Page images
PDF
EPUB

the moon and the stars are darkened, when the clouds return after the rain, when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men bow themselves, when the grasshopper becomes a burden, and desire fails. Comparing the vigour and sprightliness of youth with the infirmities and decrepitude of old age, the latter appears to be a gloomy period. But there is a path plainly marked out in the word of God, which, if it has been entered on and pursued, not only counterbalances all the evils and burdens attendant on old age, but renders that period, in many respects, the most honourable of any part of human life. Alluding to this path, and the happy consequences of walking in it, the wise king of Israel, guided by the inspiration of the holy Spirit, observed, The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.

To make this paper the more interesting and instructive to that class of readers for whom it is especially designed, it may be per tinent to notice certain appearances in aged persons, which never fail to render the evening of their days, with all their infirmi ties, honourable, quiet and happy. 1. When this is the case, they are found fearing God.

It is recorded in the scriptures of truth, that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Of no person, whether old or young, learned or unlearn ed, can it be said, that he is wise, in the scripture sense, who does not possess this fear. All men have, by nature, hearts which are "enmity against God," and which are "not subject to his law, neither indeed can be." To begin to fear and love God, therefore, is the

same thing as to become a new creature, or to be born of the holy Spirit. When aged persons are found in the way of righteousness, they are found in Christ, who, by his Spirit, has renewed their hearts, and inclined them to walk with God on the earth. Many, doubtless, who are far advanced in life, and whose probationary state is drawing to a close, are total strangers to the true knowledge of God, and, though they may have been loaded with worldly honours, have all their days been walking the downward road. Nothing short of true religion, that religion which is the fruit of a regenerated heart, and which consists essentially in selfdenial, will distinguish the hoary head from the wicked in general; because there is nothing, short of this, which will translate one of the fallen race of Adam from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of Christ. True religion is the lowest condition on which a standing in the family of the Redeemer, and the hope of a peaceful departure from the world, can be maintained. the aged must possess, or they will be strangers to every degree of that support, which they will need, when they see all their worldly prospects contracting.

This

2. Aged persons, in order to possess that hope, which is an "anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the vail," must not be novices in experimental religion.

Of those of our fallen race, who belong to the kingdom of Christ, much the greatest part were called into that kingdom in their youthful days. They were called, and justified, and sanctified,

that, being early in the school of Christ, they might be fitted for the work they had to do on earth, and be "made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." Few, it is believed, begin the great work of preparing for eternity, in old age, after they have spent, in sin, almost the whole of their state of probation. The remark has often been made, and, probably, it is founded in truth, that the characters of men are generally formed and fixed for eternity, before they have passed the meridion of their days.

make it their first and greatest concern. They must early enter the school of Christ, and be faithful in it.

Aged persons will appear to be novices in that knowledge, which is so desirable and important in the near prospect of eternity, if the morning and meridian of their days were spent in sin, and if they did not turn unto the Lord until their natural powers began to fail, under the weight of years. How could it be otherwise with them? How could they expect to have much knowledge of God or of themselves, with little pains and Although they, who turn unto short experience? The present the Lord and engage in his ser- is a world of correction and disci vice, at the eleventh hour, will, pline. In various ways, God is through sovereign mercy, be ac- presenting to all, seasonable and cepted; yet they will go out of important instruction; and they the world, with little experience who are wise are gaining knowlin the things of religion. Their edge, under their advantages. Do knowledge of God and of them the aged appear in character, or selves will be very small; and as they ought to appear, if, comthe righteous Judge, who will re pared with Christians in general, ward men according to their they are mere babes in experideeds, will discriminate between mental religion? This, in ordinathem, and those who long denied ry cases, must evince, that they themselves to build up his king- were either very late in their atdom and to promote his glo- tention to the great business of ry. Christian knowledge is usu- life, or that they have attended ally the result of long and dili- to it with criminal indifference. gent attention to the things of re- But, when we see hoary heads ligion. Regeneration, or the eminent in Christian experience, implantation of grace in the heart, eminent in prayer, and mighty is an instantaneous change; but in the scriptures, being "spirit• sanctification, or growth in Chris- ual men of full age, who by reatian knowledge and experience, is son of use have their senses exa work of time. It is not effected ercised to discern both good and at once, any more than the infant evil," we may know it is the rechild grows instantly to a state sult of having been long in the of maturity and manhood. In service of Christ, and of having that divine command recorded in been, in some good measure, the sacred volume, give diligence faithful to God and to their own to make your calling and election souls. It is pleasing to see those, sure, it is necessarily implied, who are old in years, well versed that Christians, in order to attain in the knowledge of divine things, to any eminence in religion, must and appearing not to have just Vol. III. No. 4.

