« AnteriorContinuar »
amining through a magnifying glass the most perfect of the works of art, great imperfections and roughnesses are clearly discovered, while in examining the roughest and most uncouth of all God's works with the most powerful compound solar microscope, every apparent imperfection disappears. Thus when the ways of God are seen in the light of eternity, and through those eyes whose power of vision can discover the hidden springs of the complicated machinery, and comprehend all its parts in their natural relations and dependencies, all doubts will be solved, all difficulties will be explained. This eternal light shines from the Bible; and faith furnishes us with those spiritual eyes. The Psalmist saw wicked men and wicked rulers spreading themselves like the green bay tree. Prosperity attended their oppressions; their life was a life of ease, and there were no pains in their death; and he was ready to stumble. Was there no God in the heavens ?-and did he not rule over all? He could not understand it; and the dark brooding wings of Atheism hung over him. His feet were almost gone; his steps had well nigh slipped. He was envious of the foolish, when he saw the prosperity of the wicked. "Their eyes," he says, "stand out with fatness; they have more than heart can wish. They are corrupt; they speak wickedly concerning oppression; they speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens; their tongue walketh through the earth. Behold these are the ungodly who prosper in the world; they increase in riches." And then he was ready to say-" Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain; and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning." He was perplexed and confounded. "When I thought to know this, it was too wonderful for me; until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their END. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction." By faith we enter into this sacred place, and learn that 'tis not the whole of life to live, nor all of death to die; and that with God a thousand years are as one day, and one day as a thousand years. His government is upon the broad scale of eternity. It is not to be expected that a child should understand the diplomacy of the cabinet. It is not to be complained of that an infant does not comprehend the plans of the statesman or the general. Much less that we should comprehend from the little we see of the Divine administration, the much we do not see. Faith is to be the evidence of things not seen; and that faith must rest on the testimony of the Word. Therein is set forth the harmony of the Divine character-justice and mercy are met togetherrighteousness and peace have kissed each other. The partial and apparently distorted view of God's character and attributes which nature and Providence presents, is here corrected, expanded, and harmonized.
But let me be understood. It is the Bible of which I speaknot systems of divinity-not confessions of faith. The writings of Augustine and Pelagius, of Calvin and Arminius, have revealed to us their respective authors. The Council of Trent, the Council of Nice, and the Westminster Assembly, and divers other assemblies and councils, great and small, grand and subordinate, have severally revealed themselves. In the writings of Luther we have a portrait of Luther; in the writings of Wesley a portrait of Wesley; in the writings of Edwards a portrait of Edwards. In the Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church, in the Discipline of the Methodist Church, in the Treatise of the Baptists, and in the Catechism, longer or shorter, we have a portrait of the men that made them. (For they were but men, and uninspired.) But here we have the only true, fullsized portrait that God has ever given us of Himself. Here is no caricature. The others are worthy of study. They are the work of great and good men. They are, as they claim, more or less genuine copies of the original; but none of them faultless; and never, never should our gaze be fixed so intently upon the mere copy, however perfect we may deem it, that we shall fail for a moment to recognize the Divine original as the only true and safe standard of appeal in all things pertaining to God and religion. With regard to all confessions, and treatises, and systems of divinity, we are ever to say-"to the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this, it is because there is no light in them."
The Papacy may rest upon traditions and the faith of the church; and upon the constructions and interpretations of the priest, the bishop, and the Pope; but, "the Bible-the Bible only is the book for Protestants;" no scripture is of private interpretation, and each individual is responsible for his own.
5. We become acquainted with God through his Son Jesus Christ; who was God manifest in the flesh; and in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. He is set forth as the express image of his person; and in his life and death and character are mirrored forth the glories of the divine nature, so that he could say "He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father." And in all the meekness and love, the self-denial and beneficence embodied in the life of the man of sorrows, we see illustrated the distinguishing attributes of the Eternal Father. Study that life, and you have revealed to you the transcendent excellence of the Godhead.
6. But besides the external embodiment of Himself in his Son, we have given to us the invisible and omnipresent Spirit, who shall take of the things of Christ and show them unto us:-who can come to the inner temple of the soul, and there present to the spiritual eye, a spiritual God. "It is well for you," said the Master, "that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter
will not come; but if I go away I will send him to you." Even the personal presence of the Saviour, with his glowing words of life, was less to be desired than the direct communication to the soul which the Spirit can make. A philosopher may give the thoughts of his own mind to the mind of his pupil, through the poor medium of words; an orator may so array his glowing images as to write the burning truth upon our hearts; but neither the philosopher nor the orator can transfuse themselves into the souls of those that hear. This God can do by his Spirit; and thus introduce himself directly to the inner man. And thus he is ready to give us the most intimate acquaintance with himself which the heart can desire or conceive.
