« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Some persons, indeed, have manifested great indifference about what we are to believe, provided that we are careful as to our moral conduct. One of this class says, "His [faith] can't be wrong, whose life is in the right." But it would have been more conformable to truth if he had said, "His life can't be right, whose faith is in the wrong." A man whose creed, so far as it goes, is good, may act viciously; but he whose creed is bad, cannot act so as to please God. Our established church, in her eighteenth article, denounces an anathema against those who presume to say, that every man shall be saved by the law or sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that law, and the light of nature; and confirms it by a reference to the words of St. Peter, "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved," than that of Jesus Christ. There are too many in our church who entertain the opinion which that article condemns, and who think it so reasonable, that they are surprised to find the denunciation of the church against it Destitute of the Bible, we not only should have no good principles of action, but we should be incapable of knowing how to worship God acceptably. This is not a mere speculative opinion: it is a truth confirmed by the experience of all ages, and of all nations. The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, with all their boasted wisdom and philosophy, did not find out the true God. Instead of reforming the world, they joined with the herd of the people, in the most idolatrous, impure, and enthusiastic religious exercises; and at length as a reproach to their vanity, they erected an altar To
the unknown God.
From that fact St. Paul took occasion to say to them, "Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you." This charge was similar to that which our Lord had some time before brought against the Samaritans: "Ye worship ye know not what."
From the above facts we may clearly perceive, that we stand in need not only of a revelation, but also of a teachable disposition. Our minds are so averse to being taught of God, that we now naturally oppose his truth, and are prone to lean to our own understanding, and to neglect what God has revealed. Thus God complained of Israel, “I have written unto him the great things of my law, but they were accounted as a range thing:" as a thing they could do without, and to which it was unreasonable to give any credit; a thing too humbling to stoop to, and too inimical to their worldly pleasures. This was the disposition of those to whom in ancient times were committed the lively oracles of God; and it is a striking picture of many who at this day have the Holy Bible in their hands.
But the more our corrupt hearts revolt against the word of God, the greater is our need of its instruction. The appearance of so many Bibles in the world is an evidence, that God's law, which originally was written in our hearts, is defaced and blotted out by sin. It is also a gracious testimony, that God intends to imprint it there afresh. We should be thankful for the Scriptures, though they declare us ever so vile and rebellious: for, as we cannot be saved without repenting of our sins, so neither can we repent, except we have a thorough conviction of our sins against God, of our
meriting his eternal displeasure, and of cur utter inability to save ourselves. Until we are humbled so far as to acknowledge that the representations of these things contained in the Bible are true, that book is considered as an enemy, and laid aside: but when Divine grace enlightens the mind, and subdues our pride, we shall take it from its obscure shelf, and find it a faithful friend. We shall then see that it is like a skilful physician or surgeon, probing indeed the wounds of the soul, but, at the same time, administering a rich balm to heal them, and furnishing us with a powerful antidote against all the disorders of our corrupt and depraved nature.
Indeed, if the Bible presented to us nothing but a relation of our misery here on account of sin, and our certain punishment hereafter, although it might claim a divine original, yet it would be better to suppress it entirely; because the promulgation of it would tend only to make men unhappy before their time. But the evident benignity of the divine Being necessitates us to conclude, that a revelation which comes from him must be not only true, but also kind and gracious. And, indeed, thus we find it to be. Wherefore, having the Bible in our hands, we may be very willing to hear the worst charges it can bring, because, though it thunders out its curses against us as sinners, yet it proclaims also a free salvation effected by the death of the Son of God; and declares of him, that "he is able to save them to the uttermost, that come unto God by him;" and that "whosoever cometh unto him, he will in no wise cast out."
Let every reader of the Scriptures, therefore, first
seek to know from them what God has revealed of himself: for it is of great consequence to have a right knowledge of God. Then let him seek to know what God says of sinful men,and diligentlyinquire,on his knees, how he can be reconciled to God, how his person and his services may be rendered acceptable him; how his heart may be renewed, and his communion with God restored; how his name may be known to be written in heaven; and how he may be kept from falling, and presented at last before the throne of God with exceeding joy.
All these great things are to be learned from the Scriptures, and from no other book in the world. Without the Bible all is dark, all is erroneous and deceitful. Nothing else can satisfy the sincere inquirer after truth: but here we may find a satisfaction that no tongue can describe. Here we may obtain a full assurance of understanding, that these very important things are true; a full assurance of faith, that we are interested in them; and a full assurance of hope, that will make us not ashamed, because it will be instrumental in shedding abroad in our hearts the love of God, as an earnest or certain pledge of our future inheritance. This will be as the first-fruits of that harvest of eternal glory which those who love the Scriptures, and by them are made wise to salvation, through the faith of Christ Jesus, will one day read.
ON THE PROPHETICAL PARTS OF SCRIPTURE. THE prophetical part of Scripture is very valuable. St. Peter declares the word of Prophecy to be more VOL. III. * 3
sure than an audible voice from heaven; for a voice may deceive, but the vision of prophecy is true and no lie. Known to God are all his works, from the beginning of the creation; for God calleth the end from the beginning. He worketh all things after the counsel of his own will; this counsel being always present to the Divine mind, it was easy for him, by his Holy Spirit, to inspire men to record whatever part of it he thought proper to lay before his people..
There was only one grand object that the mind of God was set upon; which was the exhibition of Redemption by his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. This was the plan formed by the blessed Trinity, and per fected in the counsel of Heaven. The Holy Sciptures take up this scheme; and the whole design in them, as Jesus says, is to testify of Christ.
The Holy Spirit is very brief on the creation, and on the interval between that and the fall of man. The Divine Author hurries on, as it were, to bring on a declaration of God's design to save man. Accordingly, on the very evening of the first day of sin, the criminals were judged, and the prophetic epitome of the glorious gospel was laid before the human sinners. In this prophecy the infinite mind and unbounded grace of God step over four thousand years, and present the Son of God and the son of perdition conflicting for the souls of men; the head of the serpent was at that time to be bruised by the almighty heel of the Messiah, the promised seed of the woman.
This prophecy was the parent seed, from which other prophecies sprung, successively discovering the great and gracious designs of God; which, in different