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of incurring His eternal displeasure. By presuming upon His forbearance to punish us here we only encrease our desert of punishment hereafter.
We should do well to ponder the advantages of righteousness, the perils of ungodliness: the one is a rock of security against which“ the gates of hell shall not prevail ;" the other is a quicksand in which those who do not struggle for release from it, must be finally swallowed. “Because then sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, let not our hearts therefore be fully set in us to do evil.” We have sinned, God only knows to what excess, but as his dearly beloved Son has mercifully expiated, by his passion and death, the guilt which we had contracted as the posterity of Adam, we have sufficient reason to be assured, after he has undergone so much to secure our salvation, that he will not suffer us to perish, unless we render ourselves too impure for the habitation of his holiness.
Such is the consolation afforded by the gospel. It is true that we can form no adequate notions of an immortal condition, nevertheless we are not left in uncertainty as to the happiness or misery of it, for we have the assurance of our bibles that to the perseveringly righteous it will be happy; to the persistingly wicked, miserable. “God is jealous, and the Lord revengeth ; the
Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and He reserveth wrath for his enemies; He will not at all acquit the wicked:” but “the righteous shall inherit the land and dwell therein for ever.” The divine grace is never denied to our honest endeavours, and the Saviour himself assures us that upon the repentance of a single sinner“ there is joy in the presence of his holy angels.” Sin under its most seductive aspect is still but a very questionable pleasure, whilst virtue, in every various feature of her beauty, is expressive of complacency and content. The one never inspires the pure joys of the heart, the other never excites the terrors of the conscience. The former is the province of virtue, the latter of vice.
Let us then weigh well the conduct of our lives. Let us scrupulously examine the bent of our hearts, and where we find them lulled into that fatal security which is intimated in the text, let us make haste to escape from the danger and turn to the Lord our God, bearing in mind that “ the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.”
ON THE EDUCATION OF THE POOR.
EPHESIANS, CHAP. V. VERSE 8.
“For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.”
WHEN we direct our views to the intellectual sterility of the middle ages, we cannot but he struck with the deplorable effects of ignorance on the minds of men. “ Darkness » did indeed
cover the earth, and gross darkness the people.” We see through the long lapse of centuries the whole face of the civilized world overspread with those various disorders, which vice, unchecked by the reforming influences of knowledge, is ever sure to propagate. We find the vast bulk of the christian community disgraced by an inept and barbarous ignorance, everywhere perishing for lack of knowledge,” « for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose to fear the Lord.” The highest classes in society were
scarcely better instructed than their vassals, and the little learning which displayed itself for generations, was confined to the cloister, where, like the feeble lamp within the sepulchre, it only cast around a dim religious light, which extended not beyond the cell of the devoted monk, or at most beyond the walls of the abbey in which he was immured. A few learned men, indeed, arose at distant intervals, and diffused a partial glory over those ages of darkness and superstition; but they were like those incidental irradiations of sunshine in a storm, which only serve to show more perceptibly the surrounding devastation.
It was, however, the learning which had been pent up in the cloister, and just kept alive by those religious fraternities, whose lives, professedly at least, were dedicated to God, that finally kindled the torch of knowledge, which has, especially within the last three centuries, scattered the radiance of its glories over the whole civilized world. By the marvellous light which it has shed, subsequent generations have, at length, discovered that “wisdom exalteth her children ; that they who seek her shall be filled with joy, and wheresoever she entereth, the Lord will bless."
However we may be startled at the ignorance of the Christian priesthood, as well as of the secular community, during the dark ages, the