times. In this lay the great strength of apostles and apostolic men,-they had no imposing system. They had no apparent system at all; it was necessarily undeveloped, as ours is until God gives us success : but they were men
“full of the Holy Ghost and of power,” and the most subtle and malignant of their contemporaries “ were not able to resist the power with which they spake." " The common people heard them gladly,” and multitudes were daily added to the church. From heart-devotedness alone can such ministrations co-exist; from it they will proceed, but from it only. Full and fresh statements of the Gospel, thrilling appeals, earnest entreaties, affectionate warnings, and heart-melting lamentations over obstinate sinners, can come only from a heart filled to overflowing with the love of God and souls ; but these are the wires along which the electric spark is propagated. That master of human sympathies, George Whitefield, knew this. Paul knew it still better. Hence one grand secret of their power and their success; and as human nature is semper eadem, we must, as they did, “give ourselves to the Lord and then to his work."
Heart-devotedness is absolutely necessary to us as the best compensation for our unquestionable deficiencies. When we meet together thus, dear brethren, it is for higher purposes than to flatter each other : he who now speaks is sorry he can speak with such deep experimental feeling on this subject, and for his own sake, as well as yours, would avoid it, but that he conceives it necessary to the illustration of an important principle, and likely to be useful. There can, I think, be scarcely a question that, as a class occupying the rank of public teachers, we labour under many serious disadvantages. Few of us have enjoyed the benefit of an early thorough classical or even a good English education ; few the advantage of what is usually called society. In consequence, our minds want the training and the furniture, our taste the justness, and our manners the polish, which, as a general fact, these advantages alone confer. Our language, if grammatical, is seldom elegant; our conversation, if not meagre, is seldom commanding; our demeanour, if proper, is nothing more. not be necessary, always, to avow this to the world, but why deny it among ourselves? I mention not exceptions, striking and numerous, but still exceptions ; I have no fear of their displeasure ; they will feel most deeply the force of these remarks,—we are public men, we are Christian teachers, we must be brought into comparison with other public men, with other Christian teachers, with men many of whom possess in an eminent degree those very things in which we are so deficient. The opportunities for instituting this comparison are, in the present day, numerous and complete ; nay, we must, sometimes, meet those men in circumstances where what we are will be fully elicited, and no friendly eye rest on what may be wrong or defective. Now what is duty ? What is interest ? What is policy ? Plainly, to substitute what is attainable for what is not. And oh, how delightful to recollect that what is within our reach is as far above what is not as the heavens are above the earth. Be it remembered, too, that we
N. S. VOL, IX.
are public men only as we are Christian ministers. The qualities best suited to this species of public position, are, of course, what we most want, and what the public will chiefly require. The world is very bad, “but there is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty giveth him understanding;" and notwithstanding his perversity and the wreck and ruin of his better nature, he will consider, in a Christian minister, superiority in Divine knowledge as not a bad substitute for superiority in classical attainment-warmth of feeling for correctness of style, the “beauty of holiness” for elegance of manners,—and moral excellence as a good equivalent for a great many mere worldly accomplishments. It is astonishing, dear brethren, the right-judging character of most minds on this subject ; how often have we seen learning, eloquence, rank and official station, thrown quite into the shade by holiness and consistency of character! Oh, then, how grateful should we be that, by the grace of God, we may exemplify the latter. And how imperative on us to do so! We have nothing else in place of it. Moral weight of character is the only species of influence we can extensively exercise; but it outweighs all others, and it lasts for ever. Devotedness of heart is its unfailing spring,-in cherishing the one we insure the other.
I will only add, on this part of the subject, that by devotedness of heart alone we shall be prepared for the Divine blessing on our work, and be warranted to look with confidence for it. This is so plain, that I need not enlarge on it. God prepares his instrumentality before he uses it. His means, if not adequate, are usually suitable to the end he contemplates. To give success to an unsuitable agency, we can see, would be fraught with mischief; “ delight thyself therefore in the Lord, and he will give thee the desires of thy heart.” Here, then, is both the end, and the means by which it must be secured. To expel the “ Legion” from our poor country is not easy. “This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” Nothing less than the arm of Omnipotence can do the work, and it is the faith and prayer of a heart devoted to God which alone will be honoured to wield it.
III. The suggestions I shall venture to give on the way to cherish and increase this heart-devotedness, shall be few and brief.
