תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

In these, and other particulars which might be mentioned, we find an analogy between Christianity and nature, such as to show that they came from the same hand. Here is a test — its general correspondence and harmony with the works of God and with the natural and providential government of God — which no false system can stand. And more especially remarkable is it that Christianity can stand this test, when we consider it in contrast with that to which it was subjected at its first appearance in the world. With the presentation of this contrast I shall close this lecture.

Christianity, at its commencement, recognized the Jewish religion as from God; and it was a ground of its rejection, by the Jews, that it destroyed their law or ritual. Hence it became necessary — and this was the main object of the apostle in the Epistle to the Hebrews — to show that it was in perfect harmony with the Jewish religion when rightly understood, and was, indeed, necessary to its completion. Did the Jews insist that Christianity had no priesthood ? The apostle affirms that it had such a high priest as became us, “who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.” Did the Jews affirm that Christianity had no tabernacle? The apostle asserts that Christ was the minister " of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man ; that he had “not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true, but into heaven itself.” Was it objected that Christianity had no altar and no sacrifice? The apostle affirms that “now, once in the end of the world, Christ had appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Thus did the apostle show that the Jewish religion,

having dropped its swaddling-clothes of rites and ceremonies, was identical in spirit with Christianity. The same correspondence was either attempted to be shown, or taken for granted, by all the New Testament writers. But when we remember that Christianity is a purely spiritual religion, encumbered by no forms, and that the Jewish was apparently the most technical and artificial of all systems; when we remember that there was not only to be preserved a correspondence with the types and ceremoni

and ceremonies, but also that there was to be the fulfilment of many prophecies, we may see the impossibility that any human art should construct a system so identical in its principles, and yet so diverse in its manifestations. Nor, indeed, could there have been any motive to induce such an attempt; for, besides its inherent difficulty, Christianity so far dropped all the peculiarities of the Jews as to forseit every hope of benefit from their strong exclusive feelings, while at the same time it came before other nations subject to all the odium which it could not fail to excite as based on the Jewish religion. We accordingly find that, in point of fact, it was equally opposed by Jews and Gentiles. But such was the system exclusive, typical, ceremonial, external, magnificent, addressed to the senses — between which and Christianity, simple, universal, without form or pomp, it was necessary to show a correspondence; and this the apostle Paul, and the New Testament writers generally, did show.

How different the test to which Christianity is now put! The works of God are acknowledged to be from him, and, as now understood, how simple in their laws, how complex in their relations, how infinite in

[ocr errors]

their extent! And can the same system, which so perfectly corresponded with the narrow system of the Jews, correspond equally with the infinite and unrestricted system and relations of God's works? Is it possible that the religion once embosomed in the ceremonies of an ignorant and barbarous people, which received its expansion and completion in an age of the greatest ignorance in regard to physical science, should yet harmonize, in its disclosures respecting God and his government, with those enlarged conceptions of his nature and kingdom which we now possess ? Could Newton step from the study of the heavens to the study of the Bible, and feel that he made no descent? It is even so.

The God whom the Bible discloses, and the moral system which it reveals, lose nothing when compared with the extent of nature, or with the simplicity and majesty of her laws; they seem rather worthy to be enthroned upon, and to preside over, such an amazing domain. The material universe, if not infinite, is indefinite in extent. We see in the misty spot which, in a serene evening, discolors the deep blue of the sky, a distant milky way, like that which encircles our beavens, and in a small projection of which our sun is situated. We see such milky ways strown in profusion over the heavens, each containing more suns than we can number, and all these, with their subordinate systems, we see bound together by a law as efficient as it is simple and unchangeable. They stand up together — not one faileth!” But long before this system was discovered, there was made known, in the Bible, a moral system in entire correspondence with it. We see at the head of it, and presiding in high authority over the

scarce

whole, one infinite and “only wise God,” “ the King eternal, immortal, invisible.” Of the systems above us, angelic and seraphic, we know little ; but we see one law, simple, efficient, and comprehensive as that of gravitation, - the law of love, - extending its sway over the whole of God's dominions, living where he lives, embracing every moral movement in its universal authority, and producing the same harmony, where it is obeyed, as we observe in the movements of nature. We find here none of the puerilities which dwarf every other system. The sanctions of the law, the moral attributes revealed, the destinies involved, the prospects opened up, — all take hold on infinity, and are in perfect keeping with the solemn emotions excited by dwelling upon the illimitable works of God. “ Deep calleth unto deep.”

LECTURE IV.

COINCIDENCE OF CHRISTIANITY WITH NATURAL RELIGION.

ITS ADAPTATION TO THE CONSCIENCE AS A PERCEIVING POWER.- PECULIAR DIFFICULTIES IN THE WAY OF ESTABLISHING AND MAINTAINING A PERFECT STANDARD.CHRISTIAN MORALITY INSEPARABLE FROM THE CHRIS. TIAN RELIGION.

IF, as was attempted in the last lecture, a distinct analogy can be shown between Christianity and the constitution of nature, it will afford a strong presumption that they both came from the same hand. But if such an analogy cannot be shown, it will not be conclusive against Christianity, because there is such a disparity between the material and the spiritual worlds, and the laws by which they must be governed, that a revelation concerning one might be possible, which yet should not seem to be analogous to the other.

Not so, however, with the argument which I next adduce, which is drawn from the coincidence of Christianity with natural religion. Truth is one. If God has made a revelation in one mode, it must coincide with what he has revealed in another. If, therefore, it can be shown that Christianity does not coincide with the well-authenticated teachings of natural religion, it will be conclusive against it. Nature is from God. Her teachings are from him, and I should regard

« הקודםהמשך »