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that it is enounced in a language which none can misunderstand ; or, that this is felt and acknowledged, as far as the boundaries measured by the sun, and warmed by the effulgence and vitality of its beams, stretch out and are known. The sun is, indeed, put here as the messenger of these glorious tidings; but then, the tidings themselves declare, that the Maker of the luminary is Lord of all; and, if the workmanship is thus great and glorious beyond description, the Workman himself must at least be worthy of all adoration and praise : and, although the mighty scheme, with its author at its head, is such as to exceed the comprehension of a finite being, still those parts which do fall within the scope of his observation, tend abundantly to assure him, that a display of mercy and of goodness must have been among the first objects which He had in view. Partial, and, indeed, extensive misery does exist ; but this appears, for the most part, to be the consequence of fault of one sort or other in man, and no where to have been provided for systematically by the great Author of our nature. Sickness, decay, and death, cannot, it is true, be effectually provided against; and here natural theology will entirely fail us : but then, we have other provisions made for these in the volume of our Scriptures, and these are such as to suit the whole of our wants. To the consideration of these we shall come in the sequel: we now insist only upon these striking and important truths,—that the works of God, as seen in creation, cannot but be a source of information, encouragement, and delight,—that when we find these appealed to in our Scriptures, and that they are actually in unison with the instruction there given (falling indeed considerably below it both in certainty and value), we are compelled to conclude, that the consideration cannot but be always valuable, and, in many instances, of the very highest possible importance.
On the other hand, we ought carefully to remember, that, although these things present the truth, they do not, nevertheless, present this in all its light and strength; and, that there are other considerations deserving our more immediate and more constant regard, because they are more specific, more authoritative, more certain and encouraging, more immediately binding on mankind, and better calculated to promote both the temporal and eternal interests of all. In this respect, we may affirm with the Psalmist, that “the testimony of the Lord is sure ;” and beyond the assertion we shall not now proceed, reserving our proofs for a future occasion.
Nor is it our intention, at present, to consider the completeness or perfection, as it is here termed, of the law of the Lord; but rather to shew, in the first place, in what way it generally proceeds for the purpose of making wise the simple ; and in the second, to point out some very extensive and prevalent errors entertained on this subject.
If, then, the object of our Scriptures is to make wise the simple, they must necessarily lay down their instructions in a way likely to be understood and appreciated by all. And this we now propose to shew, they do. Any book, proposing to be generally and extensively useful, and intended to act as a guide to both the learned and unlearned, must necessarily ground its claims to attention on authority, for these reasons: It is not in the
any know what is, or what is not, most likely to advance the interests of all, or generally lo fit man for eternity; nor can circumstances ever be such as to make this the case. In the next place: If men are not generally qualified to determine such questions intuitively, neither are they to enter on the discussion of the several topics connected with them ; nor, as in the preceding case, can they ever be put in a situation so to do. Authority, therefore, can alone be generally appealed to; and to this our Revelation, or what is in our text termed the law of the Lord, lays an absolute and exclusive claim. On what grounds this claim and authority rest, will be shewn hereafter; we may now conclude, therefore, that in this respect our Scriptures are complete.
If, then, our Scriptures rest on good and intelligible grounds, How, in the next place do they proceed, to lay open their instructions ? for unless they are here also plain and intelligible, they will still be unavailing to the majority. I answer : They deal in nothing recondite, abstract, or scientific; but deliver their general precepts, promises, and threats, with the simple preamble of, “ Thus saith the Lord;” or, “ The word of the Lord came to” such or such a prophet, “saying,” and so on : and, on the authority thus introduced, the message is then delivered in terms the most simple and unembarrassed possible. Every one must, I think, instantly perceive why this mode of instruction has been adopted ; for, had any other been had recourse to, nothing but misconception, dispute, or mistake, could have been the consequence. Men, generally, would have soon been lost in the endless mazes of inquiry ; and, what was intended to be for the instruction and good of all, would have eventually become the cause of disunion, doubt, debate, and interminable controversy : which, indeed, has usually been the case, where the Scriptures have been supposed to be of this character.
There is, however, still another and very important reason, why a book professing to teach religion should be thus authoritative and plain : it is this: True religion is necessarily of a practical, not of a theoretical or speculative, nature. The mind it must, indeed, inform ; but then, this is not to be done for the mere purposes of curiosity ; but in order to improve it,--to inform it of its high and eternal destinies,--to urge with the greatest earnestness and force the necessity of faith, obedience, humility, forbearance, charity, and of perseverance in every good affection and work; and to insist, that, if the candidate for the blessings of both time and eternity would entertain a reasonable prospect of success, he must not only abound, but must daily make advances, in these, and that this his profiting must appear to all.
If, then, the mind is to be informed and enlightened, it is that it may be raised, humbled, encouraged, checked, supported, subdued, and in every respect improved ; and, for this purpose, that, where the tree has been thus planted, cultivated, pruned, and attended to, the fruit may be healthy, fair, and abundant.
Another reason why the Scriptures should be thus clear and explicit, may be collected from the circumstance, that the people to whom they were originally given, were, from first to last, simple and unsophisticated in the extreme. No one would, perhaps, ever have thought of proposing to persons so simple in their habits and unpolished in their manners as the ancient Patriarchs and Israelites were, any thing for general adoption in the shape of metaphysical or abstract reasoning; because no hope whatsoever could have been entertained, that these would be either understood or regarded : and the same may be said generally of the people of every age, down to the times in which we now live.
With the Primitive Church, every thing like the dialectics was entirely unknown. They possessed nothing whatever either of the flights or refinements of Plato or Aristotle; and, if they had, nothing can be more improbable, than that a wise Creator would ever have proposed a system of faith and practice on any such grounds. And, the fact is, not a vestige of such instruction is any where to be found in our sacred volume. now inquire, therefore, in what way the doctrines proposed are generally taught and enforced.
With regard to the character of the Deity, which must necessarily form a first principle in every system of religion, the usual language is, that he is the Creator and Maker of all things; that his person, wisdom, power, justice, mercy, goodness, and holiness, are eternal and perfect; and that these in their proper nature and extent, are altogether incomprehensible to us. In this point of view, He is represented as the object of fear and of love; and as such entitled to, and positively demanding, our devoted, constant, and unwearied
adoration, obedience, and praise. When, however, his fear or his love is inculcated, we are never amused with dissertations on the nature of powers infinite, of properties incomprehensible, or of nicely calculated directions and adjustments of the operations or requirements of his several attributes : we are, on the contrary, simply told, that the Lord is a man of war;* that he makes the winds his messengers, and his ministers the flames of fire; † that the stars in their courses fight against his enemies ; # and, that as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. § And, even when the incommunicable and unapproachable Majesty of heaven and earth deigns to reveal himself to his servants, he assumes the form, and addresses them in the character, of an angel or a man: and, what is still more remarkable, men are forbidden to inquire further into his character, or to attempt, in any way whatever, either to designate or to symbolise the being of His person, except as God the Father, the Creator of the world, or the Redeemer and Sovereign of his people.
If, then, the Deity is thus represented as the Creator and benign Sustainer of all things, his sovereignty will naturally and justly be appealed to as the source of all that is good on earth, and his providence as controlling all that is evil. Men or Angels, considered as dependent, imperfect, and therefore peccable, beings, can by such an one alone be charged with folly, sin, and defilement; and this we find constantly and invariably the case. Whether, indeed, He might not have constituted the world such as to have admitted of nothing of this sort ; or, whether He might not, under all circumstances, have provided that moral evil and its consequent miseries, should never have been known, our Scriptures, like the best philosophy, never attempt to determine. They only provide for the amelioration of things
* Exod. xv. 3. Is. xlii. 13. 1 Judg. v. 20.
+ Psalm civ. 4. Heb. i. 7. § Psalm ciii. 13.