Page images
[blocks in formation]

CHRISTIANITY AS A META-, of cloud, yet they each admirably PHYSICAL SYSTEM.

subserve their purposes in the eco

nomy of nature. Christianity, which I. REASON AND REVELATION.—It is Revelation in its ripeness and mahas been the dark policy of unbe- turity, appeals to the highest reason, lievers to set Reason and Revelation and is in solemn harmony with the at variance. Wickedness and folly most profound conclusions of human combined have led them to seek and understanding. Yet Reason, though imagine such an impossible conflict. powerful and majestic, is a vassal Among the religious, ignorance and without being a slave. Apprehendsuperstition have led many to the ing, in some measure, the suitability same degrading conclusion. The of the disclosures which have come vindictive enemies and the injudi- from above, but not able to rise above cious friends of the supernatural have the facts of redemption, so as to rest arrived by different roads at the same with certainty on the everlasting reagoal; yet it has not proved a temple sons upon which they are grounded, of reconciliation. The strife continues it is surely no depreciation of Reason loud and violent as ever, both ad- to declare that there are deeps in the mitting antagonism between the divine mind which cannot be sounded forces or powers, but each claiming by the human—that the infinite in superiority for the energy which has space and duration cannot be reached enlisted his own faith. They might by earthly measuring-line ; or that as reasonably seek for opposition the spirit of man, though it is the between the sun and the moon; the lamp of God among visible things, one splendid with original light—the yet cannot reveal the secrets from the other serene in borrowed lustre. bosom of Divinity. As the stars of Though the one which rules the day | the great vault are hidden and obsometimes burns with destructive scured, not by darkness, but by a glory, and the one which rules by curtain of light which the Lord of night often sails under black masses day stretches over them, so the silver



lamp of reason fades and pales away well lighted for its base, and high amid the golden splendours in the over head a mystic roof, where many inner temple of Godhead. Two lamps of fire tremble in partial illugrand conditions appear to be inse- mination, but disclose not the mystery parably connected with a revelation of that ebon dome from which they from God. First, that the substantial are suspended. testimony on which faith is to rest, II. MORAL AND POSITIVE LAW.and the duties in which faith is to Would to God that men generally live, should have a crystal clearness could apprehend the nature of moral and transparency, seizing strongly on law. Teachers too commonly give the common understanding, and single prominence to divine will. piercing deeply the common heart. Now this, though certainly a foundaSecond, that the truth received and tion, is not the deepest foundation. enjoyed should have relations and That which can be established by connections wonderful and inscrut- mere will can be changed or inverted able. Without the first, the gospel by the same authority. We concould not be glad tidings of great joy ceive, for instance, of Satan as a to all men, but would only increase great intellect, entirely separated the misery and pain of the human from God, and utterly abandoned to race. The mass of men have neither evil—one who abode not in the truth, time nor power to pursue the recon- but from the beginning of our moral dite; but demand, by the urgency of history was a liar and a murderer, their condition, broad lines of evi- and still remains the malignant, imdence, and principles of action popular placable, and remorseless enemy of and powerful. Without the second, 1 God, truth, and holiness. We conRevelation would at once be con- I ceive of Christ as the being who walked demned as a humanism. Coming the earth in divine beauty, the crownfrom a God who from everlasting to ing incarnation and salient spring of everlasting dwells in glory uncreate all things pure and undefiled in word and inaccessible, and treating of rela- and action. Suppose then a decree tions between himself and his crea- from the Supreme, which declares tures, which look backward into that from henceforth the character antique ages and forward into the of Satan shall be the pattern chaeternal state-downward into the racter, and the character of Christ human soul, and upward into the that against which we are to strive mind of Divinity-it must be myste- and pray with watching and fasting. rious and sublime. In the nature of Impossible ! exclaims the reader. the case, it transcends the ordinary | Certainly impossible. But wherein track of reason and the boundaries of lies the impossibility? Because, if nature, stretching away into infinity will only was concerned in the existand eternity. Fields that are insuffer- ing moral relations, will might change ably bright in crimson lustre, and and overthrow, transforming evil into forests which are solemn in majesty good by new legislation. It is imof darkness, appear through every possible, because (with reverence be vista. Such is the superscription of it spoken) the spiritual relations of God on his method of redemption, the universe rest not upon will, human feeding with proper aliment wonder, or divine. They arise by moral neideality, veneration, and all the moral cessity from the character of God, faculties, on the cultivation and su- / which is as ancient and immutable premacy of which depends our eleva- as his being. The eternal I Am tion in the scale of spiritual being. could not will evil without divesting Christianity realizes both the condi- himself of that essential holiness which tions spoken of, having a firm ground' is his glory. His will is the declara

