Page images
PDF
EPUB

because according to their received opinions, the infantile mind is not capable of sin. If God declares that the moral renovation of men is effected by his own mighty power, they call in question this decision, because, according to their philosophy, the mind is an existence which is incapable of being acted upon except by light and motives. Instead of allowing the Bible to influence their philosophy, they allow their philosophy to become the arbitrary interpreter of the Bible. Instead of submitting their judgments to the decisions of the uncreated intelligence, they require that his intelligence should be subordinate to their own. There are few Christian divines that have not to some extent fallen into this error. This was eminently the error of Origen, of Cocceius, of Hutchinson, and of Swedenborg. This is the error of the Pelagians and Arminians of ancient and modern times. This is the error also to some extent of the Calvinistic and Hopkinsian schools. Nay, this is the error of the most of us, heterodox and orthodox. Strange to say, we cannot forbear inweaving the shreds of our own philosophy with the wisdom of God. We do it insensibly. But human reason was never given to man for such a purpose. When she has ascertained the true import of God's revelation, her work is done. To attempt more than this, is rebellion against God, nay it is rebellion against herself; for reason decides, and decides intuitively, that “if we believe the testimony of man, the testimony of God is greater.” It has been well remarked, that “periods in which the pride of philosophy has been most exalted, have often been distinguished for the widest departures from the simplicity of Scriptural theology.” Human reason is never so truly in her proper place as when she sits a learner at the feet of Christ. How can she soar on a loftier wing than when she flies so near the Sun as to

وو

veil her face and lose her vision in the brightness of his rays? It is not reason that guides the soul then, but God. It is a heavenly light, a guide from a purer and more intellectual world. It is reason, but not her own, a reason that never hesitates, never toils, and never becomes weary; a reason that is never prejudiced, partial or benighted, and that never errs.

We think it therefore, no small commendation of the Bible, that it is the only book that has opened to the world the extended field of moral science, and so marked and limited the path of human inquiry, that if the mind wanders, it can never be said that it is for want of light. Few truths come to us with such overpowering evidence, as the truths of the Bible. The cheerless gloom which broods over the understandings of men had never been chased away, but for the beams of this supernatural revelation. Men may look with an unfriendly eye on that system of truth which reproves and condemns them ; while they little know the loss the world would sustain by subverting its foundation. We have tried paganism; we have tried Mohammedanism; we have tried deism and philosophy; and “ we cannot look upon them even with respect.” The Scriptures contain the only system of truth which is left us.

If we give up these, we have no other to which we can repair. We must travel back under the faint and trembling lights of reason and nature, where « darkness covers the earth and gross

darkness the people.” We must wander amid the regions of" fancy and scepticism, where there is no argument to convince, and no oracle to decide. Every thing we see and hear, and feel, becomes more and more the source of solicitude and apprehension, and the farther we extend our views, unless guided by this heavenly light, we behold only a vaster desert, a deeper abyss of doubt, darkness and despair.

Between reflections upon ourselves, and reflections upon God; between just views of his character and our ownl, we see no ground for hope. We are burthened with a sense of our sin, misery, and darkness, and long in vain for some quiet resting place, some covert from the tempest, some shadow of a great rock in this weary land; something which has “the promise of the life that now is, and that which is to come.” We strive to break our bondage, but every struggle binds us faster in our chains, and is only the ineffectual effort of a mind separated from God, to restore by its own wisdom its lost fellowship with its Maker. We counsel you therefore to cleave to this unerring word of God. And we counsel you not to be satisfied with mere intellectual attainments. A mere intellectual acquaintance with the Bible is not godliness. They know too much of religion, far too much for their future comfort, who know more than they obey. We claim for the Bible and for the truth it inculcates, not only the submission, the admiration of your understanding, but the submission and admiration of your heart. Ah, my young friends, where else can you find a moment's repose, when you have once cast away your confidence in the instructions of God's word? Cast away this confidence, and there is a chasm before you which nothing can fill-an abyss, across which your dark, uncomforted minds throw their anxious glance, and feel that all their light and hopes are extinguished. You would wonder why you had been created with such insatiable desires after truth, such a thirst for the knowledge of God, and yet could find nothing to gratify them. Nor would this inquietude ever pass away, until you had returned to the Bible. The sundered bond would then be made whole; the separating chasm filled; the darkness dissipated; the agitated, despairing mind

at peace.

[blocks in formation]

We have just turned our attention to the influence of the Bible upon the extent and certainty of moral science. We advance this evening a step beyond speculations like these, however momentous. look at man not as the creature of intellect and thought merely, but as the creature of feeling, of moral sensibility and affection: and we look at the Bible not merely as exerting an influence upon his intellectual, but upon his active and moral powers, and forming the only character by which he becomes fitted for the presence and enjoyment of God his Maker. We here take our leave of those happy influences which this wonderful book exerts upon the learning and literature of the world; upon its laws and liberties; upon its social institutions and moral virtues, as well as upon the mere intellectual sphere of religious truth. And may I not hope that God will incline your hearts to accompany me with the same interest with which you have accompanied me thus far, though it be in inquiries more spiritual than those which have hitherto occupied our attention ? If the things of time alone absorb our thoughts; if the present is that alone in

225

which we feel an interest while we are heedless of the future; then do we ourselves present melancholy proof of that moral infatuation which has not yet learned to appreciate the Holy Scriptures. What does it profit a man, though " he have all knowledge," if he yet remains unacquainted with God? “What is he profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” It is THE CROWN AND GLORY OF THE

BIBLE THAT IT IS THE ONLY MEANS OF HOLINESS AND

TRUE RELIGION.

A moment's reflection upon the nature and destinies of the human soul, will teach us that moral rectitude alone can raise it to its true greatness. Were it possible for this great perfection to be detached fron the character of God himself; were that divine Being, now so glorious, to be stripped of the “beauties of holiness;" instead of being revered and loved, he would be the object of suspicion and fear, and could no longer be contemplated but with terror and dismay. The higher a being is in intellectual power, the more debased is he, and the more were he to be dreaded, were he destitute of holiness. Holiness constitutes the beauty, the loveliness of the intelligent nature, in whatever being, or whatever world it is found.

Man is not by nature the friend of God. He has no inherent moral dignity, no native innocence, no natural meetness for heaven. Under every form of human society, Pagan, Jewish, Mohammedan and Christian, all are by nature the slaves of sin. There was a judicial connexion between the first offence of our progenitor, and the sin and condemnation of his posterity. “By the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation." It is a search too elevated for fallen men to acquaint themselves with God. There is contact of heart” between them and the great Father of spirits. No hours of leisure,

no

« PreviousContinue »