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CREED, THE LORD'S PRAYER,
On Matthew, xxII. 37–39; and HEBREWS, viii. 10.
TO WHICH ARE ADDED,
ON PSALM XXXIX.
BY ROBERT LEIGHTON, D.D.
ARCHBISHOP OF GLASGOW.
JOHN PYE SMITH, D.D.
LONDON: John Hatchard and Son, Piccadilly ; WHITTAKER & CO. AVE-MARIA LANE; SIMPKIN & MARSHALL, STATIONERS' COURT; TAL BOYS, OXFORD; DEIGHTON, CAMBRIDGE ; OLIVER & BOYD, EDINBURGH;
AND CUMMING, DUBLIN
INQUIRY into the early history of nations brings abundant proof that the primitive state of man was not one of savage and half-brutal existence, but was a condition lying in the medium between uncultivated nature and high refinement. The savage state is first presented to us in history, by the discoveries of navigators within the last three hundred and fifty years : and there are good reasons for regarding it as a condition of degeneracy, produced by moral depravity operating through a course of ages in degrading the personal and social condition of human beings. The first human pair must have been created in the perfection of their corporal and mental faculties, and endowed by their beneficent Creator with so much of knowledge and habit, in reference to their natural necessities and their moral duty, as was requisite for safety, for pure enjoyment, and for revering and loving, worshipping and honouring Him who had
made them in his own image. The fall could not extirpate knowledge from the minds of our first parents; any more than it could blot out the records of their memory, which must have been, in a high degree, both painful and pleasing. It is impossible to imagine that they would not, with all the emphasis produced by penitential sorrow, describe to their children the blessings of their former state, and inculcate the just and reasonable law under whose obligations, though violated, rational creatures hold their being by the very necessity of their moral existence. But that law was not written. It so commended itself to the judgment of man and to his moral feelings, it flowed so obviously from the undeniable facts of God's universal government, it was so united with the tenderest impressions of parental warning, that it could never be forgotten. Depravity, however awfully deep, could not obliterate it. It had not pleased 'infinite Wisdom that it should be written. By the wisely ordained longevity of the antediluvians, one intermediate life brought the knowledge of Adam into the possession of Noah. The increased and obstinate wickedness of the bulk of mankind in that primeval period, could not destroy the knowledge of the moral law. The nearness and brightness of that knowledge must have added a tremendous aggravation to the guilt of those who trampled upon it. The righteous men in successive
generations who, by their duteous and fiducial behaviour, showed their title to the honour of being called ‘sons of God,' had that law written
their hearts : but it was not yet, nor for many ages after, engraven on tablets of stone, or recorded in any way by the pictorial or alphabetical art of
Yet it was sufficiently, in a virtual manner, promulgated to all families and nations; and it was so transmitted from one generation to another as to become the common law of human nature.
Yet this did not render superfluous the formal writing and express proclamation of the MORAL Law, when the time and the circumstances were come which divine Wisdom judged meet for such a positive notification. Necessary, indeed, we cannot hold such an interference to have been, either for the vindication of God's righteous government, or for demonstrating the criminality and inexcusableness of man's rebellion. But its advantage was unspeakably great and valuable, in setting up a mound against the corruptions of tradition, which early took place and fearfully multiplied; and in providing a literal form of secure and unalterable expression, which should be a bar against innovations, extenuations, or expedients of any kind by which the conscience of man might be lulled into the slumber of security.
Thus the traditionary law and the written law were not rivals; nor did either supersede the other.