Sidor som bilder

willing and a spiritual subject of God. Let to be found of those who seek after it. The us see whether, though the light which he knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ, at length receives be marvellous, the way is which is life everlasting, is a knowledge not plain which leads to it; and whether open and acquirable to all. And, on the though nature be compassed about with a day of judgment, there will not be found a darkness which no power of nature can single instance of a man condemned bedissipate, there is not a clear and obvious cause of unbelief, who sought to the utterprocedure, by the steps of which the most most of his opportunities; and evinced the alienated of her children may be carried on-earnestness of his desire after peace with wards to all the manifestation of the king- God, by doing all that he might have done, dom of grace, and to the discernment of all and by being all that he might have been. its mysteries.

Be assured, then, that it will be for want of seeking, if you do not find. It will be for want of learning, if you are not taught. It will be for want of obedience to the movements of your own conscience, if the Holy Ghost, who prompts and who stimulates the conscience to all its movements, be not poured upon you, in one large and convincing manifestation. It may still be the day of small things with you-a day despised by the accomplished adepts of a systematic and articled theology. But God will not despise it. He will not leave your longings for ever unsatisfied. He will not keep you standing always at the threshold of vain desires and abortive endeavours. That faith, which is the gift of God, you have already attained, in a degree, if you have obtained a general conviction of the importance and the reality of the whole matter. He will increase that faith. Act up to the light that you hav gotten by reading earnestly, and praying importunately, and striving laboriously, and to you more will be given. You will at length obtain a clear and satisfying impression of the things of God, and the things of salvation. Christ will be recognised in all his power and in all his preciousness. You will know what it is to be established upon him. The natural legality of your hearts will give way to the pure doctrine of acceptance with God, through faith in the blood of a crucified Saviour. The sanctifying influence of such a faith will not merely be talked of in word, but be experienced in power; and you will evince that you are God's workmanship in Christ Jesus, by your abounding in all those fruits of righteousness which are through him, to the praise and glory of the Father.

Let it not be said, then, that because the doctrine of Christ is shrouded in mystery to the general eye of the world, it is such a mystery as renders it inaccessible to the men of the world. Even to them does the II. We shall now attempt to explain, trumpet of invitation blow a certain sound. how it is that the mysteries of the gospel They may not yet see the arcana of the are, in many cases, evolved upon the temple, but they may see the road which mind in a clear and convincing manifestaleads to the temple. If they are never to tion. obtain admission there, it is not because And here let it be distinctly understood, they cannot, but because they will not, that the way in many cases may be very come to it. "Ye will not come to me," far from the way in all cases. The expesays the Saviour, "that ye might have life,' "rience of converts is exceedingly various,Reading, and prayer, and reformation, these nor do we know a more frequent, and at are all obvious things; and it is the neglect the same time a more groundless cause of of these obvious things which involves them anxiety, than that by which the mind of an in the guilt and the ruin of those who ne- inquirer is often harassed, when he atglect the great salvation. This salvation is tempts to realize the very process by which


Though to the natural eye, then, the doctrine of Christ be not plain, the way is plain by which we arrive at it. Though, ere we see the things of Christ, the Spirit must take of them and show them unto us,-yet this Spirit deals out such admonitions to all, that, if we follow them, he will not cease to enlarge, and to extend his teaching, till we have obtained a saving illumination. He is given to those who obey him. He abandons those who resist him. When conscience tells us to read, and to pray, and to reform, it is he who is prompting this faculty. It is he who is sending through this organ, the whispers of his own voice to the ear of the inner man. If we go along with the movement, he will follow it up by other movements. He will visit him who is the willing subject of his first influences by higher demonstrations. He will carry forward his own work in the heart of that man, who, while acting upon the suggestions of his own moral sense, is in fact acting in conformity to the warnings of this kind and 'faithful monitor. So that the Holy Spirit will connect his very first impulses on the mind of that inquirer, who, under the reign of earnestness, has set himself to read his Bible, and to knock with importunity at the door of heaven, and to forsake the evil of his ways, and to turn him to the practice of all that he knows to be right,-the Spirit will connect these incipient measures of a seeker after Zion, with the acquirement of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ.

