« AnteriorContinuar »
gather; and where he hath scattered only the first fruits of the Gospel, there he never will require that precious fruit which he expects to be produced by the highest truths of revelation. Thus the husbandman is content to reap nothing but barley in a field where nothing but barley has been sown: but if, after sowing the same field with the purest wheat, it should produce only tares, with a few scattered ears of barley, he would, undoubtedly, express a degree of surprise and displeasure, at having his reasonable expectation so strangely disappointed.
In the New Testament we find a remarkable parable to this purpose, where mankind are considered as the domestics of God's immense household. In this parable, the Almighty is represented as collecting his servants together, and confiding to the care of each a separate loan, to be employed for the mutual interest of the covenanting parties. To one of his domestics he imparts five talents; to another two; while the third has no more than a single talent committed to his charge: but all are required so to occupy, that their gains may be proportionate to the several sums intrusted to their fidelity. Now, if the Christian, with five talents of spiritual knowledge, acquires no advantage over the Jew, who had received but two, is it not evident that he has acted the part of an unfaithful servant? Nay, he is to be esteemed even more unprofitable than the heathen, who suffers his single talent to lie unimproved; since amidst all his trifling gains he has slothfully concealed three valuable talents, while the other has buried but one. But were the first and the last to derive equal advantages from the disproportionate privileges permitted them to enjoy, while the latter would be received as a good and faithful servant, the former might deservedly be treated with an unusual degree of severity by his insulted Lord. This parable may assist us to conceive that a philosopher, who is called by baptism to evangelical perfection, and yet contents himself with practising the morality of a heathen, has not, in reality, so much solid virtue as a sincere Deist bred up in the bosom of Paganism.
Our progress in morality, like our advancement in science, is to be estimated by considering the circumstances in which we are placed, and the privileges we enjoy. A dramatic piece, composed by a child or a negro, might be received with plaudits, which would justly be hissed off the stage had it been produced by a Shakspeare or a Corneille. A traveller who expresses his admiration at the address with which savages manage a hatchet of stone, would express equal astonishment at the weakness of his countrymen, should he see them casting aside their axes of iron, and felling their trees with ill-formed implements of flint. Thus, after admiring the successful efforts of Socrates, who drew many sacred truths from the chaos of Paganism, how astonishing is it to behold modern philosophers patching up a confused system of Deistical morality, to be substituted in place of the sublimer doctrines and the purer morality of the Gospel! Wherever such retrograde reasoners are discovered, their insignificant labours must be universally deplored by the lovers of truth. But when these champions of false wisdom endeavour to bury, under the ruins of Christianity, those important truths which heathens themselves have formerly discovered, it is impossible to behold their impious efforts without feeling all the warmth of an honest indignation.
We shall conclude this Essay by transcribing a part of that ancient testimony which was borne by Lactantius to the power of those doctrines for which we contend.
"That which many have discovered, by the assistance of natural religion, to be their indispensable duty, but which they have never been able either to practise themselves, or to see exemplified in the conduct of philosophers; all this the sacred doctrines of the Gospel assist us to perform, because that Gospel is wisdom in its highest excellence. How shall philosophers persuade others, while they themselves continue in a state of perplexity? Or how shall they repress the passions of others, while, by giving way to their own, they tacitly confess that nature, in spite of all their efforts, is still triumphant? But daily experience testifies how great an influence the ordinances of God have upon the heart. Give me a passionate, slanderous, implacable man; and, through the power of our Gospel, I will return him to you gentle as a lamb. Give me an avaricious man, whose greediness of gain will suffer him to part with nothing; and I will return him to you so liberal, that he will give away his money by handfuls. Bring me a man who trembles at the approach of pain and death; ere long he shall look with contempt upon crosses, fires, and even the bull of Phalaris itself. Present me with a debauchee, an adulterer, a man wholly lost to good manners; you shall shortly behold him an example of sobriety, uprightness, and continence. Give me a cruel and blood-thirsty man; his ferocious disposition shall suddenly be succeeded by real clemency. Give me an unjust man, a stupid person, an extravagant sinner; you shall shortly behold him scrupulously just, truly wise, and leading a life of innocence. Such is the power of heavenly wisdom, that it is no sooner shed abroad in the heart, but, by a single effort, it chases away folly, the mother of sin. To compass these invaluable ends, a man is under no necessity of paying salaries to masters of philosophy, and passing whole nights in meditating upon their works. Every necessary assistance is imparted without delay, with ease, and free from cost; if there be not wanting an attentive ear, and a heart desirous of wisdom. The sacred source to which we point, is plenteous, overflowing, and open to all men; the celestial light we announce, indiscriminately rises upon all who open their eyes to behold it .
"What philosopher has ever done so much? Who among them is able to perform such wonders? After having passed their lives in the study of philosophy, it appears that they have neither bettered themselves nor others, when nature causes them any great resistance. Their wisdom serves rather to cover, than to eradicate their vices. Whereas our Divine instructions [i. e. the doctrines of the Gospel] so totally change a man, that you would no longer know him for the same person." (Loch Lib. iii, cap. 26.)
Vol. HI. 16
MATTER OF FACT AND COMMON SENSE
A RATIONAL DEMONSTRATION
MAN'S CORRUPT AND LOST ESTATE.
BY THE REV. JOHN FLETCHER,
VICAR OF MADELEV, 8AI.nr.
Ye pompous sons of Reason idotized,
A i .11 vitified at once; of Reason dead, Then deified, as monarchs were of otd .Wrong not the Christian . thuik not Reason yours;Tis Reason our great Master hotds eo dear .
'Tis Reason's injure"] righu his wrath resents ,
'Tis Reason's voice obey'd his gtorious crown,
To give lost Reason tife he pour'd his own ,
Betieve, and show the reason of a man:
Betieve, and taste the pleasure of a God;Through Reason's wounds alone thy faith can die. - Voting
The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was tost.—Luke