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tion catches glimpses which entrance without bewildering and captivate without satiating ; bright mysteries elicit, ennoble and entrance the faculties of our feebler nature. As he who would level the material mountains and fill the valleys, would rob nature of her charms, her elegance and her power ; so he, who, under whatever pretence, would reduce revelation to the low level of reason, is a traitor to his species and an enemy to God. Oh let us lift the prayer to heaven, " that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith, that we being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the length, and breadth, and depth, and heighth, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that we might be filled with all the fulness of God.”
But it does not comport with Divine wisdom, to make prominent now this relation of Divine things to the pure intellect of His servants. Amidst the weaknesses, the sins and the perils of this present state, we need rather their guiding, sustaining and soothing influence; we want it in our homes, in the incessant occupations of life, the severities of the spiritual conflict, and amidst the shades of bereavement and death ; we have more to do with its gentleness than with its greatness,—with the daily bread it dispenses, than with the royal banquet it reserves. But when its more immediate results have been secured in the moral history of the saints,—when the salvation is complete,—when the protracted struggle is over and the scene of conflict itself is purified and recast ; then the connection of Christianity with the higher functious of our nature will be disclosed. To have drawn aside this veil,-otherwise than by gleaming intimations and gracious engagements at an earlier season, would have been useless ; since the creatures were not prepared for the vision-not able to sustain “ the weight of glory.” But when without a shadow of pollution, emancipated from the body of sin and death with faculties replenished, elevated, expanded, standing in the more immediate presence of God and of the Lamb the education of the redeemed, will in an emphatic sense, commence ; and thought, and discourse, and song, assume unprecedented elements and proportions. Then will be made known, not only to the Church itself, but to principalities and powers through it,“ the manifold wisdom of God.” If there be, my brethren, as I venture to submit, more intellect, both constructive and appellant, both formative and provocative, both causative and sequential, in the mighty scheme of human redemption through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, than is expressed in the universe beside,-it is on this ground surely entitled to be regarded as “the glorious gospel of the blessed God.”
All theories or themes, which appeal either to reason or to faith, are, if really truthful, self-reliant and noiseless : they have recourse to no devices to attract the vulgar gaze, or arrest the itching ear: -vaunting airs betray the emptiness of the cause they are intended to serve. The gospel, unlike the schemes which have risen, hydra-headed, around it in its course, has never left its first position, never shifted, in the slightest degree, the basis of its claims. Its earliest accents, clear and melodious, have fallen in all their distinctness on the ears of the succeeding generations. It has had recourse to no novel means to win for itself a name,-nor has it called in any extraneous aid to give force to its appeals. A dignified consistency has marked its progress, and amidst the mists and clouds which have gathered round it, it has remained enshrined in its own light. The book in whose pages it is contained and embalmed, is itself a surprising presence, a greater wonder than the miracles which shook the thrones of the Pharaohs, or consecrated the soil of Judea; in these, we notice the interposing agency, the outstretched arm, the rod that smites the waters, or the voice that surprises the dead; but in the Bible, and its preservation and integrity, we recognise the sceptre and the shield of the King invisible. Its venerable records, its exquisite narrative, its sublime devotion, its stately thoughts, its lofty poetry, its all-embracing scope, with its unsullied purity, combine to render it, in the eye of candid criticism,-the prodigy of the world.
There were two men whose names were destined to fame, who rose well nigh together about 1800 years ago. One of them was of illustrious descent; born amidst palaces, cradled in luxury, rambling during his boyhood in shady groves amidst fragrant vineyards and sparkling fountains, the beams of the sun of prosperity fell softly but brightly on his path. Rising into life, he goes in search of wisdom, and is seen threading his way amidst the haunts of learning and the halls of science, lounging against graceful columns, or meditating in embowered retreats. Of fascinating manners, very varied endowments, and of high and sagacious discourse, his reputation spreads wherever taste and erudition have their seats, till he becomes the admiration of nobles, the companion of princes, and the inheritor of fabulous wealth. The other, of humble origin, the child of an oppressed race, was nurtured in retirement, watched with jealous care, and lulled to sleep by Hebrew melodies. His childish ears were familiar with bitter wrongs and tales of woe; the spirit of resentment was kindled in his breast before reason could assign to it its place or modify its tones. He too repairs to the schools of his country and his race, and there amidst the bearded sects gives himself to seclusion and research, his object being to train as well as to store his mind, to brace his faculties to vigorous thought, as well as to plunge into the labyrinths of talmudistic and rabbinical law. Both these men wrote,—the one with all the help that the patronage of courts and the smiles of genius could lend,- the other amid all the opposition that sectarian animosity and malignant hatred could devise; yet the letters of Seneca lie neglected and covered with dust on the shelves of the learned, while those of Paul have their place in the mansions and cottages of our land, and are taking the mould of every language under heaven.
