Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

the Galatians to know the truth? The apostle was not always with them. They had his teachings treasured in their memory, and as recorded in his epistles. They had the teachings of other apostles, and of uninspired teachers known to accord in their doctrines with the inspired and authoritative guides of the church. And they had the Scriptures of the Old Testament. But above all these, they had unimpeded access to God, and the Spirit of God was their counsellor. Under what process of teaching, and in what type of doctrine had they received this Spirit? In that teaching and doctrine let them persevere. That Spirit, sought in prayer, would explain the Scrptures, and guidé rightly and safely. If we are in the providence of God brought into similar conflicts from the opposing dogmas of men, we have the same resort in the Scriptures, and the like refuge in the Spirit of God. The volume gives no uncertain response ; the Holy Ghost is no tardy or inefficient instructor.

3. Now is it not the most irrational, -we appeal, my fellowimmortals, to your own consciences,-is it not most irrational to stun and weary your ears with the din of human controversies, while you make no appeal to the original authorities? Are you sincerely in quest of truth ? Had you been told of an estate bequeathed you by some distant friend, and one infor: mant spoke of it as small in amount, and another described it as being of great value, and you found yourself involved in a whirlwind of contradictory statements ; would you compare and collate the rumors on every side, and form your opinion from them, or appeal at once to the written will and the surrogate? If you were told that your home was in flames, would you go around questioning those who had left the scene as to its origin, and extent, and ravages; or would you not rather cast aside all other engagements, and rush to the rescue of your property and your family, to see with your own eyes, and toil with your own hands? And are salvation, and the soul, and heaven worth so little that they do not require the like personal investigation, the like decisive appeal to the ultimate authorities?

Prophets and apostles, and the Lord of apostles and the Master of the prophets hold in this case but one language. They refer you to the record. “To the law and to the tes

timony," cried the prophets ; if of your teachings—if your teachers speak not according to these, it is because “there is no truth in them.“ Search the Scriptures," is the command of Christ ; " which are able to make you wise unto salvation,” respond the glorious company of the apostles. Do you complain of dulness and weakness of mind ? they reply, “If any man lack wisdom let him ask of God, who giveth liberally, and who upbraideth not :" and a louder and sweeter voice than theirs is heard continuing the strain—“The Spirit shall lead unto all truth ;"_while the prophets, catching and re-echoing the invitation thus addressed to weak and erring man, exclaim, “The wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein."

Until the Scriptures, therefore, are abrogated, and until the Spirit of God has abdicated his office as teacher of the church, you cannot be at a loss, if disposed, in a Candid and docile spirit, to learn what are the real doctrines of the gospel. If a man will not ask that Spirit, indeed, he may have the ablest of human teachings, and bring to the book an intellect of angelic power, and yet the result be but error and darkness. But if he will come in the name of Jesus, imploring the Spirit, idiotcy itself shall not prevent his learning the way of salvation. If he refuses thus to come, and will not study the book of God in God's own appointed way, he is not entitled to complain of uncertainty as to his religious opinions, much less to dogmatize in his scepticism. Let us, in this matter, be honest to our own souls, for death is on his way : a judge is even now at the door, who will not stoop to answer our callings; and wretched then will be the fate of that man, who, with the open Bible before him, and the hovering dove of the Spirit above him, has neg. lected the one and repelled the other.

Make but the experiment in the temper of a little child, and a certainty, sure and unshaken as the everlasting hills, shall possess your souls, while truth darts in upon the darkened mind, and in the light of God you see light-the uncreated, undeclining glory of God, in the face of his Son. Then shall you know that gospel which Paul preached, and whose promises he is now inheriting.

II. But again, the religion of which we may thus obtain a certain knowledge is unchangeable in its character. We hear men, sometimes, in forgetfulness of this character of Christianity, exclaiming, “Shall science and art go on, from day to day altering their forms and extending their boundaries, and religion alone receive and admit no improvement ?" If they mean that the language of the Bible may be better understood, and that new researches of the antiquarian and traveller, and new fulfilments of prophecy, may throw new and yet increasing light on the pages of the sacred volume—if they mean only, that in days of higher devotedness, such as the Church is yet to see, there may be a more thorough mastery of the doctrines and a more resplendent exhibition of the morals of Christianity -this no Christian denies ; but that the facts of Christianity can be modified, its morality be amended, or its doctrines altered is impossible. Those who suppose it, forget that the gospel is not a discovery but a revelation.

