Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

made known, that since the Fall every faculty of the mind and power of the body, every gift and endowment of natural life, and dispensation of Providence, prosperous or adverse, is a talent bequeathed to every one of us, according to the number of which will be our responsibility, and according to the improvement of which will be our reward. And it is a miserable conceit and most slender system of truth, to set forth all before conversion, as not in the account of grace, and even to give a reflected glory to their notion, according to the maxim, “ The greater sinner, the greater saint;” which is a strange jumble and confusion of the wicked slander upon the Apostle's doctrine, that we should do evil that good may come. And it has the bad effect of contenting people in their sins, until some great event shall occur in the providence of God, sufficient to work the mighty work for which they are folding their hands in idle expectation. But I say unto you, No; not by any means to conceive so false an idea of the Gospel of Christ, which hath made known to all men, that the Lord is governing the world according to a gracious purpose of redeeming it, seeing it hath been purchased back from the curse by the death of Christ, who now in heaven is governing and overruling all things to the one end of destroying the works of the devil, of clean subverting them, and sweeping them away from the face of the earth. And that every man is to regard his lot as disposed and ordained upon this principle of grace, whereof, if he have been ignorant hitherto, he should be no longer kept in ignorance when the Gospel beginneth to be preached unto him: for this is the end of preaching this Gospel unto men. And even in preaching to the heathen I would quote Paul's discourse to the Athenians for my model of

this, wherein he calleth them to repent of their wickednesses, which they had done in the days of their darkness; not by the consideration that God had overlooked that part of their lives, but that he had winked at it, and now had sent his Son to awaken men to a sense of their atheistical lives, and of the judgment which was to come upon impenitent transgressors. And in the same spirit I would say unto every one of you, even if you were heathens, that you have accumulated sin upon your heads by every act of your previous life, and indisposed yourselves to the reception of Divine truth, by the soil of falsehood, which your much ploughing with wickedness hath created in you. But how much more, being Christians, baptized Christians, under the regiment of Christ, the mediatorial King of the world, and, in every office and occupation, deputies over a portion of his purchased world, do I say that you egregiously err against the truth, and offend against grace and mercy, in denying the same with your heart, which bestows itself upon the creatures; with

your lips, which frame discourse of them as if they were your own; with your life and conversation, wherein you walk as if you were under no authority of the Son of God, and generously entreated by no dispensations of his gracious providence.

If the Lord did not connect his dispensation of grace with his dispensations of creation and providence, there could be no meaning either in this part of the parable, which makes the miscarriage of the word to arise from the unsolid and unsettled character of the hearer; nor in the last part, which makes the fruitfulness of it to depend upon “ the good soil of an honest heart," seeing these are conditions of the soil into which the seed is cast, and previous to any operations of the seed thereon. But more than this, the word itself would be without any wisdom of a Divine device, nor judgment of Divine righteousness, were there not a certain condition of human nature to which it is adapted, and another condition to which it is not adapted. For wisdom consisteth in the adaptation of means to an end, and judgment in the various apportioning of good and ill, according to our deservings. And, as I believe that, of all means of grace, the word and the ministry of the word, is the most effectual; as of all judgments it is the most certain, being always either the savour of life or of death, and never returning void of its purpose, good or evil, in order to accomplish the two-fold purpose of God; it must have a fitness of accommodation to the human soul when found in certain conditions, and consequently an unfitness to the human soul in other conditions. And therefore the great problem in all Christian instruction and discipline, in all legislation and government, in all domestic and social economy, is to find out the means of cultivating those strains of character and feeling which are in best accordance with the word of God. Indeed, were there not relations of this sort established between the three kingdoms of creation and providence and grace, I cannot see what difference it would make, and what duty there could be in training children in this way or that way, in governing people in this way or that way; and instability were as good to be made the order of the day as security, pride as humility, sensuality as temperance, ignorance as knowledge, despotism as liberty, and anarchy as government. But the contrary, which is known to every one,

1

and practised by every good family and wise government, reveals it to be the constant conviction of men, that there is established in the counsels of God, an intimate connection between the good and evil conditions of the natural man, and the progress of the Gospel; and that there are soils on which it will flourish and bear fruit, and soils on which it will not flourish and bear fruit: into the particulars of which doctrine I am not to enter at present, being anxious only to establish the general principle for future application.

And be it further observed, that in very truth, when this subject is examined to the bottom, these moral virtues of honesty and sincerity and truth and temperance and justice and mercy and benevolence and grace, are, if I may so speak, nature's pleading in behalf of the Gospel, and nature's testimony to the Gospel, that it is of God. That the cardinal virtues of the philosophers and wise men in all ages, and the fundamental laws and bonds of all countries, are found to accord with the precepts of the Gospel, is the best demonstration that the Gospel is “peace on earth, and good will to the children of men.” And when your sceptics go about to shew this moral precept in Confucius, and that other in Socrates, and that other in the traditions of the Samian sage, and so forth, far from invalidating, they do only confirm, the Gospel, by shewing that it contains in itself the elements of human reason, and is big with the blessed burden of the world's redemption. But they reason in their much ignorance, who think that this morality is the Gospel. The redemption from sin, and the regeneration in holiness, is the Gospel; the enabling of men to observe that high morality, and to pass far above and be

yond it. To make those highest strains of the abstractest sage current with the tradesman and the peasant, yea, to advance the tradesman and

peasant into the faculty of performing all, and more than all, that the sage hath conceived in the idea; this is the Gospel. The Gospel is power to do good, liberty to do good, joy to do good, in all its forms. It doth naturalize good, and make it common. It doth pitch aloft the base and foundation and framework of society, into a purer and more benign atmosphere, where fruits of knowledge and charity and order and beauty do ripen, which sicken and die in the underground of nature, where the Gospel is not. I may say, therefore, that the Gospel makes a soil for itself, as do the plants of the earth, by their decay and growth again: so that it is a very unnatural and criminal thing, yea, and a very difficult thing, for a country to cast it utterly out; and when a country hath indeed cast it out, having once been firmly rooted there, it hath never come to pass that it hath rooted itself there again. - These are deep subjects, full of thought, and of the greatest practical importance; this mantillage and soul-husbandry, in preparation for the word of the Gospel, being in truth the great end and advantage of all civil institutions in the

eye

of God, for which he hath given them such a high warrant in his word, and obliged his people to observe a reverence of their authority even though exercised against their own lives. And those who will not give heed to these great and fundamental relations of things natural with things spiritual, but cut the fine and delicate thread with one sweep of infallible will and inevitable power, which they call conversion, do prepare all that follow them for despising government and ordi

« AnteriorContinuar »