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are truly blessed, and who shall assuredly be comforted. The poor in spirit, are those who are conscious of their inward poverty and destitution; who feel the greatness and the urgency of their spiritual wants; and who, sensible that they have nothing in themselves, come to the infinite fulness which is treasured up in Jesus Christ, and “buy” of him all they need, “without money and without price.” And the happy mourners are those “who sorrow after a godly sort;” whose sorrow springs from a sense of their destitution, and leads to repentance; and whose repentance issues in eternal life. These are the mourners whose tears God will wipe away. They are the subjects of that “godly sorrow which worketh repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of.” All who are in affliction and trouble are not included amongst the happy mourners. There are who despise the chastening of the Lord, and refuse to receive correction. They are the more obdurate for the discipline with which they are exercised, the more rebellious for the means which are used to subdue and reclaim them. Thus God appeals complainingly to his ancient people, “Wherefore should you be stricken any more? ye will revolt yet more and more.” And if there are some who despise the chastening of the Lord, there are others who faint when they are rebuked of him. When their difficulties increase, when their afflictions multiply, they are overwhelmed, they sink not only into despondency, but to despair, and sometimes act in the spirit of the wretched counsel, “Curse thy God and die.” They know only “the sorrow of the world which worketh death.” The mourning of which the Saviour speaks may commence in seasons of affliction, or it may be increased by circumstances of trial. Afflictions constitute an important part of the disci
pline with which we are exercised in the present state of being. Their design is, and such is their obvious tendency, to humble us and to prove us, to lead to serious reflection and to earnest prayer. “In their affliction they will seek me early.” And such, in many instances, has been the happy effect. You were at easein your circumstances, you were filled with your prosperity, and were unconcerned about the future; but storms which you little anticipated overtook you, losses overwhelmed you, sickness seized you, death visited your abode, and removed from you the object of your tenderest love. This led you to the Bible, to the house of prayer, to the throne of grace: your ruin was your recovery ; your undoing saved you; sickness led to your spiritual health ; and the death of that beloved friend was the means of your eternal life. Many have said with the Psalmist, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted ; before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept thy law.” Thus it was with Manasseh : the instruction which he had received in his youth, and the example of his pious father had been lost upon him, or the recollection of them served only to hurry him on to greater excesses of depravity. He was often admonished, but he refused to hearken ; he grew worse and worse; but at length he exchanged the palace for the prison, and the insignia of royalty for the chain and sorrows of the captive. “And when he was in affliction he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed unto him ; and he was entreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God.” Afflictions have frequently proved the means not only of awakening this godly sorrow in those who had before been
careless, but also of increasing it in those who were previously the subjects of it. We are too prone to forget that this is not our rest. When we find a verdant spot in the wilderness, affording much to cheer and to refresh us, how ready we are to say, Let us build our tabernacles and take up our abode here. We have therefore need to be reminded frequently of our true position and character—that we are but pilgrims and sojourners on the earth. Hence we are often in heaviness through manifold temptations. In these dark days we are made to feel more deeply our spiritual destitution and poverty, and to mourn more bitterly over our manifold imperfections and sins. What Christian has not found that “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth !” What Christian has not learned that in our afflictions we acquire a deeper sense of our unworthiness, and are brought nearer to the source of all consolation and grace
The mourners of whom the Saviour speaks, mourn for sIN. This is the chief cause of all godly sorrow. Sin is apprehended by all holy mourners in its tremendous consequences. They see that it exposes the soul to “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord;" and those who know this, who are aware of their danger, who are sensible that they are under the curse of the divine law, and exposed to the divine displeasure, must be deeply affected. But the mourners whom Jesus comforts go beyond this. They see the evil nature of sin as well as its tremendous consequences. They feel that they have sinned grievously against their God: they have not only transgressed the divine law, and trampled under foot the divine authority, but they have neglected the “great salvation;” they have rejected the overtures of peace proposed to them in the gospel ; they have thus been guilty of the
vol. x.-fourth series.
