Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

sternation at the sight of a hand writing upon the wall*.

3. Nor is it uncommon, in this philosophic age, to meet with men who seek the same relief in their metaphysical or moral speculations; like those unhappy spirits described in Paradise Lost, who, apart from the vulgar crowd that endeavoured to divert their griefs by musical strains, and various feats of war and agility,

“Sat on a hill, retired,
In thoughts more elevate, and reason'd high
Of providence, fore-knowledge, will, and fate ;
Fix'd fate, free-will, fore-knowledge absolute;
And found no end, in wand'ring mazes lost.
Of good and evil much they argu’d then,
Of happiness and final misery,
Passion and apathy, and glory and shame;
Vain wisdom all, and false philosophy;
Yet with a pleasing sorcery, could charm
Pain for a while, or anguish, and excite
Fallacious hope.”

Of the metaphysician I shall take more particular notice in a subsequent section. Of the moralist, who imagines that virtue alone is a sure recommendation to divine favour, and consequently is a sufficient balm for a wounded conscience, I would briefly observe, that if in his idea of virtue he include piety, it will be granted him, that a man of virtue is entitled both to divine favour and to inward peace. But, after this concession, he inust allow me to insist that no one, while he continues proudly to reject the aids held out to him by revelation, will become, in the sense here stated, a man of virtue. And if, in defiance of apostles and prophets, he should still presume to wrap himself in his own excellence and sufficiency, I must leave him, for the present, to the grave and monitory rebuke of a celebrated wit and patriot: “ Whoever,” says he, “ to the prejudice of our Saviour's merit, and debasing the operation of the Holy Ghost, shall attribute too much to his own natural vigour and performances, will be in some danger of finding his virtue perniciosa ad salutem *.

* Dan. y. 5.

* See And. Marvel's Rehearsal transprosed. Partii. p. 251.

4. It is a principal design of every species of religion, whether true or false, to hold out relief to a guilty conscience. All the penances and pilgrimages, the rites and sacrifices that have been practised in different countries and ages, have chiefly had this end in view; an end far beyond their virtue or efficacy to attain, and which, as scripture strongly warrants us to hold, could only be accomplished by the sacrifice of Christ. This is the great and only consideration, on account of which those who truly repent and believe, obtain pardon of sin, and are accepted to divine favour. For since our best virtues and graces are imperfect, and cannot stand the rigour of divine justice, they must need allowance and forgiveness; so that the best man in the world, in his best performances, must be justified freely by grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus ; in whom, as a propitiatory sacrifice, God appears conspicuously just, while he justifies the penitent believer.

Here then is a solid foundation laid for peace of conscience; and other foundation can no man lay. To depend on virtue without pardon; or on pardon without respect to the atonement of Christ, and before a prevailing principle of piety and virtue is wrought in the soul, is vain and fallacious. For as the scripture declares, that, without shedding of blood there is no remission, so, in the order of bestowment, it instructs us to consider this blessing as subsequent to repentance and conversion * ; or to that interior change, whether produced in a longer or shorter time, or in whatever period of life, by which God is restored to his supremacy in the human heart.

II. Peace of conscience is a blessing intimately connected with holy and well-re

* The following passages may be sufficient to justify the order here stated." Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” Acts üü. 19.--" That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations.” Luke xxiv. 47.-" Him hath God exalted-to give repentance - to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” Acts v. 31.—So in St. Paul's commission to the Gentiles : “ To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of satan unto God, that they might receive forgiveness of sins.” Acts xxvi. 18.

gulated affections; and both together constitute a solid ground of happiness in all conditions and in all circumstances.

1. The connection betwixt peace of conscience and right affections will be evident, if we consider, that as nothing tends more to throw the mind into commotion than conscious guilt, nothing can more conduce to inward tranquillity than pardon and reconcilement. It is remarked by naturalists, that oil poured into a stormy sea calms its agitation *; which is analogous to the case before us; for nothing more powerfully tends to compose a stormy mind than an infusion of divine peace. This blessing is the purchase of our Redeemer, who is eminently styled our peace + ; and to him we must look for it. In the mean time, it is indisputably our duty, by every method in our power, and by exerting that measure of divine help already afforded us, to check the disorder of our bosoms, and thus to in

.* This is remarked by Plutarch in his Natural Questions.

t Ephes. ii. 14.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »