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But a true understanding of revealed religion seems to include (not to say, consist in) the honest reconciling--I mean, the reconciling not through dotage or self-imposition, but in reason and in conscience-of certain paradoxes of this description ; namely, of which either part separately so cogently approves itself to the natural reason, as not to be gainsaid without violence thereto offered : of which, again, both parts are found to coexist practically, without the least contradiction; in which, nevertheless, there is so much seeming contrariety, when submitted to the mere intellect, as abstract propositions, that the acceptance of, and hearty acquiescence in them, as certain and consistent truths, is a work of faith alone. And of these paradoxes it appears to be one, that “an example found by ex“perience never to have been imitated, is yet “ presented as the only true standard of uni“ versal imitation k.”
reasonable person will refuse to allow, that it must consist, not in the performance of specific actions, corresponding with the actions of Christ; but in a general conformity to his temper and spirit, to be exercised in that condition of life, in which it has pleased God to place us, Not however to stand upon this ground, it seems better to acknowledge the perplexity above represented, that it is a real one; and to meet it as such.
Perhaps the greatest of all these paradoxes is that which relates to the subject of the source and possession of faith, to the propositions, sevérally and conjointly, that faith is “a gift “ of God alone,” and yet:“ a faculty within every Christian's
Nor, when this is so affirmed, does the burden rest with the Christian preacher to explain and account for all that manifold aberration from its standard, which the Christian world displays; but it rests with the objector, to point out any particulars, in which the merely human conduct of our Lord is not imitable, under assistance of the Spirit of grace. · Look at any of the more familiar and less strictly official actions of our Lord : can any thing be more evident, in point of fact, than that he accepts men as his “ brethren,” speaks to them
as such, treats them as such? But a single text Matt. xi. may suffice for present illustration ; John came 18, 19.
neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He
“ power of attainment, to whom Christ is preached faith“ fully;" in effect, the compatibility of grace and free-will. It is not within the scope of the present work to discuss any such question ; but as it is a rock of offence, upon which (as it appears to me) every honest estimate of our condition, as responsible subjects of the Christian revelation, must painfully fall, sooner or later, I take this opportunity of remarking, with reference by anticipation to the topic of the succeeding Lecture, that I should not venture upon the assumption therein made.--I should not think that holy Scripture did meet, and satisfy the wants and wishes of every individual whom it calls unto obedience, if he could not, from the above considerations, reconcile comfortably to his own heart such apparent inconsistencies, although in words he cannot do so. We may reconcile any thing after a precise and formal pattern of man's prescription, by settling decrees, and calling them "divine;" and thus imagine that all perplexity is ended: but then, what becomes of the universality of Scripture ?
hath a devil : the Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners : but wisdom is justified of her children. What kind of character is depicted here?
So complete, indeed, is our Lord's humanity, depicted in the Gospels, as one made like unto Heb. ii. 17 his brethren, that, as we read, we cannot help, in common matters, joining ourselves to him in that character. Some undefinable impression may grow up in our hearts, calculated to prepare us for higher sentiments by and by, when further light is superadded; our hearts may burn within Luke- xxiv.
32. us by the way ; yet do we proceed, and converse with him as a companion, in his merely human conduct, as freely as the disciples journeying to Emmaus did, before he became known to them as the Lord, by a religious act. If I may be allowed so to employ an expression rendered more sacred by a different usage, for a season we quite feel ourselves to be s one with him, and office for
the Holy - he with us."
We must, therefore, seek interpretation of the nion. melancholy fact, that such an example is not imitated, from other sources than those of inconsistency, or failure of truth, in Scripture. Our Lord's example, as represented there, (in relation to the points now before us,) is not only strictly human, and therefore strictly imitable; but it displays a model, in the precise points
where a model was wanted; in the union of humanity with holiness ; of tenderness and indul. gence towards frailty, with the maintenance of unerring righteousness; in defining every excellence that is real, beneficial, and permanent, as contradistinguished from such as are artificial only, selfish, and contingent. Let the question only be proposed fairly ;-“Would we desire to “have a character exhibited to us, for such pur“ pose and under such circumstances, less per“ fect than this is ?”—Infinitely removed as a disciple must feel himself, at the very uttermost and highest stage of his progression, from the fulness of his Lord's perfection; still would he accept or admit the pattern, as one adapted to universal use, if it were tinctured with any infirmity?
II. 3. Contemplate, then, the position wherein we now stand, in approaching to view the character and manner of the apostolical writings.
We have arrived at this posture of religious knowledge. The wound of our nature has been laid bare; the hatefulness of sin, and the weight of divine wrath against it, fearfully revealed. The sacrifice of reconciliation also is offered; the certainty of a life to come, established; a general invitation of mercy is given; the “new command6 ment" of " love,” delivered; and a pattern of restored nature set before us, as our object of imitation, and our guide. Let it be presumed that we
assent to the likeness of ourselves, in all that is past; that we acknowledge the Law to be meant for ourselves; that we cannot deny the example set before us, though so pure, to be still an human one; and though it has never been attained to, yet to be attainable by man.
Yet what are we? creatures fearing and abhorring sin? obedient children, and like unto our Saviour?-I would we were! But if we be not, either we do not yet rightly apprehend our calling, through some delusion or other; or else, if we be indeed sincere, and do know our calling, and desire to abide by it, there is some further allowance, direct or indirect, to be made for our infirmity still. The mystery of reconciliation remains a mystery, if henceforward nothing shall be implied or recognized in the Cf. above,
pp. 158-96 writings of its inspired interpreters) as accept-" able obedience, short of that perfect transformation into the likeness of the new Lawgiver, which ought, under his revelation, to prevail.
Of what importance, therefore, it is to feel, that the successórs of Christ, also, are writing to our own real selves, and not to a race of imaginary, beings, it becomes a matter of too selfish concern to us, not to perceive. Is, then, the manner of the apostolical epistles that which is adapted to the real state of human nature, under the existing circumstances of revelation ?
We have already represented the existing state Lect. ii.