« AnteriorContinuar »
and is received on the verdict of twelve human faculties or philosophers, or perhaps barely acquitted of the charge of forgery, or falsehood, and left to go at large as a suspected criminal. Where human evidences supply the place of God's gospel, and the fear of God is taught by the fear of man, and piety to God, in form and degree, by the example and sanction of man, there human wisdom becomes folly, and science itself becomes rotten, and literature drivels. The very superiority of science does but pave the way to hell, and great intellects, rejecting God's Word, believe nothing but self and sense, till self and sense become the pride and the religion of the soul, and the greatest effort of reason is to put out its own eyes.
The human being, under such conditions, may be wise in earthly things, wise to accumulate and lay out money, wise as a merchant or a miser, wise as a pismire or a beaver, to gather grains of sand, or build dams and set mills upon them, but in all things relating to his real interests, his spiritual nature, he is a fool, a madman. He may be a wise natural philosopher, above Adam, not only to name animals, but to compare their skeletons, and even from a single bone of an animal of only antediluvian existence, to tell you exactly what kind of an animal it must have been, and to construct for you an accurate model of the same; but if this be all his knowledge, he is as great and melancholy a fool as the sun ever shone upon. He may be wise to survey the stars, calling them all by names, and measuring their distances in God's universe, and sending out his gaze and bis enquiries into regions which it would take him hundreds of millions of years to reach, though he rode upon a beam of light, and making accurate measurements there; but if, while he has the wisdom to survey suns and stars, he knows not the wants and mysteries of his own spiritual being, and knows not Christ as the Saviour of his soul, then the world is not capable of a greater fool than he. All the intensity of language, in all the forms of power ever communicated to the greatest masters of it, would fail to convey an adequate impression of the depths of such folly, the intensity of such madness.
He may be wise to investigate the action and limit of the human faculties, and to scan the emotions of the soul, to describe human passion and character, to analyse and develope the philosophy of mind, the laws of the beautiful, the nature of ideas, the laws of time, space, existence, finite, and infinite, in abstractions and abstrusities, traced through endless involuted folds of systems; but he may do all this, and a thousand things besides, involving the exercise of great faculties in patient attention and acute research, and yet may know nothing at all of himself as a spiritual, immortal, accountable being, who must know God in Christ, or be lost out of his blissful creation, as a thing of mere
deformity and death. If this be the case, he is, with all his boasted capacities and acquisitions, a fool and madman on so unbounded a scale, that the spectacle is a wonder to the universe. Such is man, blinded by the god of this world, and cut off from the light of heaven.
He makes the light from heaven merely the means of increasing the ingenuity with which he multiplies and widens the avenues to hell. He turns the Christianity which he rejects into a mere refining apparatus of his sinful pleasures, making it a sort of ornamented filterer, through which to drink in iniquity purified from something of its dirt and grossness. He puts himself out of the class and range of spiritual beings, but, by the help of the light which is in him, and has come to him as such a being, degrades himself into the most ingenious of animals. He burrows like the mole, save only that his hole, his working place, instead of being a foot of earth, is the animated universe. He is merely a mole on a large scale, speculating in stocks or theatres, or intellectual arts and abstractions, instead of sand-hills, or perhaps watching tides, winds, and stars, instead of worms and beetles. He is himself a worm, and the worms shall feed sweetly on him, and it will be one of the results of his madness, that he will wish that as the worms destroy this body, to the lusts of which the soul has been made to serve as a slave, instead of governing it as a lord and master, so they could annihilate the soul also, which must live in its cherished corruptions forever.
The subject of this disastrous insensibility and darkness may have lost nothing of the natural acuteness of his intellect, as applied to temporal things. So that a man may have the keenest critical acumen in regard to philosophical speculations, literature, poetry, the fine arts, the laws of being, the modes and businesses of life, and yet be totally incapable of a right judgment in regard to the Divine life, the Divine wisdom, the attributes of God, the ways of God to man, the accountability of the soul, and, indeed, the simplest truths of revealed, and even of natural theology. Add to this the fact that the instincts and intuitions of Divine things in our immortal nature being always, for a certain time, accompanied with reproaches of conscience and a sense of guilt for the neglect of them, there ensues, in addition to the power of habitual insensibility and blindness consequent on such neglect, an absolute aversion of enmity against them, an unwillingness to be acquainted, and familiar with what threatens and condemns. Add also the great fact gained from Divine Inspiration, that the man is not alone in all this, but that an evil being is working with him, that there is an invisible tempter accompanying and sharpening his natural inclinations by offering aliment and excitement to them; a tempter who could have no power at all, if a man's own depravity did not give it to him, but whose power, invited and
sustained by that depravity, is indeed terrible, blinding the minds of them who believe not.
The illustrations of these truths in the actual recorded experience of men, and of those called great men, have sometimes been impressive beyond description. Not to speak of what has taken place on a large scale, with such huge demonstrations of the madness of men at their wit's end beneath the active control of satan in the rejection of God's Word, we may confine ourselves to particular cases of persons who, "professing themselves to be wise became fools. Because that, when they knew God they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." Sometimes from very childhood there has been developed a singularly insensible and unbelieving disposition. There have been remarkable instances of the fatuity even of great intellects in unbelief. Such men will sometimes take up and admire in themselves and others, as reflecting their own pride and selfesteem, sentiments which they have passed by without notice, or with absolute contempt in God's Word. They will almost deify a human philosopher for expressions of opinion, which are but the commonest light of Christianity, but which, in Christianity, they are either absolutely ignorant of, or tread over them with supercilious scorn. If the truths of the New Testament, which they reject, had been dug up from Pompeii, as a work of Plato, or if the gospel according to John had been discovered as a lost book of Plutarch, the world of philosophers and literati would have been mad with enthusiasm; they would have been put to difficulty for niches of admiration and worship glorious enough to receive their demigods of genius. In them and their works they would behold the far-reaching and supernatural divinity of their own nature.
