Imágenes de páginas

template, as in a glass, those new heavens, and that new earth, of whose duration there shall be no end."

So far, as a slight outline, of the course intended and the fruit it bears. But there are great and cogent reasons, at this period of the church, to pray a blessing upon the great subject of God's purpose, and the classing of all things in due relation and subjection to the Great Head. And, first, as it regards the study and interpretation of the prophetic page. This study has attained such strength within a few years, that it is now pervading every part of the country; and in various modifications, sinking their peculiarities, is become the common theme of discussion in every portion of the Christian community. It is truly fraught with momentous consequences; and the fierce array of scoffers, who stand ready to jeer and distort every weakness in the church, challenge a deep and anxious care, in those who enter upon it, to "mark well their bulwarks." The present state of this study has been well said "to remind one of the state of science before Bacon brought to light the inductive philosophy *." There are no settled principles to which disputants refer their differences, but each has his text and his interpretation; and a novice, entering on the study, is required to take for granted that which he most needs to have proved to him-that is, the method of interpretation. This may be surmised to arise from the narrow and sectarian views with which it is pursued. Like the book of nature in the field of science, the book of prophecy in the religious world has rather been used as an assistant to the peculiar doctrines and views of the student, than as itself in any way guiding and controlling those views. So extensive is it, and so many are the important events it foreshews, that each student, unassisted by any principle of methodical arrangement, will take those events which are more suited to him, and, engrossed in their consideration, bend all collateral events to bear their part in the favourite subject. Does he meet with a fellow-student? a slight comparison of coinciding points will bring them to a point of difference; and, no common arbiter being at hand, an agreement is almost hopeless. We have the optimist Millenarian, who, dwelling upon the pictures of happiness and peace which are opened concerning that period, shuts out the consideration of the personal advent of the King of kings, and shrinks from the denunciations of wrath and judgment which lie interspersed in the intervals of the pictured millennial bliss. Others, dwelling upon the judgments and overthrow of the apostates and infidels, allow only an advent in judgments; and, after their expected judgments, anticipate a millennium only

* Hints on the Study of Prophecy, p. 1.

differing from the present state in the absence of the great offenders. One is engrossed in the overthrow of the mystic Babylon; another, in the restoration of the Jews; another, in the wasting away of the Turks; another, in the rise and cutting off of the great Antichrist: events which, though true, and of the first importance to the church, and calculated, by a lively representation of God's grace and judgments, to awaken a regard to his holy precepts, and to lead the church to a consideration of her standing and responsibilities, yet, when received by a sanguine temperament, arouse the strongest feelings of the natural man in curiosity and expectation, and tend in many instances to draw off the mind from the single simple dependence upon Christ, which only is the "peace passing all understanding." The view of the tremendous convulsions which will arise to shake, not only the fabric of civil and political societies, but even the foundations of the earth; and the increasing certainty and expectation which the serious study of the word will give; is, unless guarded against by an increased spiritual strength, calculated to awaken an overpowering emotion in the human frame; and, like the agitation of all great events, withdraw the mind from all other subjects to itself. Any one branch of prophecy may thus be dwelt upon as the "one thing needful;" and the hindrance to practical holiness, and profitable communication to weaker brethren, may be readily conceived. It can only be by a careful and continuous unfolding of the origin and end of all those great events, and the part they respectively bear in the one great purpose of glorifying God, that such hindrance can be avoided. No student of prophecy is there who does not form to himself, in greater or less measure, a symbolical dictionary, to which he refers for proof of his interpretation. The want of a common basis for such definitions is only to be remedied by opening the one before alluded to-namely, the relation which all created things bear to the Lord Jesus, as the Head and Perfection of all creation. In this inquiry, the purpose of God in self-manifestation will serve the same end to explain the reason of these relations, which the great principle of gravitation serves to explain the various motions of the planets. Having beyond doubt proved the principle of self-manifestation, we shall not doubt, that, when the bearings of all other subjects under this common principle upon the subject in question are understood, all difficulties will be obviated. As the astronomer, from the incorrectness of his calculations or the deficiency of his instruments, may err in defining the precise bearing of his common principle upon a particular point, without doubting the principle; so may we often err in defining the precise part in the one principle of manifestation which a particular subject bears, without impugning the principle itself.

The symbols and metaphors will then be seen, not merely to have an arbitrary and unconnected origin, but to bear a well-defined relation, which step by step leads up to the Great Head of perfection; and a true symbolical dictionary will be found an accurate and beautiful delineation of the form and manner of subsistence of all creation in Him" in whom all things consist."

The advantages flowing from this need not be minutely pointed out. Prophecy no longer is the pourtraying of an important event about to come, but is the manifesting more fully and clearly the headship and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the accomplishing of a further part of that great testimony which from beginning to end declareth the glory of God. The power of engrossing and dividing from the contemplation of this glory, which is possessed by the great foreshewn events singly considered, will be taken away, when they are seen as parts only of a great and glorious manifestation, wherein the God of glory is the subject. The mind of the believer will also be strengthened in the expectation and patient waiting for these foreshewn events, and be by such an expectation strengthened in his daily walk and conversation; seeing that the same glory which he daily seeks to walk unto, is that which these great events will subserve. The great reality is daily present with him; and he no longer looks to these events with an ignorant and impatient curiosity, but with a well-grounded assurance of the issue.

