Page images

is put

this world and the world to come. He hath not, like the reasoners exposed in the beginning of this discourse, endeavoured to degrade the sublime elevations of the law; which work enthusiasm upon the heart, as the heavenpiercing peaks of a mountainous country work enthusiasm upon the imagination: neither hath he deposed conscience from the post of observation to replace her with some less lynx-eyed guardian, but on the contrary, by the unction of his Spirit he cleanseth her eye and maketh it more eaglepiercing. But he hath clothed the law in performance, and stood up its practical interpreter, not to the ear but to the eye, to the heart, and to every sympathy whereof the heart is the sacred seat. It comes now to us sanctioned by our dearest friend, our noblest kinsman the Son of God and the Son of man ; teaching by example, and working by the desire to be like him whom we love. Its accusations for past sins which overloaded memory and overclouded hope, and with joylessness sickened all present activity, he hath scattered and dissolved. The soul is delivered from the valley of the shadow of death, from a fearful pit and from the miry clay: her feet are set upon a rock, and a new song

into her mouth. Having made us free men, joyful free men, he layeth siege to us by

every sweet and noble suit. He putteth on human charities as a raiment, and godly graces as a vesture. Thus arrayed, he comes with honourable language, addressing us as friends and brothers. Then he unsealeth high overtures, setting before us enlargement from ignominious fallen nature, into the glorious liberty of the sons of God-refinement of our gross impurity, into the image of God created in righteousness and true holiness. Oh! it is a noble music which he maketh to the soul of man: sweet as the breathing sonnet of lovers, and spirit-stirring as the minstrelsy of glorious war ; it royseth to noble deeds like the Tyrtean song, sung on the eve of battle to noble Spartan youth ; and it rejoiceth the heart of sin-oppressed nature as the voice of liberty from Tully's lips, rejoiced the senatehouse of Rome upon the famous Ides of March, when the godlike Brutus

Shook his crimson steel, And bade the father of his country hail. Oh! that the spirit of the antients would rise again and ashame these modern men, who go dreaming in univeristies over a philosophy which no kernel of nourishing food, a philosophy of mind they call it, but it is a mind without a

heart,--who go wearying the dull ear of senates with talk about law, and jargon about the moral government of men ; while in all their researches after wisdom and government, they see' no form nor comeliness in the institutes of God, and hear no music to enchant them in the gospel of Christ, though it poureth the full diapason of harmony into the heart of man :—which their deafness to the voice divine doth interpret the platonic notion of the music of the spheres, -most ravishing melody ever sounding in the ears of men, yet inaudible from the noise and bustle in the midst of which they have their abodes. Methinks the quiet groves of Pythagoras, where they would have five years of silent meditation with their own thoughts and study of the divine oracles, or the school of Socrates, that chastiser of haughty sophists, or the oratory of Paul, who converted members of the renowned Areopagus, and shook a monarch upon his royal seat, or something equally powerful were needed to move this

age and generation of learned men, who look to Christ as if he were a fanatic, above whose ignoble sphere they stand most highly exalted.

But, in the ear of that justice of which they affect the quest, and of that well-being of the mind for which they profess to consult, I do solemnly invoke them; and (though the

age of chivalry be past, and this cause of ours be not served by defiance)-moved by their lethargy and indifference to that which should set their life in action, I do challenge them; to show me in all the records of history or speculation, any one constitution of laws in spirit so pure, in application so extensive, in effect so beneficial, in motives so spirit-stirring and spirit-ennobling, in its whole machinery so complete, and in its several parts so excellent, as this constitution of law and gospel hath been proved to be. I do solemnly pledge myself to keep the field against all the devices of moralists or legislators for the elevation of human nature, in defence of this divine constitution, by which that love the mind hath in exact equity is satisfied ; by which all the good that accrues to the individual or the commonwealth from the obedience of wholesome laws is secured ; by which all pure sentiments are indulged-all enthusiasm of the heart awakened-all tender affections full-blown-all noble desires drawn out-all soft and exquisite graces of demeanour patronized--all stern and unbending virtues upheld; by which, to crown all, anticipation is allowed to steep his wings in the bliss of heaven, and Time runs posting onwards to his grave, driving before him to their graves all cares, troubles,

weaknesses, and sorrows, whence eternity awaketh us girt about with beauty and with strength, to fill up the measure and duration of celestial engagements.

Here endeth our scheme of the constitution under which it hath pleased God to place the world ; but before passing to the sanction thereof, it seemeth good to gather it into one, and, with a word of advice and warning to set it forth, as they were wont in ancient times, and are wont still in the island of Japan, to post up in conspicuous places brief summaries of the laws for the information of the people.

The Gospel is intended to honour the law and to patronize holiness--being not an end but an expedient for an end. The advancement of human nature in the holiness of the law -that is the end, the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is the instrument. To gain this end, it catches fallen nature softly upon every side, and gently elevates it with the breath of instruction and affection into favour with God. Thereunto God's moral nature appears in human guise, performing be. fore the eye and heart of man, unon the stage of human life, a drama or representation of God's true sentiments and feel ings towards our kind. Along with this attractive representation of the divinity, Christ brings the rudiments out of which to construct a new heart and life ; viz. new principles of conduct-new hopes-new ambitions-new interests; and he brings new graces of character --meekness, humility, forbearance and charity; and he brings new institutes of life, the particulars of the moral law; and withal he brings new rewards--peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace and assurance of everlasting glory. With all which, as his instrument, he would take a purchase upon the sunken fabric of human nature, and raise it up towards the dignity from which it fell.

