« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
integrity of our conduct, or even for the purity of our fancy. - “O ye blooming walks and flowery lawns, surrounded with dewy landscapes! how often have patriots and heroes laid aside the burden of power, and stole away from the glare of grandeur to enjoy themselves” in your composed retreats || Ye mossy couches and fragrant bowers, skirted with cooling cascades how many illustrious personages, after all their glorious toil for the public good, have sought an honourable and welcome repose in your downy lap!? Ye venerable oaks, and solemn groves; woods that whisper to the quivering gale; cliffs that overhang the darkened flood; who can number the sages and saints, that have devoted the day to study, or resigned a vacant hour to healthy exercise beneath your silvan porticoes and waving arches? that, far from the dull impertinence of man, have listened to the instructive voice of God, and contemplated the works of his adorable hand, amidst your moss-grown cells and rocky shades. How inelegant, or how insensible is the mind, which has no awakened lively relish for these sweet recesses, and their exquisite beauties to ** But whither am I carried ? Is not this rural enthusiasm? I find myself talking to trees, and forget the momentous question which waits for our decision. Here then let my rhapsody cease, and my inquiry proceed. Does it betray a want of true delicacy to be insensible of na-. ture's charms ? My Aspasio thinks it argues as wrong a taste in practical divinity, not to acquiesce in the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. To this doctrine I have been always extremely averse. I set myself to oppose it with objections drawn from the reason of things, and from various passages of Scripture, to all which my friend replied; and though I was scarcely convinced, yet I was silenced by his answers. * . * —Mihime reddentis agelli, says Horace of his little country seat. , , f, Virgil was so smitten with the amiableness of these scenes, jok* them as a habitation for happy spirits in the regions
Lucis habitamus opacis,
I pleaded for the sufficiency of our sincere obedience, especially when accompanied with repentance, and recommended by the merits of Christ; neither was this attempt successful. His arguments, somewhat like the flaming sword planted at the entrance of paradise, “turned every way,” and precluded all access to life on the foot of our own duty. At length Aspasio quitted the defensive, and, attacked me in his turn. He explained the precepts, and enforced the threatenings of the divine law. So exact its tenor, that it demands a perfect and persevering conformity to every injunction;—so extensive its authority, that it reaches the inmost thoughts, and requires obedience, not barely in the actions of the life, but the very intentions of the heart;-so inexorable its severity, that it condemns every the smallest offence, and curses every the least offender. This remonstrance had some of the terror, and almost all the effect of a masked battery. It was quite unexpected, and alarmed me considerably. To push his advantage, he enlarged upon the infinite purity of God; a God glorious in holiness, “who cannot look upon evil' with any connivance, or without the utmost abhorrence; before whom the very heavens are unclean, and who will innowise clear the guilty. To complete his victory, he played off the doctrine of original guilt, and original depravity; that, besides , the imputation of Adam’s apostacy; besides the commission of numberless iniquities, we were born in sin; are by nature enmity against God; in all our faculties corrupt; in every imagination evil; and, even when renewed by grace, are still, still tainted with some base remains of the old leprosy.
* Gen. iii. 24.
+ “Even when renewed.” For a display of this important truth, and a remedy against this stubborn evil, let me refer the reader to a little treatise published by Dr. Qwen, and entitled ‘The Nature, Power, deceit, and Prevaiency of the Remainders of indweiling Sin in Believers.” The author's pen is indeed a dissecting knife, Qes deep into his subject, and lays open this plague of the heart. e, a workman that need not be ashamed, he demonstrates his point from the unerring word of God, and the acknowledged experience of Christians. Like a compassionate as well as able physician, he all along prescribes the proper antidote; nay, he * After all, he bid me consider, What fruits must spring from such a nature—how they must appear when compared with such a law—what they must deserve when tried before such a God 2 These, I must confess, are very weighty and startling queries. If these representations are true, the face of human affairs carries a most gloomy aspect; or rather, a most dreadful storm is hanging over the children of men. Aspasio urges me to fly, without any delay, to the covert of Christ's meritorious obedience. This, he says, was wrought
out in my name and in my stead; this will be admitted .