Nor is it the sacred volume only, in which it is contained as in an immortal vase, which awakens our veneration ; but like it, the gospel itself is frank and open in its mien ; courting, not repelling enquiry, and repaying the investigation it provokes. It discloses to searching and devout inspection an innate purity which is the secret and the source of its external comeliness; its prescriptive expression is but the beautiful and flowing robe which indicates its intrinsic holiness and worth; in this lies “the hiding of its power,” its resisting energy, its insusceptibility to defilement. Heresy, pollution, and malignity may rage, but they must die at its feet, must perish and disappear, as within the range of a lambent but consuming flame. Reposing on its own might, and clothed in its own panoply, this great system of truth has maintained its integrity through succeeding ages ;—gathering strength as it has advanced, hostility has not turned it aside, superstition, its dread caricature, has not defaced it, time has written no wrinkle on its brow, immortal youth gives freshness to its step, while the sepulchres of generations throw a pensive grandeur along its path,“ all flesh is grass, and all the glory of man is as the flower of grass ; the grass withereth, the flower thereof passeth away, but the word of the Lord abideth for ever ; and this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you."
The intelligent and inquisitive mind delights to trace the law of adaptation which run through the works of God: which is, indeed, but the Divine mind exquisitely impressed on the production of its power. We have only to notice the wonderful relation of the eye to the objects around it—of the ear, to the sounds which appeal to it-of the wings of the insect to the part assigned them-or the path of the thunder-cloud on its purifying mission, to call forth the exclamation* Oh, Lord, how manifold are Thy works ; in wisdom hast thou made them all.”
But these are only the tangible and visible types of that deep-seated fitness which pervades, with such mysterious exactness, the less obvious creation—which indicates the Divine Presence in the world of thought-of principles, of laws, of obligations, of habit, of sorrows, and of joy. The rule of adaptation, as it lives within this realm, is so quick, so refined, so restless, and, withal, so inviolate, that We contemplate it with admiration and with awe. It might be expected that a feature which distinguishes every department of Jehovah's works would be preeminently conspicuous, when He appeared in the greatness of His way; and, surely no finite imagination can conceive of its assuming mightier proportions than it wears in the dispensation of His mercy and His grace. Herein “He has abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence.” With graceful step, and most benignant mien, it meets the transgressor at every point: there is not an administrative difficulty it does not remove--not a barrier it does not destroy-not a sin which it cannot cancel, or a stain which it cannot wipe out. There is not a fear which it Cannot quell—nor a sorrow which it cannot assuage-not a hope, bright and strong which it does not encourage—nor a demon in our path which it does not lay. And more than this, there is not an attribute which it does not elicit—there is not a motive it does not ply—there is not a moral eminence to which it does not beckon _there is not an amaranthine wreath which it does not weave, nor a golden crown which it does not prepare—it does “exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think."
The necessity for the agency of the blessed Spirit of God, is therefore, not to be sought in any absence of efficacy in the Divine word, for this is "quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword; piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow; and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." The necessity of which we speak lies in ourselves, not in the Word, which is fraught with overwhelming evidence, charged with Divine power, presents the most stirring incentives, and is entitled to universal allegiance; but such is the obduracy of our hearts, such the cherished degradation of our condition, such the total depravity towards God, of our nature, that but for the exuberant grace of Jehovah, we should reject alike the instrument and the agent and abuse the light from Heaven, whether written or superadded, to our deeper overthrow and disgrace, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked ; who can know it?" If the instrument were not suitably attempered, my brethren, if it had no innate resident energy, it would be inefficacious even in the Divine hand which wields it; the final rejection of revealed truth, involves therefore the transgressor in inextinguishable guilt, while the cordial reception of it is to be ascribed to Him, who, giving no additional power to it, opens our eyes to see the wondrous things which are written in it; who convinces of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; who“ directs our hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.” How far we sufficiently honour this great agent who is with us in our assemblies, who, though too often offended, grieved and quenched, still lingers in our midst, and whom the heavenly Father gives to them that ask, may be worth a thought: but it shall be our anxious care in these days not to call down the fearful rebuke, “ Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears ; ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did so do ye!”
