« AnteriorContinuar »
a fancy chimerical in its designs, and monstrous in its productions.
Another region opens before us. The levity of wantonness, the untamed and unregulated pruriency of fiction, the vile selfishness of imposture and of crime, are not here to solicit attention by playful or pernicious absurdity, or to court assent by the artifices of imagination, or the deceptions of fraud. The representations to which we are to direct our attention are, at least, plain, simple, and unsophisticated; and we shall have less difficulty in solving the question, are they false and pernicious, or salutary and true ?
The Providence adverted to, or exhibited in, the Gospel, may be considered, first, as the miraculous, and, secondly, as the ordinary Providence of God; the miraculous, constituting the economy
gradually prepared the way for the accomplishment of the new dispensation; and the ordinary, constituting the usual administration of the divine government. : I. In the garden of Eden commenced the long series of celestial interpositions which laid the foundations; and were finally to perfect the structure, of the Gospel. We behold the innocence of man followed by the crime and misery of his fall; but his fall is mercifully accompanied hy the promise of his restoration ; and Adam is permitted to contemplate, through the darkness of sin and the glooms of time, the rising of that sun of righteousness which was to diffuse a new and more perfect light over the nations.
In consistency with this beginning, the hope of a Saviour, and the religion to be perfected by his mission, were preserved, for ages, in the bosom of a pastoral and secluded people ; and that people, through whom the sin of Adam was to be connected with the redemption of Christ, was still to be permitted, under the tutelage of heaven, to anticipate the glories of the kingdom of Messiah.
When we contemplate this race, no longer devoted to herds and flocks, but rising into a great and numerous nation, we behold them, in the same mạnner, and for the same purpose, conducted and illuminated by the wisdom of Providence. Miracle after miracle was wrought to accelerate, in their favour, the purposes of heaven. The sea, which opened its waters to afford them a passage, suddenly closed upon and overwhelmed their enemies. Then succeeded the wonders of the desert, the long journeyings, the celestial sustenance, the quail, the manna, the stream gushing from the rock, the chastisements of sin, the murmuring subdued, the hope nourished, the fortitude sustained. At length, Moses was led to the summit of the mountain. There rested the glory of the presence of the Almighty. There, amid thunderings and lightenings, the divine voice was heard; and there the righteousness of the decalogue was announced, that Israel, instructed in the law of God, might be prepared to seat himself on the throne of Canaan, under the covenant of promise, and the especial favour of the Almighty.
The mighty plan which was to be perfected by the sufferings of the Cross, was still carried on. Through the medium of types and figures, as striking as they were consolatory, the Israelite was given to contemplate the dawn of that day when righteousness and peace were to kiss each other. Whether prosperity or misfortune was allotted to his nation, the trial and the blessing were equally the dispensation of heaven. Kings, and priests, and sages, and legislators, were raised up to become the instru
ments of the designs of Providence; and prophets, on whose lips rested the inspirations of heaven, described with holy rapture the expectation of their nation, and pictured every characteristic circumstance of his life, his death, his humiliation, and his glory.
The establishment and propagation of the religion which was preceded by these wonders, were to in. troduce a new series of providential interpositions. The Gospel was designed to extend its mercies to all times and to all nations; to resist and denounce all the low and fleshly attachments of the heart; to encourage the toils of virtue but by rewards beyond the grave; and to preach to a world of darkness and of sin, the strictest tenets of righteousness, of holiness, of contrition, and of humiliation. And by that means was a religion so simple and so sublime, and so directly opposed to the prevailing passions and temper of men, to be promulgated and confirmed ? Not, as it might have merited, by the majesty of Kings, but by the simplicity of him who “ knew not where to lay his head;" not by the philosophy of the wise, or the erudition of the learned, but by the lowliness and “ foolishness” of a few despised and uneducated mechanics, with no authority but that of the cross. In opposition to all human experience, the very feebleness of agents like these was to become the means of success and of triumph; and the weak, the unlettered, and the rude, were to discomfit the eloquence of sects and schools, and to convert the prejudices of the mighty of the earth. Where shall we seek for an adequate cause of these effects? Who thus strengthened the impotent, and enlightened the blind? By what support were the most scorned and ignorant of men to be
come subduers of the world? All mortal mortal wisdom would have been incompetent in this manner to triumph over the pride, the prejudices, and the interests of the world. And we cannot behold the children of poverty, and weakness, and simplicity, going forth to overthrow the altars, the tempels, and the gods of the heathen, to diffuse light and truth over idolatrous nations, and to oppose and convert the vices of thrones and realms, without exclaiming - This is not the work of man! It is the legislator of the world, who speaks by mortal lips! It is the sovereign of nature, who demonstrates, through the feebleness of his servants, his majesty, his glory, and his power!
In the visible miracles which were wrought to confirm the truth of the Gospel, we discover no less the operation of divine goodness. If Christ exercised the attributes of God, he did so, not to eyince the supremacy of his power, but the benignity of his mercy. He sent not forth the lightening to consume the guilty; he did not cast down thrones and empires; he crushed not the persecutors who were plaiting for him the crown of thorns. No! He exerted his might only to bless and to save. Death surrendered its victims at his word. He rebuked the winds and the waves, and they were stilled. The demons heard him, and trembled and Aed; and Lazarus, coming forth from the tomb; and the son of the nobleman of Capernaum healed of his disease ; and the hungry multitude satisfied with bread in the desert, manifested at once the miraculous power, and the tender mercies, of toe meek, the gracious, and the benevolent Jesus.
In this history of the divine economy for the establishment of the Gospel, every thing seems calculated to kindle the love and gratitude of mankind. The intervention, however various, is directed to the accomplishment of one great and sublime purpose: The majesty of God is placed in conjunction with his goodness, and both are interposed with sublime and undeviating consistency. We contemplate here no craft of human policy, no fraud of earthly ambition, no scheme of worldly contrivance. The in: terposition, in its design and effects, appears to be worthy of the Providence to which it is attributed ; and the powers of darkness and of sin, as they render
their dominion, and the mercies of salvation as they triumph, afford a splendid and affecting comment on the omnipotent wisdom of the divine government.
II. Of the ordinary Providence of God the repres sentation in the Gospel is, perhaps, equally grand and striking. No inconsistency of purpose or of will, no variation of design, no accommodation to the abject schemes and vanities of men, are attributed to the Almighty. All is good in the plan and in the operation. We are left nothing to fear from celestial mutability or caprice. It is permitted to us to look up to God as the wise and gracious disposer of events, " whose throne is established for ever and ever, and whose thoughts shall endure through all generations.” “ He is not,” as we are
a man that he should lie, nor the son of man that he should repent.” " That which he begins he shall surely perfect.” “ He is consistent and holy in all his ways;" and from hence is to be deduced the certainty of those promises which are the foundation of our trust and of our security, as immortał beings. “ He is the same from everlasting to everlasting;" and from hence “ flows the unchanging