Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

hanging over the purposes of God in man's redemption ; and much there always must be, while we see but in part, and, as through a glass, darkly. More still remains to be revealed, than was ever yet unfolded even to apostles or to prophets; more, perhaps, than has been revealed unto the angels; enough, it may be, to occupy the spirits of the just, to the ages of eternity. But there is one aspect of the revelation which, at least, is full of brightness—without a shadow or a spot; and to this aspect our apostle has pointed, where he says, “ the grace of God, which bringeth salvation, hath appeared unto all men;" why ? even to the intent " that, denying ungodliness and worldly lust, they live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world." And how shall they, who cannot, or will not, look upon the pure, clear, light which here breaks in upon them from the tabernacle of God,-how shall they dare to search into the majesty and glory before which the faces of the Cherubim are veiled ? To them the pillar of fire shall become as a column of darkness, from whence the countenance of the Lord shall look forth, only to trouble and to confound them.

Yes ! the voice of the host of heaven is glorious, when it speaks of the triumphs of Divine love. And scarcely less glorious is the voice of Christ's apostle, when he tells us of the fellowship of that mystery, which, at last, is to bind the whole race of man into one brotherhood and family. But, glorious as the voice may be, it is but as the trumpet of the Angel of destruction to all who obey not the truth-the plain and homely truth, which evermore lies at the threshold of all mystery ; without obedience to which, no mystery can be understood; or, if understood, would be unto us as the sounding brass or the tinkling cymbal. “ Without love," says the apostle, “the knowledge of all mysteries is vain." And what is love but the spirit which fulfils the law, and retains man in allegiance to his Maker, and in cordial good will and fellowship with his brethren ? And, who is he that loveth Jesus Christ but he who keeps his commandments? And, who shall know of the doctrine or the mystery, but he who is prepared to do the will of God? Away, then, with all mere sensibilities. Away with the transient emotion with which we may listen to the preaching of an apostle, or the hymn of a seraph. Away with them, I say, as tests of our faithfulness. These things may, indeed, be unto us as a savour of life unto life ; but, they may also be unto us a savour of death unto death. Let us retire into our chambers. Let us search our hearts and lives-our thoughts, our words, our deeds,-and let us see whether these be such as we could lay open before the apostle to whom grace was given to preach unto the heathen the unsearchable riches of the Saviour. Let us see whether these be such as the Angels of God could look upon with hope and joy. Or, to come more home, whether they be such as we ourselves shall look back upon with peace of heart, in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment. Christ has been manifested unto the Gentiles, and to us among them. Now, therefore, is the accepted time-now is the day of salvation. And now also is the time for us to choose whether he shall have been manifested unto us only as our Judge ; or whether he shall have been manifested as the first of many brethren- the gracious leader of them, to whom power hath been given to become the sons of God.

C. W. L.

REVIEW OF NEW PUBLICATIONS.

Art. I.-Sermons preached at the Temple Church, and before the Uni

versity of Cambridge, during the Month of January, 1838. By the Rev. THEYRE T. Smith, M.A., Assistant Preacher at the Temple, and Sunday Evening Lecturer at St. Lawrence's, Jewry. London:

Fellowes. 1838. 8vo. pp. 506. There are several incidental considerations to be taken into account, in determining the merit of these most valuable Sermons. It is scarcely possible for a clergyman to occupy a more arduous or a more important position than that of their author. In ordinary congregations the average demand upon the intellectual efforts of the preacher is but small ; whereas, in the case of the audience at the Temple church, it were worse than trifling if the christian advocate ever addressed it without making the most vigorous mental exertion in announcing and vindicating truth. It will often happen in most churches, that a jejune statement may be made without awakening disgust; and an ill-arranged argument or a false conclusion may escape distrust or detection, and an inflated rhapsody may obtain admirers; but, where every hearer is more or less a practised jurist, --hourly in the habit of tracing the relations of human thought, of weighing evidence, of unravelling, or perchance weaving subtleties; where all have been, more or less, admitted within the recesses of men's bosoms, in the midst of struggles, and plots, and passions,—it is obvious that nothing meagre, nothing specious, nothing affected will avail. We would that some of our most applauded masters of pulpit oratory were compelled occasionally to address them; and the dogmatism which now gains such credence would meet with the lip's curl; and the wild and fervid passion (like the fury of the Pythoness) which now gathers fresh ardour from the excited multitude, would be frozen by the frown.

Such considerations as these are necessary, otherwise the great excellences of these Sermons may pass unnoticed. They are of a very high, if not of the highest order. They are literary, but not too much so, in their style; inflexibly rigid and cautious in their argument; and almost all of them gradually warm into a height of temperature sufficient for sustaining interest and producing a salutary impression; so that, although we are at friendly issue with our author upon several minute points—more logical than doctrinal—we give his discourses our most cordial recommendation. We have said that his discourses gradually grow warm.

