« PreviousContinue »
love or fear—"perfect love, which casteth out fear,”
fear, which hath torment *.” Men obey human laws from the fear of the penalties consequent upon detected infraction. But will this principle reach to the heart? How, then, is fear to be an influential principle in the regulation of the “ thoughts and intents of the heart ?"
Fear is not an universally constraining principle : on the other hand, love is the most powerful, the most constraining, the most operative principle of our nature. The very constitution of the human mind answers in favour of love ; and we may, perhaps, safely reason upwards, from the operation of this principle in our earthly relations, to its effects in reference to the eternal relations between the soul and God. What parent ever retained the affections of his child by a system of terror ? It may have enforced a reluctant outward obedience, but did it operate beyond the presence of the parent ? did it secure at all times, and under all circumstances, a cheerful, a heartfelt obedience ? But love is an ever-constraining principle. Can I wound even the feelings of that parent, whose love for me is so deep, that no sacrifice is too great for it to make; so strong, that no labour is too heavy for it to sustain and so tender, that no office of affection is too minute for it to observe ?
If love, then, be an ever-present, an ever-constraining influence, in reference to the earthly parent,
* 1 John iv. 18, 19: “ There is no fear in love ; but perfect love casteth out fear ; because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him because he first loved us."
what must it be, what is it, in the heart of the believer in Jesus, towards Him who has done and suffered so much for us ? Who, and for whom ? Who ?-the Son of God, who left the bosom of his Father; the peace, the happiness, the glory of Heaven ; to come down to this “sin-spoilt world,” and take upon him our nature; to be made in the likeness of man; to lead a life of suffering ; to die a cruel, an agonizing death!—to bear not only this, but the penalty of our sins“ in his own body on the tree.” And for whom? Was it for those who loved him ? No, but for fallen, sinful creatures—for condemned criminals—for convicted rebels. Here is, indeed, love : “ not that we loved God, but that," “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for (Rom. v. 8).
Now, search all the deep treasuries of the philosophy of the human mind for any equally operative principle with this : search all the hidden mysteries of every other system, whether of natural religion, or of the mystical spiritualizings of things too simple for the proud heart of man : search for, and bring forth, any other principle, which shall thus tenderly and forcefully constrain to the love of God, and to
* “ The reception of the Divine mercy is accompanied with a willing subjection to the Divine authority. The Gospel and the Law go hand in hand. When the convictions of the Law have induced the acceptance of the Gospel, the grace of the Gospel endears the precepts of the Law; which are then regarded not merely as the commands of authority, but as the requirements of love-the intimations of the will of the God of mercy. As the reign of Christ extends, the law of love prevails of love to God and love to man;—and righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, are the blessed results.”. (Wurdlaw.)
consequent desires to be made more and more conformable to His holy law by the sanctifying influences of the Spirit, and to become more and more conformed to its perfect requirings in the inward
Here is the true ground of self-abasement and of heart-humility. Here shall we see, in the clear light of the law of God-not only that our deeds, our works, our ways, but—that our thoughts, our best desires, our very prayers, need the continual application of the atoning “ blood of sprinkling." We shall see, in this light, that there is not any single action of our lives so perfect in its motive and object, so exclusively moved by supreme love to God, so pure from all defilement of pride, ambition, or self-love, as that we would, at the bar of God, hazard our eternal state upon the verdict it should bring upon us. If this, then, be a true position, where are we to go with our fallen nature, with the whole mass of our sins of omission and commission ? To whom, indeed, can we go, but to Jesus—to Him who emphatically hath the words of eternal life ?- to that Saviour, who stands more ready to receive us than we are to fly to him; who is not only ready to receive, but who, in wonderful love and condescending mercy, comes forth and runs to meet us? To what, then, can the awakened sinner come, but to that which alone suits his case, and is the only fitting remedy,-to a simple, humble, confiding reception of, and dependence upon, the offers of the mercy of God in Christ Jesus our Lord--to the saving belief that he is “justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus?' (Rom. iii. 24.)
The truly converted man, though deeply sensible of his manifold infirmities-of his utter unworthiness-is yet enabled, with feelings of confiding thankfulness, to declare, “I know in whom I have believed....I know that my Redeemer liveth.” He is in possession of that “joy and peace in believing," which is the Christian's privilege and comfort. “For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition,” &c. (Eph. ii. 14). How painful is the contrast, between this state of humble confidence, and that of the awakened soul whose way is hedged in by a mystical system which practically sets aside the necessity of repentance, faith, and conversion, substituting in their stead the notion of an “inward principle,” which is stated to be possessed by every child of Adam born into the world, and is not only “universal,” but “ renovating,” “atoning," and
sanctifying,” and, if abode under and obeyed, saving" also! Instead of being exhorted to
repent and believe the Gospel,” he is directed, in the stillness of all flesh, to centre down to this “inward principle” of “Saving Light.” If, unhappily, he follow this unscriptural advice, will he not be in danger of settling down with some undefined and dreamy expectation, that what he has been taught to wait for in a passive state of mental prostration, will, some day or other, be gradually developed with vivifying power, and every thought he brought into subjection to the obedience of Christ? Will he not be thus in danger of substituting the fancied workings of an inward principle, for salvation by Christ --the following of its supposed pointings, for justi
fication by faith-and the purification stated to be consequent upon obedience to it, for sanctification by the Holy Ghost ?
There are three distinct classes of persons who are especially in danger from the operation of these unscriptural views,—the desponding, the self-complacent, and the careless.
Persons of the first class, when awakened to some sense of sin, will find that this “ saving light” affords no redemption from its present power, no evidence of forgiveness of past offences. Having their eyes bent upon their own corruption, instead of looking in faith unto Him“ who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. iv. 25), they must go on their way mourning, doubting, and comfortless.
Those of the second class, who are in some degree so awakened, yet, without discerning the exceeding sinfulness of sin, often experience a feeling of selfsatisfying complacency in an outwardly consistent course, and are in imminent peril of making
“ obedience" their saviour -of laying the foundation of their hopes more on the sincerity of their endeavours to dwell near the “principle,” than on the Lord Jesus Christ; by faith in whom we can alone be saved; by which faith the Christian overcomes the world, and without which it is impossible to please God. We
e can conceive of a third class, whose make of mind may contribute to the same result, though by a different course. Even the careless may at times feel themselves to be sinners, and may address themselves to the work they have been directed to engage in; but they will soon find it hopeless in its character