« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
respect to the character and perfections of God, | learn the method by which the salvation of man and the interest which He took in the moral is effected, and the medium of his approach to God. government of the world, they were at a still Living, as we do, in the midst of this light, we greater loss, and involved in the most bewildering are not, it is to be feared, sufficiently impressed perplexities. In fact, the whole history of man, with a consciousness of its high importance, or its whether wandering in the wilds of savage inde-infinite value. We shall do well, therefore, to pendence, or enjoying the higher advantages of direct our attention towards those less favoured civilised society, abundantly confirms the humiliat- beings who are deprived of its advantages. Do ing truth, that “the world by wisdom knew not not the cruel and degrading superstitions of the God," 1 Cor. i. 21. But turn we to the Scrip- pagan world, both in ancient and in modern times, tures, and what sublime and influential discoveries afford convincing proof that the great question are there made of the existence and perfections of which agitates the human mind, and presses its the Deity! How demonstrative are the evidences terrors upon the consciences of men, apprehensive of His being—how convincing the proofs of His of the wrath of some unknown but offended moral government-and how endearing the cha- Deity, is this, “How shall man be justified with racter which He is represented as sustaining God?” But of this, alas ! he is ignorant. The towards man! Well might the regal prophet ex- prophet has described, in language no less just claim, “ The entrance of thy word giveth life”-than forcible, the fearful anxiety and distressing “ It giveth understanding to the simple!" Ps. cxix. uncertainty which perturb the mind in such cir
3. We have here, also, an intelligible account cumstances—“Wherewithal shall I come before of the origin of moral evil. Nor let this be re- the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? garded as a matter of trifling moment : it is Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with intimately connected with just views of the calves of a year old ? Will the Lord be pleased righteous system of God's moral government, with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of and the final destinies of the human race. But rivers of oil ? Shall I give my first-born for my this was
never furnished through any other transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of medium than the sacred volume. In confirma- my soul ?” Mic. vi. 6. On a mind thus agitated tion of this assertion, as well as that on the by an overwhelming apprehension of the divine former topic, we might confidently appeal to the displeasure, and without any well-grounded hope speculations of those who have been left destitute of averting its impending doom, what must be the of the guidance of revelation, or who have rashly exhilarating effects of the merciful announcements and impiously turned from its proffered assistance of the gospel ? and what must be the thrilling A detail of the monstrous notions which have sensibilities of the heart, when these discoveries been entertained on this subject, however, will not are first made and apprehended? The design of comport with our limits; nor is it, indeed, neces- this revelation is to announce the gracious pursary to our present design. Our own times have poses of God to save men from the guilt and witnessed one mighty but unhappy spirit, who, re- punishment of sin; his purposes of pardoning jecting the guidance of the inspired records, and the guilty—of sanctifying the unholy—of giving turning with disdain from the information which strength to the helpless, and power to them who they have brought within our reach, has indulged have no might. It further informs us of the in his uncurbed and unhallowed speculations, till, medium through which we may successfully lost in the bewilderings of his own imagination, approach the throne of God, and acceptably urge he has fearlessly impugned the goodness of his our petitions for an interest in these unspeakably Creator, and blasphemed the name of his God!* important benefits. In the midst of the overSuch is the boasted wisdom of man, if left to whelmings of our grief and the despondency of the resources of his own intellect.
But this our spirit, produced by a consciousness of having deficiency is supplied by the Bible. In this, the contemned the Author of our being, our hopes are mystery which had been hidden from ages is made animated by the most encouraging assurances that manifest; the conduct of God stands absolved there is a way opened to his throne, through which from every imputation which infidelity has thrown 'we may pass, and successfully urge our plea :upon it; and every part of the moral government “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, of the Creator is seen to harmonize with the per- that is passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of fections of his character.
God, let us hold fast our profession :" “ Let us 4. Through the same medium, exclusively, we come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we
may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time
of need.”—“ Wherefore he is able to save them to *See “ Cain; a Tragedy."
the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them,” | and, what is of far more value, his knowledge is Heb. iv. 14, 16; vii. 25.
more influential. So dubious did these philo5. But it may further be remarked, that in sophers hold the conclusions of their reasoning the Scriptures, only, are the truth and certainty of a to be, that they were far from being satisfied of future state revealed. Upon this, as well as upon the certainty of those doctrines which they eneach of the former topics, men must have remained deavoured to impress upon others.