2. The gospel is not a discovery but a revelation. By a discovery we mean what man's intellect has found out by its own efforts : by a revelation what God's intellect has communicated to man's intellect, and what, if not thus aided, man could not have discovered for himself. The one is the fruit of man's labor, the other the gift of God's grace. Now, what man's intellect has discovered, man's intellect may investigate more thoroughly and understand more perfectly. But what man has learned only from God's disclosures, he can of course understand no further than he finds it on the face of those disclosures. He cannot go up to the original truths themselves upon which God drew, and thus improve on the Divine communications. Some of the disclosures thus made are, from the very necessity of our nature, or from a wise regard to our present interests and duties, imperfect revelations, leaving portions of the subject shrouded in darkness. These imperfect revelations are called mysteries. With the limits set by the Divine mind to his revelations, our investigations must terminate: the attempt to pass beyond these is not only temerity, it is folly and ruin. The adventurer dashes himself to his own destruction against the impassable barriers of the human intellect.

When Columbus found our continent, it was a discovery. Where one man had gone, other men might follow, and inquire more fully, and learn more correctly than did the original discoverer, and thus our knowledge of America may be destined to receive daily improvements. But when Paul was rapt into

the third heaven, and saw and heard what it was unlawful to utter, it was a revelation. No mortal foot could follow him, to pursue and improve his account. Now, had it been permitted Paul to describe in writing the celestial glories thus unveiled to him, those who wished to understand the nature of that upper

world would have but one course left for them to pursue. They must investigate Paul's character for veracity, and the evidences he adduced that the Most High had conferred on him so transcendent a favor as to be admitted to become a visitant there. When they had settled these questions, all that their philosophy could do would be but to explain Paul's language as they found it in his descriptions. They could not hope for further knowledge of the world described, unless God should choose to make a fresh revelation to another Paul. No telescope could read what his vision had left unread—no created wing could bear the student up the pathless skies to investigate what Paul had left untold : no stretch of human sagacity could add to the record as the apostle left it. With the first discoverer of our western world it was different: his account sent back to Europe could be continually amended and enlarged; and the school boy of our times may know more of the new world than did the sagacious navigator who first conjectured and then established its existence.

III. Now, the gospel is strictly a revelation. It tells us of a world which we can enter for ourselves only by dying : it tells us of the nature and will of our God what none but he could tell, and of which we can know only as much as he has chosen to tell. As the human intellect did not discover the gospel, so no advancement of the human intellect can amend or alter it: but we have heard and read of men who have dared to say, " Christ came to set up a dispensation; it is now past; it has done service in its day, but its day is now gone by. The gospel needed by our refined and scientific times must be a new dispensation." We shudder at the profanity of the spirit that can vent itself in language of such impious arrogance; for no man may claim to come with a new dispensation, unless he comes heralded by such prophecies as ushered Christ's way, and attended by such miracles as marked the whole course of the Redeemer. We say to the sophists and dreamers who talk thus madly of the perfectibility of human nature, and its need of a new and amended gospel, “Produce your witnesses; let the winds obey your bidding, and the waves become the fixed and stable pavement of your feet; give eyes to the blind, and call the dead from their tombs ; speak, as Christ spoke, the words of Divine wisdom ; and read, as did he, the secrets of the heart. Die as Christ died, with the earth heaving beneath, and the heavens darkened above to attest their sympathy with and their subjection to the mighty sufferer. And having done this, you have but half dono your misssion : show the niche in ancient prophecy rserved for your coming. When Jesus appeared, he came in the train of a long procession of prophets, who had before witnessed of his coming, and carried the line of their testimony, in unbroken continuity, from Eden up to Calvary. He did, indeed, supersede a former dispensation ; but that very dispensation had predicted its own departure and described Christ's advent. Does the present dispensation, that of Christ's gospel, speak of itself as being thus transient and temporary ? No, it claims to endure till yon sun shall have forsaken his station : the gospel is an everlasting gospel. Does Moses or does Christ foretell your new gospel ? The Bible has else no room for it. Yes, they do foretell it; but it is in the language of Enoch ; it is the gospel which the seventh from Adam foretold,—the gospel of hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against the Lord,' and of which the Lord 'when he cometh with ten thousand of his saints,' shall convince the ungodly.'” Jude, 14 : 15. Mad were the builders of Babel, when they would raise the tower, whose foot was on the earth, up to the heavens; but they who would, by human discoveries, build up a new and better gospel, are the builders yet more insane of a Babel yet more impious.

IV. But it will be urged that there have been men of very considerable austerity of morals, and of high pretensions to wisdom, who have taught a gospel very different from Paul's. Were it not uncharitable to condemn them? We will not undertake, for our ourselves, to answer this question. To their own Master they stand or fall; but if their Master have spoken, in his own oracles, in reply to this question, we must not suppress or condemn the response that has been given. By his Spirit, then, in his servant Paul, he has replied, and his

[ocr errors]
« PoprzedniaDalej »