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erroneous and false conceptions, to satisfy the most inquisitive mind, to impress the most humble and reverential awe, to excite the most fervent love and gratitude, and to inspire every considerate man with a sincere desire of approving himself and his conduct to so great and good a Being Just reason, therefore, have we both to believe, and to be thankful for, the Gospel revelation, which has brought us out of darkness into this glorious light, by making known to us the one true God, of whom are all things, and by pointing out to us that just, pure, and reasonable service we owe to him.
A second excellence of the Christian religion consists in its having pointed out a clear and satisfactory method, by which sinners may be entitled to pardon, and restored to the lost favour of God: á point of the utmost importance to the happiness of mankind, and yet very little known either to the Jewish or Gentile world.
It was, indeed, ardently to be wished for by the weakness of human nature, and justly to be hoped from the goodness of God, that he would be reconciled to offending sinners: but, when men began to consider by what particular way this reconciliation was to be effected, human nature was at a stand, and the beams of hope were over-clouded by the gloom of despondency, For should the sinner confess himself to the Almighty, and profess obedience for the future: still that obedience must ever be imperfect, and, therefore, must itself stand in need of pardon. And, even if it were possible to be perfect, yet it could be no reparation for sins already committed, and therefore could give no just assurance or comfort to a mind loaded with the stinging sense of past guilt; much less afford any hope of that life and immortality, after which the mind of man naturally aspires with irresistible longings, and without which, life and its best enjoyments would become tedious and insupportable.
Amidst, therefore, this anxious state of uncertainty and solicitude, we cannot wonder to find the poor trembling gentile flying to every species of superstition, which offered one ray of hope, or could afford one moment's ease to a distracted mind. The first, which naturally offered itself, was that of a vicarious atonement: and hence that multitude and variety of sacrifices, which overspread the earth, aş mens fears or humours led the way. The uncertainty of all expedients Jed them to try every expedient: they were all ready to cry out in the language of the prophet, "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord,
16 and offered
" and bow myself before the high God? Shall “ I come before him with burnt-offerings, with “ calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased “ with thousands of rams, or with ten thou“ sands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first“ born for my transgression, the fruit of my “ body for the sin of my soul?” And all their enquiry, they were still left in the same state of perplexing uncertainty about the placability of the Deity and the pardon of their own guilt. For, however satisfactory these bloody rites might be to the unthinking multitude, the wiser part saw, and plainly confessed, that man could have no claim to forgiveness, from offering to God what was already his own by right of creation; that there was no visible or necessary connection between the act and the end
proposed; and that, therefore, it was not possible to imagine, that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin.
Such was the dreadful uncertainty of the gentile world in this important article. The Jews, it must be owned, were in a much more desirable situation, and had much clearer information. They had their legal expiations and atonements, ordained by God himself, to cleanse and purify the people, as types and shadows of that one great sacrifice, which, in due time, was to be VOL. I.
offered for the sins of the whole world. Yet even these, we have apostolic authority to say, could never make the comers thereunto perfect: they could, indeed, remove the temporal punishment of smaller offences, and legal offerings could purge away legal transgressions ; but for those moral violations of duty, which draw down the wrath of heaven; those greater crimes which gall and wound the conscience, which fill the soul with fears and terrors; for that vengeance which awaited them in another life, no atonement was found; neither “gifts nor sacrifices “ could expiate them, nor make him who did " the service perfect, as pertaining to the con" science.
Is it not, therefore, an invaluable blessing and privilege that Christians know their redemption by Jesus; that they are freed from all those fears and terrors, which must ever oppress à guilty soul; that, amidst all their anxiety, they can fly to the extended arms of his mercy, with full assurance that their Almighty Father will accept their penitential tears, and their reddest sins shall be washed away in the blood of the everlasting covenant, through his merits, whom" God hath exalted with his “ right-hand, to be a prince and a Saviour, to “ give repentance and forgiveness of sins."
A third excellence of the Christian religion consists in its giving us an assurance of the aids and comforts of the Holy Spirit.
The infirmity of human nature has been the subject of just complaint in all ages ; a complaint in which Jews and Gentiles have equally joined. So feeble is the guiding hand of reason, and so violent the sallies of head-strong passion, that the greater part of mankind, without resistance, gave up the unequal struggle, and resigned themselves to the impulses of corrupt nature. And even those, who saw the necessity of resisting the fury of lawless passion ; who listened to the invisible monitor within them, and were sincerely desirous of conforming to the light of reason; yet were forced to lament the insufficiency of human strength, and to acknowledge its inability to carry them through the whole compass of their duty. And, indeed, so many are the dangers to which human weakness is exposed from our own hearts, which are deceitful above all things; from the influence of example or the snares of surprise; from the power of desire or the cogency of distress; from the allurements of hope or the depressions of fear; that he must either have a very imperfect knowledge of the world, or a very overweening opinion of himself, who hopes to rise superior X 2