« AnteriorContinuar »
read in the 3d of Exodus, that the angel of the Lord appeared to Moses, in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. And this angel said to Moses, I am the God of thy Fathers; the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God. These angels were appointed to particular services; and in these services, they were representatives of God. As therefore they acted directly by his authority, and in execution of his designs, they were also called by the name of God. And surely, for the same reasons, and in a far higher sense, might our blessed Lord say, I and my Father are one thing.
We add one other illustration; and if satisfaction were wanting on the subject, it seems to be impossible that this should not give it.
In the very remarkable prayer recorded in the 17th of John, Jesus said, Neither pray I for these alone, my apostles-but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be ONE; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they may be ONE IN US; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them; that they may be ONE, EVEN AS we are one. The word one is here neuter, and as in the expressions, I and my Father are one, it signifies one thing.-This prayer was offered to God for us ;for all christians in succeeding times. Our Lord prayed that we might be one in himself and the Father, as he and the Father were one. And are we not one with our Lord, if we do his will; and thus execute, to the extent of our power, the great and glorious designs of his religion concerning us?
Jesus received his authority from God. The words of Jesus were therefore the words of God. And the works of Jesus, in proof of this authority, were the works of God. And when he sent out his apostles, he invested them with authority like his own. They were to execute his will. And in the duties of their office, they were one with him, as he was one with the Father. Hence he said to them, He that heareth you, heareth me; He that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me. To language so simple, it would be useless to add any
We are not greatly surprised, that the Jews should have accused our Lord of assuming equality with God, or of assuming to be God; because, in almost every possible manner, they abused his language, deriving from it the most unjustifiable inferences, that they might either accuse him of sedition to the Roman government, or of blasphemy to the people. But it is indeed
very wonderful that, distinctly and fully as he has denied the charge; and repeatedly and explicitly as he has asserted, that he was sent by God; that he could do nothing of himself; and that all power was given to him; distinctly as he has said, my Father is greater than I; and constantly as he called himself, either the son of God or the son of man; directly as he taught his disciples to pray to God in his name; frequently as he prayed with them to God; and unequivocal as was his language to them, I ascend to my Father, and to your Father, to my God, and to your God; with all these, and far more numerous evidences, contained in his own teaching, of his subordination to the Father, and dependence on him, it is indeed very surprising that so many christians should still assert his equality with God.
Other observations on this subject we will submit to our readers in the next number.
THOUGHTS ON THE ESSENTIALS OF RELIGION.
It is always of great importance to distinguish between what concerns us and what does not, even in the most common business of life. We shall else be in danger of neglecting our own proper employments, and involving ourselves in needless responsibility without praise or thanks. There is enough to engage us that really belongs to us and has claims on our diligence. No one who is faithful will find his time too long for his work. The attention that would be accurate must be undivided. The endeavours that would be effectual must be cumbered with no superfluous weight. The same is true of all the objects of thought and examination that can be presented to the mind. The first exercise of the judgment must be to separate from them carefully whatever has been unnecessarily or improperly connected with them; whatever is adventitious or mistaken or of no regard. They should be set before us in their simplest state, and expressed in their plainest terms. Any thing that is permitted to adhere to them, which yet makes no part of them, will tend to embarrassment and error. Is it otherwise when religion is the subject of inquiry? It is one, which is of the highest personal interest. It involves truths, on which all are New Series-vol. IV.
to meditate, commandments which all are to obey, means and assurances which are of no partial application. Men should therefore bring to it discriminating minds, that they may have clear views of it, and not perplex it with questions that have no necessary connexion with it; that they may discern what it is, and what it is not; what it insists on, and what it leaves; where it gives information, and where it is silent. They are thus to learn what is to be received on its authority, attending to what it directs, and to nothing more. They will not then, on the one hand, follow opinions merely because they are prevalent; nor, on the other, neglect the whole subject, because some things affirmed of it are irrational, and some that seem contained in it are hard to be understood. A few thoughts will be offered in this paper, designed to show the points of discrimination which are most important to be kept in view.
We should distinguish between what is certain, and what is uncertain. It is with the first that we are chiefly concerned; while the other must be set apart and considered in a different light entirely. Whatever is most valuable, whatever is needed for security, direction and solace, is plain. There is no room for doubt as to the way of obedience and its reward: and it cannot be supposed that God has made the well-being of any one to depend on what is ambiguous, so that he cannot penetrate it, or remote and abstruse, so that he can attain it with difficulty if at all. In nature about us, what is requisite for our support and comfort is precisely that, with which creation is full the earth abounds with springs of water; and heat, the all-bounteous element, pervades the universe. So it is with those truths which are the sustenance of the moral life. They are within the reach of all. They come to the aid of every one who will seek them. The glow of devotion may be elicited from all the works of God's hands, and the fountains of salvation are perennial in his appointments and his word. Religion was not given to exercise the acuteness of the ingenious, or the laborious studies of the secluded, or the zeal of the controvertist. It does not address itself to the few inquisitive who are eager, and the unoccupied who are at leisure, to pursue deep researches: but to the ignorant, the poor, the weak, the busy, those who have few means of knowledge and little time for meditation. Its appeal is to mankind as they are ;—of ordinary capacities, of limited opportunities, driven to toil, and immersed in cares. To be adapted to the condition and wants of such a race, its declarations must be clear, and its benefits offered on terms with which all can comply. The way of re
demption must be such a one as the prophet describes,-in which the simple shall not err. When Christ entered on his ministry, he did not call round him the men of learning and of rank. His disciples were not sought from among the elders, the rabbis, or the priests. The toll-gatherer was summoned from 'the receipt of custom;' and the poor fishermen at Tiberias left only their nets, when they left all, to follow him. There were no studied refinements, no abstract speculations, no mystical doctrines to be wrought into artificial systems, contained in that direct and powerful teaching of his, which was to renovate the world. He did not dispute against the theories of an empty philosophy, nor even against the superstitions of the vulgar, except so far as the immediate object of his mission was concerned. The multitude whom he instructed, the sinners whom he called to repentance, the publicans who received him to their hospitality, the women who ministered to him with such humble affection, and the twelve whom he had chosen to accompany him, would have but ill understood the subtile metaphysics and captious distinctions and mysterious tenets, which have since taken the name of Christianity: yet we cannot suppose that the lessons which they received, simple as they were, were not fully adequate to their spiritual needs. Religion is a light, and not meant therefore to be hidden; and to revelation we can surely be indebted for nothing but for what it manifestly reveals.
We should distinguish what is intrinsic in our faith from what is only accidental to it. Much will then be found to fall away from our conceptions of it, which had made them before vague and confused. Some persons are prevented from giving it the thought which it requires, by the apprehension that it is a very complicated theme, embracing a great variety of remote particulars, and including much which they are little disposed to search out and might be unable to admit. They perceive that there are a great many questions and controversies relating to it. They hear many things asserted as belonging to religious belief, to which they cannot assent; and to religious practice, which they cannot approve. They have great doubts on points where they cannot escape from doubt; and are made uneasy perhaps at a scepticism, which they would find it a long labour to learn away. But what is it on which they are thus sceptical? Is it the being of God, or his righteous government of the world, or his care for his creatures, or the conditions of acceptance forever the same, or the revelation of immortality? Then indeed they might well fear; being without a founda
tion on earth or a hold on heaven; with despair at the grave and darkness on the way thither. But if it is otherwise with them, and their confidence is in these respects firm, let them be of good courage. Their doubts overspread nothing which it is indispensable to preserve unclouded; nothing surely, on which they may not exert their own reason with all freedom and fearlessness. Our faith should be drawn from our moral sentiments and noblest desires; from every thing that is wise and holy and happy; from such portions of the volumes of nature and the scriptures as are simple and obvious and most profitable for instruction. It is not a possession to be wrapped up in the corner of a paragraph, or made dependent on doubtful words in a foreign tongue. It is a living voice from heaven and the heart; and not like one from the dead growing fainter and fainter with the years through which it passes. No one needs perplex himself with the traditions which are not essential to the word of truth: happy are the 'doers' of the truth itself.
We should distinguish between the substance of religion and its forms. What is its substance? A pure conscience and a well-grounded hope. What are its forms? They are as various as the situations and fancies of men: but it is the spirit that quickeneth. There are forms of outward observances; forms of transmitting what is important to be made known and established; forms of confessions and articles of belief. All these are at best but means, and not the end. The bible itself is not religion, but a record from whence we may be assisted to derive it. A man may have its every letter written on his memory, yet be growing blinder and harder. He may prac tice all the ceremonies of ritual service, yet not have religion. He may utter with sincerity the longest creed, that was ever devised by the bigotted to exclude the heretical, and be dead to piety still.
The intention of these remarks will not, it is hoped, ▾ be misconceived. This does not seem to be an age in which to complain of forms: and among beings such as we, it may be doubted if faith could be maintained in its efficacy without them. They are its limbs, though not its life. To such as are useful a high place should be assigned, but yet their own place. It must never be forgotten, that however excellent, they are not religion itself, but the aids to it only. The modes of paying homage to the Deity are different in the different states of society; but it will always be rendered in one or another form of outward expression by those who truly love and fear him. It is natural to show by some external acts