Page images
PDF
EPUB

-and consequently sunk into superstition and defilements —in that very proportion they believed themselves to be the only administrators of true religion in the world. However it might be with others, they considered it a sort of impropriety to question their security,--"Are we blind also ?” “ We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man,” and so high was their notion of their external privileges and forms, that when they were trampling down the vital principles, and the living Model of true religion, they shouted with increased confidence, “ The Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord are we"!!! In fact, the delusion, to which we refer, is the natural result of the sole corporation system. Wherever there is a local and visible Church, (be it at Rome, or, at Geneva, or, at Oxford) which applies to itself those splendid portions of scripture which describe the holiness, and the security of the Church of the firstborn, there the tendency is—we do not say in every instance, for the Grace of Christ surges over artificial barriers, and makes its way through bars of iron to the hearts of His people-but the tendency of the system is, to have a form of godliness while denying its power.

In that case there is danger of preferring the grains of “anise" and “cummin” to the neglect of the weightier matters of the law.g

* 2 Tim. iii. 6. Matt. xxiii. 23,

Now, the local and limited arrangement tends, on the other hand, insensibly to dissipate this delusion. When we see persons who do not belong to our religious communion, and who worship the Lord in somewhat different forms—preaching His Gospel, adorning His doctrine, casting out devils in His name, and bearing living and dying testimony to His power, and faithfulness and lovethe conclusion steals in upon us, that religion does not consist in unvarying forms, but in that healing and reconciling mercy, which, like its unchanging Author, is “the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.' Thus the mind is enlightened, the heart is enlarged, and the conscience is awakened, and the soul is directed to its remedy. And while, like the primitive believers of the Church of Rome, we are disposed to wrangle about meats and drinks, we have read off for us in the living world before our eyes the great lesson, that “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For, he that in these things serveth God, is acceptable to God, and approved of men.”+

Now, do we admit that this is a valuable and instructive lesson? We are indebted for it to the very state of things with which we are “offended." The healthy result, as well as the brilliant evidence, springs up to us from the different administrations. In other words, the various modes of administering true religion, which exist in the world, have their origin in the constitution of man -are illustrated by the inspired history of religion, and followed by that splendid evidence, and those healthy results, which are ever attendant on the Divine workmanship,

* Heb. xiii. 7. + Rom. xiv. 16, 17, 18,

same * Rom. xiv. 17.

“ To justify the ways of God to man.” And, we can justify the arrangement in our own person. The way to do it, is simply to be the seryant of this “ Lord”—to rejoice in His name-to be exalted in His righteousness--to go forth in His strength, and to adorn clearly, and consistently the administration of religion to which we belong, by“ righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Let these things dwell in us richly and conspicuously, and we shall have the result in our own souls, and we shall imprint the lesson upon the souls of our fellow Christians. We may be assured of it that this is a lesson not to be resisted. No system can repel it. No prejudice can withstand it. Men may assert with their lips, that out of their Church their is no promise of salvation, but if we walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called, with all lowliness, and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love-that lesson will make itself read insensibly, incessantly, and irresistibly. It will pierce the hide of Bigotry, glide into the hidden man of the heart, and there, print off the mighty truth that “ The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."* And what is most to our purpose, we shall be accepted of God, and, in spite of prejudice, we shall be approved of men; and the arrangement of “the different administrations” will be justified by our example. For, after all that can be said of the constitution of man, and the history of religion, and the brilliant evidences, and healthy results --a soul converted to God, and loving the doctrine and discipline of the Lord, is, at once, the finest illustration and the clearest evidence of the Catholic spirit of true religion.

CHAPTER IX.

THE ARGUMENT FOR UNITY IN VARIETY DEDUCED FROM THE GENERAL RESEMBLANCE OF THE BIBLE TO THE

STRUCTURE OF THE PLANET ON WHICH WE RESIDE.

“ All concord's born of Contraries."

Ben Fonson.

It is the recorded saying of Origen, as quoted by Bishop Butler, that “he who believes the Scripture to have proceeded from Him who is the Author of Nature, may well expect to find the same sort of difficulties in it as are to be found in the constitution of Nature.” The same idea, differently expressed, had been suggested long ago by the wise son of Sirach, when he said, “ All things are double one against another."* From many parts of the Bible we are led to infer, that there is a family likeness, as it were, between the work of Creation and the work of Redemption. The same agency, in short, is said to be at work in Nature as in Grace—“My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.”+ There is, therefore, a certain

* Eccles. xlii. 14.

+ John v, 17.

« PreviousContinue »