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This simplicity of the Christian system is in remarkable contrast with the confusion and complication of the theories of men, which, resting on no positive facts, are vague and unsubstantial. Like the works of creation, Christianity exhibits an artless simplicity in the few and prominent facts on which it is built ; so totally different from the clumsy and artificial productions of man.
3. But there is at the same time A SURPASSING GRANDEUR AND SUBLIMITY in these doctrines, which that very simplicity the more illustrates. It is simple, indeed, as referring to a few points, and resting on certain facts; but these points are so infinitely important to man, and these facts are so grand and stupendous, that it is impossible for the human mind fully to grasp them, even when revealed. All is stupendous in redemption; the divine persons engaged in contriving and executing it; the length of time during which it was preparing; the gradual announcement of it for four thousand years; the glory and difficulty of the Saviour's enterprize in accomplishing it; the mysterious union of Deity and humanity in his person; the force and number of the enemies overcome, especially his conquest over the malice and power of the great spiritual adversary ; 14 the blessings which his redemption procured; the eternal consequences dependent on its acceptance or rejection; the holy angels, the messengers and ministers of it, and the eager inquirers into its manifold wisdom-all give it a greatness and excellency becoming the infinite majesty of the divine Author of our religion. Every thing is little, mean, limited, uninteresting, worthless, compared with THE EXCEL
KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST Jesus
14 The Revelation makes known the existence and agency of angels; both of those who fell, and of those who kept their first innocency.
The value of the soul of man, and the depth of its fall, are best known from the astonishing method of recovery here revealed. A God incarnate, a God humbling himself
, a God interposing, bleeding, agonizing, for man his creature, is a fact of such grandeur and majesty as to be quite beyond the command and faculty of the human mind.
As the vastness of the universe, the more it is discovered and traced out, heightens our conception of the glory and power of God-worlds upon worlds— systems upon systems—the starry heavens, an assembłage of suns, each surrounded with its planetary attendants—till the mind is lost in the contemplation. So the magnitude of redemption overwhelms the mind; the greatness of one part pressing upon another; calculation defeated, and imagination exhausted in pursuing consequence after consequence, till faith itself toils in vain to follow out the Revelation which it can never fully comprehend.
4. But the HARMONY of all its parts, and the manner in which it is represented, stamps a divine authority upon the Christian doctrine.
Like the stones of a well-constructed arch, every part of the doctrine of Revelation is not only essential to the rest, but occupies the exact place which gives union and stability to the whole. The different doctrines cohere. They all unite in the guilt and corruption of man, and in the incarnation and sacrifice of Christ. If any one part be taken away,
the remainder becomes disjointed and useless. For what is the doctrine of redemption, without that of the fall ? or that of the fall, without the doctrine of redemption ? And what is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, unless sustained by both the preceding? And what is the infinitely holy character of God, if separated from the other doctrines, of which it is the key-stone-the
15 Phil. iii, 8.
essential, primary part, which knits the whole arch together ?
Redemption displays, also, in combination and harmony, all the divine perfections in undiminished, yea augmented glory. To exercise mercy and grace in accordance with all the ends of justice; to pardon, and yet to express the utmost abhorrence of sin; to unite truth in the same act with compassion; to display a manifold wisdom in the way of reconciling the ends of a holy legislation with the salvation of the sinner; to exhibit all the divine perfections in one scheme which shall obscure none, and yet give to mercy the occasion of “ rejoicing against judgment, -all this is the evidence of a barmony truly divine.
Nor do the representations of this scheme fail to give the just impression of this beautiful accordance. All the sacred writers unite in the great outline. It runs through the Bible. The same view of man, and his sin and guilt; the same view of God, and his glorious sovereignty and perfections; the same view of Christ, and his person and sacrifice; the same view of justification and acceptance before God; the same view of the sanctifying influences of the Spirit, of the means of grace, and the hopes of glory-pervade every part of the Scriptures. The degrees of light cast on the details of the scheme differ, but the main principles are the same. Isaiah develops and confirms the writings of Moses ; 17 Paul attaches his doctrine of justification to that of Abraham. Abel's offering is celebrated in one of the last of the apostolical epistles. Every thing is accordant and consistent, as becomes a divine Revelation.
Contrast with this harmony the contradictions of Infidelity and Paganism. « In the mythology of Egypt, Greece, and Rome, and in the fantastical legends of India, China, or Japan, we find many frag16 James ii, 13. 17 Isaiah li. 1, 2.
18 Rom. iv. 19 Heb. xi. 4.
ments of Scripture history blended with fictions of the most extravagant kind; but nothing solid, coherent; nothing which indicates one superintending and controlling
mind pervading the whole.” *0 In Mahometanism I need not say there is no connexion or consistency in the system itself. The Bible alone contains a clear, uniform, harmonious representation of religious doctrine, of man's fall and recovery, of this world and the next, of time and eternity.
And this argument is stronger, if we recollect the different
ages when the sacred penmen lived, and their number and diversity of talents and character. Nothing is more rare than a consistent statement of a few facts of contemporary history. Constant experience teaches us, that in the representation of religious doctrines, discrepancies continually occur. If only three or four writers compose a few different works on any given subject, the disagreements will be endless. But here, in the Bible, we have more than thirty various authors, composing between sixty and seventy different works, living, some fifteen hundred years before the Christian ara, and some a hundred
of all the various classes of society-kings, legislators, prophets, magistrates, captains of armies, fishermen, tent-makers—some of whom compose history, some poetry, others devotional exercises ; some biography, others hortatory epistles ; whilst a large number deliver prophecies, uniting exhortation and warning with predictions of future events ; ;-and
yet they all
agree; a harmony runs through all their productions on all the great subjects of revealed truth. And this in a continued series of writings for sixteen hundred years, in a country which has scarcely before or since produced a single author of eminence, but which began and finished its literary course with this wonderful succession of harmonious and accordant books. Such
20. Bishop Van Mildert.
a proof of divine contrivance speaks for itself, and is irresistible.
“I can no more believe,” says Bishop Gastrel, " the whole Christian scheme an imposture of mere human contrivance, than I can believe that all the materials which composed the city of Rome met together and put themselves into form. For as I cannot see what should give these materials a determinate motion towards the building of that city; no more can I comprehend what should influence or determine a man to frame and contrive such a history and religion as the Christian. And as it is impossible to believe that, if all the materials necessary for the building of Rome had by some extraordinary motion been carried to that place, they would have fashioned themselves and fell into that exact form we find that city built in ; so, likewise, is it equally impossible to conceive that, if there was an end or motive in nature sufficient to determine a man to invent such a religion as the Christian, he should have made and contrived it, in all its parts and circumstances, just such as it is delivered to us in the Scriptures."21
6. But the divine excellency of the Scripture doctrines appears
in their MEETING ALL THE NecessiTIES OF MAN, AND YET PROMOTING THE ENDS OF God's MORAL GOVERNMENT.
The manner in which the Christian Revelation meets the exigencies of man, we noticed somewhat particularly in our preceding lecture, and we have alluded to it in our present. What further, then, can be necessary to be said on the details ? What more need be stated on the doctrines of the incarnation and sacrifice of Christ, and of the operations of the Holy Spirit, as meeting the wants of man—his want of merit, his want of strength—his want of knowledge, his want of happiness ? It is the peculiarity of Reve21 Bishop Gastrel, in Bp. Van Mildert's Lectures,
22 Lect. XIV.