« FöregåendeFortsätt »
against the Holy Ghost, he expressly con- | of every one of them, rather than own the nects the words of the mouth, with the dis- hand of God, or submit to the demonstraposition of the heart, ere he tells us that it tion of his power in the miracle before was by our words we shall be justified, and them. It was indeed a desperate fetch that by our words we shall be condemned-we they made for an argument, when the very ought no longer to do what we are sure is work in which they gloried, and on which done by many in their obscure imagina- they founded the credit of their own order, tions upon this subject, we ought not to was so maligned and misrepresented by liken the sin against the Holy Ghost to the them. They had ever been in the habit of spell of some magical incantation, deriving ascribing the possessions of that age to the the whole of that deadly taint which be- power of Beelzebub-and now to give a colongs to it, from some infernal charm lour to their hatred to Jesus and his claims, with which the utterance of mere language they suppose the house of Beelzebub to is darkly and unaccountably impregnated. be divided against itself, and they ascribe But knowing that every denunciation of to his power a miracle, the doing of which our great Spiritual Teacher, had some clear went to dispossess him of a part of his emand unchangeable principle of morality pire. They pretended that their sons or to rest upon-and perceiving, as we do, their proselytes had the power of casting that on this very occasion he refers us to out those possessions, and never failed to the disposition of the heart, as that which ascribe this power to the Spirit and the gives to the utterance of the tongue all its countenance of God-but now they turned malignity, let us, when reading of this des- round upon the matter, and by rearing the parate guilt of the Pharisees, look to the argument against the Saviour in the direct spirit and moral temper of the Pharisees, face of their own principle, did they prove and if possible, gather a something that how firmly they were resolved to lay hold may carry to our own bosoms a salutary of any thing, rather than admit the claims and convincing application. of one who was so offensive to them. Thus did they give, perhaps at this moment, a more conspicuous evidence than they had ever done before, how every proof and every remonstrance would all be wasted upon them. The Spirit of God had gone his uttermost length with them, and on abandoning them for ever, he left behind him their blood upon their own head, and the misery of an irrecoverable condition, that was of their own bringing on. He had long borne with them—and it will be seen in the day of reckoning, when all mysteries are cleared up, how great the patience, and the kindness, and the unwearied perseverance were which they had resisted. For though the spirit strives long, he does not strive always; and they brought on this crisis in their history, just by the very steps in which every impenitent man brings it on in the present day, by a wilful resistance to the light of their own understanding; by a resolute suppression of the voice of their own conscience.
But we must bring all these explanations to a close. The distinction between speaking against the Son of man, and speaking against the Holy Ghost, may be illustrated by what he says of the difference between bearing witness of himself, and another bearing witness of him. If he had had no other testimony than his own to offer, they had not had sin. If he had not done the works before them which none other man did, and which no mere son of man could do, they had not had sin. If he had nothing to show on which to sustain the cha
But when the very thing on which they tried to strengthen their own claims to authority, was done by that man, the progress of whose authority, among his countrymen, they were determined, at all hazards, to ar-racter that signalized him above the mere rest; they went round the whole compass children of men, their resistance could have of their principles, and quashed the voice been forgiven; but he had shown the most
And a single glance at the circumstances may be enough to satisfy us, that never, in any one recorded passage of their history, did they evince the bent of so inflexible a determination against the authority of conscience-never such a wilful darkening of their own hearts against the light and the power of evidence, as in the passage that is now before us. The whole weight of that moral argument on which we have already expatiated, was reinforced by a miracle so striking and so palpable in its effects, that all the people were thrown into amazement. But what constituted the peculiarity of the miracle was, that it was just such a miracle as the Pharisees themselves had been accustomed to look upon with veneration, and had viewed as an example of successful hostility against the empire of darkness. They had faith in these possessions. They counted every one of them to be the work of Beelzebub, and the casting out of any of them as a direct triumph of warfare against the prince of the devils. They themselves, it would appear, laid claim to the power of dispossessing these demons, and we have no doubt that the imagination of such a power residing with them and their children, or proselytes, would help to give them that prophetical sanctity in the eyes of the common people, which they so much aspired after.
