Obrazy na stronie

of different characters and conditions; and man without it suffers under conscious and painful want. If we establish this, our faith must then be true.

In pursuing our argument, we shall be under the necessity of determining the adaptedness of Christianity to man, by detaching an individual from the race, and making him the representative of his kind. That such a one will justly represent the whole, will not be doubted; for, however diverse may be the modifications of human character, the general moral wants are still the same. And difficult as the supposition may be, we must, in order to see the extent and urgency of his wants, suppose him destitute of Christian knowledge, -as entirely so, as are the inhabitants of the undiscovered islands of the sea. Let an individual in such a condition represent the race, and immediately the moral wants of man are manifest.

Such an individual cannot know his origin nor his destiny. That he exists is certain ; but that he was made by an intelligent Being, and shall survive the wreck of his body, are at best only suppositions that float in dim twilight before his spiritual vision. If man's character was different at first, he knows not what it was, nor how it changed. His fancied golden age is only a dream of poets. If he is to live for ever, the nature of his existence he cannot solve. Thick darkness broods over the past, and when he looks on the future, he feels a painful uncertainty, like that which the ancient mariner of the Mediterranean once felt, when he approached the straits of Gibraltar, and looked forth on the ever-rolling Atlantic, but knew not of that new world which smiled beyond its western boundary. Life itself, with its apparently unequal allotments, its wave-like instability, its uncertain tenure, is a labyrinth, which has neither clue nor meaning. It is all mystery and contradiction. When he looks inward upon his moral nature, he finds there, indeed, a dictate of duty, one that admonishes and remonstrates ; but he knows, that appetite and passion hush its voice by their louder clamor, and that these govern him with tyrant sway. If, when sense is palled, and has fallen asleep, conscience, ever wakeful, improves that moment to repeat her lessons and inflict remorse, he has no source to which he may look for forgiveness, and the consciousness of years of transgression falls heavily on the soul. But sense awakes, and mocking at the rebukes of conscience, again assumes the sway. By-and-by, when sense yields to satiety, and sleeps again, then

he resolves on amendment, imagining, perhaps, that while his foe slumbers he can chain him, and his victory will be sure. But sense awakes, and the chains sever,—as the lion would break from the spider's mesh,--and sense triumphs,—as the deluge does, when it rushes from the mountain, and sweeps the meadow, and deals destruction on every hand. O, what is conscience, and what is resolution, to the man, whose conscience is not enlightened, and his resolution not strengthened from on high, when appetite and passion rise up and demand indulgence! And sense, the longer it triumphs, becomes the louder in its demands, and, if possible, more sure in its conquests, till the victim dies, unreleased from its grasp, and stands before God, bathed in pollution.

Such is the portraiture of a man without God. It is dark, indeed; but dark as it is, if we were to multiply this individual by the whole heathen world, ancient and modern, it would appear comparatively light and beautiful. If we were to repeat heathen philosophy, and recite heathen poetry, and tell of heathen religious rites, and recount heathen cruelties, and even allude to nameless heathen abominations, abhorrence would speak in the frown of the reader, and he would cover his face in painful disgust. But we proposed to confine our thoughts to an individual. And what does such a one as we have described need? Certainly he needs something. Want is marked on every feature of his spiritual being. He needs something to enlighten his mind and renew his heart,—that shall lift him up from his degradation, and enstamp on his soul the image of God. Will Christianity do this? This is the question, the solution of which will decide whether it be adapted to his wants. Will Christianity solve the strange enigmas of man's existence? Will it teach him his duty, and enforce the instruction? Does it provide for the forgiveness of bis sins? Has it power to amend the character, by subduing and creating anew the heart? And does it pledge and ensure a deathless happiness beyond the grave? If so, it is the religion for man, and TRUE.

Christianity solves the strange enigmas of his existence. It tells him what was the glory of man's original state, and how he fell. It tells him for what he lives, and assures him of future existence, its reality and conditions. It draws anew upon his soul the idea of the divine Being, revealing that Being in all his amazing attributes, and impressing him with his true relation to God as his Creator and Governor.

This brings


him out of darkness. The perplexities which had settled, like portentous clouds, upon his soul, are driven away; he stands on solid earth, and walks in sunshine. He has found a magic clue, by which he traces out the diversified labyrinths of life; and a mysterious solvent, by which the varied contradictions of human existence transform themselves into their simple elements, and all become referable to palpable causes and changeless laws. In the light of Christianity, existence ceases to be a riddle. It exbibits itself as fraught with wisdom and benevolence; and to murmur at its reality, its designs, or its allotments, becomes bold treason against the wisest and best of Beings.

