Page images
PDF
EPUB

being, than the bright luminaries of the skies to his animal existence. By REASON he can discover much,—the existence, the perfections, the moral government, of a supreme First Cause: By reason he may likewise trace the essential differences of good and evil, the free agency of man, his responsibility, and, by a just deduction, his immateriality and immortality. But clearly to ascertain these great truths, much reflection, inquiry, and mental labour was called for; more than the mass of mankind had leisure or ability to pursue, whose attention is necessarily engrossed by the common business of life, and who, from the very condition of their being, must partake more of the animal, than of the intellectual nature. The Creator, therefore, condescended to make some manifestation of himself, and promulgation of his laws, to individuals and communities in the ancient world; and at last, by the full and perfect dispensation of the Gospel, to confirm all the leading truths of natural religion, and give them, what they most wanted, sanction and certainty, applicable to the understanding, and brought home to the feelings, of all descriptions of men. To these were added such new and important doctrines, not discernible by the light of nature, as might establish the piety, promote the virtue, and secure the happiness of a degenerate race, fallen from a state of rectitude, and aliens from God.

Most justly did our Divine Instructor proclaim himself and his apostles, the light of the world.” “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth in me should not abide in darkness;"—“ and ye,” said He to the chosen twelve, “ye are the light of the world.” This light was on no pretence to be hid—“ Let your light shine before men:"—their doctrine (He tells them) was to be so conspicuously set up, as to “ give light to all that are in the house." Yet some of those, who pretended to derive their office and commission from Him, transformed themselves into ministers of darkness ;" — represented “the royal Law,”—the “perfect law of liberty," and of universal obligation, as of doubtful interpretation, obscure and perplexing; and not to be intrusted to the hands of common men, who are to be led and directed by their teachers. In almost all cases, Ignorance, Pride, and Artifice, delight in mystery. Ignorance is apt to be taken with something which sounds big, but which it does not understand. Pride and Selfconceit are fond of adopting and disseminating positions and principles above the level of ordinary minds; and Artifice and Hypocrisy, who can always do their work most securely in the dark, surround themselves with clouds and shadows; and through mists of their own raising, pour forth their unintelligible oracles, though not to the edification, at least to the astonishment, of the credulous and gaping crowd.

St. John tells us on whose shameless front the name " Mysterywas emblazoned-She was the “ mother of harlots and abominations of the earth :”—as though every moral defilement and enormity might be expected to follow a blind and domineering superstition. By the woman represented in this passage of the Apocalypse, St. John is generally allowed, at least by Protestants, to have personified pontifical Rome; and the prevailing character of that gaudy and aspiring Church has too well corresponded with his description. In the dark ages of her triumph, she was clothed in imperial “ purple and scarlet,” “ decked with gold and precious stones ;" sorceries; and she herself was “ drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” But our present argument only extends to that part of the delineation, which paints her as a setter-forth of incomprehensible tenets : “ Upon her forehead was a name written,-Mystery." Indeed, we, who have so long been happily released from her shackles, should have nought to do with any of her delusions, did they not still prevail even among those who hate her name, and to this day keep some hold on the minds of the multitude, to the prejudice of pure and vital Christianity. Our Reformed Church, indeed, encourages no such “ deceivableness of unrighteousness : yet many of her weak members still cherish, as venerable relics, the shreds and remnants of Romish fraud and foppery; unconscious of the tawdry loom in which they were fabricated ; and every kind of superstition, is, in my opinion, to be detected and expelled by the teachers of truth, as an impediment to the universal reception of our most holy faith, and inimical to the virtue and happiness of man.

the kings of the earth” were her spiritual paramours and creatures; “ the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her"

Now, in the first place, I conceive, there is no impenetrable mystery in genuine unsophisticated religion, considered, not as a matter of science, which, to the bulk of mankind at least, it is not ; but as a rule of life, which, to all classes, it certainly is. For what is pure Christianity, as it came from the mouth of its Divine Founder ? “ By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” There is no mystery in this undistinguishing benevolence. How was it understood by its first inspired converts and propagators ? James, one of the earliest “ servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,” thus defines it," Pure religion, and undefiled, before God and the Father, is this-to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” Who ever dreamt of any mystery in this active goodness, and tender sympathy, or, in self-government, chastity, and sobriety? How writes the beloved disciple, John? “Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” He makes benevolence the mark of regeneration, and the sum of godly knowledge. What were the sentiments of the apostle of the Jews ? “ Add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godli

« PreviousContinue »