And we hold that in all churches, but especially at the Temple, the preacher, whose habits are argumentative, and who would be honest in his mode of producing conviction, should cultivate this feature. No passion,not even virtuous passion,-should ever be employed in order to accelerate deliberation. It is infinitely safer to the cause of truth that the judgment, during the process of inquiry, should remain cool; or, at least, that if it must have some heat, in order to its perseverance, it should gradually gather it during the pursuit. Setting aside the psychological fact, that the emotions first glow before they ignite at the touch of truth,--and that, therefore, it is grossly unphilosophical immediately to presume on the ardour of the congregation, it is moreover eminently fatal to their permanent conviction. The decisions of the mind, especially upon religious subjects, are, with sore frequency, undergoing revision, in most men, and suspicions as to their value will of course be tenfold more credulous, if the memory can recall any emotion as their original vehicle. It is, therefore, with great regret that we find several of our most celebrated preachers, with whom the argument, from the beginning to the end, is enrobed with imagination and feeling, and whose audiences, therefore, may be viewed as thrown into the exciting gyrations of a whirlwind, rather than as steadily, but surely drawing near to the warm vitality of truth.

The volume before us contains eighteen discourses, upon the following topics; viz.— The Expiatory Sacrifice of Christ; the Advocacy of Christ; the Hope of the First Christians; the Love of the World ; the Nine Lepers ; Sufferings, a Proof of Divine Goodness; Repentance in Afiction ; the Comprehensiveness of the term Faith ; the Doctrine of St. James on Justification; the Doctrine of St. James consistent with that of St. Paul; the Inculcation of Works as necessary to Justification ; the Design of our Saviour in the use of Parables; the Renewal of the Mind in Christians; and, the Love of our Neighbour. On all these subjects he unquestionably displays much originality and independence. We decidedly disagree with him upon one or two methods which he has adopted for vindicating the doctrine of our Church, but upon the methods only; and with this reserve, we feel certain that no studious, hard-thinking reader can master his arguments without advantage.

The first three Sermons bear directly upon the Socinian controversy, and, certainly, are most masterly. We think we cannot give our readers a better specimen of our author's modes of thought and expression than by extracting the entire of the first part of the first Discourse, on the Expiatory Sacrifice of Christ. The text is taken from Romans iii. 25, 26.--"Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time, his righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”

These words, in common with many other passages of Scripture, seem very obviously to affirın the vicarious nature, or the expiatory virtue, of the death of Christ. There are theologians, however, who reject this doctrine ; not absolutely or properly on the authority of the Scriptures, but on grounds independent of divine revelation. They deny the reasonableness or necessity of a satisfaction to divine justice, in order to procure the acquittal of the guilty; and judge it more consonant to our reason that the Almighty should absolve the sinner in the absence of a propitiatory sacrifice--by a simple declaration of forgiveness. They accordingly regard the principal benefit of our Saviour's mediation, with respect to our justification before God, as consisting in his having taught us the efficacy of repentance to obtain the pardon of our sins, and the availableness of a sincere though defective obedience. They are content, moreover, to describe the death of Christ as merely an attestation to the truth of his pretensions; or as afiording us a pre-emineat example of patience and resignation. But we deem this a very partial and inadequate view of our obligation to Jesus Christ, entitled as he is, the Saviour of the world; and in

maintaining the more prevailing doctrine on the subject, we shall endeavour to establish the two following propositions :

First, There is no sufficient ground, on the authority of human reason, to pronounce upon the mode in which the Almighty exercises mercy, or absolves the guilty.

Secondly, It is a doctrine of the Scriptures that the penitent are exempted from the punishment of their sins, not on account of any relaxation in the law which they have violated, but in virtue of the expiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

In the first place, we propose to show that there is no sufficient ground, on the authority of human reason, to pronounce upon, or to pre-conceive the mode in which the Almighty exercises mercy, or acquits the guilty.

There are some, it was remarked, who deny the reasonableness and necessity of a satisfaction to divine justice. They condemn the belief of it as injurious to the free agency, and the absolute sovereignty of God. In thus prejudging the conduct of the Deity, and the nature of his government, they are guided, you perceive, by the precedent or analogy which is furnished them in the administration of justice amongst mankind. Human rulers are invested with power to mitigate the rigour of established laws; to remit the exactions of justice at their pleasure ; and to exercise a prerogative of mercy in behalf of the guilty and condemned. And can the mercy of the Almighty, it is sometimes asked, be subject to any condition or qualification ? Can the Ruler of the Universe require the intervention of a sacrifice, or any other means of reconciliation, as a pre-requisite to the pardon and acceptance of the penitent transgressor ? What more can be necessary, on the part of God, to the absolution of the guilty, than a simple announcement of forgiveness ?

