Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

his work under the influence of faith--faith in the simple promise of God-and his bosom, amidst all that discourages and disheartens, is expanded as by faith he sees “afar" the time when “one song shall employ all nations, and the dwellers in the vales and on the rocks shall shout to each other, and the mountain tops from distant mountains shall catch the flying joy;" when “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” In his benevolence and his faith, he embraces the world ; forms, as Paul did, the largest plans for its welfare; and devotes himself to the high and noble enterprise of spreading everywhere the religion of truth and love. He believes that truth has power; that the race may be elevated ; that oppression, idolatry, and wrong of every kind may cease; that the gospel is mighty, and will prevail. He has faith even in man-degraded as he seems to be, and is; that there is some chord in his soul that may be struck that will respond to the proffered offer of pardon and of heaven ; and much more, he has faith in God and his promises, that this world shall not always be thus sunken and wretched, but that it shall be redeemed and elevated. He may not live to see it in the reality, but he sees it as a bright and glorious object in the distant future ; and knowing that many a hardship must be endured before it is realized, that many a youth must give himself to the work and fall in a heathen land before it is accomplished, he is willing to be one of those labourers, that the bright millennial morni may yet dawn upon the world.

(3.) I have endeavoured to illustrate this principle as element of action, and as elevating and expansive in its nature. There remains but one other thought, the third, to complete the illustration of the subject. It is, that it is an indispensable element in all religion. The error of false religions is not in acting by faith when they people the invisible world with divinities; it is, that the objects of their faith are not real, but are false. But all religion must be a work of faith. It goes beyond the regions of the senses. It pertains to the future, to the distant, and to the invisible. It is designed to bring the invisible, and the future, to bear upon us as realities. If this be not so, there can be no religion. The only thing that reason asks in the case is, that those objects be in fact real, and not the creations of fancy. But if we have religion, we must believe that there is an invisible God; that there is a future state, yet unseen, of course ; that there are to be rewards hereafter ; that we are destined to a higher sphere of being, and that it is rational to act in view of that higher existence. How can there be any

an

religion of any kind, unless there is faith in these things ? And all religion, of all sorts, is just a work of faith, and is designed to influence us by faith. We see one world, and we believe that there is another; we see stars and suns, and we believe that there is a God who made them; we see ourselves to be sinners, and we believe that we may be recovered from sin ; we see the race sunken and degraded, and we believe that it

may

be redeemed; we see that we are to die, and we believe that we may live again. Going beyond the limits of the world of sense, we bring before us a world that is invisible, and act as if it were a reality; and in religion, as in all other things, faith, embodying the conceptions of hope, is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The mind is carried from the narrow limits of the world disclosed by the visual organs to other worlds, and the things unseen control and mould the heart.

And now, what practical good shall follow from this discussion ? Much may every way. It has brought before us one of the laws of our nature, on which religion purposes to engraft itself, and which is destined to work wonders for man. It is that to which the world owes its elevation thus far, and all that has been accomplished for the race. Every field that we see smiling in the harvest is the result of the faith of him who ploughed and sowed it-faith in the seed, and in the fertile earth, and the sun, and the rain, and the Providence of God; every principle of liberty which we enjoy is the result of the faith of gifted minds--of men who believed that oppression might be made to cease, and that man might be elevated to a just conception of his own rights; every college in the land, every house of refuge, every asylum for the blind and the deaf, as well as every Christian sanctuary, is a demonstration that those who reared them believed that much might be done for the wretched, and that the race might be elevated and saved.

We are prone to act under the influence of sense. This arises almost from the necessity of the laws of our being. But our Maker meant that the strong principle of faith should come in to counteract this tendency, and to reveal our own true worth and dignity, not as sensual beings, but as rational and immortal

as capable, unlike other animals, of going beyond the range of the senses, and of acting in view of the distant, the great, the

Hence, we can act in view of the future of the future liberty and glory of our country, as if it passed before us in a splendid panorama. We can act in view of a world redeemed as if already the shout were going up from every land, “ The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ." We can act in view of God — as if we saw him everywhere, and felt that he heard every word, and knew every thought; “enduring;” as Moses did, “as sceing him who is invisible.” We can act in view of heaven-as if we already saw the pearly gates wide unfold themselves, and could look far into distant worlds.

unseen.

