O SOLICITUDE FOR THE PROSPERITY OF RELIGIO.

BY REV. THEODORE DEHO, D. D.
I Samuel, iv. 13.
For his heart trembled for the ark of God.
You have here a picture of good old Eli, in one of
the most interesting situations in which man w^as
ever seen. After that terrible defeat v^^hich the peo-
ple of Israel received from the Philistines, in the
battle of Aphek, they sent to Shiloh, and had the
ark of God taken from its place, and brought among
them, hoping that this token of the Divine presence
would revive their courage, and preserve them from
the hands of their enemies. The rumour of it at
first disheartened the foe : but their recent victory,
and the exhortations of their leaders, animated them
to the onset ; and the battle was exceedingly fierce.
It was a most momentous combat. The glory of
Israel was at stake. The ark of the Covenant was
in thefield. Eli had now numbered '' ninety and
eight^^rs*" upon the earth; and was blind. ei-
ther on his limbs, nor yet with his eyes, could he
follow that Ark, before which he had so long mi-
* 1 Sam. iv. 15.
O SOLICITUDE FOR RELIGIO. 443
nistered ; and from which he had so often redeived
blessings for himself and the people. His soul was
filled with anguish, that it had been torn from its
place between the Cherubim. He knew it was in
danger ; exposed to the imprudence and heedless-
ness of its friends, as well as to the rude blasphe-
mies of the enemy. othing could quiet his pious
concern. Blind as he was, he crawled to the high
road, and with profound anxiety sat there, listening
to the approach of every traveller, if haply he might
hear from Aphek, that all was well. It is in this
situation, that the Scripture presents him to our
view, a most instructive and affecting model of ge-
nuine piety. ** He sat upon a seat by the way
side watching : for his heart trembled for the ark of
God."
It may perhaps appear improbable, that our anx-
iety will ever be excited as Eli's was. It may be
feared, that our piety would hardly rise to the noble
measure of his. But we may be led by his example,
to observe, in the first place, that a good man will
always feel concerned for the safety, honour, and
advancement of religion: and, secondly, to consider
some of the ways in which he may promote its re-
putation and success.
In the success of the Gospel, are involved the
pleasure and glory of God. The good man considers
it as an august display of the Divine perfections, as
gaining the Deity everlasting praises from angels and
men, as dear to the eternal mind in its design and
accomplishment, and as vouchsafed to men in great
mercy and trust. As a creature therefore of the
Most High God, he will feel concerned for the pros-
perity of a work, upon which, from before the foun-
dation of the world, his Creator hath bestowed His
care, and the success of which He earnestly desires.
444 O SOLICITUDE FOR REILGIO.
and hath sent His Son to promote. He considers
Christianity, as opening to the sinner the only means
of reconciliation with his Maker ; as affording to man
the best instructions and assistances for the right
management of life ; and as offering to the inhabi-
tants of this region of infirmity and sorrow, the
most animating motives to virtue and contentment,
and the most enlivening prospects of immortality.
As a philanthropist, therefore, he will feel interested
in the safety of this ark of mercy, before which the
penitent may find forgiveness, and the sorrowful and
the dying be cheered with soothing consolations,
and animating hopes. As a patriot he considers re-
ligion essential to the stability, happiness, and pros-
perity of the state. He will therefore devoutly wish,
that the altars of his country may never be destitute
of ministers, nor its temples of worshippers and
friends. He contrasts with the rude schemes of po-
lytheism and idolatry, which ancient legislators ren-
dered sacred in the state, the pure, the rational, the
consoling theology of the Gospel : and his love for
his country will lead him to promote such an exten-
sion of the knowledge of Christianity, and such an
attachment to his doctrines and worship, as may
preserve it from being taken away, as it has been
from countries which were once Christian, but
through ignorance, and coldness, and corruption,
are so no more. When he considers the value of
this religion to himself; that it is the guide of his
youth, the comfort of his age, his joy in prosperity,
his solace in adversity, and the staff of his spirit
when he shall pass through '* the valley of the sha-
dow of death'';" gratitude to its Author will make
him a faithful guardian of the treasure, with which
'' Ps. xxiii. 4.
O SOLICITUDE FOR RELIGIO. 445
he is entrusted, and strengthen the pleas of charity,
when she prompts him to extend the participation
of it. In short, when he compares the objects which
religion proposes, with anght else of high estimation,
and ardent pursuit; he perceives that without these
a man may possess all other things, and be wretched ;
and that with these, the humblest of the sons of men
may be resigned and happy. He knows that her
counsels are better than strength ; that her promises
are preferable to riches; that her joys no pleasures
can equal ; and that her holy influences alone pre-
pare the soul for heaven. Her nature, therefore, as
well as her origin, and the great ends of her mission,
render him careful of her honour, and anxious for
her renown. He will be filled with delight, when
her interests are prospered, and his heart will trem-
ble for them, in the day of corruption.
