Imagini ale paginilor

of the Holy Ghost. The Scriptures, indeed, are said to be able to make us wise unto salvation ; but their sufficiency consists solely in a complete exhibition of truth. Notwithstanding their fulness and clearness, they will make no man savingly wise, unless his understanding be opened to understand them, by the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ.

The manner in which the Spirit acts upon the mind when he illuminates it, is unknown, as is the manner in which our Maker acts upon us, when he assists us in the natural exercise of our menfal powers. The one is a mystery of grace, and the other a mystery of nature : “ The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”*

It is impossible to describe, except in general terms, the knowledge which believers acquire by the teaching of the Spirit, or to show, so as to make the distinction perfectly intelligible, the difference between this knowledge and that which is obtained by the unassisted exercise of our rational faculties. “ No words," as I have elsewhere observed, “ however carefully and copiously selected, could make a man, who had been born blind, form an idea of light. The views of divine things, which are obtained by the internal revelation, are clear and impressive. Hence, believers are said to “ discern” spiritual things, to “behold with open or unveiled face the glory of the Lord, and to be changed into his image.” Such evidence accompanies the truth, and such a manifestation is made of its excellence, that the mind feels the highest assurance, and embraces it with ardour and ineffable delight. The Christian enters upon a new scene, and sees around him objects, the grandest and most interesting, which awaken a train of feelings and assections never experienced before. The words of Seripture are the same which he had often read without any emotion, but the thoughts which they excite are exceedingly different. There is a living virtue in the language of inspiration which penetrates into the inmost recesses of his soul ; exerts a commanding, transforming influence upon it, and fills it with light, and love, and hope, and activity. A similar change would take place if a man of a gross uncultivated mind were suddenly inspired with those refined perceptions, and that delicate sensibility, which are the foundation of taste. A new light would be poured upon the face of nature. The scenery at which he lately looked with a languid and careless eye, would present features of sublimity and beauty, by which his soul would be alternately filled with awe and delight. Where nothing formerly appeared but a variety of objects, distinguished only by their place and their form, he would now discover order, proportion, harmony, and grace.”+

The degree of knowledge is different in different individuals. This is, no doubt, partly owing to a difference in mental capacity; for, without a miracle, a weak illiterate peasant could not take the same comprehensive view of the truths of religion as a scholar and a philosopher. It is not the intention, nor the effect of the operations of the Spirit, to equalize our natural faculties. We might assign, as another cause, the different degrees of diligence, with which the study of the Scriptures is pursued; for this is the promise: “ Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord.”¥ We must remember, too, that the Spirit distributes his gifts according to his own will ; that there is a sovereignty exercised with respect to the measures of grace, as well as the persons to whom it is communicated; and that this is the primary cause, that some so much excel others in all spiritual endowments. But the nature of this illumination is the same in all, in the lowest as in the highest believer. It imparts certainty to the mind ; it discovers the excellence and goodness of the iruths which are perceived ; it is the foundation of faith and holiness, and con

• John iii. 8.

† Sermons by the Author, Glasg. 1816, PP. 287–9.

# Hos. vi. 3.

sequently of final salvation. It is in this way, I apprehend, that we must account for the assurance which all Christians feel of the divine origin and authority of the Scriptures. The arguments by which we prove their inspiration are not generally known. Many have no opportunity of being acquainted with them; nor is every person capable of entering into a train of reasoning by which the several topics are illustrated and confirmed. Yet every believer regards the word of God with unsuspecting confidence as the ground of his hope, and is borne up under all his trials, and in the view of eternity, by its promises. Shall we charge the illiterate christian with implicit faith? No; he has the witness in himself that the Scriptures are true. The marks of divinity which his enlightened mind perceives upon them, and the effects which they produce upon his conscience and heart, convince him that they are what they claim to be, as the sun manifests himself by his own light fo every man who has eyes. They have come to him in demonstration of the Spirit, and with power. Such was the conviction of the martyr, who declared that he could not reason for Christ, but could die for him.

The degree of knowledge which is necessary to salvation, it would be presumptuous to attempt to determine. We may say safely, that no man will be saved in ignorance ; for the first effect of the gracious operations of the Spirit, is “to open the eyes ;" that he must know himself to be a sinner, and Christ to be the Saviour; but farther we do not venture to proceed. It belongs not to us to fix the standard, and as, should we do so, there would be danger of its being too high or too low, so it would want all authority, because there is no determination of this kind in the Scriptures. In children whose faculties are beginning to open, and in adults who labour under mental imbecility, the measure of knowledge must be necessarily small. But a faint ray, imparted to the mind from the eternal source of wisdom, is of more value than the full blaze of reason and learning. The revelation vouchsafed to babes, and often denied to the wise and prudent, is sufficient to show the way to eternal lise, and to guide them in it, notwithstanding insidious endeavours to draw them aside. « The way-faring man, though a fool, shall not err in it."

As the knowledge which the Spirit communicates is distinguished from other knowledge by its nature, so it is also by its effects. Other knowledge puffs up the mind with a vain conceit of its attainments; but this knowledge creates humility, not only by convincing us how little we know, but by giving a discovery of the guilt and vileness of our natural character. It likewise purifies the soul; for, while other knowledge is a mere exercise of intellect, ihis affects the heart, awakens new feelings, and tastes, and desires, inspires the love of God, and the noble ambition to be like him. It is a perception and relish of true excellence, consisting in the conformity of the creature to the moral image of its Maker. Hence our Saviour prayed, that his Father would " sanctify” his disciples “ through the truth ;"* and an apostle says, " that beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, they are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.”+ It imparts consolation and joy to the soul, while the enlightened man is fully persuaded of the precious promises of the Gospel, and regards its blessings as his own. And when we think of the ineffable satisfaction, the divine peace, the bright and animating hope, which are inspired by the contemplation of the wonders of redemption, we understand the reason that Paul “ counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord;” and that other holy men have expressed the highest esteem for this word, and a decided preference of it to the wealth, and pleasures, and glory of the world. In a word, this knowledge is introductory to the more sublime discoveries of the

[ocr errors]

* John xvii. 17.

† 2 Cor. ii. 18.

future state. The objects which will be contemplated there, are the same which are exhibited in the Gospel ; and, so far as any man is enabled, by supernatural illumination, to form just conceptions of them, he anticipates the knowledge which will flow from the beatific vision. The difference is not in kind, but in degree. The one is the knowledge of a child ; the other is the knowledge of a man.

Wherever the light of heaven has once appeared, it will shine more and more unto the perfect day,” when the mists and clouds which now obscure our prospects will be dispelled, and we shall “ know even as we are known :" “ And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them that are saved shall walk in the light of it."*



The office of Priest-Necessity of this office of our Redeemer-Christ's call to, and inves

titure with it-Duties of the office ; sacrifice, intercession, and blessing of the people General observations on Christ's execution of these duties, and on his pre-eminence as a Priest.

Ever since the fall, the hopes of the human race have centred in the Messiah. He is the restorer of our fallen nature, the conqueror of our formidable adversary, the mediator by whose ministry peace with God is procured, the second Adam who has removed the curse pronounced upon us for the sin of the first, and opened the gates of paradise, that we might have access to the tree of life.

The design of the ceremonial institutions and the prophecies of the ancient law was, to make known this illustrious person, to describe his character, and to give notice of the purpose for which he would afterwards appear upon earth. Hence a general expectation of a great deliverer was excited; but the ideas which many entertained of him were the most distant imaginable from the truth. They believed indeed that he would be a prophet; for the words

Moses, and of other inspired men, were too express to be mistaken. They believed also that he would be a king, .who, marching forth in the terror of his power, would subjugate the nations, and restore the kingdom to Israel. But they seem not to have believed that he would be a priest; or, if they allowed the title, they explained it in such a manner, as rendered it perfectly nugatory; nothing appearing to them more inconsistent with the office of the Messiah, than the proper work of such a priest, which was to redeem us to God by the sacrifice of himself. He was, however, not only to sit upon a throne, but also to minister at the altar; not only to exert his power for the destruction of his enemies, but to employ his interest with God in our behalf. He was to draw near to the Divine Majesty in our name, and to mediate a peace between us and our offended Creator.

That Jesus Christ is a priest, is plain from many passages of Scripture which it is unnecessary to quote ; because, whatever difference of opinion there is among his professed followers with respect to the import of the title when given to him, they all acknowledge that there is a sense in which the

• Rev, xxi. 23.

office belongs to him. What we mean by calling him a priest, may be learned from the following definition of the character, although it does not comprehend every particular of the office. “ Every high priest taken from among men, is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins."* It is to the last part of the definition that I at present request your attention. A priest is a person officiating in the name of others, who approaches to God to make atonement for them by sacrifice. The design of his ministration is to render the object of worship propitious, to avert his wrath from men, and to procure their restoration to his favour. He differs from a prophet, who treats with men in the name of God, making known to them his counsels and commands ; while a priest treats with God in the name of men, to prevail upon him to admit them into friendship. It was in this sense of the word, that Aaron and his successors were priests. Their proper work was not to instruct the people, but to serve at the altar, and lay those oblations upon it which the law required for the expiation of sins. It cannot be denied that the title of priest is sometimes given to men not in a literal but in a figurative sense. Thus Christians are called a “ royal priesthood,''t and are said to be “made priests” as well as “ kings to God.”! It is evident, however, that in this case there is merely an accommodation of the title, because they minister to God in the duties of religious worship, and present the spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise, which ascend with acceptance to his throne, like the smoke of rams and bullocks, and of the incense which was burnt in the sanctuary. A proper priest offers a proper sacrifice.

