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by Him. There are also, in different countries, and in China (this country) pretensions to miraculous conceptions, and divine incarnations, and to revelations sent down from the gods above; some persons have hastily concluded that the proper inference from these facts is, that all these pretensions are equally false ; but this inference, which is put into the mouths of philosophers, seems as inconclusive and unphilosophical an inference as that put into the mouths of the vulgar, that these pretensions are all equally true. The fair inference, in my humble opinion, is, that one God, one Saviour, one divine revelation, one way of salvation is true, and all the rest are imitations or counterfeits.
But what! says the feeling doubting mind, shall we suppose that all the millions of human beings around us, in pagan lands, who know not the true way of salvation, cannot possibly be saved! I affirm it not; I deny not the possibility of salvation to any nation. The Judge of all the earth will do right; justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne, mercy and truth are ever before his face. The principle which suggests that to whom much is given, of them much will be required, is equally true conversely; to whom little is given, of them will little be required.
It is not our duty to govern and judge the world; that must be left to God. And it is unreasonable for any sinful man to reject the salvation of God, because he is ignorant whether God will save or condemn others; or because he is ignorant how God will convey salvation to those who have not had the same full exposition of the way of salvation that he has had. In a cavilling spirit, similar to this, probably it was, that, as is recorded in the New Testament, a man said to Jesus, “Are there many that be saved ?" to which question he received no direct answer, but one that deeply concerned himself, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.” Do thou, instead of speculating about the probabilities of others being saved, be in good earnest to avail thyself of the salvation which is provided for, and made known to thee. They that come to the Saviour, he will in no wise cast out.
And finally, my brethren, let me now say,
“to you is the word of this salvation sent," and it is your duty to receive it with joy, to exhibit its effects in a virtuous and pious life, and to promulgate it to others. Yes! promulgate it to others—Eat not your spiritual morsel alone, live not secluded from the world, studying only your own edification and comfort; but since you have freely received, freely give. Even Chinese moralists inculcate the duty which requires every one who loves and practices good morals, to diffuse the principles of those morals amongst their kindred, and neighbours, and mankind. And to effect this end, some of them advise and exhort people, when they think them wrong; and print, at their own expense, what they consider good books, and give them away. They pronounce heaven's displeasure on those who omit the diffusion of good principles. And this sentiment of theirs, suggested by the remaining light of the divine law written on man's heart, is perfectly in accordance with the second table of God's law, “Love thy neighbour as thyself," and it condemns the selfishness of many seemingly pious Christians, whose practice evinces a regard only to their own spiritual improvement, and an almost total neglect of their neighbours? instruction and salvation. Oh, that while we look to Jesus alone for justification, our eyes may be fixed on the law of God as a constant rule of llfe; and may we ever seek excellence and bliss in an entire conformity to that eternal rule.
DELIVERED TO AN EUROPEAN AUDIENCE, IN THE WAREHOUSE OF A
PAGĄN CHINESE, NOVEMBER 23, 1822.
ROM. VII. 14.
“ The Law is Spiritual."
A law is a rule of action, given by power, or by a just authority. The law of which we shall to-day speak, is the law given by the great Creator to human creatures. When he formed the vast universe, he gave laws to matter and to motion, to things animate and inanimate, to the incalculable variety of organized beings which fill the earth, the sea, the air; be gave. laws to suns and to systems of starry worlds; to angels and to man. The preservation of the order and harmony of the vast universe, depends on obedience or conformity to those laws. In the physical world, the law was impressed upon matter; and in the moral world, the law of God was written upon man's heart. But man, by transgression, fell, and the heart became depraved, and the letters of God's law scarcely legible; the adversary of mankind induced a disregard of, and a disobedience to the law, with a perversion of the reasoning faculty, and beclouded the perception of truth; in consequence of which, the law of God was misinterpreted, and wrested, so as to be made to sanction things it really and originally, did not. To restore the knowledge of the divine law in our world, heaven was pleased, at different times, and in divers manners, to grant reiterated elucidations of the law of God to man by direct revelation ; and this revelation, in the usual way of the diffusion of knowledge, by
tradition and books, has preserved that portion of acquaintance with the divine law, which is possessed, in different degrees, amongst the several nations of mankind.
Now, reason, honestly exercised, can ascertain much of the original law, and man, having what we call the light of nature, is by no means left without law; still no system of morality or ethics, merely reasoned out by the human mind, can ever be set up as of equal authority with the divinely revealed law, contained in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, nor does any other code of morals contain so clear and so accurate a preceptive rule of human duty.
Of the right of any one to make laws, that of our Creator is most indisputable. That his laws are designed for man's happiness, is most surely inferred from the divine benignity; God is love : His tender mercies are over all his works. That God's laws, had they been obeyed by man, would have ensured the happiness designed, is certain, from the infinite wisdom of the Law-giver. He must have made the means adequate to the end. These propositions require not any laboured proof; it is self-evident that the Almighty Creator has a right to prescribe laws to his creatures, and that his laws must be "holy, just, and good.”
The point which our text requires us to illustrate and enforce is, that “the law is spiritual.” The word spiritual denotes that which has a relation to spirit, to the Divine Being, and to the soul of man; to angels and the heavenly world. The word itself, apart from its connexion, does not denote either moral good or evil; for bad angels, or devils, as well as good angels, are spirits; but they are unclean spirits, and their deeds constitute spiritual wickedness. Spiritual is understood in contradistinction to what is material, the acts of the mind in contradistinction from the acts of the body. The faculties of the mind, or soul, the will, the affections, and so on, in contradistinction from the organs of the body, the senses, the touch, the taste, and so forth. Thus also spiritual and carnal, flesh and spirit, are opposite terms; resembling which distinction is
the “ Heavenly principle and human passion" of Chinese moralists,
Human laws can take cognizance only for the actions of men; of theft, of murder, of fraud, of rebellion. Whenever they attempt to legislate for the operations of mind, they quit their proper sphere, and are ever liable to err. They cannot detect, and therefore cannot punish malice, so long as there is no overt act. An implacable enmity and desire to murder may exist in a human breast; but so long as no attempt is made to kill, human laws cannot apply; for spirit, or mind, is beyond their cognizance.
In contradistinction from such laws, it is said in our text, that the law, viz. the law which God has given as the rule by which man must be judged, is spiritual. This law also indeed commands what is right in action, and forbids what is wrong; but it does much more, it is a rule for the “thoughts and intents of the heart;" its precepts reach to the will, directing what man ought to choose, and what he ought not; to the affections, what man should love and wbat he should hate, what he should desire and what he should abhor, what he should reverence and what he should despise ; and it reaches to man's motives, and requires not only rectitude of conduct, but also rectitude of principle and intention; not only the honest action, but also the purely honest design; not only the charitable deed, but likewise the benevolent heart.
Moreover, one half of that law, of which we speak, refers solely to spiritual things, to spiritual vice or spiritual virtue; to man's duty to his Maker, who is the Great Spirit, the Father of Spirits, and from whom the hunian spirit is derived. In this class of man's duties, merely “bodily service,” the bended knee, the serious look, the solemn accents of audible prayer, profit nothing; unless the soul, the spirit, be there, the spiritual law is violated, and it condemns the transgressor. Let us take the Decalogue, and look over its precepts, remembering that the law is spiritual, and the subject will thereby be illustrated. And to begin, take the
First commandment, " Thou shalt have no other gods