Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

gine even the worst: and suppose that the first three Gospels are shewn to be not personally authentic, not the independent productions of three apostolic men; but a compilation of very composite structure, consisting of (we will say) some thirty fragments, obviously from different hands, and all of anonymous origin. In such case, the individual testimony of eye-witnesses being gone, the whole edifice of external proof which supports a dogmatic Christianity, must fall. But the self-evidence of a moral and spiritual Christianity, of a Christianity that clings to the person and spirit of Christ, is not only unharmed, but even incalculably increased. For how often, and how truly, has it been argued, that the mere inspection of the four Gospels is enough to prove the reality of Christ; that the invention, and consistent maintenance, of, a character so unapproachable, so destitute of all archetype beneath the skies, so transcending the fictions of the noblest genius, and so unlike them, are things utterly incredible, were they supposed even of one writer: and that, for this same divine image to gleam forth with coincident perfection from four, belongs to the highest order of impossibilities. What then should we say, if these four were resolved into thirty? The coalescence of so many fragmentary records, could no more make a Christ, than the upsetting of an artist's colours could paint a Raffaelle. Whatever becomes of Church Christianity, that which lives in Christ, and has the power of love in man, is everlasting as the soul.

We are warned that “ the Bible is not a shifting, mutable, uncertain thing." We echo the warning, with this addition, that Christianity is a progressive thing; not a doctrine dead, and embalmed in creeds, but a spirit living and impersonated in Christ. Two things are necessary to a revelation: its record, which is permanent; its readers, who perpetually change. From the collision of the lesson and the mind on which it drops, starts up the living religion that saves the soul within, and acts on the theatre of the world without. Each eye sees what it can, and what it needs; each age developes a new and nobler idea from the immortal page. We are like children, who, in reading a book above their years, pass innocently and unconsciously over that which is not suited to their state. In this divine tale of Christ, every class and every period seizes, in succession, the views and emotions which most meet its wants. It is with Scripture as with nature. The everlasting heavens spread above the gaze of Herschel, as they did over that of Abraham; yet the latter saw but a spangled dome, the former a forest of innumerable worlds. To the mind of

this profound observer, there was as much a new creation, as if those heavens had been at the time, called up and spread before bis sight. And thus is it with the word of God. As its power and beauty develope themselves continually, it is as if Heaven were writing it now, and leaf after leaf dropped directly from the skies. Nor is there any heresy like that, which denies this progressive unfolding of divine wisdom, shuts up the spirit of heaven in the verbal metaphysics and scholastic creeds of a half-barbarous period,-treats the inspiration of God as a dry piece of antiquity, and cannot see that it communes afresh with the soul of every age; and sheds, from the living Fount of truth, a guidance ever new.

THE STAGE DRIVER, “Wait a minute," said the driver to his horses, as, impatient at his turning to speak to a companion, after gathering up the lines, they began to move about uneasily—“ wait a minute, till I get up, and we'll all go off together."

“Who is that you were speaking to ?'' said I, when we were fairly on the road.

“That's red-headed Dick-he used to drive to the same house where my route stopped. Last winter his boss paid him seventy dollars in gold, and he has got it all now, safely put away.”

“Ah! I'm glad to hear it. Do many of you save your wages in that way?"

“ Yes, indeed. There are many drivers who lay up their money, and try to behave respectably to passengers, and do well by their horses, and keep from drinking too much liquor. But what good does it do? nobody respects us any more. We work hard, and people think we're of no account, while there are a parcel of high fellows, who are clerks in stores, and wear straps under their boots, who I know get drunk at nights and break signs, and run in debt to the stable and coffee house; and people think them a great deal better than us, and despise us.”

“Well, that's all wrong. People should be respected for their behaviour, not for their business or their dress. For myself, I feel much more respect for a hard-working, well-behaved, sober man, than for such high fellows as you speak of. But there is one thing I don't like about you drivers."

66 What's that, sir?"
6 You swear too hard.”

« That's true; I know it. I often think it must be unpleasant to passengers, and try not to. But every body swears about me, and I find myself doing it too. I don't think much of any body else whom I hear swear, and yet I know I do it myself.”

“ Well, as it can't do any good 10 swear, and as it is disagreeable to many people to hear it, and for more important reasons still, I think, if I were you, I would try to break myself of it."

This conversation actually took place the other day, and I have recorded it as suggesting two or three considerations ofimportance.

1. It indicates a feeling, which prevails more widely, I judge, than we commonly suppose, among the laboring classes, of an unjust and false social position: “ they don't respect us.” Those whose trade compels them to wear coarse clothes, feel that, however intelligent, civil and virtuous they may be, they have a rank in society far below others who may be idle, dissipated, ignorant and conceited, but who are able to wear "straps under their boots." They feel this to be unjust and wrong, but they don't know how to help themselves. What wonder that they will follow any demagogue in politics, or any proselyting fanatic in religion, who will take them by the hand, treat them with the appearance of cordiality, and seem to think them worthy of social privileges!

