Page images


an axiom in revealed or natural religion it has been denied, Nor can it be concealed that the conviction which we both in ancient and in modern times, by some of the wisest actually feel of those most awful truths which are the sancassertors of both,) that we are as God created us, I am not tions of religious principle, is, from the nature of things, of myself disposed to deny. Without attempting, on the pre- a fainter kind than that which we possess of earthly comfort sent occasion, to penetrate that mysterious veil which hangs or applause or misery. We have heard or read of hell or over the original state of man, or the nature and necessary heaven, but we have felt the pangs of disease or hunger; we consequences of that offence which was so severely visited have seen the punishments inflicted by the law; we have on his posterity, it is plain, that how great soever were the witnessed, perhaps with envy, the parade of worldly wealth privileges which Adam lost by his transgression, yet, what- and power; and our cheek has burned, it may be, with that ever propensities to evil we individually bring with us into delightful glow which is communicated by the world's approthe world, we bring, at least, by his permission, by whose bation. hands we are made and fashioned.

The recollections, then, by which faith would, in the hour But will it follow from hence, that God has created man of temptation, direct our practice, being no more than fainter perfect, or that the nature which he has given us is any reflections of images which were originally embodied by otherwise good than as it answers a definite purpose? Is it fancy, (for on whatever evidence we believe, we can only not possible, at least, that the Allwise may have made us fancy that which we have never seen,) must needs be less weak in order that we might learn humility? That he may forcible than the memory of that which we have actually in have created us prone to sin, and to all the wretched conse- our own persons experienced; and while we believe that the quences which are the natural effect of such a propensity, in punishınents of another world are something terrible, we order that we might taste a purer happiness in those sensa- know the keenness of the tortures which disappointment or tions of joy and gratitude which are excited by deliverance disgrace can, in the present world, inflict on us. and mercy, than can ever be the lot of that hopeless and Were it otherwise, indeed, the sanction of temporal penalfearless content which belongs to those who have never felt ties would have become, since the promulgation of the Gosthe want of happiness or virtue? What if the universal pel, altogether useless arnong men; and the knowledge of good be more effectually consulted by the permission of par- God's will and the apprehension of his justice would have iial evil? And may not the sin and wretchedness of the suspended, long since, the axe, the fasces, and the chain, as present world be a necessary feature in the vast scheme of trophies beside the Christian altar. Unfortunately, howthat Providence, whose paternal care extends through infinite ever, we cannot avoid observing daily that such restraints are space and time? Of physical mischief we can discern the necessary still with those who never doubted the return of beneficial consequence; why may not moral ill conduce to Christ to judgment; and the best and the wisest of us all results yet more glorious ?

may recollect, perhaps, occasions when his knowledge and But, fathomless as are the depths of God's Providence in his faith and kis godly fear would have failed with their the permission of evil at all, its existence is, unfortunately, united strength to preserve his feet from sliding, if it had not no matter of doubtful speculation. Whether our natural been for the fear of that disgrace or chastisement which, corruption be deduced from Adam's offence alone, or whether wicked as they are themselves, the commonwealth of manthe propensity to sin existed in our first parents themselves, kind by God's appointment continue to inflict on wickedness. before it was called into action by the tempter, our sinfull. “If, I say, I will speak thus,” (said an experienced and nature is a matter of daily experience; and though we can-inspired observer of the human heart, when describing the not cease to wonder why such things are allowed to be, we blasphemy which arose in his soul against the ways of procannot, if we are accurate observers, permit ourselves to vidence,)* If, I say, I will speak thus, behold'I should doubt that such things really are.

offend against the generation of thy children.” The recollecAnd though we should ascribe to ignorance or prejudice tion of the scandal which he should cause to the godly resthe bitter complaints which the contemplation of human trained those murmurs which his faith in Providence was weakness has elicited from the heathen moralists; though unable entirely to quell; nor do those good men display any we should refuse to acknowledge with the Grecian Poet, that knowledge of our common nature, who reject as carnal and “the majority are always wicked,” or to complain with unholy those secondary and human principles of action, Ovid's Medea that “while we see and approve the better whose aid in the time of his temptation even David would course, we are urged by a necessity of our nature to follow not disdain. that which we ourselves detest and deprecate;" we may There is yet another reason why the objects of worldly admit, nevertheless, that some degree of credit is due to prudence are more easily and, therefore, more steadily purs Isaiah, to Jeremiah, to the Psalmist, and to St. Paul, when sued by our natural powers than those which Christianity they severally lament the impiety and ferocity of their con- offers. They demand, in general, far sewer sacrifices at our temporaries, when they teach us that the feet of man are hands. The self-control which avarice enjoins regards our swift to shed blood, and his heart deceitful and desperately luxury and profusion only. Ambition has only to overwicked; that the inhabitants of the world have turned aside come the fear of death and the feebler snares of idleness: together from following after God; that the carnal mind is hypocrisy, to avoid those particular gratifications which are enmity with him, and neither is nor can be subject to his law. scandalous in the eyes of mankind. Nor are any of these

And, that our human resolution is, without celestial aid, any further renounced than as they are inconsistent with the sufficient to preserve us, notwithstanding these natural pro- ruling passion; and, what is of still more importance, the pensities, in the paths of virtue, can by no means be inferred self-denial is always understood to be only for a time, and he from the circumstance that these propensities are daily con- who now, from some overpowering motive, resists these quered or suppressed in the pursuit of worldly advantages. secondary inclinations, looks forward to a moment when, that

For, though the motives for self-controul which true reli- previous object being attained, he may enjoy himself without gion offers are, doubtless, of more momentous interest than control. Even now they have their refreshments of vice, in any which this world can supply, it may admit of rational which the master-fiend is not unwilling to indulge them. and serious doubt, whether the proximity of the latter and The miser may riot at another's cost; the conqueror, in the the more distinct and vivid colouring which, in consequence intervals of more serious action, while his shield hangs idle of that proximity, they offer to the mental view, do not more, in the hall, and his battered galley is repairing on the shore, much more than counterbalance the awful but remoter pros- may strike, like Alcæus, his harp in the shades of revelry, pects of death and judgment and an eternal Being. and relax his toil-worn sinews in the lap of licentious indul

It is the faintness of that sensation which hope presents, gence. The hypocrite has a somewhat harder task to perwhen compared with that which actually affects our bodily form; but his self-control and his cloak are cast aside organs, which constitutes, in every pursuit of life, the diffi- together, and he enjoys with a keener zest the moments of culty of postponing present to contingent happiness; and permitted sensuality, from the contrast of the cumbrous disthis faintness will be found to increase in exact proportion as guise which he has relinquished. the object recedes into futurity. And as every one who lives And by all alike the mighty empire of the heart is left is disposed to think that of all his prospects death and its without coertion. Their affections, their hopes, their wishes, consequences are most distant, it is probable that (however their fancies may riot in the boundless scope of possible and powerful in themselves to move our hope or fear may be impossible gratification, and defy, from that dark and polluted those objects which such a prospect offers) their distance or asylum, the menaces of their earthly deities. What wonder, fancied distance will often leave them less efficacy to compel then, that those who have, in other respects, so large a libour attention than those expectations of earthly praise or erty, should, without any great reluctance, offer up at the prosperity, which, though of value far inferior, appear at shrine of their idols those few indulgences which such idols, least to promise a more speedy return,

in truth, require ?

[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]

But the warfare which the Christian is enjoined to wage and Gospel of the Lord. “Thy Spirit is good,” are the with himself is as endless and universal as the platonic strife words of David when praying for power to amend his of principles. It is not sufficient that we purchase by the life ; " lead me to the land of uprightness!" * Uphold me, surrender of a single vice a liberty for every other. It is not are the words of the same illustrious penitent, “with thy free enough that we be occasionally abstinent, or that we refrain (or liberating) Spirit!" Not only are " counsel and knowfrom overt actions, while the inward corruption remains uu- ledge" ascribed by Isaiah to the Spirit's operation, but the heeded and unknown. The free-will offering of ourselves, fear,” moreover, of the Lord.” Christ in like manner asthe subjugation of our entire affections and propensities; sures us, that his Father will not deny “ the Holy Ghost to the confinement of those thoughts whose wanderings are those who ask him” faithfully. The conscience of St. Paul open to the eyes of him who reads the soul; the government

• bare him witness in the Holy Ghost.” “ The Holy Ghost," of those winged words over which the angels of vengeance as the Giver of virtue, is reckoned up by the same Apostle, in watches; a devotion consistent and uniform; a faith which the same breath with “ kindness and brotherly love." To faileth not; a love which thinketh no evil; a courage which the influence of the Spirit, not only knowledge," but can support the contempt of man, and which can dare to for "faith” and “patience” are ascribed. It is through “ the give those injuries which to endure is agony; these are the Spirit” that we are enabled to “mortify the works of the daily struggles to which the Christian soldier is liable, and flesh;" and the same Spirit is said, by inspiring our souls this the steep and thorny path which only leads to glory! with fervour and holy desires, to intercede for us with “unut

