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would admit the whole. God's plan of redemption for the recovery of the fallen world, is so improbable, that the wit of man could never have invented or conceived it; so unreasonable, that the creature who could, prior to its revelation, have expected or anticipated such an interposition on his own behalf, might have been thought insane.
But if this most marvellous, most improbable and inconceivable device, has proved itself fitted to effect its purpose, I think the very fact should go to show that it is the offspring of a greater mind than his, who cannot appreciate it. I am sure we should conclude so in the little sphere of human capability, varying as it were a hair's breadth, one above another. We do not expect the infant of days, and the mean in capacity, to value the productions of the learned and the skilful. The mechanic who stands by and sees his machinery do the work that he was used to do with manual labor, thinks, if he thinks at all, how great beyond his own was the power that invented a machine of which he understands not the mechanism, still less the principle, but discovers the excellence in the results. In the plan of redemption, however the natural mind sees not even so much as this. Ignorant of the real nature of sin and its inseparableness from destruction, and ignorant of the perfection of deity which admits not that one attribute should exalt itself against another, that justice and truth
should concede to love and mercy, the sinner sees neither danger nor difficulty in his position; it requires only an extension of divine indulgence for the present infirmities of his nature, and a grant of divine aid to enable him to overcome them. He sees, in fact, no reason why the Almighty creditor should contrive so expensive and difficult a scheme for the payment of a debt, which it was at his pleasure to remit. Even in this depth of ignorance, it would become the creature to put his hand upon his lips and say, How can I judge the plans of the Omnipotent? Let him declare to me what he has done, and I shall know that therein is wisdom, because that He is wise.
But this he does not. Such a declaration the Deity has made, and man, in his profundity of darkness, refuses to believe till he has judged it. God will not suffer this. I am persuaded he will in no instance suffer that a man's reason be satisfied, before it is submitted to his authority. Hence religion is ever made to begin with faith: not sight, not knowlodge, not understanding, but belief. And thence I infer, that it is to depart from God's appointed mode of teaching, to attempt to satisfy the intellect of the fitness and wisdom of the atonement, before it is accepted on the testimony of the written word. Convince the gainsayer, if you can, that the Scripture is the word of God: show him, if you can, the plain annunciation of the atonement in it: he is
then at the point, at which he must believe the testimony, without a question more: and from that point forward, but never, as I apprehend, before, will the wisdom of the divine purposes be unfolded to him, and knowledge be added to his faith, and the growing light of grace disclose to him as much of the divine purpose of redemption, as his capacity, as a creature is capable of apprehending. This process cannot be reversed. You cannot first convince another, or convince yourself, that the substitution of Christ was a wise and necessary contrivance, and thence descend to accept the revelation of it, because you have found it worthy of his wisdom who reveals it. “Except ye become as little children, ye can in no wise enter into the kingdom of God.” Our progress in the kingdom of God is unequal; different minds are led by different paths, and our attainments, under divine grace, are considerably affected by the natural bent and character of the mind. Next to that simplicity of heart, which is the gift of grace, clearness in the understanding, and decision in the character, are perhaps the greatest gifts to advance the life of faith: but whatever varieties be found within the kingdom, the entrance is but one, it is the same to all. “As little children," whose first lessons are of facts imparted, and received as they are told, before they can be subjected to the understanding, or verified by experience.
This done, the reason submitted to divine au
thority, and the understanding enlightened by the Holy Spirit, there is no faculty, no power in man, that may not be brought to bear upon the disclosures of revelation. Knowledge of God, his wisdom and his ways, are a part of the gift of salvation. Little indeed does the awakened spirit know, on its first reception of the Gospel upon divine authority, what it will afterwards discern of the amazing wisdom, the overwhelming goodness that devised and carries out this plan of redemption: little indeed foresee how the enlarging intellect will revel in the expanse before it, to which there is always an horizon, but never a termination—a limit to vision, but none to expectation of what may be beyond; and while all he reaches is wisdom, and all he glances at is love, the advancing saint has little mind to question or dispute against anything not yet within his ken. If any of our readers be otherwise rinded, we can only ask them to go back with us, and learn as we have learned, the wisdom of the atonement in its efficiency to save; the fitness of the remedy in the cure it has effected; the loving-kindness of the gospel-scheme in the extremity from which it has relieved in us; in the hope, and peace, and joy it has given in exchange for the desperation of our native misery
Poor leprous-stricken sinner! go, show thyself to the priest, that he may certify thee if thou art healed indeed; and if thou art, thou wilt be
more disposed to lay thy reason, and all thou hast a sacrifice upon the altar, than to exercise it upon the justness and probability of the means that have been used to cure thee: if not, such speculations will never help thee. Thou must go back, and in the simplicity of a believing heart, in the attitude of a suppliant, not a disputant, exclaim, “O Lord, thou Son of David, have mercy upon me.” The sentence will not wait thy approbation of it. “ He that believeth in the Lord Jesus Christ, shall be saved; he that believeth not, shall be damned.” “They eat and drink their own damnation, not discerning the Lord's body.”
The Sacrament is an exhibition of the vicarious sufferings and death of Jesus Christ, and of the benefits derived from them, to those who, with a true faith and penitent heart, turn unto him, and by the power of his Spirit become incorporated with him, in that taking of the manhood into God, which constitutes the great truth of Christianity, the eternal mystery of revealed religion. In some sense it commemorates all that the Jewish sacrifices foreshowed: but as the manner of the atonement has now been fully manifested in the event itself, those bloody signs and figures that exhibited it, are no longer necessary; and it appears to me that the Christian ordinance, while it certifies the fact of the death of Christ, and keeps its verity in mind, more minutely exhibits the application of the atone