U

begun, but to have made great advances, in the Christian race. When they can converse understandingly on the character of God, on the depravity and treachery of the heart, and on the nature of the Christian warfare, they give evidence of having profited, by living long in this world, and of their ripening for the grave and for heaven.

3. The aged, in order to appear with honour in their standing, must be sound in faith.

An old person, though he may exhibit some evidence of real religion, does not appear to advantage he does not reflect honour on Christ, nor on himself, if he be a novice in the doctrines of the gospel. On the contrary, he exhibits melancholy proof of his great neglect of God's word. The apostle Paul, among many other directions, charged Titus to" speak the things which become sound doctrine; that the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith." A knowledge of the doctrines of the gospel is not gained, by the study of a few hours or a few days, but is the fruit of a long and careful attention to the Bible, which is the fountain of light. To have a clear view of the scheme of salvation, revealed in the holy scriptures, is a great attainment. Considering the long opportunities for instruction, enjoyed by the aged, especially such as have lived under the light of the gospel, we have reason to look for this attainment in them. They ought to give proof, that they are thoroughly acquainted with the sacred volume, that they have thought and conversed much on religion, and that the leading and essential doctrines of

the gospel are familiar to their minds. Indecision, with respect to the doctrines of grace, is not honourable in old men. It neither becomes their hoary heads, nor does it comport with their near approach to the eternal world.

4. The aged appear honourable, when the families they have trained up are well instructed in the things of religion.

Children, generally, exhibit evidence of the manner in which they have been educated by their parents. Such parents as walk in the fear of the Lord, and maintain consistency of character before their houses, make deep impressions on the minds of their children. This will be especially true, in those cases where parents possessed religion, while their children were young. If they have observed religious or der in their houses, and conducted so as to adorn their Christian profession, their children, generally, to say the least, are inclined to treat religion, and religious institutions, with outward respect. This will appear when parents are old, and even after they have gone the way of all the earth. The hearts of some par ents are frequently filled with grief,. that their children are disposed to treat them with no more respect, and that they can have no more influence over them. Perhaps after all, they themselves, by their own unfaithfulness, and by their unwise treatment of their children, have laid • the foundation for this grief. They are not respected by their children, because they have never 'respected themselves, in the view of their children. Far would

the writer of these

thoughts be from intimating, that it is in the power of parents to effect, in their children, a saving change. This is the work of God. Notwithstanding this, by consistency of conduct, and by persevering in it, they may gain a surprising and happy influence over thein. How pleasing and interesting is the account, which the scriptures give us, of Joseph's going with his children to his father Jacob for a blessing! That transaction may be considered as witnessing for the pious patriarch, that his hoary head was found in the way of righteousness. Joseph would not have taken such a step, if he had not believed, that his venerable father walked with God.

