« AnteriorContinuar »
Communion with the Lord is a mark of special distinction. Many obtain a clear creed from a catechism, and pride themselves in privileges enjoyed, and that they have been reared in from early life ; can rehearse many sermons preached by sound and solid men, and boast of blessings often begged from fathers in the faith: but this one thing needful, the soul wafted by the gales of God the Holy Ghost from earth to heaven, and a faith in exercise fixed on him who is the image of the invisible God, these persons are strangers too. It is but here and there a traveller is to be found, who has parted with all his great possessions for Christ and him crucified.
In the bible we meet with many who have this special mark of distinction upon them. A Moses prayed, "I beseech thee, shew me thy glory." (Exodus xxxiii. 18.) An aspiring Asaph exclaimed, "Whom have I in heaven but. thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee." (Psalm lxxiii.) "My msditation of him shall be sweet; I will be glad in the Lord," says the royal psalmist. Many more might be brought forward, to shew the reality of the sentiment, that the children of Zion do rejoice in their King, or that they have communion with God ; but we have witnesses in this world, who are a wonder to many and to themselves, who love and prize the power of religion, who love and live the truth, whose hearts burn within them, while they walk and talk with Jesus: the savour of his name is like ointment poured forth to them ; sin, once loved, has now ceased to charm; it is watched, fought and prayed against—the pardon of it occasionally enjoyed. The pilgrim's panoply put on, and often fearlessly fights, and faints and falls; but again and again raised up, and restored to his rank. His Captain is a physician of no ordinary skill; he extracts every deadly dart, heals every wound, and covers every scar. This is the life he will lead; his own weakness and wickedness often feel, but believing everlasting arms to be under him, he cannot finally fall, although he fears he shall, and instead of overcoming at last, he is fearful he shall be overcome; thus a conflict is continually maintained. But the Holy Comforter often comes with his cordials, which makes the weak say, I am strong—puts life and energy into our petitions, makes the dead to live, the sorrowful to sing, the scales to fall from the eyes; and then the beauties of Jesus are seen, the blessings of his righteousness desired, an interest in his intercession invoked. This holy unction helps him on his way, he gets upon the borders of a better world, and almost forgets he is in a wilderness still.' His sun now in splendour shines, and his working, vigorous faith travels into worlds unseen, looks at the Lamb upon the throne, the only centre of his hopes and joys, his song, and all his salvation; looks upon the blessed breast-plate upon the heart of hirn who is God over all, and reads his worthless name and wonders; turns to the book of life and finds it again written among the countless millions upon the precious page. But here he tarries not long; these glories are too great to live in, until our bodies are made like the glorious body of our exalted Head.
There can be no communion with the Father, and the Son, only by the influences of the Holy Spirit; no delight in the great and dear Redeemer; no sense of need of, or putting on the best robe of his righteousness; no bathing in his blood, or real repentance unto life; no choosing God as the effect of his choosing us; no casting our daily burden upon the Lord; no rising above ourselves and our sins, but through him who makes willing in the day of his power. Well may the apostle say, " the love of Christ passeth knowledge." We can form but faint conceptions of it. He must love his saints most dearly, value them highly, thus to commune with them.
But many, very many, are saying, I am such a sinner, so very sinful, that I dare not go to God, to hold communion with him; I fear his anger, for I deserve it; I dread his curse, for I have most justly merited it; and past offences do indeed pain my eyes. Well, to you is the word of this salvation sent. That Christ has out of love to his bride, took all their guilt, and curse, and anger away; by his death he redeemed his church, he discharged every claim, and his death is ail-sufficiently meritorious to obtain every blessing a burdened soul needs. So that the gospel holds out a most kind and hearty welcome to the poor, to come and be enriched; to the naked, to come and be clothed ; to the filthy, to come and be washed ; to the fool, to come and be made wise; to the hell-deserving, to come and freely receive peace and pardon ; to all who feel their need, to come and hold communion with the Father and the Son. The poorer the wretch, the welcomer here. Your sins are mighty, but his grace is almighty. The salvation that Christ has completed, is the salvation of a God, and none ever trusted in him and were confounded. And many who find nothing but sin, and death, and hell within them, are enabled by faith to hold communion with him the Lord, who became man that he might take the sinner's place, and be made the sinner's sin ; and yet without blemish or spot, he groaned under the weight of guilt imputed, and the curse inflicted. He profusely bled, to make a fountain deep enough to purify his chosen, and drown their sins; and when the Sun of righteousness shines, it is no longer night, but day. Thick clouds may come between, but will again be soon dispersed; and in all these changes of frame, the state is secure, and there is an unchanging God to fly to, and an unchanging promise to lean upon and to plead, a righteousness unchanging to take shelter under, and admits into heaven all who have it on.
