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At length, the chosen people, long divided between themselves, utterly sank into the worship of idols; and then came their doom. The kingdom of Israel was extinguished by Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, who removed the ten tribes into Assyria; and, a century later, Judah was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar, and its people were carried away captive to Babylon. Idolatry was their sin; and idolaters were made the rod of chastisement in Jehovah's hand.
But mountains have been holy places indeed; and the time would fail me to tell of Zion, and of Olivet, and of Tabor, and of Carmel, and of Hermon, and of the other consecrated heights of Holy Scripture. Moriah was graced with the fairest edifice under the sun—the temple of the living God. It rose in the eastern quarter of Jerusalem; and, as it lifted into light the holy house, with its white colonnades of marble and glittering roofs, it was likened by national admirers to “a mountain of snow, studded with jewels." Ah me! that the Turkman's crescent should there insultingly raise itself now, in heaven's light.
Identifying mountains with religions, true and false, or assuming at least that some connection has always subsisted between them, I have sometimes taken a mountain as idealizing the heart's belief or unbelief. Allegorically, a great eminence may mean a system ; and the bias of a man's mind, induced by the school that governs him, may always find its type in some representative mountain. I supply
three illustrations. Some of our most accomplished students may be said wholly to inhabit :
1. Olympus. I say not this in praise, but in gravest reprobation. The paganism of our literature is deplorable. It is true that our authors deal not so freely with the jargon of the Pantheon, as did their predecessors of the past generation; nor do we bestow on our children at baptism the heathen names so popular among our French neighbours; but the publications of the day are en masse either unchristian, or anti-christian. Read (if you can) the new serial story, or take up the poem of the season, or the latest travel or history; and, in most instances, you will discover that the writer's deliberate purpose is shut from view all the teachings of revealed religion. He is deistical, or atheistical, at will; he is learned, wise, and witty; he is moral, so far as natural religion inculcates morality; he is kind, because high breed. ing, or good society, may require him to be kind. But the fall of Man is to him a stumbling-block; the Atonement is a dream; and Regeneration is simply a myth. Forget for a while—as you turn his pages--where you are, and the age in which you live; and you might imagine you sojourned in Rome, or Athens, in Pompeii, or Corinth, or Ephesus.
Have I not listened at times to sermons, that were intended to possess the learning of Livy and the sublimity of Plato; and, without reaching either excellence, certainly resembled the old Pagans in one respect, that they were equally “without Christ!” The voice was Jacob's voice; but the hands were the hands of Esau.
Epistles, too, that pass between the nearest and dearest friends are commonly, heathen in their charac
In life's passing scenes, which they paint, the hand of God may be acknowledged ; but He is "Jehovah, Jove, or Lord," and not “God in Christ," the covenant-making and covenant-keeping God.
Conversation, likewise, whether as sustained in the general circle of one's acquaintance, or as it flows on unrestrainedly at home, is too often unsanctified. Paul (Coloss. iv. 6) would have the "speech" of believers to “be alway with grace, seasoned with salt.” Alas ! how long may you listen to some speakers, ere you find whether they have any religious belief, and if so-whether it be Christianity.
— But: there are men who, unlike the former, are in earnest about religion. They are tremblingly alive to its importance; yet their knowledge brings them no peace, for they sojourn beneath :
II. Sinai. Nowhere are “the two covenants,” of works and grace, better contrasted than in Paul's epistle to the Galatians (ch. iv. 21-31.) In it, “Sinai, which gendereth to bondage,” and which "answereth to Jerusalem that now is, and is in bondage with her children,” is notably compared—and to eternal disadvantage-with“ Jerusalem which is above,” and
" which is free,” and “the mother of us all.” Salvation by works is congenial to human nature. Naaman, the Syrian, would fain have had some great thing commanded him of the prophet, and he would have done it; but he was loath to wash seven times in Jordan, that he might be clean. While men seek thus to please God by their doings, “bondage,” with
fearfulness and trembling, must ever accompany “ works;" insomuch as "there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not." (Eccles. vii. 20.) By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in God's sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. Admirably doth Bunyan, in his wondrous dream, * illustrate this. Poor, burdened Christian meets with Mr. Worldly Wiseman, who thus advises him about his heavy load :
“In yonder village (the village is named Morality) there dwells a gentleman whose name is Legality, a very judicious man, and a man of very good name, that has skill to help men off with such burdens as thine is from their shoulders : yea, to my knowledge, he hath done a great deal of good this way; ay, and besides, he hath skill to cure those that are somewhat crazed in their wits with their burdens. To him, as I said, thou mayest go, and be helped presently. His house is not quite a mile from this place; and if he should not be at home himself, he hath a pretty young man to his son, whose name is Civility, that can do it (to speak on) as well as the old gentleman himself. There, I say, thou mayest be eased of thy burden: and if thou art not minded to go back to thy former habitation (as, indeed, I would not wish thee,) thou mayest send for thy wife and children to thee in this village, where there are houses now standing empty, one of which thou mayest have at a reasonable rate. Provision is there also cheap and good : and that which will make thy life the more happy is, to be sure there thou shalt live by honest neighbours, in credit and good fashion.”
Christian was, by this sophistry, brought “somewhat at a stand ;” and, at length being persuaded, he asked the way to Mr. Legality's house, which was by "yonder high hill,” and that hill was Sinai :
“ “So Christian turned out of his way to go to Mr. Legality's house for help. But behold, when he was got now hard by the hill, it seemed so high, and also that side of it that was next the way-side did hang so much over, that Christian was afraid to venture further,
* “The Pilgrim's Progress;" Part First, chapter iii.
lest the hill should fall on his head ; wherefore there he stood still, and he wot not what to do. Also his burden now seemed heavier to him than while he was in the way. There came also flashes of fire (Exod. xix. 16, 18) out of the hill, that made Christian afraid that he should be burnt: here, therefore, he did sweat and quake for fear, (Heb. xii. 21.) And now he began to be sorry that he had taken Mr. Worldly Wiseman's counsel. And with that he saw Evangelist coming to meet him, at the sight also of whom he began to blush for shame."
I need not dwell upon this most truthful depicturement of “the spirit of bondage,” that causes men to dread—and that deservedly—the just condemnation of God for their deeds. I
passingly remark that Popery is the very embodiment of the Sinaitical covenant; and that its only knowledge of God, as confessed by its ablest defenders, is the God of vengeance. They have put Him from them as “in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.”
Lastly: there are some, that are highly favoured; for the Lord is with them. Not theirs the mountain that might be touched, and that burned with fire: not theirs, the blackness, and darkness, and tempest. Calm is their dwelling-place; peaceful is their abode. It is the holy hill of
III. Sion. Upon the privileges of those, who know God in the covenant of grace, having received of Him the spirit of adoption, whereby they cry “Abba, Father!” I cannot here enlarge. The great Apostle of the Gentiles (Hebrews, xii. 22-24) supplies this summary :
“Ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits