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The foundation of its power is laid in the CHARACTER WHICH IT GIVES TO GOD; reflecting, as in a mirror, the image of the only being in the universe, to whom our consciences or judgments, unbiassed by prejudice, would allow us to ascribe perfection. Every conceivable attribute is predicated of him which enlightened reason approves, and in just those proportions, which are essential to the highest excellence of the whole. God is just; yet justice with him is not a naked, heartless demand for right; for God is merciful. And mercy is not a weak and sickly indiscriminate act of oblivion for all offences, and complacency towards all offenders, irrespective of character; for he is JUST. "God is love;" but love controlled by that discriminating holiness which cannot behold iniquity, and sanctioned by that indignation at sin which renders him a flame of fire to the incorrigible transgressor, and declares "if he turn not, He will whet his glittering sword." Not a principle is wanting to constitute Him worthy of perfect trust; not a passion ascribed to Him which can detract from his moral excellence.
Thus He becomes at once the center of attraction for all beings in his intelligent creation, which are controlled by the same law of love, and the center of repulsion for all others. His perfections are held up as so many brilliant elementary colors, which are beautiful in themselves-glorious in combination as the bow of promise but which only become the light of the world," when blended intimately and in their due proportions, communicating life, and becoming the infallible medium of clear and accurate perception of moral objects and relations. Let but one elementary ray be wanting, and every object upon which the beam shall fall will be distorted and discolored. Let but one perfection be abstracted from the character of God, and he is no longer GOD. Power is not God, or knowledge, or wisdom, or justice, or benevolence; but all his perfections, perfectly and harmoniously united in one, constitute the character which demands our homage.
Upon this foundation is built a perfect corresponding system of precepts and prohibitions. The keenest scrutiny of carping skeptics can find no point at which its moral code is not impregnable. They dare not assail one of its provisions. They dare not hazard the imputation of ignorance or selfishness by calling in question one of its principles.
The perfection of its code is also seen in its COMPLETENESS, There is nothing defective, no point of duty which is not covered, no emergency, amid all the infinite vicissitudes of life, unprovided for; there is nothing superfluous — no rule which could be spared without leaving a deficit. And withal, so simple, summed up in ten simple statutes, which may be written on a single page, instead of filling cumbrous folios; and yet so universal in its extent and application requiring no revision, no legislative councils to repeal and reënact, suited to all climes, all ages, all classes and conditions of men, and forming by common consent the common law of all nations who become acquainted with its principles. It stands before us as a mirror, reflecting back the perfect image of him whose character it portrays, and from whose inspiration it was given.
We may also notice the perfection of Revelation in its development of human character, and adaptation to it. It addresses itself to the work of recovering man to God, by illuminating his darkness, and sanctifying his corruption. To this end, it developes the whole depravity of his character. It searches every recess of the heart, "deceitful above all things and desperately wicked." It holds up the malignity of his guilt in all its darkness, conscious of its ability to administer a healing balm to every wound. It speaks to man, not as a pure intellect, but as a moral being, lapsed and fallen, but capable of hearing and appreciating argument and motive. It speaks to him not merely to please or startle with new and wonderful views of God, or to instruct his understanding; but to lay its hand upon his raging passions to regenerate his principles to dethrone his chosen divinities, and subdue the whole soul to God.
To give it such resistless energy, it is invested with a perfect SANCTION. Not an inducement to obedience, which the universe affords, is wanting-not an appeal omitted. Heaven, earth, and hell are exhausted of all that is lovely to inspire, and all that is fearful to awe-all that is winning to allure. Not an emotion, not a sensibility of human nature, remains unaddressed or unsolicited to contribute its influence to subdue the reigning power of sin. "I HAVE LOVED YOU, saith the
Lord," is his valedictory to the ungrateful Jews by Malachi. And the next exhibition of himself is a glorious appeal, in which he commends his love to us by giving his Son to die for us, while we were yet sinners. And the same sentiment again breaks forth from the lips of the disciple, who leaned upon the bosom of Jesus, "GOD IS LOVE.'
