Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

392

REGENERATION ESSENTIAL TO THĘ:14. ,

Secondly, The Scriptures represent the presence of the Redeemer, in his glorified state, as constituting another source of heavenly bliss. “If I go away,” said he to the disciples, with inexpressible tenderness, “I will come again, and receive you to myself, that where I am, there ye may be also." And to be with Christ-to see him as he is—and to be made like to him, must appear, to the holy taste of every converted man, the very summit of bliss. Hence the apostle Paul, in the vigour of life, and in the midst of a splendid career of usefulness, declared, that he had " a desire to depart, and to be with Christ." Where is the renewed mind which does not feel—that to see Him, who was once a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, exalted far above all principalities and powers,—to behold the despised and rejected of men, surrounded by a bright and countless host of adoring spirits, and to recognise in this exalted one a brother and a friend, must prove the source of ineffable and eternal delight? But he is not a brother and a friend to such as have not been born again. To them he is an enemy; by them he will be found an inexorable Judge: and, though it be difficult to rouse a lamb to vengeance, there is no wrath so dreadful as the wrath of the Lamb! What possible pleasure could the presence of Christ, in heaven, afford to unconverted men? How could they bear to look upon him, whose authority they have contemned, whose laws they have broken, whose grace they have slighted, whose ordinances they have treated with contempt? In what language but the following could they expect him to address them, “Because I called, and ye refused; I stretched out my hand, and ye did not regard; but ye have set at nought my counsels, and would none of my reproofs, I also, will laugh at your calamity, I will mock now that your fear is come?” It is absolutely necessary to be born again to derive enjoyment from the presence of Christ in heaven. We must be made to love his character, and person, and work; and then, to be with him, to behold his glory--the glory which he had with his Father before the world was-will prove the spring of perennial and infinite enjoyment.

Thirdly, The Scriptures represent the society of angels,

ENJOYMENT OF THE HAPPINESS OF HEAVEN.

393

and of glorified spirits, as constituting another source of the happiness of heaven. Without regeneration this would, however, yield us no joy; because that society is holy society. “ Ye are come,” said the apostle to the believing Hebrews, “to the innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, enrolled in heaven"“and to the spirits of the just made perfect.What is there in such society as this,—the society of angels who kept their first estate, of the redeemed from among men, completely transformed into the image of God, -to afford enjoyment to an unsanctified mind? “Two cannot walk together," we are taught, “unless they be agreed." Where the tastes, and pursuits, and habits of persons are dissimilar, especially where they are utterly discordant, instead of finding pleasure in mutual intercourse, it is manifest that each must feel the company of the other to be an intolerable nuisance. Confine an illiterate peasant with a company of philosophers, or a philosopher with persons unacquainted even with the elements of knowledge, and who glory in their ignorance,-and, without the gift of prophecy, it were easy to predict that each would most earnestly long for the hour of emancipation.

From these general principles we draw the conclusion, that the holy society of heaven would yield no happiness to an unconverted man. But why should we resort to a process of reasoning on this point, when fact, whose verdict is still more unequivocal than reason, proclaims, in a manner not to be mistaken, that the company of holy angels, and of holy men, would not prove a source of enjoyment to a person who had not been renewed in the spirit of his mind? Do such men, in this world, desire the company of the people of God? Do they delight to meet, and unite with them in conversation which has for its topic the solemn and all-important concerns of eternity ? So far is this from being the case, that, if the conscience of such men were to give its testimony, it would confess that scarcely was any other thing felt to be so wearisome and disgusting. And how should it be otherwise in heaven? Imagine, for a moment, an individual whose heart is enmity against God-and such is the character of every

394

REGENERATION NECESSARY.

unrenewed heart,-an individual who hates every spiritual object, and exercise, and duty, and enjoyment-and such is the state of moral feeling of every unrenewed man ;-imagine such an individual introduced into the company of "the just made perfect,listening to them for a time, while they discourse together on the great mystery of redeeming love, and then, inspired by the sacred theme, strike all at once their golden harps, and pour forth a noble anthem of praise “to him who was slain, and had redeemed them by his blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation ;"-imagine him seeing and hearing all this, would he possess a single feeling in common with them? Would the sacred inspiration of gratitude and devotion fill his soul? And, totally devoid of congeniality with the heavenly worshippers, could he derive any pleasure from their society? It is impossible, in the very nature of the case, that the holy enjoyments of heaven should yield any delight to an unholy mind. Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Fact and experience declare this,-the constitution of the mind, and the nature of heavenly glory, the Scriptures, both of the Old and the New Testament, the law and the prophets, the gospels and the epistles, the apostles and the evangelists,--all unitedly declare to every member of the human family to whom their voice reaches, “Ye must,yes, must, be born again !"