What man needs for his elevation is the acting out of this principle of faith --acting more by faith, and less by sight. He needs a more vivid impression of the presence and the glory of God; of the reality of heaven ; of the power of truth ; of the wonders of the invisible world—the glittering crowns, and the thrones, and the harps of heaven,--and then indeed the things of this world would be baubles and trifies. The religion of this age needs to be expanded that it may become more a religion of faith ; the church needs to be taken away from the dominion of the senses, and led to exercise a more simple faith in the truth and the promises of God; and the human mind needs to be elevated and purified by the contemplation of things that are vast and everlasting. Then shall man rise to his true dignity when other worlds shall have to his view the reality of this; and when in their overpowering splendour and glory, as apprehended by the mind, the objects which now seem so vast to us shall dwindle down to nothing, and when all through his brief journey to the grave, man "shall walk by faith, and not by sight:" living by it every day ; forming his plans in view of its revelations ; consecrating himself and his all, by its power, to the service of a holy Saviour and to the good of the church and the world:-and then, when his work is done, whether sooner or later, under its revelation of brighter worlds, cheerfully going down into the cold river of death—the narrow stream which divides the shadows amidst which he has been moving for a few brief days from the realities of the world which, amidst those shadows, he discerned afar, and where he is now for ever to dwell. Thus let us live-thus may we die.

SERMON XXIX

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE INQUIRY, HOW SHALL MAN BE

JUST WITH GOD!

JOB xxv. 4.-"How can man be justified with God!"

are

THESE are the words of Bildad--one of the sages who had entered into controversy with Job in regard to the government of God. They were uttered in view of the majesty and holiness of the Most High; and the meaning is, “When the greatness and glory of God are contemplated, how can man be regarded as holy before him ?” “ Dominion and fear," says the Shuhite,“ with him. Is there any number of his armies ? How, then, can man be justi ed with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman? Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his sight. How much less man, that is a worm ?" The same sentiment had been twice before expressed by the speakers in this controversy. It was first uttered by Elihu in perhaps the most sublime account ever given of a vision of God to men :-“ A thing was secretly brought unto me, and mine ear received a little thereof. In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men, fear came upon me. and trembling, which made all my bones to shake. Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up: it stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof: an image was before mine eyes, there was silence, and I heard a voice, saying, Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his Maker? Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly : how much less in them that dwell in houses of clay ?” Job iv. 12—19. The same sentiment was expressed also by Job himself as a doctrine by no means new to him, and as one which had received his careful thought, and to which he freely expressed his assent:--“I know it is so of a truth :-how should man be just with God?" Job ix. 2. The question thus propounded by these eastern sages, in the earliest debate among men of which we have any record, may be regarded as an inquiry proposed by man--by human nature. It expresses the deep workings of the human

soul in all ages on one of the most important and difficult of all subjects. The question means, How shall man be regarded and treated as righteous by his Maker? What methods shall he take to secure such treatment? What can he do, if anything, to commend himself to the favourable regards of a holy God ? What can he do, if anything, to make amends for the past ? What can he do, if anything, to turn away future wrath? Can he vindicate himself before the eternal throne for what he has done? If not, can he see how it is consistent for God to treat him as righteous ? This question meets us everywhere, and enters into and moulds all the forms of religion on the earth. Let us contemplate it with the interest which becomes so grave a question, and one which is so identified with our everlasting welfare. The inquiry, as illustrating and expressing the feelings of human nature, may be considered with reference to two points—its importance, and its difficulty.

I. The importance of the inquiry.

(1.) Its importance will be seen by this consideration-No one can be saved unless he is just or righteous in the sight of God. Unless there is some way by which God can consistently regard and treat us as just or righteous, it is impossible to believe that we can enter heaven when we die. Unless man is personally so holy that he cannot be charged with guilt; or can justify himself by denying or disproving that charge of guilt; or can vindicate himself by showing that his conduct is right; or can appropriate to himself the merit of another as if it were his own, no one can believe no one does believe that he can enter heaven. Probably there is no conviction of the human mind more deep and universal than this; and every man, whether conscious to himself of acting on it or not, makes it elementary in his practical belief. If any one is disposed to call this proposition in question, or if he is not conscious of acting on it, he will see that it must be true, by looking at it for a single moment. The proposition is, that no man can be saved unless he is just or righteous in the sight of God. Can God save a wicked man as such, and in view of his wickedness? Can he hold him up to the universe as one who ought to be saved? Can he take the profane man, the scoffer, the adulterer, and the murderer to heaven, and proclaim himself as their patron and friend? Can he connect a life of open wickedness with the rewards of eternal glory? Nothing can be more clear than that if a man is made happy for ever in heaven, there will be some good reason for it, and that reason cannot be that he was regarded as an unrighteous person. There will be a fitness and propriety in his being saved; there will be some

« AnteriorContinuar »