« VorigeDoorgaan »
the reconciliation and atonement of but the Christian sees here also what lost souls, by the shedding of His is unseen by the world. He not only atoning blood. And consequent upon
sees as a reality the moral character the belief of this system, you will see of God, but he discovers God's prethe believer broken down and hum- sence with him. His first effort in bled before God, as a holy, sin-hating real and sincere religion, is an endeaGod; and, conscious of his transgres- vour to feel after that God to whom sions, lying in the very dust, at His he is a stranger, if haply he may find footstool, as a God that cannot look Him. The first experience of real upon iniquity. And you will trace the religion is the discovery of God, and influence of that holiness breathing the life of real religion is the living through his secret thoughts, and the with God, living near to Him, living habits of his darkest retirement from in the light of His countenance, comhuman eye, and establishing within muning with Him as a real Being, him the abhorrence of a questionable a Being who takes an interest in him, thought. And at the same time you and in communicating with him. The will perceive the same individual existence, presence, and kindly feeldrawing near to that God in the ing and intercourse of a father, is not warmest aspirations of his soul, as a a greater certainty to his son, than is sin-pardoning God, and rising in se- the existence, presence, and kindly cret devotion towards that Almighty communication of God with the beand immeasurable Being, with all the liever's soul. The intercourse goes tenderest feelings of real love and on habitually, as any other real intergratitude, and holy, confidential course. Events, circumstances, and friendship, and chastened familiarity inward experiences, are referred diof communication. “Because thy rectly to God; complaints and lamenloving-kindness is better than life, tations are carried directly to Him, therefore my lips shall praise thee." and heard; aid is sought and received; “Whom have I in heaven but Thee!" guidance is petitioned for and given. “This is my beloved,” and “this is The Saviour states the fact of this my friend." The union of these two presence of God with His people in feelings towards God is one of the language, the meaning of which even great characteristics of all true Chris- the unbeliever cannot resist, though tians, and it is founded entirely on as long as he is a stranger to the rethe view of God's character as both a ality, it must be practically uninteljust God and a Saviour. This is the ligible to him. He said, “He that fact which is unseen by the world. loveth me shall be loved of my FaIt is a stumbling-block to unenlight- ther, and I will love him, and will ened men; it is the enigma which manifest myself to him.” And Jesus they cannot unravel; but it is seen by admitted that this was a peculiar mafaith, and it gives peace and joy in nifestation of Himself, in which the believing
unbelieving world could not share; Again. The believer discerns the for when one of his disciples asked presence and providential agency of Him, “How is it that thou wilt maniGod in this world. To other men it fest thyself unto us, and not unto the is unseen, and the idea of it is made world?” He answered, “If a man very much the subject of ridicule; love me, he will keep my words: and
my Father will love him, and we will completed, yet, that symptoms of come unto him, and make our abode such a government should continually with him.” “ I will not leave you com- appear. It is equally clear, that the fortless: I will come to you.” This Scripture saints assert the fact of this the world therefore cannot compre- moral government, or providential hend; but this the Christian expe- interference with the affairs of this riences. In this way we find David life; as in the song of Hannah,saying, “In the valley of the shadow “The Lord maketh poor, and maketh of death, I will fear no evil; for thou rich: He bringeth low, and raiseth art with me;" and the Saviour say- up:" He “killeth, and maketh alive." ing, “Lo, I am with you always;” The idea of this providential control and Paul saying, in one of his trials, is also beautifully expressed in the “All men forsook me, but the Lord song of Mary, in which she not only stood with me and strengthened me;" recognizes the Lord's retributive disand Stephen, in the hour of his mar- cipline to men in general, but the re. tyrdom, saying, “Behold, I see the membrance and performance of His heavens opened, and the Son of man mercy towards his peculiar people. standing on the right hand of God." Yet that truth, to which common In this way we find Christians of the sense and Scripture bear an united present day borne up in suffering, or testimony, is not practically received oppression, or persecution, or ap- among men. It is rejected by unbe. proaching death, by the sensible pre- lief. And you will find that any one sence of their God and Saviour; dis- speaking on the common affairs of tressed if any thing impedes that life, as calculating upon such an manifest intercourse. And often, in agency, would be received with conthe very crisis of mortality, realizing tempt, as a vapouring enthusiasto in the most animating and encourag- Unbelieving men never look higher ing manner, and intimating by the than second causes : the physician, most exulting and triumphant lan- to his medicine; the politician, to his guage, the increasingly bright mani- contrivance; the merchant, to his exfestation of their Saviour's presence, perience; the strong, to his strength. as they sink in the arms of death. And yet “the race is not to the swift,
And if these things are so, and the nor the battle to the strong, neither Christian has the experience of God's yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches presence with him, to teach, to to men of understanding, nor yet fastrengthen, and to comfort him, it fol- vour to men of skill.." But the attenlows of course, as a secondary matter,
