« PreviousContinue »
hesitation he makes a farther diminution. And when left with his three hundred against the united hosts of Midian and Amalek, he still bravely holds to his calling. He has faith in God.
And now let us mark how Gideon acquits himself on the night of his victory." The LORD said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand. But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant down to the host : and thou shalt hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host. Then went he down with Phurah his servant unto the outside of the armed men that were in the host. And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude ; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude. And when Gideon was come, behold, there was man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along. And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel : for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host. And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise ; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian."
Gideon is now full of faith and courage. And well he may be: for has he not just heard a dream with the interpretation ? And did not the dream and interpretation ALL BUT say that he should conquer ? They did. But before he went down, the voice of Truth QUITE said it. Why did not that suffice ?
Gideon's three hundred may take his word. Is he not their leader? Why then can not the leader take God's word ? A sign or a dream goes to his very heart: but his ear is dull to the voice Divine.
The real difficulty is now at an end. Easily enough will Gideon issue directions respecting the trumpets, lamps, and pitchers; then with his three hundred go down and take the victory which Heaven bestows. Nor will it cost much faith or courage to chase the flying Midianites.
On the whole, our Worthy is an instructive example of faith and the power of faith. When the heavens are aglow, Arcturus, Sirius, Aldebaran, and their peers never fail, as single stars, to strike the dullest eye. But if the Pleiades are to shine, they must help each other; and even thus they yield a soft and pleasing, rather than a
brilliant light. For the noblest example of faith we look to Abraham, or Moses, or Elijah, or Paul. But Gideon by himself, and Samson and Barak and Jephthah united, will warm and encourage less than Daniel or Elijah alone.
We may hope that he who trusts God through life as Gideon did in his service against Midian will reach heaven: we may be sure that he who would rise high in bliss, who would sit on Christ's right hand or His left, must show a purer, higher, nobler faith than that of our Worthy.
W. J. FRANKLAND.
POPE'S COMPENDIUM OF CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY.
The second Division of Mr. Pope's work relates to God, and embraces many topics of deepest interest. To a thoughtful and spiritual mind nothing is more attractive, and at the same time more awe-inspiring, than the contemplation of the Supreme Being, as He has revealed Himself to us. The ineffable glory of His Nature, the mysterious mode of His existence as the Triune Jehovah, and the majesty of all His perfections, fill us with lowly reverence; while the relations in which He stands to us, and the love which sought our return to Him in Christ Jesus, and which now rejoices over us to bless us " with all spiritual blessings " in Him, calls forth our confidence, our gratitude, and our delight. As we venture to look towards that unapproachable Light in which God dwells, and attempt to conceive of Him as He is in Himself, we deeply feel the weakness and limitation of our powers, and become conscious that all our conceptions of Him must be partial and inadequate ; and yet our hearts are drawn to Him as our Father and our God. In such a spirit of reverence, humility, and love, the esteemed author of this work enters upon the consideration of the Divine Nature and perfections. Everywhere we perceive evidence, not only of deep devotional feeling, but of a profound conviction that mystery surrounds this great theme, while yet it is our privilege to be assured that our knowledge of God, though "of necessity partial and limited,” is yet “true knowledge, as corresponding to reality in its Object," and that " for the regulation of man's life of faith it is sufficient."
At the outset of this Division of the work, Mr. Pope glances at the varied evidences of the existence of God, which forms the primary truth of religion. He affirms that the idea of God is, in an important sense, innate,-not, indeed, that "the full knowledge of God
VOL. XXII.-FIFTE SERIES.
is formed in every mind as an object of consciousness, but that the constitution of human nature is such that it naturally develops a consciousness of God when God presents Himself, even as it becomes conscious of self and of the outer world." To this extent the proposition is both true and important. Canon Liddon has properly observed, “ The idea or presentiment of God, everywhere rooted in the mind of man, is a fact sufficiently important to be treated as something better than a superstition by those who put forward any serious doctrine about human nature. A mental fact is as worthy of attention as any fact which can be appraised in a chemical laboratory or on the roof of an observatory. Cicero's statement, that there is no nation so barbarous and wild as not to have believed in some divinity, is still, notwithstanding certain apparent exceptions, true. A nation of pure Atheists is yet to be discovered. Unworthy and degraded as are many of the beliefs on the subject of a Higher Power that are to be found in the heathen world, some groping after the Great Unseen, some tentative intuition, some shadowy belief there is to be found always and everywhere. Man thinks of a Higher Power as naturally as he thinks of the world around him, or of himself. The spontaneous activity of his consciousness brings with it, contains in itself, the thought of One who is greater, if not also stronger, wiser, better than all else; and that man should thus think of Him is, of itself, a presumption that He really exists."'*
Among the positive evidences of this great truth, we are glad to find that Mr. Pope lays stress on that derived from the moral nature of man, as well as on that which is afforded by the manifest proofs of design which meet us everywhere in external nature. We have long been convinced that the testimony of conscience to the existence of God is one which should be often appealed to. There is that in the human breast which, apart from the influence of education, recognises the reality of the distinctions of right and wrong. We do not say that this principle is capable of tracing out with accuracy the whole system of duty. To do this it needs to be enlightened and trained by revelation : but it does affirm that right and wrong are realities. But conscience, while it thus pronounces judgment on our actions as being good or bad, indicates too that there will be retribution. It postulates a moral system on which the world is governed ; and that system presided over by One who loves the right and will maintain it. The human conscience points to God as the Sovereign and Judge to whom we are responsible, and who will uphold the interests of righteousness and truth.
