Page images
PDF
EPUB

induced, though with a wavering assent, to own that the infirmity of nature may be assisted in devotion by psalmody. Yet when the tune has moved me more than the subject, I feel guilty, and am ready to wish I had not heard the music. See where I am, and mourn with me, ye who are conscious of any inward feelings of godliness. I cannot expect the sympathy of those who are not. Thou, Lord, my God, hear and pity and heal me.

The pleasures of the eye I find to entangle me from time to time. But thou deliverest me, sometimes without pain, because I fall into them gently; at other times with pain, because I stick in them.

Another form of manifold danger is added, a curious spirit, palliated by the name of knowledge. Surrounded as we are with objects, when can I say I am freed from this? What vehement temptations I have had from the enemy to ask of thee a sign? But I beseech thee by our king Jesus Christ, that, as I am far from consenting to it, so I may be farther and farther. What a trifle diverts me from a thought of great importance, and unless thou quickly admonish me by the conviction of my infirmity, either to divert the thought by some serious meditation, or to despise it altogether, I should become absolutely dull. My life is full of these evils, and even my prayers are often disturbed, and while I apply mine heart to thine ears, I am overborne by a torrent of vanities.

What can give hope, except thy mercy, by which thou hast begun to renew us? And thou knowest how much thou hast done for me already. I carry thy yoke, and find it easy, as thou hast promised. It always was so, but I did not believe it, when I was afraid to take it upon me: but can I, O Lord, who alone rulest without pride, because thou hast no superior, can I in this life be exempt from pride? Well done, well done, I find scattered in the nets by the enemy every where. Daily, Lord, we feel these temptations. Thou knowest, on this head, the groans of my heart, and the floods of mine eyes. Nor can I easily see, that I grow more free from this pest of pride; and I much fear my secret evils, which thou knowest. I am poor and needy, and my best method is to seek thy mercy in secret groans and in self-abhorrence, till thou perfect that which concerneth me.

10

There is another internal evil, by which a man, without seeking to please others, pleases himself with thy good

things, as if they were his own; or if he allows them to be thine, yet he is apt to fancy them bestowed upon him for his own merits: or he pleases himself with indulging an invidious spirit against others. In all these dangers thou seest the trembling of my heart; I feel my wounds healed every now and then by thee; but I feel not an exemption from them. Sometimes thou introducest me into an uncommon affection, into a sweetness past the power of description, which, were it perfected in me, I should not see what life would want to complete its felicity, But I sink back by the weight of misery, and am held, entangled.

Whom shall I look to as my mediator? Shall I go to angels? Many have tried this, and have been fond of visions, and have deserved to be the sport of the illusions which they loved. A mediator between God and man must have the nature of both. The true Mediator, whom in thy mercy thou hast shewn to the humble, and hast sent, that by his example they might also learn humility, the man Christ Jesus hath appeared a mediator between mortal sinners and the immortal Holy One, that because the wages of righteousness is life and peace; by this divine righteousness he might justify the ungodly, and deliver them from death. He was shewn to ancient saints, that they might be saved by faith in his future sufferings, as we by faith in the same sufferings already past. How hast thou loved us, Father, delivering up thy only Son for us. ungodly? For whom he, our priest and sacrifice, who thought it no robbery to be equal with thee, was subjected to death. Well may my hope be strong through such an intercessor; else, I should despair. Many and great are my diseases, thy medicine larger still. Were he not made flesh for us, we could not dream of having any union with him. Terrified with my sins and the weight of my misery, I was desponding, but thou encouragedst me, saying, Christ died for all, that they which live, should not live to themselves, but to him that died for them.* Lo, I cast all my care on thee, Lord, that I may live. Thou know. est my weakness and ignorance, teach and heal me. He hath redeemed me with his blood, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Let not the proud

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

calumniate me, if with the poor I desire to eat and be satisfied, and to praise the Lord.* .

[ocr errors]

Augustine, after bis conversion, returned with some friends into Africa, and lived upon his own estate for almost three years, retired from the world. A desire to oblige a person of some consequence in Hippo, who requested his instructions, brought him at length to that. city, where Valerius was bishop,-a person of great piety; but, on account of his slender acquaintance with the Latin tongue, scarce adequate to the office of pastor in that place. Angustine, through the strong and urgent desires of the people, was ordained presbyter to Valerius; but wept on the occasion, from the genuine sense which he had of the importance of the office. He told Possidius that his tears were by some misconstrued,+ as if he regretted that he had not been chosen bishop. Such poor judges are many of the views and sensations of godly men! Valerius rejoiced that God had heard his prayers, and that the people would now be supplied with such a pastor. He gave him license to preach in the presence of the bishop, a thing before unknown in Africa; but which, from the good effects of this precedent, afterwards grew common. Here bis ministry

was useful in the instruction and edification of the brethren, and also in the defeat of various heresies. Divine truth, which had been almost buried amidst many schisms and distractions in Africa, now raised up its head again; and Fortunatus, the great leader of the Manichees, was obliged, in confusion, to leave Hippo, when he found himself, by the confession of the hearers, vanquished in a conference with Augustine.

