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light, being allowed, I would ask, What is it, and whence does it come? Is it, as Lord Bacon imagines, a “sparkle of the purity of man's first estate,” or is it a work of the Spirit-an especial gift, bestowed on the fallen children of Adam, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus? I am persuaded, that the principal reason why bishop Butler and other Christian philosophers have ascribed this light to our own nature is, that they have confounded it with the conscience; which must, of course, be regarded as one of our natural faculties. Distinguish the law from the conscience—the pure infallible guide, from the fallible and often perverted judge and we at once perceive, that an enlightening principle, which varies in degree indeed, but never in character—unchangeably holy, heavenly, divine—without any mixture of error or taint of sincannot possibly be inherent by nature in the dark and corrupt mind of man. On the broadest scriptural principles, we must trace it immediately to God—to the Holy Spirit as the author of true moral illumination—to the Son as the Mediator through whom all spiritual blessings flow—to the Father as the only spring and origin of every perfect gift. Between the declaration of Paul, that Christ gave himself “a ransom for all," and that of John, that he “lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” there is surely a most satisfactory and delightful accordance.
But as an additional evidence of this truth, we must remember that the law of God, written on the heart, is light accompanied by power. In Christ " was life ; and the life was the light of men.” This truth, like the existence of the law itself, may be inferred from the Scripture doctrine, that all men are “ sinners,” and “guilty" in the sight of God. For as they could not be accounted sinners, were there no law made known to them, so they could not be “guilty in the sight of God” were there no capacity bestowed upon them, by which they might obey the law. That the Gentiles who shewed the work of the law written on their hearts were, in fact, gifted with this capacity, is evident from the mention which the apostle makes of some of them, as actual doers of “the things contained in the law,”” and even as justified persons, which they could
1 John i. 4.
2“ For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law,
not possibly have been without faith in God, and without a measure of divine grace. The same truth is apparent from the apostle Peter's assertion, that “in every nation, he that feareth God and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”
When a tribe of North American Indians, who had long been engaged in scenes of bloodshed, were brought, in a solemn convention, to open penitence, sacrificed a spotless white dog, as an atonement for their sins, and then threw their tomahawks into the lake who can doubt that they were under an immediate visitation of the power of that Spirit, which is as the wind blowing where it listeth? When Socrates, as compared with his fellow-countrymen, attained to an eminent degree of disinterestedness, integrity, justice, and charity; when he obeyed the counsels of that unknown monitor who so frequently checked him in the hour of temptation; when he bore so clear a testimony to virtue, as to be persecuted to death for virtue's sake-on what scriptural grounds can any man deny that he was made a partaker, to a certain degree, of a divine influence?'
do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another: Rom. ii. 13, 14, 15.
1 “Perhaps,” said Socrates, in his public defence before the judges, “it may, to some persons, appear improper, that I should communicate my advices in private, going about from house to house, and busying myself in other people's matters; but I dare not join in your assemblies, and publicly counsel the state. The cause of my not doing this, you have often heard me mention--it is that a voice speaks to me--something divine and supernatural--the very thing for which Melitus has ridiculed me in his comedies. Now this voice has followed me ever since I was a child; and when it comes, it is always as a check against something which I am about to do— never as an incentive. This it is which opposes and hinders me, when I would meddle with politics :" Apol. Soc. § 19. This passage (which might be instructive to many in the present day) affords a specimen of the manner in which this virtuous philosopher was accustomed to make mention of his inward monitor.
It was a rule with Socrates, that every man ought to conform himself, in his outward practice, to the religion of his country. This rule-objectionable as it was—affords an explanation of his frequent allusion to "the gods,” and of his commanding, even after he had drunk the poison, that a cock should be sacrificed to Esculapius. He played with idolatry, and was very culpable in doing so; but there are passages in his dialogues, which
These may be regarded as rare instances; but they are far from being solitary ones. They may at least serve the purpose of showing the nature and origin of that law by which the natural consciences of men are illuminated, and by which they may be rectified. It appears to be a doctrine truly consistent with the scope and tenor of Scripture, and with the breadth of that foundation which is laid in Zion-even the foundation of Jesus Christ and him crucified that as every man born into the world receives a measure of moral light, so every man born into the world, has his day of spiritual visitation.