another has been called out of darkness to | rounded as we are by the gifts of nature the marvellous light of the gospel. and of providence, all of which are his, the Referring, then, to those grounds of mys- giver is meanwhile forgotten, and, amid the teriousness which we have already specified enjoyments of his bounty, we live without in a former discourse,-God may so mani-him in the world. If it indeed be true, that fest himself to the mind of an inquirer, as it is his sun which lights us on our path, and to convince him, that all those analogies of his earth on which we tread so firmly, and common life which are taken from the re- his air which circulates a freshness around lation of a servant to his master, or of a our dwellings, and his rain which produces son to his father, or of a subject to his sove- all the luxuriance that is spread around us, reign, utterly fail in the case of man, as he and drops upon every field the smiling prois by nature, in relation to his God. A ser- mise of abundance for all the wants of his vant may discharge all his obligations; a dependent children,—if all this be true, can son may acquit himself of all his duties, or it at the same time be right, that this allmay, with his occasional failures, and his providing God should have so little a place occasional chastisements, still keep his in our remembrance? that the whole man place in the instinctive affection of his pa- should be otherwise engaged than with a rents; and a subject may persevere in un- sense of him, and the habitual exercise of seduced loyalty to the earthly government acknowledgment to him? that in fact the under which he lives. But the glaring and full play of his regards should be expended the demonstrable fact with regard to man, on the things which are formed, and through viewed as a creature, is, that the habit of the whole system of his conduct and his his heart is one continued habit of dislike affairs, there should be so utter a neglect of and resistance to the Creator who gave him him who formed them? Surely if this be birth. the true description of man, and the chaThe earthly master may have all those racter of his heart in reference to God, then services rendered to which he has a right, it is a case of too peculiar a nature to be and so be satisfied. The earthly father may illustrated by any of the analogies of human have all the devotedness, and all the attach-society. It must be taken up on its own ment from his family, which he can desire, grounds; and should the injured and ofand so be satisfied. The earthly sovereign fended Lawgiver offer to make it the subject may have all that allegiance from a loyal of any communication, it is our part humsubject, who pays his taxes, and never bly to listen and implicitly to follow it. transgresses his laws, which he expects or cares for, and so be satisfied. But go upward from them to the God who made us, to the God who keeps us,-to the God in whom we live, and move, and have our being, to the God whose care and whose presence are ever surrounding us, who, from morning to night, and from night to morning, watches over us, and tends us while we sleep, and guides us in our waking moments, and follows us to the business of the world, and brings us back in safety to our homes, and never for a single instant of time withdraws from us the superintendence of an eye that never slumbers, and of a hand that is never weary. Now, all we require is a fair estimate of the claims of such a God. Does he ask too much, when he asks the affections of a heart that receives its every beat, and its every movement, from the impulse of his power? Does he serve both to bless and to adorn the condi ask too much, when he asks the devoted-tion of humanity, there is one virtue, which, ness of a life, which owes its every hour prior to the reception and the influence of and its every moment to him, whose right the gospel of Christ, they most assuredly hand preserves us continually? Has he do not have,-they are utterly devoid of no right to complain, when he knocks at the godliness. They have no desire, and no door of our hearts, and trying to possess inclination towards God. There may be himself of the love and the confidence of the dread of him, and the occasional rehis own creatures, he finds that all their membrance of him; but there is no affecthoughts, and all their pursuits, and all tion for him. likings, are utterly away from him? Is there no truth, and no justice in the charge which he prefers against us,-when, sur

And here it is granted, that amongst the men who are utter strangers to this com munication, you meet with the better and the worse; and that there is an obvious line of distinction which marks off the base and the worthless amongst them, from those of them who are the valuable and the accomplished members of society. And yet do we aver that one may step over that line and not be nearer than he was to God,that, between the men on either side of it, and Him who created them, there lies an untrodden gulf of separation,-that, with all the justice which rules their transac tions, and all the honour which animates their bosoms, and all the compassion which warms their hearts, and streams forth either in tears of pity, or in acts of kindness, upon the miserable,-with all these virtues which they do have, and which