And, for these things, who is, of himself, sufficient? What terable groanings." knowledge, what faith, what hope or fear shall stimulate our But, that it is a sanctifying and improving grace, and not feeble limbs to a task so far beyond their forces, if His the grace of miraculous knowledge or power, which is to be power do not sustain us, from whose mercy-seat all power understood in these expressions, is apparent from their genand wisdom flow, who gives us "grace," if we believe lis eral tenor. Miraculous power and knowledge can neither set Scriptures, “ to help in time of need;" and will not withhold, us free from sin, nor are able, of themselves, to make us we learn from the same Divine authority, “ His Holy Ghost holy. Those cannot be miraculous gifts which our Saviour, from those who ask him faithfully.”

in a discourse not directed to his Apostles alone, but to the It may seem, then, that the same surviving chief of Eng-mighty multitude who attended his preaching on the mount, lish Unitarianism (whom the single circumstances of his engages to accord to all who ask them. With the testimobeing thus conspicuous has compelled me thus frequently to ny of a good conscience the power of tongues or prophecy has notice) is not more fortunate in his metaphysics than he had no imaginable concern. The gifts of kindness, of patience, previously shown himself in his reference to the ancient Fath- of brotherly love, were so far from being implied in the posers, when he styles the interference of the Almighty with session of those miraculous endowments which the early our thoughts and actions "an unphilosophical doctrine." Christians enjoyed, that it was possible to possess these last Whether it be, as he supposes, “ unscriptural,” the following in their highest perfection, and yet to perish for want of the observations may enable my audience to form a judgment. grace of charity; while the tumultuous inspiration and fac

That the assistance of God is, in some shape or other, ac- tious wonders of the Corinthian Church may prove that (far corded both to excite and sustain the natural feebleness of from being necessarily productive of peace and holiness) such our exertions in the cause of holiness, is apparent from sev- lofty distinctions were often by the perverseness of their eral passages in Scripture. Before Lydia could receive the possessor, themselves converted into a snare. Had Balaam Gospel, it was needful that God should open her heart :" been no prophet, he would have escaped, at least, one fatal it was “ the Lord,” who " added daily to the Church of the temptation to disobey the Lord ; and St. Paul required, we apostles such as should be saved." But not only the com- know, a keen though a merciful chastisement, lest his humencement of our Christian calling, but its furtherance by man pride should be exalted above measure, through the our perseverance in the duties of our profession, is ascribed dazzling abundance of his revelations. by St. Paul to Him," who, having begun a good work in Since, then,"the gifts of holiness and peace are entirely difus, bringeth the same to an end :" and who, as the same ferent from the gift of miraculous power, while yet both the apostle elsewhere expresses himself, “ both worketh in us to one and the other of these are imputed in Scripture to the will and to do of his good pleasure.”

Holy Ghost; the one of two conclusions must, I apprehend, On the abuse of this doctrine, for as such I cannot but con- inevitably follow ; either that both the one and the other are sider it, which Augustin appears to have introduced into the produced by a similar operation on the mind; or else that Church, and which, though both Romish and Protestant they are distinct operations of the same personal agent, the Doctors are divided on the question, is among the latter more everlasting Spirit of God. frequently known by the name of Calvinism, I shall have And, of these admissions, either is sufficient for the puroccasion to speak hereafter. At present I need only observe, pose of my present argument. Either is sufficient to prove that such deductions, even if they necessarily flowed from that the influence of the Holy Ghost, however we define him, the doctrine of spiritual influences, could not be safely urged (on which point, however, my previous Lectures have, I trust, against it by the modern Unitarian, since they apply withi, at left little difficulty,) is productive of aud necessary to proleast, an equal force, against his own hypothesis as to the duce, not only the extraordinary powers but the ordinary predisposition of events and causes, in whose inextricable graces of the Christian Church and character. From his chain we are necessarily, no less passive than the component bounty we derive alike those rare endowments which fall to parts of a cotton-mill.

the lot of a very few, in order that the remainder may, by their And with whatever indignation the Fatalists may dis- means, be edified, and those not less blessed though, perhaps, claim the system of absolute decrees, it is evident that the less brilliant aids, which, though they do not qualify us to effect is the same, whether the character of each individual perform, on earth, the distinguished parts of Prophets or be, from all eternity, elected, or condemned to holiness or Evangelists, are a necessary preparation for those far nobler vice by the immediate agency of God's Spirit; or whether privileges in whose meridian splendour both prophecies the same character be destined to receive its tincture from the shall cease, and tongues shall fail, and knowledge shall vancircumstances through which it must inevitably pass, and of fish away! which the brighter or darker hues no less necessarily com- Whether these sacred influences be they of which the gift municate themselves to the mind, than the ingredients of a hath entitled the Holy Ghost to the character of the Christian dye determine the colour of the web which is immersed in it. Paraclete, must remain for future inquiry. The only difference seems to be, that the Unitarian ascribes to the action of a machine those dispensations in which the Calvinist contemplates the immediate hand of the Almighty; but both the first as well as the second (unless he be really disposed to install the Aristophanic “vortex” in the room of| Jupiter) must, in consistency with his principles, ascribe to

LECTURE VI. the absolute power of God, whatever God is supposed, whether mediately or immediately, to perform.

I tell you the truth ; it is expedient for you that I go away : for if But, further, not only are our birth and growth in holiness I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you ; but if I deimputed in Scripture to the preventing and furthering grace of part, I will send him unto you.John xvi. 7. God : this grace is, moreover, expressly identified with the grace or assistance of that same Holy Ghost, by whose agen- Ii was my endeavour, when I last addressed you, to recy the Prophets were taught futurity, and from whom and move those donbts and to refute those cavils which the disci. by whom the Apostles gained their knowledge of the will ples of modern Unitarianism have suggested against the usual

[ocr errors]

faith which Christians hold in the ordinary and sanctifying cases of divine interference, of which neither the present age influence of the Spirit of God.

of Christianity, nor, perhaps, any preceding age since the But, however certain and however valuable those blessed time of the Apostles, affords us an authentic example. aids may be, which support us, as we believe, through the That measure, then, of internal aid, which the modern perils and the snares of life, and, in the hour of death, as we Church receives, can neither be said to " teach us all things," hope, will not forsake us, it will by no means follow, that it nor to " show us things to come.” And with as little reason is by these definite influences that the Holy Ghost still mani- can the Holy Ghost be asserted to bear public “witness" of fests himself to the Christian world, as the performer of our Christ, and to plead against the world as the patron and adSaviour's promise. To entitle them to this distinction it is vocate of Christ's religion, by an influence which is, connecessary, first, that they should correspond with the des- fessedly, thus gentle and unseen. With the exception, indeed, cription of the Comforter's office as afforded us by Christ of that which the circumstances of the whole discourse seem himself; and, secondly, that they should answer to the neces- evidently to appropriate to the Apostles; the recollection, sary characteristics of a compensation for the loss of Christ, namely, of all the words” which our Lord "had spoken and a privilege peculiar to his followers.

unto them;" no single characteristic can be found in the It is evident, however, that in the description of the Para- description of the ancient Paraclete, which corresponds with clete, as given by our Lord himself, there are many circum- those illapses of ordinary grace which the modern believer stances, which (without a degree of enthusiasm, whereof all hopes and prays for. existing sects of Christians, I believe, are guiltless) we can- We may reasonably, then, conclude, that some other benefit not refer to the internal and ordinary influence of the Holy than the internal aid of the Holy Ghost was intended by our Ghost.

Lord in his memorable conversation with the Apostles. By its agency on the natural faculties of the soul, that in- And this conclusion will receive no small additional strength fluence, indeed, supplies us with recollections ever seasona- from a reference to those general principles which were, I ble to support or to subdue our weak or rebellious nature; it trust, sufficiently established, in the commencement of my hallows our thoughts by attracting them to hallowed objects ; preceding Lecture. it strengthens our virtuous resolutions by renewing on our It was there laid down, from the nature of our Lord's mind those impressions which gave them birth; it elevates declaration, and from the circumstances under which that our courage and humbles our pride by suggesting to our re- gracious declaration was made, that the comfort which the collection, at once, our illustrious destiny and the weakness Holy Ghost should dispense, on his behalf, to his followers, of our unassisted nature.

must have been an advantage confined to his followers alone; By itself it teaches nothing, but without its aid all human a blessing enjoyed neither by the Heathen nor the Jew; a doctrine is but vain. It is this which gives life and strength blessing unknown to the Apostles themselves at the moment to every religious truth which we hear; this which imprints when their Master thus addressed them. on our soul and recalls to our attention those sacred principles And this necessity, though it has never, that I know of, to which our reason has already assented. Distinct from been clearly stated before, has, nevertheless, been virtually conscience, but the vital spark by which our natural con- admitted by the greater part of those who content themselves science is sanctified, it both enables us to choose the paths of with the usual exposition of Christ's assurance. They have life, and to persist in those paths when chosen: and, though, esteemed it the peculiar happiness of the Christian Church, like the free and viewless air, it is only by its effects that we above the condition either of Jews or Heathens, that not only discern it, it is the principle of our moral as the air of our are we instructed in the perfect will of God, but that we are natural health; the soul of our soul, and the Schekinah of our spiritually assisted in its performance; and, identifying the bodily temple.

gift of the Spirit with the process of regeneration, they have But, by itself it teaches nothing. It prepares our hearts, confined its influence to those alone who are purified with the indeed, for the word of life, and it engrafts the word in our waters of baptism. hearts thus opened; but that living word and whatever else of It has been a subject, indeed, of long and angry discussion, knowledge we receive must be drawn froin external sources. whether (admitting, as both sides have admitted, the insepa“ Faith,” we are told,“ must come by hearing, and hearing rable union of the gift of the Spirit and regeneration) the by the word of God;" nor can we hear “ without the voice former were accorded to all who received the outward' sign of a preacher.”

