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ing as his existence; by a perception of the beauty of holiness, which is unchangeable; and by a perception of the nature of happiness, which associates it forever with the service of God. There is no reason for obedience which will not be conclusive for entire obedience throughout eternity. Thus the least control of religious affections in the heart excludes all limit of time. And when the soul has tasted the sweetness of a life of piety, its own highest happiness now is a new motive in favor of pursuing such a life unto the end. What can prevent it from being thus inclined, when its highest joy and highest duty coincide; when the course which it chose, under less pressure of motives, is found to be more inviting, and no circumstances can exist to make it otherwise ?
Thus we see that sincere purposes of obedience are as far as possible from being temporary expedients, or mere experiments after happiness. They have something eternal about them. Although, when first aroused by Divine grace in the mind, they have the nature of winged thoughts, yet there is an alliance between the soul which conceives them and the everlasting God. They aim at nothing less than a permanent union with God, the source of good; they soar above all condition, above all time. There shall come an end to all else that is earthly, but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
And not only does the godly man incline his heart to obedience which is without end, but such obedience is secured, under grace, by such resolutions. In themselves they have a tendency towards permanence; and they grow in strength, becoming habits of the religious life. Nor is it to be doubted that the Divine Spirit works through them to secure the endless growth of the seed which he planted in the soul.
And this inclination of heart, of which the Psalmist speaks, is not to find its termination at the end of this earthly existence. The closing words of the text, “even unto the end," only serve to strengthen the word translated always, yet they might sug. gest, to an English reader, that the end of life was thought of as the limit of time when the performance of the statutes would necessarily cease. And indeed, at that limit, many of the duties of life, arising out of our bodily constitution and social relations, must cease; and a revolution of being will be ushered in, of which we know thus much, that the service of God will not be suspended. But, as the Christian looks forward to this change, his heart's inclination to obedience finds here no end; but what ever else he shall leave behind him when he shall lay aside the body, this inclination of heart to the statutes of God is felt by him to be inseparable from himself. Whatever the food of death, as it rises over his soul, shall sweep away-supposing, even, that an utter forgetfulness of earthly scenes shall ensue, so that he shall awake again as a new-born infant in the heavenly state-yet this shall not be swept away-this undecaying principle of allegiance to his God, which is now a part of his immortal nature. He knows not what new sphere he shall move in, what new obligations shall be put upon him, what new statutes of the celestial polity shall supersede those of the earthly, which are to vanish away; yet he has confidence enough in God to know that the great Law-giver will command nothing which is not wise and right, or which is not conducive to his subjects' blessedness; and therefore, he is prepared with a free inclination of heart to welcome the constitution of God's kingdom of eternity, whatever it shall be. Here, then, we approach the full meaning of the words," always, even unto the end." And here we see the nobleness of the principle of true godliness, which, after a willing performance of God's statutes on earth, begins with new energy its career of obedience in eternity, compared with that other principle, which even for a little time on earth showed no really good effect on the life, but, in the hour when obedience was tested, gave up the soul to the power of sin.
I cannot forbear calling the attention of my hearers, as I close my discourse, to the great wisdom of the representations, which are made in the text and elsewhere in the Scriptures, of the religious character. I refer to the union in one definition of religious feeling and religious obedience-of the love of God and the actual observance of his statutes. There have been many attempts made in this world to unite the soul to God merely by religious contemplation, or religious emotion. The soul of many a mystic has been filled with lofty thoughts of God; and as he grew familiar with the beauty of the Divine countenance, and excluded the images of grosser things from within him, he became satisfied with himself
, and felt a kind of superiority to those men of baser mould, involved in the works of life, whose souls had not been raised to the height of such contemplations. And yet multitudes of these men of work would do more for their friends, more for their country, more for mankind than he; his end is reached if he can enjoy elevating contemplation, but he derives from it no motive to quicken bim to duty. To him God is only as a painting, or an image exquisitely wrought. He gazes and admires, but no obedience follows. His definition of religion includes only the beauty of the Divine perfections, as held before the mind.
And so the religious sentimentalist, whose taste is gratified as he beholds God's skill in nature, and whose love is awakened, as he reflects upon his goodness and mercy, who thinks that he
certainly cannot be counted among the irreligious—he too fails, most grievously, in not linking together these pleasing views of God with actual obedience. The two are divorced from one another in his soul, so that many a poor ignorant Christian, without refinement or native sensibility, will stand up at the judg. ment day, and shame him by works of love and of mercy for which he felt no promptings.
On the other hand, the formalist occupies exclusively the practical department of religion. He has no belief that unsubstantial sentiment or meditations on Divine beauty can procure heaven. Something must be done to obtain the Divine favor. He must deny himself, must mortify himself, must surpass others in doing works of beneficence, in punctuality of devotion—in the drill of religion. As for inclination of heart, and a glad consent of his inner man to the service of God, alas ! he knows nothing of it. There must be some feeling of the burdensomeness of obedience in order to suggest to him that it is meritorious.