In circuniin urter darkness, but for the light of Revelation ; stances when the support of his principles was at, if this should be thought too much, we will say, most needed, the confidence of the philosopher they must have been destitute of all satisfactory forsook him; and in the contemplation of death, information. It is true, that some efforts have he viewed the existence of a future state as a been made to demonstrate the immortality of the problem not to be solved. Even Cicero speaks soul, upon principles independent of Scripture; of this doctrine as doubtful; and in his Treatise but, without any desire to depreciate the labours on Old Age, he introduces the elder Cato menof those who have employed themselves in the tioning it as an opinion of which he was fond, investigation, we may be allowed to remark, that rather than a doctrine which he could demonstrate; the mere circumstance of no one ever having and after enumerating all the arguments of which arrived at any thing like certainty on the subject, he could think, he comforts himself with this until brought within the light of inspiration, is reflection upon the whole: that, if the soul died enough to justify a suspicion, that the superiority with the body, the petty philosophers, who opof modern ratiocination over that of the ancients posed themselves to the opinion of the soul's is in this respect derived, perhaps unconsciously, immortality, ceasing to be, as well as himself, from the discoveries of the written word. We would not laugh at his credulity. Plato, in his have been frequently reminded of the sentiments Phædon, makes Socrates speak with some doubt of Socrates, Plato, Cicero, and others, who, by the concerning his own arguments, and introduces mere exercise of reason, it is said, discovered that Simmias saying to him, “We ought to lay hold the present is not the only state of being—that of the strongest arguments for this doctrine, that the existence of man does not terminate with this either we ourselves, or others, can suggest to us. life, but that there remains a state where virtue If both ways prove ineffectual, we must put up will be rewarded and vice punished. But, grant- with the best proofs we can get, till some promise ing that such discoveries have been made, we or revelation shall clear
ир the point. The wisdom would ask those who boast of philosophy, for the of Socrates and Plato united, did, in fact, only purpose of derogating from the value of reve- produce such arguments for their favourite ktion, what it cost these individuals, in the opinion, as they were themselves dissatisfied with. pursuit of this knowledge, ere they could triumph Cicero, being so attached to the same opinion, in its possession ? Did the oppugners of reve- that, as he says, he would rather err with Plato lation ever follow those master spirits in their in holding it, than think rightly with those who mental excursions ? Did they ever make an deny it, poorly echoes the arguments of his effort to discipline their own minds to the same master, adds little to them himself, and, at the severe and laborious course of investigation, conclusion, virtually giving up the point, with all which these philosophers were obliged to prosecute the arguments brought to support it, endeavours through toilsome months and years ? There is to comfort himself and others, against the aphttle risk of doing them an injustice, in saying, proach of death, by proving death to be no evil, that they have not so done. They therefore are even should the soul perish with the body. Such incompetent to determine how many could have were the conclusions of philosophy. We turn, attained to the same degree of assurance, on this however, to the Holy Scriptures, and every
doubt truth, as the worthies to whom they have referred is removed, and every objection silenced. That
The process by which the truth was thus which antecedently appeared as probable, and to be arrived at, was too complex to engage the devoutly to be wished for, is here rendered induattention of the great proportion of men; and bitably certain. The speculations of philosophy therefore God, in his infinite compassion, made give place to the certainties of revelation, and known a shorter way. That way is to be found" life and immortality are rendered manifest by in the Scriptures; and we are prepared for the the Gospel,” 2 Tim. i. 10. sneer and the laugh of the witling, when we say, 6. Now, let the several considerations which are that the most illiterate man who can read his here adverted to, be thrown together; let them be Bible, and avail himself of the information it viewed separately and in the aggregate ; let the imcontains, knows infinitely more about a future portant nature and consolatorytendency of the Scripstate of existence, than either Socrates or Plato; ture discoveries be considered ; let the means of knowledge which we possess in the Bible, be con- not only “ alienated from the life of God through trasted with the wanderings and uncertainties to the ignorance