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although I thus daily read and study it, yet I cannot advance as I should like, and hence I must continue to be a child, and to be a learner of the catechism, to which I cheerfully consent."
Did Luther experience beneficial effects in his dailyr epetition of the catechism? Did it keep the fundamental doctrines of the Bible fresh before his mind? Did it keep him humble, and cause him to feel his own personal responsibility to his God? Then the pastor, in the faithful instruction of the children in the catechism, will experience similar happy results in his own soul.
5. Another advantage of pastoral catechisation is, that it establishes the minds of his people in sound doctrines. When instructions in the catechism have been systematically and faithfully pursued, then the minds of the people are well established in the principles of our holy religion. There will be no vagueness nor indefiniteness in their religious views. They will not be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, but be ready always to give to every man that asketh a reason of the hope within them, with meekness and fear. They will adorn their profession by a holy walk and conversation. They will advance in intellectual and religious acquirements. They will co-operate with their pastor in everything that has in view the glory of God, and the spiritual good of mankind. Happy, thrice happy, that pastor who has such a people to minister to?
6. Another advantage of pastoral catechisation is, the formation of a particular friendship between the pastor and the children of his charge. Children are a very important portion of a country. They will one day fill all the stations of power and influence both in Church and State; hence the necessity, the absolute necessity, of having their minds endowed with heavenly knowledge, and their hearts sanctified by the grace of God, in order that they may be qualified to fulfil their high destiny. Christ moulded the character of his disciples by personal friendship. He held them by the words of love, and thus employed them as his agents in advancing his kingdom upon the earth. Between the pastor and the children there is a great difference of intellectual acquirements-there is a chasm over which their little feet cannot step to come to him. But he can easily go to them. He can condescend to become a child, and adapt himself to their capacities. Having secured their friendship, he can instil religious principles into their tender hearts. He can mould their character, and thus be the means of training up a generation who will acknowledge and serve the Lord.
1. In view of this interesting subject, how solemn and momen. tous the position of the Christian minister? Souls are committed to his care-their temporal and eternal welfare depend, in no small degree upon him. As a watchman upon the walls of Zion, his duty requires him to be upon his post, and give the signal of alarm when temptations assail, and when dangers threaten them. As the shepherd of the flock, he is required to feed them with spiritual provisions, and guide them in the path of righteous
ness and peace. He is required, in a special manner, to protect the young-the lambs of the flock-from the influence of a deceit ful world; feed them with the milk of the Gospel of Christ; secure their friendship; mould their character, and, by the grace of God, save their souls from eternal ruin.
2. If he is faithful to his trust, the Lord will crown his efforts with abundant success; but if he is unfaithful, the Lord will require their blood at his hands. How responsible his position? How momentous his office? How solemn his charge? Well might an inspired apostle exclaim, "Who is sufficient for these things?"
3. But again, although the Christian pastor's station is one of deep responsibility, yet great encouragements are presented before him to be faithful in the discharge of the duty committed to him. Though his station may be humble, and comparatively feeble the efforts put forth, yet mighty, through the Lord, may be the influence exerted, and glorious the result. Little did the humble mother of John Newton imagine, when she instructed him in the catechism and hymns, that she was training up one who would be the means of the conversion of such men as a Claudius Buchannan, who first awoke a foreign missionary spirit; a Thomas Scott, the great commentator; a Wilberforce, the Áfrican's friend; and hundreds of others of great influence. Little did the pious parents of Philip Doddridge imagine, when they instructed him catechetically in Scripturally ornamented Dutch Tiles, that he would write the Rise and Progress of Religion in the soul-be one of the great expositors of the Bible, and instruct upwards of two hundred young men for the Gospel ministry. Little did the humble father of Martin Luther imagine, when he carried him in his arms to school, or the wife of Conrad Cotta, whose heart being moved with pity, fed the poor, hungry young student (Martin), who one day stood at her door singing for bread-little did they imagine that they were training up one who would shake the Papal church to its centre, commence the great Reformation, translate the Bible in the German language, write catechisms and hymns that have illuminated the minds, guided the way, and cheered the hearts of millions of our race to the realms of eternal day.
Let these examples encourage all Christian ministers to activity, and diligence, and perseverance in the discharge of their duty to the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made them overseers, knowing that their labors will not be in vain in the Lord. What has been accomplished by others by the grace of God, can be accomplished again by us, if we are faithful to the flock committed to our care. The Lord's arm is not shortened that it cannot save, nor his ear heavy that it cannot hear. No. He is unchangeable in all his ways. Let us, then, discharge our duty. Through the blessings of the Lord, another John Newton-another Philip Doddridge-another Martin Luther, together with hundreds of other kindred spirits, may, through our instrumentality, be instructed, blessed, and shine as the brightness of the firmament in the kingdom of our God.
"Thy people shall be my people and thy God my God."-Ruth i. 16.
FEW books are more familiar to Bible-readers than this of Ruth. Its style is so chaste and simple, and its incidents and details so interesting, that it does not fail to captivate us when young, and it retains its influence through life.
Various opinions have prevailed concerning the period at which its events transpired; the most probable, however, is that which fixes it at about 1200 B. C.
