Page images

fixes the return of the great comet in the year one thousand seven hundred and fifty-eight: and he observes that the last time it revolved, it moved in the very same line which the earth describes in her annual course round the sun : but the earth was on the other side of her orbit. Whereas in this revolution it will move not only in the same line, but in the same part of that line wherein the earth moves. And “who can tell (says that great man) what the consequences of such a contact may be ?"

“Who can tell ?" Any man of common understanding, who knows the very first elements of astronomy,

The immediate consequence of such a body of solid fire touching the earth, must necessarily be, that it will set the earth on fire, and burn it to a coal, if it do not likewise strike it out of its course; in which case (so far as we can judge) it must drop down directly into the sun.

But what if this vast body is already on its way? If it is nearer than we are aware of? What if these unusual, unprecedented motions of the waters, be one effect of its near approach? We cannot be certain that it will be visible to the inhabitants of our globe, till it has imbibed the solar fire. But possibly we may see it sooner than we desire. We may see it, not as Milton speaks, “From its horrid hair shake pestilence and war:” but ushering in far other calamities than these, and of more extensive influence. Probably it will be seen first, drawing nearer and nearer, till it appears as another moon in magnitude, though not in colour, being of a deep fiery red: then scorching and burning up all the produce of the earth, drying away all clouds, and so cutting off the hope or possibility of any rain or dew; drying up every fountain, stream, and river, causing all faces to gather blackness, and all men's hearts to fail. Then executing its grand commission on the globe itself, and causing the stars to fall from heaven.* O who may abide when this is done? Who will then be able to stand ?

Quum mure, quum tellus, operosa regia cæli

Ardeat, el mundi moles operesa laboret ? What shall we do? Do now, that none of these things may come upon us unawares? We are wisely and diligently providing for our defence against one enemy: with such a watchful wisdom and active diligence, as is a comfort to every honest Englishman. But why should we not show the same wisdom and diligence in providing against all our enemies? And if our own wisdom and strength be sufficient to defend us, let us not seek any further. Let us without delay recruit our forces and guard our coasts against the famine, and murrain, and pestilence; and still more carefully against immoderate rains, and winds, and lightnings, and earthquakes, and comets : that we may no longer be under any painful apprehensions of any present or future danger, but may smile,

“ Secure amidst the jar of elements,

The wreck of matter, and the crush of worlds!" What security is there against all this, upon the Infidel hypothesis ? But upon the Christian, there is abundant security; for the Scripture prophecies are not yet fulfilled. But if our own wisdom and strength be not sufficient to defend us, let us not be ashamed to seek farther help. Let us even dare to own, we believe there is a God: nay, and not a lazy, indolent, epicurean deity, who sits at ease upon the circle of the heavens, and neither knows nor cares what is done below : but one, who as he created heaven and earth, and all the armies of them, as he sustains them all by the word of his power, so cannot neglect the work of his own hands. With pleasure we own there is such a God, whose eye pervades the whole sphere of created beings, who knoweth the number of the stars, and calleth them all by their names: a God, whose wisdom is as the great abyss, deep and wide as eternity :

“Who high in power, in the beginning said,

Let sea, and air, and earth, and heaven be made,
And it was so. And when he shall ordain
In other sort, hath but to speak again,

And they shall be no more." Yet more : whose mercy riseth above the heavens, and his faithfulness above the clouds ; who is loving to every man, and his mercy over all his works : let us secure him on our side. Let us make this wise, this powerful, this gracious God our friend! Then need we not fear, though the earth be moved, and the hills be carried into the midst of the sea: no, not though the heavens being on fire are dissolved, and the very elements melt with fervent heat. It is enough that the Lord of hosts is with us, the God of love is our everlasting refuge.

