« VorigeDoorgaan »
I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, 'The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burnt up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them, and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away; yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword, and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house; and behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.” Job i. 14–19. These calamities are expressly declared to have been brought upon Job through the instrumentality of the evil one, who excited Job's neighbours in Arabia and Chaldea, to do him mischief. With fire and storm, he destroyed his sheep, his servants, and his children; and he inflicted upon his person an acute and loathsome disease. Such a power, formidable beyond conception, would, if unrestrained, soon fill the earth with slaughter, devastation, and misery. Able to excite nations to war, to arm himself with the lightning and tempest, and to inflict every form of disease, what would become of us were not Satan held in chains, and overawed by the power of the Most High? Job was left in his power for the trial of his faith, which, when tried, was found to his praise, and honour, and glory. And thus shall every assault which he makes on the truly pious, be eventually overruled by their covenant God, for their greater happiness and honour.
The attempt upon Adam in the garden of Eden, and upon Christ, both in the wilderness of Judea and in the garden of Gathsemane, was evidently permitted for the trial of their obedience. It succeeded in the one instance, but failed in the other. Adam was seduced from his obedience; Christ repelled the assault, and stood unmoved, as a rock against which the billows dash in vain. In the wilderness his active obedience was tried. His circumstances were pressing and dangerous, and the temptation was adapted to them with the greatest art and skill. The gratification of appetite, the preservation of life, the attainment of power, were respectively tried, but tried in vain. The wisest and best of mere mortals have, in the moments of temptation, sometimes taken the most unwarrantable steps, in order to gratify their appetites, preserve their lives, or attain power. But no consideration, however proposed or urged, could induce our Lord in the least degree to swerve from the path of duty. In the garden of Gathsemane, his passive obedience was put to the most rigorous test. Different schemes attempt to account for our Saviour's agony. That scheme which accounts for a very large part of it from the assault of evil spirits, appears to me to be most satisfactory. This period of his suffering is expressly declared to have been their hour.” The restraint was removed, and they were left at full liberty to exert their utmost efforts, to distract and agonize his soul. They approached with an address and fury, of which we are, doubtless, unable to form an adequate idea. Yet we know that the attack must have been awful indeed which bathed his body in blood, and pierced his soul with deadly sorrow. Could the Saviour have been brought to question his Father's love, and to desist from the work which he had undertaken, the enemy would have triumphed. To effect this, he exhausted his hellish arts, but exhausted them in vain. The Saviour was not surprised by any artifice, nor shaken by the extremest torture. His faith was never staggered, but through the whole continued strong and triumphant. Even when deserted by his heavenly Father, he addressed him with the appropriating language of perfect confidence : “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me”—“O, my Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me ; nevertheless not as I will but as thou wilt.” In this manner he maintained his ground, from which the united powers of hell could not drive him. At length the enemy fled abashed, and left the conquerer in possession of the fiell; and thus the second Adam repaired the losses of the first.
PHILOLOGOS. [To be continued.]
PERFECTION OF CHARACTER, ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURE.
A TRULY religious character consists of two parts, each so essential, that the character cannot exist if either be wanting. These component parts of character which I have in view, are faith and practice. Men are apt to separate what God has joined together, and in the sacrilegious attempt, the character is entirely destroyed, and nothing remains which can be of any avail at the bar of Christ. Faith without practice is an empty thing, a tree which bears no fruit, a lamp which gives no light, a carcase desti
tute of life. But how are we to estimate practice without faith? A pretension to such practice may be made, but on no principle of scripture can it be realized. Destitute of faith, works acceptable to God are never found, for “ without faith it is impossible to please God.”
Cain was licentious in his life. I know not that the promise in which the gospel was then published, was questioned by him. To that promise it is not improbable that he gave a careless assent, as many pretended christians do in our own time. But it had no hold upon his heart, and made no impression upon his conduct; he was defective both in the sacrifice which he offered, and in the life which he led. Saul received a command utterly to destroy Amelek, and all that he had; his obedience was partial, reserving the flocks for sacrifice. In this he opposed his own wisdom to the wisdom of God. God permitted no reserve, but a reserve Saul thought to be necessary. It is not for weak man to believe that he can improve upon the divine command. Saul would not act upon the command as it was, but modelled it according to a vain imagination. From this instance, it is apparent what kind of works men destitute of faith bring forth. They err perpetually on the right hand, and on the left; sometimes they do too much; at other times they do too little. Under the empty pretence of honouring God, they take the most effectual steps to draw down his displeasure. The union of faith and practice, keeps men in the right way: faith produces good works; by good works faith is strengthened, they mutually beget and confirm one another; and the union of both, in the same character, though in the one there may be much weakness, in the other much deficiency, constitutes that perfection of which the scriptures speak, as the leading distinction of those, who, before God, are accounted righteous,
Some readers of this Magazine, were so much interested by the selections which were made in our review of Mr. Bogue': Essay on the Divine Authority of the New Testament, (Vol. I. p. 487), that we have been repeatedly called on for further extracts from that able and valuable work. With these solicitations we cheerfully promised compliance, and shall hereafter frequently introduce such parts of the Essay as are most distinguished for important sentiments or conclusive arguments. The copies of this work, in this country, are so few, that only a very limited acquaintance with its merits can be supposed to exist; but we are pleased to believe, that it will soon be more generally known, and that the happy effects, which it is calculated to produce, will be more extensively felt. We are informed, that an American edition is now in the press, and will shortly be given to the public.