tion of the true Christian is fixed upon that he is able to trace, in a great the providence of God. He surveys measure, the providential operations the grand scheme which has been in of God's hand in the events of life. operation from the beginning; he There is nothing more natural than reads of its gradual development in the idea that a wise and beneficent earlier days; he watches the events Creator, who made and upholds all of the present age, as tending to its things, should in a great measure completion. In the revolutions and overrule, as a moral Governor, the fates of empires, and the great moral operations of all things; and that changes of society, he sees parts, to though here His justice may not be him perhaps inexplicable, of the great plan; but interesting as they tend to of this world sees the invisible God. the fulfilment of the Divine will. He He comprehends and approves His sees the hand of God ordering all character; he lives in His presence; events ; even to the clouds that roll and he sees with a discriminating eye, in restlessness along the sky, and and with a thankful heart, the operadelay the appointed weeks of harvest; tions of His providence. when the clouds refuse to give the But in the next place, he looks at former and the latter rain, and the the invisible world. The visible unihope of the husbandman withers in verse, within whose range our present the clods of the valley. And in his habitation is appointed, is awfully capapersonal history, he traces yet more cious and magnificent, and it fills the evidently the actual interference of minds of many. Anything beyond this, his merciful Father, shielding him and their present duration in it, is so from evil, or appointing him to chas- vague and indefinite, as scarcely to octening. And the more he inspects cupy a serious thought. These are“the his own case, the more he ascertains things which are not seen.” But there that the character of these dealings is a certain sense in which they are with him, when put in comparison seen by the Christian. The unseen with the moral discipline which he realities of a future state come up beneeded, would go directly to vindicate fore the mind. The Christian looks and establish the infinite wisdom and beyond the bound of this material goodness of God. " He knows the world to the illimitable expanse of way that I take,” “Wisdom is justi- another existence, and there he refied of her children." And when we gards the things which now exist and say that the Christian thus discerns the things which are promised. the providence of God, we do not And first. The unseen realities mean merely that he is rationally which now exist. The fact of another convinced of it. This may be the kind of existence, where departed case with many, without any direct spirits are now in the more immediate practical result. The Christian's at- presence of God, is with him as much tention is directed to it. He feels that a truth as the existence of other he must not calculate upon events, or countries on this globe that he has reason on them, without taking the
“Ye are come,” says providence of God into the account. St. Paul, "unto mount Sion, and unto This he looks upon as the main agent the city of the living God, the heain the production of all great results. venly Jerusalem, and to an innumerThe philosopher does not see the able company of angels, to the geneprinciple of gravity in falling bodies, ral assembly and church of the firstor the principle of life in self-moved born, which are written in heaven, bodies, more clearly than the Chris- and to God the Judge of all, and to tian sees the hand of God in the the spirits of just men made perfect, events of life. And it is his delight and to Jesus the mediator of the to see it, and daily to realize the fact new covenant, and to the blood of of his being within the range of the sprinkling." What are the facts uncontrollable operations of a benevo- which are here stated ? That there is ļent Sovereign.
a heavenly city, "the city of the So far, then, the Christian pilgrim living God;" that the Judge of all is
there surrounded by an innumerable they shall dwell in the holy Jerusacompany of angels; that Jesus is there lem, which is above, and which has as the Mediator; that the presenta- the glory of God; and there delivered tion of His blood, as the sprinkled from every principle and passion that blood of the atonement, is effectual defileth, they shall see the face of for the redemption of the lost souls of God and of the Lamb; they shall men; and that in virtue of it, “the drink of the pure river of the water of spirits of just inen made perfect” are life proceeding out of the throne of admitted there, are now there,-one God and of the Lamb; and they shall general assembly, one glorious church. eat of the tree of life, which is in the These are facts, to the ascertaining of midst of the paradise of God; and which the believing mind has arrived. they shall serve God day and night, They are as much realities to it, as and know even as they are known, the mercy-seat, and the ark, and the and reign for ever and ever. All intercession and incense of the high these things are specifically promised priest, were to the Israelites, who in so many words. They are the were without the vail that covered words of Eternal truth, and they are the holiest of all. Nothing but a filmy as much a matter of certainty, as that vail seems to separate the two com- God made the world and sustains it. partments of the Divine operations. To these promised glories the ChrisAnd as the vail of the temple was tian looks with animated hope. Every wrought all over with cherubim, so thing else is uncertain and unsatisfacthe near connexion between the seen tory; but there, in the full manifestaand the unseen world, is made more tion of God's glorious salvation,manifest by the ministration of angels, there is fulness; there is enjoyment who are sent forth to minister to the suited to the expanded capacities of heirs of salvation.
