Page images

the same general import. It is unnecessary to examine the meaning, or inquire into the reason of each expression. We have selected the idea of LIFE, as the simplest and most comprehensive, and design, by means of it, to subject the whole subject of REGENERATION, or the NEW BIRTH, in all its grand and important relations, to a careful and candid analysis.

In announcing this design, it may not be improper to apprise the reader of the source and character of the proofs and illustrations to be adduced. The sacred scriptures are assumed to be the INFALLIBLE word of God. Its revelations are not reputed mere abstractions, but simple MATTERS OF FACT. So far from the idea being admitted, that the bible is a mere guide to opinions, and calculated to induce theory and speculation, it is affirmed that the disclosures which it makes are solemn declarations of FACT, and not the less interesting because originally beyond the sphere of human reason. They affect the character, the condition, the hopes, the destiny of the ruined race of man, and have a most important and essential bearing on individual happiness and expectation. In the interpretation of these words of truth, it is deemed impertinent to ask, “can such a thing be," or "is it compatible with our notion of the Divine Being. It is from God's own disclosure of himself-from His revelation of His own mind and will-that we are to form our ideas of Himself. If we imbibe them from another source, we shall err; for naturally we "walk in the vanity of our mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in us, because of the blindness* of our heart." If God has been pleased to speak it is assumed as, unquestionably because most demonstratively, true, that He has-it is for us to hear, and not ask impertinently how or why is this or that which He * Eph. iv. 17, 18.



declares to be the fact. They that will reserve to themselves this liberty, and judge of the revelations of the scriptures according as they may mect. or favor their peculiar prejudices and feelings, or as they are pleased to dignify them--their reason, had better act consistently, and proclaim themselves infidels at once, rejecting the authority of the word of God. However common it may be for men to allege they will not believe this or that, because it does not commend itself to their judgment, because it does not comport with their views of God, because they reserve to themselves in all cases the right of private opinion, because they cannot understand it, it will not for one moment be conceded that with such the bible is accounted of paramount authority. Our discussions are with, and for those who feel that "thus saith the Lord” is like the oath among men, and must "put an end to all strife.” All others, though they may pretend to believe in a divine revelation, are mere hypocrites and unbelievers.

Yet, in illustrating the facts which it has pleased God to make known to us in the sacred scriptures, we shall deem it perfectly lawful to avail ourselves of all the light which may be obtained from the analogy of His works. While we magnify revelation, as an authority from which there is no appeal, and insist, that our minds and consciences bow to its decisions without a moment's hesitancy, we are nevertheless far from exalting it as contrary to the established order of nature. There is a beautiful harmony between them, as being alike the offspring of the same bounteous parent, and they serve often to illustrate each other. For, although the kingdoms of nature and of grace may be as perfectly distinct as two distant worlds can be, yet, as they both are established in the same, it is perfectly reasonable to expect that the same God who presides over both, and is the author of both, should have maintained an essential concord between them. He does not frame His moral constitutions


at variance with His physical. We may have occasion frequently to trace the beautiful analogy between them, and be led to admire the divine original of both. But in

so we must still claim supreme authority for the written word: and that we may not be misunderstood, or our whole subject, and sources of proof rejected as mystieal, we shall devote a chapter explicitly to the character of the objects which form the materiel of our knowledge, and the mode by which it is obtained.

Should there be any obscurity in the language in which it has pleased God to speak, the previous question as to what He actually does say, must be carefully and accurately determined. And in determining this, we shall not perplex ourselves, or our readers, with any learned or labored applications of the rules and principles of Hermeneuties as it is called. Common sense, a knowledge of the original languages in which the scriptures were written, and of the eustoms, manners, and history, &c. which may

necessary to understand the rationale or allusions of its terms, are of principal importance. If criticism becomes necessary, and a demand is made on our philological resources, the reader who is unacquainted with the Hebrew and Greek, shall not be offended by the introduction of

on which he can pass no judgment; but the result of inquiry shall be given in its proper place, while the mode of obtaining that result, or the reasons for maintaining it, shall, to such as may be able and disposed to investigate them, be furnished in notes subjoined. In all controversy, or doubt about the meaning of a passage scripture, the appeal must be to the very words which the Spirit of God himself has employed, and the signification of those words must be determined by comparing the passages in which they occur, and the manner in which they are used by classical authorities, or those with whom the lan

was vernacular. Having ascertained the meaning of





the words, and relieved the text from obscurity, so that the mind and will of God has been discovered in the plain import of the passage, we shall hold ourselves bound to receive His testimony, without making or entertaining a solitary objection. Whatever is asserted by God claims credence from us, in despite of all imaginations and reasonings to the contrary. It must be assumed as indisputable fact, which, whether we can understand it or not, whether we can unravel its perplexities and solve its difficulties, or must leave it involved in its own native mystery, cannot be rejected or denied, except at the peril of taking from the word of God, and impeaching Him with falsehood. The testimony of Him that cannot lie is evidence, in every case, conclusive and overpowering; and it is more than our souls are worth to doubt, whether it is or can be true, after that God has declared it to be the fact.

Nor shall we admit, for one moment, that there is ground of reproach against us as weak and credulous, though we thus speak. We plant ourselves upon the same solid ground on which the votary of sound philosophy essays to rear his system. He asks not, like the incredulous Jew, “how can these things be?” but his first inquiry is, is it indeed the fact? Afterwards he labors to solve the phenom

Should he fail to do so, he chronicles the fact and waits for further light to aid his investigations. Should he have ransacked the vast store-house of science, and found nothing that would enable him satisfactorily to explain the mystery, and should theory after theory be framed, and then discarded, and not one ray of light beam upon the dark bosom of his theme, yet does he not feel himself authorized to disbelieve what upon sufficient evidence he is convinced is THE FACT.

However it may seem to be at variance with the established laws of nature, or to involve matters altogether novel or inexplicable, he admits the phenomenon, admiring and adoring the vastnesk


and mystery of Nature's works. It is thus, too, that the firm believer in revelation-the biblical philosopher demeans himself. He is perfectly convinced that, the bible is the word of God, (and he that is not, has not yet half explored the proofs that crowd upon the subject), and being satisfied that God the Holy One and true has spoken, not all his perplexity can make him for a moment reject the fact. Theorise and speculate he may, and though wearied with his devices to pry into the mystery of the fact, he bows submissively to the majesty of truth-the word of an undeceived and undeceiving God-and lifts his heart in devout and adoring admiration, "O, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out."* No more shall he be reproached for credulity and weakness than the loftiest son of science, who, like the comet,

"Takes his ample round Thro' depths of ether; coasts unnumbered worlds, Of more than solar glory."

Both may soar on fancy's airy wings, and climb among the higher spheres of God's exalted sway; but both must cease from proud imaginings, and, as they value peace and knowledge too, learn to rest on simple, sober fact-the only difference discernible between them being, that before the one, God spreads the mighty efforts of his creative power, and bids him "LOOK AND LEARN," while to the other He speaks in terms direct and plain, and bids him "HEAR AND KNOw." But the eye's seeing is not half such satisfying and luxurious evidence, as the heart's believing.

Such are the principles by which it is proposed that our investigations shall be conducted. We may perhaps occasionally find it necessary to refer to them; but after this avowal, such references' need not be frequent or prolix.

* Rom. xi. 33.

« PreviousContinue »