Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

being known, is an occasion for reverence respecting them of the very highest degree.

It will be seen by a little consideration, how the circumstance of a Divine Revelation, greater spiritual light, i. e. a knowledge of God's presence, immediately alters the character of all actions, in the same manner as an action in Church, or near the Altar, is perfectly different from a similar action out of Church. So much is this the case, as to render things, which on common ground would be indifferent, to be profane and sacrilegious in holy places. And this seems to explain how it is that Capernaum was worse than Sodom, Pharisees worse than heathens. In that walking in the nearer light of God's presence, if we may so speak, from the knowledge vouchsafed them, the complexion of their actions was thus altered. And, indeed, were we to look to the accounts of other writers, and human narrators, we should, perhaps, neither suppose those Jews, nor those places to be so far worse than others, as our LORD has pronounced them to be. It is in like manner that a habit of irreverence in a Church is more injurious to the character than thoughtlessness without.

We have said, therefore, that God's present dealings with mankind are a subject for awful apprehension; surely, all manifestations which GoD is pleased to make of Himself ought to be so to sinful creatures, as they ever were to good men in Scripture. And far more so when it is considered with what little awe and apprehension these manifestations of God are being now received how little reverential fear accompanies this knowledge; the disunion that prevails, and spirit of disobedience. When we add to this, that it was Israel that rejected CHRIST, that it was Jerusalem that put Him to death; that it was the place of His continual abode, which He declared worse than the cities of destruction; the dwelling place of His parents that thrust Him out. That it was more than once declared, as if proverbially and prophetically, and with a mysterious significancy, that CHRIST was to bear witness, that in his own country a prophet is not received. When we consider these things, then, I say, that the knowledge of GOD is an occasion for fear; and the more so because not now considered so. "Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be

increased," but yet, notwithstanding," the unholy shall be unholy still, and the unclean unclean;"" the wicked shall do wickedly, and none of them shall understand."

The awful extent to which this want of reverence in religion has gone, is, it is to be feared, very little considered or calculated upon. The degree to which all sense of the holiness of Churches is lost, is too evident; the efficacy of the Sacraments, the presence of God in them, and in His appointed ministerial Ordinances is, it will be allowed, by no means duly acknowledged, and, indeed, less and less. Men's eyes being not opened, they do not see with the patriarch, "how dreadful is this place," "the LORD was in this place, and I knew it not." There is also another point in which all due fear of God's awful presence is lost, very far beyond what many are aware of, and that is in regard for the Holy Scriptures. Some indeed, who profess to uphold and value them, in order to do so, depreciate the Apocryphal books, and all others of less plenary inspiration; as if by so doing they were exalting the Scriptures. But in fact, they do but lower their own standard of what is holy; and then lower the Scriptures also to meet it. The effect also of setting aside the Catholic Church as the interpreter of Holy Scripture, as if it needed none, is of the same kind; it incalculably lowers the reverence for Scripture, by making it subject to the individual judgment. From these things it follows, that although the Holy Scriptures are pronounced Divine (for no evil is done, but under a good name) they are treated as if they were not; as if human thought could grasp their systems, could limit their meanings, and say to that boundless ocean in which the Almighty walks, "Hitherto shalt Thou come, and no further." If Holy Scripture contains within it the living Word, has a letter that killeth, and a Spirit that giveth life, with far different a temper ought we to regard it: by prayer, as the Fathers say, we should knock at the door, waiting till He that is within open to us; it should be approached as that which has a sort of Sacramental efficacy about it, and therefore a savour of life, and also unto death; in short, as our SAVIOUR was of old, by them who would acknowledge Him as God, and receive His highest gifts. As the Centurion who sent the elders of the

Jews unto Him, not venturing himself to approach; thus, humble faith from the dark corner of these latter days would rather seek to interpret through the Antient Church than herself to presume. Far otherwise are the Sacred Scriptures now treated in evidences, in sermons, in controversial writings, in religious discourse. Divine words are brought down to the rule, and measure, and level of each man's earthly comprehension. And hence arise our Theological disputings, founded on words of Scripture, first brought down to some low, limited sense, and then thought to clash with and exclude each other. The Antients, on the contrary, considered the Holy Scriptures like the heavens which were marked out by the lituus of the heathen soothsayer, wherein every thing that was found was considered full of Divine import and speaking from GOD to man. They took Scriptural words as Divine words replete with pregnant and extensive meaning. Thus when believing in CHRIST, or confessing CHRIST, is spoken of as Salvation, St. Augustine remarks that such words are not to be taken after a low and human interpretation, but imply believing and confessing after a real and substantial manner according to the import of Divine words: and that to believe and confess this, according to truth and the vastness of Scripture, is indeed entering into the greatness of the Christian inheritance, which is signified by believing in CHRIST as GOD, with that corresponding awe and obedience which such a belief requires. With like reverential regard St. Chrysostom, when commencing his commentary on St. Matthew, likens it to approaching the gates of the heavenly city, and adds, "Let us not then with noise, or tumult enter in, but with a mystical silence. In this city must all be quiet and stand with soul and ear erect. For the letters not of an earthly king, but of the LORD of angels are on the point of being read." How many thousands of modern books had been unwritten; how much jealous controversy spared, had this sense of Holy Scripture been among us!

