Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

cerned to know, but what is only taught in the school of Christ. Even Porphyry, who was so determined a foe to the christian religion, and so perfectly acquainted with the most refined and mysterious doctrines of paganism, says, “ he had not learned that any universal method of liberating the soul, had yet been discovered by the wisdom of philosophy*.”

2. Let us then endeavour to relieve this darkness of philosophy by the light of revelation,

All beings, in their original state, were perfect in their kind, without the least defect, moral or physical. After the formation of man, God is represented as looking down upon his works with complacency, and pronouncing them very good, as answerable to the great idea that existed in his own eternal mind. Man more eminently bore the image of his Maker, and approached him with filial delight and confidence. Thus was he constituted in honour and happiness, but he continued not; he soon incurred the

See Aug. de Civit Dei. Lib. x. cap. 32.

TUQ.

divine displeasure by his disobedience, and exposed himself and" his posterity to known and unknown evils. . .

In this state of ruin, God again looked down upon man, and looked down in mercy as well as judginent. In the sentence pronounced upon the tempter was conveyed an intimation of favour to the human race, through the seed of the woman ; by which šeed we are authorized, from subsequent revelations, to understand Jesus' the Son of God. 5. What would have been the future destiny of man, or whether he would have been brought into existence at all, had not à gracious provision been made for his recovery upon the foresight of his lapse; as it hath not, that I know of, been expressly revealed, it would seem to me presumption in any man to determine. God himself only can tell what it would have become him to do in a conjuncture which never existed, and which was never intended to exist.

What concerns us to be acquainted with, is our present actual situation ; that we no

longer stand before God upon the ground of creation but of redemption; that all the help and hope of which we participate, is derived to us only through a Mediator; and that as we improve or neglect our advantages, we shall be dealt with in the final judgment.

If, therefore, every good which now is derived to man is in virtue of the mediation of Christ, then moral liberty, which is a principal one, must flow to us in this channel. In vain would you expect to find it in the Stoa, or the Lyceum, in the groves of the Academy, or the gardens of Epicurus; or in any of our modern and improved schools of deism and legislative philosophy: The gospel contains the only scheme, and is the only proclamation of true liberty that the world was ever acquainted with;. a liberty from guilt and tyrannic passions ; a liberty to obey the laws of piety, and the dictates of uncorrupted nature; a liberty beyond all others to be welcomed with cordial gratulations. When the Greeks were restored to the enjoyment of their ancient laws and immunities by the Roman general

Flaminius, their acclamations, as Plutarch tells us, were heard out at sea, and the birds, which were passing at the time, stunned with the noise, dropped down in the midst of the assembly, who unanimously hailed Flaminius as the saviour and defender of Greece. Yet how trivial was this proclamation of the proconsul, compared with that made by the Saviour of the world, when, in the synagogue of Nazareth, he stood up and read from the prophet Isaias, The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord*. Were these tidings uniVersally published, and duly credited, the whole world could not fail to unite in acclamations of gladness. !

As nothing so much dignifies our nature as moral liberty, we might chiefly expect to find it among those, who, by their rank in

* Luke, ch. iv. ver. 16.21.

society, are taught to aspire after whatever is laudable and excellent. Yet such an expectation is not justified by fact; neither the abodes of splendor nor of greatness, neither courts nor senates, have hitherto been the favourite haunts of that freedom, which implies an exemption from the power of sensuality, avarice, and ambition.

It is however the glory of christianity, that it can liberate the mind in all exterior circumstances; in the highest elevation of power and fortune, and in the lowest condition of bondage. Daniel displayed this nobility of spirit amidst all the fascination of worldly greatness, when seated next the imperial throne; he displayed too the same spirit in a den of lions. Paul and Silas, when thrust into prison at Philippi, and fastened in the stocks, by singing praises to God at midnight, showed that no shackles could bind the inner man*. And how superior to king Agrippa does the former appear, when, pleading his cause before him, he uttered this fervent wish: I would to Godi

*. Acts, chap. xvi.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »