« PoprzedniaDalej »
THE RT. REV. WM. WHITE, D.D.,
BISHOP OF THE DIOCESE OF PENNSYLVANIA.
This Right Reverend Prelate was consecrated in the Chapel of the Archiepiscopal Palace, at Lambeth, in England, on Sunday, the 4th of February, 1787, by the Most Rev. John MOORE, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury. The Most Rev. William MarkHAM, Lord Archbishop of York, the Right Rev. CHARLES Moss, Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells, and the Right Rev. John HINCHCLIFF, Lord Bishop of Peterborough, being present, and assisting--and is believed to have been longer in the Episcopate than any Prelate now living.
BY THE RT. REV. WM. WHITE, D. D.,
BISHOP OF THE DIOCESE OF PENNSYLVANIA.
Rom. 12, 1.-"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your
bodies a living sacrifice; holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."
In this epistle, as in others of St. Paul, there is drawn a perceptible line of difference, between the argumentative part of it and the practical. Of the latter, the text is the beginning: and considering the station which it occupies, we may compare a careful reader of the book, arrived at this place, to a traveller, who, having ascended an high mountain, by a road steep and beset with thorns, although not without a clue, looks down on the other side, along an easy descent, to a plain below.
The reason of noticing the transition, is because of the light thrown on the epistle generally, from the terms with which the text opens. There are some, who, by the double error of apply, ing to individuals what is said of the collective bodies of Jews and Gentiles, and of referring to a final state, what has an aspect to Christ's visible ķingdom in the present, have raised from this epistle a system accommodated to the favorite view of illustrating the sovereignty of God, without due regard to the no less essential perfection of his benevolence. Were it not, that the interpretation alluded to is here thought a mistaken one, there would be matter of wonder on what principle the inspired author laid down the plain precepts which follow, as an inference from the deep reasoning which had gone before; and especially, with what pro
priety the mercy of God is looked back to as drawing, by a persuasive violence, to the perfection of Christian morals, which the apostle is hastening to disclose. This is not the case, when we interpret every part of the composition with a reference to the object kept in view throughout the whole of it. In particular, there then appears admirable pertinency in the introduction to the practical part of the epistle.
We have here one of the passages of Scripture, so full of sense and of persuasion, that, for the due efficacy of both, no more seems necessary than the bringing of the different members of the sentence fairly into view. The whole, however, may be the better analyzed, by its being considered as containing,
I. A pathetic introduction;
I. First, there is a pathetic introduction—that of entreaty: "I beseech you, brethren."
The precepts of the Gospel are not more accommodated to moral order, than is the manner in wbich they are proposed to the nature of the being to be swayed by them. It is a property of the human character, that while our fears may be made the instruments of restraining from crimes, it is only by the sense of the excellency of duty, with the hope of its rewards, that we can be animated to the practice of it. The truth of this is conspicuous in the relations of mankind among one another. In civil society, although the magistracy is to be a "terror to evil doers;" and, 'in respect to persons of that description, “the sword is not borne in vain;" yet it is not the fear of this, but it is the love of social order --it is conviction of its benign influence—it is the sense of an honorable interest in the public weal, which must inspire and cherish the virtues tending to the defence and to the ornament of the state. So, in domestic life, although “judgments are prepared for scorners, and stripes for the backs of fools;" yet it is not by these, but it is by the mild majesty of sage instruction-it is by the sweet yoice of affectionate persuasion--it is by the animating encouragement of amiable example, that there must be an incitement to the conduct in the contemplation of Divine wisdom, when, personifying the parent, it makes the affectionate claim to filial duty—“my Son, give me thine heart."
The morality of the Gospel, harmonizing with nature and with providence, although it gives assurance of "tribulation and anguish to every soul of man that doeth evil,” with other declarations to the same effect; yet never makes these the sanctions of the lessons which form the Christian character. No, it is in one place _"as though God did beseech you by us," and "we pray you in CHRIST's stead;" it is in another—“I beseech you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ;" it is in another--"I, the prisoner of the LORD, beseech you;” and it is in the text_“I beseech you, brethren.” It is by these, and by the like entreaties, that we are animated to the perfection of Christian virtue. In stating the import of this introductory clause of the passage; it is impliedly, and may therefore explicitly be acknowledged, that in its rich contents there is nothing interesting to those, whose minds, to be awed only by an apprehension of the judginents of God, are not open to the persuasions of his love; so that if there be any in this assembly, who have no sensibility accommodated to the beauty of holiness, or who contemplate, as the principal privilege of duty over sin, mere rescue from a state of torment; or who have no higher rule of conduct, than what they persuade themselves to come up to the strict letter of the commands of God, without much regard to the holy spirit which they breathe ; in respect to such, the text may be considered as making a call which cannot apply; as proposing sanctions which cannot move; as delineating a duty which cannot please; and as displaying commendations of it, which cannot allure.
II. Those of the opposite character may consistently go on to the second particular—the persuasive motive which the passage brings before us—I beseech you, by the mercies of God."
The instance of Divine mercy particularly in view, is that which had been the subject of the epistle—the dispensation of love in the redemption: a dispensation, which had been intimated before the giving of the law; bad been the end of the law itself; and had been, at last, made manifest by the Gospel: a dispensation, by which
the Gentile converts had been brought within the Church of CHRIST, agreeably to the foreknowledge and the predestination of GOD,--terms which, as used in this epistle, have a reference to that point only; and by which the Jews, although cast off for a while, should be brought in again, and so all Israel, that is, the nation as such, should be saved, or be of the family and flock of CHRIST. It is this dispensation, of which the apostle, just before the text, exclaims—"Oh the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things; to whom be glory for ever, Amen.”
There has been this reference to the reasoning of the apostle ; in order to show, that the instance of Divine benevolence, especially within his view, is that of its disclosing of an atonement for sin, not to be known but by revelation; and its opening of a prospect of immortality, no otherwise to be claimed than as of grace. This is the ground of the inference of the apostle—“I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God." He may therefore be considered as speaking thus-If there be any value in the gift of Gospel grace; if it be the mean of the highest cultivation of the faculty, which maketh “us wiser than the beasts of the earth, and teacheth us more than the fowls of Heaven;" if the pardon of God, as proclaimed in Scripture, have been assured to you by its promises, and sealed to you by its sacraments; if its precepts have been your counsellors in dangers, and your monitors against temptations; if its consolations have been your encouragement in sickness, or in poverty, or in the loss of friends, or in any of the calamities of life; and if its bright prospects have borne up your minds with "an hope full of immortality;" I beseech you by these, and by all kindred motives, to have your ears and your hearts open to the instructive lesson that is to be laid before you. But although this is the mercy, especially within the view of the apostle; the spirit of his affecting motive extends to all the blessings which we receive from an indulgent Providence; and which may well, in allusion to a particular branch of divine benevolence, be called the mercies of God; since, considering our imperfections and our unworthiness, they are in a degree the result of that bounty, which "does good to the unthankful and the evil.”