How partial and one-sided do these false kinds of religiousness appear when placed by the side of the comprehensive, soul and lifeembracing religion of Christ. Let that be but once implanted within the man, and now there is no longer a want of concord between his emotions and his actions; but his whole life in the feel. ings and the deeds plays a harmonious tune, the strain of which ends in God. And the reason of this is, that while the mystic thinks perfection attainable by contemplation; and the sentimental religionist, by warming natural reverence and admiration of God into love; and the formalist thinks, either that the external action is the all-important part, or else that it will awaken and improve the somewhat imperfect inward principle; the truly godly man begins bis religious life with acknowledging the corruption of his heart, and bewailing his past alienation, and returning to allegiance in the way prescribed by the gospel. Then, when an inclination of heart is actually commenced, it is as natural to perform the statutes as it is to live. But the prescriptions of natural religion and of unhumbled human nature for curing the disease of the soul, are made on the principle that a slight change is necessary, that it is a thing not needing an inward cure to be right in the sight of God. The Scriptures, by uniting in one definition the religion of the heart with that of the life, not only make each a test of the genuineness of the other, and show that true religion controls the whole nature; but also, by representing it to be a deep and governing principle, lead to the conviction that only a renewed nature can possess it, that it must be produced and maintained by a life-giving Spirit.
BY REV. ENOCH POND, D.D.,
PROF. IN BANGOR THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY.
THE LITTLE LEAVEN.
"A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”—GALATIANS 2: 9.
This seems to have been one of Paul's common sayings, or proverbs; as we find him using it on different occasions, in the same words. The word leaven is used by the apostle in every instance, I think, in a bad sense; or it is used figuratively to denote a bad thing. In the text it has reference to a particular error in point of doctrine. In other cases it denotes errors in practice. Thus the apostle speaks, in one place, of “the leaven of malice and wickedness.
It is proposed to consider the maxim under consideration in both these points of view. I shall endeavor to show, in respect both to doctrine and practice, that apparently slight deviations are eminently hazardous; that “ a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”
First, let us consider the truth of this maxim in respect to doctrine. The particular case which the apostle had in view, when he
. penned the declaration in the text, is highly instructive. It was that of the Judaizing teachers. Their error consisted not so much in practising circumcision and the Jewish law, as in insisting upon these things as essential to salvation. “Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law of Moses, or ye cannot be saved." This was substituting circumcision and the Jewish law, in place of the blood of Christ, as the foundation of the sinner's hope, and the ground of his justification. This, therefore, was an error; but it was a single error, and in the estimation of many at that day, a trivial one, if one at all. But Paul thought differently. He saw clearly the
. nature of the error in question, and to what it must lead. He predicted that the little leaven, if suffered to remain, would leaven the entire lump; and so it proved. In their zeal for circumcision and the Jewish law, these Judaizers set aside at once the atonement of Christ, and the kindred doctrine of justification by faith. They were led also to deny the divinity of Christ, and held him to be no greater than Moses. And because Paul opposed them in their
errors, they proceeded to deny the apostleship of Paul, and to reject his Epistles, as constituting any part of the sacred Word. In short, they went on, from one thing to another, till in the course of a few years they were separated from the Church, and fell into a state of irretrievable apostasy.
Another case, going to illustrate the same principle, occurred almost in the apostolic age. It was that of the Gnostic teachers. The prime error of the Gnostics was a philosophical one. It grew out of their too eager inquiries respecting the origin of evil. Knowing no other cause of evil, they were led to ascribe it to the influence of matter. Matter, they said, is the source and the centre of all evil and of all vice. Now, admitting this philosophical speculation to be an error, most people, perhaps, would say, there can be no harm in it. What danger in believing matter to be essentially evil and corrupting, and in tracing our moral corruptions to such a source? But listen for a moment to some of the inferences which these ancient Gnostics drew from this fundamental maxim of their philosophy. If matter is essentially evil and corrupting, then God can have had no hand in creating this material world. Such a supposition would be infinitely degrading to him. This world must have been the work of some inferior and malig. nant demon. Again, as matter is the source of all evil, God cannot be the author of our material bodies. The body is the cruel prison and corrupter of the soul, with which some hateful spirit has invested it, and from which it becomes us to rid our souls as far and as fast as possible. Hence that "neglecting of the body," of which Paul speaks, and those dreadful austerities which many in ancient times were led to practise, for the subduing of the fesh. Again, the Gnostics said, if matter is evil, and the source of all evil, then, when Christians and other devout men have once laid aside their material bodies, they will never have them more. There will be no resurrection of the body. There will be no other than a moral, spiritual resurrection, and with good men that is past already. Those who denied the resurrection in the days of Paul, and against whom he argued in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, (chap 15,) were undoubtedly of the Gnostic class.
But the Gnostics, or a portion of them, pursued their reasonings still farther. If matter is so essentially evil and corrupting, then our blessed Saviour cannot have had a material body. He seemed to have one. He appeared to eat and drink, and walk about here on the earth, and suffer and die like other men ; but it was all an illusion. He was a mere spectre-an apparition—a spirit, but not a body. It was the inculcation of this error which led the apostle John to insist that he had not only seen but "handled the Word of Life;" that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh; and that those were very Antichrist who denied it. (1 John 4:2, 3.)