of the latter; or, whether both were the peculiar treasure of The inspiration (as we have already defined it) of religious a far less numerous body than the outwardly baptized, the perception and memory, God's ordinary grace induces the invisible Church of Jesus. But, whether the promise was soul to behold the truth of those doctrines which external given to the professors of our faith in general, or solely to opportunities of knowledge offer to her understanding ; it those who are turned in their hearts and conversations from preserves and refreshes in her memory those principles of darkness to light, in either acceptation it has been supposed action, of which we have already perceived the force; it is to belong to Christians only; and the majority of mankind the blessing of God and his pervading energy, which prospers have been allowed no other assistant in the performance of to our salvation what we learn and what we have learned : their duty than the natural light of reason. but when we pass beyond these limits, we invade the regions If, however, the ordinary gifts of the Spirit were peculiarly of miracle and prophecy; and it is no less inaccurate to sup- appropriate to Christians, the question would naturally arise, pose, that in the ordinary course of things we receive a new and it is a question which either Arminian or Calvanisi would idea from the grace of God, than it would be to maintain that find it a task of no small difficulty to elude or satisfy,—“ By our knowledge is derived from the lamp which lights our what means are men enabled to become members of the body study.

of Christ ?" Like that lamp, the grace of the Most High enables us to If grace be conferred on the faithful only, then must a pretrace, in the oracles of salvation, the things which belong to vious belief be necessary to the reception of grace; and the our peace: like that lamp, it helps us to renew the decayed faithful, before they can have obtained such inward help from impression of knowledge long since obtained ; and, without heaven, must first, by their natural strength, have believed. such heavenly aid, the unassisted soul would be as unequal And this, we know, was the opinion of the more moderate to the pursuit or perception of her eternal interests, as the followers of Pelagius; of the early Socinians of the Rakovian unassisted eye to read in darkness. But, whether by celestial school; and, as may be suspected from a remarkable passage or earthly delight, we can only learn from that which is be- in his first book against Pelagius, of him who in every other fore us; and the one can no more be said to communicate a point was orthodox, the learned and excellent Jerome. It is new revelation to our souls, than the other to place a fresh an opinion, however, directly contrary, not only to the acknowvolume on our table.

ledged tenets of that Church to which we have sworn alle I do not say, that grace does not possess an active power, giance; but, which is of an importance far more awful, to the which not only enables us to attend and recollect, but frequently most pointed expressions of Scripture, which teach us, that compels our attention and recollection. Nor am I rash enough without the grace of God, no man can come to Christ; nor, to deny, that God may, by any operation or any medium what- consequently, receive his Gospel. But if these sacred truths ever, communicate to our souls, when he thinks proper, any be conceded by the defenders of the popular hypothesis, they imaginable, or, to us at present, unimaginable knowledge. But will find themselves involved in the hopeless absurdity of this may be without offence maintained, (and I am the more regarding faith as the cause or occasion of grace, and grace anxious to state it clearly, because it is this particular point the cause of faith; or, in other words, of making the same on which enthusiasm is most frequently mistaken,) that it is thing the cause and effect, the antecedent and conseqrent. by, the illustration, not the revelation of truth, ihat God's Nor will their statement become less defective, if we admit Spirit ordinarily assists us; and that the latter is one of those the distinction usual with divines between preventing and

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


assisting grace, of which the one precedes, the other follows, prove to salvation :-an admission altogether inconsistent the mental action of belief in the Gospel.

with a belief in absolute decrees, and sufficient in itself to For, if the first of these be limited, as the natural meaning prove, that the assistance of the Holy Ghost is not a peculiar of the term should seem to limit it, to the implanting in our privilege of the gospel. mind those good desires which cannot be brought to effect For if none are punished for not performing impossibilities, without the subsequent furtherance of the other, it is plain and if some are punished for refusing to receive the gospel of that preventing grace by itself could do no more than induce in Christ, it is plain, that such suflerers must at one time have our hearts a perception of the happiness enjoyed by the faith-had it in their power to avail themselves of that gracious offer. ful, a desire that God would help our unbelief; but could But this is a power which is only conferred by the influence not, without additional help from the same good Spirit, con- of God's Spirit; and it follows that his influence is bestowed duct us either to external confession or hearty internal con- on some who neither are nor ever will be Christians. viction of the truth which is in Christ Jesus.

Nor must we suppose that this influence is, as Clagett So that to the very act of faith itself, even to the lowest seems to intimate, attendant only on the immediate hearing degree of faith, both species of grace are necessary; and the of the gospel; and given to be resisted or improved by those reasoning of those who maintain that the assistance of the individuals alone to whom the glad tidings of salvation have Holy Ghost is, at once, the cause and the privilege of Chris- extended. tianity, must remain as inconsistent as ever.

If we do not maintain, with Pelagius, that our unassisted It will be urged, indeed, by some, and their method of nature can quicken itself to faith and everlasting life, we canstating the question is free, apparently, from the objections not allow, what St. Paul expressly teaches, that the Patrito which the ordinary hypothesis is liable, that, though faith archs and ancient Israelites are fallen asleep in hope, unless be of grace and not grace of faith, yet is faith in Christ, with we at the same time allow, that those worthies of the elder all the blessed fruits which spring from it, inseparably con- world had obtained the same graces of the Holy Ghost, as nected with grace as its sure and necessary consequence; and those by the assistance whereof we hope to imitate their that, therefore, Christians only receive the help of the Holy righteous and memorable examples. Ghost, because such help is given to none who are not, Nor can any reader of those sacred poems which, though thereby, irresistibly called to Christianity.

composed under the law, express, in almost every line, those But, if we avoid, by this statement, the inconsistency of feelings and virtues, which it is the end of the gospel to dethe usual opinion, we avoid it only by incurring the yet more velope, entertain a doubt that the operations of grace, whereby portentous contradictions which are involved in the system the psalmist was awakened, and purified, and guided, and of Augustin, Bradwardine and Calvin.

established in holiness, were the same with those to which For, as none have, without the aid of the Holy Ghost, we daily look up for help and hope and victory. Nor, though received the religion of Jesus, so if, as they maintain, none we should omit or neglect the testimonies of the later Rabhave received the Holy Ghost, excepting those who are bins, who ascribe, like ourselves, all goodness to the Spirit's thereby inevitably conducted to embrace the Gospel, it will dispensation, can we venture to disregard the authority of follow, not only that these last have believed in Christ in our Lord himself, who, under the yoke of the Law, and long, consequence of an irresistible act of the Almighty, but that before the Paraclete was foretold, assured the multitude of all who have rejected him have chosen thus unhappily, not his hearers, that his Father would not deny the Holy Spirit from perverseness, but because they could not possibly have to those who asked him. chosen otherwise; not from wilful obstinacy, but from a blind- It is true, indeed, as the admirable Bishop Bull inculcates, ness which it was no more in their power to remedy, than, that these spiritual gifts, like the gifts of pardon and salvaby their unassisted strength, to scale heaven.

tion, though they extended to those under the Law of Moses, And, if it be further true, which is allowed on all hands, were not derived from the Law itself, but were purchased by that the rejection of the Gospel by the unconverted Jews and that foreseen expiation of sins on the rock of Calvary, Heathens was imputed to them by God as, in itself, a heinous whereof the blood and the merits gave efficacy to the sacrifice sin, and will be punished with more grievous damnation; of Abel, and won a pardon for the deep offence of David. that conclusion must follow which every modern Calvanist at But the assertion, however true in itself, is irrelevant to the least, with amiable inconsistency, disclaims, not only that present inquiry, since I am not maintaining, that the power the Almighty punishes men for rejecting what they had no of repentance is given to man through any other than the power to accept, but that he offers (I almost fear to speak it, merits of Jesus Christ; but I am urging, that through those but it is necessary that the natural tendency of every doc- merits the ancient Jews received it as well as the Christians, trine should be known) salvation to the reprobate on terms and that the promise of a Comforter, which had respect to a which they cannot accept, in order that, by this, their seeming future and peculiar benefit, could not be fulfilled by the conrefusal, he may obtain a pretext for punishing them more ti nuance of an ancient and general blessing. severely. A statement this, which involves in itself, as ap- Nor would this conclusion be materially affected, though plied to the Father of truth and mercy, a degree of blasphe- we should also grant, as the same learned Prelate supposes, mous extravagance which can hardly be conceived without and as in itself is not improbable, though it be not revealed impiety; which imputes to God a conduct from which the in Scripture with sufficient clearness to enable us to assent to warmest defenders of the hypothesis would, in their own it with unqualified conviction; that, not only the external mopersons, have shrunk with abhorrence, and which the angels tives to holiness, (which are irrelevant to the present inquiry,) who excel in power and might, would hardly have brought but the internal and sanctifying Spirit, whereby such motives as a railing accusation against the enemy of God and man and knowledge are improved to individual salvation, has been himself!

