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reach of vision, endlessly rolling in its waves, and ceaselessly lifting up its voice?
Christianity, studied, believed, embraced, experienced, causes the soul to dwell habitually in the presence of sublimer objects than these, and under the influence of nobler contemplations. That glorious Being, who is "from everlasting to everlasting, whose power and knowledge are infinite, and whose whole character is of superlative excellence-Eternity, in all its incomprehensible vastness, and with all its amazing interests-Redemption, with all the inaccessible hight of its principles, and all the unfathomable depth of its mercy, and all the unimaginable reach of its effects such are the themes which Christianity unfolds in its divine records, and to the contemplation of which the experience of it leads the mind. Can a mind which dwells amid such objects, and upon which such influences distill, fail to be made genlle ?
3. The character of Christ, as it is delineated in the Scriptures, and as the Christian contemplates it, is calculated to promote gentleness. He is exhibited as "the Lamb of God”—not only a spotless victim, fit for the sacrifice, but dumb and unresisting, when led to slaughter. In the Gospel narrative the Christian sees Jesus conscious of possessing "all power in heaven and in earth,” able to summon angelic legions to his help and service, yet yielding to his captors; submitting to all their rudeness and all their cruelty; withholding not his face from shame and spitting, his head from smiting, nor his person from the scourge, and the nails, and the spear. Is there in all true history, or in all the sphere of ideal heroism, a more admirable spectacle? The Christian not only trusts in the efficacy of Christ's sufferings, to atone for his sins, but he reads in his New Testarnent, that "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps; who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; who, when he was reviled, reviled not again ; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.”
Can the Christian have that Scripture passage in his memory, and faith in that redemption in his heart, and that divine model of behavior in his eye, and not be won to imitation of it? and yet not so much to conscious and designed imitation, as to unconscious assimilation? For the examples of those with whom we are in sympathy do not affect us merely so far as we purposely endeavor to imitate them. Our feelings and our character are molded by an influence of which we are not conscious, that is even more effective. The Christian, truly loving Christ, having his heart opened to the influence which beams from all Christ's life and character, and by contemplation of him, holding himself under that influence, is assimilated to him more than himself perceives ; and sometimes, in the higher degrees of this experience, he is like Moses, whose face shone with a light which he wist not of.
Nor is it only in death that Christ exbibited his lamb-like spirit. His whole life beams with the same mild radiance. He went about doing good. He delighted to comfort the mourners, and to bind up the broken-hearted--to speak words of peace and encouragement to the penitent, and to take up little children in his arms.
See him in the cottage at Bethany, with Mary sitting at his feet -see him at the gate of Nain, with his hand on the young man's bier—see him in the court of the temple, alone with the erring woman, when her conscious-smitten accusers have all gone away, mildly dismissing her with the gentle admonition, “Sin no more" see him on the hight of Olivet, weeping over the doomed city of his people—see him among the crowd of miserable wretches, on whose maimed or diseased bodies he is exercising his healing power---see him breaking the bread for the hungry multitude, on whom he has compassion-see him, alone with his twelve, when the fickle crowd have deserted him, asking in the plaintive tones of solicitous friendship: "Will ye also go away?”
Surely all the Christian's converse with his Saviour tends to give him a gentle and amiable character.
We pass to the other branch of our subject, and consider,
II. Some things in Christianity that are adapted to give energy to the character.
1. Look at the objects of effort which it presents—all that is involved in one's own eternal salvation and all that tends to the well-being of mankind and the glory of God.
One's own salvation, as Christianity proposes it, is not the gaining of a title to heavenly bliss hereafter, by submitting to come rite of priestly performance, or to some austerities of priestly imposition; nor by any bargained work, whereby such title is to be purchased. It is, after gratefully and believingly accepting as a free gift, that title, written in blood, to gird one's self for a race, and arm one's self for a warfare, the strenuous prosecution of which will engage all the highest powers of one's being, through the whole period of his earthly existence. One has to conquer all his depraved inclinations—to correct all his wrong habits, stiff and gnarled as some of them may be, like the crooks in a stubborn oak. One has to withstand innumerable temptations from without, addressing themselves to corrupt nature within--temptations that come from society, from politics, from the world, in all the endless diversity of its forms-an army of bad influences, ordered and marshaled by the prince of evil. The serious, resolute endeavor to become what Christianity requires you to be, faithfully availing yourselves of all the divine helps which Christianity offers you, and duly improving them, is one that will task your best powers to the utmost, and stimulate them to the very best de. velopment.
Distinct from this, yet not separate, is the effort to which Christianity calls us, for the benefit of our fellow-men, and for promoting the glory of God. These are perfectly harmonious, and are best prosecuted together. We are then doing most for our Christian improvement, when we are most faithfully serving God, and most benevolently laboring for the good of mankind.
What a field of enterprise is here open to the Christian! I do not need to expatiate upon the evils and miseries which abound in the earth, for the removal or the mitigation of which the Christian is called to labor. You know that the poor, the wronged, the bereaved, the sick, the ignorant, the vicious, the impenitent, are every where; and that the Christian possesses what may bring relief or deliverance to as many as he can persuade to accept it. You know what mighty evils have become identified with the social and political institutions of mankind, and what conflicts are yet to be waged for their overthrow; and you know over how large a part of the race, paganism, and corrupt Christianity, and infidelity, hold sway. "You know that every Christian is called to have part in these conflicts, and in order thereto, is exhorted to have on “the whole armor of God”. ." for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
If one have these Biblical ideas, if this Pauline spirit possess him, could any other be more effectual to develop all his energy? A dull and spiritless Christian—with such fields of enterprise around him, and such enemies before him, and such a crown above him—is such an anomaly possible?
