Page images

of sin through the blood of the atonement; and by the instrumentality of truth, and the agency of the Spirit, carries on, in the heart of the penitent and believing sinner, a work of progressive sanctification, which will be rendered perfect and triumphant in heaven. And unless this effect can be produced, of what use is any scheme of religion for such a world as this ? A man may pass through a thousand changes, and till he pass from death to life, from sin to holiness, he wears his chains, and is on the way to execution. The great curse is still on him, and he must be miserable. Sin is uncancelled, and he cannot be happy. Of what avail are the stripes and lacerations which are self-inflicted by the poor pagan; or the austerities and penance of the Romanist; or the fine speculations of the unitarian or the deist on the beauty of virtue and the benevolence of God, while no radical change is effected in the character ? Man is every where a sinner; and in all these human schemes and devices there is no provision for the removal of this fundamental evil. No system of religion, whatever name it may wear, whether christian or pagan, can supply the moral demands of such a world as ours, unless it commence with sin. Spare this and you ruin the world. Leave this unprovided for, and you shut forever the gate of heaven. Omit this single item, and you open wide the door of perdition. Strike out from your scheme the provision for pardon and the power of sanctifica

tion, and you have a religion which can never become universal, and would be of no use were it to become universal, for it would bring no relief to a sinful world. But such is not the Gospel of the Son of God.

5. The Gospel is not dependent on any system of human philosophy.

The Bible teaches “as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” In narrating facts, it records them as they are, and in their proper relations; in the revelation of doctrines, it presents them as fundamental truths which are to be accredited, and makes no explanations of the former, and enters into no reasonings respecting the latter. It discloses facts and principles of which all men, or the generality of men were before ignorant, or in which, at least, they were but imperfectly instructed; and there it leaves them. And there these truths stand stereotyped forever, without change of form or feature. The Gospel borrows nothing from the reigning philosophy, for it has nothing to decorate that it may attract the eyes of men; nothing to render palatable by courting the popular taste; nothing to explain, nothing to reconcile. From the commencement to the close of its communications to our world, though these extend through more than fifteen centuries, and were furnished by a large number of sacred

penmen, it never loses sight of one fixed purpose, and that is to tell men what truth is. And when this

is done, its work is finished. It never comments or philosophises upon its own production. Hence the Bible, like its Author, has a kind of ubiquity, and can live every where; and, like him, it has a perpetuity of existence, and is the same in every age. Systems of human philosophy may rise and fall

, and yet Bible truth flows on in a steady and majestic stream, and not its surface is rippled by the change.

In the interpretation of revealed truth, and in the construction of human creeds and symbols, as well as in all the systems of false religion, the philosophy of the age, both intellectual and moral, and perhaps I might add in some cases, natural philosophy too, has exerted a very perceptible influence. This is what we might expect. If men construct a religion, it must be of course a human religion, and it will partake of human thoughts and qualities. Men cannot beget angels. We can hardly look upon one of these earthly productions without being able to detect its parentage ; and to tell the age and country of its birth. The same is the case, to some extent, of all human symbols of the true religion. The creeds and commentaries of each particular age and nation embody much which belongs to that age and nation. Indeed, we cannot expect it should be otherwise ; for they are the productions of men, and fathers generally live a second life in their children. But the Bible occupies an independent

position. It is the production of God. It depends on no other system. It borrows nothing from any other. Other systems live, flourish, wane,

and die; but this remains the same. It has already survived, amidst the changing theories and speculations of the world, almost six thousand years ; and it is yet clad in all the freshness of its glory, as it was in the day when it was born in heaven, and sent down to the earth for our instruction. Time has not whitened its locks, or palsied its hand, or chilled its heart. Systems of philosophy and modes of interpretation, one after another, have gone down to the sepulchre, and are known only in their epitaph; but the Gospel lives, and is powerful to save. Other systems which are founded in error will in like manner pass away ; but the religion of the Bible will never cease to exist and act upon the world till all that God has greatly purposed and kindly promised shall be fully accomplished. Its truths may be tinged or obscured by a false philosophy, or by human speculations, but this effect is local and temporary. These things are no part of the system. The Bible remains the same ; and, at another day, or in another country, all is restored. Clouds and mists may, in one hemisphere, or for a few days, cover the face of the sun and shut out the light, but the sun is not extinguished. He is always shining somewhere; and the clouds and mists of all human theories will by and by be dissipated,

every where.

and he will break forth, and in full-orbed radiance shine

6. The Gospel has no necessary connection with any form of human government. .

The Bible acknowledges the right and sanctions the powers and prerogatives of civil government; but it does not prescribe any particular form. The most that is said on this subject in the New Testament, is rather incidental than direct; and is addressed principally to Christians, enjoining it upon them to be peaceful subjects of whatever government may happen to exist. The following are specimens: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be, are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist, shall receive to themselves damnation.” And again : " Render therefore to all their dues : tribute to whom tribute is due ; custom to whom custom ; fear to whom fear; honor to whorn honor." It is also said, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme ; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.”

This language is accommodated to the existing governments of the apostolic age ; but the spirit of these precepts may be applied with equal propriety to any and every form of civil and political

« PreviousContinue »