given in more ample measure to the Christian than to the But if, to avoid or to soften this horrible corollary, we sup- Jew. For a difference simply modal was surely not des. pose with Owen, that those miserable persons to whom the cribed by our Lord as an advent of the Spirit in a new and gospel is a savour of death are punished, not because they unknown character; and the gift of a new privilege is no less were unable to believe and repent, but because they did not distinct from the improvement of one possessed already, than desire to do so, that they loved the darkness to which they the plantation of a tree is different from its silent growth were condemned, more than the light into which they had no when planted. possible hope of entering; it may be urged in reply, that to But the ordinary graces of the Spirit were not confined to be content with an inevitable condition, is a part rather wise the house of Israel alone. The Heathens themselves, as may than wicked; and that if it was in their power to love the be proved, both from heathen and sacred testimony, were by light, it was in their power to choose between the light and no means utterly devoid of them. In support, however, of the darkness.

this assertion, and, since the case of these last is, doubtless, For it is allowed on all hands, that the obstacle which con- extremely different from the cases of the Jews and ancient demns the reprobate to impenitence is seated in their will Patriarchs, it will be necessary, and it is not impossible to alone; and that, if they heartily desire to devote themselves demonstrate, first, that the circumstances in which they were to the service of Christ, that merciful Redeemer will in no placed were not different from those under which the Holy wise cast them away.

Ghost is actually promised ; and, secondly, that they have If Owen, therefore, teaches that the reprobate may choose evinced the reality of such assistance by the only proof of between light and darkness, he must either mean that they which the fact is ordinarily capable. have, without grace, power to make their option, (an asser- And here it will, in the first place, be readily conceded, tion which is Pelagianism no less explicit than that which that though we presume not to limit the undeclared and unealled forth the bitterest censures of Augustin,) or else, that covenanted mercies of the Most High, yet, in the ordinary grace is given them which they may optionally resist or im- course of his dealings with mankind, and, so far as those


dealings are made known to us in the sacred writings, there me, By Plato the creation and directing care of the world must be always premised a certain portion of external infor- are repeatedly and expressly ascribed to him. By Aristotle mation, without which those internal suggestions of which his unity, his excellence, his omnipotence, and eternal acwe are speaking can have no previous principles to which totivity, are, with yet more precision of language, asserted and refer, no data on which to operate.

maintained. The same exalted notions of the divine nature It is true, and it should never be forgotten, that as the are inculcated in the preface to the Locrian Code, and the Spirit of God is the governing providence of the world, the various Pythagorean fragments preserved by Stobæus. Of Disposer of all earthly occurrences; so the outward means of Seneca, and of Thales, as quoted by Cicero, the opinions are knowledge and of grace, no less than the spirit of internal sufficiently known, as well as the testimony of Menander improvement, are accorded to us by the same free bounty. reprobating the idolatry of his countrymen, and instructing But, where the first of these is denied, we cannot perceive by them that God is “every where, and that he beholdeth all any light either of nature or revelation how the second is to things.” And, though the Epicurean taint be sometimes, act on the soul. For as grace (this ordinary grace at least) unfortunately, visible in the philosophical writings of Cicero; of itself teaches nothing; for, it it did, it would, as we have yet, in the midst of all his contradictions and inconsistencies, already seen, be no less than miraculous inspiration : it must though the faith of the moralist himself may frequently, perground, as is plain, its awakening and supporting faculty on haps, be questioned ; yet is it apparent, that the public a reference to previous knowledge. And, consequently, be- decency and established opinion of his time, (and they are fore we can assign to the heathen world the inspiration of the sentiments of the people at large, not those of a single attention and of memory, it will be necessary to show that sceptical statesman, which I am here concerned to vindicate), such a knowledge was accorded them concerning the source forbade him to deny, in express words at least, the existence and measure of their duty, as, when faithfully received and of a Being such as is here represented. recollected seasonably, might enable them to render an ac- And that the God whom the heathen thus acknowledged ceptable service to their almighty Creator and Redeemer. as supreme was, in truth, the same with him whom all nature

Now that degree of previous knowledge on which a justi- ought to reverence, is apparent not only from the propriety of fiying faith may be founded, is, in the case of Enoch, stated their notions respecting his nature and attributes, but from by St. Paul to be the knowledge of God's being and attributes. the infallible testimony of St. Paul. “He that cometh to God must first believe that he is, and That great Apostle of the Gentiles came not, if we believe that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” his own express declaration, to reveal to them a new divinity, Unless, then, it can be satisfactorily shown, that the heathen but that God, whose existence their poets and their sages had had a knowledge of God, and that they believed in his jus-tanght, and whom they had themselves, in former ages, how. tice and his power to reward men according to their works, it ever ignorantly, worshipped. He acknowledges that, among is apparent that, the foundation not being laid, we may vainly the darkest heathen, the Almighty had not left himself withlook for a superstructure; and that, so far as the lights ex- out a witness; and while, in the person of a jealous Hebrew, tend which are supplied by God in the sacred Volume, we he lays to the charge of the Gentile world that they glorified must not venture to ascribe even their fairest outward actions not God as became his nature, he admits, at the same time, to the ordinary assistance of God's grace. And if, on the and he grounds the criminality of their conduct on this adother hand, it shall appear, that the heathen did really pos- mission, that they were not without a knowledge of God. sess even this, the lowest rank of religious information, it is And, grievously as we must deplore the apparently unino less evident that we cannot, if we assent to the authority versal prevalence of idolatry and its consequent vices among of the Epistle to the Hebrews, deny them the possibility at them, yet must we, at the same time, remember, that a simileast of receiving the further aids of the Holy Ghost. lar depravation of manners had, not unfrequently, threatened