vilest ingratitude to God, and have destroyed their own souls. Hence David says, “My sin is ever before me;” and the prodigal, though drinking the cup of bitterness to its very dregs, dwells only on his trespasses, “Father, I have sinned—I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight.” And all the subjects of this pious sorrow are familiar with sentiments of self-loathing and abhorrence; with holy men of old, they say, “We have sinned ; we are vile; we abhor ourselves; we repent in sackcloth and in ashes.” Sin in others as well as in themselves is a source of sorrow to the mourners described by our Lord; especially in their relatives and friends. If they are dissipated and immoral, they feel it even as others do. But if they are outwardly consistent, still they feel their exposed condition; they are impenitent sinners, and as such they are in rebellion against God, and in danger of the wrath to come. Though we can repent only of our own sins, generous sorrow for the sins of others has ever been characteristic of genuine religion. In every age of the world, holy men have sighed and cried on account of the abominations of the land. In times of great degeneracy especially they have been seen weeping for the sins of others as well as for their own. In their appeals to the Searcher of hearts, they have said, “Rivers of waters run down our eyes, because men keep not thy law.” And
if these tears have sometimes been pe
culiarly bitter, they have not been without their benefit; they have proved the best security against the contagion of surrounding evil. There is a distinctness not only in the cause of this mourning, but also in its NATURE; and we shall do well to advert for a moment to some of its peculiar qualities. It is not superficial or occasional, but deep and constant. It is uniformly 8 Q
represented in scripture as a peculiarly great and bitter mourning. Such is the description of the prophet: “They shall mourn as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness, as one that is in bitterness for his first born.” And the illustrations of this are numerous. Thus Peter, when, after he had denied his Lord three times, Jesus looked on him, “remembered the word of the Lord, and went out and wept bitterly.” Thus the multitudes on the day of Pentecost “were pricked in their hearts, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do 7” Thus the Philippian jailor “came trembling, and fell down at the feet of Paul and Silas, saying, Sirs, what must I do to to be saved 7” Often does the Psalmist speak of “watering his couch with his tears;” often does he complain of his broken bones, of his roaring all the day, of his tears being his meat day and night. Oh! if you have seen sin in its true light, it is not lightly that you have been affected by it. You may still sometimes doubt whether you have sorrowed after a godly manner, but you cannot doubt whether you have sorrowed at all. And this mourning is not transient; it is characterised by permanence and constancy, no less than by intensity and depth. Repentance is an essential element of vital religion in the human mind. It is not confined to the commencement of the Christian life, but extends through the whole course of it. While there is the spirit of religion in the soul, the spirit of penitence as well as of faith is there. For faith does not preclude repentance, or render it unnecessary; it does not
dry up the tears of godly sorrow, but rather makes them flow more freely. The sacrifice of a broken heart and of a contrite spirit is one which God never despises, and which the Christian daily presents. It has been said of an eminently good man, that he “never spent a day without shedding some tears for sin;” and we ought to say, not that we have been humbled—we have mourned on account of sin, but that we are humbled—we do mourn for it. For sin still dwelleth in us, and in many things we all offend; and besides, we cannot forget the past. Paul, amids all the labours, and sufferings, and successes of the apostleship, never forgo that he had persecuted the church of God, and never ceased to regard himself as the chief of sinners. Finally. It is characteristic of this mourning, that it leads the soul to God. “The sorrow of the world which worketh death,” alienates the heart from God. It drove Cain to the will and Judas to the gallows, and it drive many still to worldly pursuits and pleasures, to scenes of dissipation and folly, and sometimes to despair and death. But pious sorrow unite" the soul to God. The subject of it ** with Peter, “to whom can I go but unto theer" and with Job, “though." slay me, yet will I trust him". * Christian mourner; it is to Go! " go. Under the pressure of afflictive providences, and under the Plug" of an evil heart, it is still to him yo" ('' you go to his house, to his word, to his throne. Your deepest distress * that you ever departed from him and retelled against him; and now "": be found at his footstool; if you Po" you will pray, and perish only there.
REMARKS ON THE STANDARD OF DIVINE TRUTH.
BY THE LATE REv. A. CARSON, LL.D.