abundant evidence on this point-he had just performed a deed which their every habit, and their every conception, led them to ascribe to the Spirit and the power of God, and he had brought forward what to their own judgments was the testimony of the Spirit, and they resisted it. It was no longer now an opposition to man, and a railing of man, and a contemptuous negligence of man all this is sinful; but it was not that which blocked up the way against the remission of sin; it was when they reviled him who offered to lead them on in that way, that they were ever strengthening the barrier which lay across the path of acceptance. While the last and most conclusive proof that would be given of Jesus having indeed the seal and the commission of the Spirit upon him, was not yet tried and found ineffectual; all their opposition to him still partook of opposition to one of whom the most decisive evidence that he was any thing more than the Son of man,
was still in reserve. It still partook of opposition to a fellow-man. But when that decisive evidence was at length offered, and the Spirit interposed with his last and greatest attempt to vindicate his own seal, and to authenticate his own commission on the person of Jesus of Nazareth; then that which was before the speaking evil of the Son of man become the speaking evil of the Son of God; and that, aggravated to the uttermost length that it now would be permitted to go. And the Pharisees, by smothering the light of all that evidence which the Holy Spirit had brought forward, both in the miracles that were done, and in the graces of that sinless example which was set so impressively before them, had by that time raised in their hearts such an entrenchment of prejudice against the faith of the Gospel, and so discouraged the Holy Spirit from any farther attempt to scale and to surmount it, that all recovery was hopeless, and all forgiveness was impossible.
On the Advantages of Christian Knowledge to the Lower Orders of Society. "Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished."— Ecclesiastes iv. 13.
THERE is no one topic on which the Bible, throughout the variety of its separate compositions, maintains a more lucid and entire consistency of sentiment, than the superiority of moral over all physical and all external distinctions. This lesson is frequently urged in the Old Testament, and as frequently reiterated in the New. There is a predominance given in both to worth, and to wisdom, and to principle, which leads us to understand, that within the compass of human attainment, there is an object placed before us of a higher and more estimable character than all the objects of a common-place ambition-that wherever there is mind, there stands associated with it a nobler and more abiding interest than all the aggrandizements which wealth or rank can bestow-that within the limits of the moral and intellectual department of our nature, there is a commodity which| money cannot purchase, and possesses a more sterling excellence than all which money can command. This preference of man viewed in his essential attributes, to man viewed according to the variable accessories by which he is surrounded-this preference of the subject to all its outward and contingent modifications-this preference of man viewed as the possessor of a
heart, and of a spirit, and of capacities for truth and for righteousness, to man signalized by prosperity, and clothed in the pomp and in the circumstance of its visible glories
this is quite akin with the superiority which the Bible every where ascribes to the soul over the body, and to eternity overtime, and to the Supreme Author of Being over all that is subordinate and created. It marks a discernment, unclouded by all those associations which are so current and have so fatal an ascendency in our world-the wisdom of a purer and more ethereal region than the one we occupy-the unpolluted clearness of a light shining in a dark place, which announces its own coming to be from above, and gives every spiritual reader of the Bible to perceive the beaming of a powerful and presiding intelligence in all its pages.
One very animating inference to be drawn from our text, is, how much may be made of humanity. Did a king come to take up his residence among you-did he shed a grandeur over your city by the presence of his court, and give the impulse of his expenditure to the trade of its population-it were not easy to rate the value and the magnitude which such an event would have on the estimation of a common understand
ing, or the degree of personal importance among the poorest of them all, has a wiswhich would attach to him, who stood a dom and a weight of character, which lofty object in the eye of admiring towns- makes him the oracle of his neighbourhood men. And yet it is possible, out of the raw ---the man, who, vested with no other auand ragged materials of the obscurest lane, thority than the meek authority of worth, to rear an individual of more inherent carries in his presence a power to shame worth, than him who thus draws the gaze and to overawe the profligacy that is around of the world upon his person. By the act him--the venerable father, from whose of training in wisdom's ways the most tat-lowly tenement the voice of psalms is heard tered and neglected boy who runs upon our to ascend with the offering up of every pavements, do we present the community evening sacrifice-the Christian sage, who, with that which, in wisdom's estimation, is exercised among life's severest hardships, of greater price than this gorgeous inhabi- looks calmly onward to heaven, and trains tant of a palace. And when one thinks the footsteps of his children in the way that how such a process may be multiplied leads to it-the eldest of a well-ordered among the crowded families that are around family, bearing their duteous and honouraus-when one thinks of the extent and the ble part in the contest with its difficulties density of that mine of moral wealth, which and its trials-all these offer to our notice retires, and deepens, and accumulates, be- such elements of moral respectability, as do hind each front of the street along which exist among the lowest orders of human we are passing-when one tries to compute society, and elements, too, which admit of the quantity of spirit that is imbedded in being multiplied far beyond the reach of the depth and the frequency of these hu- any present calculation. And while we man habitations, and reflects of this native hold nothing to be more unscriptural than ore, that more than the worth of a monarch the spirit of a factious discontent with the may be stamped, by instruction, on each rulers of our land-while we feel nothing separate portion of it--a field is thus opened to be more untasteful than the insolence of for the patriotism of those who want to give a vulgar disdain towards men of rank, or an augmented value to the produce of our men of opulence—yet should the king upon land, which throws into insignificance all the throne be taught to understand, that the enterprises of vulgar speculation. Com- there is a dignity of an intrinsically higher merce may flourish, or may fail-and amid order than the dignity of birth or powerthe ruin of her many fluctuations, may ele-a vate a few of the more fortunate of her sons to the affluence of princes. Thy merchants may be princes, and thy traffickers be the honourable of the earth.
dignity which may be seen to sit with gracefulness on the meanest of his subjects and which draws from the heart of the beholder a truer and profounder reverence.
But if there be truth in our text, there may, on the very basis of human society, and by a silent process of education, materials be formed, which far outweigh in cost and true dignity, all the blazing pinnacles that glitter upon its summit-and it is, indeed, a cheering thought to the heart of a philanthropist, that near him lies a territory so ample, on which he may expatiate where for all his pains, and all his sacrifices, he is sure of a repayment more substantial, than was ever wafted by richly laden flotilla to our shores-where the return comes to him, not in that which superficially decks the man, but in a solid increment of value fixed and perpetuated on the man himself-rance of the poor is no longer regarded as where additions to the worth of the soul more essential to the devotion of their paform the proceeds of his productive opera- triotism, than it is to the devotion of their tion-and where, when he reckons up the piety--that they have, at length, found that profits of his enterprise, he finds them to the best way of disarming the lower orders consist of that, which, on the highest of all of all that is threatening and tumultuous, authorities, he is assured to be more than is not to enthral, but to enlighten them; meat, of that which is greatly more than that the progress of truth among them, instead of being viewed with dismay, is viewed with high anticipation--and an im
So that, were it for nothing more than to bless and adorn our present state, there cannot be an attempt of greater promise, than that of extending education among the throng of our peasantry; there cannot be a likelier way of filling the country with beauteous and exalted spectacles-there cannot be a readier method of pouring a glory over the face of our land, than that of spreading the wisdom of life, and the wisdom of principle, throughout the people who live in it---a glory differing in kind, but greatly higher in'degree, than the glories of common prosperity. It is well that the progress of knowledge is now looked to by politicians without alarm--that the igno
raiment. Even without looking beyond the confines of our present world, the virtue of hum-pression greatly more just, and greatly more ble life will bear to be advantageously con- generous, is now beginning to prevail, that trasted with all the pride and glory of an the strongest rampart which can possibly elevated condition. The man who, though be thrown around the cause of public tran
quillity, consists of a people raised by in- | between them will be turned, when it shall formation, and graced by all moral and all be found of the one, that he must perish Christian accomplishments. for lack of knowledge, and of the other, that he has the wisdom which is unto salvation.
