« ПретходнаНастави »
BY THE REV.
THOMAS GRIFFITH, A.M.
MINISTER OF RAM'S EPISCOPAL CHAPEL, HOMERTON.
It may conduce to the understanding of the following work to state that the subject is contemplated as forming that grand division of Christianity, the Experimental, to which its Doctrines are introductory, and of which its Duties are the practical result. The one theme of the Christian system is The Kingdom of Heaven. The leading idea of Christian Doctrine is the opening of this kingdom to all believers. The distinctive spirit of Christian Experience is a filial confidence of our election to this kingdom. 2 Thess. ii. 13-15. And the governing principle of Christian Practice is a corresponding zeal for the advancement in ourselves and others of that holiness by which alone this Kingdom can be ultimately reached. 2 Peter i. 10-12.
It is of the second of these particulars, the Distinctive spirit of Christianity, that the present work endeavours to treat. I know indeed the peculiar difficulty of the subject. I know how impossible it is to convey by words what by experience alone can be fully understood. Our inward feelings we can but imperfectly express. This expression, again, is still more imperfectly apprehended. And this apprehension, yet further, requires to be verified by the reader, for himself, by the reproduction in his own mind of those states of consciousness which the writer has but indicated rather than de scribed. And thus a threefold difficulty is involved in the transmission of our sentiments on all those subjects which are neither scientific nor historical, but lie within the domain of taste and feeling, and address themselves to the heart rather than the head. Their intelligibility depends more upon the spirit of the reader than on the power of the writer. In a fullcharged atmosphere, the smallest vibration will be heard. In a vacuum the largest bell is struck in vain.
And hence the deep importance of our bringing to all works of experimental religion a per
sonal, self-questioning, and meditative interest. For what has been said of Virtue is equally true of Piety; no man can teach it to another ; not by definition, argument, description, can it be communicated; by sympathy alone can its independent life be stirred within the soul, and developed into vigour. Men can teach only what they know. What they feel, they must be satisfied with humbly telling forth in patient expectation, till the feeble breath of their experience have crept quietly along the chords of congenial minds, and one and another give back at its gentle touch a responsive sound.
Nor is such a personal interest and responsiveness less necessary to our profiting by devotional and practical subjects than to our apprehension of them. With the most accurate conceptions of religious truth we shall have but little spiritual growth, without that working out a subject in our own minds, and realizing in them the experiences of which we read, which meditation, self-examination, and prayer can alone produce. Each successive year will behold us only where we were. Our spiritual movement (for movement we may have) will be not progression, but oscillation. We shall only