Abbildungen der Seite

a tendency, more or less direct, to depreciate the volume of the Old.

Now the view under contemplation will beget a worthy and devout reverence for the volume of the Old Testament, on the surest and safest grounds : not merely as an invaluable record of primitive antiquity ; not as the most ancient book in all the world; not as that which was once a revelation of the Almighty, and a law to his chosen people, but is now such no more: --these are honourable, but not adequate characteristics of it:--not therefore, as any of these; but as that which, being in itself the word of God, and now illustrated in all its purposes, and

bearings, and sanctions, by the superior brightCf. Lect. iv. ness of the Gospel, is light and spirit still :-as a book, of which all the portions that unfold the Leci: vi. counsels and the attributes of the Most Higli,

and the services he permanently expects from his moral creatures, now subjected to the pure control of Christian principles, are become (as

it were) Gospel to ourselves. Of which, even Coloss. ii. the parts that have perished with the using—the

local ceremonies and carnal ordinances,-even these claim a tribute, not other than of reverent thankfulness, when we reflect, that there is a sense in which it may be said of them, as it is said of Him who was the real substance of them

all, that they now appear (in part) to have 2 Cor. viii. been thus ordained, that we through their poverty

II. $. 3.

I. $. i.


might, in due season, become richs. Again, as a book, all whose memorials of another kind are entitled to a very different reception from that which unbelief, or too nice taste, or levity, sometimes bestows upon them; I mean such memorials as record the rude practices of nations differing from our own in time and knowledge, in climate and customs; or the grosser (and as we think now, repulsive) permissions therein contained; in respect of“ polygamy,” (for instance) or the union of near kindred, and such things ; or again, the crimes and palpable offences which disgrace many of the individual characters, even of God's chosen family and people:there are not any of these things which may not be turned to profit, when digested properly ; that is to say, by the humble thoughtfulness of a believing spirit, bearing in remembrance, that whatsoever things were written aforetime were Romans šv. written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope : provided only we have once learnt to distinguish between what they really do teach, and what they do not; to 'understand, by help of faith, what things are written for our imitation, and what for our admonition. But to dwell on this point here would be to anticipate too


c I mean “ poverty" so understood, as was explained in the preceding Lecture, comparing the Law and the Gospel, p. 44,


Lecture iv. much of the subject of another Lecture: where

fore at present we will pass on to a

IV. General consideration resulting from the view here taken of holy Scripture.

There needs no argument to prove, of what infinite importance it is to ourselves, the subjects of a spiritual covenant with the Almighty, and only of a tacit appeal made by Him to our more inward faculties, that we should be convinced of the real agency of a Divine power in the affairs of men, and of his displeasure against evil-doing: convinced as surely, (if it may be possible,) as if we had seen that agency visibly displayed before our natural eyes.

Bearing this in mind, then, let it be inquired; Does not the view in which we are now contemplating the continuous proceedings of the Deity with man, lead to these thoughts that follow ?

That the one same God, and Ruler, and Preserver of all men, (having created man for happiness in the beginning, and having ever since been tenderly anxious to bring him at last into the same, in despite of man's unworthiness,) has progressively revealed the knowledge of himself unto his creatures, that in every manner he might try them, if as free, accountable, moral agents, they would hearken to his counsels. And once he tried them (that is, our fathers of the elder covenant) by a dispensation of more


visible “ means,” making a show openly of his title to obedience : and now he tries them (that is, ourselves, as many as enjoy the Gospel) by a more gentle, yet more perfect trial; by a “ dis“ pensation of the Spirit.” Once, he has revealed himself to man, in positive actual agency and interference in the concerns of this lower world ; has displayed in part (if I may so speak, and be forgiven the machinery of his Providence; and now he has withdrawn that proof of immediate interposition, and is not traced as the Supreme Governor of the world, except through silent and ordinary processes.

Yet can we, doubt that he is the same real Ruler now, as ever ? Surely we may perceive most reasonably, that the more naked manifestations of the Old Testament seem to have been made once, for the greater universal benefit : as far as we, individually, are concerned, for the Cf. Lect. vi. more full instruction of our own souls in all necessary knowledge; for the more lively awakening of our fears; for the surer trial of our patience; for the higher test of our belief; for the more resistless subjugation of our pride, and of the perverseness of our natural will.

Which if it be so, let us consider how this . train of thought and faith, continued, may serve us as a guiding principle, in contemplation of the general moral aspects of the world, as now

[ocr errors]


influenced and directed by silent and secondary means..

We are satisfied by various evidences coinciding to the same purpose, that “ the hand of “ Providence is still over us in every thing, “as certainly and fully now, when it is never “ openly exhibited, as it was of old, when the arm

of might was bared in palpable visitations.” And what shall be the consequence ?

Shall it be, that, when we have this great security for our unspeakable comfort, we must needs go hand in hand with an overheated piety, in referring to it with an indiscriminate forwardness, and an unholy familiarity ? in appealing to the first Great Cause for interpretation of every ordinary case that happens, not by any appointment specially and perceptibly providential, but only mediately, and in the order of things? in drawing out our whole store, and last resource, on common occasions ? in fixing, uncharitably, judgments that cannot stand; and passing sentences which an hour may reverse? or in despairing, indolently, of good things which may yet possibly be accomplished by a larger exertion of Christian faith, and hope, and perseverance ?

Not so: but understanding, deeply and habitually, that, while the doctrine itself is sure for ever, we have 'no rule for partial interpretations of it; that the hand of God is indeed prevailing

Cf. Lect.
vü. ad fin.

« ZurückWeiter »