Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

it not the plain, faithful and pungent exhibition of gospel truth by Peter and his fellow apostles P Acts ii. 37–41. Is regeneration, or being born again, a part of salvation? It is attributed to the truth: “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” 1 Pet. i. 23. “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.” Jam. i. 18. “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” 1 Cor. iv. 15. Is progressive sanctification necessary to our salvation? It is carried on b the influence of truth: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” “And for their sake I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” John, xvii. 17, 19. What is it but the truth that supplies believers with consolation? “Wherein God, willing more abundantly, to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.” While we thus exhibit these indubitable proofs of the great practical influence and purifying power of the truth, it is proper to remark, that it owes all its hio to the accompanying grace of God. Unattended by the power of the Holy Spirit, it would never produce those mighty effects, which it has produced, and still does produce, in the conversion of sinners. This fact should be ever borne in remembrance, that the glory of our salvation may be ascribed, not to means, or to instruments, but to Him who appointed, and employs them for the accomplishment of his holy and merciful designs. “I have

planted and Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then, neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” 1 Cor. iii. 6,7. It is only when the gospel comes, “not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Ghost,” 1 Thess. i. 5, that it produces its intended effects. Still, however, it is to be remembered that God is pleased ordinarily to use the truth in effecting the salvation of sinners, from the beginning to the consummation of the mighty work. It is the milk by which babes in Christ are nourished; and the strong meat by which Christians of full age are fed. Heb. v. 13, 14. It is manifest that truth, possessing such a powerful practical influence as to effect, through the accompanying grace of God, an entire revolution in the character and nature of man, so that the sinner is converted into a saint, and the heir of hell is made an heir of heaven, is not to be treated with indif. ference. The knowledge of it is a matter that most deeply concerns every individual; for on feeling its renovating power on the heart depends the salvation of our immortal souls. We cannot remain ignorant of it without extreme hazard. With matural science a man may have no acquaintance; of the first principles of mathematics he may have no knowledge, without endangering at all his salvation. He may be almost an idiot, and yet be so taught the fundamental doctrines of the gospel as to believe them, and obtain salvation. But of divine truth no one can remain ignorant without putting in jeopardy his eternal interest; and dying in this condition, he must inevitably share in the perdition of them who know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thess. i. 8. “My people,” is the complaint of Jehovah, “are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Hosea, iv. 6. The truth then ought to be prized according to its vast importance and inestimable value. Our feelings toward it should be like those which we may suppose the royal psalmist experienced, when he penned that admirable eulogy: “The law of the LoRD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LoRD is sure, making wise the simple: the statutes of the Lond are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LoBD is pure, enlightening the eyes: , the fear of the LoRD is clear, enduring forever: the judgments of the LoRD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold, sweeter also than honey, and the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is thy servant warned ; and in keeping of them there is great reward.” Ps. xix. 7–11. A conviction of the unutterable value of the truth should prompt us to endeavour to make as extensive acquisitions of it as our circumstances and station in life will admit. All truths are not, it is readily conceded, equally important. Some constitute the foundation on which our holy religion is built, while others belong to a less essential part of the glorious edifice. That we are bound to partake of the two Christian rites, baptism and the Lord's supper, is a truth ; but this truth is not to be compared with that fundamental truth, “He that believeth shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Mark, xvi. 16. While this distinction is made, let it not be forgotten, that all revealed truths are important, and that an acquaintance with every part of the inspired volume will subserve the great design of the whole, the increasing perfection of the Christian believer. “All scripture,” affirms the apostle, “is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness ; that the man of God may be per

[graphic][graphic][graphic]

fect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” No Christian should be satisfied barely with a knowledge of the fundamental doctrines of divine revelation; he should endeavour to form an acquaintance with every part of that admirable system of religious truth with which God has blest and adorned his church. By taking a view of the whole he will be able to discern the place of each part; the relation which one truth sustains to another; and how they all harmoniously unite in one glorious system of light and wisdom, holiness and consolation. It were well for the church and for its individual members, if none deserved the reproof which the apostle administered to the Hebrews: “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again, which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.” Heb. v. 12. Let every one then feel it an incumbent duty to increase in the knowledge of the truth. The means are ample. God has appointed a ministry for the edification of his church. All who have entered into this high and holy office are bound to endeavour by diligent study, to form an extensive and accurate acquaintance with the contents of the inspired volume; so that they may feed his people with knowledge, and out of the good treasure of their hearts bring forth, like faithful stewards of the mysteries of the kingdom, things new and old. A steady and constant attendance on the preaching of the word, then, is one appointed means for increasing in the knowledge of the truth. In addition to the ministry, God has blest the church with the Bible; in which has been recorded by inspired penmen whatever his infinite wisdom deemed proper to be communicated for the faith and practice of his people. This volume, then, must be diligently and perseveringly studied by all who wish to obtain a clear and comprehensive knowledge of revealed truth. Those who neglect it will derive but little profit from the ministry of the word; they come with minds unprepared to hear to advantage discourses founded on passages of holy scripture. The very gift of such a book imposes on all who possess it an obligation to read and study its marvellous contents. The Bereans were commended for their diligence in comparing the addresses of Paul with the records of inspirations, to discover whether he taught true and sound doctrine. Acts, xvii. 11. Our Lord commanded the Jews, and consequently all to whom his

[graphic]

command comes, to “search the

scriptures.” John, v. 35. The scriptures, although written in perspicuous language, yet in ma; ny places need elucidation; and for the assistance of his people the Lord has furnished the writings of able divines, as well as the preaching of his ministers in general. These writings, in different forms, from the pamphlet to the folio, are a treasure to his church. All Christians should, as far as their means and opportunities for reading will allow, derive aid from these writings in their study of the Bible. Some have not leisure to peruse large volumes, but who cannot spare from his necessary avocations time enough to read a magazine, a monthly pamphlet comprising but a few pages? Reading and hearing must be combined in the search for truth. The two great avenues of knowledge are the ear and the eye. The Lord is pleased to instruct his people through the medium of both ; he addresses the ear by the preaching of his word, and the eye by his written word and the writings of learned divines. “Buy the truth and sell it not.” “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom ; and with all thy getting get understanding.

Exalt her, and she shall promote thee; she shall bring thee to honour when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace; a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.” “My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; so that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding ; if thou seekest her as silver and searchest for her as for hid treasures: then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord giveth wisdom; out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.” Prov. xxiii. 23. iv. 5–9. ii. 1–9. J. J. J.

Remarks on the Duration of Future Punishment.

Few have denied, that man is an accountable being. The awful lapse of our race, and the consequent moral deterioration of our nature, are also admitted by a large proportion of professing Christians. Any plan calculated efficaciously to heal the breach, make reconciliation for transgression, and thus reinstate in the favour of heaven, must be an object of universal interest. Such a plan Jehovah has revealed. What it is, is a question of vast moment. The discrepancy among Christians about its nature, character and extent, has been proportioned to the magnitude of its importance. These have been subjects of tedious and accrimonious litigation. To examine closely, and reason dispassionately is more easily proposed, than executed. To discuss topics of such mighty interest, suaviter in modo, and at the same time fortiter in re, is rather a rare attainment. A contrary course, however, does ot fail to meet condign punishment, as its own legitimate offspring; inasmuch as the imbecility of argument, is usually proportioned to the acrimony of feeling. I dare not anticipate exemption from the error I now most cordially reprobate, while I present some few thoughts on the topic of universal salvation. That all human beings, however * wicked in the present É. nay, that all created intelligences, however diabolical in their nature and practice, shall be ultimately introduced to eternal felicity, or at least, by annihilation, be freed from pain, is a doctrine so fascinating to sinful creatures, that it is not at all surprising, it should have numerous votaries. Reason and revelation have been laid under contribution in support of it. On this question, “I also will show my opinion.” It may be proper, here to give notice, that in the progress of this o discussion, I shall assume as a fact, - that justice is a natural and necessary attribute of Jehovah; that this attribute is inexorable; that it must pursue its enemy, and punish its | victim; that any compromise with mercy, would leave it no longerimmaculate; in a word, that Jehovah can as soon cease to be, as he can cease to be just. Having mentioned these postulates, I shall pro

[graphic]
[graphic]

ceed to show, that if the punish

ment of sin be not eternal, its limitation to a definite period, must arise either from personal expiation, or vicarious atonement, or blanc annihilation. I can form no conception of any other mode of its termination. If, therefore, it can be demonstrated, that the termination of punishment pleaded for by Universalists, cannot arise from any of these three causes, I shall have no hesitation to pronounce it eternal. Salvation must be just. To aspire Vol. I.

