Page images
PDF
EPUB

ness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity: for if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ._ What was the doctrine of the apostle of the Gentiles ? “ In Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision,but a new creature.External rites, however significant, are, in themselves, nothing, but as they tend to produce, as they usually do, the new heart and the new spirit of a Christian,-internal purity. Again; “ circumcision is nothing—but faith, which worketh by Love,"--belief, which manifests itself in acts of charity ;-which, penetrated by a lively sense of the boundless love of God, generates warm and universal philanthropy.

Thus agree all the apostles; and in all this, you will allow, there is nothing secret, mysterious, incomprehensible.—But this, you may say, is only one part of our religion. In the great and sublime doctrines of Christianity, which we are equally required to receive, there is much of mystery. In one sense, there certainly is—but not in that for which I am now contending. I speak of religion as a rule of life. If we attempt to explore the wonders of the invisible world, the nature of spirits, the established laws of creation, the moral government of the universe, -we find ourselves entangled in an endless labyrinth. Nay, the essences of bodies, by which we are hourly encompassed, escape our penetration. The productions of inanimate, the functions of animated nature, the operations of intellectual power,--are all mysterious. Man is a mystery to himself :How he lives, he knows not-but he knows perfectly what he must do, that he may continue to live. The chemical process of nutrition, the silent progress of vegetation, are to him mysterious; but he knows full well that he must eat and drink, and the body will be sustained ; that he must plough and sow, and the earth will produce. Just so in religion : The process (if I may so speak) of salvation, he understands not; but he understands, and cannot doubt, that if he“ be not weary in well-doing, in due season he shall

reap."

Religion is not a fine spun theoretic scheme; - it is not speculation, but action. The perfection of our nature is its end; its doctrines are the means : And in this light, as means to an end, there is in them nothing really mysterious. For, review, now, its distinguishing doctrines. That there is “one God, of whom are all things”—

-one Lord, by whom are all things-one Spirit, through whom all hearts are sanctified :That this Lord was invested with a human form ; and, becoming man, died the death of man,“ to save sinners :" -that “He shall come again, to judge the world,” and “ render to every man according to his deeds.” This, I think, is the summary of our creed. Now, these things are not points of speculation—they are matters of fact,-or they are nothing. And why do we receive them as facts? Because we have the direct and unsuspicious testimony of those who did not deliver their own, or any human opinions, but spake, “ as they were moved by the Spirit of God.” If you would inquire into the reasons and motives of the Divine conduct, and ask why and how was all this -you then come to inexplicable mystery: but it is what you, or I, have nothing to do with. What concerns us, is, to apply these doctrines to the use for which they were revealed that is, to regulate our manners and affections. And will they not work this effect? Will

Will you not, if you believe these momentous truths, be stimulated to a warm and vigorous piety,--to a prompt and

cheerful obedience? Will you not venerate and adore your supreme Creator,-reverence and love your beneficent Saviour,-seek and cherish your gracious Comforter ?-In a word, knowing that “God so loved us," shall we not also, necessarily, love one another 2" Then leave mystery where you found it; in the dogmas of a worldly church, and the ponderous volumes of disputatious monks and theological sophists. Be it our care to study, and to do, the will of Him who sent us into this world for trial.

What, cries the impatient zealot, would you degrade the mystic science of divinity, and make it the mere instrument of virtuous living ? Is not faith indispensable to salvation ?-Unquestionably;—for, without faith, there can be no religion; without faith, no man “cometh to God;" without faith, there can be no persevering self-denial, no permanent virtue. The world must be overcomeits appetites, its follies, its vices, must be relinquished ;—and how is this to be accomplished, but by Christian faith? for, “ who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" Philosophy has not the motives, it has not the authority, sufficient for the great work, with one in a million ;- but faith has, and ever will have, with all, with all who receive it, not in their heads, but into their hearts.

I am confident that the honest and judicious members of our excellent establishment, while they “ earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints," and that all sincere professors of our most pure religion, whose station in society entitles them to that influence and authority which cannot be claimed by an obscure and solitary individual, will applaud and promote every temperate endeavour to dispel those clouds, and clear away those impediments, with which the artifice or bigotry of the church of Rome, or the church of Geneva, or any other sect or party, has obscured the genuine light of Christianity. The real mysteries of religion they will contemplate at a distance with awful reverence, nor rashly attempt to penetrate that obscurity, which God has “made his secret place,-his pavilion round about him, with dark water and thick clouds to cover him.” If, by mysterious doctrines, be meant those eternal truths, which, though not capable of proof to the contracted faculties of man, are yet clearly and unequivocally laid down in the writings of inspiration,-such as

« PreviousContinue »