both at the throne of grace and the bar of judgment, as my justifying righteousness. This, he adds, opens a way, on God's part, for the largest emanations and most honourable exercise of mercy: on man's part, it founds a title to pardon, to life, and every spiritual blessing. This doctrine, especially in such a connexion, begins to put on a more recommending appearance; my prejudices are really wearing away; I am almost a convert. Aspasio overheard the close of these reflections. Unwilling to interrupt his friend in so serious an inquiry, ‘and desirous to observe the issue of so interesting a debate, he had hitherto concealed himself; but thinking this a favourable minute, he stept forward, and said– Asp. Almost and why not altogether a convert? what should hinder my dear Theron from submitting to so rational a scheme with the most entire acquies
ence What should hinder him from embracing so com. .
fortable a doctrine with the utmost complacency? Why should he not subscribe, both with hand and heart, that divine decree? “their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.” Ther. If, by this doctrine, the claims of the law are answered; if the perfections of God are glorified; if the interests of morality are secured; I must acknowledge, it will be more worthy of acceptance than I could once have imagined. .
shews how the poison may be so overruled by divine grace, and so managed by the watchful patient, as to become medicinal, salutary, and conducive o #. Honeicial purposes.
- sa. W. 7.
Asp, And if all these points are not gained; gained too in the most eminent manner; I solemnly declare, that I will never plead for imputed righteousness more. * . But the claims of the law are all answered; for there is nothing in its sacred injunctions which Christ did not perform, and nothing in its awful threatenings which Christ did not sustain. He fulfilled all its precepts, by an unspotted purity of heart and the most perfect integrity of life. . He exhausted its whole curse when he hung upon the cross, abandoned by his Father, and a bleeding victiin for the sins of his people. This obedieace brings higher honour to the divine law, than it could have received from the uninterrupted duty of Adam and all his posterity, in all their generations. The perfections of God, which were dishonoured by our rebellion, are glorified. He appears, by this method of justification, inconceivably rich in shewing mercy, yet steady, inflexibly steady in executisg vengeance. The sceptre of grace and the sword of justice have each its due exercise, each its full scope. The holiness of the divine nature, and the dignity of the divine government, are not only maintained, but most magnificently displayed. Indeed it is the peculiar excellence of this wonderful expedient, that it renders all the divine attributes supremely venerable, and supremely amiable. . -- - . Ther. But are the interests of morality secured 2 This is what I am strongly inclined to doubt; and, to say the truth, this is now my principal objection to your scheme. Asp. I shall never blame my friend for being vigilant and jealous over the interests of morality. If our doctrine had a malignant aspect on true morality, I would give my voice against it, and use all my endeavours to suppress it; but it is formed with every tendency to awaken the utmost dread of sin, and affect us with the warmest sense of our Creator's love. And is not that the strongest barrier against the encroachments of vice 2 Is not this the sweetest inducement to the practice of virtue? . - *- - I am glad to find that a jealousy for the interests of morality is the chief obstacle in the way of your assent; because I am persuaded, it is much of the same nature with those forbidding and mistaken apprehensions which ourancestors entertained concerning the ocean. They looked upon it as an unsurmountable obstruction to universal society; whereas, it is in fact, the very cement of society, the only means of accomplishing a general intercourse, and the great highway to all the nations of the earth. What is here affirmed, may, on some future occasion, be proved; at present, let me desire you to imagine —rather, may the blessed Spirit enable you to believe, that your sins are expiated through the death of Jesus Christ—that a righteousness is given you, by virtue of which you may have free and welcome access to God, the merit of which you may plead for obtaining all the blessings of time and eternity. Then let me ask, will this alienate your affections from your Almighty Benefactor? Will this irritate evil concupiscence, or send you to carnal gratifications in quest of happiness? quite the reverse. when this faith is wrought in your heart, nothing will be so powerful to produce holy love and willing obedience, to exalt your desires, and enable you to overcome the world. What says the apostle? 'I through the law am dead to the law.” Being made to understand its spirituality and perfection, I have no longer any hope of justification from my own conformity to its precepts. Did this prompt him, did this embolden him, to neglect or violate his duty 4 Hear the sacred writer’s own declaration:—‘I am released from the rigour and bondage of the law; I am directed to Christ for righteousness and salvation, that I may live unto God; that my whole life may be devoted to his honour, who has brought me into a state so delightful, into a liberty so glorious.” Ther. This liberty I am afraid will be of very little service to the licentious and gay world. Asp. I shall be in no pain even for the gay world, if once they cordially receive this grace, and are vitally influenced by this doctrine; which, far from dissolving the least obligation to obedience, or weakening any one principle of piety, adds to every other motive the en* Gal. ii. 29,