But hath not the Author and head of the Chris-
tian covenant said, that " the gates of hell shall
not prevail against it*"?" He hath. And though,
for the accomplishment of the Divine purposes, it
may be appointed to many trials, and often enve-
loped in apparent dangers, nothing shall destroy it.
Like its ancient type, the ark of the whole world, up-
borne by its own buoyancy, and safe under the gui-
dance of an invisible power, it will rise above every
deluge of depravity, which may threaten the world,
and rise the sacred deposit of all that can save, en-
noble, and rejoice our race. But while man con-
tinues as he is, proud, corrupt, and hateful of the
light, '* because his deeds are evil*^," it cannot be
otherwise, than that the religion of our Redeemer
should have its adversaries, and be sometimes ex-
posed by its friends. otwithstanding the assu-
* Matt. xvi. 18. ^ John iii. 19.
446 O SOLICITUDE FOR RELIGIO.
ranee, that the Gospel shall ultimately triumph,
there may be occasions and reflections which should
awaken the good man's solicitude. When philoso-
phy comes forth armed with arrows, which she has
winged with wit and dipped in poison, will he not
feel fearful that they may wound the lambs of the
Redeemer's fold, though by His more wary followers
they should be avoided? When the professors of the
faith apostatize, or neglect the ordinances of the
Church, or relapse from the zeal," the holiness, the
purity, the circumspection which the Gospel re-
quires ; is there not cause for his anxiety, lest others
should go away, and the worst enemies of the Sa-
viour be they of His own household ? When he
ponders the solemn and memorable inquiry of Christ,
which the Evangelist hath recorded, " When the
Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the
earth ^?" is there not enough in this inquiry to ex-
cite his vigilance, and call forth his care for the
preservation of *' the faith which was once delivered
imto the saints '^?" Evident it is, that Christianity,
like the ark of the Covenant for which the Prophet
watched, may be endangered by those who place
in it their confidence : and there are enemies into
whose hands it may fall, and be exposed to con-
tumely, and pollution. These considerations will
beget in the bosom of the good man, a constant care
for its reputation and prosperity. ot noisy and
hollow will his concern for the ark of God be ; bu^
sin.cere and deep as Eli's proved, in the sequel
of his story, which, '* wheresoever the Gospel 1$
preached in the whole world," is worthy to "be
told for a memorial of him^" As he sat by the
way side, one came from Aphek. Mark his solici-
« Luke xviii. .3. ' Jude 3. ^ J\I.att. xxvi. 13.
15
O SOLICITUDE FOR RELIGIO. 447
tude when he inquires, ** What is there done, my
son''?" With inimitable tenderness the messenger
replies, ** Israel is fled before the Philistines, and
there hath been also a great slaughter among the
people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas,
are dead, and the ark of God is taken'." Behold,
at the mention of the capture of the ark of his God,
the venerable old man swooned, fell backward from
his seat, and expired ! He could hear of the flight
of Israel, with humble acquiescence. He could
hear of the slaughter of the people, with silent sor-
row. He could hear of the death of his children,
with chastised regret. But when the ark of God
was taken ; when the delight of his heart, the hope
of his country, the glory of Israel, was gone ; over-
powered with sorrow, his spirit failed him ; he fell,
and died. Sublime piety ! Wonderful instance of
hallowed sensibility ! Long, thou venerable Seer,
long as the Scriptures shall endure, piety shall turn
with fondness to thy story : and the tear which she
drops over thy affecting end, will spring, not less
from admiration, than from grief!
But from admiring the concern of Eli for the ark
that was in Shiloh, let us be led, secondly, to con-
sider, in what ways we may contribute to the repu-
tatLoB, and prosperity of the ark of the better co-
venant, ** the Gospel of our salvation''."
In the first place, we should not disguise our
hehef in the religion of our Lord. Too easily does
pride, a dread of the ridicule of the profane, or a
coincidence with the current of the world's opi-
nions, deter the disciples of the Redeemer from
avowing their attachment, to Him, and their depen-
dance upon His word, for their best principles, and
I; 1 Sam. iv. 16. « Ibid, ver. 1 7. '" Epli. i. 13.
448 O SOLICITUDE FOR RELIGIO.
their dearest hopes. ot so were His first followers ;
nor so should we be, if we felt as we ought, the
value of the ark of the covenant of His mercies, and
were sufficiently concerned for its safety and ho-
nour. Would we advance the interests of our Sa-
viour's kingdom ? Let us be seen in the ranks of
His friends^ and, as an inspired Apostle exhorts,
** Go forth unto Him without the camp, bearing His
reproach V
Again. We may promote both the honour and
prosperity of our religion by upholding its institu-
tions, and observing devoutly its sacred rites. Con-
secrated in great mercy to the human race was the
holy Sabbath, and it is, unquestionably, one of the
most invaluable means for keeping alive in men's
bosoms a fear of God, and a sense of their relations
and duties to Him and to each other. The Re-
deemer, too, hath instituted His Church, and esta-
blished the divers orders of ministry in it, not only
for ** the perfecting of the saints""," but for *' the
gathering together in one°" the offspring of God.