The first is what I would call the unprofessional reading of the word of God. I am afraid, dear brethren, there is much too little of this amongst us. We are necessarily Bible readers, and were it not a Divine revelation, we should be so, had we to make it our constant text-book, and to speak so frequently from it. Some of us have five or six addresses every week to give to the same people; all, of course, based on its contents; we must then be professional Bible-readers. I will not be supposed to slight this, neither do I mean to intimate that the highest spirituality may not be cherished and increased by it; but it plainly is no measure of our heart-devotedness, and I am bold to affirm that heart-devotedness will not be promoted, where our Bible
reading is thus circumscribed. “Our delight,” brethren, “should be in the law of the Lord, and in it we should meditate day and night.” “Oh, how I love thy law," says the psalmist : “it is the very rejoicing of my heart ;" such should be our feeling. The word of God is the food of the soul ; by feeding on it the spirit grows, and a keen appetite for it, manifests spiritual health. Our minds cannot be in a suitable state, until we love the Bible for its own sake, until we hold close communion with God in it, and until we yield ourselves unresistingly to the impression which it gives.
The next suggestion is meditation. The efficiency of this means for the promotion of holiness of heart and character is not properly appreciated. Some of us are such readers that every spare moment is occupied with books, and we have not time for meditation. There is also the feeling, not the less real because unexpressed, that the time is lost which is not spent in “ doing something." All this is strangely incorrect, and sadly mischievous, and it would be felt so at once, were the same principle applied to other things, to science, to literature, or to art. Meditation is the digestion of the soul, and no truth can be incorporated into its substance, without passing through this process; “meditate upon these things,” says the aged apostle to his son Timothy, "give thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear unto all.” The several parts of this verse were intimately connected in the mind of the apostle ; oh, let them be ever connected in ours. The range of a Christian minister's meditation, I need not say, even when limited by the end now before us, is very extensive, the subjects sublime and absorbing, the nature and character of God, as exhibited in his works and in his word—the worth of the soul—the work of Jesus—its adaptation to our circumstances—the power of Gospel motives on the human mind -the impediments which corrupt nature, Satanic agency, and imperfect instrumentality raise to the universal diffusion and reception of the truth-our inadequacy to our work-our encouragements, and the warnings given us—the winding up of earth's affairs, its final catastrophe—the joys and duration of heaven, the miseries of perdition! Dear brethren, does not the mere enumeration bring with it the conviction that meditation on such subjects must be highly beneficial? I have no objection, quite the contrary, to the daily apportionment of a certain time for meditation as well as prayer ; but this in actual life will be often found impracticable: I would rather urge, and I would do it with great earnestness, the cultivation of a meditative habit.
Cicero mentions it to the high honour of Scipio Africanus, that he said, "he was never less alone than when alone, never less idle than when idle ; by which it appears,” adds the philosophic orator, “that in the midst of leisure, he could think of business, and was used when alone to converse with his own thoughts ; so that he was never properly idle, and needed no company to entertain him in his solitude. The
two things, therefore, which bring dullness and heaviness on others, served but to sharpen and invigorate his mind.” If, according to another sound maxim of classic authority, we should learn from an enemy, we must not refuse instruction from an eminent heathen ; and oh, how mean the subjects which occupied his mind, compared with what should fill ours; and how impotent for good they were, compared with the Divine energy, the purifying and elevating power of those mentioned above! This habit will communicate the important secret to us of employing every moment beneficially, “whether sitting in the house, or walking by the way,” and, diligently used, will change us into the image of Jesus, "from glory to glory," until we are holy, even as he is holy.
I will only add, prayer, all-prayer, private, social, public, all “is converse with the Deity,” or rather, all is “fellowship with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” All must, therefore, cherish and increase devotedness of heart. The different kinds call forth special and corresponding graces. The first, however, we are warranted in saying, takes the lead in the promotion of this great end. The comparative absence of all meaner motive makes private prayer an important test of Christian character; a desire for it, and delight in it, imply the possession, in a good degree, of the thing sought. Whilst our seclusion from the external world, the particularity of our requests, the unrestrainedness of our feelings, the reiteration of petitions interesting to us, without incurring the censure of using vain repetitions, and the sense of a present God, a triune covenant Jehovah, with which we are sometimes favoured, and which in its degree and distinctness, is perhaps peculiar to private prayer, all combine to make it the very engagement for the production of heart-devotedness. Dear brethren, I shall say no more, I have probably said more than was necessary. May God give his blessing! Sligo.
MEMORABLE DAYS IN FEBRUARY.
The following is a list of some events which have occurred in the month of February, and are memorable, either as indications of the hand of Providence in human affairs, or on account of some moral lesson or example which reflecting minds may derive from them.
February 1, 1684. Archbishop Leighton died.
1, 1717. Risdon Darracott born.