It is, of course, from the want of a saving knowledge of GoD that there exists such a want of religious fear: for fear cannot but increase with an increasing knowledge of His presence, and, therefore, with all holiness of life. The subtle and predominant

spirit, which is the source of the irreverence of the age, consists in a forgetfulness of GOD, even in religion, and therefore, in looking to impression rather than truth. It finds a place in Ministers, in reading the prayers, in preaching, in conversation. It is seen in a higher regard paid to the pulpit than to the altar. In setting preaching above the Sacraments, for that arises from looking to man rather than to GOD. This is, in fact, that which we would condemn in the spirit of the age respecting building of Churches, distribution of the Scriptures, and the like. Not things of course in themselves to be reprehended, but in the mode and tone which characterizes religious actions in the present day. There is a want of fear. The same may be said, when right conduct is pursued, having for its end rather to set a good example to men, than to obtain favour of GOD, which is a species of what Holy Scripture calls hypocrisy. The numerous schemes of education which are abroad partake of the same earthly character, and the futility of them is of itself a proof of something wrong. They are founded on the idea of education consisting in knowledge, whereas it consists rather in affording right pleasures and pains. They are vain attempts after something different from that path which God has marked out, which is obedience to Parental, and Pastoral, and Episcopal authority, whereas these commence in breaking one of these ties. Hence the disunion which prevails; each has a prejudice, each a system, each an opinion, while the centre of union, the key-stone, is lost. It was very well for heathen philosophers to be forming schemes of education and systems of politics; and if human wisdom could have effected any thing, they had far better chance of success than we. We have it revealed from Heaven, that there is no way of wisdom, but that of obedience and the Cross. What else can be right education, but that which consists in entering more fully into the privileges of that kingdom of Heaven which is among us? of what little value is any knowledge, excepting so far as it brings us into this invisible but eternal world? This is the consideration which makes us unwilling to expose the sacred things of GOD. Not as if we enviously withheld a boon that has been in any degree freely given to ourselves; but that with a due sense

of its value, God has ever connected a reverential modesty in imparting knowledge: for the very nature of Christian knowledge necessarily implies a desire to communicate, while it regulates itself by the laws of true wisdom. Such a desire will ever show itself, in a forbearance towards the errors of others, allowance for their unavoidable ignorance, and aptitude to teach, arising from watchful endeavours to do them real good.

We may well suppose that the knowledge of CHRIST can scarcely be better described than by those many descriptions of the pursuit after wisdom, and the way in which she discloses herself to them that seek her. It is the fear of God throughout which is the only access to her; "the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom :" "the fulness of wisdom is the fear of the LORD:" "the crown of wisdom is the fear of the LORD;"

66

come unto her as one that ploweth and soweth :" "he that is without understanding will not remain with her. She will be upon him as a mighty stone of trial; and he will cast her from him, ere it be long. For Wisdom is according to her name, and is not manifest unto many...... Put thy feet into her fetters... bow down thy shoulder, and bear her, and be not grieved with her bonds. Come unto her with all thy whole heart, and keep her ways with all thy power. Search, and seek, and she shall be made known unto thee; and when thou hast got hold of her, let her not go. For at the last, thou shalt find her rest." All these expressions, and such as these, may range themselves as comments and lessons around that one great truth—a subject worthy of our most thoughtful contemplation, viz. that CHRIST Crucified was exposed to the view of all mankind, CHRIST Risen only seen by a few witnesses chosen of God.

11. Summary of the whole subject.

All that has been observed of our LORD's conduct may suggest to us much respecting our own condition, as now living in this His dispensation of grace. That the meaning of the kingdom of heaven upon earth, and the Evangelical revelations may be said to consist in this; that GOD is (as when revealed in the

« VorigeDoorgaan »