Billeder på siden

as evening sendeth forth her constellations to rule over the darkness of the night. And as astrology believeth of the stars which come forth at even-tide, these


of intellectual light do, without a fable, shed various influence over the lives and fortunes of man—some, like the martial planet, stirring him to strife; some melting him to tender love, some rousing him to gay and jovial moods, and some foredooming him to the saturnine fates of melancholy and misfortune. Likewise, as in the starry firmament there is but one blessed light which hath in it any steady guidance to the lost wanderer or the sea-faring voyager, so amongst those various lights in the firmament of mind, there is but the solitary light of religion which hath in it any consola- .' tion or direction to guide the soul of man-faring through the perilous gulf of death onward to eternity. Therefore, it seemeth to me, that from the Press there should at all times issue forth, amidst its teeming company, some forms of religious truth, to guide the course of those who are ever influenced by its novelties. On which account, though we should say nothing that has not been better said before, we will, out of regard to the constant appetite of the age for novelty, and out of pure love to the good old cause, set forth our opinion.

I fancy, that if the Spirit of God were to choose out twelve men from the house of God, with whom to finish the great work of converting men, especially the men of this country, and for that purpose were, as on a second Pentecost, to bestow upon them special gifts, the gift of writing powerfully would be a chief one. For the press hath come to master the pulpit in its power; and to be able to write powerful books, seems to me a greater accomplishment of a soldier of Christ, than to be able to preach powerful discourses. The one is a dart, which, though well-directed, may fly wide of the mark, and having once spent its strength is use. less for ever;-the other is the ancient catapulta, which will discharge you a thousand darts at once in a thousand different directions; and it hath an apparatus for making more darts, so that it can continue to discharge them for ever. To use this most powerful of intellectual and moral instruments in the service of Christ is a noble ambition, which should possess the soul of every Christian.

He doth in a manner multiply his soul thereby, and give to his ideal thoughts a habitation and a nåme; his ethereal spirit he doth in a way condense and present for the use of others, as they do the inyisible steam of liquors; he doth rectify it, he doth


make of it an aqua-vita, an elixir of life, to the refreshing and saving of many souls. Therefore I do not hesitate to confess, that in this essay in the cause of Christ upon field of religious literature, I feel like the knight that breaks his first lance in the cause of honour; and though I love not the fashion of modern books, conceiving them to be timid, cramped, and uncheerful, with little of the freedom and mellowness of the olden time, still for the sake of Him whom I heartily serve, I will venture at every risk, though in an unwonted costume of language, and a very ungainly style of sentiment. • To go on, therefore, with my purpose of serving my

Saviour by a printed book, I call the attention of men to the way in which they hope to pass the solemn tribunal, and escape the wrath to come. Various are the shifts to which the mind hath recourse in its hopes. But all hope is at an end when taith cometh into action, which is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Now the object of faith is revelation, which revelation, upon the subject of judgment, we have laid down at length in the preceding pages. From which, if any one now feeth to sail away into unrevealed and unknown regions of hope, then he is a dreamer whom it is idle to argue with. For revelation is a law to hope, as it is to fear, and fixeth bounds beyond which they cannot pass; and he who believeth revelation is brought under the power of its truths by faith, just as he who beholds the outward world is brought under the power of its realities by sense. So that it were just as absurd for a man who sees a river before him, to hope it may be dry land, and so plunge into it and be drowned, as it is for a man who sees wrath written in revelation against his way of life, to hope it may not be wrath but forgiveness, and so rush upon the bosses of the Almighty's buckler, as the wild horse rusheth into the battle. Revelation is the truth of things unknown, and hath to the future the same relation which experience hath to the past; and it were as absurd to believe that what hath happened to us in life has not been so, or to hope it has not been so, (if that form of expression may be allowed,) as it is to hope that what God hath revealed against characters of our stamp will not happen. We are wont to repose all in the largeness of God's mercy; but revelation is a rule to the infinitude of the Almighty's attributes, any one of which is a sea to swallow speculation up, were it not for the shores which the Al. mighty hath himself set to them in the word of his truth. So that it is as absurd to hope that his justice will give way when it comes to the push before his mercy, and leave us in safety, though doomed by justice to destruction, as it would be to believe that his justice will strengthen itself and sweep all before it, devouring even those who trusted in Christ, and attached themselves to his cause. Revelation is a stiff and rigid thing, like stubborn fact, and will not be disputed: we may fancy and feign, we may quibble and dogmatize, but if we believe, that belief plants a deathblow in our imaginings, and demolisheth all the strong holds of our sophistry. If revelation have propounded ad escape, there is one; if it have not propounded an escape from judgment and wrath, why then escape there is none.