APPENDIX.

It was my design to introduce, into the body of this work, some observations upon certain statements relative to one of the subjects discussed in it, to be found in Mr. Stuart's Commentary upon the Epistle to the Romans. It appeared, however, on subsequent reflection, that to prosecute the intention would lead me too far out of my way. The character and attainments of this distinguished author, clearly entitle his writings to the candid and serious attention of British Christians ; yet, as truth should be dearer to us than any thing else, I am compelled to add, that the work referred to above, contains stateinents which I regret to see-some that appear to me self-contradictory—and one at least which will not, I trust, be readily admitted by my brethren in the ministry, or by the churches with which they stand connected. I allude to the following words : “ But where has Paul taught that a man is justified by faith alone ; and that evangelical good works are not an essential condition of his justification before God ?" (Page 506, third edition.)

The laboured criticism by which Mr. Stuart endeavours to prove that the assertion, “a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law," is not at variance with the passage just quoted, appears to me to have been suggested, and rendered necessary, by his theology. I cannot resist the impression, that it has too much of the appearance of an attempt to explain away the obvious meaning of the words. Surely, if, from the explicit declaration of Paul, “a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law," we may not draw the conclusion, that simply crediting the record of God concerning his Son, is all that is essential to justification, it would be difficult to extract a meaning from any words whatever. Mr. Stuart, however, tells us that the phrase, “works of law,” means perfect obedience ; and that the amount of what the apostle intended to say is, that we may obtain justification by faith, even though we are destitute of perfect obedience. But if čpywv vómov denote, in the 28th verse, perfect obedience, must not the same meaning be at tached, in the 20th verse, to the words ? And would not the apostle, in that case, assert—impugning the law, not the obedience rendered to it--that a man cannot be justified by perfect obedience ? Now, is this true ? Was it really the intention of the apostle to declare that the law is essentially incapable of securing justification ? Did he not design to impugn the obedience of men—not the law,-and to say that such works of the law as they had, or fancied they had, would not secure justifica

[blocks in formation]

e.,

tion, because not commensurate with the demands of the law? The phrase èpyuv vójov does, indeed, mean actions which the law requires, in both the 20th and the 28th verse, and there is obviously no change in its signification—i. e., personal obedience ; but in neither of the verses does it appear to denote “perfect obedience.”

My main object, however, in this note is to point out certain inconsistencies, as they appear to me at least, into which Mr. Stuart has fallen, and which seem to have partially, though not entirely, resulted from attaching to the term “imputation” more than its scriptural import, as developed in page 258 of this volume ; and from disregarding the precise sense affixed to it by those who employ it in reference to Adam and Christ.

In his summary of the contents of Rom. v. 12—19, he explains the phrase “ sin entered into the world, as follows : “ Sin entered (commenced) by the offence of Adam,”-leaving us to suppose his meaning to be—for such is the significancy of the words—that Adam was the first sinner. Yet, in page 200, we find a logical and conclusive argument to show that such cannot be the apostle's meaning. “If now," he says, “it was a principal object with the apostle here, to point out specifically and with exactness the first author of transgression, how could he omit mentioning Evewho was in the transgression, i.e., he says, “ first transgressed." Notwithstanding this, however, which would seem to imply that sin entered in a different sense from commencing, entered, i. in the sense of bringing obnoxiousness to the suffering of its penal consequences, upon the race, he reverts again, in page 208, to this rejected sense of commencing, and tells us that the meaning of the verse is as follows : “ By Adam's first offence, sin and death invaded the world of mankind ; and having thus invaded it, they have been marching through it, and carrying on their conquests ever since."

In his note upon the θάνατος which was δι ενός ανθρώπου, he acknowledges that he sees “no philological escape from the conclusion, that death, in the sense of penalty for sin in its full measure, must be regarded as the meaning of the writer here.” (Page 203.) In commenting upon the 15th verse, he grants, as he says we must do, that the many (all) die (come under sentence of death) through Adam, oi by means of him ; and he afterwards adds, “ In regard to anétavov, I must refer the reader to what is said on Oávaroc, under verse 12th. I would merely remark, that if dávatoç means, as I have there stated it to mean, evil of any kind, in this world and the next:" (any! Why this change of phraseology? He had not stated it to mean evil of any, but of every kind,—declaring expressly that it “is impossible to limit the word death,”—“ that it designates the whole penalty of sin," and that “if Adam's sin was a real sin, and the greatest of all sins, then death in its most extensive sense must have been the penalty attached to it”)—“then,” he adds, “it is true, that Adam did by his offence cause dávatos to come on all without exception, &c. Now, one would certainly have supposed him to mean-what seems to follow irresistibly from his premises--that exposedness to death, in its most exten

« VorigeDoorgaan »