« AnteriorContinuar »
rest inspire a general abhorrence of sin, and an admi. ration of the love of God; and the proper consequence of receiving the doctrines is to perform correspondent duties: the result, therefore, of a cordial acquiescence in all the doctrines will be the formation of the
peculiar sort of character which the Christian precepts delineate and require. That is, the doctrine of the guilt of man, producing humiliation and penitence; and the doctrine of forgiveness and of sanctifying grace, producing holy love and obedience: the more these are wrought into the mind and habits, the more powerful will be the impress, the peculiar impress of the Christian character.
This we find to be the case in point of fact. The overwhelming love of Christ constrains, bears away, puts a holy necessity, as it were, upon the penitent, “to live, not unto himself, but unto him that loved him and gave himself for him, and rose again.” “He is not his own. .”16 He is dedicated, made over, resigned by a voluntary surrender, to the service of his divine Lord. Thus, gratitude, admiration, love of God and man, detachment from the world, spirituality of mind, patience under injuries ; that is, the very character which the morals delineate and demand, is the natural result of the peculiar doctrines. These great discoveries, brought near and made effectual by the Holy Spirit, are an ever-living spring of vigorous and self-denying obedience. They perpetually supply principles of hatred of sin, of self-abasement, of thankfulness and joy; which, like a fountain, feed the streams of actual effort and practical obedience.
Once more, the promises and privileges of the gospel are attached to CERTAIN DISPOSITIONS AND STATES OF MIND, which are essential parts of the morals of Revelation. The promises are chiefly made to certain characters--to those who are meek, to those
who pray, to those who seek God, to those who quit the society of the wicked, to those who love their brethren, to those who watch, to those who persevere in well-doing, &c.; that is, the promises are the most direct motives, not only to obedience, but to that particular sort of obedience which distinguishes the true Christian. What can be a more striking instance of this, than our Lord's attaching the most difficult of all duties—the forgiving of personal injuries--to the most exalted of all blessings, God's forgiveness of sins ? so that in every age and every part of the world, wherever Christianity spreads, the duty most opposed to our natural corruption, and yet most characteristic of the peace and purity of the gospel, is indissolubly united with the most prominent doctrine of Revelation, the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.
It is another link in this chain of argument, that Christianity holds out to men FURTHER ADVANCES IN HOLINESS, as the recompence and reward of diligence, and not a further insight into' mysteries and loftier heights of knowledge. Most false religions propose to reward their votaries by drawing aside the veil which conceals from the vulgar eye their hidden mysteries. The Hindoo superstitions, those of China, the false religion of Mahomet, act thus. They fall in with the principle of curiosity and the ambition of knowledge in man. Christianity prefers moral to intellectual excellency, and proposes to her followers, as the recompence of their present attainments, further advances in holiness, in the love of God, in the obedience of Christ, in meetness for heaven. Thus, all her promises bear upon morals, and tend to strengthen the obligations of them.
The doctrine of the HEAVENLY STATE and of the preparation for the employments of it, give the last seal to the truth of what we are now considering—the connexion of the morals of Christianity with its peculiar discoveries. For what is the doctrine of the
heavenly state, but that holiness is its very element, that all sin, all impurity, all error, all defect, will be excluded; and that it is to be prepared for by that obedience, that holy faith and love, that meekness and spirituality, which, like the bud, are to be expanded in all their beauty and fragrance in that inore genial soil ? Holiness is therefore the first stage, the commencement, the dawn of that character, of which heaven is the completion, the end, the effulgence. Unlike the wretched paradise of Mahometanism, which casts its impurities into the very heart of its precepts, by the voluptuous and degrading pleasures which it promises in its paradise ; Christianity impresses this master-truth upon man, that what we are in this world, we shall be in another; that a future state will develop, not change, the character acquired on earth; that life is the seed-time, of which the harvest will be reaped throughout eternity.
And this being the intimate relation of the Christian precepts with its great doctrines, why should I detain you by entering into the manner in which these precepts are involved IN PARTS OF REVELATION ? Tell me what chapter in the Pentateuch is not filled with exhortations, examples, warnings. Point out to me the historical book which is not fraught with moral instruction. Show me in the devotional writings a single psalm which does not imply the most ardent pursuit of obedience. And with regard to the holy Prophets, what is the scope of all their remonstrances, so bold, so fervent; what the end of all their persuasions and invitations; what the design of their denunciations of idolatry and rebellion of heart in man; what the purport of their prophetic outline of future events, whether relating to the times near at hand, or looking forward to the coming of Messiah and the long series of the divine providence towards the church-what, what is
ALL THE OTHER
all the object in view, but to reduce a disobedient nation to penitence and subjection to the command of God? I will not dwell on the Evangelical history, and the epistles of the holy apostles, because every child knows that holiness is the end and scope of them. What is there omitted, for example, by St. Paul, to enforce upon his converts, in all his writings, the obedience, the peculiar and characteristic obedience, of Christianity ? How often does he descend from the very heights of his holy doctrines, to urge some duty, to impress upon man some part of the Christian temper and conduct ! 17 It is the glory of Christianity that her loftiest prophecies, her deepest mysteries, her most fervent devotions, not only inspire holiness, but aim at it, are essentially linked with it, and lose all their end if it be not produced. In short, as the precepts without the doctrines of Revelation, prescribe an unattainable rule, so the doctrines without the precepts fail in their great .purpose, evaporate in mere emotions and sensibilities, and can neither sanctify nor save.
IV. But what, it may be asked, are THE SANCTIONS BY WHICH THE CHRISTIAN MORALS are ultimately enforced ?
This is the important question. Whatever be the extent and purity of the rule, whatever the means by
which it works, whatever its inseparable connexion Ś with the doctrines of Revelation, all is inefficient, un
less the authority which it brings to bear upon the conscience, and the rewards and punishments attached to it are weighty, solemn, efficacious.
A hand dissevered from the body, might as well be represented as sufficient for the purpose of labour, as unconnected and unauthoritative principles for the purposes of morality.
17 See as an example 1 Cor. xv. 55–58.
Heathen morals, in addition to innumerable other deficiencies, laboured under one which was fatal to the whole system; they had no sanction, no authority, no knowledge clear and definite of a future state or an eternal judgment. The faint light of reason, the voice of conscience, the fragments of tradition, were utterly insufficient to bind men. It was the state, the civil law, usage, convenience, which formed the quicksand on which their edifice was reared. Infidelity builds on no firmer foundation, when she pretends to raise her morals on the love of glory, honour, interest, utility, and the progress of civilization, with some feeble admissions of the belief of a future life.
Christianity stands forth in the midst of mankind, the only religion which asserts the will of God to be the clear and unbending rule of duty, and refers men to an eternal judgment as its ultimate sanction. Her morality conduces, indeed, to the welfare of man, it is agreeable to the reason of things, it responds to the voice of conscience; but none of these is its foundation—to argue morals out on these principles has been proved, by the experience of all ages, to be impossible.
The will of God is the brief, undeviating authority of moral obedience. And what majesty doth this throw around the precepts of the Bible !
• Thus saith the Lord,” is the introduction, the reason, the obligation of every command. God appears as the legislato:, the moral governor, the Lord of his accountable creatures. He speaks—" and all the earth keeps silence before him !" 18
And why should I contrast the partial guesses of Paganism or Infidelity on a future state of rewards and punishment, with the full and decisive declarations of that gospel by which “life and immortality are brought to light ?" 19 Nature is ignorant. Nature
18 Hab, ii. 20.
19 2 Tim. i. 10.