« הקודםהמשך »
“ gnashing of teeth," wherein is the darkness and death of an endless, sunless winter.
But the word “winter” in our text does not alone refer to the state of the confirmed transgressor of the heavenly laws. Even in the souls of regenerating Christians there is an occasional state corresponding to the natural season of winter, and it is that which is induced by the influence of tempting spirits when they so invest the soul as to obstruct the entrance of the inflowing rays of love from the Sun of Righteous
Perhaps there has been a prolonged combat with some strong evil inclination, and the soul's energies have been weakened for a time by the labours of the struggle. In such circumstances it often appears to the tempted one as if his Heavenly Father had gone into a “far country," leaving him defenceless and helpless, without food or clothing to support and protect him. The spiritual nerves are relaxed, and each straight step is taken with labour and difficulty. The path of righteousness seems hard and rugged, and the atmosphere that fills it feels icy cold. Then comes the tempter to the ear. “Why this weariness and foot-soreness,” he says, “when in my broad and level path you may travel so easily, and have the while plenty of jovial boon companions with whom to eat, drink, and be merry?” The blessings of heaven appear at present to the suffering pilgrim farremoved and unattractive, whereas the pleasures of the life of self and the world are pictured to him by the tempter in glowing colours and graceful outlines. It is a time of solemn crisis in the spiritual career of that man! Heaven is drawing him in one way, but its forces are enfeebled, because the higher and inner regions of the soul are densely befogged. Hell is attracting him in the opposite way, and with power, because appealing to the appetites of the external mind, which : are now unwontedly active. Which shall conquer? Were the man left to himself he would surely fall. But the Lord is near, and now He whispers into his inner ear the spirit of the words, “ Pray that your flight be not in winter!” Act not, walk not, as your inclinations would now lead you! The flight into and along the broad way may be easy, but it leads to destruction; the journey along the narrow way may be hard now, but anon it will be easier, and it leads to life eternal. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you! He is the author of your weakness, and weariness, and coldness. Resist him, and he will leave you; and then shall heavenly love and light pour freely into your soul, driving away the chill airs of winter, and refreshing you with the warmth and beauty and fragrance of the heavenly
Then you may take flight again from state to state, and each successive flight, while the summer lasts, will bear you onwards and upwards, nearer and ever nearer to the land of everlasting summer. The temptation may be to an act of dishonesty, or injustice, or immorality, or cruelty. Restrain yourself ; the Lord says to us, “Let not your flight be in winter!”
During the progress of the regenerate life there must necessarily be these alternations of spiritual state answering to the earthly seasons of winter and summer; but as it advances towards maturity the winters will grow shorter and less severe, and the summers will grow longer and more influent of heavenly love and light. And finally, when the time comes for the last great flight—from time into eternity—the summer of the heaven within the soul will have added to it the summer of the heaven without, with its auras of fragrant softness and scenes of ineffable loveliness. Every day and every hour ought we now to pray the deep, earnest prayer that that last flight may not be in winter. What we are when we fall asleep in this world, we are when we awaken in the eternal world, and to all eternity our characters must remain the same. Now is the time of discipline and purification; and only to the end of our purification, and thus for our eternal good, are temptations allowed to assail us. Were they not to awaken our evil dispositions into activity, and thus exhibit them to our consciousness, these might be to our souls as a canker-worm, secretly gnawing away our spiritual vitality. The winter of temptation is the season wherein we are discovering our hidden evils, and, as the light of truth falls upon them, we behold them in all their vileness, even as Milton's Satan stood revealed when Ithuriel's spear touched the squatting toad. The school of temptation is teaching us spiritual humility; we are learning that of ourselves we are nothing but evil; that we have neither light, nor life, nor strength which we can call our own. In every temptation the Lord is near, very near, to us, even when our own cooled affections and the suggestions of evil spirits would say that He is afar off. If we call upon Him in truth, He will hear us and deliver us. His truth, like a radiant star, will shine into our minds even in the midst of our darkness of despondency, serving as a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. It will still be with us when we walk through every dark valley of temptation, so that we need fear no evil. It will be our shield, and buckler, and sword wherewith to resist the tempter, and conquer him. And, after each victory is won, and the returning rays of heavenly
warmth are felt in the soul, the radiant star of truth will grow brighter and brighter, until at last we see in it the glorious Sun of Righteousness, which ariseth with “healing in His wings ;” in whose rays we may bask, and renew our strength for combat and conquest in temptations still to come. Truth will sustain us in our winter seasons; Love will feed us and strengthen us in our summer seasons; and, while it is active in our souls, we may, freely and joyously, take flight after flight-may journey from strength to strength—coming nearer and ever nearer to that angel-land where the sun never goes down, and where the days of mourning shall be ended. And when the Lord in His
mercy has called us thither, we shall find that the wintry seasons of coldness and darkness are over for ever—that there will be nothing that can impede our flight, from joy to joy, and from wisdom to wisdom, in a life of loving, self-sacrificing activity throughout eternity.
ON THE ANTIQUITY OF MAN.
