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the propositions advanced in the third Lecture, concerning the permanence of evil in the world,) to digress somewhat from the natural course of the argument, in order to meet in advance an objection, which may present itself, to this effect. “If the Gospel be an everlasting covenant, and “ a final revelation, and yet under that we per“ sist in preaching man fallen, and the world “ corrupt, does not this difficulty follow; that “ then Christianity has within itself an intrinsic “ impediment to bar its way to universal recep“ tion; to which nevertheless it aspires ? For “ either eventual success in the improvement of " mankind must nullify a great portion of Scrip“ ture; or else, evil must be systematically're“ tained, I do not mean, by ordinance and au“ thority, but in the believer's religious specula- tions and wishes, in order that its existence “ may be appealed to for the proof and for the “accomplishment of that which is good.” :
It is to be answered, that such objection proceeds upon a partial view of things. It virtually assumes that the experience of the future musť remain the same, and the same only, with that which has already been. Thus it overlooks who are the parties in this matter; and thereby estimates the power of the Holy Spirit by the power of weak and fallible man.
It may not be in us: yet let it not be feared, but that God will give an answer of peace con- Gen. xli. cerning such a question to as many as shall truly believe, and put their trust in him for it. In the mean time, one part of such an answer we may perceive now. It will be everlastingly true, that the nature of man is guilty and corrupt; and his past history, one of depravity and crimes. And as to the rest, shall it be doubted, that (to whatever excellence man may arrive by more diligent use of the revealed means of grace) He, who shall have visited us with that blessing of increased knowledge, unto holiness, will keep pace with his own mercies, in our apprehensions and in our hearts, by some proportionate increase of illumination, through his Holy Spirit? Nay, is a condition any way supposable by us (as many as believe) in which we could help perceiving at once the truth and certainty of both these things :—that “surely it was so with 66 us once as the word of God hath spoken: yet “ though it were so no longer, we should under
stand that record to be not the less true: we Cf. Isaiah “ should see that it had not returned void unto lv. 11.
“ Him that sent it? It was through experience rs of evil that we found our way unto knowledge “s of the truth; yet evil cannot be, inseparably, 56 the bulwark of truth. For it would be matter of “ positive, sensible conviction to us, that, while “ somehow or other evil had disappeared, the “ truth stood.” .
Such objection, therefore, is no real one, if the view of truth be taken from the right point. But to stand without the gates of a city, and to refuse to enter in, and yet still to persevere in denying the existence of an internal economy of things within it, which we have never tried; this is assuredly a partial sight. And all doubt resulting from it is to be rejected unreservedly and confidently, as not consistent with the most advanced state of apprehension and of reason, which man has it in his power to attain to, even in this present world. But to return to our detaile. - In entering upon the continued contemplation of the same picture of man and human nature, as displayed in the New Testament; there is to be noticed, what appears a very perceptible general change of surrounding impression ; such as might have been expected (and as we have be- Lect. ii. p. fore affirmed to be discoverable) in passing from a a dispensation of the “flesh” to a dispensation of the “Spirit.” It is, as when a traveller has passed the gloom of a huge forest, and entered on a fair and champaign country. There are the same people as before, and the same passions ; but a freer light, and a purer air; a soil more suitable to cultivation, and a less rugged surface; intercourse, and civilization ;-causes such as these seem to have conspired to give them a more
cheerful tone, through an increased knowledge. As the path becomes gradually smoother, so does the journey become pleasanter. .
. II. 1. Yet we have not changed realities. Let a first evidence be sought from the narratives of the New Testament.
When the voice of the Son of man is heard, Matt. xi. exclaiming; Whereunto shall I liken this gene
ration? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not
danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have Luke xiii. not lamented. Or again : 0. Jerusalem, Jerusa
lem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee ; how often would I have gathered thy children together, 'as a hen doth
gather her brood under her wings, and ye would Luke xvii. not! Or again: How hardly shall they that have
riches enter into the kingdom of God !--we can-
John. What can be more like the behaviour of John viii.
ad init. that race, with whom we are ourselves acquainted, than the insidious temptation of our Saviour by the Scribes and Pharisees ? the endeavour to ensnare a reprover, whom they could not put to shame? the ostentatious, but unreal, severity against that detected sin in others, of which they had overlooked the principle within themselves? What (on the other hand) more wisely consolatory to a spirit of sincere and contrite self-conviction, than the merciful indulgence of our Saviour ?
He that abuses this affecting passage of divine Writ into a cloke for sin, abuses truth to his own undoing. But this is not a place to vindicate its tendency. It has been taken for a present example, not as affording any preeminent illustration of our general position ; but because, having maintained its station in the canon of Scripture through severe questioning, it exhibits, in this very circumstance, so good a contrast between the ways and thoughts of man, in such particulars, and the divine, ways and thoughts. Which shall we think knew best the nature and the wants of mán,--the timidity, which, arguing from abuse, would have excluded this detail from its post of authority; or He, that said to the convicted sinner, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more? 2. Again : to take an instance of a different