« PreviousContinue »
ready in existence, and therefore its creation must be recorded in the first verse. 4. In the first verse the heavens take
precedence of the earth; but in the following verses all things, even the sun, moon, and stars seem to be but appendages to the earth. Thus, if it were a heading, it would not correspond with the narrative. 5. If the first verse belong to the narrative, order pervades the whole recital; whereas, if it be a heading, the most hopeless confusion enters.
In commenting upon that great event in the life of Abraham, when he was called to offer up his son, and recorded in the twenty-second chapter of Genesis, he exhibits his insight, and shows us his ability to generalize facts and deduce broad principles from individual experiences. Thus he crowds meaning into brief statements :
With the nineteenth verse of this chapter may be said to close the main revelation of the third Bible given to mankind, to which the remainder of this book is only a needful appendix. It includes the two former Bibles or revelations,—that of Adam and that of Noah; and it adds the special revelation of Abraham. The two former applied directly to the whole race ; the latter directly to Abraham and his seed as the medium of an ultimate blessing to the whole race. The former revealed the mercy of God offered to all, which was the truth immediately necessary to be known; the latter reveals more definitely the seed through whom the blessings of mercy are to be conveyed to all, and delineates the leading stage in the spiritual life of a man of God. In the person of Abraham is unfolded that spiritual process by which the soul is drawn to God. He hears the call of God and comes to the decisive act of trusting in the revealed God of mercy and truth ; on the ground of which act he is accounted as righteous. He then rises to the successive acts of walking with God, covenanting with him, communing and interceding with him, and at length withholding nothing that he has or holds dear from him. In all this we discern certain primary and essential characteristics of the man who is saved through acceptance of the mercy of God proclaimed to him in a primeval gospel. Faith in God (ch. xv.), repentance towards him (ch. xvi.) and fellowship with him (ch. xviii.), are the three great turning-points of the soul's returning life. They are built upon the effectual call of God (ch. xii.) and culminate in unreserved resignation to him (ch. xxii.). With wonderful facility has the sacred record descended in this pattern of
spiritual biography from the rational and accountable race to the individual and immortal soul, and traced the footsteps of its path to God.
In the closing paragraph in his second volume we have a still more striking example of this generalizing power, and a fine statement of the moral significance of this separation of the chosen people and of their departure from the midst of Egypt, to find, through peril and strife and hardship and a faithful but wise and loving discipline, a possession and a rest.
The nations of the earth are no longer visibly one on the momentous question of allegiance to God. The holy nation has publicly come out from the world. The great body of mankind has become gradually more and more estranged from the true and living God. Four hundred and thirty years ago, Abraham has been called to separate himself from his father's home and land in preparation for this sad event.
when the process of human ungodliness is come to a head, a little
from him stands forth as a witness for God, a light in the midst of darkness, and a salt that is yet to preserve the earth. This little people is itself the type and germ of all coming stages of the kingdom of God on earth. Cradled in persecution, it yet escapes to the wilderness, and is fed with manna from the sky and water from the rock, by the omnipotent word of God. Its conscience is awakened by the promulgation of the moral law, and then led from the despair of guilt to the calmness of peace with God through the symbolic propitiation of the tabernacle. In the infancy of its mind it is wisely and kindly trained by the use of appropriate symbols to grasp the transcendent thoughts of mercy and truth, of righteousness and peace, of atonement, of redemption and regeneration. The roots of bitterness again and again burst through the soil and shoot up into a baneful luxuriance. Nevertheless, the planting of the Lord has taken root, and has been growing and gathering strength again after many storms, and amidst many thorns through all the course of time. If Genesis tells of that first disobedience that brought death into the world of mankind, Exodus speaks with cheering hope of that suffering but surviving obedience that brings eternal life to the returning penitent. These two books, then, contain the pith and marrow of the ancient gospel; Leviticus and Numbers being subsidiary, and Deuteronomy a recapitulation.
Not by any means are the entire utterances of the work of this marked character, but these specimens of thought and style suggest a mind of strong grasp in its thought and of unusual power in its ability to make itself felt as a stimulant upon the spirit of a reader. One may be certain that such a mind will never appear feeble or utter itself in mere commonplace. The two volumes are most valuable, timely and significant additions to our exegetical literature, and every studious pastor will find himself not a little enriched who obtains and uses them freely, both for the purpose of elucidating the meaning of single texts and of extended and frequent perusal. They will aid in answering many questions raised by the critical intellect but they will do still more in quickening the heart into that sacred sympathy with the early Scriptures which makes faith at once vigorous and vital.