Heretics vied with the members of the general Church in their attention to the pastoral labours of Augustine,

Psalm xxii. 26. We see in this last book the author's description of the conflict between flesh and spirit, after his conversion; and the repose of his soul for peace and happiness only on the Lord Jesus, as his righteousness and strength. I shall make no further remarks than to repeat his own observation in his retractions," These confessions praise the God of righteousness and goodness, and excite the human understanding and affection toward him. They did this in me while I was writing them, and they do it still when I read them. What others may think of them let them judge; but I know they have much pleased and do please many of the brethren." + Possid. Life of Aug.

whose fame began gradually to spread throughout the western world. Valerius rejoiced and gave thanks on the account, and being solicitous to preserve such a treasure to his Church, he took care to get Augustine elected bishop of Hippo, in conjunction with himself. Age and infirmities rendered Valerius very inadequate to the work; and every true Christian will doubt which more to admire, the godly zeal of Augustine, tempered with modesty and charity, or the unfeigned humility of Valerius. Augustine, after he had strongly resisted the inclinations of the bishop and all the Church, at length accepted the office; the duties of which he continued to discharge after the decease of Valerius. His zeal and laboriousness in. creased with his authority. The monastery of his institution became renowned in Africa; and about ten bishops, of undoubted piety, known to our Author,* came from this seminary. These instituted monasteries after the same pattern, and from them other Churches were supplied with pastors; and the doctrines of faith, hope, and charity, by these means, and also by Augustine's writings, which were translated into the Greek tongue, were diffused (and enforced with increasing vigour through the Christian world. His writings, however, never seem to have had any permanent influence in the eastern Church.

THE THIRD ANNUAL REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE OF THE FISHERWICK-PLACE AUXILIARY TO THE SYNOD OF ULSTER'S HOME MISSION.

THE Committee have the satisfaction of congratulating their brethren, the members of the Congregation, on a considerable increase in the amount of the subscriptions for the present year. This increase is the more gratifying, as there is reason to believe it has arisen out of a clearer apprehension, and a deeper sense of the duty of dedicating our substance to the cause of God, than previously prevailed. Several persons, who formerly subscribed £1 only to the Mission, have this year, unsolicited, raised their subscriptions to £5, and we believe this augmentation has arisen from a p

pure

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

principle of duty and felt obligation. But, while there is so far cause of congratulation, it must not be concealed, that with us it is yet "the day of small things" in contribution to the service of religion. We feel that nothing has yet been done, compared with what might and ought to be done. And we trust our brethren will bear with us, while we lay before them a few considerations, designed to stir up the members of the Church to increased efforts for the support and extension of the Synod's Mission.

}

3

1. We remind you and ourselves, dear brethren, of the large demand made by God on his ancient people of Israel, for the purposes of religion and charity. This is muchgreater than is commonly supposed. The general opinion is, that a Jew was required to devote the tenth of his income to religious purposes, and no more; and many, acting on this principle, have satisfied themselves with a dedication of a similar proportion of their substance to God. But this is a great mistake. A tenth was required for merely one reli gious use, and when all the demands on the Jews are reckoned, those for the support of the priesthood and of the poor, it appears that not less than one-third of every man's income was required for the service of God. The demands made upon them were almost continual. A very short time was ever permitted to elapse until some fresh call came upon their liberality, Now let it be remembered, this was done by the express appointment of God. That appointment alone is sufficient proof of the wisdom and goodness of the measure. He who instituted it knew what was in man and how he should be treated. And the principle of his govern ment is to be ever calling upon him for a fresh exercise of generosity. In this the divine wisdom is conspicuous. The heart of man is in danger of being shut up by a habit of withholding. On the other hand, the more it is accustomed to bestow, it becomes the more enlarged. “It is more blessed to give than to receive." Can we not appeal to yourselves, that just as any person or people are accustomed to devote of their substance to the cause of God, so they take an increased pleasure in giving, while as they are accustomed to withhold, their hearts become more contracted, and their hands are held closer. Let ut never discountenance fair and righteous demands being made upon us. They cannot easily be too numerous. If, when they are made, any are unable to give, nothing is required of them,

« PreviousContinue »