Now it must be confessed, that with all this moral machinery, which is, we believe, the best that divine wisdom could devise for the work, the work is not completely accomplished. After all, the Gospel doth not secure perfect obedience to the law upon the part of man, but it bringeth him up to the highest pitch of excellence that his nature is capable of. It doth not lead him again into the innocency of Eden, or bring back to his soul the primeval sinlessness left upon it by the creative fingers of God :-but it doth the best that could be done. The best Christian that ever lived is a poor creature compared with father Adam, while yet he trod the earth in the majesty of innocence with all the lower tribes attendant on his stepshis body purely attempered to the scene, his

soul replete with celestial instincts-angels of light his visi. tants, and God himself cheering his yet unsullied habitation. And, by how much mother Eve was fairer than all her daughters, by so much was she more pure, more tenderly affectioned, more modest, more chaste from the throb of passion or the tinge of shaded thought, than the purest vestal or the holiest matron that hath ever lived. It was for them to render perfect obedience to the moral code of Christ. It was for Christ the Son of God, the second Adam, to render it obedience also. Ours it is to be content with humbler attainments ; to do our utmost in the strength of the Word and the Spirit of God; and, having done so, to be humble, full of confession and prayer, full of trust in him, who, after he has done the most upon us here below, hath promised to complete his work, by acquitting us in the day of judgment, and saving us from the wrath to come.

So that, after all, it comes to this, that we do our best :but then it is with evangelical instruments that we do our best. We do our best after taking to ourselves the whole armour of God : the moralist doth his best without that armour. The saint, possessing himself of all knowledge and hope and grace which the Gospel reveals, does his best; the moralist, neglecting these, and leaning to Nature alone, does his best. The one honours God throughout, the other honours Nature throughout; the one is a disciple of Christ, the other a disciple of reason alone ; the one therefore may look for favour at God's hand, whom he hath in nothing undervalued, the other may look for disfavour from God, whose instructions he hath set aside ; the one may look for success, being guided by the higher wisdom and moved along by the stronger affections of the Gospel, the other has no success to expect save from the urgency of endeavours and the strenuousness of resolutions. The moralist is like a ship spreading her canvass without wind to fill it ; the Christian spreads the same canvass, and has all the moving power which the Gospel can give. Moreover the moralist bows himself to a task; the Christian cheers himself to an office of love: the one as he advances becomes highminded, as he fails becomes heartbroken; the other as he advances becomes thankful and glad, as he fails becomes humble and watchful, but not heartbroken: the one knows of no acquittal for his daily, hourly offences; the other knows of a Redeemer: the one, when nature sinks beneath the effort, knows not of any fresh supply ; the other in the midst of his weakness knows of grace that is

sufficient for him, and of strength that is perfected in weakRess.

But, though it be not complete obedience that is obtained under this constitution, we are not to conclude that the constitution is imperfect :-on the other hand, it hath no weak part which we can discern. It saves the character of God, upon the consistency of which all his intelligent creatures hang dependent, by presenting a law reaching out in all di. rections to the sublime of moral virtue ; while at the same time it exhibits his tenderness and love to his creatures through the image of his Son and the merciful overtures of the Gospel. It sets before our eyes the ideal of every thing perfect, familiarizing our knowledge with the perfection of virtue, strewing the path of virtue with promises, and planting at the goal the rewards of eternity ;-which will, if any thing will, stimulate us to put forth our best. And, that the enthusiasm thus begotten, by being compassed about with weakness and aiming at impossibilities, may not speedily expend itself, the constitution of the Gospel, broad as human feeling, comes and lays honourable hold on every good sentiment and substantial interest, and putting life into every sinew of the mind, gives it wherewithal to sustain its enthusiasm after holiness unceasingly. Yea, moreover, to catch every favourable breeze for setting out, it is aye ready, like an open haven, to receive us, overlooking delay, welcoming us to refit however disabled, filling every sail, and giving us assurance of speeding well. This is the beginning of it ; and the continuance of it is by the same cheerful and blessed encouragement. That indemnification for past offences which gave us heart to begin, being equally applicable to present disabilities and errors, gives us heart to carry on.

We do not reach the commanded, it is true, but we do never satisfy ourselves with having done the best. We are alive'to the things which are still before, and strive to reach them. Our imperfections make us humble and meek and of fervent prayer; and could no more be wanted than our attainments, which make us conscious of the love of God and the resemblance of Christ. But these imperfections do not hang in heavy arrears upon conscience, but pass away through the mercy of our God in Christ, and as they recur they draw us near to Christ through the sense of weakness and forlornness without him. So that the evil and the good, the attainment and the failure, come in for their share in cultivating our completeness in the stature of Christ.

« PreviousContinue »