« PreviousContinue »
God. Like a mass of ice melting before the warm beams of the sun, the heart, which in the state of nature is frozen into enmity against God, touched by the softening influence of the Spirit, dissolves into pure and genuine affection; the carnal mind, laying aside its hatred and dislike of his character, and its determined stubbornness of opposition to his law, is converted into a spiritual mind, which delights in the contemplation of his perfections, glows with gratitude for his kindness, and enters with alacrity into the whole plan of his government—a mind which derives the chief source of its enjoyment from the experience of his favouring presence, and draws the motives of its obedience from the fountain of redeeming love.
It is also love to man. The same subordinating power which slew the enmity against God, and kindled in its stead the flame of ardent affection towards him, has also expanded, into a free exercise of every benevolent and disinterested emotion, the heart, which, under every blast of unkindness, was ready to be contracted into selfishness, or hardened into insensibility. The mind was ever prone to regard, rather with feelings of jealousy than with sincere delight, the happiness and the superior advantages of othersthat deemed every instance of ill-treatment a justifiable ground of hatred and of ill-treatment in return, and every instance of ingratitude a sufficient reason for withholding kindness—has now become generous in its principles, tender and amiable in its sympathies, and patient of injuries and persecutions. Not unconcerned for the temporal welfare of mankind, and not backward to contribute, to the utmost extent of its means, towards the promotion of their present happiness — its chief anxiety it will consider as justly due to their eternal interests. Viewing them as creatures made for immortality, its most earnest and persevering efforts will be devoted to the still more important purposes of securing (so far as its endeavours may succeed,) their well-being in’a world to come.
Section 2. Necessarily associated with this exercise of universal love, will be the other virtues, graces, and endowments of the Christian character-all blending into a soft and harmonious combination, and all flowing forth as so many streams from that spring of living waters which the Divine Spirit has opened in the heart. There, joy mingled with gratitude, and elevated by hope, arising in part from the consideration of miseries escaped, and, in part, from the anticipation of felicities to be enjoyed— from a sense of the privileges now possessed, and of the blessedness still in reserve,-triumphs as in its natural element. There, peace, meek, gentle, and serene, resulting from the subjugation of the appetites and passions, from the banishment of vain and irregular desires, from a soothing persuasion of being in a state of reconciliation with God, through the death and righteousness of his Son, diffuses a calm and delightful composure through all the powers of the soul.
There, forbearance under every species of provocation, resignation to the divine will, under the most trying dispensations of Providence, and amidst the most afflictive scenes of human life, will check the first risings of anger, and silence the voice of complaint. There, faith, in all the variety of its operations, will act with energy and vigour, reposing an unhesitating trust in all the declarations of Jehovah—confiding with unshaken reliance in the meritorious life andatoning death of the Redeemer as the sole and all-sufficient ground of its hope of salvation—looking forward with a realising eye to the glories of a future world, amid the clouds and darkness of present sufferings, and directing, as a pri.. mary power, the whole movements of the conduct. There, the flame of devotion burns, prayer delights to make known its request, praise to offer up its incense of thanksgiving, holy contemplation to unfold its pinions, and to soar amid scenes yet remote. There, also, the duties of temperance and self-denial, the rigid restraint within their due and appropriate bounds of the several faculties and affections of the soul, will meet with the requisite share of attention. There, in short, goodness, in all its constituent principles, whether it regards God or man, whether it relates to the understanding, the heart, or the life, to the habits of the mind, or the regulation of the conduct, proves its existence, vindicates its character, and evinces its celestial origin.— Archbishop Whately.
LESSON XVII. REMARKS OF A SCEPTIC ON THE MAJESTY OF THE
SCRIPTURES. I WILL confess that the majesty of the Scriptures strikes me with admiration, as the purity of the Gospel hath its influence on my heart. Peruse the works of our philosophers with all their pomp of diction : how mean—how contemptible are they, compared with the Scriptures ! Is it possible that a book, at once so simple and so sublime, should be merely the work of man? Is it possible that the sacred personage whose history it contains, should be himself a mere man? Do we find that he assumed the tone of an enthusiast or ambitious sectary? What sweetness, what purity in his manner ! What an affecting gracefulness in his delivery! What sublimity in his maxims ! What profound wisdom in his discourses! What presence of mind,—what subtilty,—what truth in his replies ! How great the command over his passions ! Where is the man,—where the philosopher who could so live, and so die, without weakness and without ostentation ? When Plato de. scribed his imaginary good man, loaded with all the shame of guilt, yet meriting the highest rewards of virtue, he described exactly the character of Jesus Christ; the resemblance was so striking, that all the fathers perceived it.
What prepossession, —what blindness must it be to compare the son of Sophroniscus to the Son of Mary! What an infinite disproportion there is between them! Socrates dying without pain or ignominy, easily supported his character to the last; and if his death, however easy, had not crowned his life, it might have been doubted whether Socrates, with all his wisdom, was anything more than a vain sophist. He invented it is said, the theory of morals. Others had, however, before put them in practice ; he had only to say therefore what they had done, and to reduce their examples to precepts. Aristides had been, just before Socrates had defined justice ; Leonidas had given up his life for his country, before Socrates declared patriotism to be a duty: the Spartans were a sober people before Socrates recommended sobriety; before he had even defined virtue, Greece abounded in virtuous men.
But where could Jesus learn, among his competitors, that
pure and sublime morality, of which he only hath given both precept and example! The greatest wisdom was made known amongst the most bigotted fanaticism, and the simplicity of the most heroic virtues did honour to the vilest people upon earth. The death of Socrates, philosophizing with his friends, appears the most agreeable that could be wished for ; that of Jesus expiring in the midst of agonizing pains, abused, insulted, and accursed by a whole nation, is the most horrible that could be found. Socrates, in receiving the cup of poison, blessed indeed the weeping executioner who administered it; but Jesus, in the midst of his excruciating tortures, prayed for his merciless tormentors. Yes! if the life and death of Socrates were those of a sage, the life and death of Jesus were those of a God. Shall we suppose the evangelic history a mere fiction ? Indeed it bears not the marks of fiction; on the contrary, the history of Socrates which nobody presumes to doubt, is not so well attested as that of Jesus Christ. Such a supposition in fact only shifts the difficulty,
without obviating it; it is more inconceivable that a number of persons should agree to write such a history, than that one only should furnish the subject of it. The Jewish authors were incapable of the diction, and strangers to the morality contained in the Gospel, the marks of whose truth are so striking and inimitable, that the inventor would be a more astonishing character than the hero.-Rousseau.
THE OMNIPRESENCE OF GOD.