(For the. Spiritual Magazine.J
LETTER TO THE EDITOR IN REPLY TO " VIATOR." Mr. Editor,
I Candidly avow to you, that had I foreseen the extent of discussion which my plain observations on Viator's first letter to you has produced, I should certainly have held my peace; for I am no "scribe," no "disputer," and still less do I feel qualified to interfere with the dread mysteries connected with the atonement of Christ, but rather to deserve the punishment of presumption than the reward of zeal; for none but hallowed, consecrated hands might touch the ark, even to defend it. Yet, Sir, in spite of my reluctance to engage in theological discussion, I am yet more indisposed to be silent, lest my silence should procure for me the imputation of meanly deserting a position I undertook to defend, or be construed into acquiescence, in the arguments of which I see neither the justice nor the strength. And, moreover, I write this letter in the full determination that it shall be the last with which I shall trouble you on the subject; and that this may not subject me to the charge of disingenuousness, I assure you that it is made only because further correspondence on my part would consist entirely of repetition. I might vary expression and illustration, but I should be unable to produce a new reason in addition to those which I have already given. I should in fact "spin out the thread of my verbosity finer than the staple of my argument," and so fall into the complicated fault of tedious inutility. Before entering upon the subject, i must take leave to request Viator to recollect, and (if he can) to retrace the mental process by which he drew from my remarks, strength to his original opinions: such a re-examination may convince him that he has concluded hastily, and greatly facilitate his arrival at a consistent and settled view of the question.
In the first place, Viator, taking the high vantage ground of God's omnipotence, asks if he could not' inflict pains which in common only arise from the actual commission of sin ?' and would, it seems, infer from the necessarily affirmative answer that must be given to this general question, that therefore God could have inflicted the torments of a guilty conscience upon Jesus Christ. But, Sir, such a conclusion is as dangerous in itself as it is unwarranted by the premises. The bare fact of omnipotence, will not, I say, justify the conclusion, and that because it is associated in the Deity with infinite justice and infinite goodness: all these eternal attributes co-operate in perfect harmony. He is omnipotent to that only which is good. We have his own invincible authority that " he Cannot lie," and that " he could do nothing" until Lot had " become thither." Thus Omnipotence itself is powerless when its exertion would oppose the covenants of infinite integrity.
And it is by the same line of reasoning, that I arrive with the utmost reverence at the firm belief that God the Just could not inflict the agonies of a guilty conscience upon him who stood in the lawplace of those who had incurred the penalties of disobedience to his law, inasmuch as that was no part of the punishment pronounced by the law, but the simple result of reflection, by them, on their crime and its consequences.
Innocence may undergo the punishment due to guilt, but it cannot endure its attendant remorse. But, Viator may say, the mere sufferance of the punishment of sin will not clear the conscience of the sinner; and as Christ does this for his people, how is it accomplished unless he endured a burdened conscience? By bearing their sin, as well as their punishment, he takes away the cause, (sin) and the effect (a guilty conscience) ceases. I trust this is sufficient to prove that it was not necessary that the blessed Jesus should suffer the pains of a guilty conscience, in order completely to pay the rigid satisfaction due to the law of God for the infraction of its commands.