The ordinances also of the Gospel, Baptism and
the Lord's Supper, are admirably adapted to pre-
serve its peculiar doctrines in remembrance and re-
spect, and to manifest the purity, simplicity, and
holiness of the services, which it requires. These
institutions are as banners, which our Saviour hath
furnished for His Church, and around them His
friends should be found, if they would magnify His
name, and promote the respectability of His re-
ligion.
Again. You may contribute to the safety and
honour of the ark of God, by instructing your
offspring in its origin, its value, and its uses, and
' Heb. xiU. 13. "" Eph. iv. U. " Ibid. i. 10.
O SOLICITUDE FOR RELIGIO. 449
training them up to respect and defend it. Shortly
you must leave this scene, and with the rest of your
possessions leave the religion of your fathers to your
posterity. Solemn and affecting is this considera-
tion! It is the best gift of Heaven to our world,
and its welfare in succeeding generations may, in
some degree, depend upon you. Great therefore,
is your obligation, to enlist your offspring under its
banners; for if they be brought up *' in the nurture
and admonition of the Lord"," there is a reasonable
probability, that their lives will hereafter be its en-
comium, and their principles its defence.
Further. We may contribute to the success of
Christianity, by thwarting the course of its ad-
versaries, and counteracting the poisons prepared
against it. There are books, the vehicles of im-
pious sophistry, of debased wit, and of blasphe-
mous philosophy. From the contagion which these
diffuse, the good man will endeavour to preserve
his household, and to suppress their reputation and
influence. There are men of ruinous opinions upon
man's nature, duties, and destiny, whom he will feel
it his duty to discountenance, as equally unworthy
of public trust, and private approbation. There are
friendships with the vicious and profane, fatal as a
firebrand taken into the bosom. From these he will
withhold himself, and endeavour to preserve those
whom God has placed under his guardianship and
authority. Unwilling to have the distinctions be-
tween right and wrong, between virtue and vice,
between the commandments of God and the opi-
nions of men, obliterated ; he will reprobate irreli-
gion in whatever character or form it appears : re-
membering the declaration of the Divine Mediator
* Eph. vi. 4,
VOL. II. G g
450 O SOLICITUDE FOR RELIGIO.
between God and men, *' He that is not with Me is
against Me^"
Once more. By his personal exertions for the
advancement of those arrangements which are ne-
cessary, to give stability and respectability to the
institutions of religion in any place, every Christian
may promote the honour and influence of Christi-
anity among men. It is necessary to the success of
the Gospel, that its rites be celebrated, its truths
preached, and its professors assembled together, to
recognize often in social worship their relation to
the Head of the Church, and to each other. Where
these things are neglected, pure and efficacious re-
ligion must decline. Its substance will be gone,
and, if any thing of it be retained, it will be only
the shadow. But to give to these means of religious
proficiency a constant and respectable being, there
is requisite good counsel, pecuniary aid, and per-
sonal exertions. ot to the ministers of religion
alone belongs this care. In the nature of it, it may,
and should be shared by all the members of the
community. And the good man, who is anxious
for the ark of God, will not feel his conscience dis-
charged of one of its most weighty obligations, till
he has done whatever he can, towards the complete
establishment of the public services of the Church,
in the place where the Most High has placed his
residence*. The sublime spirit will animate him,
which David felt when he resolved, " I will not
come within the tabernacle of mine house, norclirab
up into my bed ; I will not suffer mine eyes to sleep,
nor mine eyelids to slumber ; neither the temples of
my head to take any rest : until I find out a place
p Matt. xii. so.
* This discourse was preached in some of the vacant parishes.
O SOLICITUDE FOR RELIGIO. 451
for the temple of the Lord, an habitation for the
mighty God of Jacob ''."
Finally. It is above all to be observed, that every
Christian may promote the honour of his religion,
by exhibiting to the world in its purity and integrity,
the lustre of a Christian life. Powerful is the charm
of piety, of benevolence, of meekness, of equity,
like that which the Gospel requires. Seen in the
lives of men, the spirit and virtues of Christianity
form one of its highest commendations. On ac-
count of the force of a pure Christian example, in
commending the path of religion to men, its blessed
Author left to His followers the impressive injunc-
tion, to " let their light so shine before men, that
they may see their good works, and glorify their
Father which is in heaven'."
'* Ps. cxxxii. 3 — 5. "¦ Matt. v. 16.
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