I conceive that the Christian church at large is much indebted to George Fox and his brethren, for the bold, clear, and steadfast manner in which they maintained these important doctrines; but I am anxious that our young friends should fully understand, that the views which have now been unfolded, are very far from being peculiar to ourselves. Happily, they are held by a large, and I believe, very increasing proportion of Christian believers. The late William Wilberforce, so well known as an evangelical member of the church of England, emphatically expressed to me, on two occasions, his full conviction that an “effective offer of salvation” is made to
every man born into the world ;” and how can such an offer be made, except by a visitation of the Holy Spirit? The sentiments of the Wesleyan Methodists, on this subject, may be regarded as affording one erplanation of the remarkable extent in which their gospel labours have been blessed. These sentiments may be safely inferred from the following remarkable passage in the creed of the late Dr. Adam Clarke.
afford a sufficient evidence, that he acknowledged and worshipped One Supreme God. The testimonies borne to his many virtues are at once numerous and clear; and the aspersions which some writers have since attempted to cast upon his moral character, are, in my opinion, wholly undeserving of notice.
The gravest charge of this description was advanced, six hundred years after his death, by Tertullian-incidentally, and in the heat of an argumenta The only ground on which the charge is made, is the well known fact, that he was arraigned before the Athenian judges as a corrupter of the public morals. But it is equally well known, that he triumphantly rebutted the accusations preferred against him; and certainly the persecution which he suffered from a superstitious and dissolute people, can be regarded only as an evidence of his good conduct: See Tertullian, Apol. adversus Gentes, cap. 46. “The free will of man is a necessary constituent of his rational soul, without which he must be a mere machine-either the sport of blind chance, or the mere patient of an irresistible necessity; and consequently not accountable for any acts which were predetermined, and to which he was irresistibly compelled.
“Every human being has this freedom of will, with a sufficiency of light and power to direct its operations; but this powerful light is not inherent in any man's nature, but is graciously bestowed by him who is the true light, that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
“ Jesus Christ has made his one offering on the cross, a sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and atonement for the sins of the whole world; and his gracious Spirit strives with, and enlightens all men; thus putting them into a salvable state; therefore every human soul may be saved, if it be not his own fault.”2
Between the Scripture doctrine of election, “according to the foreknowledge of God,” and the Scripture doctrine of universal grace, there may appear, to our weak apprehensions, a want of agreement; but can we dare to doubt, that in point of fact, they are perfectly reconcilable; and form two distinct parts of one harmonious system of truth? Let us apply them, in all humility, to their respective practical purposes; and for further light on the subject, let us quietly wait for the day, when we “shall know, even as we are known !”
I cannot easily refrain from now quoting a passage, in which one of our best practical theologians has expressed, in vivid poetry, the same views as those of George Fox, Robert Barclay, and Adam Clarke.
“ Is virtue then, unless of Christian growth,
Mere fallacy, or foolishness, or both ?
1 This proposition affords a clear proof, that the term “free will" is used by Adam Clarke, in contradistinction to the doctrine of unconditional de crees-not to that of divine grace.
2 See Life of Dr. A. Clarke, vol. i., page 176.
My creed persuades me, well employed, may save;
With these sentiments of the Christian poet, I cordially concur, and especially solicit the attention of my young friends to the cautionary lines with which he concludes.
Every doctrine of religion must be held in its just proportion, and kept in its right place; otherwise it will be sure to invade, and perhaps displace, some other truth, which equally belongs to the revelation of God. While I have no doubt that the ancient heathen enjoyed some light, independently of all outward information, and while I believe this light to have been of a nature and origin truly divine, I would, on no account, exaggerate either its brightness or extent. The early twilight, and the blaze of noon, equally proceed from the sun; but could they be contrasted, it would be almost like the comparison of night with day. Just such is the difference between the degrees of moral and religious light bestowed upon Plato,
1 Truth, line 515.