However, more clearly to illustrate my arguments, allow me to advert to the well known story of Damon and Pythias, and to meet the case in point, to substitute for the fact that Damon was the victim of a tyrant, the supposition that he was justly devoted to death for his crimes. Pythias having surrendered himself as hostage for the return of Damon to suffer execution, would have undergone the punishmeut due to Damon had he failed to fulfil his promise: but it is quite evident that the remorse Damon must be supposed to have endured on account of his crimes, could not have been transferred to Pythias; and yet the latter would have secured the freedom of his friend by having endured the punishment affixed to his crime, and so satisfy the law which had admitted of his substitution for Damon.
To sum up on this head, I can only repeat, that the immaculate innocence of the Son of man rendered him incapable of enduring the pains of an accusing conscience. And as he is set forth as a complete Saviour, this would be alone sufficient to prove that their infliction was unnecessary. As to the endurance of despair,—Viator has merely contented himself with stating that I have averred too much in denying that the exclamation quoted by him was prompted by its influence, without replying to the reasons 1 gave for my opinion, and I therefore think it needless to repeat them, and quite sufficient to refer him to my first letter. I must, however remark, that he strangely errs in supposing it to be my opinion, that the weaknesses of humanity exhibited by the Saviour of men were derogatory to his character. As this is a gratuitous assumption of Viator's, and not inferable from any thing I have written, I content myself with this plain denial of its correctness.
Viator should very carefully distinguish between intellectual and moral infirmity: of the former kind, and those springing from a tender and sympathetic heart, were all those which ever the Son of God exhibited during his sojourn on earth. To assert that he was subject to moral weakness is unqualified blasphemy, and a direct admission of the stalking heresy of the day, technically and disgustingly designated the ' peccability of the human nature of Christ.'
I have now, Sir, to take leave of Viator, and the subject; but previously to so doing, I wish to point out an inconsistency in Viator, of which, perhaps, he is not himself aware. He admits that the eternity of punishment was not, nor necessary to be endured by the great Surety; and this because the fact is so plain as not to admit of being questioned, and yet holds the contrary with respect to the horrors of conscience and despair, when the very same qualities and circumstances that create exemption from the first particular, do equally exempt from the two latter, but from their nature, this effect is not so easily demonstrable.
With unaffected pleasure I now make my escape from my adventurous attempt, my unfitness for which I have all along been sensible of; and remain,
(For the Spiritual Magazine. J
ON THE CONSTITUTION OF THE CHRISTIAN CHARACTER.
So long as the authority and divine origin of the volume of revelation are held with sceptical tenacity, or subjected to the caprice of unhallowed reason, in vain will the shattered intellect of fallen man attempt to fathom the profound abyss of a mysterious providence, or essay to account for the misery and moral degradation of man, upon physical or philosophical principles: in vain will the sceptic or the devotees of a spurious theology attempt the solution of a problem like this, " How came moral evil, with all its direful consequences, into this our world ?" and how the subsequent renovation and reconciliation of man to his offended Creator is to be effected whilst their intellectual sagacity discards as a chimera that revelation which " is able to make them wise unto salvation through the faith of the Lord Jesus." The profundity of its mysteries leads the attentive observer and humble enquirer after truth to an acknowledgment of the fact, (to which faith alone will bow assent) that the truths of revelation are better comprehended by believing, than believed by comprehending.
Beloved! let no man beguile you from the simplicity of the gospel of Christ, through a vain philosophy, which would teach you that the truths to which you subscribe are untenable because they are incomprehensible! Every subject which involves the being, attributes, and perfections of Jehovah, or his wondrous works in creation, providence, and grace, is infinitely beyond the ken of human reason; and it is a fact incontrovertibly established, that both the physical and spiritual world teem with mysteries; but infidel science and the unsanctified intellect of man, receive the former as facts because they are ocular, while they discard the latter as incompatible with their circumscribed powers of mental perception. But without controverting the point, we cordially acknowledge the mysteries of the holy religion of the Son of God to be incomprehensibly glorious and