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He may not close his eyes to the secular grievances of the times, to the disorders of the social system, to political abuses, and international evils. But he should ever remember, that his chief reformatory agency, as to all these matters, is the simple preaching of the gospel, the winning of soul after soul to Christ. And this, he may be assured, is the mightiest of all agencies.
The spirituality of our Lord's preaching was apparent, also, in his manner of exhibiting divine things. It was seen in his treatment of religious forms and ceremonies. These he did not, indeed, wholly repudiate, but he made them, comparatively, of little account. To the Jews, burdened not only with the Mosaic ritual, but with superadded traditions of the elders, he said, “ Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." In reproof of their formality, he quoted the declaration of God by the prophet, “I will have mercy and not sacrifice." “ God,” he taught them, “is a Spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth.” He cast no contempt on rites divinely appointed, but he laid no undue stress upon them. He gave not the slightest countenance to those who contend for certain ceremonies, as if the salvation of the world were at stake, and who exclude from their fellowship all who differ from them. The circumstantials, the drapery, the mere appendages and symbols of religion, he ever represented as of very inferior consequence. In all his preaching, the weightier matters of the law, and the great essentials of the gospel, were the all-absorbing topics. In all his inculcations of religious duty, we may add, he had respect chiefly to the inward life. At an early period in his ministry, he refuted the superficial interpretations of the law current among the Jews. He taught them that God's commandment was exceeding broad, and that it had respect primarily and mainly to the inner man. He was always chiefly intent on the rectification of the spirit. “Out of the abundance of the heart,” his doctrine was, “ the mouth speaketh ;” “out of the heart” proceedeth all manner of wickedness. He aimed at the reformation of the whole man, by setting right the foundations and elements of character, the sources and springs of action.
In all this how wise and salutary was his example! How vain are all attempts at reform, which are chiefly directed to the outward life! If ever so successful, they would still come
far short of God's standard—they would fail to fit the soul for heaven. But in the nature of things, they must be comparatively powerless. The farther you depart from the spiritualities of religion, the less you have to do with conscience. She seconds
your efforts but feebly, when they have little respect to her chief sphere of jurisdiction, the world within. And if, by other means, you succeed in producing some external change, it will probably prove but temporary. You have been cleansing the stream, while the fountain is still foul and turbid. The lava has been pent up for a little season, and flowers have been scattered around, but it will soon burst forth, the more terrible and destructive for the very restraint it has suffered. Who has not observed, how utterly inefficacious that preaching has soon become, whose expositions and injunctions, reproofs and hortatives, have had to do chiefly with the outward conduct ? A congregation under such training will soon remind the most superficial observer of “ the heath in the desert.” The noise, and stir, and bustle, to which clerical empiricism at first gave rise, will soon subside into the stillness and quietude of death. A sort of galvanic treatment may produce startling spasms for a time, but even these will soon cease. To drop the figure, it will come to pass, ere long, that though the preacher stand up in the holy place, and utter the most earnest entreaties, and the most awful rebukes and denunciations, he will yet seem to himself and to others, “as one that beateth the air.” How different the result of eminently spiritual preaching, such as our Lord's! It bids streams gush forth in the desert. It forms not merely the cold and lifeless statue, but animates it with fire from heaven. If the heart be right, all will be right. If the life of God be but begun in the soul of man, you shall see in all the visible character the outgoings of that life. Let the gospel minister, then, imitate most carefully the spirituality of his Lord's teaching
We may further illustrate the point in hand, by reference to the motives with which Christ was wont to enforce his teaching. His preaching in this respect was at a great remove from that mawkish sentimentalism, which may suit well enough the pages of an album, or an annual, but has little effect on man's higher susceptibilities, and is miserably out of place in the pulpit. Nor were his persuasives drawn, as is sometimes the case, from the
CHARACTERISTICS OF CHRIST'S PREACHING.