tion of his nature. His laws are not life divine; but it was likewise by arbitrary nor perishable, because they ordinances that the life was procured, are transcribed from the book of his and the food rendered accessible. own sublime moral character--statutes The ancient eternal moral law made in which the essential light and the no provision for the preternatural essential love are embodied in eternal state of things arising out of sin and and life-giving principles. From the rebellion against God. By positive bosom of central Godhead, that sanc | appointments, ruin was averted, sin tuary of justice and fathomless ocean was arrested, death was conquered, of life and love, sprang those solemn and the gates of immortality reopened. relations which we sustain to each Christianity is a positive supernatural other and to the Creator, and those appointment, and all its elements are divine laws which have imperial elements of life. Could we separate control.

| the branches from the trunk, we But if moral law, which is neces- | would only leave a maimed and sarily the same through all worlds bleeding body; and no valid reason and among all intelligent beings, I could be assigned to prevent the springs from the bosom of God, destruction of the entire system, prowhence comes the positive law which viding our first work was justifiable. claims authority over the conscience Considerations of this kind are well in our fallen planet? From the same adapted to prevent men from trifling source--the well-spring of truth, jus- with the institutions of the Divine tice, and mercy. It is in this depart- Lawgiver; for if we neglect or ment of divine ordinance that will undervalue the ordinances by which comes more directly into the field of we are to lay hold upon his work, contemplation. Legislation, in a dan- why might we not, on the same gerous emergency, is by necessity ground, neglect or despise the ordioriginal. Still it is so arranged that nances by which he laid hold upon the positive shall glorify the moral. both God and man, to bring them The ancient law is magnified and together in peace and reconciliation ? made honourable through the ample III. GRACE AND MERIT. --From dominions of God. The inviolability St. Augustine and Pelagius to Gottsof his law never received such pro- chalk and Scotus Erigena—or from found homage, or such triumphant Luther and Erasmus down to Portvindication, as it received by the work royal and the Jesuits, when Pascal, of Jesus. The positive deeds on a solitary warrior, routed an army which we rest for salvation are in what a controversy has raged on strict harmony with the living spirit, this question. Renewed in every but far above the letter of moral law. age, and left unfinished by every Hence we have realized a more full generation. In what attitude must manifestation of the character and man stand before the eternal throne ? heart of the great Father than there In the legal haughtiness of one who could possibly exist in the state of has worked out his own redemption, primal innocence. A class of men and merited his own salvation-or in exist even among professing Chris- the condition of one who from the tians who profanely or thoughtlessly core of his being feels his own unseek to depreciate positive ordinances. worthiness, and is fain to fling himWere they not contracted in mental self upon the mercy of God in Christ? range, they might reflect that their When condemned criminals were censure falls upon entire Christianity. ready to perish, no man could give a By baptism, the supper of the Lord, ransom for his own soul, or provide and other cognate ordinances, we an expiation for his brother. All feed upon spiritual food, and enjoy I were guilty, silent, and helpless. If mercy flows, if love is triumphant, it could dream of finding grace in Calcan only flow from the pure fountain vinism. Listen to an orator of that head of life. Grace or favour un- grim school :-“ God has from all bought, undeserved, must originate eternity predestinated to eternal life the method of recovery and purifica- a portion of the human family. They tion. Man in his crime and wretch- are chosen for glory by his absolute edness was diseased both in power will through unconditional election, and will. He could not conceive of and will certainly reign in bliss any scheme for ransom and justifica- through eternal ages. All the rest tion, or imagine how the ancient of the world are either consigned to peace could be enjoyed and perpetu perdition by absolute reprobation, or ated. In this aspect we stand before the great God passes by them in inGod in that poverty of soul which is difference, leaving them to perish.” our true riches, humble and shiver- This is the naked spirit of the system, ing in the blast of nature, until we apart from all glossing and disguises. are attired in the robes of warmth We easily conclude that such a sysand beauty which become ours by tem, in the room of being glad tidings the blood and righteousness of ano- of great joy to all people, is the most ther. We have all been pursued by tremendous message that can be heard the same dread tempest of vengeance, upon earth, and re-echoed in thunder and at midnight, shipwrecked in the from hell. In the room of having same tremendous sea. If, while we for missionaries a Divine Saviour desperately struggled with winds and with bleeding compassion, and a host waves of wrath and ruin, a celestial of sanctified martyrs with weeping messenger has spoken peace to the benevolence and deathless love-it infernal tumult, and carried us under would require for its prime apostle his wings to the shore, let us not an incarnate Moloch, assisted by a boast of our security, as if we had legion of ancient furies with snakes reached the haven by skill and energy twisted around them. If such a reign of our own. The supernatural facts were possible, the men whose moral which are the historical groundwork nature is not utterly consumed by of Christianity—the miraculous evi- the cancer of selfishness, would radence which renders the facts credi- ther cast in their lot with the forsable-the adaptation of the mercies ken and the condemned, than have provided to our condition and circum- any participation in the fiery splenstances the original missionaries dour and disastrous renown of such pure heroic and saintly, who publish- an awful administration. The grace ed the glad tidings—the Providence of God is not a hidden fountain to which has preserved the record in which an initiated few are led by the books, institutes, and life, bringing Holy Spirit, that they may return the whole scheme down the torrent among us with spiritual pride and of ages in all its integrity and fresh-scornful pity ; but it is a bright, free, ness, with the bloom of youth and magnificent river from which all may the dignity of age---all this is of God: drink in life and immortality, and what could man do ?

