announcement by this tender declaration and pathetic appeal, “ I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” In the book of Deuteronomy, which is but an expansion and development of the law of Sinai, the same principle is frequently inculcated; but more particularly in one passage, which is repeated four times in different parts of that book; and, in each place, amid an assemblage of moral and religious precepts, to a compliance with which it professes to supply the motive. Remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee thence : therefore I command thee to do this


But here, it will naturally be asked, if such, under the old dispensation, were the pure and lofty principle of all genuine and acceptable obedience, in what consists the difference between the Gospel and the law ? and where lies the superiority of the former, with respect to the spiritual salvation which it brings to a believer? What, in a word, are those things in the spiritual part of the Gospel system-for unless external privileges conduct to internal and spiritual they are vain and worthless : they are, in fact, but weak and beggarly elements-what are those spiritual things which we are privileged to see, and which kings and prophets desired to see, and have not seen them?

The difference between the Jewish and Christian dispensation, theologically considered, is, that, in the former the gift of the Holy Spirit was not, as in the latter, an article of the covenant. But, as the Holy Spirit is the alone efficient of regeneration and holiness, “the friend of God"—the man after God's own heart—and, in a word, all the saints of old, must have been the subjects of his gracious though uncovenanted influences. The difference, therefore, between the dispensations, practically considered. is the difference of degree in which the Holy Spirit was, and is bestowed ;-and, as a necessary consequence, the different sanctification to which believers, under these dispensations, respectively, could attain. Now both as to covenant, and to degree, it might be said of the Jewish dispensation, that “ the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified." But the difference of sanctification under the two dispensations was not merely in degree; it was also in nature : not merely in quantity, but also in quality. It differed, just as the impregnating seed,- the animating motives, and nutritious principles, which the Holy Spirit brought to bear upon the mind, and by which it worked, under each dispensation respectively. As, in the Gospel, the energy by which the Holy Spirit operates in a soul all those blessings which result from justification, is faith in the atonement of the Lord Jesus; so the energy by which it operates the sanctification of a soul, is love to the person, character, and holiness of Christ. The Spirit takes of the things of Christ, and shews them to the soul. Under his teaching, guidance, unction, and plastic hand, the regenerated heart sees, and loves, the beauty of holiness, in the face of Jesus Christ. There “beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, it is changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.” But if prophetic bistory indicates the restoration of the literal Israel to his own land: if the promise, not only to his seed, but to Abraham personally, that he should possess the earthly Canaan, is still to be fulfilled ; the faith of this, or of any patriarch, or any Jew, could but look forward to, and act upon, temporal blessings ;—for the object of faith is truth. Hence, even when, through faith, he could look forward to a resurrection, and a future state of blessedness: when, with Job, he could say, “I know that my Redeemer liveth :" his contemplation could soar no higher than to add “and He shall stand in the latter day upon the earth : and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." Now “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God," which is the object of Christian faith. The hope of the Jew was a temporal kingdom, and a restitution of all things to pristine glory under Messiah the king. The hope of the Christian is to be like Christ, when, at his appearing, he shall see Him as He is. Now hope is that great moral energy which, like fire, assimilates its subject and its object. We look, and love, and hope; and are gradually transformed into the likeness of the object of our affections. We, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image. The hope, then, of the Jew, acting upon earthly and temporal objects, could but raise him, at the highest, to that level of sanctification on which “ the first man of the earth, earthy,” stood in Paradise. The hope of the Christian, acting upon essential holiness, “God manifest in Alesh,” can purify him even as Christ is pure. It can assimilate him to its object, Christ, in proportion as that object is manifested to his soul, and cause him to bear the image of the heavenly. It can wean his affection from earth : enable him to have his conversation in heaven; and cause him to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

Whether under the law or the Gospel, love to God, in some mode of it, and from some motive, could be the only principle of sanctification. The superiority, therefore, of Christian over Jewish santification must consist, not in the animating principle or feeling in the general, but in the precise character of that principle, and shade of that feeling : and it appears to lie in this, that the law, as a dispensation, appeals, throughout, to the comparatively low and selfish prin. ciple of gratitude for temporal blessings promised or received: that the Gospel, when it appeals to gratitude, it is for blessings purely spiritual; but that often it rises above even this high ground, and addresses itself to develop the sublimated and elevating feeling of a generous, self-oblivious, complacential love. In fact, the law exhibits the benefit, the Gospel the character. The one invites you to love the Benefactor, the other the Man.

