Page images
PDF
EPUB

fore the Lord. Such an exercise will lead into penitence, and penitence will again be found the nurse of prayer. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."!

There is an inseparable connexion between ceasing to do evil, and learning to do well. The same light which detects our transgressions, will make manifest to us the course of conduct which we ought to pursue ; nor will our gracious Lord and Master turn a deaf ear to the petition—“Make thy way straight before my face.” Not only will the true worshipper, in his silent waiting on the Lord, be impressed with the necessity of bearing all the fruits of righteousness, but the particular duties which lie in his own path—the sacrifices which he, as an individual, is called upon to make—will be made manifest to bis mind; and often will he find ability, while all around him is silence, to renew his covenant with the Lord — that he will follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.”

In thus drawing near to the Lord for the express purpose of being searched by his Spirit, reproved by the light of his law, and guided in a course of obedience, two qualities are indispensable in the Christian worshipper. The first is that godly sincerity, which will induce us to bring our whole selves to the light; and will lead us, without any compromise, to accept the verdicts of conscience, respecting both our past transgressions, and our present duties. The second is a childlike reliance on the guidance and government of the Holy Spirit. May this honest and believing heart more and more abound among us, for our own peace' sake, and for the glory of God!

The silent worshipper professes to be weaned from all undue dependance on vocal ministry, and to sit under the immediate teaching of Jesus Christ. Now it is not only by detecting their sins, and showing them their path of duty, that Christ instructs his people. He reveals his truth with power; he impresses a sense of the value of his atoning blood; he gently unfolds, by his own blessed Spirit, the secrets of redeeming love.

The doctrines which are thus made manifest to the understanding, and impressed on the heart, are already revealed in the Bible; and it is often through the words of that blessed book, that the Great

[blocks in formation]

Head of the church teaches his people. One passage of Scripture after another, passes before the mind of the silent worshipper, for his comfort or edification. Or, more probably, after many passages have arisen in his recollection, some one in particular is fixed upon him, by a power beyond his own; and being interpreted and applied by the Spirit who gave it forth, becomes the medium both of instruction and nourishment.

How peculiarly important then to persons who are accustomed to silent worship, is an accurate acquaintance with the sacred volume! Were we, in dependance on the grace of God, more faithful and diligent in acquiring a knowledge of divine things, we should not so often be found presenting to the Lord, in public worship, the unworthy sacrifice of a mind enveloped in darkness. We should come to the enjoyment of something better, than undefined and uncertain views of the truth as it is in Jesus. It would be revealed to us in its native simplicity, in its true proportions, in its glorious completeness ; and great would be our peace and joy in the Lord.

While it is the very essence of silent worship, to cease from the activity of the natural man, and to watch for the influences of the Holy Spirit, the foregoing remarks may be sufficient to show, that under those influences, there is abundant occupation for us, of a most profitable kind, in our silent religious meetings.

In conclusion, however, I wish 10 express the deep value which I feel for a living gospel ministry; and I would ask my younger brethren and sisters, to whom we are to look for a succession of anointed servants, who shall proclaim among us the word of the living God. Surely it must be to themselves, and especially to our young men, many of whom—did they but faithfully bear his cross -the Lord, we may reverently believe, would call into his service, and qualify for the work. Through deep humiliation—through many a baptism—through the fire of divine judgement upon sinthrough the inspiration of the Holy Ghost—they would become able ministers of “ the New Testament.”

May this blessed work of the Lord's anointing go nobly forward! “ The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few." Let us therefore pray “the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest !"

CHAPTER X.

ON OATHS.

In the preceding chapters I have endeavoured to give a clear account of those religious peculiarities of the Society of Friends which belong particularly to the subject of worship, and which therefore involve duties (whether positive or negative) especially affecting our relation to the Supreme Being himself. The points still remaining for discussion have reference to our conduct in common life, and more especially toward our fellow-creatures : for there are several matters of this description also, respecting which Friends entertain sentiments, and adopt practices, different from those of the bulk of their fellow-Christians. Of these practical peculiarities, the first which presents itself for our consideration is, the disuse of oaths. Profane and irreverent appeals to the Almighty, and those conversational blasphemies which, even in Christian countries, continue to disgrace the various classes of worldly society, are indeed unanimously condemned by all true Christians : but Friends (in accordance, as I understand, with the Moravians) advance a step further, and consider it their bounden duty to avoid swearing of every kind, and on every occasion. Such a line of conduct they deem to be both justified and required, first, by certain plain moral principles, and, secondly, by divine commands, of the most impressive and comprehensive character. On both these heads I may now offer a few observations.