BEFoRE any important advances can be made in any science, the foundations of it must be ascertained and accurately discerned by those employed in rearing the superstructure. Whatever rests on any other grounds, though it may add to the apparent size of the building, diminishes its strength and beauty. For more than two thousand years, the inquiries of philosophers concerning the works of God, were carried on by hypotheses invented by ingenious men, for explaining the phenomena of nature, and during all that time, few real discoveries were made with respect either to matter or mind. Lord Bacon was the first who clearly pointed out the proper method of philosophising; Sir Isaac Newton on Natural Philosophy, and Doctor Reid on the Science of the Mind, were the first to put it in practice. In both of these departments of knowledge, one theory succeeded another till the time of these illustrious philosophers; but since that period, their respective sciences rest upon a foundation from which they can never be moved. And what has produced this remarkable difference between their systems, and those of all preceding philosophers ? It is solely to the standard of truth which they ascertained, and to which in all their inquiries they appealed. Had he invented a theory, and proceeded by conjecture, Newton, with all his vast abilities, would have reared only a temporary fabric, to be blown away by the next innovator. The philosophy of Aristotle reigned in the schools without a rival, till the time of Des Cartes. That great man completely overturned the theories of the Stagyrite, but instead of building on more stable ground, he set himself to invent a theory of his own. By the contrivance of an immense whirlpool of subtile
matter, he carried round the heavenly bodies in their evolutions, like straws and chaff in a tub of water; and this wild conjecture satisfied a great part of the learned of Europe for a considerable time, and with many, prevented the reception, even of the discoveries of Newton, for half a century. Despising vain conjectures, and being guided in his experiments and observations by those self-evident rules of philosophising which he had laid down, Newton ascertained those laws of nature that must for ever give satisfaction to the mind of IIlan. The revolution effected by Doctor Reid in the philosophy of the mind, is not less wonderful than that effected by Sir Isaac Newton, in that of matter. By taking for granted principles that are false, and rejecting the authority of others that are self-evident, philosophy, till his time, had established the most monstrous and incredible absurdities. The principles adopted by philosophers had rejected the testimony of the senses, and left no evidence even that there is an external world. By the most conclusive reasoning from these principles, Berkeley had proved that there is no matter in the universe, and with equal validity Hume advanced a step farther, and boldly annihilated both matter and mind. According to this great philosopher, there is neither matter nor mind, neither God nor devil, nor angel nor spirit, nothing in the universe but impressions and ideas. And all these monstrous absurdities flowed regularly from the principles acknowledged by all philosophers till the time of Doctor Reid. And how did Reid restore us the world from the united grasp of all the wise men of the world ! By settling the standard of philosophical truth, by vindicating the authority of the testimony of our senses, and rejecting that of the figments of philosophers. In ascertaining the powers and faculties of the human mind, he admitted no appeal but to the mind itself by observation and experiment; and every fair result of such an appeal he received with avidity, however opposite to the established sentiments of philosophers. By this process he has done more to ascertain the principles of the human constitution, than all the philosophers who preceded him; and it is only by following in his track, that this science can be perfected. It would not be without interest for a Christian to read the observations of this philosopher on hypotheses, as almost without exception they apply to the theories of men with respect to the contents of the Scriptures. If hypotheses have led men to misinterpret the works of God, hypotheses have led them to misinterpret his word. The analogy is singularly striking. And if human conjecture has ever failed with respect to the works of creation, shall it succeed with respect to the depths of the divine counsels in the redemption of sinners ? Wain theologians, will ye not learn from this, that the way to discover the mind of God, is not to form hypotheses, but to examine the Scriptures 7 What is it produces your infinite diversities 1 How is it ye deduce from Scripture your innumerable errors ? Ye form theories, and then wrest the Scriptures to agree with these. With the arrogance of Satan, ye determine, by your own views, what must be the divine conduct and plans, and with Satanic ingenuity and effrontery, ye torture his word to speak your sentiments. While in words ye acknowledge the Scriptures to be a standard, ye take the liberty of erecting a standard of paramount authority in your own understandings, and of interpreting the oracles of God, by the delusions of your own fancies.
Though ye call the Scriptures a standard, ye do not allow them to be the sole standard of divine truth. Some things, ye say, God has left to be planned by the wisdom of man. How, then, can ye escape error How can ye agree with each other ? Christians, have ye no errors have ye no differences? Believe it, they are mostly owing to the same cause. Strange as on first view it may appear, Christians do not all agree in the source of religious sentiments. Do not some, even till this moment, contend that some things are left to human institution ? What common principle have we then to reason with such With them the Scriptures are
not the sole standard. Others by dis
tinctions and difference of times, and various inventions, have considerably abridged this standard, so that almost the half of its testimony is not heard in evidence, but rejected as irrelevant. The testimony of the Holy Spirit is treated like that of an old honest, but doating man, who speaks now and then to the purpose, but is perpetually subject to mental wanderings. Even among those who acknowledge the Scriptures as the sole standard, I find there are few controvertists, who steadily and uniformly act up to their avowed principles. When the interest of a favour ite dogma is at stake, every artifice is employed to make the witness prevario cate. With all their deference for the authority of the divine word, how do they grapple with it, when it seems to enjoin any disagreeable practice ! Christians, in ascertaining the mino of God, let us banish all the prejudices and prepossessions of our own mino Let us listen to the scriptures as the rule, asthe perfect standard. Letnothing be received, because it commends it." to our wisdom; let nothing be rejected for want of this sanction. Let us remell” ber that, in all things, the wisdom of God is not like the wisdom of man.