Passages indeed might be adduced from the prophetic writings, such as — to select the finest specimen—the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, which may seem to contradict this : passages which anticipate the first advent of Christ, and appeal directly to the heart, by fascinating and graphic delineations of the character and history of the Holy Jesus. But let us remember that the prophets are, as it were, a middle link between the law and the Gospel : that such passages properly belong, not to the legal but the evangelical portion; and, under the law, were but imperfectly understood. These “thoughts that breathe, and words that burn," which seem to us not prophecy but history; as if subsequent and supplemented to the Gospel : these lovely and breathing pictures of Christ, which, in despite of their dates, belong, not to the legal but evangelical school, must yet, necessarily, have called up a fainter and less perfect image before the mind of a Jew, who had never seen the glorious Original :

who wanted, in common with heathen philosophy, to see, in Plato's language, “virtue embodied "—in St. Paul's,“ God manifest in flesh," than they do before ours, who have seen the beauteous and all perfect Original ; before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth, crucified among us.

To catch, practically, the shade of which I speak in the motive and character of the two dispensations, we need but contrast “the father of the faithful,” or the “man after God's own heart," with the “ cho. sen vessel” of the Gospel dispensation; or with "the beloved disciple" who rested on the bosom of his Lord. In the former, we discern the living traces of a legal spirit, which, at the very least, would repay the extorted debt of gratitude, " What shall I give unto the Lord for all the blessings which he hath done untoʻme." In the latter, we see the zeal and ardour, the fervor and the tenderness of liberty, which would present the free-will offering of complacential love. In the finest specimens of Jewish sanctification we discern the spirit of bondage and fear. In every specimen of Christian sancti. fication we discern the spirit of adoption, which cries, “ Abba, Father."

The Gospel perhaps never promises, and certainly never appeals to the gratitude of a believer on the ground of, temporal favours. On the contrary, the spirit of the Gospel dispensation and the grand trial and struggle of the soul, is this, whether it will unhesitatingly stake its all, for time, as well as for eternity, upon the spiritual promises of free grace ; whether it will cleave unto the Lord, in the obscurity of faith, amid the glooms of a frowning providence, and the heaviness of manifold temptations. It is the ordinary operation of the Gospel to strip the soul, whether actually, or in spirit, of every earthly comfort and support, that it may cast itself, in the simplicity of faith and love, for consolation and strength, upon the proffered grace, and into the extended arms of Christ crucified. Sell all, and follow me. If any man hate not all that he naturally holds most dear he cannot be My disciple : These are precepts of universal, perpetual, and indispensable obligation. “In me ye shall have peace, in the world ye shall have tribulation :” these are the conditions upon which Christ enlists a soldier of the cross; and his subsequent discipline ever is, to crucify the world unto it, and it unto the world.

Undoubtedly the Gospel makes a powerful, indeed an irresistible, appeal to the gratitude of the believer; but it is for blessings purely spiritual : it is because “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Hence the Apostle reminds you that “ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God's.” Hence he“ beseeches you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." But although Christ crucified, thus imposes obligations upon the believing soul, in comparison with which all the blessings of the law, bestowed or promised, are but as the small dust of the balance; yet the gospel, in its profounder appeals, refines and sublimates even this feeling of gratitude, and enfranchises the soul, from even its silken fetters, into the liberty of a reciprocal love ; “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” On the mount of the beatitudes,--in the guest chamber,—when He crossed the last time for

