Изображения страниц
PDF

of my life More like a desolate and horrid wilderness, than a cultivated garden or a fruitful vineyard. In youth, what sordid gratifications of appetite In manhood, what base compliances with a wicked world!, In both, what shoals of evil inclinations have polluted my heart! what swarms of vain imaginations have debased my thoughts! what frothy and unprofitable words have dropt from my lips | By all which, how have I disobeyed, and how dishonoured God! how have I denied, and how crucified the Lord Jesus Christ! and yet supposed myself all the while to be good enough. . . It is something unaccountable, that a person of my inquisitive disposition should, through the course of so many years, be such an utter stranger to himself. I wonder at my own preposterous folly! To travel into foreign countries, and visit the most renowned cities of Europe, yet never step over the threshold, nor look within the apartments of my own breast: to carry on a correspondence with my friends, even in the remotest nations, and never enter upon a conference, nor hold any intelligence, with my own heart! To inquire after news from the fleet, news from the army, news from the court; yet exercise neither curiosity nor care with regard to the hope of heaven and the concerns of eternity | What egregious misconduct is this a most pernicious error in the economy of religious life.

Sometimes I have cast a transient glance on my out

ward behaviour, but never extended my search to the delinquent, the traitor, the rebel within. And evenmy outward behaviour has been surveyed with as much. erroneous partiality, as superficial levity. It has been compared, not with that exact and sublime standard, the Scriptures of truth; but, as in the case of the selfdeceiving pharisee, with the unjust, extortionate, adulterous practices of some other people; from whence I most unwarrantably concluded, that being not quite so abandoned as the most profligate creatures, my charac-, ter must be good, and my condition safe. But, thanks to your last friendly letter, and the searching expedient it recommended, I am now in a different way of thinking.

It is strange to recollect, and indeed it is shameful to confess, the many artifices which I have used, to put a cheat upon myself. Sometimes I have fancied, that the divine law could never be so strict as to condemn us inexorably, if we continue not in all its precepts: sometimes I have pleaded the infirmity of our nature, and endeavoured to make the works of darkmess appear only as pitiable failings: sometimes I have taken refuge in the excellency of our church, and plumed myself with the borrowed feathers of a religious profession: at other times, I have soothed my conscience to rest by a punctuality of attendance on places, or a zealous attachment to forms; and all this, to seduce, cajole, and betray myself—betray myself, first into a vain conceit of my own endowments; then into a contemptuous disregard of Christ; and at last into eternal destruction. But now I see my guilt, I apprehend my danger, and feel my helpless condition.

Indeed, my Aspasio, I am now convinced that the darkest colours cannot be too dark for the portrait of my spiritual state. I see myself overspread with an habitual depravity, and cannot forbear crying out, with the abashed leper, “Unclean; unclean P". The sacred oracles in no wise misrepresent fallen man when they describe him as “altogether become abominable.” They are far from underrating human works, when they denominate them ‘filthy rags:’t 'rags' they are,

* Levit. xiii. 45. + Job xv. 16. * Isa. lxiv.6. Does not Theron misapply this text? can it be intended to discredit the qualifications of the o Is it not rather a brand set upon the works of the wicked, whose very “sacrifices are an abomination to the Lord?' or a rebuke given to the specious performances of the hypocrite, who is precise in the form, but destitute of the power of godliness? or o it not refer to ritual observances, in contradistinction to mo duties and spiritual accomplishments? Thé disparaging character must not, I think, be confined to ritual observances, because it is expressly said, “all our righteousnesses,” including every kind of religious o: Neither can it be appropriated to the formal hypocrite, much less to the notoriously wicked, because those very persons who are the subject of this assertion, declare in the context, "Lord, we are thy peole; thou art our Father; we shall be saved.” So that it seems tended to stain the pride of all human glory. Besides, the prophet speaks of himself; “We are all as an unclean thing;' which, however strange or unreasonable it may seem, is the very same charge to which he pleads guilty in anif we consider their great imperfection; ‘filthy rags,' if we advert to their manifold defilements. And since the nature of God is so irreconcilably averse to all contamination; since the law of God requires such unspotted perfection, O! “who can stand before this holy Lord God,” in any accomplishments of their own? When I farther reflect, that I have only a very obscure glimpse of the divine purity, and am a mere no

vice in the knowledge of my own heart; how am I.

amazed at the lofty apprehensions which I once farmed concerning the dignity of my nature, and the integrity of my conducts all owing to ignorance, the grossest ignorance of myself and the Scriptures. How do I shudder to think, that in expecting justification from the law, I was resting the welfare of my immortal soul, not on the foundation of a rock, but on the point of a dagger. I was going to the decisive tribunal flushed with the falsest hopes, and charged with a set of glit. tering sins; going, like poor deluded Uriah," not with any valid credentials, but with ‘the ministration of death’s in my hand. Though I cannot but acknowledge the arrogance of these pretensions, yet loth, very loth is my pride to

- -

other place: * Woe is me ! I am undone; for I am a man of unclean lips!” Not that he was defiled with any gross pollutions; nay, he was a saint of the most distinguished lustre; but his eyes had seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.’ He was under the clear manifestations of a God, glorious in holfhess, inflexible injustice, and infinite in all perfections. Amidst these manifestations, the im: purity of his heart and nature was not only apparent but glaring overwhelmed him with abashment, and, till §: was appio in a type, (ksa. vi. 7.) filled him with terror,

In such circumstances, and under such views, all our moral virtues and evangelical graces, all our exercises of devotion and acts of charity, will appear both defective and polluted; by no means proportioned to the demands of the law, nor sufficient for our recommendation to the supreme Lawgiver; no more than a few tattered rags can claim the character, or, perform the services, of a complete suit; no more than a few fi o Tags are : ore." the bride for her nuptials, or the courtier for a birth... But there is a righteousness—blessed be divine grace!—s lessly pure and consummately excellent: a righteousness which answers "h that the Creator requires, and supplies all that the creature needs. To prove this momentous§ and to display this unspeakable gift, is the design of the following sheets,

- # i Sam, vi. 20.

+ 2 Sam. xi. 14, 15. - t2 Cor. iii. 9.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small]

renounce the pleasing absurdity. Self-love has searched, and searched again, for something excellent: it would fain make a better appearance, and can hardly brook the humiliation of imploring all “sub forma pauperis.” With what reluctance is a sinner brought to confess himself sinful in every duty, sinful in every capacity 1. Strange perverseness but the charge is undeniable; however unwilling, I must plead guilty. “Thou art weighed in the balances and found wanting,’t is evidently written on all I am, all I have, all I do. And if I am thus defective, even in my own estimation, if I am utterly condemned at the bar of my own conscience; “what then shall I do when God riseth up 2 and when he visiteth, what shall I answer him 't

I now see the necessity of an imputed righteousness: without some such object for my trust, I am undone. I long therefore to hear your arguments in its behalf; and I must declare to you, if it can be satisfactorily proved from the Scriptures, it is the most comfortable doctrine in the world, and worthy of all acceptation. .

Aletter upon this subject would be a singular favour, and, I hope, an equal blessing to

Your obliged and affectionate
- THE RON.

LETTER III.

A. proves the point from the Liturgy—the Articles—the floo of the Church of England, and the Writings of the athers.

- Aspasio to Theron.

DEAR thenon, t • - i. Though all your letters give me pleasure, none was ever so highly pleasing as your last. I look upon it with the same secret joy, as a compassionate physician observes some very favourable symptoms in the crisis of a beloved patient's distemper. - - *

* That is, under the character of a_poor destitute, or as a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

what you ask I shall, without any farther preface, attempt to execute. If my attempt proves satisfactory to your judgment, I am sure it will be the most likely means of healing your conscience, and calming your fears. When we perceive the odious depravity of our nature, when we discern the horrible iniquity of our lives, and are sensible of that tremendous wrath and everlasting vengeance, which are due to such guilty creatures; then nothing can be found that will speak effectual peace; nothing that will administer solid comfort, but only the vicarious sufferings and the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. To this purpose speaks one of the wisest and best of spiritual guides: ‘Hassin abounded ?’ as undoubtedly it has in our heart and our life; * grace has much more abounded,” in the obedience and the merits of our Redeemer. Nay, “has sin reigned?” exerted its malignant power in the most extensive and most destructive manner, rendering us subject ‘unto death,” both temporal and eternal? “even so has grace-reigned;’ exerted its benign efficacy, and in a manner yet more triumphant; not only rescuing us from guilt and ruin, but restoring us “to everlasting life’ and glory; and all this through the ‘righteousness,' the complete meritorious righteousness, brought in “by Jesus Christ our Lord.” You inquire after the proofs of this imputed righteousness. From a multitude I shall select a few ; sufficient, I hope, to make it appear, That this is the declared doctrine of our church, and the avowed belief of her most eminent divines—that it is copiously revealed through the whole Scriptures; revealed in many express passages, and deducible from a variety of instructive similitudes. Hear the language of our Common Prayer, in a very affecting and solemn address to the Almighty: “We do not presume to come to this thy table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness.' If we may not, if we dare not, rely on our own righteousness, when we approach the eucharistic table, much less may we depend upon it when we are summoned to the decisive tribunal. Should you ask, On what are we to * Rom. v. 21.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »