Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

inhabitant will abhor siń. On the other hand, it is easy to see why a penitent sinner, who abhors himself, should desire and hope for a heav. en from which all sin shall be forever excluded,

Again, the Christian hope perfectly accords with that spirit of re. conciliation and submission, which constitutes the subject of the third Article. The rebel who has become truly submissive and reconciled to God, is prepared to hope for a place in that world where stands the throne of God, and where his sovereignty is universally acknowledged. Rev. xxii. 3. The unsubdued rebel, on the contrary, can never truly hope for the heaven where God reigos.

Between this and the first two Articles of experience, there is also an observable agreement. The love of complacency in holy charac. ters can not be exercised, without the existence of benevolent love, both in the subjects and objects of that complacency; and that hope of heaven which the scriptures approve as genuine, manifestly implies complacency in holy characters: there must then, of necessity, be a perfect concord between love, (in both its modifications,) and hope. And with this agree the words of the apostle: “And hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us. Rom. v. 5. Where the love of God is not shed abroad in the heart, there can be no purifying hope; no such hope as desires to dwell in the presence of the Holy One, and to have its eternity of blessedness consist in giving and receiving man. ifestations of the purest love.

Secondly. This Article of experience is harmonious with the doctrinal system.

The Christian's hope is not a baseless fabric—a castle in the air. That truth, which is comprehended in the gospel of Jesus Christ, is the foundation, broad and solid, on which is reared the hope of eternal life. This hope requires for its support, such doctrinal truths as those which were exhibited in the First Part of this work.

It is manifest there could be no foundation for such a hope as the Christian indulges, if the first of those Articles were not true. Were there no God, there could be no well-founded hope; for the Christian's hope is in God—a God of unbounded perfection. Out of this doctrinal truth, namely, the existence of a God, grow all the rest, and they all tend to give stability to hope. When the Christian contemplates God as the author of the work of creation and providence; planning the whole by his own wisdom, and executing it by his power; (as repre. sented in the second and last Articles of the series, his hope, no less than his admiration, is greatly strengthened.

When he takes a view of the law, as exhibited in the third Article, and observes the holiness of its precepts, the dreadfulness of its threatenings, and the impossibility of its ever being altered or repealed, it gives additional strength to his hope.

Though the Christian believes in the apostacy of Adam, and the consequent depravíty of all his race, yet, because he also believes that Christ has made an infinite atonement for this depravity, he sees as good a foundation for hope, as if he had a sinless obedience of his own to present. [See Art. 1v. and v.]

To cherish a hope of eternal life, the Christian needs to believe the

[ocr errors]

sixth Article of our doctrinal series, viz. that God actually and sin. cerely makes to every man, individually, the offer of pardon and salva. tion, on condition of his compliance with the requisite terms. And if he believes the seventh Article, (which it would seem he can not disbe. !ieve, if he has become acquainted with his own heart,) then he also needs to believe the eighth, in order to give him any hope. Nor can he believe the eighth, without also believing the ninth and tenth; for he sees that if regeneration were not an act of sovereignty, resulting from the election of grace, instead of the foreseen good works of the elect, he could indulge no hopes of salvation. And were the least par. ticle of merit made necessary to his justification, he could expect no. thing better than to have the wrath of God abide on him; therefore a belief in our eleventh Article must be essential to his hope.

Take from our doctrinal system its twelfth Article, and the Christian would not have a sufficient foundation on which to base his hope. It Jays hold on eternal life, as the consummation of its desires and ex. pectations. It is "the hope of salvation," and is therefore compared to an anchor which is cast within the harbor, while the ship itself is still at sea. Were we, then, to erase the twelfth Article, we should cut the cable, and leave the ship to the mercy of the winds. But when we once understand, that between regeneration and eternal life there is an infallible connection, (a truth which the doctrine of perseverance teach. es,) and that the promise and oath of the unchangeable Jehovah are pledged to sustain the gracious work, which he has begun in the heart of the believer, then we discover a foundation for the Christian's hope, which is both sure and steadfast. Without this infallible connection between grace and glory, though one might know that he was called and justified, 'I see not how he could know that he should ever be glorified.

The hope which the Christian entertains, accords with that Article [Art. XIII.) of our doctrinal series, which relates to the resurrection, the judgment, and the retributions of eternity. Strike that doctrine from the system, and his hope would vanish : “ If in this life only we have hope,” said the apostle, “we are of all men most miserable.” The Christian's hope is fastened on God and heaven; and when he arrives in heaven, his hope will become fruition. None can help see. ing the agreement between the hope of glory, cherished in the life that pow is, and its fruition in the life which is to come.

REMARKS.

1. What can be more consummate folly than for creatures who are to exist forever, to confine all their desires, pursuits, and anticipations, to the good things of the present life! Could the earthly good which we anticipate all be obtained, it would be wholly inadequate to satisfy creatures like ourselves, endowed with intelligent and immortal minds. But even if this world were soul-gatisfying, how extremely short is the time in which it can be enjoyed. And what a fearful drawback must it be to the satisfaction with which we heap up earthly treasures, to be reminded that “this night” our souls may be required of us ; and then whose shall all these things be? “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” To con. fine our hopes and pursuits to temporal good, is to degrade ourselves to the rank of mere animals,-creatures whose existence reaches not beyond the boundaries of time. O, why will beings, made for eternity, thus degrade themselves! Surely man, rational, immortal man, ought not to labor for the wind. Eccl. v. 16. He is susceptible of better and more enduring enjoyments than earth can furnish him. “ He builds too low, who builds beneath the skies.”

2. With this Article of the experimental system before us, we see that God is not regardless of the comfort of his children, even while they remain in this world of trial. He has not yet put them in possession of their inheritance; they are still in the wilderness ; but it is the way to the land of promise. From that good land they receive, even now, some clusters to refresh them; but these, instead of satia. ting their appetite, serve rather as provocatives of hunger, and as a foretaste of that eternal feast at which they shall sit down in the king. dom of heaven. “ We are saved by hope.” Did not the hopes of Christians reach beyond the grave, they would often be more wretched than other men; since their religion not unfrequently occasions their enduring greater privations and more fiery trials. But with them, it is no uncommon thing to enjoy the most, when their sufferings are the greatest. Tribulation increases their patience, and patience their experience, and experience their hope. They have not merely submitted to persecutions, but have taken joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing in themselves that they have in heaven a better and more enduring

substance. A hope, however distant, of the eternal enjoyment of Christ in heaven, would be more supporting to the mind of the Christian, than any prospect of earthly good, however near. But the Christian's heaven is not very distant. Those words which the Savior addressed to the penitent thief, will nearly apply to every other penitent, “ To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.

3. We are led to remark, that, according as it is well or ill-found. ed, a hope of heaven is either the best or the worst thing that a man can possibly possess. He who has a well-grounded hope of the heav. enly inheritance, however destitute he may be in other rcspects, is a highly favored man. But he whose hope is confident and yet spuri. ous, ought to be looked upon as being in an unspeakably wretched condition. It is not improbable that many a man, who is heard to say, “I have a hope I would not give up for the world,” would, neverthe. less, act the part of wisdom to give it up without reward, and that immediately; for his hope may be the greatest hindrance in the way of his salvation. There is more prospect of the conversion of a thought. less sinner, than of the self-deceived hypocrite; especially if his hope has been cherished for a length of time.

4. Notwithstanding a good hope is so valuable, it should not be our first business to acquire it.

Our first aim should be, to possess that character which will warrant us to indulge a hope. Should a man spend his life in religious services, merely for the sake of establishing a hope of heaven, he would not succeed; at least he would not in this way acquire a hope which would be like an anchor to the soul, both sure and steadfast. A sinner can repent, believe, and pray, before he has a hope ; but he can have no well-grounded hope, till he exercises repentance and faith, and draws near to God in prayer. And the only way a Christian can strengthen his hope, is to grow in grace, and the knowledge of his Savior. Should he at any time suspend all active efforts in tbe cause of Christ, and set himself down to the business of getting his hope confirmed, he would find himself obliged to resume his labors, as the necessary means for accomplishing his object. The apostle Peter first exhorts his Christian brethren to give all diligence to add to their faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godli. ness, brotherly kindness and charity; and then exhorts them, in doing these things, to give diligence to make their calling and election sure. 2 Pet. i. 5–11.

ARTICLE VII.

HUMILITY CONSTITUTES A TRAIT IN THE CHARACTER OF ALL God's FRIENDS, WHETHER SINLESS ANGELS OR REDEEMED MEN; BUT BELONG. LNG TO THE LATTER WITH PECULIAR APPROPRIATENESS.

This is an affection which can be exercised only by creatures. Although holiness stands opposed to pride in every being, and there. fore the holiest of all beings must be at an infinite remove from such an affection ; yet it can hardly be proper to say of Him, before whom “all nations are as nothing," that He is humble. His condescension is infinite; but humbleness of mind is an attribute peculiar to a limited and dependent being. It implies the conviction such a one has of his comparative unworthiness of regard ; that he considers him. self a mere speck in the creation, and, compared with his Creator, as less than nothing and vanity. It was in the exercise of a humble frame of mind, that David exclaimed, “ When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; what is man that thou art mindful of him! and the son of man that thou visitest him!”

Humility lays no obligation on any being to entertain a false opinion of himself. All it requires is, that no one should think of himself more highly than he ought to think.” Rom. xii. 3. If we place no higher estimate upon ourselves than others might safely place, or than truth warrants, we do not subject ourselves to the imputation of pride. As, therefore, the infinite God can not think of himself more highly than he ought, it is not possible that he should be proud.

Humility, in the opinion of some, is not only peculiar to creatures, but to creatures that have sinned. This view of the matter seems to make it differ but little, if any, from repentance. Did humility necessarily include shame and self-abhorrence, it would be an affection res. tricted to fallen creatures ; for there is nothing shameful in mere de. pendence. The seraphims, standing before God with covered feet and veiled faces, are humble in view, not of conscious vileness, but of their dependence and comparative insignificance. They feel that the distance between them and the Supreme Being is immense ; that they are c eatures, and He their Creator ; that they are entirely dependent, and He all-sufficient; that they are of yesterday, and know nothing, while He is from everlasting and knows all things; and that his holiness as much surpasses theirs, as does his greatness.

While the holy angels have but one reason for the exercise of hu. mility, namely, their being creatures, dependent and infinitely inferior to their Creator, we have this additional reason for it, that we are sinners. In the scale of intelligence, we rank far above the brutes ; but sin has, in a sense, sunk us far below them. They are not sus. ceptible of such degradation as that into which we have fallen. The beasts can not debase themselves “even unto hell;" but such debase. ment is charged on the children of Adam. Isa. Ivii. 9. There is no. thing in the universe so debasing as sin. Nothing, therefore, should 80 humble us before God, as the thought that we have sinned against Heaven, and in his sight.“ And there” (said the God of Israel to his people) "shall ye remember your ways and your doings wherein ye have been defiled, and ye shall lothe yourselves in your own sight. Ezek. XX.

43. If, in beholding the inmates of a prison, we should chance to be re. minded of some deed of our own, equal in turpitude to those which these convicts had perpetrated, would it not be a humbling reflection, that their punishment was no more than what we ourselves deserved ? Impris. onment in hell is infinitely more dreadful and ignominious than con. finement in any earthly prison; and that imprisonment we have all richly merited.

Ir their iniquities had been marked, hell would have been the ever. lasting abode of the saints in light. The glories of the heavenly state will not erase from their minds a conviction of their demerit. They will feel that, even now, they deserve to be cast into outer darkness, where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Even their songs of praise, extolling as they will the grace displayed in their salvation, and thus reminding

them of their former vileness and exposure to ruin, will operate powerfully to keep alive in their bosoms a spirit of humility.

Since humility is the reverse of pride, its nature and preciousness will be better apprehended, by viewing it in contrast with its moral opposite.

Pride makes a man think of himself more highly than he ought to think. The proud man resembles a bubble, made large only by infla. tion, and whose superficies is altogether disproportioned to its solid contents. Such a man is said to be puffed up. Col. ii. 18. Humility tends to remove this inflation, and reduce him to his own proper size. “ Charity is not puffed up;" that is, the converted man, as such, is not a proud man. 1 Cor. xiii. 4. He does not fancy himself a none-such ; but is conscious of his own defects, both natural and moral. There

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »