Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

heart from the first of these passages, when, if it have any being at all, it must recognize a coordinate authority and truth in the second of these passages ?"1 It is the work of Christ which secured a "title" to the divine fellowship; still personal holiness is needed to fit one for that fellowship. "In the claim for heaven, it [human virtue] is of no account; in the indispensable character for heaven, it is all in all." a The assigning of such a place to virtue, does not " degrade" it to the rank of " a price paid" for happiness.3 It thereby ceases to be "the purchase-money wherewith we buy heaven," and becomes heaven already in possession." * Under a legal dispensation, virtue is viewed as establishing the right to be saved; but under the dispensation of grace, the work of Christ makes good the claim, and virtue is "the very substance of salvation."6 In this way Dr. Chalmers shows that the doctrine of justification by faith does not tend to "Antinomianism," while it exalts virtue to the position of " the ultimate and the highest good of existence." • XV. The Doctrine of the Spirit. We have now passed through those portions of the theological system of Dr. Chalmers, in which most of his views, of any distinctive character, are to be found. The remaining topics may, perhaps, be embraced in a notice of his view of the work of the Spirit. Ample space is given, in the " Institutes," to the doctrine of the Trinity. He held it, in the strict Scriptural sense, arriving at the divinity of each person by the induction of inspired statements, and, in the same way, establishing his belief in their essential unity. By a 1 Insts. Thcol. Vol. II. p. 209. If virtue be indispensable as a preparation for heaven, as here represented, then it cannot be said that the righteousness of Christ is strictly imputed to His followers. They are not treated in all respects as if His character were theirs.

a Insts. Theol. Vol. II. p. 211. 8 If Dr. Chalmers taught that the righteousness of Christ purchases for ns a title to heaven, did he not "degrade virtue," in that instance, from the rank of an ultimate) to that of a secondary good? Shall the righteousness of the disciple hold a more honorable place than that of his Master?4 Insts. Theol. Vol. II. pp. 226—229. * Ibid. p. 239. ■ Ibid. p. 228. like process he reached the doctrine of the twofold person of Christ. But in neither instance did he attempt to harmonize the separate conclusions to which he came, so as to make them appear consistent to human reason. He was satisfied in knowing that the Bible teaches them, and that they cannot be proved to be irreconcilable.1 However mysterious the doctrine of the Trinity may be to us, when we attempt to view it philosophically, it is fitted to meet some of the deepest wants of the soul. Especially do we feel that the Spirit, whose office it is to render the Gospel effectual, and to counteract the power of Satan, needs to be a distinct and Almighty Person.2 The fact that regeneration is the assigned work of the Spirit, taken with the fact that a large portion of mankind are never renewed, suggests the scriptural doctrine of predestination. On this "high topic" Dr. Chalmers adopted, mainly, the views and the phraseology of President Edwards. He believed in a " philosophical necessity," extending to all the processes of the human mind. Not only the operations of nature, but every act of the wills of men, lies "within the universal category of cause and effect." 3 He rejected the notion of "metaphysical liberty," which denies that the volitions of the mind are, in any sense, caused. He endeavored to show, from the facts of history, that the Edwardean view of "necessity" is acted upon, by all men, in the affairs of life.6 But there is a sense in which he could not be called an advocate of the scheme of necessity. All that he attempts in his reasoning is, to prove such a necessity as shall shut out the idea of "contingency" from the moral government of God. He admits that the doctrine might be stated in a more defensible form, by " substituting certainty for necessity." • "We should not object to this change. Grant but a certainty as absolute in the mental as in the material world, and we require no more."7 "Perhaps it were better to be rid of the term 'necessity' altogether in con

l Insts. Thcol. Vol. II. pp. 417—462. 1 Ibid. p. 291. 8 Ibid. pp. 299—305. 4 Ibid. pp. 310—317. * Ibid. pp. 305, 306.

• Ibid. p. 356. 1 Ibid. nection with this subject, as it is ever suggesting the idea of compulsion, and of compulsion too against the will, which latter conception is in no way involved with ora doctrine."1 He denies that the doctrine under notice implies " a blind and mechanical necessity." It "simply affirms regularity of procedure in each class of beings, but amply secures the distinction between them by ascribing to each its own properties and its own powers."a God has not predestinated one portion of mankind to eternal life, and another portion to eternal death, in such a sense as to be insincere in offering salvation to them all. Dr. Chalmers regretted the course of "some theologians," who "unwisely" restrict the overtures of the Gospel to the elect. "A message so constructed, as that it might circulate round the globe, and by which the blessings of the upper sanctuary are made as accessible to one and all of the species, as the light, or the air, or any of the cheap and common bounties of nature, has now, since its wings of diffusiveness and glory have been clipped by the hands of controversialists, shrunk and shrivelled into the dimensions of their own narrow sectarianism." 8 When the doctrine of the divine decrees is rightly understood, it stimulates to activity and is an incentive to prayer. God's eternal plan is composed of an infinite number of sequences; and "the connection between the beginning and the ending, sure and irreversible though it be, is not more sure than the connection" which binds the consequent to the antecedent, in each intermediate succession.4 The fulfilment of the promise in Matt. 7: 8, is fixed by a divine decree. As many as perform the condition, are made sure of the blessing by an absolute certainty. Every one ought to be aroused to earnestness in asking and seeking, by the doctrine that he will thus make good the first term of a sequence, whose second term is the object of his desire.6 But men are, of themselves, unwilling to do what they can in the attaining of salvation; they will not, naturally, exercise saving faith in Christ. Hence they are "made willing"1 Insts. TUeol. Vol. II. p. 356.

* Ibid. p. 404. * Ibid. p. 398.

[ocr errors]

by the Spirit; so many of them as God chooses to rescue by His gracious interposition. The work of the Spirit, however, does not lessen the value of instrumentalities. He " acts upon the mind mediately, and not immediately."1 "The Spirit of God does not act but by the intervention of the Word;" just as Satan "does not act but by the intervention of the world." 2 "He makes Scripture effectual to conversion; but it is only made effectual to those who know Scripture." 3 This fact should stimulate ministers and churches in their efforts for the conversion of the impenitent. By so doing, they will "keep right the instrument that is wielded by the hands of a mighty workman; and the higher and nobler the agent is, the more momentous an interest is concerned in the right keeping of the instrument which he employs." 1

Such were the views of Dr. Chalmers, on the relation of the Word to the Spirit's agency, in the work of bringing mankind to Christ. He believed in the "moral," but not in the "natural" inability of man. He taught that all can exercise saving faith if they will, so that the offer of salvation is unlimited and sincere. The duty of presenting this offer to a fallen world has been laid upon the Christian church; while the doctrine of the Spirit ever keeps in view the humbling, and yet animating truth, that as many as enter the kingdom of heaven, are "born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." i Insts. Theol. Vol. II. p. 463. 3 Ibid. p. 464. 8 Ibid. Vol. I. p. 284. * Ibid. p. 285. ARTICLE II. THE SCRIPTURAL AUTHORITY AND OBLIGATION OF THE SABBATH EXAMINED. By Rev. W. M. O'Hanlon, Burnley, Lancashire.

[ocr errors]

Nothing can be more obvious than the obligation, resting upon all intelligent and accountable creatures, to devote some portion of their time to the immediate worship of God, to the devout study of his Will, to the contemplation of the spiritual interests of their own being, and to such other exercises as are fitted to elevate the mind to the perfection of which it is morally and religiously capable. Even in the absence of any distinctive and divine revelation, beyond that which the Most High has supplied in the constitution of our nature, it could hardly fail to have been felt, that a solemn responsibility of this order existed. But, how much time ought to be set apart for these specific purposes, whether it should be indeterminate, or fixed and definite in its recurrence and intervals, and in what manner it can be employed, so as best to promote the Divine glory and effectually to secure the benefits desired,—these are questions which reason might be inadequate to solve, and which it might demand a direct communication from Heaven to decide. But this communication being made, and supposing that the whole duty, both as to essential principles and minutest details, were placed under the guardianship and sanctions of a Divine edict, still, our judgment would readily discriminate, between that part of the obligation which is founded upon immutable, moral relations, and that part which arises out of such positive prescripts of the great Lawgiver as owe their binding authority simply, or chiefly, to his wise but sovereign appointment, as the supreme Ruler of the universe. We can conceive it perfectly possible for God to change the season, or to limit or lengthen it, at his good pleasure ; but we cannot conceive it possible even in Him, without an en

« AnteriorContinuar »