« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
tions, that govern the whole. These it is, which first overcome the opposing resolutions we had set up, or which give birth to new ones, and then bear us onward in their own current, like a noiseless but all-sweeping tide. People commonly seem to think it enough for them to resolve, at any given time, what course they will take, and to expect that they will then be sure to pursue
it. There never was a more fatal delusion among men.
We know that the world has always been full of such resolutions, which came to naught, because they were undermined and swept away by the still deeper currents of taste, thought, and feeling, that set in the opposite direction. There are thousands of good intentions, formed to-day, that will utterly fail, for this reason; thousands will be formed to-morrow, and in every subsequent period, that will prove to be nothing more than a straw. against the force of a river. There is a fixed law that operates in this matter, as there is in every thing else ; and wherever we can look deep enough to discover the workings of this law, the apparent excentricities of human conduct cease to be surprising. It is, then, no mystery that we are often left to do the very thing we had determined not to do, and that we neglect the duties we had meant to perform. In the most of these cases, the reason is, that we take little care of the remote springs of our action. We let the internal machinery of thoughts and fancies, of likings and dislikings, of affinities and attachments, go on at random, until they break out into some open and noticeable
If we guard our outward conduct, we think all is well; our hearts we neglect, deeming it of little mo. ment what is passing in those unseen depths. We suffer wrong habits of taste and feeling to form there; we allow ourselves to become familiar with evil desires; and think there is no danger, so long as we are prudent enough to keep them to ourselves. But there lies our mistake; and a terrible mistake it is likely to be, in the end. Those hidden thoughts, and tastes, and desires, are seeds which we sow and cultivate in a soil that never proved barren, as yet. St. Paul says, “Be not deceived ; God is not mocked ; for whatsoever a man soweth, that also shall he reap." Nor are the laws of our nature ever mocked. Though those primary elements of our conduct are all unseen by the world, still they are there, gathering strength within us.
While we hug ourselves in fancied security, they are slowly, and so much the more treacherously, gaining the ascendancy over us; and, sooner or later, they will break out, unless they be corrected. We may be assured of this : that our hearts will prove too strong for all our prudence and watchfulness, and that they will eventually carry us in the direction whither they tend, in spite of our resolves to the contrary. They are the motive-power of our lives. " Keep thy heart with all dili gence, for out of it are the issues of life.”
H. B. 2d.
Remarks on Romans vi. 7.
6 For he that is dead is freed from sin."
With this passage of Scripture, the readers of our re. ligious literature must already have grown familiar. It is often quoted as a proof-text of the doctrine, somewhat prevalent among us, that sin and its punishment are confined exclusively to the present life. Of the truth of this doctrine, I frankly confess myself not satisfied; but whether true or false, I am fully convinced that this passage has no bearing whatever upon it.
I am aware that, to many excellent brethren, the whole subject presents itself in a very different light. To them the doctrine appears true, and the proof direct and conclusive. Great stress indeed, is laid upon the plainness and simplicity of the apostle's language, here. " Here,” it is said, “ we have the express declaration of the Bible in regard to this subject. We want no reasonings. Away with your speculations and philosophy, and give us the clear doctrines of the Bible. The apostle says distinctly that He that is dead is freed from sin;' and if the dead are free from sin, then there can be no sin in the future world, and if no sin, so no punishment."
All this I am willing to concede is very well, and in certain circles very effectively said. With me however it is not irresistible, because I have learned that the apparent is not always the real sense of a passage of Scripture, and also that in this imperfect world the most confident are sometimes mistaken. When our Saviour instituted the eucharist, he said “This is my body." Language could hardly be more simple or explicit; but are we then to believe in transubstantiation, or heed the dogmatism of the Romish Church? By what means, but an absolute renunciation of reason, are we to accept the theological juggle which teaches us that Christ held his own broken body, in the form of some pieces of bread, in his own hands, and saw his disciples eat it before his eyes? The metamorphoses of Ovid, or the wonders of Aladdin's magic lamp, are more credible. It is no miracle indeed, ' to be believed, but an exhibition of diablerie that mocks our senses, or an unworthy play upon words that insults our intellect. The use of a single grain of common sense solves the difficulty at once. It is but a figure of speech, common to all languages, but especially frequent in the Oriental. The Saviour did not mean that this bread was really his body, for that was then before them, but simply that it might be regarded as a symbol of it, or was interided to represent it. Had the Roman Catholic Church interpreted the whole Bible in the same manner as it did these words of the Redeemer, it would have been a cardinal doctrine of it, that God is at once not only an infinite, invisible spirit, but also literally “a great rock;" and Christ, while he is the Son of God, would have also been literally "a vine,” and “the door of the sheep." This would be to forget that the Bible came from God, who is the fountain of reason, and was addressed to man made in the image of God, and therefore rational. It has been well said, “The meaning of the Bible, is the Bible;" hence in our study of the sacred volume, we should bear constantly in mind, that it is not simply what the Scrip. tures say, but what they teach, that concerns us.
