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eternal misery of those who die in their sins ;'' “ God is literally not mighty enough to snatch him from everlasting burnings."
Of such daring assertions it is far from being a sufficient justification to subjoin, that the Divine justice or holiness are the limitary agents. Bold, startling propositions excite attention; and explanatory statements which soften apparent paradox into acknowledged truth subsequently raise admiration of the ingenuity which has been displayed; but these rhetorical arts are grievously misplaced, when the worm man is contemplating the infinity of his Creator. He must then, in humble prostration of soul, keep close to the simplest and severest deductions of reason; or rather he must not venture one step beyond the revelations of Scripture.
But, in limine, as a mere matter of argumentative statement respecting the nature of God, I cannot allow the soundness or the profundity of this view. At the very foundation of all our attempts to build up such a notion of that adorable Being as our faculties can grasp, lies the attribute of unity—of perfect oneness, such as exists not except in Him. “ Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.” Thus both the Old and the New Test ment introduce the first and greatest Commandment. And it is not merely a low and contracted, but a false, notion of that unity, to imagine that his attributes are distinct and warning; that the exertion of one of them is limited by the action of others.
Allowing, however, that if a clear, scriptural proof of such modified working of opposed qualities in the Divine Mind can be made out, we must not presume to set up a contrariant theory, I proceed to examine Mr. Melvill's expositions and deductions.
He assumes, as indisputable, that " the things which belonged to the peace of Jerusalem” were not merely “ things connected with immunity from the coming disasters," but the things which had to do with the everlasting peace of the Jews.” I should not animad. vert on this position, if, instead of building a weighty superstructure on it, he had adduced it by way of warring or exhortation. There is a close connexion between the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the individuals of the Jewish nation—between peace on earth and everlasting peace; for both result from reconciliation with God through the Mediator... But I must now maintain that Jerusalem primarily represents the Jews as a body, as a nation, and not as individuals ; and that the visitations of national calamity for national sins must, from the necessity of the case, be in this world alone. And I must further add, that our Lord intimates this when he describes the coming judgments.
'The things which belong to thy peace are now hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side; and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee, and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another, because thou knewest not the day of thy visitation."
It is unnecessary to press certain minor considerations, for these are sufficient. Yet I might urge with some force, that the Jews had not yet consummated their crimes by the greatest of them ; that all the chosen preachers of the Gospel were Jews; that myriads of the inhabitants of Jerusalem were converted by the preaching of Christ crucified, and that among them were some of his immediate murderers-unless we adopt the hard and degrading notion that the in
tercession for their forgiveness was unmeaning or unavailing. I must repudiate such a theological system as maintains, in the very face of the narrative of St. Luke, that “ although the Jews were still to be plied with offers of mercy, their doom" (not their national, but their individual and final doom) was determined, and they were shut up to a fate from which escape was impossible.'
But I hasten to Mr. Melvill's Coryphæan argument. Jesus wept over the city ; he was God as well as man; he was therefore omnipotent; if then his tears were thoroughly honest,” if they were not “hypocritical,” it follows that he was sincerely sorry that he could not prevent the catastrophe ; it was in no sense optional with him, whether vengeance (and observe, it is eternal vengeance) should come down upon Jerusalem ; consequently “he literally could not benefit the objects of his compassion; could not, though all the while he was that omnipotent Being, for whom and by whom were all things created."
I really cannot wonder if such crude assertions indispose some minds to those fundamental doctrines of our faith, the union of three Divine Persons in one Godhead, and the union of the Godhead and the manhood in one Christ, written as with a sunbeam in every part of the Scripture, not in bewildering paradox, not in subtle argumentation and inference, but in plain assertion of edifying and important fact; yet as far above the explanation of the highest human intellect, as to the modes of existence and union, and as to the manner of operation of the Divine Perons, as the throne of God is raised above " this pinfold here, in which low-thoughted man is confined and pestered."
