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Again, does enlisting the convictions of the reason in favor of the law, constitute the primary feature of conformity to it? No; for this, in the absence of other things, only makes the man proportionably more wicked. The more clear are our views of duty, the greater is our guilt in neglecting it. The superior guilt of the Jews, in the time of our Saviour, over that of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, was owing to the superior development of the idea of a God and of moral obligation in their minds.
Again, is a state of excited sensibility in favor of the law, the primary idea of obedience to it? Certainly not. For, so far from its being a sign of perfection of character to be controlled by the feelings or emotions, it is generally esteemed a mark of weakness and guilt. The good nature of the drunken father may lead him to gratify his children to their injury; and thus, though he betrays more of the emotion of parental love, than another father who consults only the good of his children, yet every one would deem him the more deficient of the two in the duties of that relation. Emotions of love or approval of the divine law may be awakened by causes of which self-seeking is as much the basis, as of those which awaken the miser's emotions towards his gold. They may arise from our being pressed down under a sense of fear, or any other painful exercise, weighing upon the spirits and embittering our lives; till at length we suddenly conceive the idea that God is willing to pardon us, and bestow upon us every good for this world and the world to come; and, as a consequence, the clouds disperse and leave the sun of hope beaming sweetly upon our souls. Hence, we determine to serve God, when the reasonableness of that service, the infinite fitness of the divine law as a rule of life, or the glory of the divine holiness, is at the farthest possible remove from our thoughts. Our religion is a bare feeling, and that must, from the nature of the case, be variable in the present connection of mind with matter; and hence, we shall recede from it as soon as this feeling loses its intensity, and we become the victim of counteracting emotions.
Now, we conceive that the primary element of conformity to the divine law, consists in the choice or intention of the mind to conform to it every thing which is susceptible of being controlled by the choice. It is this faculty of our natures, sometimes called the will, that gives a moral quality
to our actions, it being impossible for us to feel accountable for any thing that we cannot make different by choosing it. The bodily organs and appetites, the intellectual faculties, as well as the feelings or emotions, are all, in some degree, subject to the control of our wills; so that when we choose, we can walk or sit still, we can direct our minds to this, that, or the other subject, and we can summon to our aid courage, or yield to cowardice, can exercise patience, or indulge fretfulness, and thus can subordinate our sensibility, by due care, to the higher decisions of the reason and the conscience. And it is owing to this subjection of the faculties to the dominion of the agent, that he is made responsible for his thoughts, his affections, and passions, and his bodily exercises; and this power of controlling himself constitutes the exact limit of his accountableness. Where that ends, this ends also.
Now, the primary feature of conformity to the holy law, consists in having this power of choice exerted in accordance with God's will, so that we shall will as he wills, in every thing wherein his will is known to us. He works in us to will and to do of his good pleasure. When we know how far God would have us indulge our bodily organs and appetites, we must be prepared to say, Lord, I will go so far and no further; when we understand the designs of his providential government, we must acquiesce, and learn in whatever situation we are therewith to be content; when our social obligations are unfolded to us, we must instantly abide by them at every expense of our previous arrangements of pleasure, business, or gain; when the self-denials and various means of keeping ourselves in the love of God are brought to our view, we must reply, Yes, Lord, I approve, and will abide by thy plan of leading a holy life; and thus, from our deliberate choice and purpose, we must consecrate to God our whole being for time and eternity. Any thing short of this is not willing to have the will of God done; it is selfishness; it is a warfare on God's constitution of government, whose distinguishing characteristic is devotion to the supreme good. This is the perfect love that extinguishes fear, and casteth out of the breast all corroding anxieties, filling their place with the sweet harmony and bliss of heaven.
That such must be the primary element of conformity to the law, we know from this, that virtue and vice are predicable, not of the body, nor of the understanding, nor of the
feelings, but of the intentions. The drunkard's crime does not consist in his appetite; for that is merely his temptation; but in his purpose of indulging it. Its existence, provided he resisted it, would heighten our idea of his virtue. The benevolent sympathy which we feel for a person in distress, does not constitute an act of charity, though it may impel to such act; but charity is the intention carried out, in doing what will be for his relief. Hence we are required to love, not in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth. As the intention of the mind controlling the man, therefore, and not the convictions of his understanding, nor his excited emotions, is what constitutes his virtue or his vice, his blame or praiseworthiness, this must be the primary element of conformity to the divine law.
