« ZurückWeiter »
Ps. xix. 2. of his Son. Day unto day uttereth speech, and
night unto night certifieth knowledge ; the lights Gen. viii. of heaven rule in the firmament; and seed-time
and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter return, just as they have ever done. Man, too, continues the same as ever ; born with the same nature; tempted by the same passions, if unrestrained ; liable to fall through the same licentiousness of an obstinate will. We do not fail to hear sometimes, among the infinite perversities of contradiction, a voice of unbelief,
not differing in spirit from the taunt of the 2 Pet. ii. scoffers in St. Peter's days; Where is the promise
of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. And, accepting this challenge in the gross, let us reply; True: and for that very reason we believe with the more assured certainty, that the same Lord God omnipotent reigneth, and hath reigned always. Had it been otherwise, and had the laws, whether of physical or moral nature, appeared subject to mutability or caprice, we might have doubted. As things are, we are willing to believe thus far, for the very fact's sake of their consistency.
Thus, then, do both Testaments contain but one continuous plan. For that cannot be otherwise than one, of which all the realities are the same. And indeed, besides all other thoughts which may persuade us, that the groundwork and realities of salvation have always been the same; that it is the manner of appeal that is changed, and not the substance of the plan ; this one consideration remains, which should in itself be convincing and conclusive with all who claim the hope of believers now ; that, if it were not so, how does the Almighty call himself by the name of the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, for an everlasting covenant ? how indeed have the fathers fallen asleep? and what must be the hope of the most believing and obedient Israelites? of whom not any could see “ life” through their own law alone ; and to whom therefore, in this melancholy case, a special revelation were but a worse mockery of their infirmity!
And yet, while the agreement is thus great between the two dispensations, the difference is so great also, that much in the same way as our Saviour's commandment just referred to was both old and new ; so may these, which are but one in substance, be most naturally and properly accounted, in common apprehension and language, two. Wherein, then, is it that they differ? Much in many ways.--But our present in- See above,
: Note E. quiry is limited to the different manner of their appeals to man. In proceeding to consider which point, let
Heber it be borne in mind, that the futility has been Lect. VII.
most satisfactorily exposed of that cavil against the divine authority of Scripture, by which it is objected, that “ the Almighty therein con“ descends to persuade his creatures to obedience, " rather than by a sovereign act compel them to “ obey e:” and let the thought which follows be proposed for impartial consideration.
Suppose that we, possessed as we undoubtedly are of certain attributes of wisdom and justice, of compassion and benevolence, could set about the work of persuading men to piety and virtue, by an authority of our own ; feeling that we really had it in our power to make them adequate amends for their obedience, and means of convincing them to this effect ;-I ask, how should we naturally set about the work, in the first instance ? What inducements should we first offer? Would not our attempt begin with holding out, as encouragements to well-doing, those advantages on which we see the ambition and desire of man to be most keenly set? those rewards, of which we may perceive all to be so covetous ;-ascertainable, measurable rewards f?
e Nor, indeed, is this cavil only futile; but in one respect it becomes even valuable to the cause which it assails, inasmuch as it recoils upon the objector; a fresh exemplification, among many, of the manner in which “ extremes meet.” For what can we imagine the proposer of this objection to think of an “ implicit faith” in Revelation ? And yet in this his objection, we find him actually complaining of the absence of a compulsory force, which must have made all belief merely mechanical ! Such is the inconsistency of error.
I apprehend, that an answer to such question is provided, in an appeal to the character and sanctions of all human laws: wherein that to which alone their power can reach (namely, punishment) is strictly of this visible sort. From whence no room was left for doubt, of what nature any enactments of such laws would be for the encouragement of virtue, were it as much in the power of limited means to recompense, as it is to punish. But the Almighty, it should seem, has provided us a lesson, in this very feebleness, that he hath in every case reserved the kingdom of recompense to himself alone : See Luke whether we regard that present vice-royalty of it, which is found in the testimony of a good conscience, or that future reality of glory, to be revealed in his own good time.
f I mean, of course, consistently in all cases with morality : our instinct of self-defence would teach us to respect that. In fact, moral virtue would be exhibited and enforced as the very and only channel that could lead in each partienlar case to its own proper and analagous compensation : as may be well explained by a reference to the various moral tales of a very popular writer of the day, Miss Edgeworth ; all the encouragements of whose stories appear to be founded on this very principle, and whose judgment, as a moral writer alone, is on many accounts entitled to respectful attention,
If then we are making a right estimate of the manner in which human providence would set about convincing mankind, and establishing them in virtue and goodness of living ; let it serve to shew us, how indulgently the dispensations of Omnipotence appear to have proceeded with the creatures of its two peculiar covenants, agreeably to this natural expectation of our own human reason. I speak this with reverence. God forbid that it should be thought to compromise or to degrade the ineffable and incomprehensible majesty of the divine perfections ! But if we, who now live in the light, can here or elsewhere trace, without impiety, a condescension, asking for our love, and stooping for our happiness ; what an argument is it for Christian submission, upon the principle of “ love to God!" what a motive for yielding cheerfully and wholly to Him, who hath bountifully left us so much for our own, that which alone he claims as an offering in return, of all that he has lent us; namely, “ a simple and single surrender of the “ heart;" and a sacrifice of the perverseness only, not of the real freedom, of the will!
I enter not into the question of a partial revelation. It is sufficient for the present purpose to perceive, that when it did please the Almighty to confine his presence and the true knowledge of himself to one especial people, he then graciously ordered his dealings with that