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If every man of the race could resist every temptation, could live without transgression, even then the mission of Christ would not have been useless ; the new spiritual life which he infused into the world, would have elevated still higher the condition of man. From the mere power to overcome evil, there is an endless progress towards the perfection of God. We should have an infinitely higher conception of Christianity, than to regard it as a mere sanitary plan to cure the moral disease of the world.
A new question now forces itself on the mind, a ques. tion that must be directly and rationally met. How were the millions that lived upon the earth during the four thousand years previous to his appearance benefited by the mission of Christ? How have the countless millions that have existed since his appearance, without knowing anything about it, been benefited by his coming? Did Christ come to save those who lived without any knowledge of him in ancient times, that have lived without any knowledge of him since his departure from the earth ?
The large portion of the church that arrogates to itself the title of Orthodox, answers the last form of the ques. tion in the negative, and conveniently damns nine-tenths of the race, for the sin of being born out of time and place. Some think that there was a looking forward to the cross, especially among the Jews. The very prophets among the Jews did not understand the meaning of the prophetic spirit within them, when they were foretelling the coming of the Redeemer; the apostles knew not the full import of his mission, until, after the ascension, they were especially illuminated by the Holy Ghost; how then could the mass of the Jewish people, who expected a temporal ruler, be saved by a looking forward to the cross? How could the Gentiles, most of whom knew not that such a country as Judea existed, have any such source of hope ?
God never has been, never will be, estranged from the human race. He is unchangeable in all worlds. Towards man, from the beginning to the end, he bears redeeming love. The Omnipotent is himself the saviour of the world. "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.” Paul, after speaking of the resurrection and immortality, says: “ Thanks be to God which giveth
tures are deemer of men, th Testament, cad in antagoni
us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” “Unto you first, God having raised up his son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” “God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ." The Scriptures are full of proof on this point. That God himself is the redeemer of men, through instrumentalities, is the key to unlock the New Testament, and disclose its sublime meaning. When the Son is placed in antagonism with the Father, the Gospels and the Epistles are only a mass of contradictions and absurdities.
God's redeeming love was fully manifested to the human race in Christ ; elsewhere it has been partially manifested ; it has been manifested in whatever means the Creator has provided for the instruction of man; it was shown in the giving of the law, in the teachings of the prophets, in the sublime poesy of Hebrew bards. God is also seen in the developing history of the race; he was not absent from the temples that dotted Greece all over, nor the twinkling star to which the devout Persian turned his tear-dimed eyes. God is in all nature, uttering his redeeming love with a voice tuned to the 6 melodies eternal.” Creation is Jehovah's primal revelation-his first written book, whose illumined page lies ever open before the eyes of every mortal. In God, too, as a Grecian poet sung, each one “lives, moves, and has his being." In Jesus Christ there was only a fuller revelation of that logos of life, light and love, “ without which nothing was made that was made.”
To take another step, we may premise upon the author. ity of experience, and upon the better authority of Paul, that there is none perfect. With all the aids that have been given, no man has succeeded in making his life fully answer to the requirements of the divine law. It follows that no man is perfectly reconciled to God. The ideal standard is to love God with the whole strength of one's being,--a perfection toward which we are to go, after which we are to aspire, but which we cannot reach in this state of existence. We say that a man is redeemed, reconciled to God, when he is able to control for the most part his sinful nature, when virtue and holiness have com.
On the reigns. I of humanity in
menced a permanent growth in the soul, but there is none absolutely perfect.
On the other hand, there is none in whose soul total darkness reigns. The most benighted of the race has in him all the elements of humanity, but those elements that constitute the moral part of his being are scarcely quickened, obtaining, without sufficient light, only a feeble, sickly growth. His moral nature exists,—it is indestructible,-but it acts feebly, because it is undeveloped ; its working may be seen, although it may be destitute of the energy necessary to conquer sin ; his spirit does struggle out towards his Maker; if only in the worst form of idolatry—" he sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind.” A beast cannot worship even a stone; a soulless thing can feel no remorse. By the very working of a moral instinct, the soul feels guilt, and sin becomes selfaccusing; atonement is sought at the worst in self-torture, in the immolation of some human victim that is nearest and dearest to the heart. All this shows that there is some degree of activity in the higher nature of even the most degraded and barbarous of men ; that there is in every one, to a certain extent, an unfolding of moral power. A totally depraved being would not even think of building a temple for the worship of the sun or of making a gory sacrifice, like the gloomy Druids.