Of the moral principles alluded to, the first may be considered as lying at the foundation of the apostolic precept, “ Let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay, lest ye fall into condemnation, and as deriving a clear confirmation from the declaration of Jesus himself,

1 James v. 12.

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

that “whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil ;or as the Greek may be more accurately rendered, “ of the evil one." Since the law of truth, in the verbal communications between man and man—a law strenuously supported even by heathen moralists, and obviously essential to the well-being of all human societies—is very frequently enjoined in the records of God's revealed will; since it is plainly of universal obligation on the followers of Jesus; and since, on the other hand, there is nothing more decisively condemned in the sacred volume than the false tongue, it follows that, with true Christians, a deliberate and serious, yet simple, affirmation or negation, possesses a force so perfect in its kind, as to be incapable of any real augmentation. Hence there arises a plain moral obligation, in conformity with the precept of the apostle James, that our yea should be yea,

and our nay, nay—that is to say, that our affirmations and negations should be naked and simple, and wholly unaccompanied with any form of oath. For if, on any particular occasion, a man swear, in addition to his yea or nay, in order to render them more obligatory and convincing, their force becomes comparatively weak at other times, when they receive no such confirmation. If such a one is a believer in the Lord Jesus, and especially if he is a serious professor of religion, it is plain that, by his conduct, he gives countenance to the false and dangerous notion, that the oath of the Christian is more binding upon his conscience, and therefore more credible, than his deliberate word; and thus he inevitably lowers the standard of the law of truth.

Nor is the deduction of this consequence the work of mere theory. Experience bears ample testimony to the fact, that the prevalence of oaths among men (Christians not excepted) has produced a very material and very general effect in reducing their estimate of the obligation of plain truth, in its natural and simple forms. Even the heathen philosophers of old were well aware of the deleterious results of the practice of swearing; and some of them have left on record an express condemnation of that practice. Truly, then, may

év row nuynpow. Matt. v. 37. 2 Epictetus says, rapairaoai boxov eis üray—“Avoid swearing altogether.” Plato, 6pros tepi navròs dtéorw—"Let an oath be avoided on every occasion." Chærilus, õprov z' oür' dixov xocwe duuevat ovre diraiov“ No oath, whether it be a just or an unjust one, ought to be allowed :" Menander, õprov di @cüye kay dikaiws duróps—" Abstain from swearing, even though it be justly." See Gram

it be asserted, that those awful appeals to a superior agency, by which, in every oath, the truth is supposed to be confirmed, (whatever may be the occasion on which such oath is employed,) arise out of an evil source-produce an evil consequence—and are at variance with the principles of that perfect law, to which Christians, above all others, so plainly owe an exact and universal obedience.

The true Christian cannot, indeed, be ignorant that he is in the presence of an omniscient God, who is perfectly aware both of his secret thoughts and of his open declarations. Nevertheless, the principle, to which I have now adverted, appears to afford a substantial reason why he should abstain from attempting to add to the force of his yea or his nay, by making such an awful appeal to the Deity as constitutes an oath. But further : there appears to be a distinct moral objection to oaths, on the ground that, according to general usage, both ancient and modern, they plainly imply a curse -a conditional calling down upon one's self of some dreaded penalty. A man swears either by something which is dear and valuable to him, or by some personal object of his reverence and dread. In the former case, the penalty which he means to attach to himself, on the supposition that his oath is untrue, is the loss of that which he loves; and, in the latter case, it is the wrath and vengeance of him whom he fears. When the ancient Grecian, for instance, swore by his head, he professed to subject himself to the loss of his head; and when he swore by Jupiter, he cursed himself with the wrath of Jupiter, provided his oath should be false or broken. Now, it is a very affecting consideration that the oaths in use among the professors of Christianity are unspeakably more terrible than any heathen oath; inasmuch as the penalty which the swearer calls down upon himself, on the supposition of his swearing falsely, is one of infinite weight and severity. It is nothing

tius, on Matt. v. 34. “Stobæus, Serm. 3, relates that Solon, said, A good man ought to be in that estimation, that he need not an oath; because it is to be reputed a lessening of his honour, if he be forced to swear. Pythagoras, in his oration, among other things, hath this maxim, as that which concerns the administration of the commonwealth : Let no man call God to witness by an oath; no not in judgement; but let every man so accustom himself to speak, that he may become worthy to be trusted, even without an oath;Barclay's Apology, prop. xv, $ 12.

« PreviousContinue »