Abbildungen der Seite

method of divine appeal to us was considered, Lect. ii. and a view taken of our condition, as subjects of a dispensation of the Spirit. To this general Lect. iii. statement were annexed certain detached considerations, calculated to account for appearances of rebellion and unfaithfulness, under a covenant so holy; to reconcile the heart to the painful sight of them; and to give answer to some inward perplexities concerning holy Writ itself, which might, and may, very possibly, disturb the meditations of the faithful.

We were then prepared to enter on the view proposed of the sacred volume; under which, its conformity with the existing state of human na- Lect. iv. ture was first asserted in general, and then ex- Lect. v. emplified in detail. A further argument of the divine intention, that no method should be left untried to bring reasonable creatures back into obedience, was founded on the proportion from Lect. vi. time to time observable in the character and manner of successive agents, who have ministered to that effect.. Though not an overwhelming, it was yet no Cf. Lect. v.

Introduce favourable picture of ourselves which was thus tion. presented. Wherefore, at its close, it became expedient to pause upon the question-of the sufficiency and fitness of Scripture, so exhibited, to our individual necessities and desires. This adap- Lect. vii. tation it was attempted to trace in the last Lecture. It only remains of the original intention,


to illustrate the excellence of Scripture, as “a “ guide through the complex relations of social - life.”

In truth, however, not much is necessary here to be added to previous considerations : because, as was suggested, and as increased and still in

creasing reflection will surely make manifestLect. vii. p. the sense of personal responsibility, before an

unerring judgment to come, will, to an enlightened conscience communing with itself under a spiritual dispensation, include the principles of social duty. In fact, it is in this very point, that the superiority of Scripture, as-the rule and law of social life, shines forth so transcendently. While man, dazzled by the brilliancy of visible

and sensible effects, aims at the splendor of geCf. Lect. iii. neral improvements, and loves to attack comp.72,73,74. 1:

bined aspects of error, Scripture lays the axe of reformation to the root of evil, chasing it to the hold where it lies hid in the individual spirit. It plants the seed of renewal in that soil, from which alone it can so spring, as to bear fruit effectually, let it branch forth to what extent it may. All other legislation and reform, however excellent in its own theory, cannot at

best be more than expedient, and partial in its Cf. Lect. iv. operation. It may correct specific local abuses ; p. 81, 82,

but it wants the element of universal applicability. It wants the point from which to begin in every case alike.



To proceed, however, to the consideration of Scripture, as it bears upon questions of civil and social life.

It appears often to be assumed, in vindicating men's free right to prescribe in such questions for themselves, that the Gospel does not interfere with civil ordinances, or dictate in the arrangements of social policy. True. Christ's kingdom John xviii, is not of this world.But it may be doubted, whether all, as many as indulge -such thought, consider how far it is true, or why it is true.

It is not true, if the thought be so extended as to involve an inference, that “ religion and our “civil relations are subjects separate and inde“ pendent;" that“ religion” is a thing by itself ; a thing of times and seasons; a sort of robe, only to be worn in set and public places, or on high and solemn days; while much lower considerations may suffice to define the rules of ordinary conduct, in matters of mere human policy. The acceptance and belief, and pervading influence of the revealed will of God, ought to be traceable through every sentiment and rule of a Christian community, whether public or private. It need not be obtruded with that jealous minuteness, which seems to fear that nothing can be seen of the Creator, or Redeemer, nothing referred to: the authority of either, without reiteration, in express words, of those holy names, which too freely to pronounce is rather profanation than

[ocr errors]

reverence. But undoubtedly, a loftier principle should be found master of all secondary wisdom; unquestionably, every single fiat of the lesser should be found resolvable into a first influence of the greater; and be seen to claim its strength by correspondence with that alone. It is not true, therefore, that Christ's religion does not interfere with even the most public of our actions or concerns, if the affirmation be so made, as to imply an entire line of distinction between it and them.

But if it be understood, that, inasmuch as the Gospel has already made a far better provision for all social, by purifying to the very inmost thought all individual excellence, therefore, it is silent upon topics, upon which it was not necessary to speak ;-this is very true. Though we believe that the wonderful acquaintance with human nature displayed in holy Scripture affords the surest treasure of wisdom and of foresight in every question, of every kind; (through deduction from experimental facts of every kind therein recorded for ensamples ;) it must be allowed, that the Gospel does not busily and imperatively interfere with the details

of human arrangement in matters purely civil. Rom. xii. While its code is not without specific precepts 1 Pet. ii. bearing upon such questions; it nevertheless

seems certain, that very much is left therein to the ministration of man's best assistant powers,



[ocr errors]

iii. p. 68-70.

subject to the test of a strict spiritual self-examination, under a sense of personal accountableness. It is congenial with the characteristic manner of the Gospel, as a divine dispensa- Cf. Lect. tion, that it should do so.

The question, therefore, “whether holy Scriptures. “ ture supplies a rule and law of life amidst the “ difficulties of public and economic questions on “ an extensive scale;” may be dismissed, as one answered by anticipation. It is not our purpose, to unravel the abuses and perversities of man; or to combat, in detail, objections having their foundation in abuse only; but to unfold “ the “ sufficiency of holy Scripture as an universal “ guide to such as will, in singleness of heart, << receive, and live by it." .',

It will be more consistent with this object, to consider, what direction Scripture may supply to the believer, (as he will be affected by the conduct of others,) in certain cases of more familiar and domestic occurrence; under perplexities, which break in more upon our privacy, or jar more painfully upon the meditations of secret thought. A few examples must suffice for illustration of our general meaning.'

Let us endeavour, then, to estimate impartially the legitimate effects of two Christian “ principles," which shall be described.

I. The first is that resulting from the view of social life, which appears to be conveyed through

« ZurückWeiter »