Page images
PDF
EPUB

feels it his duty to admonish another, the brother admonished has no occasion to harbor ill-will toward the faithful brother, o to count him as an enemy. With the spirit of prejudice rankling in bis bosom, he can not have the spirit of Christ -- he can not pray acceptably for himself or others. Such feelings are not unfrequently indulged toward a pastor, whose special duty it is to watch over the individuals of his flock, and who, in the discharge of that duty, may have had occasion to reprove for some wrong act; or it may be but a suspicion that the pastor does not think so highly of him as of another. Now, with such a state of mind, no good thing, in his view, can come from Nazareth. Under such a bias, preaching will do him no good; the truth becomes personal, and he regards it as directed at him, and resolves that he will not submit to the reproof, nor be profited by the truth. Very different was the spirit of the Psalmist, who said: “Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness; and let him reprove me, it shall be an excellent oil which shall not break my head." The best remedy for a prejudiced mind is the cultivation of that grace which “thinketh no evil,” that inclines its possessor to put the most favorable construction upon the motives and conduct of others. We need more of that spirit that rejoices in the triumphs of truth, that rejoices in good done, by whomsoever it may be.

Those who allow their minds to be biased by prejudice are themselves the greatest sufferers, and most deserving of pity. If this hindrance to growth in grace, so destructive to a spirit of prayer, of communion with God and peace of mind, would but give place to that spirit of charity which is the brightest ornament to the Christian character, what a wonderful change would it produce in the conduct of many professing godliness, and how greatly would the moral influence of the Church be increased! how much ill.natured joy at the faults and misbaps of others would it repress; how much would be done toward removing the obstacles that now hinder the influence of truth, and lead Christians to mourn in secret rather than rejoice over the faults of others. This would be a very different world, if there were none to rejoice in iniquity; and the Church would be much more efficient for good, if there were none in its bosom but those who rejoice in the truth. We had better expose ourselves to an occasional disadvantage by judging too favorably of our fellow-men, than to make ourselves unhappy by always suspecting them or judging unjustly, for some good can come from Nazareth. It is better to be sometimes imposed upon, than never to trust. He who is free from prejudice will view the character of others in the most favorable light. He is like one dwelling amidst those beautiful scenes of nature on which the eye rests with pleasure; wbile he who allows himself to be swayed by prejudice, can never tell how far bis bias may lead him, nor what injustice he may be left to do to others. The

cloud that rises from the sea no bigger than the hand, may expand till it covers the whole field of vision, and pour its storm of retributive justice upon his defenseless head. It is exceedingly hazardous to suffer prejudice to influence our conduct toward others, because we can never fix any limit to the indulgence of unholy passions. Like noxious weeds, if not eradicated, it will spread and overcome all the finer feelings and generous impulses of our natures. The Jews were so prejudiced against the Saviour, that at last it culminated in murderous hatred. At first it was on account of his humble parentage; and then because he associated with what they considered the lower classes in society, and sat at meat with them, and relieved the needy; until at last they openly preferred a murderer should be set at liberty instead of Him whom they confessed bad “done all things well," and, to compass their murderous purpose, said: "His blood be on us and on our children."

In conclusion, let me say, that since we are exposed to the influence of prejudice, how important that we know ourselves before we presume to sit in judgment on others! We should be slow to condemn when we do not fully understand all the circumstances or the motives that influence those we judge. The indulgence of prejudice is a most efficient cause of departure from God. It is in itself an evidence of a backslidden state. It opens wide the gate and invites the foul demon, the enemy of peace, to enter in and take possession of the citadel. It will prove the worm that gnaws at the root of the tree whose withered foliage will soon give signs of premature decay.

To be free from all unballowed prejudice, we must cultivate the graces of the spirit, a feeling of tenderness toward all who need the exercise of our charity. When our eye is single, when the heart beats in sympathy with Christ, then may we hope to judge impartially, yet kindly and in love. A beart under the influence of prejudice, will, from the necessity of the case, be an unforgiving heart, because in the view of such no good can be found in Nazareth ; and to commend or approve, in such circumstances, would be an indorsement or approval of sin. It is strange, that where all need so much forbearance from others, they are so reluctant to award that to their fellow.men of which they are in the greatest need themselves. Whenever we are tempted to be severe in our judgment, let us not forget that the hour is nigh when we shall be seen and known as we are, when all deception will vanish ; and then how differently our characters will appear from what we dow suppose them to be. If ever we arrive at heaven, we shall doubtless find many there wbum our prejudice had excluded from all participation in that glorious inheritance; while others, whom in our blindness and partiality we exalted to heaven, have failed altogether of the grace of life. But the greatest won. der to us will be, that, with all our imperfections and departures from God, the grace of God could raise us to such exalted stations, as sons of God and heirs of eternal life. Passion, prejudice, envy, and hatred, will undoubtedly exclude many from the rest of heaven, for no evil passion ever rankles in the bosom of the redeemed in glory.