2. Look at the MOTIVES to effort which Christianity supplies. These are indeed in great measure involved in the objects of effort already mentioned, but they are capable of distinct consideration. All the motives which appeal to one's regard for his own welfarehis desire for happiness, and for excellence of character—are furnished by Christianity in their highest and best forms.
The highest motives of gratitude are also present—"for the love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge that if one died for all, then were all dead—and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again." All the benevolence, too, which experienced Christianity awakens in the soul, practical Christianity continually addresses with the most moving appeals. It must surely be a hard and cold heart that, in such a world as this, among such beings as people it, in such a condition, and with such prospects, is not moved to the most energetic endeavors to help, to benefit, to save them.
3. Consider the EXAMPLES which Christianity exhibits. What other field, what other cause can furnish nobler specimens of heroic energy? Omitting to dwell upon the exertions of the Christian missionaries and the Christian philanthropists of our own time-passing over the beroes of the Reformation, and of the earlier ages, let us at once go back to the first age of Christianity, to the men of the New Testament. Of all these we have the fullest account of Paul, and to what other biography can his be compared unfavorably, in respect to the energy of character exhibited ?-exhibited too, be it remembered, towards the objects, and under the influences which Christianity supplies. It were well if that biography were more diligently studied by all ministers and all Christians, till, catching its fervent spirit, we too should be "in labors more abundant," "in season and out of season," "becoming all things to all men,” and “not counting our lives dear unto us,” if by whatever pains, and by whatever exertion, we could "by all means save some;" till also, in regard to our own salvation, "forgetting the things that are behind, and reaching forth unto those which are before, we should press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
Nor is Paul the only New Testament example. Behold Peter, and the other apostles, before the rulers at Jerusalem, boldly announcing their purpose “to obey God rather than men.”
Read the epistles of Peter and of John; read them attentively, and see if; while they are characterized by affectionate tenderness, they do not also burn with a steady and mighty energy. Familiarity with the life and writings of those New Testament men, while it chastens the spirit, is most effectual to rouse and to kindle it.
We may not, at first view, appreciate the energy of Him whom the New Testament exhibits as our perfect model. It is not like the rush of the tornado, por like the crash of the lightning, nor like the tumult of the waves. Rather is it like the rising of the tide, or the movement of the celestial spheres-silent, calm, imperceptible—yet irresistible, and of how grand effect ! It had been anciently foreteld of Him, He “shall not cry, nor lift up, por cause his voice to be heard in the street ;" yet, also, in the same prophecy, "He shall not fail, nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth; and the isles shall wait for his law." How admirably was that prophecy fulfilled in the Saviour! With all his mildness and tenderness, what other being that has ever trod the earth, has moved on, along his appointed path, to the ful. fillment of his appointed work, with such calm, such heroic energy?-energy that made no noise, yet that could not be driven back nor turned aside. The affection of kindred, the ambition of friends, the mistaken love of disciples, the applauses of the multitude, could never divert him from his course. The opposition of enemies, the authority of rulers, the rage of an angry populace, the anticipated horrors of his last indescribable agony-all could not arrest nor impede his willing his steady progress.
The Scriptures teach us to look unto him—to consider him, "lest we be wearied and faint in our minds." Tell me,
is there any other source from which influences can come, so capable of giving the highest energy to human character, as from Christianity?
I hope it is apparent to you all, that these opposite elements of character are by no means antagonistic. Opposite they are, only as the arms of one body, or as the lights and shades of one picture, helping and supplementing each other. I hope you see that the energy which Christianity inspires does not mar the gentleness which is so beautiful an ornament of character; and that the gentleness which Christianity cultivates, does not soften and enervate the soul. The two elements do most harmoniously blend, balancing, and tempering—not at all hindering each other.
Doubtless amid the many imperfections of exemplified Christian character, none is more common than the distortion which arises from the prominence of one of these elements, in the absence of the other. Our gentle and amiable Christians are apt to be too irresolute, and our heroes are apt to be too rough and coarse. We should be lenient toward the errors of all sincere and earnest souls -and doubtless the most of us should be rebuked by the high attainments of any, in either one of those directions-yet let not any think that they would need to be less mighty laborers, if they should be clothed with a more Christ-like gentleness, nor that it would diminish their Christian amiability to have their souls possessed with the highest Christian energy.
In all our efforts at self-culture, let us seek for the attainment of both these elements in scriptural proportions and in scriptural combination. Let us cultivate that spirit which would befit us leaning on Jesus' breast, together with that which won the surname, "Sons of Thunder."
It is gratifying to our patriotic feeling to reflect that scarcely in all human history have we another so good example of this rightly-balanced character as in him who was our country's first chief magistrate. In this day of our country's peril, and of her anguish, what better blessing could the God of our fathers bestow, than to let us find the same character again illustrated in that high seat ?
Whatever may have been our views or our attitude in respect to that fellow-citizen to whom God, in his providence, has intrusted these great responsibilities-however we may have opposed, or may have favored his elevation to power, according to our differing convictions—however we have regarded him, with distrust or with confidence—and whatever may now be our actual opinions of him-surely, as Christians, it behooves us to comply with his