A question here demands our attention, because it has been the subject of much and vehement discussion among Christians, Whether it was necessary that our Redeemer should sustain this office? The negative is held by those who believe that God might have pardoned sin without a satisfaction; and the affirmative, by those who are persuaded that it would have been inconsistent with the purity and rectitude of his nature, to permit sin to pass with impunity. It is certain that God is represented as a Holy Being, as necessarily and infinitely holy, so that in the strong language of Scripture, “He is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look upon iniquity.''S There is here an allusion to men, to whom some objects are so disgusting, that they avert their eyes and find it impossible to look at them without doing violence to their feelings. The divine abhorrence of sin could not be more emphatically stated than by this mode of expression. God can do every thing which is consistent with his essential perfections ;. he can do nothing which is contrary to them, and he cannot because he will not. It is not the want of physical but of moral power which is ascribed to him. Now, if it is impossible that God should ever regard sin with favour, it is impossible that he should suffer it to go unpunished; his nature forbids such an act of sovereign, unconditional mercy. To impress this idea, his holiness is represented as his “ jealousy,” or as accompanied with it. " He is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins."'|| It is the nature of jealousy not to spare, and nothing but the execution of vengeance will satisfy its demands. This awful truth is declared in the solemn proclamation of his name, when he said that “ He wilt by no means clear the guilty,”1-that is, the guilty for whom no atonement has been made. “God is jealous,” says the prophet Nahum, "and the Lord revengeth; the Lord revengeth, and is furious. The Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies."** It is to represent the punishment of the wicked as the consequence of his holiness, that our God is said to be a “consuming fire."H Fire, indeed,

• Heb. v. 1.

f 1 Pet. ii. 9.
Exod. xxxiv. 7.

# Rev. i. 6.
** Nahum i, 2

Hab. i. 13. | Josh. xxiv, 19.

# Deut. iv. 24.

burns by necessity of nature—God does not so act in any external operation His dispensations originate in his will; but his will is always conforınable to his essential perfections. Is it not then plainly signified by this figurative description, that as fire consumes every combustible substance which it reaches, so the nature of God requires that the transgression of his law should be punished, unless some expedient be devised to reconcile the exercise of his mercy with the honour of his holiness?

Again, the necessity of the priesthood of Christ may be inferred from the justice of God. As there is an essential rectitude of his nature, in consequence of which every thing which he does is right, sustaining the character of the moral Governor of the universe, he will render to all his creatures their due. Justice is ascribed to him in many passages of Scripture; and reason perceives so clearly that it belongs to him, that the question may be proposed as admitting only one answer, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"'* What it is right for him to do in the character of a Judge, we learn from the law which he has given to men, and in which death is denounced as the penalty of sin. Let it not be imagined that this is an arbitrary penalty ; for, since it would be a reproach to a human legislator to subject crimes io a severer punishment than they deserved, or than was necessary to maintain the authority of his law, we could not impute such procedure to God without a direct impeachment of his benignity and clemency. It is right, therefore, that transgressors should suffer to the extent threatened in the law. There is something in their conduct which deserves this punishment; and it is suitable to the moral perfections of God to inflict it. Now, let us consider what is implied in the supposition that Gou might have pardoned sin without an atonement. It is implied, either that it was not right that sin should be punished, that is, that it was not absolutely right, that it was not agreeable to the nature of God, that justice did not demand it; or that, in order to exercise his mercy, he might do what was not right. It is impossible to maintain that sin might have been pardoned without an atonement, unless we at the same time aflirm that punishment was not necessarily due to sin, or that God was not bound to recompense it according to its desect. If any man shall adopt the latter opinion, he must say, that what we call the justice of God is not justice, or that, when attributed to him and attributed to men, it has a different meaning. We always conceive justice, in a private or public person, to consist in treating others exactly according to their desert: and, consequently, it is equally contrary to justice to let merit go without reward, and demerit without punishment. If it be alleged that, although justice requires that the penalty of his law should be executed, he may set aside its claims by an act of authority, I would request you to consider attentively the import of this assumption. If justice has a claim, to dispense with it is to do something which, if justice would have been permitted to take its course, would not have been done. This is plain. Justice demands the punishment of sin—but the demand is not complied with, and therefore justice does not receive what is due to it. It follows, that to suppose that God may dispense with the claims of justice, is to suppose that he may cease to be just. Some men may not be alarmed at this consequence; but let it be observed that, if God may set aside in any case the demands of justice, justice is not essential to him ; we can no longer have confidence in the rectitude of his moral administration; nor can his laws be regarded with the same reverence as when they were understood to be guarded by the immutable sanction of death. As the moral Governor of the universe, God is bound, if I may speak so, to maintain the respect due to himself by the strict distribution of rewards and punishments, and to hold

• Gen. xviii. 25.

« ÎnapoiContinuați »