« הקודםהמשך »
hath abounded towards us in the person of his Son. When we begin to speak of it, we instantly feel the poverty of our thoughts, our utter unfitness to approach it. It is a subject in which minds of every order are alike lost; on which human wisdom can say nothing; on which we can only lisp like infants, or acknowledge our helplessness by our silent adoration. Here, then, is the peculiar province of faith and prayer; here is an object in whose presence our wisdom becomes ignorance; here our understanding is completely at fault: God in Christ is an object so stupendous that it cannot be brought into our minds; we have not room to receive it: this truth is a guest so glorious, that our limited mind feels itself both unworthy and unable to receive it under its roof; our faith must go forth, with all the train of christian graces, and do it homage. Like the apostle, when oppressed in its presence with a sense of its immensity, we can only take refuge in prayer, beseeching the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he would grant .... that we may be able to comprehend. ... and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.
We have already remarked the profound satisfaction expressed by the Father, at the display of his character in the person of Christ; a satisfaction which showed that he beheld in it the perfect reflection of his own image. On account of this entire identity of character, we often find the apostles speaking of the eternal Father and of Christ, in equivalent and convertible terms. Hence, too, the precedence and importance assigned to the knowledge of Christ; and the promise of the Spirit, for the special design of imparting that knowledge; for it is only by acquainting ourselves with the character of Christ that we can arrive at the knowledge of God; our knowledge of the Son is the exact measure of our acquaintance with the Father. The Regenerating Spirit, in all his operations on the human heart, makes the character of Christ the pattern after which he works; he begins by taking of the things of Christ, and showing them to the eye which he has prepared to behold them ; and he ends not, till the soul is completely conformed to the perfect model. Believers themselves are enamoured of it, for it is the character of their Savior; and as such, every act and feature composing it bears a direct relation to them. They can think of no excellence, can make not the remotest approach to any
modification of goodness, of which they do not find the archetype and perfection in him. Turning from every other representation as dim and veiled, they all, as with open face behold in him the glory of the Lord. A glance at this object fills their minds with a grand and overpowering idea of excellence; it draws to itself the whole depth and mass of their being. They count every part of their moral discipline as lost, which does not promote their likeness to his image; every instance in which the ordinances of grace do not increase their love to him, they regard as a fresh call to humiliation, a fresh provocative to self-examination and prayer; while every act of devotion they deem especially defective, which does not celebrate his glory, or implore an accession of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of him.
If a life of piety may be considered a life of praise to God; if man is so fearfully and wonderfully made, that even a discourse on the use of the parts of his body may be regarded as a hymn to the Creator, where shall we find terms fit to describe the tribute of Glory to God which accrues from the life of Christ? or, could we appreciate his character in all its perfections, what expressions of ecstacy and delight would do justice to its worth ? Nature from the beginning, had been vocal in her Maker's praise; had
been constant and full in an anthem, in which every creature bore its part; but the whole creation in chorus could not show forth all his praise, could but barely hint his excellence. As if conscious of the defect, and anxious to repair it by commencing anew, piety had often restrung her harp, and summoned the creatures to arise and aid her in the infinite attempt; had called on every thing that hath breath to join in a full concert of praise to God. But her utmost effort was only a preluding flourish, till he should come to lead the song, who had said, ' In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.' He took up the strain at a point beyond which creation would never have carried it. His voice gave the key-note to the universe. His description of the divine character furnished words for the new, everlasting, universal song. His unconfined power ; his unsearchable understanding; his holiness, on which no spot, no shadow could settle, and which the eyes of wickedness could not gaze on for its brightness; his untiring patience; his constant community with the general heart of man, which he wept over and bathed in tears: his meekness clothed with majesty; his personification of infinite love: these were the several parts of the harmonious song. All the attributes in him became vocal, and made infinite music in the ear of that glorious Being in whom they eternally reside. Each myriad-voiced rank of the church above, overflowing with joy, took up the mighty, whelming, ocean strain : the church below redoubled, and returned it back again in alleluias to the throne of God; age after age has heard it swelling on, as lisping infancy, and newly pardoned penitence, and misery beguiled of its woes, and ingratitude charmed into thankfulness, and hope spreading her pinions for heaven, and all the new-born heirs of grace have awoke up their glory, and joined the general choir ; and on it shall continue to roll and swell, attuning and gathering to itself all the harmonies of nature; till all space shall become a temple; and all holy beings, actuated by one Spirit, and swayed in perfect diapason, shall become one great instrument, sounding forth 'praise to God in the church, by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.'
SECTION III. OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
*This spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive.'
It is extremely difficult to discriminate between originality and mere novelty in a public teacher. The multitude are so prone to take their opinions from first impulses, rather than from judgment; inconsiderately and impetuously to ascribe a new and pleasing impression to the highest possible origin, rather than to any secondary cause; that many a public instructor has been invested with the highest preogative of genius, whose only attraction was, that he had assumed one of the thousand vizors which novelty owns, and wore it gracefully. And what enhances the difficulty of discrimination is, that while it is in the power of an inferior mind to invest a familiar truth with an air of singularity, it is one of the attributes of the highest order of intellect, and an attribute which it delights to exercise, to simplify an original truth, and give to it an air of familiarity; to secure for it an easy introduction into the mind, by giving it, though a stranger, the welcome aspect of a friend.
The difficulty of discrimination is further increased, when the truths to be judged of date back to a remote antiquity; when, by distance of time, which operates in this case like distance of space, the opinions which looked bold and prominent to the near beholder, have mingled and melted into one mass of indistinctness.
We have advanced the claim of originality for many of the doctrines of the Great Teacher; and were the Old Testament the only witness to be examined, the claim might be easily substantiated. But during the long silence of the divine oracle, during the space which intervened from the last words of Malachi to the coming of Christ, we know not what opinions grew up and prevailed. It is only reasoning on the known principles of humanity to say, that when the living voice of inspiration had ceased to speak, the sacred volume was much more likely to receive the undivided attention of the church than before. And with a volume so seminal of all truth, so constantly whispering in the ear of hope, as the Bible, who
approaches were made to many evangelical doctrines; what prophets of hope arose? And when once opinions, to which the wants or aspirations of the soul respond, have been broached, who can say to what consolidation or stability they may attain ? The feathered seed, which this year floats in the air; the emblem of volatility; a feather dropped from the wing of levity; will next year, be found rooted in the earth; dividing with the oak the spoils of the clouds, and rejoicing in the blessings of heaven, itself a seed-bearing plant. And the floating guess of one age becomes the settled creed of a succeeding; its point-like base is forgotten; and men go on building an inverted pyramid whose top may reach to heaven : it is congenial with one or other of the elements of humanity, and, by passing through a thousand minds, it acquires a consistency and