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pel. That “law of liberty," which it leaves to its disciples, in all lesser particulars, after it has
once established its dominion in the heart, by Cf. John convincing believers of sin, and righteousness,
and judgment, is something, which the condition Cf. Lect. vi. of the world obviously requires, yet which no p. 173.
human authority would dare to give.
Before, however, we close the consideration of those features whereby the Gospel is commended to our consciences, as a sufficient provision for the individual; there is one, which perhaps ought not to be passed over in silence : namely, that
indulgence which it certainly shows (consistently Lect. vi. II. with all that has been heretofore affirmed con
cerning its sense of “ justice)” to sincere “re“pentance,” whenever offered.
It cannot but be felt, that the enunciations of Scripture are so conveyed, with regard to this point, as in none, not even the extremest case of a “ death-bed" repentance, positively to exclude all hope to the awakened sinner. Bold, at least, should we pronounce that human hand to be, which would dare to close the gates of mercy, even at the very last! At the same time, so manifest is it, how painful, how severe a trial of disinterested hope and universal charity this extremity of mercy must bring with it, (I mean, to children that have feared their Maker, and endeavoured, through their whole probation, to love and serve him with all diligence and dutiful
desire,) that there seems especial care taken to forewarn us of the error of an envious temper on such ground, by representing it in several of the most unamiable portraits which the Gospel exhibits. Let it be enough to advert to the behaviour of the elder brother, in the parable of Luke xv.
28–30. the “ Prodigal Son.” And, in truth, when any Christian may presume to hope, that he himself is surely moving in the way to glory, is it not an envious and an offensive thing, to grudge an entrance, even to the guiltiest penitent, into a happiness that is more than plentiful for all ?
Now, it is easy to see the force, the fitness, the necessity, of giving room in our Lord's own records, to such representations, as may provide even for the very last emergency. But, when we acknowledge this, let it be borne in mind what is the lawful“ use" of such intrusted treasure. It is not, that all and every one of the examples of Scripture are to be applied in every case, wherever they may be forced or fancied to apply. If (for instance) by God's mercy there be found recorded, in a book intended to be profitable for instruction in all righteousness, a case like that of the “penitent thief;" --still, to apply this gene- Luke xxiii. rally, or rashly, is most unscriptural, and most dangerous. Most unbecoming and unreasonable the want of a due discrimination is, where such rare picture is only loosely quoted and referred to as a pattern of mercy ; but still more extrava
gant, when it is advanced to support a preconceived opinion, of the inefficiency of good works, in contributing towards the end of “ salvation !"
To reason thus is not our wisdom; nor is this the “ fulness” of Scripture. In rushing upon our very last resources to meet what is no more than a common demand, we expend, ruinously, upon ordinary cases, what the Spirit of truth has providentially supplied only for otherwise hopeless emergencies. Hence, we naturally bring our materials into discredit, in several ways. The best general way of teaching and interpreting is still the natural one. Let extreme cases be reserved in store for extreme demands. It is only so that Scripture does meet the predicament of every individual. It is so, that we shall best demonstrate this; best satisfy our own hearts ; least offend, and most silence, gainsayers; and most effectu
ally restore the penitent. I am persuaded the inLect. vi. II. ference is true, that with such discretion the
APOSTLES taught. I would that indeed we aimed at neither less nor more, than to shape the workings of our zeal by the model of holy Writ itself!
Another Lecture will maintain the excellence of Scripture, as a guide " amidst the world's in“tercourse;" and the design of the whole will be completed.
; ROMANS xii. 5.
So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one
members one of another.
THE object pursued through the preceding course of Lectures has been, “to assert the di“ vine authority of holy Scripture from its adap“ tation to the real state of human nature.”
Notwithstanding all that has been said and written, in its behalf, with such various excellence and power, and all that is professed and confidently maintained by champions of every denomination; it is nevertheless most certain, that many appearances are exhibited, among the subjects of the Christian covenant, concerning which it were mere deceiving of ourselves not to acknowledge, that they show most unfavourably for its cause. There are many aspects of life around us, from which it must in fairness be allowed to be no unnatural first impression ;-either, that holy Scripture is not that word of power, which we proclaim it to be ; or else, that man, as he now lives in the world, can never be the person meant to be influenced by it. Whence it would seem, as though, after all, “ truth” and the real “rule of life” were things yet to be settled: the acceptance, meanwhile, as such, of “ holy “Scripture” in particular, being a matter of mere habit or courtesy; and the curtailment or rejection of it one of indifference and free choice. Practical disobedience, partial contentions, presumptuous questionings, have so staggered the belief, perplexed the reason, or seduced the hearts of many; that to acquiesce unequivocally and unreservedly in the faith, as we have learned and been assured of it, is to run great hazard of encountering the reproach of “pre“judice” or “ weakness.”
Nevertheless, it is a weakness wherein lies our Lect. i. p. strength. And accordingly, it was taken as a 19, 20.
foundation, and enforced by some familiar apIbid. p. 11, peals to plain reason, that a simple and implicit
faith in the divine word is not only permissible,