Moreover, the very terms of the law contemplate its fulfilment in this attitude of the will. It requires us to love God with all our heart, soul, might, mind and strength. This cannot mean the whole might of our emotions of love, but the whole might and strength of our voluntary powers. That is, we are to exert our understandings, our sensibility, our bodily organs, and every thing within and without, as subject to the control of our wills, for the glory of God, and in subordination to his known pleasure. The beating of our hearts, our constitutional appetites and desires, and many other things pertaining to both our persons and circumstances, could not be made otherwise by our willing it; consequently the law imposes on us no responsibility concerning them. The law requires only that we should love up to the full extent of our voluntary powers, so that whether we eat, or drink, or whatever we do, we should do all to the glory of God. Willing or choosing is a primary element in the idea of doing.
Now, Christianity, as a system of religion, is the means authorized by Heaven for bringing the will into this attitude, which is no otherwise a part of it, than as a revelation of the end to be gained, in order to make man holy and happy. And as the choice is determined by truths in view of the mind, in connection with the desires, or excitements of the sensibility, the word of Christ includes those considerations which he has embodied in his gospel, for the purpose of giving the choice of sinful man such a direction as the law prescribes. Are we, therefore, to suppose with Mr. Parker, that Jesus has suspended this result on no particular system
of means, but left men to work it out through devotion to Paganism, Romanism, Judaism, Protestantism, or in any other way that might suit the caprice of the different nations? We must leave this question for another article, in which we propose to show that, Christian morality cannot subsist apart from Christian doctrine.
BUNYAN'S HOLY WAR.
Bunyan's Holy War. Published by the American Sunday School Union. Philadelphia.
THE leading incidents in the life of that "ingenious dreamer," and devout allegorist, John Bunyan, are familiarly known to the religious public. An extended biographical notice, therefore, will not be necessary. He was born at Elstow, a village near Bedford, in England, in 1628. His parents, though very poor, were honest and industrious, and early put their son to school, where he learned to read and write. He was bred to the occupation of his father, which was that of a tinker or brazier, and pursued this branch of business for a time in and around Bedford. At the age of seventeen, he enlisted into the army, and was engaged in the wars of that revolutionary period. It was here that he acquired the knowledge, the experience, and language of a soldier, without which he could never have written his "Holy War."
In the early life of Bunyan, there was a strange mingling of religious terrors and vicious practices. He was much addicted to some of the grosser vices, particularly profane swearing and lying; and yet he was never free from the alarms of conscience, and those arrows of conviction which are often darted into the guilty soul. A dreadful sound was in his ears. He was scared with dreams, and terrified with visions, and found in his own experience a full verification of the prophet's maxim, "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked."
Before he was twenty years of age, Bunyan married a young woman, who was as poor as himself; but she was the daughter of pious parents, had been religiously educated, and brought him two or three good religious books. It was to her society and influence, her connections and books, that Bunyan ascribes his first permanent desires to lead a holy life. These desires prompted him, as they commonly do persons in similar circumstances, to reformation of his outward conduct. He abandoned the grosser vices, became serious, attended church, and began to think himself a very religious
Out of this state of Pharisaical delusion, he was awakened by the conversation of some poor but pious females, whom he heard discoursing about their miserable state by nature,about a work of God in their hearts, which they called the new birth, about the love of Christ which had been shed abroad in their souls by the Holy Spirit, and those precious promises which refreshed, comforted and supported them against the temptations of the devil. All this was new and strange to Bunyan, and satisfied him at once that, notwithstanding his apparent seriousness and goodness, he was still an utter stranger to real, spiritual religion.
For many months subsequent to this period, the exercises of his mind were various, but mostly of the gloomy, distressing kind. In his case, a warm and vigorous imagination, awakened sensibilities, and a tender conscience, were united with profound ignorance both of the Scriptures and of scriptural truth. Of such a temperament, the great adversary was permitted to take advantage, to perplex and torment him. His heated imagination became the inlet of all sorts of missiles from the cruel tempter; and while the arrows stuck fast in his susceptible spirit, he knew no way in which to extract them, or to heal the wound. It is painful to read the account of his protracted trials and sorrows; and yet it is interesting to see him led along, from step to step, and from strength to strength, in a way which he knew not, and by an invisible hand. Bunyan, at this time, had little human teaching that was of service to him; but he was preeminently taught of the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit seems to have kept him long in the deep waters, that he might learn, in his own experience, the wiles of the adversary, and the workings of a tempted, diseased soul, that so he might the