In the whole human race, then, there is none perfect, and there is none absolutely bad ; there is an intermixture of good and evil in all, --none wholly without evil, none wholly without good.
Now, if reconciliation to God in another world, and eternal happiness, depend upon perfection here, none can be saved. If one can be saved, there is no reason why all may not be saved. When it is proved that a single man shall obtain eternal happiness, it can be proved by the same argument, that it shall be obtained by all. In this world, God partially reconciles to himself the whole race, but does not wholly reconcile to himself any. To some, God has revealed himself only in the intuitions of reason and in creation; to others, he has revealed himself in the law and the prophets; to us he has revealed himself in the form of sympathy and life, in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. The logos, or the Christ-principle, thus to speak, feebly lighteth every man that cometh into the world, but it lighteth most, those who are taught by Jesus, in whom it was most fully exhibited.
It follows, then, that full reconciliation and final happiness, depend upon God alone ; he has never forsaken his children; his abiding love will ultimately embrace those to whom, in this world, he has given scantier, as well as those to whom he has given more abundant, means of redemption. The destiny of mankind may be trusted in the hands of Him, from whom the world has had so many exhibitions of divine * love.
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It was in the reign of Benhadad, king of Syria, that the prophet Elisha lived, and wrought his miracles of healing and of restoring the dead to life. At length, Benhadad himself was taken sick, in old Damascus, the capital of his kingdom. News came to him that the great prophet, of whom he had heard so much, was then sojourning in that city. The king, on his sick bed, called his chief servant, one Hazael, and said, “ Take a present in thine hand, and go, meet the man of God, and inquire of the Lord by him, saying, Shall I recover of this disease ?”.
If Benhadad had known, or suspected, what part his confidential servant was likely to act in this new trust, he would have taken a very different course with him. It is this trusted servant, this Hazael, whom we wish to present, as the most instructive character in the story ; the most instructive at least for the purposes we now have in view. We shall find that his case exemplifies, with a clearness which we cannot very well shut our eyes against, how
4" Good," says Leibnitz, “proves to us that God is more benevolent than men.”
dangerous it is for a man to rely on his good resolutions, if he, at the same time, allows the contrary tastes and inclinations to hold a place in his heart. Nothing is more usual than for wicked men to resolve that they will do right,-as if resolving on the act, without going any deeper, would answer the purpose; and it is just as usual for their resolutions to prove utterly unavailing, because their likings, and the habitual tendencies with which they indulge themselves, run in the opposite direction. These flow on silently, undermining their better intentions, weakening their power of resistance, and finally bring them over into the very characters they most dreaded to become.
At the time when Benhadad was unwarily entrusting him with the confidential message that involved his life, there were secret germs in Hazael's heart, which were ready to spring up into treachery; though they appear to have been unknown, as yet, even to himself. Evidently, Hazael was, at this juncture, a good man, as the world goes; his intentions honorable, and his aims moderate; his prospects those of a passably virtuous and useful career. But still it appears, from subsequent developements, that there must have been certain perversities lying down among the main-springs of his life. He was unscrupulous and aspiring. These were his natural failings; and though they had hitherto remained nearly dormant, perhaps, for want of occasion, they were liable to be called into action on any of the thousand emergencies that occur in human experience. Ambition, with an unscrupulous conscience to guide it,—these were the elements of danger within him. For it should be observed, that a man is in no moral danger, whatsoever temptations he is exposed to, unless he has some internal weakness on which temptation can act,—some predisposition to wrong, within him, which external causes may excite. And then, without him, there were, at this time, some peculiar circumstances, which, though they might have had no effect on another man, were of the very kind to overcome such a man as he. Hazael had lived so long in courts, he had been so intimate with the monarch as one of his chief servants, he had seen so much of public affairs, and had been entrusted with so large a share in thern as a