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THE ILLUMINATING POWER OF THE GOSPEL.
2 Cor. iv. 4.
The light of the glorious Gospel.
“ The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; neither indeed can he, because they are spiritually discernod,” is a declaration of holy writ, which finds its attestation in the innumerable prejudices and passions which cloud the researches of the understanding, and oppose the most formidable obstacles to the reception of divine truth. It is a declaration further and most conclusively established by the fact, that the human intellect, in its highest state of natural perfection, strengthened and sharpened by the discipline of intense and profound investigation, was unable to draw aside the vail that concealed the spiritual and eternal world. Reason, by her most vigorous efforts, could never settle on a certain basis the principles and rules of virtue ; nor could she, by all her soothings, calm the solicitude with which man contemplated that futurity, into the dark abyss of which he was hastening. It is, therefore, an essential requisite in a system designed for the salvation of man, that it should reveal and establish VOL. III.
those truths necessary to his duty, and his happiness here and hereafter, which human reason could not discover.
The “ light of the glorious Gospel” possesses this illuminating power.
The Gospel illuminates,-
It sheds the brightest lustre on every subject connected with the spiritual welfare and happiness of man; it leaves nothing to conjecture, to uncertain deductions, to dubious hope; and brings down divine truth from her celestial abode, in that simple and resplendent form which is calculated to excite for her a cordial reception. That spiritual and divine knowledge which reason ardently but ineffectually sought, the Gospel has revealed to the humblest understanding. Before its glorious light appeared, various and contending deities divided among themselves the dominion of the universe, and received the acknowledgment and homage not only of the illiterate multitude, but of the learned and the mighty. But the Gospel places at the head of the creation, which he called into existence, and on the throne of supreme dominion, one eternal and infinite God. The sensual imagination of man clothed the deities to whom he rendered homage with corporeal natures, with the wants and imperfections, the licentious desires and criminal passions of the human heart. But the Gospels, discarding these absurd and corrupting notions of Deity, reveals God as an infinite and eternal intelligence, whose attributes place him at an infinite distance from imperfection and sin, and constitute him the source of purity and goodness as well as of power. The corrupt nations celebrated the worship of their divinities in rites the most licentious, and sought to propitiate their displeasure by sacrifices the most inhuman. But the Gospel of Christ directs the worshippers of the Almighty Father to offer to him the acceptable homage of an enlightened and grateful heart, and to worship him who is a spirit, in spirit and in truth. Ineffectual were the efforts of the human intellect to ascertain the mode by which the holy and just Sovereign of the universe corld become reconciled to man, the wilful transgressor of his laws; painful was the suspense, whether all the costly splendour of heathen worship, whether the hecatombs that dyed the altars with human blood, could propitiate the wrath of an indignant heaven. But the Gospel of Christ exhibits the divine perfections meeting in holy concord at the cross of Christ, holiness vindicated, justice satisfied, and mercy triumphing in the allsufficient atonement which a divine victim there made. The feeble lights of reason could not unfold the destinies of futurity, nor quiet in the soul the dreadful apprehension, that the grave might extinguish the powers and sensible ties of that spirit which panted for immortality. But“ the light of the glorious Gospel” dispels every doubt, and confirms every feeble hope. The dark recesses of the tomb are opened to the eye of Christian faitheternal day dawns upon it-it is the path by which the soul passes to the region of immortal joys.
Blessed Sun of Righteousness, how glorious the lustre which thy sacred beams cast upon truths that it was impossible for man to contemplate without the deepest emotion and anxiety! Blessed light of the Gospel, sent in mercy from the eternal Father of lights; we behold in thy revelations, (divine truth shining forth resplendent and glorious,)--the infinite and eternal Jehovah, arrayed in attributes the most illustrious and attractive, commanding, from the throne of righteous dominion, our enlightened homage and obedience; we behold a divine Saviour making a full propitiation for man's guilt, restoring the offender to the favour of his God, and preparing for the heir of sin and death the bliss of an immortal existence.
But further—the Gospel illuminates by the simplicity and clearness of its precepts.
These convey the most convincing and affecting instruction through the whole circle of religious, moral, and social duty; confirming what was before doubtful; enlightening what was before obscure; carrying to higher perfection virtues which were before acknowledged; and revealing and establishing duties most essential and important, of which reason was before ignorant, or which, in arrogance and pride, she had rejected. The pure and heavenly rules of morality are delivered in language concise yet perspicuous, sublime yet level to the meanest capacity.
The ancient schools of philosophers entertained contradictory ideas as to the foundation of morality, and the ends and the rewards of duty; and while they were engaged in refined disquisitions concerning the truth and importance of their respective theories, the claims and the excellence of virtue were wholly concealed from the corrupt multitude. But the Gospel, referring the obligation of virtue to the will of the infinite and all-wise Lawgiver, and constituting, as the end and the reward of duty, our own spiritual happiness, and the attainment of the everlasting favour of our Maker and Judge, has thus erected, on a basis stable as the eternal throne, the foundation of virtue ; and in the discharge of duty, engaged, by motives powerful as the endless and infinite bliss of heaven, all the affections of the soul. While heathen philosophy exhibited, in the most glowing and attractive colours, passions which, while they flattered the pride and roused the ambition of corrupt nature, were destructive of the real perfection and peace of the soul, and carried desolation and misery through the world, she rejected with scorn from her imperious code, those meek and gentle dispositions which, making the individual happy, contributed most powerfully to the happiness of others. These benign and amiable virtues the Gospel enjoins as essential qualifications for future blessedness, while she rejects those haughty and sanguinary passions, which so often visit the earth with misery, and assimilate men to the fiends of darkness. In fine, the code of morality which the Gospel enjoins, sheds luminous and satisfactory light on every part of duty, exalts and establishes the obligation and the rewards of virtue, and exhibits her in the simple and engaging lustre of that heavenly wisdom from which she emanates.