That the Omnipotent could not do what he was literally desirous of doing, is a theory wholly resting on the assumption that we are capable of ascertaining the manner in which the two perfect natures, which are united in Christ Jesus, act upon each other. Allow it to be a mystery which no man can presume to fathom, and nothing remains for the foundation of the paradox. The whole tenor of the Gospel history proves that he was “ perfect man;" that he was like ourselves as to all the appetites, passions, infirmities and weaknesses of our nature, such as it sprang from the Creator's hand, when he surveyed all his works, and pronounced them very good. If then the love of kind be natural to man in his sinless state, both as it is concentrated towards our nearest relatives, and as it expands with proportionate fervour towards our friends, our compatriots, our fellow-men, the truth of Christ's manhood is involved in the acknowledgment that he loved his country and his countrymen, and bitterly lamented the dreadful sentence of excision gone forth against them in the foreknowledge of God. If it be asked, why the compassionate and patriotic Jesus did not exert Almighty power to ward off evil which excited deep sorrow in his breast, I reply by a like question, Why did he not summon the legions of angels, awaiting but his prayer, that they might dash from his lips the cup which his will shrunk from drinking ? In this case, the fact is quite clear that Jesus had a distinct human will, which with mighty effort he subdued into perfect accordance with the will of his Father. It was a far less violent emotion which generated his tears on the other occa, sion; and his acquiescence in the righteous decree which doomed Jerusalem was so prompt, that his triumphal entry into the city, and his supernatural exercise of jurisdiction in the Temple, were not impeded.
What elicited his tears at the sepulchre of Lazarus is but matter of conjecture. There is no scriptural proof that they flowed from prescience of the continued unbelief of the Jews as a body; and I should sooner have expected him to weep on this account when he foretold his own resurrection, the miracle which more than any other renders unbelief inexcusable. Let us but allow that Jesus had all the feelings of a man, and what could more naturally excite his sympathetic sorrow, than to witness the deep affliction of those whom he loved an affliction which had been in his power to prevent, and which called into vivid recollection the dying agonies of his dead friend? But as no doctrinal deductions result from Mr. Melvill's conjecture, it needs not be farther noticed.
Let us be content, in all humility, to leave such useless and dangerous questions unanswered, and not attempt to define our notions of the perfect human nature of Jesus, in order to make them square with vain conceptions of the mode in which the Divinity was acted upon by the humanity, during the days when the Son of God dwelt among men.
When we have pleased the pride of our reason with fabricating specious explanations, and have narrowly avoided shipwreck on the old Monothelite heresy, our faith will be tasked with problems still more obscure ; we shall be questioned, How he could increase in wisdom as well as in stature? In what mode he knoweth not the day of doom? In what way the Father is greater than He? And little fruit will result from the most ingenious replies. It is well, if faith be not staggered at their evident inadequacy to meet all difficulties and obligations ; but if happily it does not waver, reason cannot guide us without faultering beyond these simple truths ; that man alone can undergo the sufferings which constitute atonement; and that God alone, in mysterious union with man, can stamp those sufferings with efficacious, saving merit.
ON FIDELITY IN PAINTING THE CHARACTER OF DEPARTED
For the Christian Observer.
Doctor Johnson, if I mistake not, once said to a friend, who had applied the well-known adage, “ de mortuis nil nisi bonum,” I should rather read, “de mortuis nil nisi verum.” That amendment must generally he admitted by all who impartially exercise their thinking powers. For to say nothing but what is “ good” of our deceased neighbours were undeniably to destroy all the necessary distinction between truth and error, between faith and unbelief, between holiness and sin. Such a rule never could obtain with any one whose religious views had been formed in the light of Revelation.
Yet I am convinced, from frequent observation and mature thought, that to do justice to the character of departed Christians is a matter of great difficulty ; so great that their biographers have rarely satisfied the expectations of the Christian public. Either too high a colouring is thought to be given to their excellencies, or too 1840.]
thick a veil is thrown over their remaining faults ; so that the reader of biography not uncommonly remarks, “ I can never hope to be as free from human imperfections, and as rich in Christian graces, as the deceased appears to have been.”
Instead of attempting to support the foregoing observations by a reference to such works as I allude to (a task invidious in no ordinary degree), I shall rather undertake to shew our natural proneness to transgress the bounds of truth, in drawing, however deliberately, the character of sainted friends. And, as far as I make good my point, I may infer the necessity of conducting all such works with more than common circumspection.
Now the proneness of which I speak, may originate in our affection for the deceased. If not regulated and restrained, this will produce a morbid tenderness in the representation of his natural corruptions and besetting sins, and thus hide from the view of the reader whatever had obscured his piety. The same “ atfection" would naturally lead us to exaggerate his Christian attainments. Here the exhibition is as delightful as in the former instance it was painful ; for the biographer, while friendship guides his pen, perhaps thinks it scarcely possible to select expressions too strong for the vocabulary of praise : on this account Addison has somewhere remarked in the Spectator, “ It were better to have our character drawn by an enemy than a friend, since, though an enemy might deny our good qualities, a friend might overstate them.” Or (to apply the observation of South-Sermon on John xv. 15—with reference to the tenderness of our Redeemer), “ love is never so blind as when it has to spy faults."