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Gethsemane the brook Cedron,—when He sends by Mary his message of love to his bereaved and sorrowing apostles,—Christ does not stand, as when upon Mount Sinai, in the attitude of the Master,–I had almost said Benefactor, but of the Brother, and the Friend. When the law was just about to give place to the Gospel ;—on the eve of that eventful day when the chief corner stone of the church was laid upon Calvary: and when the Redeemer, while satisfying the penal sanctions of the law, in the last agonies of his atonement cried, It is finished;"-on the eve of the Gospel morning, the Saviour, anticipating its dawn, admits his disciples (as we see in those four chapters of St. John which record his last conversation) into the council of heaven, and the secrets of eternity; and reveals to them, as far as they were then able to bear the disclosure, the true spirit and genius of the Gospel. He calls them “no more servants” but he calls them “ friends," and proposes to them this intimate and familiar union as the end and principle of their obedience, “ Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” God, in the Gospel, stands, if I may so express it, more upon the ground of his inherent and personal attractions, than God in the law. “God manifest in flesh,” whether we view him at the grave of Lazarus, or in the guest chamber at Jerusalem ; in the garden of Gethsemané, or on the summit of Calvary; with Mary at the sepulchre, or with the disciples on their way to Emmaus; not only divests himself of all the thunders, and terrors, and awe-inspiring glories of Sinai, but stands, as it were, helpless and unprotected; the object of our sympathy and commiseration. He appears shorn of his beams of mildest glory, and clothes himself alone in the meek and heart-winning attractiveness of grace, and holiness, and love. And this is a consideration of deep practical importance. In these Gospel-or as Scripture styles them" last days," God's last effort has been made for the salvation of man. The ever blessed Trinity has manifested itself, engaged in the work of redemption; and has put forth its combined and utmost strength. Christ once offered to bear the sins of many. There remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries. The Holy Spirit sent forth by the risen and ascended Saviour, with evangelical motive and power," he who blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost hath never for. giveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.” In a word, the last die is, as it were, cast; and Christ, the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely, contemplated in his life and death, incarnation and crucifixion, is God's last stake to win man's heart.

J. M. H.


To the Editor of the Christian Observer. Permit me to ask whether the article, J. M. H., in your late valuable Number for June, does not require very serious consideration, containing, as it appears tu do, a strong bearing to an interpretation of a Scripture doctrine quite at variance with the generally received truth?

Readily recognising in this article much that is sound and good, am I wrong in supposing the writer to have expressed himself in a

way, so as to lead to the belief, that expressions in the word of God, significant of penal and actual bodily suffering, are to be taken only in a figurative sense; and that the almost universal interpretation of our blessed Lord's words, “ The worm that dieth not, and the fire that shall not be quenched," as foreshewing bodily and mental suffering, is not correct ? Is it the writer's intention that he should be so understood ?

Such a view, I confess, would appear to my own mind to be a departure from the simplicity of Scripture truth. It is one into which infidels of every name have long fallen, and one which I verily believe to be pregnant with most dangerous consequences. Believe me, dear sir, yours very sincerely,


To the Editor of the Christian Observer. MY DEAR SIR,- reply, without hesitation, to the inquiry of your correspondent, respecting my paper in the Christian Observer for June, that I had not the most remote intention of denying that the body shares with the soul the penal consequences of sin. But I cannot admit that my paper furnishes occasion for the inquiry. Your correspondent “R. G.” in August, who has fully caught, not only my meaning in that paper but also my motive in writing it,and its need—and who has expressed all far more clearly and forcibly than I can hope to do, has quoted some passages which I think prove that I was sufficiently guarded : and there are many others in the single page which touches on this part of the subject.

After broadly stating the vulgar notion of hell and heaven, as merely places of physical pain and pleasure, I ask, “ If this be all they furnish to your mind, what light,” &c. I then speak of hell as “ the attracting centre to which all evil, physical and moral, tends ; without one redeeming comfort, one redeeming virtue—where Satan plays the tyrant in the perfection of those cruelties of which, in heathen lands, he even now dares to exhibit some faint specimen ; and tortures and mocks his deluded and adoring votaries :” and I call on men to abandon “ the inoperative contemplation of a mere material fire, and material hell; and to look well to the state of their souls,"—which appears to me identical with a call from superstition to Christianity. My protest is against the exaggeration, and almost exclusive exhibition, of “ the metaphors with which, in a few instances, Scripture describes the misery of the lost," as, in such use of them, tending to generate an abject and servile superstition. I no where, observe, deny that such statements, sparingly applied, may have their use, with some persons, and in some stages of their mental, for I can scarcely call it religious, experience. Nay, I find them in the great dispensary of Scripture, supplied by the Great Physician, and therefore sometimes, though comparatively seldom, exhibit them, as the proper medicine for some patients : but I am convinced that in proportion as men become spiritually enlightened these are not the views_nor the terrors—to which the mind in any —its worst frame-turns. Still I do not object to their use, but to their abuse. I say that" in the statements of the experimental Chris. tian you will find these metaphors scarcely oftener than you find them in the New Testament,”—and that " when the experienced Christian needs the terrors of the Lord, he speaks seldom of the undying worm Christ. OBSERV. No. 34.

4 F

« VorigeDoorgaan »