On inspecting the passage before us, it will be readily seen that its whole force, so far as the doctrine of future punishment is affected, depends on the meaning of the word “dead.” If the term," he that is dead," be taken in its literal sense, then the apostle plainly affirms that those who have passed away from this world, are free from sin. But whether, on this supposition, we could safely conclude that there will be no future punishment, is a grave question, admitting of very serious doubt. The apostle certainly does not affirm it, nor does his language necessarily justify the inference. Besides, the facts of the divine government, so far as we are acquainted with them, seem very plainly to show, that punishment outlives the sins that call it down, and often the repentance and reformation that sometimes flow from it. Sin is too evil and bitter a thing, violation of God's holy law is too solemn and weighty a matter, to allow its consequences to be short-lived. We can not at our will put a stop to its terrible effects; and least of all can I see any reason why they should all cease precisely at the moment of death. Important as this event may seem to us, I am yet to learn how it can change our moral character, or in any manner affect our relations to the infinite goverment of God. But I do not propose to enter this field of discussion here. It would require too much time, and besides would draw us away from the proper business of this article: a simple exposition of the words of St. Paul in the passage before given.
In considering this subject, I propose to exhibit, in the first place, the usus loquendi, of the sacred writers, and especially of St. Paul, in regard to the words “ death," " dead," etc. This will enable us to see the various manners in which it is possible to interpret the passage before
In the second place, I shall examine the context, endeavor to trace out the apostle's course of argument and train of thought, and thus ascertain, if possible, what meaning he actually attached to the word in question.
I. Let us consider the several senses in which the sacred writers employ the words, “ death,” « dead, etc. For the sake of clearness, I will range these meanings in order, and exhibit some illustrations from the New Testament, under each.
1. Natural death. This word, I need not say, occurs in all parts of the Bible, as it does in every other book, in its common, well understood sense, expressive of that natural change, or some of its effects, which we observe to
take place in all living bodies, by which they cease to retain the powers or perform the functions of life, and under which they thenceforth more or less rapidly decay and mingle again with their kindred elements. Thus when a man, through old age, disease, or violence, has ceased to live, the Scriptures, as well as ourselves, speak of him as having died, suffered or tasted death, and being dead. Thus, in Gen. v. 5, “ And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.” To Christ the Jews said, John viii. 53, “ Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead ? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself ?” But this use of the words is to be found on almost every page of the Scriptures, and requires no illustration. Such is the primary and literal meaning of the words; and in some of the characteristics, relations or effects of natural death, are we to look for the ground on which is predicated all its secondary or figurative senses.
There is a peculiar use of the words “die” and “death," in the Scriptures, which I may notice in passing, very well worthy of attention. Probably from the fact that a vio lent death or capital punishment was so often inflicted in the ancient world, the words “ die” and “ death,” came to be used for any kind of punishment, or for the misery, of whatever nature, that flowed from sin. All the consequences of transgression seem to have been grouped together under this word, as an emphatic expression of what all men dread. Owing to our ignorance of all the circumstances, it is difficult for us in many cases to say definitely whether literal or figurative death is intended. In other cases, it seems to be apparent. When St. Paul says, Rom. vi. 23, “ The wages of sin is death," the notion of literal death is not admissible, and we are left to interpret the word as indicated above. (Compare also Rom. vi. 16; and vii. 5.)
2. Moral or Spiritual death. This use of the words is very frequent, especially in the New Testament. Its relation to the fundamental idea of death is not very apparent. It may have originated in the use of the word mentioned above, which as it signified the consequences of sin, was by a common figure of speech, applied to the cause itself. Thus death, which expressed the effects of