Christianity gives to man new views of moral law and its sanctions. Conscience, indeed, spoke before, but its voice was feeble, and the biases and even dominion of sense made its determinations uncertain. But Christianity carries a light into man's deepest heart, and effacing the pencillings which sense and mistaken philosophy have inscribed there, writes anew, in living letters, the divine law,--stating it in the decalogue, and expounding it with surpassing simplicity in the sermon on the mount ;—so that man once more understands bis duty, whether he will do it or not. Now, he learns, that love is the fulfilling of the law,—the unity into which all obedience resolves itself. Now, he learns, that in man's spiritual being is the ground of happiness,—that to keep the law is happiness,to be spiritually-minded is life and peace ;—and although his own consciousness has whispered the fact before, he now feels it with tenfold more certainty, that to be carnally-minded is death, to disregard the obligations of conscience and the law of God is misery, and, if persisted in, hopeless misery. The idea of the just, like the storm-cloud, which envelops, at the saine moment, the bolt and the shower, starts up before bis spiritual vision, and, by its threatenings and rewards, presents a new motive for obedience. Now, duty is clear, and speaks with authority. Now the eternal connexion between law and its sanctions is manisest. And all this man needed to know. While this was uncertain, who shall wonder, that he was the football of circumstances," and the dupe of passion ?-ihat appetite ruled him, and that his whole being was inter-penetrated with sin ?

Christianity provides for the forgiveness of sins. Man knew, indeed, without Christianity, that he was a sinner,—for he violated conscience every day. But how to be forgiven, he knew not. He sought to make some expiation for bis sins ; and he called idolatry and philosophy to bis aid. The mother threw her child to the crocodile, and the maiden decked her idol with the sweetest flowers of summer; the young man drew the sword for his religion, and he, on whose crown the locks of age curled, built costly temples and offered costly sacrifices. Another still, disdaining, as unworthy superstition, these acts of paganism, devised a scheme of pbilosophy as depraved as himself, and made that teach him religion. But all in vain. Conscience remonstrated, and multiplied her goadings. Man still felt the heavy pressure of bis sins. He longed to be forgiven,—but how could forgiveness be secured ? This was the question, which, for ages, he had vainly endeavored to solve. Sometimes, like the comet, in its approaches to the sun, he came near the truth; and then, like the comet, he wandered off to an unmeasured distance. Socrates is said to have doubted, whether it were possible to forgive sins. The Burman now declares, “In the nature of things, it is not possible that the sinner should be exempt from punishment.” “ I will not believe that man can be saved from his sips." When he has listened to that gospel, which Mr. Mason says, " appears to him like a golden dream, too good to be reality,” he walks away, with a look that seems to say, 6 Don't tantalize us!” “Away with your mockery at our fears !"* Even the sacrifices offered under the Jewish dispensation were effective only as regarded sins against the external theocracy. They could “ purify the flesh,” but “could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;" and sins against the inner theocracy, giving too deep a stain for the blood of bulls and of goats to wash away, bad as yet no manifested provision.t Forgiveness belongs to Christianity. By virtue of the atonement, is given repentance and the remission of sins. Here the great doubt was solved, and the desired gift bestowed. God can be just, and yet justify the believer ;—whosoever will let himn take the water of life freely. This is the annunciation of Christianity, which rises above the dirge of a race marching steadily on, with forced and reluctant step, in one dread funeral procession to the grave, to change the death-song into exultation and the shout of praise. The Holy Spirit opens the repositories of depravity within, and, when the sinner starts back from the fearful sight, and trembles on the verge of despair, a soothing voice, “ Peace, thy sins be forgiven thee!” speaks to the soul. And not only so ;—as if to multiply her acts of beneficence, Christianity takes away the painful remembrance of sin, abolishes the painful sense of even forgiven guilt, by declaring that God “will remember their iniquities no more.' All is forgiven, and, speaking in the language of humanity, all forgotten ! Blessed, indeed, is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity! And what can sinful man ask more? Could he be satisfied with less ? How well, then, is Christianity adapted to his wants. How perfectly does it fulfil his most ardent longings! God could give no more. Man could not have peace with less. Ourreligion, then, must be from heaven.

* Baptist Missionary Magazine, vol. XVI., pp. 166, 167, † Hengstenberg's Christology.

Christianity amends the character, by renewing the heart. We have before alluded to the slight checks which conscience and resolution interpose, when the tide of sense rushes on with its sweeping and resistless current. And the picture was no more than true. How difficult men given to habitual sin find it, even in this land, to break off vicious habits and to form and fix those of virtue! And if it is difficult here, where every man enjoys so much light, and may avail himself of so many external helps in the better examples and the encouragement of the good, how must it not be well nigh impossible with him whose very light is darkness, where every example is an incitement to vice! But, suppose the deceiver, the thief, or the libertine able to fulfil his resolve for amendment, by ceasing his acts of deceit, of theft, or impurity, while the love of the darling sin still lived within him as an element of his being, to what would his reformation amount? The man would be no better, though for the time being he might be less pernicious. It would be as though you would make the angry engine still, by chaining its wheels, while the steam was raging and the fire crackling within. And equally vain, with the power of man's conscience and resolution to work an effective moral amendment, are the aids of all false religions and all heterodox forms of the true. They may, indeed, restrain the mapifestations of sin, but sin itself they can never destroy. Does sin forsake the heart of the Hindoo mother, when she throws her first-born to the monster of the Ganges ? Is that man's heart made pure and heavenly, who, imagining that he lives under no higher

« PoprzedniaDalej »