THE FULLNESS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT. The world is filled with books, and great numbers of them are excellent. How many men of the first talents have written admirably on the subject of religion! Every age can boast of its celebrated authors, who have consecrated themselves to the instruction of mankind. I have read many of them with pleasure and improvement; but I find, that, when I have gone through them three or four times, I have gained all their ideas. In spite of me they become fat and uninteresting, and I am obliged to lay them aside; for I can no longer read them with pleasure.
But the New Testament forms an exception to this rule. I have read many parts of it, hundreds of times; and can read them again to-morrow, with equal relish as at first. Whenever I peruse it with serious attention, I discover something new; and the more attentively and devoutly I do so, I discover the more: and new ideas spring out of the words and subject, and enrich my mind. Besides, I am never weary of reading it: it presents new charms to me every day: and like bread made of the finest of the wheat, it is always agreeable to the taste. The more I read, the more I love it; and the more intimate my acquaintance, the stronger is my affection for it. I have my favourite authors on religion; and I frequently peruse them. They are men of genius, learning, and piety. But they are only children, in comparison of the fishermen of Galilee: and I find a fulness and sweetness in their writings, which the others do not possess.
Whence comes this astonishing difference? Allow the New Testament to be written by inspiration, and the reason will be easily assigned. The Holy Spirit of God, whose understanding. is infinite, can put such a number of ideas into a book, as it shall unspeakably surpass the power of man to do, which shall one after another appear to the pious reader, and amply reward his researches. He can likewise so fill the book with good, as well as with truth, that it shall delight the heart, as well as enlighten the mind, and have such undescribable charms, that it shall be always sweet, and fill the soul with the highest degree of mental pleasure. To these causes I ascribe its astonishing fulness.
But how will ye who call the New Testament a common book, or a forgery, account for this singularity? To deny the fact, will not avail. The observation before us has been made by thousands of persons, both illiterate and learned, in every age; and against such a mass of evidence, the assertion of those who have read, merely with a view to find fault and to condemn, will not weigh much in the balance of impartial reason. The testimony of bats and owls, to the loveliness of the gloom of night, and against the beauty of the light of the sun, would not be heard in opposition to the unanimous declaration of the inhabitants of the earth, and of the air, to the contrary. But ought I to use such a comparison? My design is not to irritate, but to convince; not to triumph over an enemy, but to reclaim a friend and a brother, who, to my grief, has gone astray; and to lead his feet into the way of peace.
THE SCHEME OF THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT, AS REPRESENTED IN
THE NEW TESTAMENT, IS VAST AND EXTENSIVE. WHILE the past and the present occupy a certain portion of our thoughts and time, it is natural to look into futurity, and to conjecture what will come to pass. How often has this been the theme of the most ingenious writers! But we observe in them the attributes of man. Their plans of the divine conduct, in the regulation of human affairs, are extremely limited in extent; and they seem in haste for the execution. Beyond a century, or two at most, their views scarcely ever extend for the accomplishment of their plans: more commonly they are comprised within a still narrower space. They are eager to see their expectations realized; and often place the event within such a period, that they may have the satisfaction of witnessing it.
How different is the disposition of the writers of the New Testament! They present to us a view of the divine government; but the forementioned peculiarities are not to be found. The plan embraces a vast variety of objects; it advances, by what we would call very slow degrees; it comprises within its grasp some thousands of years; it gives time for every thing. The prophets of the Old Testament, allowed four thousand years to elapse, before the coming of the Messiah. The apostles of Christ, assign twelve hundred and sixty years to the dominion of Antichrist, from his rise to his fall, a duration of which, no other class of men, were ever able to bear the thought. After this immense space, christi. anily, they say, will overcome all opposition, and be universal on the earth.