صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

the intellect, that we forget, or think we have not time for the highest privilege of man, communion with God. What we mean is, that this, as well as any other pursuit that eagerly engages the mind, even though it be theological and scriptural in its subject, may yet lead us away from that which should be the primary object of the Christian student: “ the life of God in the soul of man.' · Mr. Law has some severe,

but

very important remarks on this subject in his Letters. He says, ' A scholar pitying the blindness and folly of those who live to themselves, in the cares and pleasures of this vain world, thinks himself divinely employed and to have escaped the pollutions of the world, because he is day after day, dividing, dissecting, and mending Church opinions, fixing heresies here, and schisms there, forgetting all the while, that carnal self, and natural reason have the doing of all that is done by this learned zeal, and are as busy, as in the reasoning infidel or projecting worldling. He afterwards asserts

Worldly lusts and interests, vanity, pride, envy, contention, bitterness, and ambition (the death of all that is good in the soul) have now, and always had, their chief nourishment, power, and support, from a sense of the merit and sufficiency of literary accomplishments. Humility, meekness, patience, faith, hope, contempt of the world, and heavenly affection (the very life of Jesus in the soul), are by few persons less earnestly desired, or more hard to be practised, than by great wits, classical critics, linguists, historians, and orators in holy orders.

In fact, the holy life of a Christian is the brightest evidence and the fullest glory of our religion. Christianity thus, embodied in the whole temper and conversation of a human being, is like the self-evident glory of the sun, sustained by the invisible hand of God, self-suspended in its course; its own light and warmth speak its excellence, and declare its blessedness. Mr. Law well observes, • A learned Christianity supported and governed by reason, dispute, and criticisim, that is forced to appeal to canons and councils and ancient usages to defend itself, has lost its place, stands upon a fictitious foundation, and shows that it cannot appeal to itself, to its own works, which alone are the certain infallible proofs of a true or false Christianity.'1

May we then study practical books, and especially such practical books as are full of Christ and his salvation. A devout Christian will cordially concur in the sentiment of Augustine: I am neither pleased with those writings, nor yet with that conversation in which I find not a savour of the name of Jesus; for he is as honey to my mouth, music to my ears, and joy to

my heart."

It is the practical experience of the Christian, it is his holy and spiritual knowledge, his pure and peaceable wisdom, which gives him, when destitute of literary acquirements, such an advantage in the perception of religious truth. In this he has a vast superiority over those who may possess literature in the highest degree, but have never had the experience in their own hearts of the truths which they have acquired with the understanding only. The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips. How beneficent is our heavenly Father in this. * The depths of human science and learning

See Law's Letters, p. 316, 390, 396.

can be explored by few, because few have either leisure or ability for learned investigations;' but the depths of Christian doctrine and experience are by the divine Spirit revealed to those who pray and meditate, and search the Scriptures: and experience enables them to speak with more truth and accuracy on the deceitfulness and depravity of the heart, the value of Christ, the life of the Christian, and the spiritual conflict, than any mere literature can possibly reach.

The more we enter into the spirit of practical writings, and can find joy in them, the more clear will be our evidence that our heart is right with God; and indeed in proportion as we advance in real piety shall we cordially love such reading. And while we are thus seeking not only to know but to do the will of God, we shall receive more and more of the enlightening beams of his Spirit.

CHAPTER VII.

THE STUDY OF CONTROVERSIAL WORKS.

Some are disposed to condemn at once all controversial studies, as prejudicial and unprofitable; but it has pleased God to turn even opposition to his truth to good, and make it instrumental to the advancement of that which it was intended to overthrow.

The opposition of Job's severe friends, and the discussions between them, furnished the church of God with that ancient book which is called by his name; and the opposition of Judaizers in Galatia stirred up the zealous Paul to write that fervent Epistle, of which we now reap the benefit. The enmity of Pagans and Infidels have been the occasion of calling forth the most able defences of Christianity. The corruptions of Popery led to the full statement of Protestant doctrine, and the writings of the Socinians to the clearer developement of Evangelical truth.

There is a stagnant peace full of infection and death. Vehement contention for truth may be a duty, and consistent with love and the meekness of wisdom. Peaceful minds are often apt to condemn not so much those who resist the truth, as those who by testifying the truth, are the innocent occasion of controversy, and thus first disturb the general quiet. This is not however the true peace-making spirit which our Saviour blesses, but the love of carnal ease, and the very opposite to the spirit of the gospel. Erasmus would thus have lost that Reformation, which Luther under God accomplished. There is a greater blessing than present quiet, even the maintenance of important truth, and millions will through eternity thank God for the holy boldness, decision, and courage of Luther. Indeed eager disputes about important religious truths are far better and far more hopeful than that total indifference which arises from infidelity.

. There may indeed be a disproportionate attention to controversy, as well as a despising of it: if it be pursued to the neglect or prejudice of devotional and practical religion, if it be pursued with the passions of the natural, and not with the graces of the spiritual man, it is disproportionately pursued. But because there is this mistake, there is a prevalent notion among those to whom we may justly give the blessed title of peace

[ocr errors]

makers, that the simple statement of truth is a sufficient confutation of error. Such forget the advantage that error has against truth in its falling in with the natural principles of the heart. Exposure of error and false statement, in a controversial form, is a prominent part of the Epistles to the unsettled churches. The duty of controversy under many circumstances which might be stated is perfectly clear, We must earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints.'

Yet while it has pleased our Heavenly Father thus to overrule some controversies for good, it is not all controversy that has done good, nor any in this fallen world that has done unmixed good. There have been controversies with comparatively little practical benefit, and with deep injury to the spirit of those engaged in them. Mr. Howe remarks

"It is little considered what is the true, the proper, and the right notion of the Christian church, or the churches of Christ in general. They are hospitals, or rather one great hospital, wherein there are persons of all sorts under cure. There is none that is sound, none that is not diseased, none that has not wounds and sores about him. Now how unsufferable insolence were it, that in an hospital of maimed and diseased persons, one sick or wounded man should say, such a man's sores are so noisome to me that I am not able to endure the being neighbour to him.'--See Howe's Works. Vol. VI. 177.

Whenever evil passions have thus been displayed, on whatever side, it tends to the detriment of truth; the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Our answer to every man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in us, should be given with meakness and

« السابقةمتابعة »