« PreviousContinue »
truth : the light of which is spread over a wide and capacious arena, reaching afar from the character of man upon earth to the counsels of God in heaven. When Christ told Nicodemus what change must take place upon the earthly subject, ere it could be prepared for the glories and felicities of the upper sanctuary, he was resisted in this announcement by the incredulity of his auditor. Upon this he came forth with the remonstrance : “ If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?”
And then he proceeds to tell of heavenly things,-of the transactions that had taken place in the celestial judicatory above, and which behoved to take place ere the sinner could obtain a rightful entrance into the territory of the blessed and the unfallen; of the love that God bare to the world; of the mission thereto on which He delegated His only and well-beloved Son; of the design of this embassy, and the way in which it subserved the great object of recovering sinners from their state of condemnation.
These are proceedings which may properly be referred to the seat of the divine government, and to the principles which operate and have ascendency there. The doctrine of regeneration is fulfilled or verified upon the human spirit, that is intimately and consciously present with us. The doctrine of the atonement, or the manner in which the reconciliation of the guilty is brought into adjustment with the holiness of God, and with what He requires for maintaining the character and the dignity of His jurisprudence, is fulfilled or verified upon the
divine Spirit, whose thoughts and whose ways are inscrutable to man—He not having ascended up into heaven. And the expostulation amounts to this :-If a man believe not in the doctrine of regeneration, how can he believe in the doctrine of the atonement ? If he consent not to the one he gives no real credit to the other. He may fancy it, or feign it out to his imagination, but he has no faith in it.
The Bible makes known to us both man's depravity, and God's displeasure against him: and if with the eye of our mind we see not the one truth, which lies immediately at hand, neither with the eye
mind can we see the other truth, which lies in fathomless obscurity, away from us, among the recesses of that mysterious Spirit, who is eternal and unsearchable. But the Bible also makes known to us, both the renewing process by which man's depravity is done away, and the reconciling process, by which God’s displeasure against him is averted. If we believe not the former, neither do we believe the latter. If to our intellectual view, there be a darkness over the terrestrial operation, then is there an equal, or a more aggravated darkness, over that movement which took place in heaven, when the incense of a sweet-smelling savour ascended to the throne, and the wrath of the Lawgiver, who sitteth thereon, was turned away.
And what is true of each of these doctrines, regarded abstractly, or in the general, is also true of their personal application. If we find not that a renewing process is taking effect upon us, neither ought we to figure that we
have any part in the reconciling process. It is possible to conceive the latter, even while the old nature still domineers over the whole man, and its desires are indulged without remorse, or, at least, without any effective resistance. But this conception is not the faith of the mind. It is rather what the old writers would call a figment of the mind. The apostle adverts to unfeigned faith. But surely, if a man shall overlook the near, and dwell in thought, on the unseen distance that is beyond it; if, unmindful of any transition in his own breast from sin to sacredness, he nevertheless 'shall persist in the confidence of a transition from anger to complacency in the mind of the Divinity towards him ; if, without looking for a present holiness on earth, he pictures for himself a future beatitude in heaven_he resembles the man who, across that haze of nature's atmosphere, which wraps all things in obscurity, thinks to descry the realities of the ulterior space, when he has only peopled it with gratuitous imagery of his own. The faith of such a one is feigned. He believes not the earthly things which are enunciated in Scripture; and, therefore, though he should take up with the heavenly things that are enunciated there, they are taken up by the wrong faculty. To him they are not the substantial objects of perception, but the allusions of fancy.
The traveller who publishes of distant countries, that we have never seen, may also have included our own familiar neighbourhood in his tour, and given a place in his description to its customs, and its people, and its scenery.
But if his narrative
of the vicinity that is known were full of misrepresentations and errors, we could have no belief in his account of the foreign domains over which he had expatiated. When we believe not what he tells us of our native shire, how can we believe when he tells us of shires or provinces abroad? And by this we may try the soundness of our faith in the divine testimony. It is a testimony which embraces the things of earth and the things of heaven; which teaches us the nature of man as originally corrupt, and requiring a power from above, that may transform it, as well as on the nature of God, as essentially averse to sin, and requiring an atonement that may reconcile and
If we believe not what is said of the nature of man, and of the doctrine of regeneration that is connected therewith, then we believe not what is said of the nature of God, and of the doctrine of redemption that is connected therewith. We may choose to overlook the former revelation, and stretch our attention onward to the latter, as that with which our fancy is most regaled, or our fears are most effectually quieted into pleasing oblivion. In this way, we may seize on the topic of imputed righteousness, by an effort of desire, or an effort of imagination; but if the man who does so have an unseeing eye towards the topic of his own personal sanctification, he has just as little of faith towards the former article as towards the latter, whatever preference of liking or fancy he may entertain regarding it. It may play around his mind as one of its most agreeable daydreams, but it has not laid hold of his conviction. The light that maketh the doctrine which affirms the change of God's mind towards the sinner believingly visible, would also make the doctrine which affirms the change of the sinner's mind towards
God believingly visible. If the one be veiled from · the eye of faith, the other is at least equally so.
It may be imagined by the mind, but it is not perceived. It may be conceived, but it is not credited.
There is a well known publication, called the Traveller's Guide, which you may take as your companion to some distant land, but the accuracy of which you try upon the earlier stages of your journey. If wholly incorrect in the description which it gives of the first scenes through which you pass, you withdraw all your confidence from its representation of the future scenes; and it may even be so wide of the truth, in respect of the things that are present and visible, as should lead you to infer that you are altogether off the road that conducts to the place after which you are aiming. The Bible is a traveller's guide-and it portrays the characters of humility, and self-denial, and virtuous discipline, and aspiring godliness, which mark the outset of the pilgrimage,—and it also portrays the characters of brightness, and bliss, and glory, which mark its termination.
If you do not believe that it delineates truly the path of transition in time, neither do you believe, however much you may desiderate and dwell upon the prospect, that it sketches truly, the place of joyful habitation in eternity. Or, at least, you may well conclude, if you are not now on the path of holiness,