Imágenes de páginas

them. They are established as such, by the express and manifold declarations of Scripture.

And as the principles of Right and Truth, they are, in their very nature, unchangeable and everlasting. This is a point which it is difficult, perhaps, to prove; but only because in the effort to prove it is involved its assumption. It is, of course, impossible to construct an argument for any purpose, which shall not presuppose, as its primary basis, the reliableness of reasoning. But manifestly no reasoning can be reliable, unless the principles of truth are permanent and immutable; unless they are fixed, not arbitrarily, by a decree from without which is liable at any time to be revoked, but inherently, as in their nature eternally the same. So, too, it is impossible to judge the attributes of Right, without assuming its existence, as an absolute verity, to which these attributes indissolubly pertain; and thus we cannot demonstrate its eternity, without tacitly presupposing it. In relation to the proposition announced, therefore, it is as true as it seems paradoxical, that the difficulty of proving it is an evidence of its truth. It is not to be established by argument, simply because it is a primary fact, lying back of all argument, and to be practically assumed in order to furnish a foundation for argument.

But though we may not logically demonstrate the absolute permanence of the Truth and the Right, we have evidence of that permanence which is entirely conclusive. And that evidence is, in part, the immediate cognizance of the fact by the soul, and its more full and clear perception and more decisive affirmation of it, as it rises in nobleness, becomes more open and alive to spiritual impression, and more conversant with the Truth whose nature it considers. It is the prerogative of the soul, not merely to reason correctly from established premises, but at certain points to rise thus above reasoning, in the establishment of its premises; and to perceive intuitively those axioms in thought, those principles of truth, which precede argument, and in their nature transcend it; which, though beyond the grasp of the mere understanding,

“Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,

Are yet a master-light of all our seeing." And in relation to these truths, the decision of the soul is as thoroughly to be trusted, it is as implicitly relied upon in practical concerns, as when its conclusions are the result of an obvious analysis. Indeed, its belief in these truths seems higher, even, and more affirmative, than in any others; because it partakes of the nature of vision, as distinguished from conviction; because in its perception of these, the soul acts, if we may so express it, in the totality of its powers; not merely in the use of the argumentative understanding. It is thus, for example, with the indestructible belief of the soul in its own personality; a belief out of which it cannot be forced, which is absolute knowledge more than belief, and yet which is not the result of any process of reasoning, and for which it can scarcely give a reason when that is asked. It is thus, too, with its belief in the reality of moral distinctions and moral obligation. And it is thus with its belief in the inherent reality, and the unchangeable permanence, of the Truth and the Right. It is not a prejudice of the soul, which leads it to feel this. It is not any previous education, that it has unconsciously received. Certainly it is not an un. suspected pressure of its inherited depravity. Its perception of the fact is intuitive and immediate. It believes it, because it cannot but believe it; because it sees it to be true; because the conviction of its truth is made irresistible by its own constitution.

This, therefore, is one of the points at which all candid and thoughtful minds meet in agreement, whatever have been their differences of culture, or the peculiar aspects of their previous history. All feel, the educated and the ignorant, the aged and the immature, even the virtuous and the vicious—all feel, when the point is distinctly presented to them, and except as they have previously been biassed against it—that there is an Absolute Truth which can never become Error, and an Absolute Right which can by no agency be transmuted into Wrong. They know, when they think of it clearly, that a truth is in its nature, eternally, a truth; not dependent for its truthfulness upon outward circumstances, nor upon any, even Divine, appointment; but a truth always, and everywhere, because a truth inherently and by nature; and that no events can ever occur, and no exertion of power can ever be made, which shall falsify a principle that is true in itself. The axiom, for example, in mathematics, that the whole is greater than the part, or that the equals of a given quantity are equal to each other; or the proposition in morals, that the same act cannot at the same time be wholly right and wholly wrong, or that it is not possible at the same moment to love supremely two objects of regard, essentially diverse; these principles, and such as these, it is universally felt, must be always true. They do not depend for their truth on any appointment, and no power in the universe could change them into error.

