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give when we believed we had a right to punish by the infliction of deserved suffering. Now we are told ever to forgive. And properly so : for we know not how to punish so as to correct. Forgiveness in us is the restoration of our own minds to a state of goodwill to all, a condition from which we should strive never to be withdrawn. Then by example we may correct. But it is evident that the same reasoning cannot apply to the God of Love. For His punishing is always His proof of love; it is His only mode of blessing those who require correction. “ Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth.” To pardon, then, in the sense usually attached to this word by mortals, would be to injure or to cease to improve them. The very purpose of punishing is to produce an atonement or reconciliation to Him. Without this result, pardoning would never bless man. All the afflictive dispensations of this world are directed towards this one end—the reconciliation of man to goodness and to God. Whether we are forgiven, as we are on repentance, or justly punished when we transgress, in either case the object must be to recall our minds and all our energies unto God and to the performance of His will. It is for this reason that an atonement was necessary, and ever is needful, to allow of God's pardoning man, or, in other words, to reconcile the human terms justice and mercy with the infinite love of God.
Nor is it difficult to perceive how Jesus became our atonement-how he effected, and still effects, this reconciliation. The simplicity of the doctrine, like the curative effects of the river Jordan, is the only obstacle to its success. All seek for some mystery to save them, or at least to hide their sins from their own eyes; and the more extraordinary the means, and the less dependent these means are upon the exertion of their own understanding and of their own energies, the more acceptable are they to them. It is not thought to be enough that the example and the love of Christ should so penetrate our souls as to render us moral and religious beings, -as to turn us away from our iniquities that we may live, and thus to reconcile us to the government of an all-perfect, all-merciful Father; but there must be some hidden, unknown connection between the blood of Christ and the character of God, so that our faith in the former should either make God love us better, or enable us to obey and serve Him more devotedly. It is found to be more agreeable to exercise and excite the imagination, than it is to think soberly, to purpose wisely, and to act perseveringly and zealously. Men accordingly would rather deceive themselves into an imagined security by hearing repeatedly addresses comforting to their feelings, than be roused to virtuous exertions to reform their lives and characters, so that they may be saved in reality from all sin, and be reconciled to the God of all power, wisdom and love. But any atonement which does not operate directly upon our own characters and lives must be futile. By a right direction of these alone can we be reconciled to the government of God: for we can never be reconciled to the continuance of pain and suffering; and these must continue so long as our hearts and lives are estranged from God, and not in accordance with his laws. For “God is not mocked ; and whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” No seed sown by another man can supply the place of that which is entrusted to our
All good seed is needed. We require it. The loss of it must cause grief and suffering. All bad seed is pernicious in itself, and doubly so from its occupying ground that was capable of better things. It were better destroyed. It injures him who sows and
reaps it. However much faith is given professedly to this doctrine, yet in practice how constantly is it overlooked in individual cases where a man is personally interested ! Each flatters himself that his crop will be something very different from, and far better than, what he sowed. Each appears to believe that some agency apart from his own skill and exertions will
make up for the defects of bad seed. Each trusts to some lucky chance that the issue may not be so bad after all. Thus do men go on through life sowing tares or bad seed in the vineyard of the Lord,-trusting to His mercy for forgiveness, hoping that a third party will make atonement for them, not with them or through them. Vain hope! God is not thus mocked. Whoever violates any one of God's laws will eventually suffer the loss attached to disobedience, and that with interest. Whoever obeys the Divine commands will receive a reward, and that with increase. It is true that these penalties or those rewards do not always attract the attention of the world. They are often unseen, frequently coming without observation, and therefore to a careless eye often apparently withheld. The retribution, whether of weal or woe, is often known only to the recipient whom it most concerns. The satisfaction of success or the mortification of failure may not be shewn outwardly, still less be extensively manifest. Nor does the harvest always appear just at the expected time. Even the best are liable to repeated disappointments for a
The day of success seems postponed. Ingratitude is found where there was reason to look for gratitude. A blight often appears to retard our best efforts, and a perfect reliance upon the goodness of God is the only support and assurance of success that is frequently left. But this inward comfort is enough-enough for the present, enough as prophetic of future good. The consolation that is inseparable from truly virtuous conduct, and which never can accompany vice, is the sure reward always reaped by him who sows good seed. This comfort, too, is the sure sign of Heaven's approval. It may be that death approaches before any other or any outward reward appears in the horizon. It may be that the grave closes over the unfinished labour, or that centuries are required before the truths uttered or the life lived can be fully appreciated and widely adopted. So is it always with the wisest and best of men, with those who have triumphed only through their death. Nevertheless is God not mocked ! Whatsoever has been sown will be reaped, and that with increase. A future world lies open to the view of those thus departing, blessed with the peace of God. And there will be fully realized, though by ways and means at present incomprehensible to man, all that can satisfy the highest and holiest aspirations of his nature in the presence of the Father of all mercies. Amen.
THE PRAYER OF THE PHARISEE AND THE
PRAYER OF THE PUBLICAN.
BY REV. HENRY W. CROSSKEY.
LUKB xviii. 9-14 :
“And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that
they were righteous, and despised others : Two men went up into the temple to pray ; the one a Pharisee, and the other a Publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself : God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the Publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other.”
In this wonderful parable we have pictured before us, NOT the man who sees floating above him a noble ideal of character, which with many efforts he has sought to grasp, but which ever passes nearer God as his own steps also advance—who in nightly dream is haunted by visions of unrealized excellence, and in daily toil attended by those onward thoughts which watch like heavenly angels over the battle of his life,-BUT a man perfectly satisfied with the virtues he has achieved, and who believes the Almighty Lord to be as contented with them as he is himself. We have here pictured, not the man of sensitive conscience who knows the insufficiency of his best deeds ; who is but too conscious of the evil desires that have