Sayfadaki görseller

tormented their bodies; they caused their children to pass through blazing fires, and even gave them up as sacrifices to their false deities. Another method, strange as it may seem, was the practice of most abominable debaucheries in honor of their idols. The modern heathens employ similar means. Ilow many millions of children have the crocodiles devoured, and the cruel Ganges ! What self-inflicted sufferings are endured every year, all over the heathen world, by those whose distressed consciences seek relief. And this too while they wallow in the pollution of their own lusts, and freely serve devils.

Among the Jews, especially in the times of the Apostles, large multitudes were under conviction of sin. Conscience troubled them, and made them feel worthy of death. How did they seek relief? By going about, says Paul, to establish their own righteousness; by working out for themselves a meritoriousness which might claim heaven of right. They faithfully observed the cere. monies of their law. They offered sacrifices, attended the public festivals, kept many fasts, made long though heartless prayers, and were so scrupulous in paying the tenths to the church, as to tithe every little collection of herbs which had been gathered for family use. They were strict too in keeping the commandments, that is, externally, and as they interpreted them. In the same spirit, they hated the Samaritan and cursed the heathen, and verily thought that they ought to do many things against the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

Similar remarks might be made of those old Asiatic and European churches which have fallen into decay. They gradually lost the pure gospel, the doctrine of free grace as preached by Paul, and they made salvation depend on man's own doings. Hence auricular confessions, the dreadful system of penances, retirement from the world into cloisters, paying money as an atonement for sins past, or about to be committed.

In all this men are their own saviors. Without attending to God's way of salvation, they go about to establish their own righteousness. Continuing in sin, they do works as an offset; and by voluntary sufferings seek to commend themselves to God.

With some in the Romish Church this disposition to self-righteousness exists in a purer and more refined form.

While monasteries are often the abodes of corruption, many sincere men have retired to them, for the sole purpose of becoming holy, by the

services performed in them. With a sin-burdened heart, and a desire to commence a godly life, and have peace of mind, they have shut themselves up from society, submitted to hardship, and dedicated their time to prayers, in hopes thereby of finding relief and joy of soul. The greatest of the Reformers in the sixteenth century, is himself an illustration of these remarks. Already partially enlightened by the word of God, and troubled on account of his sins,— he was one day overtaken by a thunder-storm. A bolt fell from the cloud and sunk into the ground, striking down a beloved school-fellow by his side. Not a little terrified, thoughts of appearing before the great and dreadful God in unforgiven sin, took possession of him. After much reflection he makes up his mind to retire from the world. Ile leaves every thing, and enters the convent at Erfurth. IIere he hopes to be with God, to become holy, to find peace. To this end he submits to the humiliations, the hardships, and mo:t degrading drudgeries of the place. The master of arts comes down from his proud station in society, and performs the meanest offices. He is porter, sexton, and servant of the cloister, and when these drudgeries are over, he goes with his bag through the town, to beg bread for the convent. Time would fail us to tell of his fastings, macerations, and watchings. His strugglings against sinful thoughts and inclinations, his prayings, readings, and self-crucifixions, were incessant. They wore upon his health, and reduced him to a skeleton. But still he had no peace. He not only saw immorality in the holy brotherhood around him, but as to himself, with all his rigidness, what was his condition ? “ No righteousness within : no righteousness in outward action ; every where omission of duty; sin, pollution.” His efforts and failures plunged him into despair. “I was, in the sight of God," says he,“ a great sinner, and could not appease him with my merits.” When any new temptations assailed him, he cried out, “I am a lost man! It is in vain,” said he, to his friend, “ that I make promises to God ; sin is always too strong for me." This was the experience of Luther, while trying man's way of salvation, while trying to be his own savior. We shall refer to him again, in speaking of the divine method.

The experience here detailed has its resemblance in many. The shadings are, it is true, different under different times and circumstances, but the substance is the same. There are those in this community who are really working hard to get to heaven. And they are doing it in ways which, apart from the gospel plan of salvation, would seem to be commendable ; by cultivating their minds, purifying their tastes, cherishing good feelings, making promises to God, shewing kindnesses to their fellow-beings, and doing good works. While we respect and love them, we also pity them; for they seem to us like the young man in the Gospel, who carefully kept the commandments from his youth up, and yet, so far as we can learn, having an unchanged heart, perished. And this we conceive to be the greatest evil of Unitarianism. Its way of salvation is man's way. Its righteousness is man's righteousness, and not what the Apostle calls the righteousness of God. We speak of the system, not of individuals. But among those who embrace the system, there are many serious minds and kind hearts ; many who are really striving to enter into life, but seem not to know the way. They think it is work, hard work, and know not the power of a simple faith. Some of them may have the germs of grace, too, though not often its comforts. And if they could only be brought to lay aside their prejudices, and pride of heart, there is no class of persons who would receive the plan of salvation with more delight.


We find a similar experience among inquirers whose doctrinal principles are right. They always try their own strength, and generally, if truly enlightened into a sense of sin, try it till they despair of themselves, before they lean on Christ. They do many things, they are ready to do many more. sons in our congregations, who would give large sums of money for a good hope ; some no doubt who would walk barefooted, like the heathen, over glowing coals to obtain the spiritual good they need. But salvation is not thus to be found. Some twenty years ago, a very near friend of ours, met a former school-mate, who was then an inquirer, at his work in the field. “I have been trying," said the young man,“ to become a Christian. I have been reading the Bible, and praying, and trying to think good thoughts; and do not see why I am not better.”

“ But that is not the way,” said the other, “ that is a kind of Unitarian way. “ It is,” said the young man thoughtfully, “is it ? ” And then,

, after a moment's pause, he added, from his own experience of ineffectual struggles : “Well, you make no progress !” Our friend then explained to him God's way, which at last he understood and embraced. The inquirer, after shining for some years

There are per

[ocr errors]

as a Christian, died rejoicing in Christ. His then youthful instructor afterwards died three thousand miles from home, and the scene of this conversation, alone and in a foreign land. But he died, as he averred, without one feeling of dissatisfaction with his lot, or one shadow of doubt or fear. Even in hours of loneliness and pain, he could say, that all was bright and cheerful with him, both as respected his present condition and his future prospects. The secret of his soul's comfort was not in himself, though a good, a godly man. It was wholly in Christ.

This brings us to speak of the divine method of salvation. It is Christ, exclusive of all other saviors. For there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we can be saved. As respects the ground of our salvation, he saves us without regard to our outward works, or inward corruptions, or hardness of heart, by simple faith in him. He is the beginning, middle, and end of our salvation.

Let no one be alarmed, as though we were teaching that a man might live in sin after conversion, and yet be saved by faith. Faith gives to sin a death-blow. “And how can ye,” says the A postle, “ being dead to sin, live any longer therein.” Believe in Christ, and this belief will be an inward principle of holiness, a living, a working, a fruit-bearing principle. But salvation is not of works, it is all, all of grace,- a gratuity, a free gift. This is what distinguishes the gospel from all other systems of religion. They are all systems of works. Heathenism is a system of works. Judaism, as practised by the mass of the Hebrew nation, is a system of works. Mahometanism is a system of works. Deism is a system of works. The systems of carnal philosophy are systems of works. Corrupt Christianity has also run into the work-system. But the gospel is a system of salvation by faith. The sinner burdened with his sins, and in despair of healing himself, looks unto Christ. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.” The dying Israelite looked unto the brazen image, and was restored ; for this was the divinely appointed way to save him from natural death :— the sinner looks unto Christ, and lives again ;

: for this is the divinely appointed method of salvation from spiritual death. The sinner goes to Christ just as he is, with all his past sins uncancelled, with a hard, corrupt, and wicked, but now repenting heart, and takes Christ, long freely offered, to be his VOL. III.

34 *

[ocr errors]

Saviour. Christ accepts him, gives him a new spirit, and gradually works in him that which is well-pleasing in his sight. The way of salvation is very simple. Christ stands before an assembly of sinners. He promises to save all who will come to him for salvation. All who really desire to be holy, and who believe that he is the Saviour, come and say : “ Lord receive me, and do with

“ , me what thou wilt!” This simple act of faith is the soul's birth. From that moment we, being justified by faith, have peace with God, and rejoice in his grace. We then have a solid ground of

a hope, for our hope is not in our own doings, or in what we are, but in Christ.

Holiness and peace can be obtained only by trusting in Christ. Our own righteousnesses, said the prophet, are as filthy rags;

so imperfect, so unsatisfactory, we can place no dependence upon them. The natural heart does not produce holy affections, or really good works. To expect holiness without faith, is to expect that good fruit can be made to grow upon the bitter and crabbed tree of human nature, by mere cultivation, without a a vital union to Christ. We cannot attain to peace by looking only upon ourselves. When we have done ever so much, we never can feel that we have done enough to secure God's favor. He is a great God, an awfully just and holy God; and we say with Job,“ He is not a man as I am, nor can I come into judg. ment with him. For if I wash myself with snow-water and make my hands never sọ clean, yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me.” But the divine way of salvation is altogether different. According to it, our salvation is conditioned entirely on our union to Christ. Whoever trusts Christ, will be saved for Christ's sake. Here we can be confident; here we can stand, and rejoice with the apostle in the hope of glory.

So it was with the Reformer. "I have vowed to the holy God,” said his aged instructor, “ more than a thousand times, that I would live a holy life, and never have I kept my vow! I make no more vows, for I know well I shall not keep them. If God will not be merciful to me for Christ's sake, I must perish.” “ Look," continued he, “ to the wounds of Jesus. It is there you will see the mercy of God. Instead of torturing yourself for your faults, cast yourself into the arms of Jesus, and love him who first loved you.” Luther did thus look, he trusted in Christ, he dared to depend on his mercy, he began to love him; and, through

« ÖncekiDevam »