It is delightful also to contemplate its perfect adaptation to the wants of man. What necessity of his nature is there which it does not reach? what sorrow that it does not assuage? what bereavement for which it does not a thousand fold compensate? what trial for which it does not prepare? what doubt which it does not solve? It walks at ease in palaces and kingly courts; sanctifies the halls and saloons of the rich; adds heavenly luster to the polished and refined; gives full and divine employment to wealth and learning and talent; and yet in the unobserved and retired walks of life, comes home with peculiar excellence. It doubles every joy in prosperity, and takes the sting from adversity. It folds in its embrace the poor and friendless, and takes the beggar from his extremity of misery to the bosom of eternal love. It speaks in tones of thunder and a glare of lightning to the secure in sin, and puts a cup into the hand of Omnipotent wrath, the dregs of which are to be wrung out for all the wicked of the earth. When attention is arrested and agonizing fears excited, it opens another seal, and the debasing turpitude of sin is beheld in such monstrous shape, that even personal danger is forgotten in contemplating its odiousness and guilt. When overwhelmed with conviction, and ready to sink self-condemned into a hopeless abyss of well-earned misery, Jesus of Nazareth, the Lamb of God appears, proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord, ready to bind up the broken hearted, and cover the defenceless with his robes of love. He smiles upon the first symptom of relenting, and fans the kindling flame of penitence, and presses the penitent in his embrace with assurance of forgiveness. Evermore it walks by his side—is a glory before him and a cloud behind; and when flesh and heart fail him, it is the strength of his heart and his portion forever.
Here is the foundation of its living energy, when compared with systems of ethics. While they condemn the follies of men, they bring so imperfect a substitute, and enforce their principles with so feeble inducements, that it is not wonderful,
under their instructions, men should approve the better but pursue the worse. They graft the fig upon a thistle, and look for grapes upon the thorn. The gospel calls upon men to relinquish a minor for an infinitely superior good, and enforces the call by considerations the most solemn and impressive the universe can furnish.
These inducements, set home by the eternal Spirit, are to dissolve the flinty heart, having slain its enmity by the cross -to mortify the pride of life-to crush the whole array of organized hostility to God, and overturn and overturn, till he whose right it is shall reign king of nations.
Spirit of all Grace! descend upon us-baptize the church with thy vivifying influences. Enter into this body, created by thine own inspiration, and give it resistless energy.
There is yet another aspect in which it is important not only to contemplate, but to study the Bible as a perfect revelation, namely, the RELATIVE FULNESS, with which it treats the various departments of religious instruction. It may undoubtedly be regarded as a perfect transcript of the mind of God, in regard to the proportions in which divine truth should be mingled in the public and private instructions of religion.
Laying aside those portions which relate to the civil policy of the theocracy, and that succession of historical records which are serviceable mainly in substantiating its divinity, and illustrating its changeless moral principles, it may safely be adopted as a measure of the importance which every Christian teacher should attach to its various parts, and the fulness and frequency with which they should be discussed. This will not be measured by the abstract or relative importance of the topics merely, but by the NATURE OF THE TOPIC. It may be as important to believe in the Divinity of Christ as to repent of sin. But while the former is simply declared and incidentally alluded to, the latter forms the burthen of their cry, and is urged in every variety of form and enforced by every variety of motive.
There is a natural reason for this. The declaration which requires belief is addressed to the understanding; and if the argument is conclusive, conviction is produced, which will be abiding; but the argument which calls for repentance is addressed to the heart, whose impressions are evanescent as the
morning dew. The belief, once established, remains, till counteracted by opposing testimony; but the conviction of duty vanishes, and must often be renewed and enforced by every variety of illustration. Such is the tenor of the Scriptures. Duty, instead of being crowded into an inference, is made a theme, frequently, cogently discussed and enforced; while abstract truths once inculcated are seldom reviewed, unless disturbed by false teachers. Who can estimate the amount of Moral power withdrawn from the Christian Sanctuary, by a perpetual repetition of truths, uniformly believed, almost to the exclusion of duties as uniformly neglected? Who can tell how much of modern speculation and polemics, and tenacious, rigid adherence to certain forms of discipline would be avoided, if the sword of the spirit bore the same ethereal temper in our hands, as in the hands of Paul? What a paralysis would fall upon all the business of life, if every agent, to whom was committed the accomplishment of important works, should call his men together at every returning sun to hear a lecture demonstrating that it is the sun; that the sun is the fountain of light, and that light is the medium of vision; and THEREFORE we must work while the day lasts!
If controversy were limited to as few topics, and engrossed as small a portion of thought and feeling and effort as it did with James and John, when the Savior had instructed them to fellowship those who followed not with them - what mighty energy would be imparted to the united ministry of Christ!
It is worthy of observation in this connexion, how completely the code of moral instruction in the New Testament is disencumbered of a ponderous ritual. Every external observance, connected with the New Dispensation, is so slightly developed, as to be in many respects debatable. We recognise the duty of Baptism distinctly enjoined, but the mode and circumstances are left quite out of sight. A public profession of faith in Christ is constantly insisted upon, but to what extent that profession shall reach-how minute shall be the detail of its articles, in what form the Christian community shall be organized, is left in so much uncertainty, that we can hardly gather from the word of God the outlines of a