* “Some Elements of Religion,” pp. 49-51,
But such considerations as these are only introductory to the reverent contemplation of God as He has revealed to us His Nature and perfections. The names of God are expounded by Mr. Pope with his usual depth of thought and force of expression ; and then the profound mystery of the Trinity in Unity is considered. We need not dwell at length on this part of the work. All who are familiar with Mr. Pope’s Fernley Lecture on the Person of Christ, together with the important additions that have since been made to it, will be prepared to find a complete and guarded statement of the truths included in this great doctrine, and a clear and comprehensive development of the leading forms of error which have had place in the history of the Chureh.
The principle on which the Attributes of God should be classified is carefully discussed. Most thoughtful men have felt the imperfection of the usual division into the natural and moral attributes, as well as of some other divisions which have been proposed. Mr. Pope adopts a threefold classification : the attributes which pertain to God as an Absolute Essence; those arising out of the relation between the Supreme and the creature ; and those which belong to the relation between God and moral beings. Under the first division we have Spirituality, Infinity, including both Eternity and Immensity, Self-sufficiency, Immutability, and Perfection. Under the second we have Freedom, Omnipotence, Omnipresence, Omniscience, Wisdom, and Goodness. With regard to the third division, Mr. Pope's general statement is as follows :
"Many attributes, hitherto unmentioned, belong to the Divine Being as He is the moral Governor of intelligent creatures. These are revealed especially in connection with the economy of redemption, and derive their names and characteristics mainly from that connection : though they are displayed in all the relations of God to His probationary creatures, they must be viewed by us in the light of the mediation of Christ. They all depend upon two, Holiness and Love, the mutual relations, harmony, and unity of which are bound up with the mystery of the Gospel. These supreme attributes stand at the head, respectively, of many others which spring from them, or belong to the same family. The first representative of Holiness is Justice, which brings that internal and essential attribute into the moral government of God, and gives, as Righteousness, one of its names to the redeeming economy of that guveroment. It is itself represented and supported by Truth and Fidelity. The internal and essential attribute of Love is represented in human things by Grace, the impartation of which gives many attributes to the Triune God.” (P. 149.)
This brief view of Mr. Pope's scheme will, of itself, illustrate the difficulty of fixing upon any classification of the Divine Attributes which shall be altogether free from objection. We cordially accept the statement, that all those perfections of the Divine Nature which have a direct relation to the moral government of intelligent beings
may be summed up in the two attributes of Holiness and Love ; but we are not prepared to separate Goodness from this division of the Divine perfections, and to regard it simply as the expression of the Divine benevolence towards all creatures as such.
We gladly pass, however, from this point, to quote the two beautiful paragraphs with which Mr. Pope closes his observations on the Divine Attributes:
“ Lastly, the study of the Divine perfections should be conducted with a never-failing reference to ourselves. We cannot attain to them ; but we may, in the right sense of the word, however, bring them down to us. What this means is best taught in Scripture : as, for instance, by Job's struggle and submission in the presence of the Divine Omniscience, and David's more tranquil and equally sublime reduction to himself of the Divine Omnipresence. By far the most comprehensive department of Scriptural Theology, as such, is that which teaches by training the mind to contemplate the Divine perfections, and to dwell upon the works and ways of God as manifestations of His character, or of what the Bible calls His glory. The several attributes are constantly set before us for thought and imitation; and they are blended into the unity which is the glory of that Divine nature of which we may be partakers. What St. Paul says of the attributes of Christ, whose attributes are Divine perfections manifest in the flesh, applies to this whole subject : Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory.
“We cannot do better than close with the words of the Psalmist, which should be written on the heart of every student : Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it: this to subdue the inquiring mind into humility and awe. How precious also are Thy thoughts unto me, O God ! hon great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with Thee : this to encourage the meditation of the soul.” (Pp. 155, 156.)
The third Division of this work is entitled, GOD AND THE CREATURE, and deals with the two great subjects of Creation and Providence. The treatment of the former is introduced by the following general and comprehensive statement:
“ Creation is in Scripture assigned to the One Almighty God in the Trinity of His essence : who by His creating act displays the glory of His attributes, but freely as an act of will, and with the diffusion of happiness as an end attained by the resources of infinite wisdom. Absolute creation is the effect of Omnipotence; secondary creation, or formation, exhibits Divine Wisdom also and Love as preparing the scene of Providence and Redemption.” (Pp. 159, 160.)
Many topics of deep interest naturally suggest themselves in connection with this great theme; and these have received from Mr. Pope careful attention. The teaching of the Inspired Record as to the agency of the three Persons of the ever-blessed Trinity in creation is briefly traced; and the general statements of revelation are main. tained against the theories which modern science has advanced.