an immortal mind; and to this the But, besides this, the Christian looks believer turns in all the vicissitudes at the things which are promised. A of his earthly pilgrimage, as to an day is coming when the vail will be ample compensation for his present taken away, and the mysteries of trials,-a destiny worthy of his origin, eternity laid open. It is the day when the certain issue of his light and moGod will complete the dispensation mentary afflictions, in a far more exof His grace, and perfect the things ceeding and eternal weight of glory. concerning His kingdom. The Son We proceed, in the second place, to of man shall come in His glory, and attempt an explanation of the nature all the holy angels with Him; He of that regard with which the Chrisshall come with the voice of an arch- tian surveys these eternal, invisible angel, and with the trump of God; realities. We say, to attempt an exand the throne of judgment shall be planation, because we enter here upon set, and the books shall be opened, one of the most difficult portions of and the dead in Christ shall rise first, theological inquiry. The terms of and the sea and the grave shall give Scripture imply a difficulty. These not seen by any, in the common no- evidence of things not seen.” We tion of seeing, with the natural eye; cannot make this plain to an unbebut at the same time they are per- lieving mind; we can only affirm the ceived and realized with an intensity fact; we can exhibit the plain words of influential perception fully equal of the testimony, and say, This is to to the effects of natural vision. This, us a reality, and has all the force of however, is the privilege of the be- it. And he will read with us the plain, liever. He will readily admit the unequivocal declaration, and allow it truth, and feel the force of the state to be the word of God, and to mean ment we have to make in explanation such and such things; and yet he will of this seeming paradox; while other say, I cannot see them. It does not men will call all such declarations follow that it should be so. It may enthusiasm, or else liberally give us be otherwise. credit for sincerity in our statements, But again. We must not suppose and consequently admit that some do that the acceptance of this testimony possess a degree of spiritual percep- constitutes the whole of the Christian's tion to which they have not attained. looking at invisible things; for if so,
ad; and all men shall be things are not seen, yet they are judged according to their works; and looked at. They are not seen in any the Saviour shall then glorify His way by some; but in a certain sense saints, and be glorified in them; and they are seen by others. They are
And first. We would say that the it might be said that we only see God Christian receives the declaration of as we see the continent of India, i.e. these unseen realities by faith in a we have a belief in its existence. credible testimony. The Scriptures, This, however, falls far below the substantiated by every needful testi- powers of spiritual perception. It mony as an inspired message from must be remembered, that the reason God, declare unequivocally the char- why one man receives the testimony acter of God, and His operations in and another does not, though the redemption, and in providence. They evidence for it is quite conclusive and affirm, also, all that we have stated of sufficient for either mind, is, that the unseen world. Now the Christian God in the one case mercifully overreceives these affirmations, not with rules the moral unwillingness to rethe half-satisfied assent,—the almost ceive the testimony on such a subject, faithless acknowledgment of their and gives the individual power to beDivine origin,—but with implicit re- come His son, so that in the Scripliance and submission; in fact, with ture he is said thenceforth to be born faith,—the ready, unequivocal ac- of God. This power is a spiritual ceptance of them as truths, so as to power; it is called a quickening, an confide in them without reserve in awakening from the dead; a receiving the very respects in which they require life and light from Christ. It is the confidence. In his conscience, he does gift of a spiritual influence, the fruit not doubt the amplitude and efficacy of of which is this implicit faith in that the grace of Christ,—the present joys record which before was disregarded. of the redeemed who have died in the We affirm, then, that the things which Lord, the present agonies of the de- are not seen by the material eye, and parted impenitent. The principle of which are in no way visible to the faith which he has received, makes unbeliever, are in the operation of the declaration of the testimony sub- faith spiritually manifested to the bestantial realities to him. “Faith is lieving mind. Faith in the distinct the substance of things hoped for, the testimony is the basis of all know