There is only one position, that the revelation if not true is a fable, is a lie which will deliver men of an unchristian character from an unchristian destiny. Those who hold that position may hope for forgiveness, and trust in mercy to what extent they please, for they are sailing in a sea of darkness. The Deist may construct a god after his own wishes, to quiet his fears or indulge his passion or license his affections; to palliate adultery, murder, every vice and crime, as the ancient heathens did; and may run the chance of that idol of imagination holding good in the end. But for a Believer in revealed truth to do the same, is first to give his belief the lie, and then to lanch into the same sea of trust which the Deist doth. These Deists are always shedding sneers upon the Christian, because he believes. The Christian doth believe what he hath upon good evidence adopted. But what doth the Deist do? He believes that for which he hath no evidence at all; he takes God upon the credit of his own crude fancy, he rests his faith upon an invention of his brain, an invention framed out of a thou. sand incoherent thoughts, suggested by limited and erroneous knowledge, and distorted by a thousand likings and dislikings, in no two minds alike. This creature, more deformed than sin, and more changeable than Proteus, the credulous Deist believes to be the living and true God. And if the man will be mad and act upon his dreams, he can take the folly and the shame that will come of such fatuity. But for the Christian to do so, who believes in the God of revelation, is the highest pitch of crime added to an equal amount of folly, and is not once to be endured. Hath not God first written himself upon tables of stone, then upon the countenance of his everlasting Son, then given varieties of the same in the renewed lives of his saints? This

believing, we would erase all, and write him with the imagination of the natural mind, which knoweth of him nothing at all! Which is to dash the tables of stone in pieces, to trample under foot the divinity of Christ, to give the lie to all his disciples who have evidenced him since, to give the lie to our own avowed belief, and do a thousand other inconsistent and wicked things which it is tedious to mention.

Therefore, dismissing speculation upon a subject on which God hath written unchangeable oracles, and directing the flight of hope with the hand of faith, we again come to the question, How are men to escape Judgment and the wrath to come? The frightful consequences which would ensue if God were to relent or relax the letter of his threatenings, not to this earth alone, but through all the orders of creatures, whose very being dependeth upon the faithful word of his mouth, have been exhibited in various parts of this discourse. It is impossible, it were a lie, that God should prescribe a constitution like that we have portrayed, and, to bring us up to its performance as far as we can be brought up, devise the inventions of the Gospel, and place us under the powers of the world to come, only after all to disannul it through feebleness of execution, and suffer such to escape, as had neither listened to his voice, nor revered his statutes, nor minded any of his councils. It is impossible, it were a lie, that God should delineate a form of acquittal, and a form of condemnation so exactly adjusted to the constitution which he had given, and, having promulgated the same to men, should in the end defeat his revealed purpose through flexibility of nature, and listen at the bar to those who listened not to him their life long, and addressed him not, save in words of execration or contempt. It is impossible, it were a lie, that God should open up and amply unfold a paradise of life into which nothing enters that defileth or maketh a lie, where is no disturbance of evil nor sorrowful fruit of sin; that he should also open up and amply unfold a furnace of hell, into which evil and sin, and death and the grave, and unregenerate sinners, and the devil and his angels were to be thrown, a hellish mixture, to work their horrid revelry unpitied, unbefriended, unreprieved for ever; and when it came to the crisis of decision, should shrink and misgive, and, unequal to the execution, leave men unparted, to work together good and evil, happiness and misery, hope and fear, as now they do. It is vani. ty of vanities to think so, a wicked pastime of the brain, a will of Satan's to rock souls into security. It were to make God an egregious liar, a cruel tormentor, who scared men's lives with fears, or buoyed up their souls with expectations which from the first he knew himself unable to fulfil.

Therefore I hold no further parley with these dreams of idle brains, but return to the question, How are men to escape the condemnation and wrath to come? Seeing the whole bent of God's revelation is to work holiness in the hearts and lives of men, for which end his Son died to cleanse the conscience from the guilt of sin, and his Spirit was spread abroad to aid and abet the sanctification of men; seeing also, that the form of process at the Judgment is nothing but an inquisition into the godliness of life and Christian affection which each several soul hath come to;—it is manifest that there is no deliverance from condemnation and wrath to come, save by turning with all our hearts to the acquisi. tion of those fruits of holiness which are to be taken under review. The question is, By what means shall we purify our hearts, and overcome the ungodly customs of the world? which having discovered, the same are the means by which we shall pass the judgment-seat of God, and escape the tribulation of hell.

There is an assurance of acquittal at the day of Judgment, which it is possible to have before we depart out of the present life; for it is written in the Scriptures, that " there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” There is a deliverance from this body of sin and death, which is to be had before death does his work of dissolution; for it is written in the same place, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. There is a death and crucifixion of the fleshly or natural man, which takes place upon the genuine servant of Christ, and which being past, delivers him from all fear of eternal and spiritual death; as St. Paul writes,' I am dead to the law, I am crucified with Christ. And there ensues a new life, accompanied with the assurance of its being everlasting, as St. Paul in the same place writes · I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, hut Christ liveih in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.'

These passages introduce to us one of the great mysteries of our faith; which it is necessary to draw forth into a more intelligible form, for the sake of this age, which is much more intellectual than that of the Apostles. There

« ForrigeFortsæt »