This is the charge which we carry round amongst all the sons and daughters of Adam, who have not submitted themselves

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

to the only name that is given under hea- | the lofty standard of a law which offers ven whereby men can be saved. We are to subordinate to the will of God, not not denying that the persons of some of merely the whole habit of his outward histhem are dignified by the more respectable tory, but also the whole habit of his inward attributes of character; and that, from the affections, both the disease and the remedy persons of others of them, there are beau- are alike unknown to him. His character teously reflected the more amiable and en- may be fair and respectable in the eyes of dearing attributes of character. But we men; but it will not carry upon it one affirm, that with all these random varieties feature of that spirituality and holiness, and of moral exhibition which are to be found-relish for those exercises that have God for


the principle of loyalty to God has lost the hold of a presiding influence over all the children of our degraded and undone nature. We ask you to collect all the scattered remnants of what is great, and of what is graceful in accomplishments that may have survived the fall of our first parents; and we pronounce, of the whole as-planations of that gospel, against the light of semblage, that they go not to alleviate, by which, the god of this world blindeth the one iota, the burden of that controversy minds of those who believe not. which lies between God and their posterity, Let us therefore reflect that the principle -that throughout all the ranks and diver- on which the peculiarities of the gospel look sities of character which prevail in the so mysterious, is just the feeling which naworld, there is one pervading affection of ture has of its own sufficiency; and, that enmity to him; that the man of talents for- you may renounce this delusive feeling gets that he has nothing which he did not altogether, we ask you to think, how totally receive, and so, courting by some lofty en-destitute you are of that whic God chiefly terprize of mind, the gaze of this world's requires of you. He requires your heart, and admiration, he renounces his God, and we venture to say of every man amongst you, makes an idol of his fame,-that the man who has heretofore lived in neglect of the of ambition feels not how subordinate he is great salvation, that his heart, with all its obto the might and the majesty of his Cre-jects and affections, is away from God,--that it is not a sense of obligation to him which forms the habitual and the presiding influence of its movements,-that therefore every day and every hour of your history in the world, accumulates upon you the guilt of a disobedience of a far deeper and more. offensive character than even the

day members of our world's population, we see each walking after the counsel of his own heart, and in the sight of his own eyes, with every wish directed to the objects of time, and every hope bounded by its anticipations: and, amid all the love they bear to their families, and all the diligence they give to their business, and all the homage of praise and attachment they obtain from their friends, are they so surrounded by the influences of what is seen and what is sensible, that the invisible God is scarcely ever hought of, and his character not at all dwelt on with delight, and his will never admitted to an habitual and a practical aseendency over their conduct, so as to make it true of all, and of every one of us, that there is none who understandeth, and none who seeketh after God.

ator, but turning away all his reverence from him, falls down to the idol of power, that the man of avarice withdraws all his trust from the living God, and, embarking all his desire in the pursuit of riches, and all his security in the possession of them, he makes an idol of wealth,-that, descending from these to the average and the every-disobedience of your more notorious and external violations. There is ever with you, lying folded in the recesses of your bosom, and pervading the whole system both of your desires and your doings, that which gives to sin all its turpitude, and all its moral hideousness in the sight of God. There is a rooted preference of the creature to the Creator. There is a full desire after the gift, and a listless ingratitude towards the giver. There is an utter devotedness, in one shape or other, to the world that is to be burnt up,-and an utter forgetfulness, amid all your forms, and all your decencies, of him who endureth for ever. There is that universal attribute of the carnal mind-enmity against God; and we affirm that, with this distaste in your hearts towards him, you, on every principle of a spiritual and intelligent morality, are as chargeable with rebellion against your Maker, as if some apostate angel had been your champion, and you warred with God, under the waving standards of defiance. It was to clear away the guilt of this monstrous iniquity that Christ died. It was to make it possible for God, with his truth

their immediate object, which assimilate men to angels, and make them meet for the joys of eternity. His morality will be the morality of life, and his virtues will be the virtues of the world; and all the mystery of a parable, or of a dark saying will appear to hang over the terms and the ex