Yet, the agitation of all these opinions we can easily forego, when personal profit and practical instruction are our objects.
The passage just read, introduces us to a most profitable portion of the book. Its connection deserves an attention. Our text is one of the remarks of Ruth, to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Naomi was then the widow of a Jew of Bethlehem, (Judah,) who, in a time of famine, had left his own land, with his wife and two sons, and sought a residence within the territories of Moab.
The existence of such a necessity for removal was very unexpected, undoubtedly, as that portion of the country was proverbial for its fertility and abundance. This was indicated by the name given to the place of his residence-Bethlehem-which denotes "the house of bread." A famine is one of the executioners of divine wrath on a guilty people-and as Israel were given to wandering, by thus visiting the house of bread-the most fertile section, the Almighty taught the people their guilt and how easy was for him to cut off all their hopes.
It may well be a question, whether Elimelech, Naomi's husband,
pursued the wiser course in his emigration to Moab. A removal from the institutions of piety, with a young family, is dangerous to all the hopes of a pious parent, and may be productive of most lamentable consequences-but especially is there hazard when such emigration takes place to a land of idolatry. This family might have sought an asylum where their principles would not have been in jeopardy and where further afflictions would not have been provoked. The case is one which speaks in strong terms to many professing heads of families in our own country, who, urged by no famine, but propelled often only by the love of gain, thrust their families into the wilderness without any provision for their pious culture. The natural effect of the influences by which they were surrounded was seen in the sons of Elimelech; they intermarried with the Moabites-a circumstance of great aggravation in those times of Jewish peculiarity, and one which was carefully guarded against.
This family soon found, however, that the hand of God was everywhere, and that no place and no circumstances were exempt from afflictive visitations. Death comes in various forms, and they who escape the ravages of the famine may fall victims to the unerring shaft in some other form.
Elimelech first fell a victim, and then the two sons of Naomileaving her thus in a most desolate condition, a widow in a land of strangers.
On the first intelligence of a better state of things in her native land, she makes her arrangements to return. Her anxiety for association with her kindred and the enjoyment of pious institutions, will not allow her continuance where she was. Ten years residence in Moab had stript her of all that was dear in her own family. Her husband was gone and her sons were gone, and she was constrained to apply to herself the name Mara, which means "bitterness," rather than Naomi, meaning "pleasantness."
One source of comfort remained only to her-she enjoyed the affection and confidence of her daughters-in-law-and they, Orphah and Ruth, were ready to form her escort to the home of her fathers. The former was disposed to return-and did return, on her motherin-law's persuasion-having accompanied her a short distance, and then did not, however, leave her without particular evidences of her regard.
But, around the heart of Ruth, ties of another nature were wound, and nothing could induce her to tear herself away from Naomi. Her earnest manner, her firm purpose, her solemn consecration, must have been a balm to the stricken heart of the poor widow. The terms she employs are truly affecting. "Entreat me not to leave thee or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest I will go, and where thou lodgest I will lodge: Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest I will die, and there will I be buried: The Lord do so to
me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me." The fullness of her heart is poured out here.
Every succeeding step, in this history, furnishes useful reflection; but I have passed it over, generally, for the purpose of calling your attention particularly to Ruth's course. In her behold, my brethren,
I. A beautiful illustration of the influence of true affection. The prevalence of selfishness in our world, is the subject of frequent remark and as general censure; it dictates often the expressions of regard which pass between men, and fixes not only the limit of friendly intercourse, but even of passing recognition. It is enough for it that a man can be of no further use, and especially is it enough that he has been cast into the vale of adversity and may have become friendless and poor. How much are the courtly manner the expressions of warm friendship and of firm confidence, affected by such a condition as Naomi, in prosperity. The evidences of such show selfishness under the most plausible name and manner abound on every side. It forms the great animating principle of many in society. We see it taking advantage of, and triumphing over, the claims of friendship. And even in the domestic circle, where, of all places, generous and benevolent feelings should prevail, its victims have been found-unhappily, the son has been found taking advantage of the father and enriching himself by his depression, and, while rolling in wealth himself, has suffered him to want; and the children of a widowed mother will be found satisfied to see her the object of public charity, while they sport the height of fashion. The modes in which this spirit shows itself constantly vary.
But the opposite of such a feeling possessed the bosom of Ruth. There was here simple, pure, ardent affection for Naomi, for her own sake. Her circumstances were such that half the world would have considered her as absolved from further particular connection with and anxiety for her mother-in-law. Her husband was dead, and no children remained to continue the tie; so that, had she left her, the conclusion with the world would have been, she had done no wrong-the separation was natural, and was to be expected. But the tie which bound Ruth, was of a more tender character; it was the indissoluble tie of love.
In judging the strength of her affection, several particulars enter into our account. First. We must take into view her abandonment of every prospect among her own people. Some have maintained that she was the daughter of the King of Moab: on what this opinion is grounded we know not; but apart from it, there was in her excellence of character everything to induce the hope of comfortable connection in life among her own countrymen. But whatever her prospects were, all are sacrificed to her affection.
Again, in abandoning these, she joins herself to one in poverty. As Naomi said to her friends and neighbors-She went out full,