lave therein for healing and renovaBut still the grace of God is neither tion. It is actually on this basis that Calvinistic nor Antinomian. It will the final judgment will rest and proform no alliance with heathen fatal- | ceed. “ God commandeth all men ism, strike no league with modern every where to repent, because he licentiousness. Were it not for our hath appointed a day in the which familiarity with the wanderings and he will judge the world in righteousdelusions of man, as history reveals ness by that man whom he hath orhim, we might wonder how any one dained, whereof he hath given assur.

ance unto all men in that he hath help us to travel the solar walk and raised him from the dead.”

milky way ; the telescope may vastly When the sceptre of love and re- widen the field of observation, until conciliation has been extended and we grasp, in some faint measure, the contemned—when the cup of life has marvel and the magnitude of visible been presented and rejected with external nature; but in the largest disdain - we can see and feel the sweep we take, let a man walk across justice of condemnation. The judg- | the field of observation, and at once ment-seat is glorious and inviolate. his mental rank and spiritual destiny But condemnation for unbelief in a eclipse all. No wonder that the laws salvation not provided for us! This of nature were suspended in attestawould be sufficient to shake the pil- tion of testimony, when the salvation lars of the universe, and spread a pall of man demanded such splendid eviof darkness over all things once be- dence. The theatre of action was lieved in as pure, divine, and eternal ! noble ; but the actor, the moral agent,

IV. NATURE AND MIRACLE.-In was greater, and so God came near this age of cold and barren philoso- to him in immediate manifestaíion. phy we have grown almost atheistic / V. FAITH AND LOVE.-Some unin our methods of conception and reasoning or unreasonable people expression. We speak so much and inform us that they cannot underso often about the course and laws of stand Christianity fully, and therefore Nature, that we often forget that we do not believe. They profess to be are employing mere abstractions. waiting to know and comprehend. Course of Nature surely means the We only desire to remind them that agency of a personal, powerful, and faith is neither knowledge nor deintelligent Being. Laws of Nature, monstration. Sensible experience the rules and principles of order, gives knowledge, geometry brings affinity, counterpoise, and mutual ac- demonstration, while faith gives subtion which God has established among stance and reality to things which material things ; or the direct action are neither seen nor self-evident. If of the Divine Being on the universe the unfortunate men who are waiting of his creation. Metaphysical ab- for evidence, sensible or mathematical, straction has become the ally of moral will not cast away their vision, and alienation. Hence men are ready seek higher philosophy, they will enough, with freezing politeness, to never have the illustrious honour of acknowledge a great First Cause, but walking by faith. It will certainly would rather have him at an im- be out of the field, and out of the mense distance. Let him loom as a question, when the invisible is regigantic spectre on the silent shores vealed, and the mild Mediator appears of immensity and eternity, or brood on exalted throne as Lord of creation sullenly in the remote abysses of time and judge of the world. Faith is the and space ; but not approach the belief of testimony: hence it is the thoroughfares of present life as a substance and the evidence, or the watchful and presiding spirit. But conviction and the confidence, of no speculation can destroy the histo- things unseen and hoped for. From rical realities by which God was faith springs hope, which is certitude revealed on the theatre of time and or conviction vivified by the element nature. It is written in characters of ardent desire. While faith rests of fire on all high places of the crea- upon the great rock of the testimony tion, and sounded in trumpet voices concerning Jesus, hope roves among through the wide earth that the ever- the promises with vital joy, and lasting God has been with us in spreads immortal wings in exulting miraculous energy. Science may assurance. “ And now abideth faith,

« PreviousContinue »