For our own part, we trust, that the mighty interval of separation between the higher and lower orders of our community, will, at length, be broken down, not by any inroad of popular violence; not by the fierce and devouring sweep of any revolutionary tempest; not even by any new adjustment, either of the limits of power, or the limits of property; not, in short, as the result of any battle, fought either on the arena of war, or on the arena of politics; but as the fruit of that gradual equalization in mind and in manners, to which even now a sensible approach is already making on the part of our artisans and our labourers. They are drawing towards an equality, and on that field, too, in which equality is greatly most honourable. And we fondly hope, that the time is coming, when, in frank and frequent intercourse, we shall behold the ready exchange of confidence on the one side, and affection on the other --when the rich and the poor shall love each other more, just because they know each other more---when each party shall recognise the other to be vastly worthier of regard and of reverence than is now apprehended---when united by the sympathies of a common hope, and a common nature, and on a perfect level with all that is essential and characteristic of humanity, they shall, at length, learn to live in love and peacefulness together, as the expectants of one common heaven---as the members of one common and rejoicing family.
But, to attain a just estimate of the superiority of the poor man who has wisdom, over the rich man who has it not, we must enter into the calculation of eternity--we must look to wisdom in its true essence, as consisting of religion, as having the fear of God for its beginning, and the rule of God for its way, and the favour of God for its full and satisfying termination---we must compute how speedily it is, that, on the wings of time, the season of every paltry distinction between them must, at length, pass away; how soon death will strip the one of his rags, and the other of his pageantry, and send them, in utter nakedness, to the dust; how soon judgment will summon them from their graves, and place them in outward equality before the great disposer of their future lot, and their future place, through ages which never end; how, in that situation, the accidental distinctions of life will be rendered void, and personal distinctions will be all that shall avail them; how, when examined by the secrets of the inner man, and the deeds done in their body, the treasure of heaven shall be adjudged only to him whose heart was set upon it in this world; and how tremendously the account
And here it is of importance to remark, that to be wise as a Christian is wise, it is not essential to have that higher scholarship which wealth alone can purchase-that such is the peculiar adaptation of the Gospel to the poor, that it may be felt in the full force of its most powerful evidence, by the simplest of its hearers-that to be convinced of its truth, all which appears necessary is, to have a perception of sin through the medium of the conscience, and a perception of the suitableness of the offered Saviour through the medium of a revelation, plain in its terms, and obviously sincere and affectionate in its calls. Philosophy does not melt the conscience. Philosophy does not make luminous that which in itself is plain. Philosophy does not bring home, with greater impression upon the heart, the symptoms of honesty and good will, which abound in the New Testament. Prayer may do it. Moral earnestness may do it. The Spirit, given to those who ask him, may shine with the light of his demonstration, on the docility of those little children, who are seeking, with their whole hearts, the way of peace, and long to have their feet established on the paths of righteousness. There is a learning, the sole fruit of which is a laborious deviation from the truth as it is in Jesus. And there is a learning which reaches no farther than to the words in which that truth is announced, and yet reaches far enough to have that truth brought home with power upon the understanding-a learning, the sole achievement of which is, to read the Bible, and yet by which the scholar is conducted to that hidden wisdom, which is his light in life, and his passport to immortality-a learning, which hath simply led the inquirer's way to that place, where the Holy Ghost hath descended upon him in rich effusion, and which, as he was reading in his own tongue, the wonderful works of God, has given them such a weight and such a clearness in his eyes, that they have become to him the words whereby he shall be saved. And thus it is, that in many a cottage of our land, there is a wisdom which is reviled, or unknown, in many of our halls of literature-there is the candle of the Lord shining in the hearts of those who fear himthere is a secret revealed unto babes, which is hidden from the wise and the prudentthere is an eye which discerns, and a mind that is well exercised on the mysteries of the sure and the well-ordered covenantthere is a sense and a feeling of the preciousness of that cross, the doctrine of which is foolishness to those who perishthere is a ready apprehension of that truth,
the mysteries of science, but familiar with greater mysteries. That preaching of the cross, which is foolishness to others, he feels to be the power of God, and the wisdom of God. That faithfulness which annexes to all the promises of the Gospel-that righteousness which is unto the believer-that fulness in Christ, out of which the supplies of light and of strength are ever made to descend on the prayers of all who put their trust in him-that wisdom of principle, and wisdom of application, by which, through his spiritual insight into his Bible, he is enabled both to keep his heart, and to guide the movements of his history,these are his treasures-these are the elements of the moral wealth, by which he is far exalted above the monarch, who stalks his little hour of magnificence on earth, and then descends a ghost of departed greatness into the land of condemnation. He is rich, just because the word of Christ dwells in him richly in all wisdom. He is great, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon him.