2. Are we not disposed to make a very wrong estimate of the moral character of men, and judge them by outward appearance? There is a stage driver, a wagoner, a sailor, a mechanic, who looks rough, whose speech is abrupt, who swears a good deal, does not go to church, and occasionally drinks whiskey. And here is another, a polished young lawyer or merchant, who does not swear, (for it is impolite,) nor drink whiskey, (for he prefers champagne, and who goes to church, (because it is a good place to shew off his elegant coat and whiskers and manners.) May not this last, contrary to our usual impression, be much farther from God and Christ than the other? He has fewer coarse vices, but may he not be far more selfish and more debauched, inwardly? To swear, to drink, and not to go to church, are sins; but not, as religious people commonly imagine, the chief and the deadly sins. Worse, far worse than these, are the spiritual sins which often possess the whole souls of our moral, respectable, intelligent, church-going citizens. The unbelieving heart of selfishness and pride, the hard, cold worldliness, the harsh tem

Vol. VIII.-38.

pered austerity which scorns the feelings and trampies on the sensibilities of the human soul-against these, on the day of judgment, shall my poor profane stage driver rise up and condemn them, for he was humble and willing to confess his faults; but they belong to the Pharisees, who thank God every Sabbath that they are not as other men.

3. I have always found that the roughest kind of men were willing to be told of their faults, if it was done kindly and respectfully. But our religious travellers are very apt to think they are doing God service by rebuking the swearer in a voice of authority, in any company, and without any regard to his feelings. I would ask them, who made them a judge over their brother, and sent them out on the highways with this commission to select one particular sin, and rebuke it wherever they met it? Invariably such a course does harm and not good. A man feels insulted, and to insult a man is no way to reach his conscience. By seeking an opportunity, and speaking a word in season, a man may do much good; but unseasonable rebuke and exhortation, is no way to save souls.

J. F. C. MEADVILLE, Aug. 26th.

EXPOSITION OF REVELATIONS VII: 13--15.

"And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, what are these which are are rayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, sir, Thou knowest. And he said to me, these are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white, in the blood of the Lamb, Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple."

This is language peculiarly figurative and Jewish. Still I think it is not difficult to discover in it a simple and important meaning. It is only necessary to regard it carefully, and to trace its meaving through several successive steps.

The white robes in which the innumerable company assembled around the throne, are represented as being arrayed, in another part of the Book of Revelations, are said to be the righteousness of the saints. Here then we take the first step towards a comprehension of the text. We understand that the robe of white in which each individual of the heavenly assembly was arrayed, denoted the habits of justice, benevolence and piety, which characterized the individual. This dress was his own. No borrowed habits of goodness were thrown over personal habits of ungodliness. In other words,

the righteousness of the saints, seen in vision by John, in consequence of which they were received into a heavenly glory, was a personal, not an imputed righteousness.

How was this righteousness acquired? Was their character naturally holy? Had they never sinned? Were they now in heaven because they had merited such blessedness by a course of unsinning obedience to the holy and righteous laws of God? Far from it. At least, not so intimates the text. “Therefore are they before the throne because they have washed their garments, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

Blood is synonymous with obedience. The blood of Christ, considered as a physical substance, can have no efficacy in cleansing the soul from moral defilement. Nor is the term blood, in reference to Christ, used in the Scriptures as indicating such efficacy. It is used to designate his obedience. We read that he became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross;* and the merit of this sacrifice consisted in its being an act of obedience to God. For this obedience, being the last, most trying, the consummating act of duty on his part, God rewarded him by exalting him to his own right handit This exaltation was the “joy set before him" for which he 6 endured the cross."Here then, we advance another step. We understand that the blood of Christ is synonymous with the obedience of Christ.

The obedience of Christ, considered in this broad sense, signifies the entire discharge of his mission. It comprehends his teachings concerning divine truth and human duty, and the example by which he manifested to the world the practicability of its precepts as rules of life. The obedience of Christ, in this view, becomes another name for the gospel of Christ; because it implies the promulgation and enforcement of the gospel system. Here we advance another step. We understand that the obedience of Christ means the gospel of Christ. And we are prepared to determine what is the connexion between the righteousness of the saints and the obedience of Christ.

Jesus Christ taught a divine system of truth and duty. He called men to believe in this system, in order that through obedience to its dictates, they might be saved from sin and made holy. He exhibited the practicability of such obedience by his own uniform conduct. He set a complete example of all the virtues he inculcated. And this too throughout a life of varied, afflictive, and trying incidents. When he had

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
« AnteriorContinuar »