« IndietroContinua »
suitable to our faculties, and calculated to afford them agreeable and useful occupation. Even in winter, cold and comfortless as it appears, how much do we find to make us both happier and better. The family circle, collected in the long evenings round the cheerful winter fire, feel those affections warmed which soften the heart without enfeebling it, and those domestic endearments increased by exercise, without which life is scarcely desirable ; while the soul, enlightened and enlarged, is better prepared to receive impressions of religion,to love Him who first loved us,--and rising to more exalted views, to aspire after the society of the just made perfect, in the world of spirits.
The paternal care of the Supreme Being, thus strongly impressed on the mind, by contemplating the traces of his beneficence, which are every where conspicuous in the seasons as they revolve, are calculated to reassure the mind, in looking forward to that great change, of the approach of which we are forcibly reminded by the passing away of another year, of the short and uncertain period allotted us on earth. We, too, have our spring, our summer, our autumn, and our winter. Will another spring dawn on the winter of the grave? To the encouraging answer which Revelation gives to this important question, is added our experience of the operations of the God of the Seasons. Under bis administration, nothing perishes, though every thing changes. The flowers die but to live again. In the animal world, many species sleep out the winter, to awake again in a new season. Nature itself expires and revives ; even while she lies prostrate and rigid, an Almighty hand preserves the germs of future life, that she may once more start from the grave, and run a new round of beauty, animation and enjoyment. Is there not hope, then, for the human soul? Shall not the same paternal goodness watch over it in its seeming extinction, and cause it to survive the winter of death ? Yes, there is hope, but there is no assurance. It is from the Word of Inspiration alone that the assurance of immortality springs. That book of unerring truth informs us, that after our mortal winter, there comes a spring of unfading beauty and eternal joy, where no cold chills, and no heat scorches; where there is bloom without decay, and a sky without a cloud.
But let it never be forgotten, that the prospect which lies before us is not all bright and smiling. The same book of truth, which reveals to us our immortal nature, informs us, also, that in the unseen world to which we are travelling, there is a state of misery, as well as a state of blessedness;—that we are now, step by step, aproaching the one or the other of these states ;-and that each successive year, as it passes over our heads, instead of leading us upward to the unchanging glories which belong to the children of God, may be only conducting us downward, on that road which "leadeth to destruction."
This is inexpressibly dreadful! And when we think of our own character aud qualifications, we shall find nothing calculated to allay our terrors. We are the children of a fallen parent --ourselves fallen and guilty. If, from the elevated spot on which we now stand, at the commencement of a new stage of our journey, we look back on the scenes through which we have passed, and reflect on the transactions in which we have been engaged, what shall we discover that can recommend us to Him“ who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity ?” If, again, we look forward, wbat a scene of turmoil and disorder, temptation and danger, do we descry in a world lying in wickedness! When we think of the weakness of our own hearts, and of the enemies we have to encounter,--so numerous and so formidable,-we cannot fail to be appalled, and to experience the same kind of misgiving which led an Apostle to exclaim, "Who is sufficient for these things !"
But when, in the exercise of faith, we turn to the Gospel, a more blessed view opens to us, for it is full of the most encouraging promises to those who will accept of them. It tells us of the Lord God merciful and gracious, long suffering and * slow to anger, and abundant in loving-kindness and tender mercy;" and, in proof of this character, it reminds us of the impartial manner in which the Creator employs inanimate nature for the good of his creatures, “ making his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sending rain on the just and the unjust;" it reminds us, also, of the parental affection with which His own exuberant bounty bas inspired the animal creation, and, taking an example from the inferior tribes, it beautifully declares, that “ as an eagle stirreth up ber nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings,” so He watches over his rational offspring, delighting to lead, instruct, and bless them: Rising still higher, it reminds us of the tenderness He has infused into the mind of earthly parents, and says “if you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father
which is in heaven give good things to those who ask him.” Nay, it represents the Eternal as condescending to compare his regard for his people, with that of a fond mother for the infant smiling upon her knee, mother forget her suckling child, that she should not bave compassion on the son of her womb ? Yea, she may forget ; yet will not I forget thee.” It does much more; it opens to our view the wonders of redeeming love, presenting to our view the Son of the Eternal humbling Himself for our sakes, to assume the form of a servant,-becoming a man of sorrowe, -submitting to ignominy, torture, and death; and then it crowns all, by making this unanswerable appeal, “If God spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not, with him, also freely give us all things !”
Such is the unspeakable encouragement which the Christian derives from the Gospel of his Divine Master. And shall we not“ work out our own salvation, seeing it is God who worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” In this mighty task, we cannot, indeed, avoid being affected with “ fear and trembling," when we reflect on what we have at stake; but we have, also, every thing to hope, for He who is for us is greater than all that can be against us; and the value of the prize wbich ie set before us is inestimable.
In treating a subject of so great extent and paramount importauce, which has of late been frequently laid before the public, and which is familiar to the thoughts of almost every individual, I shall satisfy my own mind, if fixing on some of the more prominent bearings of the question, and presenting them in a perspicuous and condensed shape, I shall give a short 4 summary of the evidence for the principle of Ecclesiastical Establishments. And in endeavouring to do so, I shall, for the of regularity and precision, dispose of my materials according to the following method :
I shall, in the first place, produce the arguments which may be derived from Revelation :
In the second, those which reason, more strictly speaking, may suggest; and,
In the last, it shall be my province to obviate some of those objections, which have been commonly adduced against the principle of Ecclesiastical Establishments.
