« ZurückWeiter »
John ii. 25.
For he knew what was in man. THESE are words spoken of our Saviour, during his abode on earth : but they are true also of that holy record a whereby he is made known to us, now that the day of his Gospel is far spent, and the Comforter has long been reigning in his stead. In prosecution, therefore, of our subject, I propose to apply them, generally, to “ Holy “ Scripture ;" and to seek an argument of its “ divine authority” from the consideration, that it knew what was in man.
At the crisis at which we contemplate the believer now, it signifies but little by what portal he has entered in to the temple of truth. We contemplate him, as having made the simple surrender of his own will to that of God; and, therefore, whether mercy brought him thither
a Thus Scripture is personified and identified with its Author by St. Paul, Galatians iji. 8. Ilpoüdãou die ypacon &c. And again, ibid. ver. 22. 'Annå ovvéxakidev ypas on ta névtc, &c.
by the shorter path of intuitive assent, or whether Psal. xlviii. he has entered in after having first gone round
about the towers of Zion, and numbered all the bulwarks thereof, need no longer be matter of anxiety. He has arrived now, in either case, at a condition, which may be compared to that of the disciples, Peter and James and John, after our Lord's transfiguration ; when the glory had
vanished, and the voice of celestial proclamation Matt. xvii. ceased ; and looking round, they saw no man Mark. ix. 8. any more, save Jesus only with themselves.
So fares it with the Christian--left in company with the Scripture only and his own faith and conscience, in this world. And when in this posture of things he shall look around, what shall he expect- what is he entitled to expect -in regard to internal qualification,) in that which he has thus chosen for a guide and lasting companion ?
I do not mean in this Lecture to speak more than generally.
Generally, then, he may with reason expect to find in an authentic record, purporting to be the full and final disclosure of the Divine will towards reasonable creatures; the abiding treaty between heaven and earth; the delegated voice of God, summoning believers to happiness, and alone able to conduct them to it; such correspondence with the existing state of his own positive experience, and so much, at least, of
appeal to faculties with which he finds himself endowed, as may leave him no room to doubt, that he and such as he are the persons to whom the record is addressed...
Does Scripture meet this expectation? We think it does.
It may help us in our search, and will present the question in an interesting point of view, to consider what sort of a material volume the Book of Inspiration is.
It is a volume, then, such as a child may carry in his hand; and even of this small substance a large portion is taken up with “ History;" a good deal by the provisions of a “ Ceremonial “ Law," now abrogated; a large share, again, by “ Prophecy;" and a good deal also by contro“ versial reasoning," mixed up with the exhortations of the Apostolical Epistles. There remains, of positive law, and matter directly preceptive, a sum extraordinarily small: and yet the volume is adequate (in the believer's apprehension) to meet all the contingent variety of cases which may arise in human actions.
Now if this be só, if Scripture be indeed found such a sure and comprehensive guide, we contend for this inference ; that it never could have been within the grasp of any mind, such as we have seen and known men like ourselves to bear, so to enclose all the licentiousness of man's practice within the fence of so very narrow
a prescription. It is the character of human legislation to multiply statutes and prohibitions: which indeed (when we come to reflect upon the matter) appears to be of necessity the character of a legislation that is in fact retrospective ; whose ordinances are built upon " experience”. only; and whose fulness and accuracy must depend upon the sum of knowledge in the legis. lators, at the period of enacting their statutes. The ordinances of the divine mind are of a very different character ; founded on a thorough previous acquaintance with the very secrets of all hearts, which ever have been, are, or are to come. They are simple and prospective : their foundation is not “ experience,” but something antecedent to experience; a full, perfect, and unerring insight into all the possibilities of nature. Human statutes, therefore, may be multiplied almost to infinity, and yet be very imperfect. The statutes of God are few and brief; and yet can no extravagance of conduct, arising from the most rebellious free-will, prove itself diversified enough to escape them. Were the BIBLE not divine, it would have failed by excess of precept. It would have attempted too much. We should discover the weakness of a secondary mind, through the very pains that would be taken to prove itself an all-sufficient one. “ Ara tis est celare artem ;” and we believe that none, except the first and great Artificer, he that
fashioned man in the beginning, and all the structure of the universe, could have devised such a code as that of “ Scripture,” containing with so much simplicity in so very small a compass, such treasure of wisdom, as appears the more inexhaustible, in proportion as it is the more scrutinized.
But, then, we do not look, in this view, to direct precept alone. For the book of God's law neither conveys its force to the heart of the believer by direct precept only, nor by inference from direct precept only; but the whole matter of it is “ life and Spirit.” It addresses itself to spiritual faculties. By the light of its principles, its “ history” becomes precept; its “ prophetic “ denunciations,” counsel ; its very “ contro“ versies," rich lessons of practical instruction. It is an appeal to human nature. It stoops to meet man as he is, in order to conduct him where he ought to be. Altering only a single word of the quotation, we may find a lively picture of its method and its end, in two lines of the Poet;
“ Parva quidem primo; mox sese attollit ad auras; “ Ingrediturque solo, et caput inter nubila condit.”
Our business, then, is to ascertain how far the general matter of Scripture does or does not coincide with familiar positive experience b.
b It is obvious that a topic of inquiry like this (its main scope once stated) can only be illustrated in detail, by a few