Now, if a man do not see this case made out against himself in all its enormity, he will feel that the man who talks of it, and who proposes the gospel application to it, talketh mysteriously. If the Spirit have not convinced him of sin, and he have not learned to submit his character to

unviolated, and his holiness untarnished, Janew unto good works, that we may be the and all the high attributes of his eternal and workmanship of God in Christ Jesus our unchangeable nature unimpaired, to hold Lord. These are the leading and essential out forgiveness to the world,-that propi- peculiarities of the New Testament. This tiation was made through the blood of his is the truth of Christ; though to the geneown son, even that God might be just, ral mind of the world it is the truth of while the justifier of them who believe in Christ in a mystery. These are the paraJesus. It is to make it possible for man to bles which the commissioned messengers love the Being whom nature taught him to of grace are to deal out to the sinful children hate and to fear, that God now lifts, from of Adam,—and dark as they may appear, his mercy-seat, a voice of the most beseech- or disgusting as they may sound in the ears ing tenderness, and smiles upon the world of those who think that they are rich, and as God in Christ, reconciling the world unto have need of nothing, they are the very arhimself, and not imputing unto them their ticles upon which hope is made to beam trespasses. It was utterly to shift the moral on the heart of a converted sinner,—and constitution of our minds,-an achievement peace is restored to him, and acceptance beyond any power of humanity,-that the with God is secured by the terms of an unSaviour, after he died and rose again, obtained alterable covenant,-and the only effecthe promise of the Father, even that Spirit, tive instruments of a vital and substantial through whom alone the fixed and radical reformation are provided; so that he who disease of nature can be done away. And before was dead in trespasses and sins is thus, by the ministration of the baptism of quickened together with Christ, and made the Holy Ghost, does he undertake not only alive unto God, and renewed again after to improve but to change us,-not only to his image, and enabled to make constant repair but to re-make us,-not only to progress in all the graces of a holy and amend our evil works, but to create us spiritual obedience.


An Estimate of the Morality that is without Godliness.

"If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean: Yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me. For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment. Neither is there any day's-man betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.”—Job ix. 30-33.

To the people of every Christian coun-evidence of that practical ascendency which try the doctrine of a Mediator between God Christian truth is sure to exert over the and man is familiarized by long possession; heart and the habits of every genuine bethough to many of them it be nothing more liever.

than the familiarity of a name recognized In the midst of all that dimness, and all as a well-known sound by the ear, without this indolence about the realities of salvasending one fruitful or substantial thought tion, it is refreshing to view the workings into the understanding. For, let it be ob- of a mind that is in earnest; and of a mind served, that the listless acquiescence of the too, which, instead of being mechanically mind in a doctrine, to the statement or to carried forward in the track of a prescribed the explanation of which it has been long or authoritative orthodoxy, is prompted to habituated, is a very different thing from all its aspirations by a deep feeling of guilt, the actual hold which the mind takes of the and of necessity. Such we conceive to hav doctrine, insomuch that it is very possible been the mind of Job, to whom the docfor a man to be a lover of orthodoxy, and trine of a Redeemer had not been explicitly to sit with complacency under its ministers, unfolded, but who seems at times to have and to be revolted by the heresies of those been favoured with a prophetic glimpse of who would either darken or deny any of him through the light of a dim and distant its articles, and, in a word, to be most te-futurity. The state of his body, covered as nacious in his preference for that form of it was with disease, makes him an object words to which he has been accustomed; of sympathy. But there is a still deeper while to the meaning of the words them- and more attractive sympathy excited by selves, the whole man is in a state of entire the state of his soul, labouring under the dormancy; and delighted though he really visitation of a hand that was too heavy for be by the utterance of the truth, exhibits him; called out to combat with God, and not in his person, or in his history, one struggling to maintain it; at one time,

tempted to measure the justice of his cause with the righteousness of Heaven's dispensations; at another, closing his complaint with the murmurs of a despairing acquiescence; and at length brought, through all the varieties of an exercised and agitated spirit, to submit himself to God, and to repent in dust and in ashes.