It is an honour to grow old, and wear out, in the service of Christ. If, therefore, we may charitably believe, that an aged person has long been running the Christian race; that his infirmities have not come upon him, in consequence of the indulgence of sinful appetites, but in the service of God, his grey hairs, his trembling limbs, and his faltering voice, at once demand our reverence and respect. The most abandoned persons can hardly refrain from rising up, and calling him blessed. On the other hand, what spectacle, in this world, can be more affecting than an old man, whose "bones are full of the sins of his youth," whose infirmities have been hastened and increased by his irreg ular life; whose prayers and blessing are never sought by his children and posterity; whose heart has become callous under the instructions of the gospel, and the warning dispensations of providence; who has neglected

the great and important business of life, until his sun is seen to be almost setting! Who can seriously reflect on the prospects of such a person, and refrain from tears? How miserably he has spent the precious moments of his life! moments which can never be recalled! He is on the verge of the eternal world, and yet unprepared to meet his God: Let the aged, who may have opportunity, seriously weigh these thoughts; and may "the Lord give them understanding in all things." H..

ON THE DOCTRINE OF THE ATONEMENT.

In a Series of Letters to a Friend. Concluded from page 118.

LETTER V.

Objections to the Scripture Doctrine of the Atonement considered.

DEAR SIR,

It is objected," that the commutation of iniquity and holiness between Christ and believers, which those," reputed orthodox,” maintain, is subversive of all rational ideas of divine justice." But this is only a strong assertion without proof. No other kind of commutation is contended for than that, which, by the consent of the parties concerned, transfers, not the acts or the merits of righteousness and sin, but the rights or burdens annexed to each respectively; or than that, which takes place between a debtor and his sponsor; which is thought not inconsistent with rational ideas of justice. But to inflict the curse of the law, and give the wages of sin to Christ, when it is supposed not to be due for any sin in him, or imputed to

him; and to justify one who is personally unrighteous, and has no righteousness imputed, seems indeed subversive of rational ideas of justice, and inconsistent with the character of a righteous Judge.

It is further objected, that "the imputation of Christ's righteousness to a believer would effectually exclude, after the gift of faith, all possibility of farther grace to the children of men."

I answer. 1. God's bestowing on us blessings to which he has freely given us a title, is as much an act of grace, as if we had no previous title to them. Free grace is the source and foundation of all gospel blessings, which we receive through the mediation of Christ.

2. The imputed righteousness of Christ entitles the believer to the promise of eternal life. If we had a perfect inherent rightcousness, we could have no title to eternal life otherwise, than by a divine promise. Now eternal life and the blessings of the covenant of grace are promised to believers, as all allow. But whether these promises be made to them, as clothed in the imputed rightcousness of Christ, or not; it is certain, that God, according to his sovereign will, bestows his grace and blessings more on some, than on others, who are equally interested in Christ and in the promises of salvation. He exercises his free and sovereign grace in granting to some believers much greater outward favours and privileges, greater measures of the gifts and graces of the holy Spirit, than he grants to others; and their glory, honour, and happiness in heaven will be distinguishingly great. These

special favours were indeed obtained by the merits of Christ : but they are farther acts or gifts of grace after the gift of faith, and such as are not promised or vouchsafed to all alike. The promises will be fulfilled to all, who are interested in the righteousness of Christ. But God grants unpromised favours to some of them, in distinction from others. He has a right to dispense the blessings of his grace, in what manner and measure he pleases.

It is farther argued, "if sinners have a sinless righteousness, which is properly their own, they would have no sins to confess and be forgiven. The confession or forgiveness of one, to whom no sin can be justly im puted, seems a contradiction."

Answer. They who have a sinless righteousness imputed to them, to entitle them to justification, or the rights and privileges of the righteous, are yet in themselves sinful. The sin is not imputed to them to condemnation, for there is no condemnation to them, who are in Christ; yet pardoned sins are sins as hateful as any, and imputed righteousness is not infused into the person, who is justified by it. While sin dwells in us, we ought to be humbly sensible, that we are sinners, to acknowledge it, ask forgiveness, to hate our sins, and turn from them. If it is the duty of all men, to love God and keep his commandments; then it is the duty of all, who have sin in them, to hate their sins, and turn from them to God, and to a right temper and practice. Their being pardoned and sanctified would not release them from the duties of repent

« PreviousContinue »