This reasoning, though not a little plausible, is, we suspect, but ill-considered and superficial. It overlooks this most important fact--that imperfect knowledge, or defective wisdom, is the principal--the only reason why human laws are made capable of yielding; and that the penalty of crime is not certain in its infliction. In all cases of remission or commutation of punishment, there is either some doubt of the criminality of the condemned person, or an opinion is entertained that the punishment impending over him is more than adequate to the offence of which he stands convicted. It is assumed or conjectured that there exists some valid ground for an acquittal from the charge of guilt, or for a mitigation of its penalty. In truth, it is no more proper to human than to divine justice, to remit the sentence of law when guilt is palpable and unequivocal, and evidently equal to the punishment which it has incurred. That a compassionate sympathy with the condition of the criminal, or a reluctance to inflict pain or death, should operate to his escape from punishment, would, it is obvious, be accounted a fault in the judicial administration, and be universally deprecated as tending to the subversion of society. Our religion, it is true, instructs us to suppress the spirit of retaliation towards those who have injured us ; but, notwithstanding, as members of the social body, and bound, as such, to aim at the promotion of the common good, we aspire to a character of inexorableness towards the violators of right and law. We rigorously uphold, however we may deplore, the sentence which dooms the guilty to suffer or to die; and we account those to have been examples of heroic virtue, who, in this respect, have sacrificed the claims of kindred and friendship on the altar of political rectitude.

There appears to be no pure, intelligent principle of forgiveness in the judicial wisdom of this world." Human legislation discovers no other elements of mercy than its weaknesses and imperfections. What is called a discretionary power, and lauded as a prerogative of mercy, is simply a right of determination on grounds which the law is unable to anticipate, and consequently cannot decide upon,

It is impossible, beforehand, to describe all the circumstances which may diminish the guilt of a particular offence; and hence it is expedient to leave ample scope for the supply of deficiency, or the correction of error;

YOL. XXII. NO. 1v.

сс

or, in more flattering, but, as it would seem, less accurate language, to place in the ruling power a right of dispensation, or prerogative of mercy: Moreover, as men are so liable to error in their decisions, it becomes a principle of natural equity to incline to the side of clemency and remission. Unquestionably, however, in proportion as crimes become more clearly discriminated, the penalties annexed to them better selected or proportioned, and the rules of evidence more satisfactorily ascertained, punishment is more rarely remitted. In other words, the more comprehensive the wisdom of the legislature, the more certain is the execution of its enactments.

Now imperfect knowledge, or defective wisdom, appertains not to the Divine Being; and, consequently, that relaxation of law which is common to human societies—that mercy which is exercised on principles with which we are conversant-can have no place in the government of God. No such causes as those which incline a human judge to forbear the execution of penal law can act upon the All-perfect mind, and withhold the uplifted arm of the Almighty. With Him there is no faulty or suspicious evidence; no distance of time or place; and no obscurity or complication of circumstances. He is the faithful witness, as well as the incorruptible judge. Nor could any event have escaped his prescience, that might render an amelioration of his law expedient or de sirable. He could not, for example, have been surprised into forgiveness by the repentance of mankind, or influenced by any new or unexpected motive in their favour. His thoughts of mercy must have been coeval with his being; his design to spare the guilty must have been from everlasting. Yet is his law announced in most absolute terms, as cited by St. Paul,-“Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things, which are written in the book of the law to do them."

So far then from assuming that the unerring Legislator of the universe would recall the sentence which had issued from his lips, or remodel the law which he had promulgated, it would seem a more rational conclusion, that mercy and forgiveness on the part of God, would proceed on some reconciling and harmonizing principle, wide from the scope of our analogies, and without the range of human intelligence.

We have not offered these remarks, you observe, in order to infer what the Scriptures only can determine, the necessity of some vicarious interference in behalf of the transgressor,-of some desert or plea of justification to accrue to him from the agency of another being. We were concerned to show only that there is no foundation for the bold denial of such a necessity, and that no objection to this part of the christian economy can be justly derived from the conduct and policy of mankind. Accordingly, we have deemed it important to remark, that the remission of punishment which takes place in human jurisdiction, can furnish no explanation of the pardon vouchsafed the guilty by a Being of perfect knowledge and wisdom, as well as benevolence. It may be a dictate of natural religion to supplicate forgiveness from the Father of our spirits, and to anticipate the pardon of our offences when conscious of the sincerity of our repentance : and certain is it, that the spirit of the gospel is in all harmony with this prevailing impression of the divine benignity and compassion. But our preconceptions of the mercy of God have no warrant in the judicial wisdom of this world, inasmuch as the remission of punishment is no acknowledged or contemplated object of legislation : the growing perfection of laws, tending, as we have already observed, to the certain conviction and punishment of the offender, and, consequently, to preclude the exercise and hope of forgiveness. How little analogous, we may add, is such a system to the constitution of the christian economy, which contemplates the amendment of the transgressor in place of his punishment, and while it grants entire absolution to the guilty, reanimates and uplifts the spirit of obedience!

We forbear examining more particularly, the grounds on which the doctrine of justification, through the medium of an atoning sacrifice, is exploded by the professors of a theology whieh appropriates to itself the epithet rational. What

« EdellinenJatka »