For when the Apostle tells us, that without this know-the extinction of religious truth among the ancient Israelites ledge, or lowest degree of faith, no man can come to God, he themselves. evidently implies, at the same time, the reverse of this pro- Amid the apostasy of these last, however, the Almighty position, and teaches us, that where this knowledge and faith failed not to preserve a remnant: and a similar remnant, as are possessed, a man may come to God, and like Enoch, is apparent by the works of their leading philosophers, had please him. Whether Enoch himself were better taught, is been also preserved among the heathen. a question which I need not now examine; and, however The heathen, therefore, imperfect as was the glimpse probable in itself, is that which is neither told us by St. Paul, which they continued to enjoy of the true God, his bature, nor was, perhaps, revealed to him. But St. Paul is reason- and his attributes, were at no time so entirely blind as to be ing from the fact of Enoch’s acceptance with God, that he deprived of that saving degree of knowledge which is the must have enjoyed a saving knowledge of him; and, conse- necessary groundwork for internal grace; and the apparent quently, the limits, at which he fixes the extent of such a and shining virtues of many among their number are an arguknowledge, must needs have been, how barely soever, suffi- ment that such grace was sometimes not denied them. From cient, in his opinion, to conduct its possessor to Paradise. its fruit the tree is recognized; and not only by the authority

But we know that a man cannot come to God except God of the gospel, but by the admission of the best and wisest draw him; that he cannot please God, nor persevere in holi- among the pagans themselves, are we taught that our mortal ness, excepting he have the gift of God's good Spirit, and it nature cannot, without the inspiration of God, be quickened must therefore follow, that the mere belief in a Deity, in his to acts of noble self-denial or to sentiments of genuine mojustice, his mercy, his power, is sufficient to entitle him to rality. the visitation and comfort of grace, and to raise him, through It is unnecessary, and it would be presumptuous, to recal grace, to a share in the mercies of Christ, and to the inherit- your attention to those maxims and precedents of heroic exance of the Christian heaven.

cellence with which our childhood and our youth are chiefly It remains then to be proved, that this knowledge was conversant; those lessons from which, next to the sacred really possessed by those ancient heathen nations, of which, oracles themselves, we form our tempers and enlarge our unas we are best acquainted with their history and writings, derstandings. But I may be allowed to observe, what is not we are enabled to speak with greatest certainty; and which, so generally noticed, thai, like ourselves, the sages and beas they extended over the most populous and civilized coun- roes of antiquity were accustomed to ascribe whatever of either tries of the world, may be regarded as no insufficient specimen good or great or wise was found among men, to the influence of the general condition of mankind before the Messiah's of a present and pervading Deity. coming, no less than of those to whom from remoteness of The comedian Epicharmus, in a remarkable fragment presituation or from other causes not imputable to themselves, served by Clemens Alexandrinus, describes that inspiration of the light of the gospel has not hitherto arisen in glory. And, wisdom which proceeds from God, as the source of all truth if there be any tribes so savage as not to have attained the and of all knowledge necessary to man. Menander taught degree of religious knowledge which the Greeks and Ro- his countrymen, that “God himself is the understanding of mans enjoyed, we may leave, without alarm, a proportion so the virtuous. The Theages and Epinomis of Plato inculeate trifling to the indulgence of him from whose care neither the necessity of the Divine assistance and blessing on our idiots nor madmen are rejected ; and with whom, we may be endeavours, in terms little different from those which a Chrissure, external impediments are as ample an excuse as natural tian would employ in speaking of grace. Even Cicero exincapacity, for the ignorance of good and evil.

pressed his own opinion, or the opinion of his countrymen, That the ancient heathens acknowledged a divinity, the when he observed, that no man could attain to excellence Creator and Governor of the world, it would be, before my “ without a certain divine inspiration;" and the expressions present audience, a presumptuous waste of time to demon-of Seneca on this subject may be read with improvement and strate at the length to which the subject would naturally carry delight, by the most rational and pious among Christians.

« PreviousContinue »