ART. VI.-THE PERVERSIONS OF THE GOSPEL A
PROOF OF ITS DIVINITY.
A young infidel was scoffing at Christianity, in the presence of Dr. Mason, because of the misconduct of its professors. Said the Dr. to him, “ D'd you ever know an uproar to be made because an infidel went astray from the paths of morality ?" Upon his admission that he had not, Dr. Mason replied, Then don't you see that by expecting the professors of Christianity to be holy, you admit it to be a holy religion, and thus pay it the highest compliment in your power?" By this retort the mouth of the opposer was shut.
Skeptics and opposers of the gospel of Christ, have ever been disposed to judge of its claims by the lives of its professors, and as they have had no difficulty in finding a vast amount of hypocrisy and immorality among those nominally belonging to the number of Christ's disciples, they have laid all to the charge of the gospel itself, and have appeared glad of such an excuse for rejecting it. In this judgment, they have shown either positive dishonesty or criminal recklessness. They have either known the conduct of these false professors, on whose account, they reproach the gospel, to be contrary to the principles and precepts of Christianity, and therefore not to be laid to its charge, or, they have not taken pains to examine the system which they oppose, to learn what it does teach, and what are its requirements. The first is reckless dishonesty, the last dishonest recklessness. Undoubtedly to all those who have fought Christianity on a large or small arena, both might be justly attributed. Hume confessed that he never read the New Testament with careful attention, and the ignorance of the sacred writings exhibited by Voltaire and Paine and other infidels is well known.
The dishonesty, or at least the extreme unfairness of the practice of judging Christianity by the perversions of it in the false systems and false lives of its pretended friends is most apparent. If we had no written word of ultimate authority, embodying the principles of the system in infallible statement, and were compelled to trust tradition for our knowledge, and to look to those who call and have called themselves Christians for our acquaintance with Christianity, then it might be acknowledged a fair procedure to form opinions of it, wholly by what appears in the lives and systems of those professing it. But Christianity does not so come to us. It comes offering certain sacred writings claiming to be inspired of God, and to contain his will and his truth made known to man. Doctrines are taught, and precepts given, which are to be received of men and wrought into their lives, ere they can be acknowledged Christians. Those, who do thus receive the truth and the influences of the gospel, become, it is taught, new men, and are henceforth actuated by motives and governed by principles holy and right. Supreme love to God and equal love to man form the basis of the law of Christianity. This we find by the study of the divine word. This newness and purity of life, the gospel claims as its fruits. Shall the sincere inquirer reject the claim of the gospel to be divine, because the lives and systems of its professed friends, in a great multitude of cases, fail to agree with the standard and teaching of the sacred book? Shall the gospel be rejected because of the perversions of it by imperfect and by wicked men ? On the contrary these very perversions ought to be, and to the candid, sincere inquirer will be an additional proof of the divinity of the original. That the inconsistencies of professed believers in Christianity may be turned into proofs of its divinity, may appear a paradoxical proposition, but to us nothing on earth is more obvious, and we do not hesitate to charge it upon skeptics that had they exercised the honesty, care and candor which they profess, they would have acknowledged it rather than have sought to use these inconsistencies as weapons with which to assail the gospel.
That the ideal Christian character of the New Testament is perfect will not be questioned by any one whose study of it has been sufficient to entitle him to an opinion, and that the embodiment of such character, we have presented us in the record of the life of Jesus, we all know.
It is equally true that the moral teachings of the New Testament are free from every vicious tendency and embody every virtue and every excellence. The departures from this perfect ideal and this high standard, which we observe in the lives and systems of professing Christians we know to have been the work of men, many of whom were false in heart, but to multitudes of whom, we must in candor attribute honesty of desire and purpose to realize the truth in belief and practice. If then man, with all the light of the sacred Word shining on him and aiding him, has formed such evil or imperfect systems and allowed such evil or imperfect conduct, how could he be the author of so pure and holy a system as the Christianity of the New Testament? Let it be borne in mind ever that the gospel most positively claims to be of divine origin, and then the more minute and detailed the examination of the various errors in doctrine and practice, which have assumed the Christian name, the stronger will grow the conviction, by the comparison of the false and the true, that while these errors are recognized as the work of man, the words of the apostles and prophets, are “not