But the moment you put forth these truths simply as God's Word, as coming from God, authoritative and spiritual, for our guidance, obedience, and salvation, that moment you darken the soul and turn it against them. It is strange enough that man will not see the glory of spiritual things in the simple light of heaven. But pass the same light through the prism of some individual mind, and reproduce it in the green, red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo, violet, of Plato, Plotinus, or Swedenborg, and call it his light, or his revelation, and then men will gaze at it, wonder at it, believe in it, swear by it, and adore its human owner as a god. They can see nothing in a true spiritual light; but put it in transcendental philosophical light, bring it forth as philosophy, not religion, or as revelation beyond the Bible, and they will be in raptures. They will be excited mentally, sentimentally, and even morally, but not religiously. The introduction of Christ into the circle, or of the peculiar doctrines
of Christianity, instead of raising emotion checks it, and acts like a petrifying wand upon the feelings, like a sealing hand upon the fountains of intuition in the soul. There is a principle of enmity that shuts the eye of the soul against Christ, acting like that singularly protective instinct in some plants, which sensitively shut against the touch of any foreign thing approaching them.
We need not take examples from the common vulgar herd of infidels, nor from such as, possessed apparently with legion, foam at the mouth, and go into convulsions when brought into the presence of the Saviour; but from a class highly intellectual, poetical, sentimental, philosophical, and refined, who, having rejected the Word of the Lord, there is no wisdom in them. Such was the experience of Goethe in Germany. He rejected Christianity, though he had its demonstrations and examples before him, all his life-time. He neither saw nor felt its meaning. He went on through life, finding in neither systems nor men the sympathy and correspondence which he sometimes sought, nor any solution of the riddle of his being. His life was a dry, cold, intellectual vegetation. He met with serious, earnest, lovely Christians, who urged upon him the claims of Christianity, but he saw nothing of the glory of the gospel. Such were some of his interviews with the excellent Heinrich Stilling. There was nothing in the character of Christ that gained Goethe's love. There was no attraction in Christ for the self and self-esteem which formed the basis of Goethe's character. Thus he was a blind, stoical, insensible, unreasoning fool of the god of this world, thinking never of the claims of God upon him, nor dreaming of the realities of the spiritual world, though God had given him such great powers of intellect, and such inestimable opportunities of celestial light. But there was no light within his soul save that of his own faculties, and he never saw light in God's light. He, this man of such keen insight into the principles of beauty in art and literature, this man of such wide philosophy, and such natural command over the springs of emotion and thought, and such natural ease in playing with the forms and light of nature, never saw God, never saw anything in God's light, never beheld the loveliness and glory of God's character in Christ, but was as blind as a bat, as short-sighted as a mole, as ignorant as a heathen, in regard to spiritual principles, and saw nothing in God's whole universe but some of the relations of matter and analogies and laws of mind. He walked amidst all-surrounding light, but saw it not; he heard the truths and principles of eternity announced with the distinctness and authority of inspiration, but saw nothing, understood nothing, felt nothing, and conceived that this, his own blindness and darkness, was but just the superiority of his
nature finding no solution of its mysteries, no satisfaction of its
And now, where would one suppose he stopped, where found rest, after rejecting the system of the Son of God, or discovering in it nothing to meet the yearnings of his soul? With what or whom could a mind take up its rest that had found in Christ and His religion nothing suited to its capacities? In the Ethics of Spinosa! "After looking through the whole world," Goethe says, "in vain, to find a means of development for my strange nature, I at last fell upon the Ethics of this man. Here I found
a sedative for my passions. But what especially bound me to him was the great disinterestedness which shone from every sentence. That wonderful expression, who loves God truly must not desire God to love him in return, with all the preliminary propositions on which it rests, and all the consequences that follow from it, filled my whole soul."
Now it is doubtful, if in the whole range of human literature a more humiliating instance can be found than this, of the deplorable blindness to which religious unbelief and insensibility reduces the human intellect. It is a spectacle as curious as it is melancholy, to behold a man of great powers of mind, who has passed by, unmoved, all the calls of God, all the divine array of thought that attracts heavenly intelligences, all the mysteries of godliness into which angels desire to look, falling down at length to worship at the feet of a creature like himself, and to find that that which especially attracts his wonder and admiration in this system of Ethics, which he is ready to take for his gospel, although he rejects the gospel of Christ, is one of the very simplest, plainest truths of Christianity possible; that, indeed, which is the very essence of Christianity, and lies revealed in every page; disinterested love, self-denying, self-forgetting love. He adores, as if it were a supernatural revelation, in Spinosa, what he has rejected without notice, or with contempt, ten thousand times in Christ. Spinosa himself could not but take it from Christ, though rejecting the whole Christian system; and here is one of the leading minds in all Germany accepting with a rapture of admiration, at second-hand, from Spinosa, what in the Son of God he is perfectly blinded to, or else deliberately rejects. The indescribable, incomparable perversion, degradation, we had almost said idiocy, which can receive from man, and adore in man, what it never heeds from God, what it understands not in Christianity, what, indeed, it denies as from God, can, one would think, be nothing but the effect of diabolical agency. It reminds us of John Foster's expression in regard to Hume, of the faculty of spiritual perception putrifying and dissolving before its time. The product of human sagacity is in such a case a rotten light, or dead, sunken glow, like that of