Слике страница
PDF
ePub
[merged small][ocr errors]

admitted, - will not the common-sense of mankind deny, that he is responsible for his actions ? How is he to blame for them, if he had no hand in originating them; and how, on this supposition, are they truly and properly his actions ? Now our Savior in his teaching always addresses bimself to the common-sense of of mankind; or rather, he never contradicts this principle of our nature. The truths which he delivers are never contrary to the enlightened reason and plain unperverted judgment of the human mind. Were they so, how could we possibly believe them, except as the result of mental hallucination or a most strange perverseness?

5. The Savior, in his mode of teaching, bad much to do with men's consciences. Truth is always armed with tenfold power over the mind, when it is so stated as to be readily and at once seconded by the moral feelings of those to whom it is presented. Nor is it ever urged to any good effect, except as it does meet with a ready response in the moral feelings of those to whom it is addressed. Hence the great importance in all our teaching on moral subjects, of securing the concurring testimony of an enlightened conscience in those who hear us. With this testiinony in our favor, we have a powerful hold on the beari, and resistance to the truth becomes far more difficult. Without such a testimony in our favor, we may amuse and entertain our audiences, but we shall never lead them to feel distressed on account of their sins, and bring them to the Savior for refuge from inspending wrath. Wicked men, indeed, are exceedingly unwilling to have their consciences plainly and faithfully addressed. There is no kind of preaching that so annoys them as this ; there is none under which they are so impatient, and so full of devices for shielding theinselves against it. Men will hear a preacher on almost any subject, if he will let their consciences alone. They will not hear him long, nor with much patience, if they find him arming their consciences against them, and thus breaking up their guilty repose in sin. They will “ hate” him so long as they find him prophesying evil” against them, and in doing so, carrying the decided testimony of their consciences along with bim. Hence, knowing this to be so, there is danger lest those who present the truth will become weary of doing that which only gives pain, and will preach so as not to disturb the conscience. There is reason to fear lest, unconsciously perhaps, they so far consult their own peace and quiet, as to address other susceptibilities in the minds of their hearers, and let the conscience slumber. But this will be certain death to the souls of men. They need to bave their consciences alarmed and filled with anguish, while they continue to tread the flowery paths of sin. They need to have the mirror of truth held up full before their mental eye,

that they may see what their condition is, and escape from it wbile the door of inercy stands open. The Great Teacher knew this, and always conformed his teaching to it. When the Jews, with an entire forgetfulness on their own part of their great criminality in the sight of God, and with much apparent sell-complacency, brought to the Savior a consessedly guilty woman, taken in the act of breaking one of the divine commands, and wished to know whether the punishment prescribed in the law of Moses should be inflicted on her. “ Master, shall we stone her?" "Yes," was the reply, “and let him that is without sin among you cast the first stone.” This turned their eye in upon themselves, aroused their consciences, and made them see, that they had something else to do besides condemning and putting eo death the poor trembling culprit before them. Thus she was brought to repentance, and they were, at least, convicted of their sins. When the appointed time for the Savior's suffering had come, and he was spending a few of the last hours of his life in fraternal communion with his disciples, and the covert traitor's band was then upon the table with himn; when he told them, that one of them (without specifying which) should betray him, and they all began to inquire, “ Lord, is it 1?" and Judas himself demanded, "Is it i?” what an assault was it upon the guilty dissembler's conscience, as the Savior distinctly pointed bim out to the company! He now stood exposed to himself a traitor confessed. He saw and felt the burning bell of rage and malice against his Lord kindling up witbin him, and the spirit of all evil took full possession of him and hurried him to his doom.

6. The Savior taught men with that calm and dignified confidence of manner, which is always inspired by clear perceptions of the truth and importance of what is uttered. The things on which he insisted, were so clear to his own mind, that his manner of communicating them must have been (as it was,) entirely unembarrassed, and free from all appearance of doubt or misgiving. He testified only what he had seen and heard. He knew the truth of what he uttered; and this gave to bis teaching a striking peculiarity of manner. It would have savored of dogmatism in any other teacher; but in him it is a manner perfectly natural and worn with unaffected ease. He saw so clearly the evil nature of sin, and the curse of God which hangs over it, with the strength of its dominion in the soul of the sinner, that the asseveration, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of heaven," appears perfectly in place as coming from his lips, and just what we should suppose him to utter under such a view of things as that which he possessed. So plainly needful, and so vastly important, to his apprehension, was the change in question, that to have used a tone less positive and

66 He

sacred cause.

[ocr errors]

confident, would have been altogether unnatural and improper. What he declared in words was only what he saw to be vital, essential truth; and how should he proclaim it but in the language of unhesitating confidence ? “ Ye have heard, that it hath been said by them of old time, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth ; but I say unto you, that ye resist not evil; I say unto you, love your enemies; I say unto you, swear not at all.” In this style of assured confidence was the Savior wont to announce the precepts of heaven to mankind. This it was, which in a great extent, imparted to his instructions their well-known power to excite the wakeful and wandering attention of the people. taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." Now there is a confidence of manner, in the statement and defense of divine truth, which is due to the truth itself, and the want of which goes far to involve us in the suspicion of treachery to her

On the fundamental doctrines of religion, at least, there may be, and ought to be, a clearness in our perceptions of truth, which shall give earnestness and decision to our manner of exhibiting them; and which shall preclude any thing like weakness of statement or timidity of application. On other subjects of acknowledged importance to mankind, clear views of what is true and right are always understood 10 entitle a man to speak out boldly and unequivocally; and why not on the most important of all subjects ?

7. Our Savior enforced the truths which he taught by the high sanctions of eternity. True, he instructed men, that virtue is not without a reward in this world; and that vice carries along with it here on earth the inseparable alloy of discontent for the present, and foreboding for the future. He taught, that simple-hearted devotedness to the interests of his kingdom would receive in return an amount of good during this life "a hundred fold” greater than could be obtained in any other way. Still, the great, commanding motives to action which he constantly set before men, were the solemnities of the judgment and the scenes of eternity. To the approbation or disapprobation of God, as shortly to be expressed in the rewards and punishments of the coining world, he was wont habitually to reser, and to press men by these high considerations, to repent of their sins, and to pursue steadily the path of obedience. How often do we hear hiin adopting such language as the following in his instructions 10 the people : " Fear not them that kill the body, and after that have no more which they can do ; but I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: fear him, who after he hath killed, is able to cast boih soul and body into hell, yea I say unto you,

“ Marvel not at this, for the hour is coming in the which all that are in their graves shall hear the voice of ihe Son of man and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the

fear bim.”

resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation." These are the true motives to put us upon thinking and acting, as we shall ere long wish we had done. Such considerations will often have weight when every other inducernent has lost its power. There is something in the favor or frown of God, which is not to be trifed with. There is something in the great realities of eternity, to which the sinful heart of inan echoes back a responsive shudder of interest and alarm. There is something in the cold solemnity and stillness of the grave,-considered as the vestibule of a temple not made with mortal hands, and whose inner recesses no mortal eye hath explored,--that is fitted to make us pause and collect all our thoughts about us, as we pass away into its long dim aisles, and approach the majesty of the Divine Presence there, as if in his own appropriate dwelling place. Some may affect to despise the solemnities of eternity; they deceive themselves; every instinctive and unperverted feeling of their nature does homage to these invisible solemnities. The heart of man which may stand erect, and refuse to bow before all other objects, pertaining only to this world, here involuntarily bows itself down, and owns an influence at which it cannot, dare not mock.

8. The Redeemer taught men fearlessly. Much truth is concealed from mankind through fear of giving offense. That is, it is not held out 10 them in its native simplicity and true symmetry and proportions. A sort of sympathy with the feelings of the audience, and a secret apprehension of giving pain, blunt the speaker's own perception of those truths on which he ought especially to insist; so that he does not see them distinctly, and with all the vividness and strength of perception with which he otherwise might see them. He does not therefore present them to others in the coloring of life and reality, as he should. Hence they do no good; they only serve to harden. He is not at all aware, perhaps, of the real difficulty. He wonders why the truth does not take hold and harrow up, into distress and anguish, the torpid tameness of the sinner's soul. But he need not greatly wonder; for the fact is, the things presented to the sinner's mind are so vague, shadowy, and distant, that they cannot take any bold. It is not possible to make cool abstractions and the mere sound of words reach the heart. Now one cause of all this sog and mist in our exhibitions of truth, is, that we are afraid to declare the truth simply and fully; afraid of its reaction upon ourselves. deal plainly with other men's consciences, presupposes, that

not greatly vulnerable to the shafts of truth. A fear of giving offense to those on whom we may be depending for our support; an apprehension of this sort of danger, may lead us to withhold the right arrow from the bow, or to take an indefi

Το

our

own

are

pite aim, or to draw the string too seebly to inflict a mortal wound. We are afraid, that execution will be done, and that thereby work will be made for ourselves, in healing the distress inflicted, and leading the anxious sinner to the soothing consolations of the gospel, a task sometimes laborious and difficult. Now from none of these, or any other causes, was the Savior ever afraid to speak out and tell men the truth. His denunciation of the hypocritical scribes and pharisees, those “ wbited sepulchers” of the nation in its last stages of degeneracy and moral putrescence, is in point to show, that lie was above the influence of fear in warning wicked men of their guilt and their danger; whatever rank in society they held, or whatever reputation for uncommon purity of morals they possessed.

9. He taught in a way adapted to soothe and encourage the distressed, timid, and trembling heart. It often requires no small discernment, and no small firmness of religious principle, to perceive just where the sinner (professedly applying for instruction) is to be met with the sternness of rebuke for bis iniquities; and just where this sternness in rebuking him for his sins, should give place to a manner more soothing and better adapted to administer encouragement to his mind. To err on either hand, may, in many circumstances, be fatal to the soul. To give encouragement before the sinner is prepared to receive it, or to do any thing which is calculated to exert a soothing, quieting influence upon his mind, while be is yet unhumbled, and disposed to justify himself before God, is only to co-operate with him in effecting his ruin. So, also, to withhold encouragement when his mind is properly prepared to receive it; 10 exhibit an appearance of steroness and severity, when his heart is broken and trembling in view of liis past life, may be equally injurious to him. To know exactly when and how to administer encouragement to a sioner's mind, seems to us, therefore, a point of no small difficulty. And when the case is a clear one, and there is no doubt in respect to the course to be pursued, it is not always easy to say and do those things which shall make just ibe impression they were intended to make. Is the troubled, trembling heart to be soothed to rest by having the hopes of the gospel set before bim? It is not always easy so to bring the hopes of the gospel into view, as to soothe the anxious spirit to peace, without at the same time blunting the sense of guilt, and seeming to take part with him against the law which condemns bim. Now our Savior knew how to administer encouragement to the trembling heart, without blunting its sensibility to its own guilt; without making the impression that sin is a small evil, or that condemnation to eternal punishment for sin, is an unrighteous or a questionable thing. He could soothe the trembling sinner's mind, and yet lay bim low in the Vol. VIII.

55

« ПретходнаНастави »