“Pure are the joys above the sky,

And all the region peace;
No wanton lip nor envious eye

Can see or taste the bliss." There are no private or selfish interests in heaven; there should be none in the Church on the earth. Each should strive “to purify himself,” as Christ is pure, and to make the Church below a fair type of heaven. And however much we may feel that we bave occasion to dislike a brother or to be biased against him, let us bear in mind that some good can come from Nazareth ;" that if we discover much that we can not approve, there will be a wider scope to us for cultivating the spirit of charity and the grace of forbearance. If we can not endure with each other where all need forbearance, what confidence or hope can we have that God will forgive us our trespasses ? Instead of allowing a prejudice to affect our minds toward any fellow-being, let us labor to repair over against our own house, to purify ourselves of all those moral blemishes of which we complain in others; and “let him that is without sin cast the first stone,” remembering, that as we measure to others it shall be measured to us again.

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

PROFESSOR OF CHURCH HISTORY IN THE UNION THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY.

OUR NATIONAL SIN.

"The sin which doth so easily beset us.”—HEBREWS 12: 1. The particular sin here referred to is apostasy, of which the Hebrew converts to Christianity were especially in danger, and against which the writer of this epistle especially warns them. But to-day I shall detach the few words chosen for our text from the connection in which they stand, and apply them, without farther preface, to the solemn occasion which has now called us together. Sin, in its essence, is self-assertion; the finite setting up for it.

Preached on the day of the National Fast, September 26th, 1861, in the South Reformed Dutch Church, New-York.

self against the Infinite, the creature against the Creator. Its forms are various: such as sensuality, or the lust of pleasure ; avarice, or the lust of gain; and ambition, or the lust of power. But its essence is always one and the same. Underneath these and all other possible forms, there lurks a single malignant prin. ciple, which may be best described as self-assertion.

Of sin, in this its essential character of finite rebellion against the Infinite, we may say it belongs to man as man. It is no mere fortuity, which may or may not occur. “To err is buman.” By nature, there is none loyal to his Maker; no, not one. Contempt for the divine authority may therefore be pronounced to be the easily besetting sin of our race, as such. In one form or another, we are rebels, all of us.

But for each individual, besides this generic depravity, which is in him like poisoned blood, there is also some specific infirmity peculiarly his own; some one form of spiritual disloyalty, toward which he gravitates with a special momentum; some one sin out of all the catalogue of human offenses, which he commits with the most fatal facility and frequency. It may not be known to the world. It may not be known even to himself

, by reason of moral blindness. It may be known only to God. But, in either case, it is his easily besetting sin, stamping its burning seal upon his inmost character, even though it may set no mark of shame upon his brow.

As thus of individuals, so likewise of nations. Nations are not mere masses and aggregates of population; they are organisms. Each is endowed with a sort of moral personality, and has a de. terminate character of its own. Individuals may be born and die, generations may come and go; but the national pulse beats on without arrest, and the millions of the present find their destiny arbitrated by the millions of the past. The whole, in this case, is something more, and other, than simply the sum total of all its parts. It is an indivisible, organic whole, planting itself astride the generations and the centuries, and standing face to face with a wakeful Providence, whose retributions are none the less righteous, and often all the more impressive and salutary, because they do not come at once. So France is suffering to day for having exiled her industrious Huguenots nearly two hundred years ago.

Thus may each nation be disfigured and crippled by its easily besetting sin; its history disclosing to every sagacious observer some one type or aspect of the manifold depravity of our common nature, which dominates over all the rest, setting its seal upon the national character, and suggesting the sort of retribution the most fitting, and therefore the most likely, to be launched, in God's own time, upon its guilty head; as Greece sinned in her idolatry of art, and sank, emasculated and nervous, first beneath the Macedonian phalanx, and finally beneath the iron legions of Rome;

« PreviousContinue »