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Accordingly, all was contradiction and confusion. The satirists seized some fragments of truth; the poets, the orators, the statesmen, the philosophers, other points. Fables of the golden, silver, and iron ages were framed.
Men applied themselves, now to the dignity and love of truth which seemed latent in human nature; and now to the passions and appetites which actually governed and controlled it. Reason and sensual pleasure divided the schools of learning. An unnatural pride and apathy, in opposition to all his tender and social propensities—or a sensual indulgence, which contradicted his aspirations after intellectual and moral excellence, prevailed in the doctrines of the
sages. Revelation comes in and explains every thingsolves the enigma, casts a strong, clear light upon the history of man, tells him all his condition, and treats with him as in that condition, and no other.
The two facts which it reveals—first, the original dignity and uprightness of man, formed after the image of his Creator, and designed for knowing, loving, worshipping, obeying, and enjoying him for ever and then the fall of man, and the loss of his Maker's favour and image, by sin, with the disorder, blindness, corruption, and rebellion which ensued these two facts unfold at once all the phenomena.
The loose fabric of human conjectures cannot hold together. Fables about a primeval and a deteriorated state are of no value to mankind. But the distinct and authoritative narrative of the Bible-its account of our first righteousness and subsequent apostacy,given, not in confused and general terms, but historically, and in detail, with the consequences arising from them, and in connexion with the highest practical purposes—the moment these facts are made known by the Christian religion, all becomes light. There is a congruity in them to the state of man. Many points, indeed, remain unexplained, as we
might expect, with regard to the will and conduct of the ever-blessed God; but the facts themselves are sufficiently revealed for the designs which the Revelation had in view.
2. Now all the APPARENT CONTRADICTIONS are accounted for. For what is so great as man; and yet what little--what so great, if you mark the occasional traces of his original grandeur-what so little if you follow the prevalent course of his desires and conduct! What so great as man!
How exalted the dignity of his nature above the inferior animals! What a gift is reason ! What a distinction, speech! What a thirst he has for knowledge--what a desire after happiness—what a mind, in some faint measure, representing the Deity! Whither cannot his powers extend themselves ! What discoveries of science, what inventions in the arts ! What a thirst after something which is not found beneath the sun, after a good which has no limit! What enlargement, what constant improvement, the soul is capable of! In spite of all his misery, he has a feeling, a sentiment which elevates him, and which he cannot repress. Nothing satisfies his ambition but the esteem of rational and intellectual beings. He burns with the love of glory ; he has an idea of a lost happiness which he seeks in every thing in vain. He is a dethroned monarch, wandering through a strange country, but who cannot lay aside his original habits of thought and expectation."
And yet what so little as man! What contradic. tions is this strange creature daily and hourly exhibit, ing! As to his ends and capacities, he is great ; as to his habits, he is abject and vile. His reason is expansive, comprehensive, elevated ; and yet his pas
sions mean and uncertain and perverse. His mind vast and noble ; his desires impure and corrupted ; his dissatisfaction with external things separating him from the earth, and yet his propensities chaining him down to it. His thoughts full of grandeur, but his affections narrow and grovelling. In his aspirations, he rises up to angels; in his vices, he sinks below the brutes. In his conceptions of futurity, immensity, eternity, he is sublime; in his follies, pursuits, and desires, he is limited, degraded, childish. Thus, man is a maze and labyrinth to himself, full of grandeur, and full of meanness—of grandeur as to his original dignity, as to the image of God, his capacity for religion, his longing for immortality, his thirst of truth, his large designs and projects—and yet low and debased as to his passions, his changeableness, his pursuit of any folly or error, his degrading pleasures and appetites, his delight in sensual things, and neglect of his intellectual and moral nature.
Hence the history of mankind has ever presented the appalling picture of misery, folly, vice, ignorance triumphant, (except as Revelation has supplied a remedy,) notwithstanding all man's powers and desires. He will not part with religion, and yet lives a slave to appetite; he will not forsake the pursuit of truth, and yet he loves a lie. And whilst apparently advancing towards perfection, he seems also to be sinking into lower depths of debasement. Wars and contests find perpetual fuel in the lusts of men, notwithstanding our experience of the misery they occasion and the unsatisfactoriness of their most fortunate results. The most improvident courses are pursued, in spite of conviction and warnings and example. The same errors are committed as to the nature of true enjoyment, and the means by which it should be pursued, which have been acknowledged and lamented in all its former generations. The improvements in
the sciences and arts are no sure omens of the diminution of moral delinquency.18
3. Now what can be more striking proof of adaptation to the state of man, than this development of his contradictory feelings and pursuits in every part of Revelation, and AN ADDRESS TO HIM UPON THIS FOOTING, and no other ?
The Bible would be suited to no other creature but one fallen from so great a height and sunk into so deep a gulf
. It is in this state it supposes him to be. It is in this state it proposes to him all its discoveries. It calls to him as an accountable being, as having a conscience, the vicegerent of the Almighty; as capable of eternal happiness, as formed for knowing and serving God, and as destined to undergo a divine judgment --and yet it takes him up as he actually is, a fallen and depraved creature, accuses him of his sinfulness, calls him to humiliation and' penitence, reminds him of his continual weakness, and makes him dependent for every blessing on the grace and mercy of God. Thus, as the physician proves his skill and experi
in treating the complicated diseases of his patients, by telling them all they feel, and explaining the source of their sufferings, anticipating their description of them, reconciling the apparent contradictions of their story, and suggesting new points which they had not recollected— doing all this in a thousand cases, and with invariable truth of observation. So the Bible proves its claims to the confidence of men, by discovering all the secrets of their malady, opening to them the unobserved depths of their heart, and telling them the history of their contradictory feelings and desires, however little suspected by themselves.
III. But further, the Bible provides a REMEDY
18 Bishop J. Bird Sumner.
FOR ALL THE WANTS OF MAN;—which though surprising and incomprehensible in many respects, yet is in other views most exactly suited to his reasonable and accountable nature, and obviously adapted to his wants and necessities.
This is, in fact, the peculiar point of suitableness in Revelation. Every thing else would be inferior, distant, uninteresting, unless as connected with this. The Bible not only speaks with authority, and opens the whole of man's state, but, having done this, provides an adequate and most surprising remedy.
If man be in the weak, fallen, ignorant condition, which we have described; then the suitableness of a Revelation is only another word for the suitableness of the remedy which it makes known.
Now, no other religion ever proposed to him any distinct and efficacious relief. What did heathenism pretend, with its contemptible deities and its unmeaning ablutions and rites ! It was calculated, no doubt, to fall in with the universal impression on man's heart that he needed some guide for divine worship, and some atonement for sin; but it gave no specific information, and offered no adequate succour.
The prominent discovery of Revelation is, that pardon and grace, light and strength, hope and joy, life and salvation, are made known in the mercy of God our heavenly Father. A dispensation of grace by the Son and Spirit of God is the glory of the gospel, and constitutes it those “ good tidings of great joy 19 which precisely snit the extreme misery of our
This remedy is adapted for man in this important respect, that it not only prescribes a rule of duty, but provides for the pardon of former transgression, and furnishes strength and motive for future obedience. This is altogether new and peculiar to the Christian
19 Luke i. 14.