Secondly, as it regards the progress of high-minded infidelity, which has made much progress in the land, and shews itself in high places; scorning the truths of the Gospel as common and every-day things, suited amply for the weak and superstitious, but too low for the man of cultivated intellect. To those who have argued with such minds, the truth of the assertion is made apparent, "If they believe not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they believe though one rose from the dead." The mind which is too proud to bend in the one instance, is equally unyielding in the other. Yet it is the true province and warfare of believers, whilst the enemies are occupying the field of science and philosophising in the philosophy of the day, to strengthen the church, by shewing forth the deeper depths of science and philosophy which lie among her records, that her sons may be girded to the warfare, and give a reason for the hope that is in them that this may be also on the heads of the obstinately perverse, to have been surpassed by truth in their own field.

There is now arising a system of philosophy, which, with the same fatal tendency, differs from the sentimental philosophy of the last century in the higher intellectual standard it holds up.

It is truly to the intellect as enchanting, as were the principles of Voltaire and Rousseau enchanting to the passions, from the unrestrained freedom they inculcated. The intellectual cultivation, which is so rapidly extending itself, and the departure from the ancient sound principles of religious education, are powerful auxiliaries to such a system. The temptation of such a philosophy is most strong in minds of a high standard; and as these master-minds exercise an influence far beyond what is at first sight conceived, the mischief of their errors is doubly multiplied. There is, too, in every strong and energetic mind, until chastened by spiritual teaching, an unbending arrogance, which will not stoop to subjection; but, catching the wide and unbounded liberty of thought which this philosophy holds out to it, revels unrestrained in its excesses; passing over all that is opposed to it; and, mistaking its own conceits for established truths, it staggers at every doctrine and truth which is not plainly in their course, and explicable upon their principles. Hence arise the distortion of Scripture statements, the passing in metaphor and allegory over all miracles, and the denial of the very being of God as Trinity in Unity, allowing Him only an existence according to the rules and modes of their philosophy. This philosophising heresy is not only to be marked in those who are its avowed professors, but, by an operation similar to that of its sister heresy of the last century, it infuses its poison with the utmost subtlety even in the cup of those who would be horrified at the idea of its adoption. It has already made itself apparent in the literary and scientific classes, by the fearless and unchastened discussions of religious subjects, and the marked dislike to distinctive views and sound doctrines, which are scoffed at under the name of dogmas. Its influence, too, is manifest in the temper of the great assemblies, where we should most earnestly desire to find its opposite. In the herd of dabblers, who parrot forth the ideas of their herdsmen, we find the same poison infusing itself through the lower branches of society, though its virulence may not be such as to make it matter of public observation.

The cure of this we may not dare to challenge by any feeble essay; but, as the great array of the French philosophers, which, inspirited by their poisonous excitement, was directed against the truth of revelation, was met by a careful and renewed opening of the proofs and defences of Christianity, so now the array of the new philosophy, which is fighting against revelation under the banner of false figure and allegory, is in its turn to be met by a demonstration of the true spiritual reading and allegorical construction of the inspired volume. The enchantment of intellectual liberty is also to be met by the reality of a sound and catholic explanation of the all-pervading



glory of God, and by the broad and unquestionable illustration of God's dealings with his people; an illustration as splendid in point of mental development as is the system of the philosophers. But, more than all, the God-denying principle, which describes his Being after a deistical method, is to be answered by the development which all creation and providence, as well as all revelation, give of the mystery of the Holy and Indivisible Trinity, and by proving the denial of this great truth to be the inevitable precursor of atheism.

And, finally, a third point, to which the attention of the church is especially demanded, is the very general lukewarmness which has spread throughout its professing members. It is, unhappily, the temptation of a religion where the invisible is defined by a regular series of forms and ordinances, to trust in the outward form rather than in the thing signified as it is equally the temptation of a religion where forms and ordinances are disregarded, to lose the invisible from the want of a welldefined form of expressing and maintaining it. And in the two great divisions, which our national community marks out within itself, there is the lukewarm formalist on the one hand, and the lukewarm sentimentalist on the other; engrossing between them an appalling portion of the professing church. That the formalist, having the form of a sound doctrine and worship, is wiser in his generation than the sentimentalist, who is left without guide or pilot, may not be doubted; but that both are to be viewed as departing from the faith is equally clear; and it is the solemn duty of the church to admonish them as brethren of their faults. In this admonition, it is evident the formalist, who deems the due observance of the form to be the proper means of grace, will require the elucidation of the nothingness and vanity of all forms and formal observance of ordinances, unless they are regarded as the outward expression of the spiritual reality that, though they are not only a sign, but also the very means whereby the Holy Spirit may be imparted, yet this must be through faith and hope of the teaching of the Holy Spirit, "taking of the things of Christ and shewing unto them;" and of His in-dwelling, to make them "one with Christ, and Christ with them." To the sentimentalist, who despises forms and ordinances, must be shewn that they are the appointed language and expression of invisible truth, and the appointed means whereby God has promised to bless his church and people, and seal their acceptance with him that, although he is maintaining the good fight against the formalist by declaring the spiritual to be the reality, and the form only the shadow, yet he errs most grievously in stumbling at the stumbling-stone and rock of offence, the form and manner in which God is pleased to impart the spiritual unto the soul; a soul which itself

« AnteriorContinuar »