But how shall we secure the favour of this great God? How, but by worshipping him in spirit and in truth : by uniformly imitating him we worship, in all his imitable perfections ; without which, the most accurate systems of opinions, all external modes of religion, are idle cobwebs of the brain, dull farce and empty show. Now God is love. Love God then, and you are a true worshipper. Love mankind, and God is your God, your Father, and your Friend. But see that

you deceive not your own soul; for this is not a point of small importance. And by this you may know; if you love God, then you are happy in God. If you love God, riches, honours, and the pleasures of sense, are no more to you than bubbles on the water : you look on dress and equipage as the tassels of a fool's cap, diversions, as the bells on a fool's coat. If you love God, God is in all your thoughts, and your whole life is a sacrifice to him. And if you love mankind, it is your one design, desire, and endeavour to spread virtue and happiness all around you: to lessen the present sorrows, and increase the joys of every child of man: and if it be possible, to bring them with you to the rivers of pleasure that are at God's right-hand for evermore.

But where shall you find one who answers this happy and amiable character ? Wherever you find a Christian : for this and this alone is real, genuine Christianity. Surely you did not imagine, that Christianity was no more than such a system of opinions as is vulgarly called faith? Or a strict and regular attendance on any kind

of external worship? O no! Were this all that it implied, Christianity were, indeed, a poor, empty, shallow thing : such as none but half-thinkers could admire, and all who think freely and generously must despise. But this is not the case : the spirit above described, this alone, is Christianity. And if so, it is no wonder, that even a celebrated unbeliever should make that frank declaration, “Well, after all, these Christian dogs, are the happiest fellows upon earth!” Indeed they are. Nay, we may say more. They are the only happy men upon earth : and that though we should have no regard at all to the particular circumstances above mentioned. Suppose there were no such thing as a comet in the universe, or none that would ever approach the solar system; suppose there had never been an earthquake in the world, or that we were assured there never would be another : yet what advantage has a Christian (I mean always a real, Scriptural Christian) above all other men upon earth?

What advantage has he over you in particular, if you do not believe the Christian system? For suppose you have utterly driven away storms, lightnings, earthquakes, comets, yet there is another grim enemy at the door; and you cannot drive him away; it is death. “O that death (said a gentleman of large possessions, of good health, and a cheerful natural temper) I do not love to think on it! it comes in and spoils all.” So it does indeed. It comes with its “miscreated front,” and spoils all your mirth, diversions, pleasures ! It turns all into the silence of a tomb, into rottenness and dust. And many times it will not stay, till the trembling hand of old age beckons to it: but it leaps upon you, while you are in the dawn of life, in the bloom and strength of your years.

" The morning flowers display their sweets,

And gay their silkea leaves unfold,
Uomindful of the noon-tide beats,

And fearless of the evening cold.
Nipp'd by the wind's unkindly blast,

Parcb'd by the sun's directer ray,
The momentary glories waste,

The short-liv'd beauties die away.”. And where are you then? Does your soul disperse and dissolve into common air? Or does it share the fate of its former companion, and moulder into dust? Or does it remain conscious of its own existence, in some distant, unknown world ? It is all unknown! A black, dreary, melancholy scene! Clouds and darkness rest upon it.

But the case is far otherwise with a Christian. To him life and immortality are brought to light. His eye pierces through the vale of the shadow of death, and sees into the glories of eternity. His view doth not terminate on that black line, “ The verge 'twixt mortal and immortal being,” but extends beyond the bounds of time and place, to the “house of God eternal in the heavens.” Hence he is so far from looking upon death as an enemy, that he longs to feel his welcome embrace. He groans (but they are pleasing groans) to have mortality swallowed up of life.

