« PreviousContinue »
sipation, and less hurry of business than in large towns, prudent exertions of this kind may be considered as eminently proper and beneficial. The truth is, that when properly managed they must and will be useful any where. While you are thus with your people, let your conduct and conversation always be such as is adapted to strengthen, not impair the impression of your public services, and let the man of the world be ever sunk in the man of God. A great deal of prudence is required to manage this aright; but when properly attended to, how valuable! How good is a word fitly spoken! It is like apples of gold in pictures of silver,-" as an ear-ring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear."
Such, my dear brother, are some of the most important of the numerous and arduous duties of the ministerial office. We may well exclaim, "who is sufficient for these things ?" How important the trust! how difficult the duty to be over the people, and bearing, as it were, on our shoulders, the burden of such an assembly; some to be gained by love, others governed by fear, the impetuosity of one to be repressed, the diffidence and timidity of another to be encouraged and to exercise a care over those who are either unable or unwilling to exercise any about themselves. To stand betwixt God and man, whose wills are so contradictory, whose views are so different, whose expectations from us are so opposite, that to obey the one is to offend the other, to be approved of the one, is to be condemned of the other,-to arm the whole enmity of the human heart against you on the one hand, or to have the blood of souls required at your hand on the other, and to be responsible to both God and man.
Be not dismayed, however, by the arduousness of the office, or the difficulties attending it. The same Almighty Lord, who descended from heaven to earth to declare the glad tidings of the Gospel, will vindicate the honour of that cause which he lived to advance, and died to seal.
Be not cast down; for though weak in yourself, and, apparently, utterly inadequate to the important trust, the work itself, promoted by wisdom and power more than mortal, will continue to flourish, blessed of the Most High, to the conversion of the unbeliever, and the edifying of the Church of Christ. The planet, dark and rayless in itself, acquires from the orb that cheers the day, a splendour not its own. As it moves onward in its appointed path, its beam directs the mariner amid the trackless deep and shall not He, from whom
the sun himself derives his splendour, bestow, on the meanest instrument employed in his service, a portion of that light which belongs to him alone? The miraculous operations of the Holy Spirit, intended for a sign to unbelievers, and to aid the Gospel in its first struggle with the powers of Pagan darkness, have long since ceased with the exigency which called them forth; but the renewing and sanctifying agency of the Spirit remains, and will continue to the end of time, for the Saviour has promised it. It is the influence of the Spirit ALONE that can crown your labours with success. If a great multitude at Antioch turned to the Lord, it was because the "hand of the Lord was with them;" if Lydia believed, in consequence of giving attention to the things that were spoken, it was, "because the Lord opened her heart," if Paul planted and Apollos watered with success, "it was the Lord who gave the increase."
In the whole range of ministerial duty, public and private, keep close to the fountain of grace, and secure a large measure of its influence. If you do so, and are, at the same time, diligent in the use of the appointed means, you may rest assured that, at the awful day of account, you shall recognize, with rapture, many seals of your ministry, and have them for your crown, and as the ground of your rejoicing, through eternity.
(The address to the Congregation in our next.)
AUGUSTINE'S CONFESSIONS ABRIDGED. NO. V.
RECEIVE the sacrifice of my confessions, and heal all my bones, that they may say, Lord, who is like unto thee? The heart, that is shut against thee, excludes not thine eye, nor does the hardness of men's hearts repel thine hand, but thou dissolvest it when thou pleasest, in compassion or in vengeance, and none can hide himself from thy flame. But may my soul praise thee, that it may love thee, and confess to thee thy compassions, that it may praise thee! Let men be converted and seek thee, and, behold, thou art in the heart of those who confess to thee, and cast themselves upon thee, and in thy bosom deplore their evil ways; and thou in mercy wilt wipe away their tears, that they may deplore still more, and rejoice in tears, because thou, Lord, refreshest and comfortest them.
In the sight of my God I will give an account of the twentyninth year of my age. A Manichee bishop named Faustus,
had now come to Carthage, a great snare of the devil, and many were enchanted by his eloquence, which though I could not but commend, I yet distinguished from truth. Report had represented him as a very liberal and accomplished scholar. And as I had read many things of the philosophers, I compared them with the tedious fables of the Manichees, and found the former more probable. Thou regardest, Lord, the humble; the proud thou beholdest afar off. No doubt the foretelling of eclipses, and other things that might be mentioned, demonstrate the truth of the philosophical sciences in secular things, though in their pride they departed far from thee. Unhappy is that man who knows all these things, and knows not thee; but blessed is he who knows thee, though he knows not all these things. But he, who knows both thee and them, is not happier on their account, but on account of thee alone is happy, if knowing thee he glorify thee as God, and be thankful, and be not vain in his imaginations. For, as he is in a better situation, who knows how to possess a tree, and is thankful to thee for the use of it, though he knows neither its height nor breadth, than he who measures it, and counts all its branches, and neither possesses it, nor knows nor has learned his Creator; so the believer, whose property all the riches of the world are, and who having nothing, yet possesses all things, by cleaving to thee, whom all things serve, is indisputably better than the most knowing natural philosopher upon earth, who lives in the neglect of thee.*
Yet the rashness of the Manichee writer, who undertook to write of Astronomy, though completely ignorant of the science, is inexcusable, especially as he pretended that the Holy Ghost resided personally in him. The ignorance of a believer in such subjects is very excusable; even if he fancy his mistaken notions in natural philosophy to be branches of religion. But who can bear to hear a pretender to infallible inspiration venting absurdities on the works of nature ?— Here, then, I had my doubts concerning the divinity of Manicheism, and in vain proposed them to those of the sect whom I met with. "You must wait till the all-accomplished Faustus come to Carthage," was all the answer I received. On his arrival, I found him an agreeable speaker, and one who could deliver their dotages in a more persuasive tone. But by this time I was surfeited with these subjects, and I had been taught by thee, my God, who hast instructed me marvelously, but secretly, that style and manner, however excellent, were not the same thing as sound argument. The ad
* An excellent comparison between the state of an illiterate believer, who feeds on Christ by faith, and that of an accomplished man of science, even of one skilled in speculative theology among other branches of knowledge, but destitute of spiritual life.