With these appliances—the Spirit and the Word--the seemingly slow progress and limited range of the Gospel of Christ, has awakened the sneer of the infidel, and staggered the faith of the believer ; the one has been ready to ask, “Where is the promise of his coming?" and the other to exclaim, “O Lord, how long!" Our notions of duration are restricted and puerile ; they are, imperceptibly to ourselves, formed on the scale of the few years that make up our fleeting lives. Events seem to us as though they were indefinite, which do not ripen themselves under our eye; but before Him with whom there is no past, no present, no future, “who is, who was, and who is to come,” these boundaries vanish, and the ages blend beneath His feet. He is never, as we, impatient of results, or tempted to advance with hasty step; with Him “a thousand years are as one day, and one day as a thousand years ”- the tranquillity of the Divine mind offers a sublime theme for contemplation, and helps us to comprehend its infinite discretion. Nor can we form any adequate idea of the importance which Jehovah, as the universal governor, attaches to the great scheme of redeeming love; of the relation which it holds to His vast empire ; and the influence it is destined to exert, in moulding and confirming the whole. Are we not justified in inferring with the profoundest reverence, that there are problems now in the course of solution, whose lessons are to live when the heavens and the earth shall have passed away-that the history of time, with the grand events of which it is the theatre, is to be deposited in the archives of the skies, and to be perused in its mystic but immortal characters, by principalities and powers, for their instruction and guidance for ever? It is surely then needful that every step in this preparatory process should be carefully taken ; that no doubt should shade, or mark of haste disfigure this eternal record ; it is obviously an occasion for that Divine caution which leaves its impress on every part of this great drama, as it gradually discloses itself to angels and to men. There was a needs-be wherefore the period which elapsed before the coming of Christ should be allowed to make its tedious way; and now that we have these
ages in review, we trace the Divine hand in the delay. The capabilities and the limits of reason, the distinguishing and crowning faculty of man, required to be tested that the necessity for revelation might be proved ; and proved it was, by the utter failure of the unaided intellect to guide the nations to God. Beside which, a phenomenon such as had never occurred in the Divine administration before, and which the concentrated genius of the universe could not have imagined -the incarnation of the Son of God—was looming in the future. complain of—nay, who can dispense with the extended period requisite to supply the line of seers who should write with pencils dipped in heaven the grand prophetic scroll? On this great epoch it was essential that all the lines of evidence which history, which inspiration, which time could supply, should meet, and even now, with these Divine attestations, the awful but consoling theme is dark through excess of light. The great general lesson, in my humble opinion, which is now being worked out, and which affects all worlds, is the depravity of man, and the consequent necessity for the descent of the Holy Spirit ; a lesson which is being gradually acquired on earth and in Heaven, and one of which the Great Teacher has left solid but satisfactory confirmation, “Light has come into the world, but men have loved darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.” The need for the appearance of the great Messiah and of the Holy Paraclete among men, must not only commend itself to the Divine wisdom, but must be rendered clear to finite intelligence that upright natures might adore, however malignant ones might resent.
How well employed the ages which are spent to such ends as these! Nor must we forget the time which was wasted in constructing the systems which have deluded mankind. Were mythologies, philosophies and schemes of abominable idolatries built up in a day.? Did policy, ambition, impiety, effect their designs summarily, in haste and without regard to endurance? If "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience,” took centuries to perfect his plans and consolidate his work, is it to be expected that the counteractive energy is to overthrow the infernal masonry by a blast ? Are erroneous but hereditary ideas, handed down through almost interminable generations ; with pompous but debasing superstitions, which gratify the propensities while they appease the conscience of men, to be dislodged and dissolved as by a charm ?
These prodigious engines of mischief and of death have a hellish vitality in them; though they may change their place they retain their being; if driven from Babylon, from Corinth, from Ephesus, they find a home in nearer or yet remoter climes, multiplying their votaries by millions, and gathering their scattered troops into thick and serried columns. Their overthrow, like their rise, has been, and will be, gradual and slow. As long as Divine truth works in accordance with the laws of the human mind, and in cognizance of the comparative moral conditions of the sections of mankind : i.e., as long as it seeks to enlighten, convince, persuade, renew; so long must its victories be resisted, varied, delayed ; so long must we learn to confide in Him whose « ways are not our ways, and whose thoughts are not our thoughts." It is quite true that genuine Christianity works at present within a limited sphere ; but let us be still : the judgments, righteous and holy, of Almighty