Thus have we sketched in brief the means of an acquaintance with God-an acquaintance which is a peaceful one when the heart is in sympathy with God, and cheerfully submissive to his will. And we inquire:
II. What are the results of this peaceful acquaintance? "Acquaint now thyself with God, and be at peace; thereby GOOD shall come to thee." What good? I reply,
1. Great mental enlargement. The greatest conception of human intelligence is the idea of God. No other thought so fills the entire spiritual vision. And a constant association with that thought as it lives in the soul, expands the mind as no other can. We are affected by the character of those with whom we associate. And he who lives and walks with God, possesses a mental elevation corresponding measurably with the nature of Him with whom he is thus brought into association. The best of all knowledge is the knowledge of God; the greatest of all sciences is the science which acquaints us with God. In its widest sense it is the comprehension of all science. The mind that is held in hourly contact with the great fact of God's existence, and government, and attributes-his infinity, his omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence, cannot fail to be enlarged. Its views are high as heaven, and broad as eternity. Acquaintance with GOD! The very name takes the sweep of all time and all space-comprehends all heights and all depths. The mind thus winged soars to heaven, roams through the universe, traverses the past, the present, and the to-come. Its view of the history of the world is from a higher stand-point. Acquaintance with God gives unity to the universe; all its parts are contemplated as portions of one stupendous whole. The study of the world from the Atheistic stand-point is but a farce. It is the play of Hamlet with the part of Hamlet left out. The study of history, politics, and the rise and fall of nations is but barrenness, confusion, and chaos. Atheistic philosophers must always lack breadth of mental vision. Acuteness and wit they have sometimes had, but never breadth nor depth. Their system necessarily cramps and belittles the mind. In surveying the history of the world, the recognition of
the Divine existence and government, brings light out of darkness and order out of chaos.
2. But the heart is enlarged as well as the mind. Its sympathies are wider, its charities are broader. All creatures are seen as the creatures of God. And as he sendeth his rain upon the just and the unjust, and causeth his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, the heart learns the lesson of generous sympathy and godlike forbearance.
Acquaintance with God inspires confidence in his government. Taken into the inner sanctuary, we see the hand that moves the universe. Without we see the working of the mighty machinery; within, the power that guides it. And the heart no longer fears. There may be many things that we understand not; but from our inner acquaintance with God, and our firm assurance of the rectitude of the Divine character, we exclaim with Abrahamic faith -"Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Faith whispers in the ear" What thou knowest not now, thou shalt know hereafter." Though he allows sin to triumph for a time, we know that it is not because he approves it, or looks upon it with the least degree of allowance; but that sin may work itself out, and show itself in its true deformity. Our faith is not staggered. We know him too well to mistrust him.
And all the events of life pertaining to ourselves, however mysterious they may be, can awaken no distrust of God. Terrors may gather around us, but they make us not afraid; the banner of Heaven's love and protection waves over us. God reigns, and we are at peace with him and with all his doings. We may not understand the power of his thunder, but we are not terrified by it. It is God's thunder, commissioned and sent by him, and controlled by his hand, and we fear it not.
An officer on board ship in the midst of a fierce tempest, while every moment the vessel was expected to founder, and all around were terror, wild shrieks and confusion, was himself calm. His wife had partaken of the common alarm, and could not understand the placid composure which her husband seemed without an effort to maintain. After the storm had subsided, she asked an explanation of his unperturbed calmness. He drew from its scabbard his glittering sword, and holding it before her, he inquired why she was not afraid of that. She replied most naturally-"Because I know it is in the hand of one that loves me, and who would not harm me." "Thus with me," said the officer. "He that holds the winds in his fists and the sea in the hollow of his hand is my friend. The lightning is but his glittering sword; the thunder but the voice of his power. I fear them not."
The christian in such an attitude is independent of surrounding circumstances. He has learned in whatsoever state he is, therewith to be content. He knows both how to be abased and how to abound; how to be full and how to be hungry: he has learned to say with
the Psalmist "O God, thou art my portion: whom have I in Heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee." His happiness is a fixed quantity-independent of earthly contingencies. "Though the fig-tree should not blossom, neither shall be fruit in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet will I rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of my salvation."
The sorrows of life are easily borne, for he endures them as seeing him who is invisible. The sympathy and the supporting arm of God make the burden light. The loss of some earthly good may be a trial; but it is a light one, and but for a moment. And
All that he loses, or can lose, is but a drop from the ocean. Such an one is at peace with the universe. At peace with the Omnipresent and Omnipotent; the Creator and upholder of all things, his treaty of peace extends to his entire dominions. The Hea vens smile peacefully upon him, and the earth reflects back the peaceful smile. He is at peace with the twinkling stars as they cast upon him their searching glance; he is at peace with the threatening clouds and the gathering storm; at peace with the thunder and the lightning; at peace with the sea and with the land; at peace with the winds and the waves. The roar of the waters has no terror for him; for God is in it. The fire, and the hail, and the tempest terrify him not. For "he maketh the winds his messengers and the flaming fire his servant; he maketh the clouds his chariot; he walketh upon the wings of the wind." The quaking of the earth makes him not afraid. Commotions among nations disturb him not; for all the tribes and nations of the earth are but insignificant parts of God's universal dominion. There may be wars, and rumors of wars, but he is at peace. God maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him. For they cannot harm him. "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers and under his wings shalt thou trust; his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noon-day. Because thou hast made the Lord thy refuge; even the Most High thy habitation, there shall no evil befal thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling."
He who knows God, is at peace with death. For God's dominions extend over the waste domain of even the King of Terrors.