dress, indeed, the pathos, the propriety of language, and facility of expression in clothing his sentiments delighted me; but my mind was unsatisfied. The proofs of ignorance in science, which I saw in Manicheism, connected with pretensions to infallibility, staggered my mind with respect to their whole system. On freely conversing with him, I found him possessed of an ingenuous frankness, more valuable than all the subjects of my investigation. He owned his ignorance in all philosophy, and left me convinced of it. Grammar alone, and some Ciceronian and other classical furniture, made up his stock of knowledge, and supplied him with a copiousness of diction, which received additional ornament from his natural vivacity of imagination. My hope of discovering truth was now at an end. I remained still a Manichee, because I despaired of succeeding better on any other plan. Thus that same Faustus, who had been the snare of death to many, was the first who relaxed my fetters, though contrary to his own intention. Thy hands, my God, in the secret of thy providence, forsook not my soul: day and night the prayers of my mother came up before thee, and thou wroughtest upon me in ways marvellous, indeed, but secret. Thou didst it, my God, for man's goings are from the Lord: and who affords salvation but thy hand, which restores what thou hast made? It was from thy influence that I was persuaded to go to Rome to teach, instead of Carthage. The deep recesses of thy wisdom and mercy must be confessed by me in this dipensation. I understood that at Rome a teacher was not exposed to those turbulent proceedings which were so common at Carthage. Thus the madness of one set of men, and the friendship of others promising me vain things, were thy means of introducing me into the way of life and peace, and in secret thou madest use of their perverseness and my own. Here I detested real misery, there sought false felicity. But the true cause of this removal was at that time hidden both from me and my mother, who bewailed me going away, and followed me to the sea; but I deceived her, who held me close, with a view either to call me back, or to go along with me. I pretended, that I only meant to keep company with a friend, till he set sail; and with difficulty persuaded her to remain that night in a place dedicated to the memory of Cyprian. But that night I departed privily; she continued weeping and praying. Thus did I deceive my mother, and SUCH a mother; yet was I preserved from the dangers of the sea, foul as I was in all the mire of sin, and a time was coming when thou wipedst away my mother's tears, with which she watered the earth, and even this base undutifulness thou hast forgiven me. And what did she beg of thee, my God, at that time, but that I should be hindered from sailing? THOU, consulting in profound wisdom, and regarding the HINGE of her desire, ne
glectedst the particular object of her present prayers, that thou mightest gratify the general object of her devotions. The wind favoured us, and carried us out of sight of the shore, when in the morning she was distracted with grief, and filled thine ears with groans and complaints: whilst thou, in contempt of her violent agonies, hurriedst me along by my lusts to complete their desires, and punishedst her carnal desire with the just scourge of immoderate griefs. She loved my presence with her as is natural to mothers, though in her the affection was uncommonly strong, and she knew not what joy thou wast preparing for her from my absence. She knew not; therefore she wept and wailed. Yet after she had wearied herself in accusing my perfidy and cruelty, she returned to her former employment of praying for me, and went home, while I went to Rome.
And there I was punished with the scourge of bodily sickness, and I drew nigh to hell, carrying the load of all my sins, original and actual. For Christ had not freed me from them by the body of his flesh through death. For how could a fantastic death, such as I then believed his to be, as a Manichee, deliver my soul? Whither must I have gone, had I at that time departed hence, but to the fire and torments worthy of my deeds, according to the truth of thy appointment.† She was ignorant of this, and yet prayed for me absent. But thou, every where present, heardst her where she was, and pitiedst me where I was. Still, in the crisis of my danger, I desired not thy baptism, as I had done when a boy: I had grown up to my own disgrace, and madly derided thy medicine of human misery. How my mother, whose affection, both natural and spiritual, toward me was inexpressible, would have borne such a stroke, I cannot conceive. Morning and evening she frequented the Church, to hear thy word and to pray, and the salvation of her son was the constant burden of her supplications. Thou heardst her, O Lord, and performedst, in due season, what thou hadst predestinated. Thou recoveredst me from the fever, that at length I might obtain also a recovery of still greater importance.
The Manichees are divided into two bodies, auditors and
*It requires a mind well seasoned with Christian discernment and humility, to admire in all this the Providence of God working good out of evil; to separate what is truly holy and humble in the affections of our author's mother from what was really carnal and earthly, and hence to discover the justness of his reflections.
+ Does the reader think this harsh? let him consider whether it can be any thing else than the want of a firm belief of the Word of God, and a contempt of his holiness and authority that can make him think so, and he will do well to apply the awful case to his own conscience.