VOL. 8.-Q

Perhaps you will say, “But this is all a dream. He is only in a fool's paradise ? Supposing he be, it is a pleasing dream. Maneat mentis gratissimus error! If he is only in a fool's paradise, yet it is a paradise, while you are wandering in a wide, weary, barren world. Be it folly: his folly gives him that present happiness, which all your wisdom cannot find. So that he may now turn tables upon you and say,

“Whoe'er can ease by folly get,

With safety may despise
The wretched, unenjoying wit,

The miserable wise."
Such unspeakable advantage (even if there is none beyond death)
has a Christian over an Infidel. It is true, he has given up some
pleasures before he could attain to this. But what pleasures ? That
of eating till he is sick : till he weakens a strong, or quite destroys
a weak constitution. He has given up the pleasure of drinking a
man into a beast, and that of ranging from one worthless creature
to another, till he brings a canker upon his estate, and perhaps rot-
tenness into his bones. But in lieu of these, he has now (whatever
may be hereafter) a continual serenity of mind, a constant evenness
and composure of temper, a peace which passeth all understanding.
He has learned in every state wherein he is, therewith to be content:
nay, to give thanks, as being clearly persuaded, it is better for him
than any other. He feels continual gratitude to bis Supreme Bene-
factor, Father of Spirits, Parent of Good: and tender, disinterested
benevolence to all the children of this common Father. May the
Father of your spirit, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, make
you such a Christian! May he work in your soul a divine conviction
of things not discerned by eyes of flesh and blood! May he give
you to see him that is invisible, and to taste of the powers of the
world to come; may he fill you with all peace and joy in believing,
that you may be happy in life, in death, in eternity!

[merged small][ocr errors]




TO THE READER, 1. I HAVE often written on controverted points before ; but not with an eye to any particular person. So that this is the first time that I have appeared in controversy, properly so called. Indeed I have not wanted occasion to do it before : particularly when, after many stabs in the dark, I was publicly attacked, not by an open enemy, but by my own familiar friend. But I could not answer him.

I could only cover my face and say, Kes ov ev exelvav : Kell ov, TEZNOV. Art thou also among them ? Art thou, my son ?

2. I now tread an untried path with fear and trembling : fear, not of my adversary, but of myself. I fear my own spirit, lest I “ fall, where many mightier have been slain.” I never knew one man (or but one) write controversy, with what I thought a right spirit. Every disputant seems to think, (as every soldier) that he may hurt his opponent as much as he can; nay, that he ought to do his worst to him, or he cannot make the best of his own cause : that, so he do not belie or wilfully misrepresent him, he must expose him as far as he is able. It is enough, we suppose, if we do not show heat or passion against our adversary. But not to despise him, or endeavour to make others do so, is quite a work of supererogation.

3. But ought these things to be so? (I speak on the Christian scheme :) Ought we not to love our neighbour as ourselves? And does a man cease to be our neighbour, because he is of a different opinion? Nay, and declares himself so to be ? Ought we not, for all this, to do to him, as we would he should do to us? But do we ourselves love to be exposed, or set in the worst light? Would we willingly be treated with contempt? If not, why do we treat others thus ? And yet, who scruples it? Who does not hit every blow he can, however foreign to the merits of the cause? Who, in controversy, casts the mantle of love over the nakedness of his brother? Who keeps steadily and uniformly to the question, without ever striking at the person? Who shows in every sentence, that he loves his brother, only less than the truth?

4. I have made a little faint essay towards this. I have a brother, who is as my own soul. My desire is, in every word I say, to look upon Mr. Tucker as in his place, and to speak no tittle concerning the one, in any other spirit than I would speak concerning the other. But whether I have attained this or not, I know not; for my heart is deceitful, and desperately wicked. If I have spoken any thing in another spirit, I pray God it may not be laid to my charge; and that it may not condemn me in that day, when the secrets of all hearts shall be made manifest! Meanwhile, my heart's desire and prayer to God is, that both I, and all who think it their duty to oppose me, may put on bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven us.

1. THERE has lately appeared in the world, a Tract entitled, A Brief History of the Principles of Methodism. I doubt not but the writer's design was good, and believe he has a real desire to know the truth. And the manner wherein he pursues that design is, generally, calm and dispassionate. He is indeed in several mistakes ; but as many of these are either of small consequence in themselves, or do not immediately relate to me, it is not my concern

« PreviousContinue »