to an introduction to the beatific vi. sion, in the mansions of immortality, on any other footing, would be utterly incompatible with the very first maxim of both natural and revealed religion: “Shall not the Judge of ass the earth do right?” Otherwise, what guaranty could we have for the continuance of the possession? If smuggled into the celestial mansions, at the expense of justice, the first impulse of rectitude would direct to an immediate expulsion. Righteousness, there. fore, either personal or vicarious, must establish the claim, and procure the admission. Sin and misery, righteousness and felicity, are necessarily connected by an immutable law; consequently, those destititute of a legal righteousness, either personal or vicarious, have no alternative remaining between eternal punishment and gloomy annihilation. I shall now proceed to the examination of the merits of each of these three ways of escaping eternal punishment. And in the first place, I shall endeavour to show the utter

impossibility of enjoying eternal fe

licity by virtue of our own personal righteousness. If I succeed in this, it will evidently follow, that there will remain no other way of escaping eternal vengeance, than by a vicarious righteousness, or utterannihilation. ve That eternal happiness cannot be obtained by personal merit, I shall attempt to establish in the following Imanner 1. Mankind are sinners. Alas! all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. This is a truth of awful import, and doleful notoriety! There is none righteous; no, not one! The imaginations of the thoughts of the heart, are only evil continually. The matter of fact, and the universality of our apostasy from God, are amply attested b the Holy Ghost. With this testimony, our own experience perfectly guide, ; so that, “If we say, we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” The history of man, is a history of depravity, and its necessary concomitants, lamentation, mourning and wo! The existence of these phenomena in the moral empire of Jehovah, are utterly inexplicable on any other principle, than that of rebellion against our rightful sovereign. The matter of fact is indisputable, “Sin entered into the world, and death by sin;” however difficult it may be to account for its introduction into a system previously immaculate. 2. God is just. That justice is an essential inherent attribute of the Deity, is as capable of demonstration, as is his existence. The volume of Providence, the most categorical declarations of scripture, and particularly the agonizing crucifixion of our blessed Lord, as the substitute for sinners, when the sword of vengeance was unsheathed against the man who was Jehovah's fellow, and pierced the inmost soul of the Son of God; these I say, all, all demonstrate that God is inexorably just. “Justice and judgment constitute the habitation of his throne.” If, therefore, the divine law be violated, the offender must be punished, either personally, or by his representative. . Justice will retain the devoted victim in its rasp, until it has received the last arthing. The o and the wicked are alike the objects of its operation. It is the very cement of the universe, without which it must instantly be converted into a moral chaos. Its essence consists in remdering to every one his due. Let us hear the captain of the armies of Israel, in his farewell address to the people, Jos. xxiv. 19: “The Lord is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.” If, therefore, there be salvation at all for sinners, it must be in the most perfect unison with justice; so that while there is “peace on earth and

[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]

good will towards men, there may be also glory to God in the highest.” 3. The objective infinitude of sin, precludes the possibility of the sinner's entering heaven, on the footing of his own merit, whether active or passive. By sin, we have contracted an infinite debt, and justice imperiously demands payment: “Payme that thou owest.” I shall not, in asserting infinitude to be an attribute of sin, avail myself of the interrogation of Eliphoz, Job. xxii. 5: “Is not thy wickedness great, and thy iniquity infinite?” Yet I do maintain that this phrase, equivalent to a strong assertion, is nowhere discountenanced in the scriptures. Yet as this point is cardinal, in the discussion of this topic, I shall not avail myself of any expression, from the force of which an opponent may make his escape in the haze of metaphorical phraseology. Let us discuss the subject dispassionately, and examine ". sober investigation will not lead to the same conclusion. I am perfectly aware of the objections which ingenuity has raised against the infinity of human transgression. This is no more than what might have been anticipated. Here is the citadel. Surrender it, and all is gone! I would then admit, that eternal punishment would be unjust, and consequently could not be inflicted by a righteous God, for finite transgression; for this plain reason, that the punishment would be infinitely disproportioned to the offence. For, although the intensity of the punishment should be indefinitely small, if its duration be eternal, the quantity becomes infinitely great, and of course infinitely disproportioned to the finite offence. It is inconsistent both with physical and mathematical science, to maintain, that the doctrine of the infinity of sin, goes to establish the old stoical dogma, that all sins are equal. The reasoning of the objector is here very plausible: “If the least sin be infinite, the greatest

[graphic][graphic]
« PoprzedniaDalej »