twilight region of natural theology-from the cold and cheerless sphere of the heathen moralist. He had no resemblance, he afforded not the slightest countenance, to the preacher of whom it has been well said:
“ How oft when Paul has served him for a text,
Has Plato, Tully, Epictetus preached !" The morality he inculcated was enforced by highly spiritual motives. It was in this respect eminently evangelical. It was closely linked with the cross. Its sanctions and incitements were mainly gathered from the great scheme of redemption.-
OWEN ON INDEPENDENCY. I set myself seriously to inquire into the controversies then warmly agitated in these nations. Of the Congregational way I was not acquainted with any one person, minister or other; nor had I to my knowledge seen any more than one in my life. My acquaintance lay wholly with ministers and people of the Presbyterian way. But sundry books being published on either side, I perused and compared them with the Scriptures and with one another, according as I received ability from God. After a general view of them, as was my manner in other controversies, I fixed on one to take under peculiar consideration, which seemed most methodically and strongly to maintain that which was contrary, as I thought, to my present persuasion. This was Mr. Cotton's book "of the Keys.” The examination and confutation of which, merely for my own satisfaction, with what diligence and sincerity I was able, I engaged in. What progress I made in that undertaking I can manifest to any by my discourses on that subject, and animadversions on that book yet abiding by me. In the pursuit and management of this work, quite beside and contrary to my expectation, at a time wherein I could expect nothing on that account but ruin in this world, without the knowledge, or advice of, or conference with any one person of that judgment, I was prevailed on to receive those principles to which I had thought to have set myself in opposition. And indeed this way of impartially examining all things by the word, comparing causes with causes, and things with things, laying aside all prejudiced respects to persons or present traditions, is a course that I would admonish all to beware of, who would avoid the danger of being made Independents.
IS THE WORLD MAD ? Is man intended for immortality? If he be—what is this life to him? Certainly of no consequence, but as it fits him for immortal happiness or misery. He then is surely a madman who gives his chief attention to this life and the things of it. The accomplishment of his temporal schemes requires a world of thought and labor; which after all are a great deal more likely to miscarry than to succeed. But if they do succeed so as to raise him to wealth and power—is he happy? Or had it not been better for him to have been poor and powerless? If the afflictions that attend on his worldly exaltation have not convinced him of his mistake, and he be still fool enough to be pleased with prosperity; his delusion must vanish at the near approach of a death which must probably throw his too worldly mind, at least into a total uncertainty about his condition in eternity. Now though this man had become a Cræsus or a Cæsar, hath he not made a very little man of himself? These two stand on record, the first for his captivity, the second for his assassination. The christian may and therefore ought to plan for somewhat higher and more permanent. Poor Cræsus! Wretched Cæsar! As heathens they ought, for they might have pursued a wiser and a better scheme of life as Solon and Atticus did. But for a christian, with heaven and eternity open to him, to scheme for a minute portion of the riches possessed by the former, or for a paltry share of the power to which the latter attained, is exhibiting an example of greater contentment and humility than his religion requires of him. There is a species of riches and also of power infinitely exceeding all this world can raise us to, which may be arrived at with absolute certainty and with far less struggle than the painted clouds and shadows pursued here below. The worst we can say of Alexander and Cæsar is that their lives were founded on a mistake and passed in the dark; but what can be said of a christian in broad daylight eagerly pursuing what he knows to be trifles, in preference to that which he confesses to be of infinite moment? What a saint might he be if he had any idea of the right avarice and ambition! What says your counting-house-your evening festivity-your closet? Are you quite sane ?
THE LAW OF GOD.
By Dr. Duffield, U. S. There is no proof that God has ever altered the provisions of his moral law, or ever will. The law given on Mount Sinai, and published by an audible voice in the ten commandments, was not then for the first time enacted. The law is coeval with our race, and is wisely, wonderfully, and benevolently adapted to the nature of man. It has been enacted for the express purpose of promoting the happiness of mankind. A deviation from it he declared, in the very infancy of our race, would be ruinous. Its violation would be followed with death, and death has followed in one regular and steady flow from the first parent of the race till the present hour. It is true, that the specific form in which God presented his law was that of positive statute, prohibiting Adam and Eve from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; but this was a mere circumstance, intended to put to the test the obedience of the first pair. It was so prescribed, and they stood in such a relation to God, that its violation was equivalent to the violation of every precept of the decalogue. The violation of a positive statute, which was made the test of obedience to an entire code, would not fail to be regarded as the violation of all; and indeed the principles of a man’s conduct, which are too weak to prevent him from violating the law in one respect, cannot be safely relied on in any other, were temptations are equally strong, and circumstances equally favourable to sin. Hence the Spirit of God has declared, “He that offends in one point is guilty of all.” It was the same law, enjoined on man in innocence, that now asserts its claims and authority over man in guilt and rebellion. God punished the violation of that law, in the first instance, with death, and death yet reigns over the guilty children of men. The constitution remains inviolate on the part of God, although broken on the part of man. His enactment of the moral law on Sinai, and the explicit and peculiarly pointed and solemn exposition of that law by Jesus Christ, show plainly, that whatever man may think and hope, God has not changed the code under which we live.
The apostle Paul has shown that the heathen world are all under the same law, and that far as the race is found, God is