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But experience must have taught the conscientious and reflecting Jew, that though the law might require such an impeccable obedience from him, it was far beyond his power to render it. Hence, if the condition on which the promises of the law, whatsoever they were, depended, became void, the promises were rendered void also. Nor did the law require a general obedience merely, but a particular one; nor an obedience in greater matters, with a considerate indulgence for possible disobedience in smaller ; but whosoever should keep the rest of its injunctions, however well, yet offend only in one the least respect, it held him to be guilty of all9. In whatever proportion, then, a subject of the law fell short of the absolute standard of the obedience required by it; he not only fell short of the reward appropriated to perfection, but became liable to the punishment denounced against a total neglect, or repeated transgressions of duty.
Instead, then, of the pleasing prospect of a readyassured acceptance with God, what had the Jew to look for, but a certain fearful expectation of judginent to come, tempered by nothing but the possible, though uncertain, hope of the mercy and free grace of God? “ In many things we offend all,” would be his daily conviction; and “ If thou, Lord ! should“ est be extreine to mark what is done amiss, who
may abide it ?” his daily confession. Now this was that state of the conscience, to which the Law was intended to conduct, preparatory to the manifestation of the Gospel; this was that practical dilemma, by reducing its subjects to which, it was truly their
9 James ii, 10.
“ schoolmaster to bring them to Christ.” The merit of an imputed righteousness is the only expedient left to supply the defect of obedience and consequent perfection, on their part, who have been tried, and found incompetent to attain to righteousness of themselves. Salvation by faith in the blood of Christ, freely and unconditionally proposed, was the only means under such circumstances, for restoring the transgressor of a just and holy commandment, to favour with God, and peace with himself; making him easy about the past, and for giving him confidence about the future. Such an offer would need no recommendation but the sense of that utter hopelessness, to which those were conscious of having been reduced, who had previously been forced to trust to, and depend upon themselves. Thus was the covenant of works a most necessary and effectual discipline, preparatory to the covenant of grace --to which even those moral agents required to be beforehand subjected, who should one day be relieved from it by the covenant of grace, if they must be taught the value and magnitude of the blessing in reserve for them, and must be induced to welcome it as it deserved, when offered unto them. Without first tasting of the bitterness of legal bondage, the sweets of gospel liberty would not have been relished, as they ought. Had not men been experimentally made sensible of their inability to save themselves, what should have convinced them of the necessity of a Saviour and deliverer, independent of themselves? what should have taught them to greet the offer of salvation through faith, with joy and gratitude, with eagerness and impatience—as the thing most needed in
their situation; as the greatest of favours which could be proposed to their acceptance ? ?
The propriety of replying to the question, Who is my neighbour ? by a parable, rather than by a definition, or in any other direct way, was alluded to before. Two things are certain; that our Saviour neither satisfied the doubts of the inquirer in the present instance, by a simple, general answer to his question, though such might evidently have been returned ; nor yet subjoined the moral of his own example, but left the interrogator to draw it himself, and so to answer his own question.
r When the young ruler, who put the question to our Saviour on the second of the occasions which we have considered, declared to him that he had kept all those things, (meaning the substance of those two commandments,) from his youth up; we cannot understand the assertion of more than a sincere wish and endeavour to keep them: of his actual success in keeping them, perhaps the words afford no proof. Besides, most of the particulars just before recited, were rather negative than positive duties; rather such things as were to be avoided, than such things as were to be done. Now it is one thing not to be vicious; and another to be virtuous. A man may never have been guilty of positive crimes, and yet not be remarkable for particular goodness. For this reason, the word epulaçáunv, in the observations of the young man, ought rather to be rendered, “I have guarded “myself from ; I have abstained from ; I have avoided ;” (which is its proper sense ;) than, “ I have kept”—which would have required épúðaga. But in any case, our Saviour who best knew the extent of his performances, and the degree of his proficiency, shews plainly by his reply to him, that he was not yet perfect ; that something was still necessary to make him so: which something was to part with his temporal possessions for the sake of Christ; to give them to the poor, and to trust to be rewarded in heaven ; to take up the cross, and to follow him. Alas, for
human nature ! these seem to be conditions much within the power of an aspirant after perfection, and readily to have been complied with. Yet they were more than he could bring himself to submit to, who had just boasted that he had never fallen short of legal righteousness.
Upon questions of practice, a well-chosen case in point does more to illustrate the rule of duty, and to explain the line of conduct to be pursued under the necessary circumstances, than any general and abstract statement. An example bears to a precept the same sort of relation, as a picture to a description. Both the former convey clearer and stronger conceptions of the particular idea which is desired to be impressed, than the latter. The meaning of an action cannot be mistaken, nor the inference to which it leads, evaded. An example, considered as a matter of fact, supplies premises which have the force of necessity, and suggests conclusions which come with the power of a demonstration. General principles, to be rendered available as rules of conduct, would still require to be specially applied in particular cases; and in making that application of them, there would be room for both intentional and unintentional confusion and mistake. A single instance, on the ground of analogy or the argument a pari, may be abundantly sufficient to serve as a specimen of every other case of like kind with itself: while, for the practical end and purpose designed by all such illustrations in common, it is best that the principle which applies to the class of these cases in general, should be inferred from the one instance adduced, which both ascertains its truth, and shews its application. The abstract principle is thus inculcated, and its practical operation is shewn at the same time, and while the former is most distinctly conveyed to the understanding, the latter is not less forcibly recommended to imitation; and that too from the most engaging and persuasive of motives, the sensible experience of its good and beneficial effects.
The conclusions which we draw for ourselves, are generally the most agreeable to our self love; the most convincing, and the most likely to be remembered. Few minds would be willing to receive instruction, with an absolute submission of their own judgment or understanding, to that of another person.
Their pride would be offended at seeming to be so treated, as if they were incapable of thinking or reasoning in any degree for themselves. This prejudice is removed, when a certain deference appears to be shewn to their own opinions. The same degree of information may be communicated to them, and they may be just as much indebted to another for it, in this case, as in any other ; but the mode of the communication makes the discovery of the truth in some measure their own, and therefore finds them more favourably disposed to receive it, and more likely permanently to cherish it. They are taught and instructed all the while; but not so, as to be made too sensible of their obligations to their teacher.
If there was any disinclination on the part of the inquirer, or though there might be none in him, if there was a repugnance on the part of others, who might be present at the conversation, to receive the truth on such a question as this, if plainly stated-if it would have shocked the force of ancient prejudice, and done violence to feelings and opinions, long cherished, to be told openly that