Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

in different periods of the church, have arisen as to the doctrine of the fall; the tendency of man to weaken or abuse the scriptural statements of it-to reduce it, on the one hand, to a taint, an infirmity, an effect of bad education chiefly, or bad example; thus fostering the pride and sensuality of man, and inflating him with a fatal presumption on his own powers: on the other hand, to overstate this moral disorder, so as to deny or invalidate the truths just referred to, which spring from his rational and moral nature, and responsibility before God.

The connection of the corruption of man with the entire plan of revelation, the mystery of redemption arising out of it, salvation by the grace of God, justification by faith only in the merits of our Lord and Saviour, regeneration and progressive sanctification by the influences of the Holy Ghost, the sacred persons in the blessed Trinity, and their gracious offices in the scheme of redemption, a disposition to every duty springing from the motives of love and gratitude to God for his unspeakable benefits-all this will burst on the mind of the student of the Bible, in proportion as he attains a full knowledge of this subject. So that he will perceive the corruption of man to be a principle of Christianity, a characteristic which distinguishes it from any other system, and pervades every part of its own-without which all is dark, unintelligible, contradictory; with which all is consistent, holy, efficacious, divine.

The difficulties which rest on this peculiar doctrine will not merely not escape him, but will be

familiar to his mind by repeated examination of the Bible. The entrance of moral evil-the temptation of our first parents-the transmission of original corruption-the affecting state of mankind as lost—will give rise to numerous difficulties, which he will silence by the consciousness of his own guilt and ignorance, and by the consideration that the Bible is contented with stating the fact of our universal degeneracy, without a single hint upon the causes which might determine the divine mind to permit it. Here then he will not only stop, but stop with a thorough understanding of the province and the limits of human inquiry. He will perceive, that the comprehension of a divine scheme, like that of Christianity, may well contain parts which surpass the reason of man; and that submission to this state of things, is, in fact, a test of his obedience and humility, of constant force and perpetual obligation.

In the mean time, our student will continually advance in a knowledge of the sentiments and feelings which in the Scriptures always accompany the declarations relating to our fallen state. The doctrine is there stated, not abstractedly in a single instance, but to promote self-humiliation; as the aggravation of man's sin; as the confession of the contrite heart; as a motive to gratitude for redemption and grace; as a reason for prayer, watchfulness, and dependance on the Holy Spirit. In proportion, therefore, as he studies the doctrine in this practical view, will the uses and ends of it appear to him worthy of the divine Teacher, and essential to the

production of all the most obvious and important designs of Christianity.

But the field of observation which will stretch the widest before him, is the application of this general doctrine to his own heart and character. He will less concern himself, in the first instance, with the effect of it in others; he will have enough to do to trace it in himself; to discover its windings, its hidden course, its tendencies, its operations. And he will be most anxious to follow out this investigation in all its branches, and especially in its effects on his religious sentiments and habits, where it is most latent, and, therefore, most dangerous. A life is too. short for such a study. All the integrity, all the self-examination, all the repeated study of the Scriptures, united with fervent prayer to the supreme Teacher and Author of all illumination, will only suffice to detect the sophistry of this subtle evil, and correct and diminish the fatal consequences which it produces. It is in the light of the Holy Spirit, and in the school of personal piety, where all is applied as it is discovered, and is traced in ourselves before it is observed in others, that this humiliating truth is best learned.

Thus disciplined, the Christian student will perceive more and more, that every thing tends to confirm the statements of the divine Scriptures; all the history of mankind; all the events of the church; whatever has occurred, or is occurring in our own country; the passing scenes of every family, every neighbourhood; all, all proclaim the apostacy of man from his Maker.

But enough of this detail. Suffice it to say, that this is the sort of way-though more inadequately given in the above remarks-in which a student may be gradually led to a more full and mature knowledge of Christianity, in opposition to hasty, partial, inaccurate notions, seized at random, espoused in a spirit of obstinacy, and defended before they are understood. Similar illustrations might be given from any other great truths of Christianity. In proportion as such a kind of knowledge is attained, the minister comes forth, 66 as a workman which needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

Such a man was the Author of the following Thoughts. He was deeply versed in all the great tenets of religion; he brought to the consideration of those tenets a strong, masculine understanding; a piety deep and practical; and an integrity beyond suspicion.

It is on the increase of a similar spirit of sound religious inquiry, that much will depend in the present day. A superficial knowledge of religion may last for a time. But it soon betrays its barrenness, and its insufficiency. It wavers or turns aside at the first wind of doctrine which may arise, and fails of fulfilling many of the highest ends of Christianity. If we would have personal and family piety widely flourish, it must rest on our adequate acquaintance with these principles, which alone are capable of producing them. The wisdom of God has adapted the Christian revelation to the precise wants of fallen man. If that revelation be not adequately known, it cannot produce its due effects; and it can

only be known by being humbly and diligently studied in all its parts, under the teaching of the blessed Spirit of God.

Sanctification is uniformly carried on by that divine Comforter, by means of the truth. He who applies the redemption of the Son of God to the hearts of men, has already revealed in his word all that he will employ for that purpose. To study, then, the Bible fully, is to lay up the materials of faith, holiness and joy; it is to employ the words which the divine Spirit inspired, in obtaining that salvation which the same Spirit communicates. What we want in the present day, is knowledge full and adequate in the mysteries of redemption; that so the Holy Spirit, blessing those means of sanctification, we may be fruitful in every good work, and adorn the doctrine of our Saviour and our God. Thus may we reasonably hope for a more extensive revival of primitive piety. Thus will the ministers of religion use, in a larger measure, "sound speech which cannot be condemned." Thus will the consciences of men be brought over to the side of truth.

Thus will new converts be every where "added to the Lord" from the worldly and profane. Thus will the alarmed mind of the penitent be filled with peace by faith in the sacrifice of our Lord. Thus will a holy, wise, and conscientious walk follow the profession of the Gospel. Thus will holy tempers, and a sweet, teachable, docile spirit appear. Thus will the happiness of individuals, of families, of neighbourhoods, of parishes, of churches, be multiplied. Thus will evils and scandals be discouraged as soon as they

« FöregåendeFortsätt »