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profession of philanthropy, no Pharisaic parade; all that sort of thing he literally loathed. He lived
"As under the great Taskmaster's eye."
Devotion was a habit, not a fitful thing, but an abiding disposition. When he had foreign and illustrious guests he still kept up his family worship. The last words he read were the beautiful verses in Hebrews vi. 17th to the end. Many have obtained titles, and have done little to deserve them; Mr. Sturge got no human titles, indeed he disliked them, but he, in due time, ascended to hear his Master's "Well done" pronounced upon him. As we read the story of his life we fervently desire that many more such labourers may be thrust into God's vineyard. And in conclusion we accord to his name the noble titles applied to him by his friend John Angel James, in a crowded meeting in Birmingham :-" Joseph Sturge was a Christian, a patriot, and a philanthropist..
ART. IV.-RELIGIOUS INSTABILITY.
ELIGIOUS instability is the bane of Christian churches, and the grief of many a godly minister of Jesus Christ. While it excites the profound regret of the faithful, it also calls forth the contempt and scorn of the ungodly. In many respects it operates against the interests of the church of Christ. It weakens the hands, and discourages the hearts of feeble believers, and, it is to be feared, keeps many from uniting with the church, and taking upon themselves the profession of the christian faith, who are inwardly moved upon by the Spirit of God to take a step in that direction. It is easy to see that injurious influences must be produced by the conduct of unstable souls who are ever professing to learn, but who actually never come to a knowledge of the truth. They discredit and scandalize that glorious system of truth and love, by which God designs to enlighten, purify, and bless the world.
We profess to believe and teach that the religion of Christ is the true happiness of man; that the bond with which it unites all men together in true and lasting brotherhood is the bond of love; that the morality it inculcates is pure as the source whence it
proceeds; and that the peace which flows into the heart from its belief and practise is unspeakable, that the hopes it kindles in the soul in relation to the felicities of a future state infinitely transcend in truth and sublimity the dreams of a godless philosophy. And then, when it is demanded of us, where are the men who exhibit this glorious morality in their conduct, and who drink of these sweet and satisfying joys flowing from the fountain of Christ's religion?—where are these men? we point of course to our Christian churches, and say, “Here are the models of what we conceive men should be." But are all our members such Christians? Would to God all were! Men of the world adverse to Christianity are sufficiently quicksighted to see at a glance, that, although there are many in the different churches who can stand the test of such an examination, and whose career all along has been like that of the "shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day," there is another class, and a class, alas, too numerous, that belie our description of what religion is, and who, by their unstable and erratic conduct, cover their brethren with grief and shame.
Now the mischief of such instability is, that cavillers have ground to say, Their religion cannot be what they represent it, if it were the best and happiest life that any man can lead on earth, as they affirm, would so many of their brethren turn back? They would have gone on had they found anything in it to induce them to persevere. It is quite clear that they still prefer what they, in religious cant call the flesh pots of Egypt. They still prefer the pleasures of the world to the joys of devotion; a satisfactory evidence that religion is really not what they expected.
It is very trying to hear the like of this; and that observations of this description are made in relation to our churches, we cannot deny. We find these exhibitions of a defective piety in all our circuits, and have often to deplore our inability to prevent them. We propose in the following observations to enquire into the causes and cure of religious instability.
CAUSES. Religion itself, looking at its design, enjoyment, and ultimate destinies, is of such transcendent importance, that we should think no man embracing it from an enlightened conviction of its excellence would ever waver in his attachment to its principles, or grow careless about the performance of its duties. And he would not, providing his perception of its excellence were sufficiently clear, and his convictions of its value in regard to himself sufficiently deep. But this does not always happen.
As to conversion, whether it is sound or otherwise, is an important starting point in this inquiry. A sound conversion will lay the groundwork of stability, and we incline to think, that when a man's conversion is sound at the first, there will be much less trouble with him, as to the matter in question, in after life. There
can of course be only one sort of conversion in the Bible sense of that term; and a scriptural conversion is to be made a "new creature in Christ Jesus;" to be "renewed in the spirit of our minds;" to be "born again;" "born from above;" "raised to sit with Christ in heavenly places;" "translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son;" brought out of "darkness into marvellous light;" out of "bondage into glorious liberty." Now let any man examine these expressions or figures of speech, and he cannot fail to see what a glorious blessing is a true conversion, and how unlikely it is that a man will lightly throw away such an inestimable good. We therefore judge that religious instability rises in great part out of the absence of true conversion. We cannot pretend to judge at the time when a sinner professes to be brought to God, whether it is a mere profession, a delusion, or a sound and real work of grace. Time must reveal this. God alone can read the heart, and he alone understands and traces that mysterious operation of the Holy Ghost, by which the human spirit experiences a "death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness." But the great law of Christian charity compels us to take the most favourable view of every case of professed conversion, and to receive with joy and gratitude the testimony of all anxious souls that God has accepted them. Some conversions are attended with such encouraging and affirmatory circumstances that we feel confidence in them; we are persuaded they are the right thing; but there are others where certain scriptural evidences are either entirely wanting, or but feebly and imperfectly developed, so that we can only hope for the best. Now it often turns out that no very marked change takes place in the habits, conduct, and general conduct of some individuals who profess to receive spiritual good. They join the church and continue a religious profession for a while, and then gradually fall away; perhaps from profession, perhaps from the public ordinances of religion, perhaps from both. There are degrees in the strength of a good man's faith, for so the Bible declares; we read of "weak faith," "little faith," and "strong faith;" so there may also be degrees of spiritual benefit communicated when men profess to receive salvation; when the amount of benefit is small, then the danger of instability is correspondingly great. Another cause is,
Absence of thorough earnestness in seeking entire devotedness to God. It is a serious mistake to suppose that when the pardon of sin is obtained, the sole object of the Christian life is answered, and that there is nothing beyond to create alarm as to the possibility of losing what we have gained, or to elicit desire for further manifestations of God's saving power. The true state of the case is this, that conversion, when even perfectly sound, is only the commencement of a religious course. It is, with all its excellence and value, only the dim dawn, the twilight of the coming spiritual
day. It is but the birth of the spiritual man; all the growth that develops symmetry of form, or that imparts vigour and strength, or that adorns with manly grace and beauty, is yet to come. new convert is but a babe in Christ, and in the Scriptures it is urged by every form of argument, in numerous instances by metaphor and by the most encouraging promises, that advancement in the divine life is imperative, that the babe must grow into a young man, and the young man into a father; that after the blade there must be the ear, and then the full corn in the ear; that the grain of mustard seed must grow; that the leaven must work until the entire mass is permeated with the process; and we have positive command added to figure and metaphor that we are to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." Nothing in doctrinal truth can well be clearer than that God expects his children to advance in the divine life, and that he commands it.
Now we say that in relation to the subject under consideration, this command is not generally attended to by Christian people. Higher manifestations of spiritual life are neither expected nor sought after with the intensity and ardour their value and importance demand, and the result is a dwarfed and stunted religion, so feeble and insufficient that it fails to carry a man over the smallest difficulties, religious or otherwise, that happen to come in his way. He who refuses to exercise his spiritual faculties, and neglects the facilities put within his power of obtaining more grace, may expect, according to the Bible, to lose the grace he already has. God removes a man's candlestick out of its place when he refuses to walk in the light it throws around him, and let every careless professor remember that gifts and graces abused, are sooner or later resumed by their original owner.
Lack of mental culture. God designs men to cultivate and improve the mental faculties with which he has endowed them. Religion is a reasonable thing, and is designed to bring the reasoning faculties into exercise. It certainly does appeal to the emotional part of man's nature, but not exclusively. How often are we called upon to examine the grand and glorious verities of our common faith. We are commanded to "search the Scriptures," to "judge as wise men,” to "stir up the gift that is in us," to give attention to reading." Thus it is our religion appeals to our judgment and understanding; it courts inquiry and examination, and that man has but a poor and imperfect idea of the genius, the spirit and design of Christianity, who supposes it has no higher purpose to serve in its mission of mercy to him than to make him feel. If the unstable soul will read his Bible, he will find there are other duties imposed upon him over and above the duty of getting himself made happy. The New Testament will give him a parable about the talents, how God
dealt with the servants who employed their talents properly, and how he dealt with him who did not employ his talent at all. And every professor of Christ's religion who does nothing for God, nothing for the church, nothing to save souls; who does not even improve his own mind and heart, has good reason to tremble lest the doom of the slothful servant should eventually become his own. How can we expect any man to become an intelligent, stable, and useful Christian who never takes a book into his hand; never reads the Scriptures; never takes any means to improve his mind? The man who never examines the foundation of his faith, can hardly know on what kind of basis he is rearing his superstructure. The man who never inquires into his own religious belief, can hardly give a satisfactory answer to any man who asketh a reason of the hope that is in him. If every church member imitated him, when would the world be converted to God? And when God shall sit in judgment on men's souls, and give to every man according as his work shall be, what will be the reward of him who hardly knows there is a Bible, or who is scarcely aware that God hath endowed him with the power to think?
True it is, that many poor members of Christ's church have but few books, and little leisure to read those they have; but there are other cases where it is different. But in all cases, if men would redeem the time from idleness, from unnecessary sleep, from needless visits, and frivolous conversation, ample time would be found to answer all the demands of religion, towards cultivating a character marked by intelligence, stability, and usefulness.
It is especially desirable that members of the church should be acquainted with the Scriptures. When they can be persuaded to adopt anything like a regular, uniform, and systematic perusal of the book of God, there is food supplied for profitable thought. It is one of the excellencies of the true man of God, that "his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night." If a man's position and necessities preclude the cultivation of general literature, he should seek to excel in divine wisdom, specially in the knowledge of that book which is able to make him "wise unto salvation."
Neglect of the means of grace. The infinitely wise Being who made us what we are, and who redeemed us by a plan of his own devising, must have the most perfect knowledge of our requirements, and must best know how to promote our advancement in moral excellence, or likeness to himself. The means best adapted to promote and consolidate our growth in piety, he has instituted. These are chiefly the preaching of the gospel, and meetings for social and public prayer.
Now if religion was nothing more than a deep conviction of the good, and true, and beautiful in the science of ethics; nothing