His separation from us may also affect our view of the character of a departed saint. Regarding him as “absent from the body, and present with the Lord,” we are as slow to expose his inconsistencies, as we are zealous to delineate his virtues, and record his achievements. To drag his failings into light, may then appear to us not far removed from sacrilege ; and, after repeated attempts to give certain instances of his infirmity, we perhaps abandon the task as unwelcome to our best feelings. We dare not say any thing that looks like a disparagement of those who, we are satisfied, are with the Lord.''
Again, a wish to promote the spiritual welfare of the reader may influence the biographer in the way that I am now supposing. He would induce others to copy the Scriptural model that he is present. ing to them. For this purpose, and probably with feelings excited in the best sense, he aims to represent the saint as one who was “strong in faith,” “ fervent in spirit,” exemplary in conduct, and eminently useful in his works and labours of love. Admit that Christian honesty may here restrain our eulogies, and even prompt the confession of such frailties as dimmed the lustre of his character : still, while we are bent on doing good to every one who may read what we write, are we not in danger of assigning too small a space to the exhibition of “the old man,' and of too exclusively occupying our canvas with the attractive features of “ the new.” This danger, as it regards the biography of a faithful minister of Christ, is great indeed, and is increased in proportion to our desire to make his history influential on the minds of surviving pastors.
A desire to honour God, if unaccompanied with “ a right judg.
ment,” may also be regarded as a cause of the evil to which I am adverting. For the pious biographer, when recording the operations of grace on the soul of a deceased friend, is anxious to do justice to the inspiring subject ; and the more so because he feels that, whatever be the conception of his mind, or the efforts of his pen, he must fall far short of the reality that is placed before him. What wonder, then, if in representing the transition from a state of nature to a state of grace, and the steady progress of the saint to everlasting glory, he is somewhat misled by his imagination, and unduly influ. enced by his feelings ? If, on the one hand, he dreads the thought of magnifying the creature; he is apprehensive, on the other, and probably in a yet higher degree, of even appearing to underrate the work of the promised “Comforter.” Thus the biographical page may be so illuminated with the rays of Divine grace, that the shades of natural infirmity may be scarcely discernible to the reader.
Lastly, an aim at effect, however unsuspected by the biographer, may, more or less, influence his moral delineations, and that at the undeniable expense of soberness and truth.” To resist such a propensity is, I conceive, no easy matter to a writer of a classical taste and intense feelings. Such an one is continually in danger of using intensitives in description, that are scarcely warranted by fact, and of admitting the finished period without a sufficient scrutiny of the ideas conveyed by it to the mind of the unenlightened reader. Even the most spiritual memorialist must feel, as well as admit, the danger here adverted to, and will see cause, at every step, to look up to the " Spirit of Truth" for power impartially to relate the history of a Wilberforce or a Hannah More.
On the whole, it seems to follow from all I have submitted to the reader, that none should undertake the responsible office of bio. grapher, whether from the press or pulpit, without an intimate knowledge of those whose portrait he may take in hand, without much impartiality, and, above all, without earnest prayer for the direction of the Holy Spirit, in order (to borrow an expression from an epitaph in a country church) that the deceased may be represented as “ homo, peccator, penitens ;” and that while the reader is admonished to regard him as a safe model, he may not be discouraged, and that justly, by the idea that it is too heavenly to admit of imitation. If the task of exhibiting the weeds that grow on the soil of nature, be judiciously performed by the memorialist, it may serve to awaken in us that examination of our hearts, which is the precursor of true piety, and the friend of every virtue that can adorn the Christian life, and glorify our God and Saviour. “ Speaking the truth in love," should be the motto of the biographer.
PHYSICAL PHENOMENA AND PROPHETIC INTERPRETATION;
-THE AXMOUTH LAND-SLIP. [The ill-judged tract alluded to by our Correspondent, and which professes to
be one of several “prophetic works, in which are plainly shewn the awful judgments of God coming upon England, except it repent of its wickedness, &c.," is not worth the notice he has given to it; unless as it shews the danger of injudicious applications of sacred prophecy to passing