We know not, if any who is now present, has ever felt the charm of an act of intercourse with a Christian among the poor -with one, whose chief attainment is, that he knows the Bible to be true; and that his heart, touched and visited by a consenting movement to its doctrine, feels it to be precious. We shall be disappointed, if the very exterior of such a man do not bear the impress of that worth and dignity which have been stamped upon his character-if, in the very aspect and economy of his household, the traces of his superiority are not to be found-if the promise, even of the life that now is, be not conspicuously realized on the decent sufficiency of his means, and the order of his well-conditioned family-if the eye of tasteful benevolence be not regaled by the symptoms of comfort and cheerfulness which are to be seen So that, the same conclusion comes back in his lowly habitation. And we shall be upon us with mightier emphasis than begreatly disappointed, if, after having sur- fore. If a poor child be capable of being vived the scoff of companions, and run thus transformed, how it should move the through the ordeal of nature's enmity, he heart of a city philanthropist, when he do not earn, as the fruits of the good con- thinks of the amazing extent of raw matefession that he witnesses among his neigh- rial, for this moral and spiritual manufacbours, the tribute of a warm and willing ture that is on every side of him-when he cordiality from them all-if, while he lives, thinks, that in going forth on some Chrishe do not stand the first in estimation, and tian enterprise among a population, he is, when he dies, the tears and acknowledg- in truth, walking among the rudiments of a ments of acquaintances, as well as of kins- state that is to be everlasting-that out of the folk do not follow him to his grave-if, most loathsome and unseemly abodes, a even in the hearts of the most unholy glory can be extracted, which will weather around him, an unconscious testimony is all the storms, and all the vicissitudes of not borne to the worth of holiness, so as to this world's history-that in the filth and make even this world's honour one of the raggedness of a hovel, that is to be found, ingredients in the portion of the righteous. on which all the worth of heaven, as well But these are the mere tokens and visible as all the endurance of heaven, can be imaccompaniments of Christian excellence-printed-that he is, in a word, dealing in the passing efflorescence of a growth that embryo with the elements of a great and is opening and maturing for eternity. To future empire, which is to rise, indestructibehold this excellence in all its depth, and ble and eternal, on the ruins of all that is in all its solidity, you must examine his earthly, and every member of which shall mind, and there see the vastly higher ele- be a king and a priest for evermore. ments, with which it is conversant, than those among which the children of this world are grovelling: there see how, in the hidden walk of the inner man, he treads a more elevated path than is trodden either by the daughters of gaiety, or the sons of ambition; there see how the whole greatness and imagery of heaven are present to his thoughts, and what a reach and nobleness of conception have gathered upon his soul, by his daily approaches to heaven's sanctuary. He lives in a cottage; and yet he is a king and priest unto God. He is fixed for life to the ignoble drudgery of a workman, and yet he is on the full march to a blissful immortality. He is a child in
which is held at nought by many rich, and many mighty, and many noble, who will not be admonished--but which makes these poor to be rich in faith, and heirs of that kingdom which God hath prepared for those who love him.
And before I pass on to the application of these remarks, let me just state, that the great instrument for thus elevating the poor, is that Gospel of Jesus Christ, which may be preached unto the poor. It is the doctrine of his cross finding an easier admission into their hearts, than it does through those barriers of human pride, and human resistance, which are often reared on the basis of literature. Let the testimony of God be simply taken in, that on his own Son he has laid the iniquities of us all-and from this point does the humble scholar of Christianity pass unto light, and enlargement, and progressive holiness. On the reception of this great truth, there