Imagini ale paginilor

share in the general progress, and to have given a permanent stamp of grandeur where at first only confusion appeared. Is there similar power in the moral sphere of His operations, and can He make this individual defection a means of elevation and blessing, and thus of more fully displaying the goodness which shines through all parts of His plan? We see no objection to this, and no difficulty as coming from the Creator; but if from any other, then there would be proof of imperfection and failure in the Divine plan, needing foreign intervention, and turning the allegiance from the Author to the perfecter of the nature.

But this recovery can only take place by a revelation of Himself far exceeding all that we have in the physical universe. We can only judge of the possible by the actual, and we see in the process of recovery such forbearance and long-suffering called forth by the varied rebellion of sinful men, as to present a sublime revelation of the goodness of the infinite and self-sufficient Creator, which, in the absence of provocation, would have been impossible. And when we consider the way in which all acts of Divine grace have come to us, by the incarnation and suffering and death of the Second Person of the Godhead, we see such a varied display of Divine wisdom, power, goodness, and allpervading authority as there is no scope for in the government of creatures uniformly fulfilling the Divine will. Remembering the reproductive design and tendency of all such Divine acts, we cannot fail to see that a much higher and more varied morality is learned by the creature than would be possible with a less perfect revelation ; and that this also is a means of happiness not only to those who exhibit it, but also to all around them to whom their action extends. In the Divine pattern there is such a full exhibition of all possible moral excellence, that those who are imitators of God as dear children' attain to the highest and most complete virtue of which human nature is capable.

And it must be remembered that the appeal, by a Divine pattern, is not merely, or mainly, to our intellect, informing us of the course of practice to be pursued, but to our emotions ; and this not simply by the exhibition of all lovableness of character, but by the establishment of a new and more tender relation between us and God, by which our confidence and hope in Him are increased, so that our nature is bound to Him. The sense of forgiveness also, preceded as it always must be by a profound sense of the demerit and degradation of sin, so binds the heart to God and to His law as to supply a motive adequate to any labour or loss which may be incurred in the way of obedience.

Thus we see, in actual recovery, a Divine revelation is the means; and even superficial thought will show that nothing else is adequate. Compulsion is impossible, because the thing to be done is to recover the wayward and alienated child to filial confidence and love, and to bring back the selfish and mischievous brother to fraternal kindliness and service. Instruction is not sufficient, for all obligations may be learned from the nature and from its obvious relations, so that the special guilt of the sinner is that when he knew how to do good he did it not. And it will equally be seen, that only such a revelation as we have in the means of human recovery is equal to the necessity of the case. In the need and in the fact of the recovery, therefore, we see the necessity of the revelation for which we contend.

NotE.Page 44.—Further discussion of the operation of conscience was not required in the text, but it may be well to meet an objection to which the concluding statement

is open.

It may be said, that among those who profess to live according to the decisions of conscience, we not only find great diversity of practice, but much also which is plainly contrary to righteousness. This is directly answered by the fact that many who profess this rule of life are not obedient to the decisions of their own conscience, and others turn away from the only true principles of judgment. Whatever their life may be, their conscience still demands truth and justice, and forbids all deception and injury. But the just claims of others differ according to the diversity of their relations to us, and it is in a primary, untrue judgment of those relations that the mistakes of conscience come. For example, when any man so far misjudges his relation to another as to suppose he has the obligation and right to rule him in his service and worship of the Deity, he judges it right to use all the force he can employ to carry out what he supposes to be a true obligation on himself, and his


sense of justice gives energy to his action; and so in similar cases. In such a course of action, a man may be said to follow the dictates of conscience, but this is plainly an abnormal action of conscience. Not only are facts on which the judgment rests not before the conscience, but a series of false assumptions has taken the place of the facts; and this has been by the previous action of the mind itself. We have therefore to go back and see how these false assumptions have been lodged in the mind; and we soon find that in this process the voice of conscience has not been heard. Take the example already given, and it will be seen that any discussion of the question must start from this point. We are all equally the creatures of God, and therefore bound to render the homage and service of our whole nature to Him. To this entire proposition every human conscience must assent. But that assent is utterly inconsistent with any attempt to step between another man and his Maker and God. Therefore, any conclusion which leads to such interference can only be arrived at by rebellion against the primary judgment of conscience. In like manner, all unrighteous action claiming

« ÎnapoiContinuați »