And the same is characteristic of the principles of Right. A particular volition, or exertion of force, may of course be right at one time and wrong at another; because at one time performed with one motive and for a particular end, and at another time with another motive and for a different end. But the principles of Right, and the great duties to which these principles give rise, toward God and toward his creatures, are ALWAYS THE SAME. They cannot change. They are independent, entirely, of outward events. Their rightness is inherent, and universal. Across all boundaries of space or time, their obligation sweeps. They grow out of the nature of things. They are involved in the primary laws of Being itself. They have their origin in the same eternal necessities, which constitute the ground of the existence of Deity; and they are, therefore, themselves immutable and everlasting; not dependent for their authority on any enactment, and not to be reversed by any decree. Their authority extends to all moral beings, as such ; to the Creator himself, as truly as to the creature. To deal justly, to love mercy, in all things to regard the truth and to maintain equity—this, with reverence be it said, it is right for God himself to do. It is so independently of his volition, and has been so eternally; and it would be wrong for him to refuse it. And it is just the glory of his character, not that he makes that right which was not so before, or that by his election he has sovereignly divided the right from the wrong, but that he has freely chosen the Right, which was so in itself, as the rule of his action; and has made it the rule for the action of his creatures.

And this, if we consider it carefully, is everywhere involved in Scripture. It is because the word of the Lord is true and good, that it endureth forever; i. e., of course, because it is conformed with the truth and penetrated by the goodness, which are changeless and absolute. It is because the ways of Jehovah are ways of righteousness,-because, in other words, they are agreeable to the rectitude which is perfect and everlasting,—that saints and angels rejoice in his sovereignty. And that in his character which fills with brightness the heavenly courts, and lifts into their loftiest anthems the hearts of Saints, is simply its immutable expression of rectitude and of truth.

Before the worlds were, therefore, the Right was, and the Truth with it; coeval with God himself, the principles of his character and the guides of his action. No lapse of time impairs their perfectness. No reach of space surpasses their authority. They are invulnerable to assault. "They have their roots in the very ground of Existence, and they cannot be changed by any power. And, literally, “it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than for one tittle of the law to fail.” Though all animated existence should perish from the Earth, though life itself should cease throughout the universe, though all the bands of the Creation should be dissolved, and worlds and systems fly wildly into chaos,

“ The bright sun be extinguished, and the stars

Wander forth darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless and pathless, and the icy earth
Swing blind and blackening, in the moonless air,"

still would the principles of Right remain unchanged, through all mutations; eternal in themselves, and indestructible ; and just as evident in their nature, and just as absolute in their sway, when other suns and systems, through other agencies, had risen in splendor upon the wreck of these.

And this brings me to my second remark, which is :

II. That the ENACTMENT OF THESE PRINCIPLES UPON THE PART OF GOD, AS THE RULE OF CONDUCT FOR HIMSELF AND FOR HIS CREATURES, is as permanent and unchangeable as are the principles themselves.

We may distinguish, evidently, and we must distinguish, between the principles of the law,—the principles of equity and truth developed therein, and the Law itself as a specific enactment, enjoined for us, on the part of our lawgiver. The principles, as we have seen, are self-existent and immutable. We cannot, without absurdity, even conceive these to be changed. But it is entirely conceivable in itself, without reference to the character of God, that the expression of these principles, in the statute revealed, may be essentially changed. It remains to be considered, therefore, whether there is a liability to this; or whether the Rule of Conduct recognized by the conscience, and addressed to us in the Scriptures,-around which are summoned their promises and penalties, and to which is given the authority of Jehovah,-is also as changeless as the principles it enfolds.

And it is to just this point that the Saviour speaks, and this he decides by the announcement of the text. In this sense, also, the Law is permanent. It rests upon an appointment entirely immutable ; and it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than for one tittle of it to tremble or fail.