We are, then, at the commencement, to bring forward those arguments that may be derived from revelation : and here we remark,
Ist. That the connexion of the Jewish Church with the State is a strong presumptive proof of the lawfulness, advan-, tage and necessity of such establishments, for the maintenance of religion in the world. If the establisbinent of the Jewish religion was necessary for the preservation of the truth, amidst the immoralities and idolatry of the nations of the East, wbo shall deny that the same necessity exists for the establishment of Christianity amidst the worldliness, and rebuke, and blaspbemy of the present days ? The truth has progressed much since the days of Moses, but so also has the human race, and Christianity bears as yet but a small proportion to the population of the world. Amidst all the cry of the omnipotence of truth, and its final prevalence, there appears from the state of society as strong an argument for the establishment of re
ligion now, as in the days of the Hebrew legislator. God's truth, as being an emanation of himself, can never perish; but it is the duty of man to employ what the word and providence of God point out, as the means designed for its maintenance. But here it has been gravely asserted, by some late controversialists in the sister island, that the maintenance of their religion, on the part of Jews, was altogether voluntary. Such an asse on must have been very rashly, if not very ignorantly, made. It can be easily proved that the ministers of the Hebrew Church were supported at the expense of the nation, and that by a series of express and inviolable enactments.
In the first place, there were forty-eight cities and a large tract of adjoining territory assigned to the Levites, as their inalienable property. As it is recorded in the 35th chapter of * Numbers, at the beginning : “ And the Lord spake unto Moses in the plains of Moab by Jordan, near Jericho, saying, command the children of Israel” (God does not leave it to their own option) that they give unto the Levites, of the inheritence of their possession, cities to dwell in; and the suburbs of them shall be for their cattle, and for their goods, and for all their beasts. And the suburbs of the cities, which ye shall give unto the Levites, shall reach from the wall of the city and outward a thousand cubits round about. So all the cities ye shall give to the Levites shall be forty and eight cities : them shall ye give with their suburbs. And the cities which ye shall give shall be of the possession of the children of Israel: from them that have many, ye shall give many; but from them that have few, ye shall give few : everyone shall give of his cities unto the Levites, according to his inheritence which he inheriteth.” Numb. xxxv. 1-4; and v. 7, 8.
In the second place, the atonement-money, or ransom for the soul,—which was paid annually, or at farthest, on every public census,—was set apart“ for the service of the tabernacle,”—by which we understand not only the purchase of animals to be sacrificed on the altar, but also the sustenance of those who served the altar. As it is written in the 30th chapter of Exodus, at the 13th verse; “ this they shall give,-every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel, after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs :) an half shekel shall be the offering of the Lord. Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the Lord. And thou shalt take the atonement-money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial (that is a standing ordinance) unto the children of Israel, before the Lord, to make an atonement for your souls.” Exod. xxx. 13, 14, 16. This ransom-money, wbich must be granted, on all hands, to have been attached to the duties at least of the priestly office, could be no inconsiderable revenue. Taking the half shekel of the sanctuary at its lowest estimate, as equivalent in round numbers to a British shilling, (which is below the truth,) the revenue collected immediately before the construction of the tabernacle must have been upwards of thirty thousand pounds sterling, agreeably to the constituency mentioned in Exod. xxxviii. 26 ; and, that on the enumeration of the people by Joab, in the reign of David, (according to 2 Sam. xxiv. 9,) must, if actually raised, have been considerably upwards of sixty thousand pounds.
In the third place, the tithes of the land, comprising the fruits, the flocks, and the cattle, were given to the Levites. This is evident by a comparison of passages.-Numb. xviii. 21. “ Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.” The tenure of this gift rests on the same footing as that of the money of the atonement,—viz., "for the service of the tabernacle;" and so far was this property from being capable of alienation from the Levites, at the caprice of the Jews, that (as we lind at the 23d verse,) “it was a statute for ever throughout their generations." The varieties of property subject to tithe are mentioned in Lev. xxvii. 30, 32,-“ All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's: it is holy unto the Lord; and concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be boly unto the Lord :' that is, shall be devoted to sacred purposes. This tithe was again decimated, when an hundredth part of the whole produce was allotted to the priests. Numb. xviii. 26,
Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, when ye take of the children of Israel the tithes, which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave-offering of it for the Lord, even a tenth part of the tithe. Thus ye also shall offer an heave-offering unto the Lord, of all your tithes which ye receive of the children of Israel ; and ye shall give thereof the Lord's heave-offering to Aaron the priest.” And, more particularly, the Lord speaks to Aaron concerning the same matter, in Numb. xviii, 19. “ All the heaveofferings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer unto the Lord, have I given thee, and thy sons and thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever.” But, in addition to those two sources of annual revenue, accruing to the Levites, and priests proper, there was a triennial tribute of tithe attached to the Levites, with the poor of the land, as is seen from Deut. xiv. 28, 29,-“At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and