« FöregåendeFortsätt »
610.5 M455.4pr 1853e
THOMAS ERSKINE, Esq., OF LINLATHEN.
MY DEAR Mr. ERSKINE,
The pleasure of associating my name with yours, and the kind interest which you expressed in some of these sermons when you heard them preached, might not be a sufficient excuse for the liberty which I take in dedicating them to you. But I have a much stronger reason. I am under obligations to you which the subject of this volume especially brings to my mind and which other motives beside personal gratitude urge me to acknowledge.
I owe it to you that I am able to honour and to appreciate one part of the testimony which was borne by those Scotchmen in the 17th century, whom we of the English Church are apt to regard with great dislike. I owe it to
that another part of their doctrine, which is often confounded with that testimony, and which, I fear, in the minds of a number of their descendants has survived it altogether, appears to me much more perilous and terrible than it does to many of those who are in the habit of denouncing them. Their proclamation that God Himself is the King, the Lawgiver,
the Judge of a Nation, that His government over the Jews was not a more actual government than that which He exercised over Scotland, that His Will is the only source and ground of right will and right acts in His creatures ;this is a proclamation which, whatever form it may have taken, against whatever persons or institutions it may have been directed, whatever may have been the immediate or apparent results of putting it forward, I cannot but accept as true, beneficent, divine. If the Episcopalian Churchmen and Statesmen of England and Scotland had fully and heartily recognised it, I do not believe that any power on earth could have shaken their hierarchy. Because they were not possessed with the truth of it, I thank God that they were not permitted to uphold what I nevertheless believe that He established and that He raised again.
But those who spoke of God as a real King, and who affirmed that a nation stood by virtue of its covenant with Him, used phrases respecting His sovereignty which, it seems to me, were destructive of the very principle for which they were contending, which justified any evil acts they might find necessary for their purpose, which were pregnant with mischief to after generations. All that there was of strength and nobleness in these men arose out of the belief that the God of the Jews and of them was a God of righteousness and truth, and that whatever was unrighteous and untrue must sooner or later shrink and shrivel at His
word. Alas! how easily did the idea of a Being who can decree what He pleases, who can make right wrong and wrong right by choosing it, who may outrage the conscience in man which He has created to bear witness of what He is and of what Man, His image, is intended to be,-mingle itself with a faith so contradictory of it! How easily in an age of energy and action could the bravest deeds, the most passionate devotion to a cause, blend with cruel judgments and fanatical exclusiveness, which hide the good from one set of party-historians, and are glorified by it in the eyes of another! But how much more easily, when the age of action and energy has passed away, and an age of speculation has begun, does the theory of a Will which arranges Punishment, Satisfaction, Salvation, according to its pleasure, of a Justice which means only the demand for Vengeance, of a Mercy which means only the exemption of certain persons from that demand, take the place of belief in a God who so loves the world as to give His Son for it!. How easily do those records, wherein Puritan divinity is so rich, of souls struggling with the Spirit of Evil and taking refuge from his suggestions, and from their own weakness and despair, in a Love of which they could not sound the depths and to which no external acts or internal feelings of theirs could the least entitle them-records full of truth and living power, however sense and Spirit, physical disease and torments of the conscience may sometimes be confounded in
them-adjust themselves to a system which attributes the acts and purposes of the Tempter and Destroyer to the Father of Lights !
I know well how much there is and always has been in the roughest, hardest Calvinism which fights against these conclusions and practically triumphs over them. God forbid that I should hold any human being tied to them by any logical necessity, that I should not welcome his indignant repudiation of them, that I should not thank him for calling me a maligner, and for affirming that nothing like what I have set down is the faith of him or of his fathers. But I do know also, and you know, that thousands of men and women, in your land and in ours, regard this as the only consistent explanation of the dogmas which they have been taught, of that which they suppose to be the teaching of the Bible. They think that we are practising a cheat upon ourselves, , that we are using some mystical artifices to evade plain texts and literal history, if we profess to hold by the Scriptures and yet not to adopt this view of the divine sovereignty. We may hide it from ourselves as we will, we may cast the burden upon whom we will, but this is the cause which is driving our sons to infidelity and our daughters to Rome. The spectre from which they are flying is a God whom they cannot trust and cannot love. We may try to cure symptoms by producing evidences of Christianity, or by exposing superstition. But we shall find that we have not reached the