There is a darkness in the book of Job. He, at one time, under the soreness of his calamity, gives way to impatience; and, at another, he seems to recall the hasty utterance of his more distempered moments. He, in one place, fills his mouth with argu-water. But however this be, and whether ments; and, in another, he appears willing the popular notion of the purifying virtues to surrender them all, and to decline the of snow water, taken up by Job, be well unequal struggle of man contending with founded or not, we have here an expedient his Maker. He is evidently oppressed suggested for making the hands clean, and throughout by a feeling of want, without the man pure and acceptable in the sight of the full understanding of an adequate or an God,--a method proposed within the reach appropriate remedy. Now, it does give a of man, and which man can perform, for higher sense of the value of this remedy, making himself an object of complacency when we are made to witness the unsatis- to his Maker; a method, too, which is quite fied longings of one who lived in a dark and effectual for beautifying all that meets the early period of the world,-when we hear discernment of the outward eye, and which him telling, as he does in these verses, is here set before us as connected with the where the soreness lies, and obscurely object of gaining the eye of that high and guessing at the ministration that is suited heavenly Witness, with whom we have to to it, nor do we know a single passage of do. This is what we understand to be rethe Bible which carries home with greater presented by washing with snow water. effect the necessity of a Mediator, than that It comprehends all that man can do for where Job, on his restless bed, is set before washing himself, and for making himself us, wearying himself in the hopeless task of clean in the sight of God. Job complains arguing with God, and calling for some of the fruitlessness of this expedient, and day's-man betwixt them who might lay his perhaps mingles with his complaints the hand upon them both. reproaches of a spirit that was not yet subdued to entire acquiescence in the righteousness of God. Let us try to examine this matter, and, if possible, ascertain whe

The afflictions which were heaped upon Job made him doubt his acceptance with his Maker. This was the great burden of

his complaint, and the recovery of this ac-ther man is able, on the utmost stretch of ceptance was the theme of many a fruit- his powers and of his performances, to make less and fatiguing speculation. We have himself an object of approbation to his one of these speculations in the verses Judge. which are now submitted to you; and as they are four in number, so there is such a distinction in the subjects of them, that the passage naturally resolves itself into four separate topics of illustration. In the 30th verse, we have an expedient proposed by Job, for the pupose of obtaining the acceptance which he longed after: "If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean." In the 31st verse, we have the inefficacy of this expedient; "Yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me." In the 32d verse, he gives the reason of this inefficacy; "For he is not man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment." And in the 33d verse, he intimates to us the right expedient, under the form of complaining that he himself has not the benefit of it: "Neither is there any day's-man betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both."

I. It is not to be wondered at, that even

a mistaken efficacy should be ascribed to snow water, in the country of Job's residence, where snow, if ever it fell at all, must have fallen rarely, at very extraordinary seasons, and in the more elevated parts of his neighbourhood. This rarity, added to its unsullied whiteness, might have given currency to an idea of its efficacy as a purifier, beyond what actually belonged to it. Certain it is, too, that snow water, like water deposited from the atmosphere, in any other form, does not possess that hardness which is often to be met with in spring

Without entering into the metaphysical controversy about the extent or the freedom of human agency, let it be observed, that there is a plain and a popular understanding on the subject of what man can do and of what he cannot do. We wish to proceed on this understanding for the present, and to illustrate it by a few examples. Should it be asked, if a man can keep his hands from stealing, it would be the unhesitating answer of almost every one that he can do it, and if he can keep his tongue from lying, that he can do it, and if he can constrain his feet to carry him every Sabbath to the house of God, that he can do this also,-and if he can tithe his income, or even reducing himself to the necessaries of life, make over the mighty sacrifice of all the remainder to the poor, that it is certainly possible for him to do it, and if he can keep a guard upon his lips, so that not one whisper of malignity shall escape from them, that he can also prescribe this task to

« FöregåendeFortsätt »