that is in them” (Eph. iv. 18), but which those persons must submit who are destitute whose understanding is also blinded by the god of of its light and influence; and we cannot but this world (2 Cor. iv. 4), and whose corrupt feel our gratitude excited, when we approach to nature “is not subject to the law of God, neither God, as speaking in that book ;—“Gratitude, not indeed can be," Rom. viii. 7. But how many only expressing itself in proper terms, but pos- are they, who, if they spurn not the heavenly sessing the mind with an abiding and over- visitant from their presence, and refuse to listen mastering influence, under which it should sit to the voice of God written in his word, yet come impressed the whole duration of the interview; to its perusal with unhumbled and haughty spirits, such an emotion as cannot utter itself in language, with high thoughts of their own importance, and though by language it indicates its presence, but deceitful notions of their own dignity ? Men preserves us in a devout and adoring frame while who open the Bible, and read its humbling and the Lord is uttering his voice. Go, visit a deso- soul-abasing doctrines, with the same thoughtlesslate widow with consolation, and help, and father- ness with which they peruse the
of a novel hood of her orphan children—do it again and or a romance, and never once think of the exceedagain—and your presence, the sound of your ing broadness of God's command, or the exceeding approaching footstep, the soft utterance of your riches of his grace! Such, however, must not voice, the very mention of your name, will come be our conduct, if we would profit by this to dilate her heart with a fulness which defies her employment. There must not only be a convictongue to utter, but speaks by the tokens of a tion of our ignorance of the deeply momentous swimming eye, and clasped hands, and fervent truths of God's word, but there must also be a ejaculations to heaven upon your head! No less sensibility of our want of spiritual perception, copious acknowledgment to God, the Author of when those truths are laid before us, and of the our well-being, and the Father of our better hopes, hostility of our nature towards even those which ought we to feel when his word discloseth to us we do know. Such is the word of promise : “ To the excesses of his love. Though a veil be now that man will I look, to him that is poor and of cast over the majesty which speaks, it is the voice a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word,” of the Eternal which we hear, coming in soft Isaiah lxvi. 2. When we are brought under the cadences to win our favour, yet omnipotent as the unrestrained influence of these sentiments-gravoices of the thunder, and overpowering as the titude for the revelation, and deep self-abasement, rushing of many waters. And though the veil from a consciousness of our own ignorance—it will of the future intervene between our hand and the induce, promised goods, still are they from his lips, who III. DEVOUT PRAYER TO GOD FOR DIVINE ILLUspeaks, and it is done ; who commandeth, and all MINATION, AND A RIGHT UNDERSTANDING OF SCRIPthings stand fast. With no less emotion, there- TURAL TRUTII. The original Author of the Holy fore, should this book be opened, than if, like him Scriptures is alone able to open to our understandin the Apocalypse, you saw the voice which ings their true meaning; and unless his Holy Spirit spake; or, like him in the trance, you were into cast a ray of heavenly illumination upon our minds, the third heavens translated, companying and no power of genius, no depth of erudition, can help communing with the realities of glory, which us to a saving knowledge of their contents. Not, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of indeed, that there is any deficiency in the Reveman conceived.
lation itself: to suppose so, would be as absurd as II. With this devout gratitude must be conjoined, for a blind man to maintain that the sun did not A HUMBLING CONVICTION OF our own INABILITY shine, because he was unable to discern its splenESTIMATE THE VALUE, OR SUBMIT dour. The defect is in ourselves: we
are by TO THE TEACHINGS, OF THE WORD of God. This nature spiritually blind, “having the understandconviction is indispensably requisite, God having ing darkened, and being alienated from the life thus declared the constitution of his gracious go- of God, through the ignorance that is in us, bevernment, and the mode of his merciful procedure : cause of the blindness of our hearts.” “ He resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit humble," James iv. 6, 1 Pet. v. 5. And surely of God, because they are foolishness unto him; the disposition of mind of which we are now neither can he know them, because they are spiritspeaking, is one most befitting persons who are ually discerned.” But these declarations do not
stand alone; they are accompanied by an assurance,
that "he which is spiritual discerneth all things :" - Irving's Orations for the Oracles of Coll, p. 17.
and our blessed Lord appeals to us, “ If yç, being
eril, know how to give good gifts to your child and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him," dren, how much more shall your heavenly Father James i. 5. And we may assure ourselves that give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him ?" no one, reading under the influence of such prinWhile men are entertaining so high a conceit of ciples, and the exercise of such devotion, shall themselves, as to imagine that divine wisdom is fail of his reward. Every annunciation of the atainable by the aid of their own unassisted Eternal will be sealed upon his heart, and be reason, they are neglecting the chief means which reflected in his temper and conduct. Humbly God has appointed for securing it, and remain seeking to God for wisdom, and relying upon the datitute of any other compass to direct them, in word of his promise for grace to consecrate it to the perilous voyage of life, than their own change- practical purposes, his word will become to such alle fancy. Is it surprising, that they should be an one the divine seed, giving birth to “ the fruits constantly in danger of making "shipwreck ?" of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, to They may read, and dispute, and put their inge- the praise and glory of God,” Phil. i. 11. nuity to the rack; but they will still remain igno- IV. THE SCRIPTURES MUST BE READ WITH A rant of the very rudiments of the gospel. The FREEDOM FROM ALL UNDUE BIAS OF SENTIMENT, prayer of faith, however, offered from the humble AND WITH AN UPRIGHT INTENTION OF SUBMITTING and contrite heart of one who has learned to sit TO THE WHOLE WILL of God. Deekly at the feet of Jesus, will never fail to 1. Where this is not found, all efforts will be lost; unlock the sacred treasury of heaven, and to enrich and greatly it is to be feared that many, in whose the happy supplicant with that inestimable pearl hearts God has excited a desire for divine knowof great price—that which is “ more precious than ledge, suffer themselves to be deprived of the rubies, and with which all things in the world object of their labour and prayer, by not carefully are not to be compared." It is the peculiar office attending to this rule. Pre-occupied with some of the Holy Spirit to “ lead men into all truth.” favourite notions, which are fondly cherished as Most justly, therefore, did Luther, in commencing the doctrines of the Bible, that book is resorted to, his career of triumph over the ignorance and rather for arguments to confirm and support these superstition of popery, thus express himself : previously acquired sentiments, than to learn, with “ The sacred writings are not to be understood simplicity and without reserve, the whole will of but by that Spirit by whom they were written; God. Is there not reason to think, that there are which Spirit is never more powerful and energetic, but few, comparatively, who can adopt, in the than when He accompanies the serious perusal of integrity of their heart, the confession of the those writings which lie himself has dictated. great but humble Boyle : “ I use the Scripture, Setting aside an implicit dependance on human not as an arsenal, to be resorted to only for arms writings, let us strenuously adhere to the Scriptures and weapons to defend this party, or defeat its alone. In perfect accordance with these senti- enemies; but as a matchless temple, where I dements, was the practice of the holy Psalmist, than light to be, to contemplate the beauty, the symwhom no man, perhaps, has ever formed a juster metry, and the magnificence of the structure, and conception of the value and blessedness of God's to increase my awe, or excite my devotion to the truth. The devout aspirations of his heart are Deity there preached and adored ?" There is, in embodied in the beautiful compositions of his consequence of the fall of man, a haughty spirit pen. “ Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold of independence so inseparably allied to our moral Fondrous things out of thy law :" “ Teach me constitution, that we are more disposed to bring thy statutes :" “ Make me to understand the way the truth of God to the level of our finite reason, of thy precepts,” Ps. cxix. Such were his con- than to receive it with that humility which our rictions of the necessity of divine illumination, Lord inculcated, when he said, “Except ye be for the purpose of understanding the written converted, and become as little children, ye cannot word. Such, also, were the convictions and prac- enter into the kingdom of heaven;" a temper of tice of the prophets and apostles, notwithstanding mind to which the apostle also alludes, when he that they were favoured with extraordinary reve- speaks of our becoming fools,” in order that we lations from on high. No man, who is truly may be made wise. From this bitter root has grateful to God for the revelation of his will, and proceeded much of that hostility with which a who also feels his own inability rightly to under- simple declaration of the doctrines of Christianity stand that revelation, will fail to profit by these has in every age been met, as well as those various illustrious examples. He will thankfully avail ramifications of false doctrine which frequently himself of the advice of one who knew how to harass the seemingly penetrating, but really perestimate its value: “If any man lack wisdom, let plexed and vacillating, mind. Much also of the him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, theological warfare which has been maintained
among those who have been agreed in the funda- | God, when I cast my eyes on that vast ocean, mental tenets of vital godliness, and into the lists when I consider that immense all, nothing asof which the best of men have sometimes entered, tonishes me, nothing staggers me, nothing seems has had its origin in the same cause.
How com- to me inadmissible, how incomprehensible soever mon is it to see even persons possessing piety, so
be. When the subject is divine, I am fondly attached to particular systems of doctrine, ready to believe all, to admit all, to receive all, as to make no scruple of bending, by a laboured provided I be convinced it is God himself who explanation, any text which does not seem to speaks to me, or any one on his part. After this, favour their preconceived opinions, and thus re- I am no longer astonished that there are three fusing to embrace “ the whole counsel of God !** distinct persons in one divine essence; one God, If such persons were deeply affected with right and yet a Father, a Son, and a Holy Spirit. Either conceptions of the inconceivable greatness of that religion must tell us nothing about God, or what Being by whose inspiration the Scriptures were it tells us must be beyond our capacities; and, in given, they would not easily fall into snares such surveying even the borders of this immense ocean, as these. They would be certain that the perfect it must needs exhibit a vast extent in which our understanding of many of the subjects revealed feeble sight is lost. But what surprises me, what in the sacred writings, especially whatever relates staggers me, what affrights me, is to see a diminuto their great Author, is far beyond the province tive creature, a contemptible man, a little ray of of the human intellect. Every attempt to fathom, light glimmering through a few feeble organs, by our limited reason, the deep things of the Most argue a point with the Supreme Being; oppose High, or to reconcile with systematic nicety par- that Intelligence who sitteth at the helm of the ticular points which, though clearly revealed, may world ; question what He affirms ; dispute what not appear to our contracted view perfectly ac- He determines; appeal from His decisions; and cordant with each other, or with our idea of what even after God has given him evidence, reject is right and befitting the Almighty, must be utterly all doctrines that are above his capacity. Enter vain and futile. Humility, contrition of spirit, into thy nothingness, mortal creature! What steady faith, implicit confidence, a disposition to madness fills thee! How dost thou dare, thou receive, in its unsophisticated meaning, all that who art but a point-thou whose essence is but an God
atom because he says it ;—these are the disposays,
- to measure thyself with the Supreme sitions which become man when his Maker con- Being; with Him who fills heaven and earth; descends to be his instructor, and in the exercise with Him whom the heaven, even the heaven of of which, alone, can we make any profitable at- heavens, cannot contain ? Canst thou by searching tainments in spiritual knowledge. If we are will find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty ing to construe the words of a human author in to perfection?”* their plain and obvious signification, surely we
2. But the evil is not confined to those presumpought not to refuse to do so with regard to Him tuous persons who would reduce the truths of that “speaketh from heaven." This sentiment is revelation to the level of their own intellect, and very beautifully expressed by Saurin in one of his impiously offer their counsel to Him about whose
“I freely grant,” says hr, “ that had I word we are speaking. The picture which has consulted my own reason only, I could not have been drawn by an eloquent writer, of the too discovered some of the mysteries of the gospel. common practice of professing Christians, is not Nevertheless, when I think on the grandeur of less faithful, we fear, than it is humiliating and
distressing. "The points of the faith we have
been called on to defend, or which are reputable • " There are few, indeed, who approach the interpretation of with our party, assume in our esteem an importthe New Testament with minds uncorrupted and unprejudiced. ance disproportionate to their importance in the The greater part have already imbibed certain opinions. Some word, which we come to relish chiefly when it have become habituated to the ancient formulæ of theologians ; others have learned to cast off all restraints, and are wonder: goes to sustain them, and the Bible is hunted for fully delighted in the exercise of their own ingenuity. One party arguments and texts of controversy which are are led astray by the authority of some theological system; treasured up for future service. The solemn stillthe other, by the most recent form of philosophy. All, in short, ness which the soul should hold before her Maker, forsake the plain and simple path, and have recourse to art in searching after truth. That rectitude of purpose, therefore, so favourable to meditation and rapt communion which sees and comprehends the truth directly and without with the throne of God, is destroyed at every turn, evasion, is exhibited by few, in the interpretation of the New Testament. And hence it naturally happens, that as such interpreters are themselves wanting in simplicity, this virtue is also absent in their interpretations."— Professor Tittman, in • Saurin's Sermons, vol. i. p. 78. – Christian Observer, vul. Bibl. Repos., No. 3.
IX. p. 597.