It is well known that on comparing existent with extinct animals, it appears that successive forms of organized beings indicate a generally constant increase in complexity and what we may call perfection. In fact, in passing from a more remote to a less remote geological period, we see evidence of a progress which consists “in an increasing similarity of the living fauna, and, among the vertebrates especially, in their increasing resemblance to man" (Agassiz). This admitted, a question arises, Are the later and more perfect forms the posterity of their predecessors, or do they indicate subsequent and independent creations? There are great names to be cited on either side. Neither opinion is to be regarded as more than an opinion, yet a prevailing belief among naturalists is that man's immediate origin is an origin by descent from some monkey of that stock which is peculiar to the Old World. From some such monkey race it is supposed that by evolution and natural selection man has come, or if men are of diverse races, we should rather say men have come.
A monkey the father of man, or of men. This improved hypothesis suggests questions and difficulties in abundance. Is, for instance, man mentally descended from such a parentage? Is man's understanding of the same kind as that of the lower animals, his progenitors, the only difference being that his mental faculties had increased through successive generations, and that his acquirement of speech has confirmed
and quickened his intellectual advances? Or is man's soul so distinctly, discretely higher that no growth of the brute mind could ever result in even the lowest form of human intellect and will ? in which case we must suppose that while physically man may have a long and heterogeneous ancestry, physically his Father is the one God. Here are questions of no small magnitude, and at present we cannot state and prove a decided answer to any one of them. They must for the moment be reserved. We do not cite Moses for or against any of the possible views, because we believe that Genesis is not a text-book of anthropology in the narrow scientific sense, but a revelation of man's spiritual history. In short, we believe that the first chapter of Genesis, so far as it has any chronology at all, is subsequent to the existence of man, inasmuch as it describes not the formation of a previously unknown being, but the elevation of an already existing man into that condition in which he becomes in a genuinely spiritual way a lover of God, that is, a lover of truth and goodness. Not to discuss this point at length, we may remind ourselves that when men had become, at a comparatively recent period, devoid of spiritual life, their condition is indicated by the Lord's looking, and behold there was no man; but when any human being passes from a state of no-goodness and no-truth into a state of love and wisdom, he is called a "new creature," and is formed towards the likeness of the perfect man in Christ.” In other words, the account in 1st Genesis is not a record of a physical creation of man six, or seven, or twenty thousand years ago ; it is the perennially true record of that process, which, as it occurs among men now, is called regeneration. We do not quote the Bible, therefore, on this matter for these two reasons- It does not claim to be a manual of natural science, and it begins its record with man of a certain character already existent. It makes no claim to revealing, by an inversion of prophecy, an otherwise undiscoverable past. What the Scripture tells us, is the means by which man, such as he is, may become man, such as he ought to be—akin to the Eternal, co-operator with Him in His work, and a citizen of His blessed kingdom.
Yet what we have said involves some Bible evidence on the matter of man's antiquity. That evidence amounts to this—At whatever time man became that of which God said “very good,” man had already existed in a lower spiritual condition during a period of wholly indefinite extent. So far as the Bible speaks, it says (if we accept the Post-Adamic dates as elements of chronology) that about 6000 years ago man, who already existed, entered upon a new phase of his in
ternal history. There is no need at present to show why we believe that the dates intervening between Adam and Abram should not be regarded as having any chronological value. If this, however, be admitted, then the Word of God simply testifies that man has existed through undefined ages. On this point science cannot contradict the Word as we understand it.
We have indicated that another question of interest is as to the oneness or the multipleness of the human race. Is there one species man, with many
varieties? or are the German, the Chinaman, and the Negro, and the Tasmanian distinct species, belonging to totally different lines of descent? This question has been exalted to too great importance, theologically, through a misconception of Scripture, and especially of the doctrine of the Fall and the Atonement. It has been thought that unless all men be descended from one Adam, the doctrine of the Fall must be modified. So be it. If the doctrine you hold be incompatible with the plurality of races, and if the plurality of races be the truth, then your doctrine is to some degree erroneous.
Of course there is great virtue in these “ifs.” But what if the essential and only unity of the human race consist not in external forms and lines, but in the possession of a genuine will, and an understanding capable of being developed hereafter; what if humanity and heirship of immortality be the essential things, and the line of descent be unimportant,—then there is a federal union of which not Adam but God Himself is the Head; and that the Fall in its effects in us is not the result of one transgression of one ancestor, but of all the sin of every line of ancestry, and that the great salvation offered by Jesus is not offered to us and the Mongol because we are blood relations of David, but because we are human, and the Lord is revealed in a Divine Humanity with which all may be conjoined. It is the vitalunion of man as a spiritual being with the Lord Himself which constitutes the true unity of mankind.
It is therefore perfectly open to science to discuss the. date of man, and the singleness or plurality of races of man. What religious philosophy says is this-Man is, and is so related to the Lord that he can serve Him, and be blessed by Him for ever.
As to the antiquity of man, we must at present assume that geological theory is correct. We say “assume,” because it is just possible, though improbable, that increasing knowledge may greatly modify doctrines which are now received. This almost certain theory declares that while man is among the youngest denizens of our globe, yet perhaps his date is at least twenty or even a hundred thousand years ago.