The certainty of this will become apparent, if we remember that the law embraces perfectly the principles of right, and that the character of the Deity is of unchangeable perfection. If the Divine Law were an imperfect embodiment of truth and equity, the very goodness and holiness of Jehovah would require its amendment. It would then be, not only wrong in itself, but mischievous in its influence; as even an earthly and local statute, if unjust, is always mischievous, within the circle of its effects. The high regard of God for his Creation, therefore, as well as his supreme regard for Right, would demand and necessitate a change in the law. That infinite goodness and wisdom, which hold the worlds upon their course, from age to age, without one jar or tremble in all their sweep, would never be satisfied with a spiritual law, wrong in its elements and destructive in its effect upon the moral creation. Its change or abolition would be as certain as his sovereignty. But, manifestly, precisely the reverse is true, the law being holy. As it expresses fully the principles of recti. tude—as in itself, therefore, it is absolutely equitable, and in its influences unspeakably beneficent—both the holiness and the goodness of the Deity ensure its stability. Holiness, is regard for the Right considered in itself and its own nature, and aside from its tendencies to produce well-being. Benevolence, is regard for that wellbeing which Right produces; and which, as matter of fact, can only be permanently attained through its instrumentality. The two, obviously, are nowise incompatible. Rather, they are sympathetic and friendly, and intrinsically allied ; and though properly distinguishable, they are naturally coincident. We see them manifested, both separately and in union, in the character of those who in this world are worthy of our regard. It is their immutable development, and their absolute union, in the character of Jehovah, which gives to that its highest grandeur—a grandeur in the comparison of which the sublimity of God's Eternity is poor and low. God is “glorious in holiness.” He is infinite, also, in mercy and in goodness. He loves the Right for its own sake ; for its inherent and ineradicable beauty ; for its eternal excellence;—and to the maintenance of that Right, and the advancement of its interests and the securing of its triumph, he cheerfully sacrifices all transient interests. Yet he loves also the welfare of the Universe, and for it he makes constant exertion ; for it he gave his Son to die, and puts forth mightily his whole omnipotence. And he sees clearly, in his omniscient vision searching all things, how closely this wellbeing so precious in itself, is bound up with the Right so excellent and authoritative ; how absolutely inseparable the two are; and how immutably it is certain, that only as equity is maintained can welfare be secured; that only as holiness prevails will happiness go with it. And therefore, in every aspect, he loves His Law, which is the Expression of the Right, and the Instrument of the Welfare ; and in the obedience of which lie holiness and peace. He loves, and will maintain it.

In relation to these its elements, of holiness and goodness, the character of the Deity is altogether unchangeable. His very power and Godhead are not more permanent. It is not possible for him to lie. He is not compelled, indeed, to be holy, by any external necessity. He is not shut up to benevolence in spite of himself. For such a conception would be as self-contradictory and as inherently absurd, as it would be derogatory to the glory of his character. His holiness is a voluntary holiness. His goodness is an attribute of his Will, which is inherently free. And yet the certainty of their continuance is not susceptible of increase. It is not apparent to us, even, how any motive can be presented to God for deviation from rectitude ! how any temptation to malevolence can be felt in his bosom! But whether this be so or not, the certainty is entire of his unchangeable purity. His very nature involves it. The Scriptures most clearly and froquently declare it. And it is not more certain that his existence is limitless, than that his character will retain its original glory; will be pervaded and signalized by love and holiness, throughout eternity. The power that fills with worlds the infinite void, shall be controlled through all its stretches by boundless love. The knowledge to which Immensity is present, and all the past, and all the future; we in our ignorance ; the insect of a day that flutters by us; the very clods beneath our feet; and all the infinite ranks of Principalities and Powers, ascending from us,—by which all acts are noted, and through which all thoughts are visible to God ;—this knowledge, so measureless and incomprehensible, shall,

« AnteriorContinuar »