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SERMON XII.

THE CHRISTIAN PARADOX EXEMPLIFIED.

LUKE vi. 10.

And looking round about upon them all, he said

unto the mann-Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so :-and his hand was restored whole as the other.

THERE is no book in the whole world so full of insuperable difficulties as the Bible. And the reason of this is obvious enough.—The Bible touches upon subjects which are in their very nature, above the comprehension of its readers,upon subjects, which the Author of the Bible is alone competent to elucidate, but concerning which he has purposely abstained from affording explicit information. It speaks for instance, of the Deity —and “who by searching shall find out God.” It speaks of creation-and“ where was man when the foundations of the earth were laid, that he should have understanding to declare whereupon the foundations thereof are fastened, or who laid the corner-stone thereof??”—Redemption is proclaimed in it-And where is the human intellect equal to the task of unravelling that great mystery of godlinessGod manifest in the flesh ?-Who shall explain tous the judgment to come, the resurrection of the body, the glories of heaven, the fire and the worm of hell ?-Upon these, and many such sublime subjects the Scriptures speak-but they do not speak fully, and therefore, we are necessarily beset by difficulties whenever we attempt to discuss them.

But this is not all. Insuperable difficulties on points like these, every reasonable man would look for. They are “ heavenly things," and heavenly things

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may well be expected to transcend an earthly capacity. But what shall we say when we find grounds for the same perplexity on points relating more immediately to earth ?-on points which refer to the moral conduct of man as a free agent, and responsible being-to that behaviour of his in time, by which will be decided his condition in eternity ?Here we should imagine that all would be clear and explicit—that there would be no room for question—hesitation, or doubt.-And yet if we would construct a system of Christian ethics, we must take for our foundation, what is very like a contradiction in terms. Consider for example, the following passage of Scripture, “ Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure'."

Now if we examine these two clauses separately, we shall probably find no difficulty in either. The first—“ Work

· Phil. ii. 12, 13.

out your own salvation with fear and trembling"-addresses us as beings who have a way of salvation open to us, in which we are capable of walking—and exhorts us to walk in it carefully and diligently, as those who must hereafter give an account. It addresses us in short as moral responsible agents, free to choose our own course-and with power to continue in, or forsake that which we may

select. The same view is taken of mankind in countless passages of Scripture. It is to be recognized in all those earnest exhortations to holiness and righteousness of life, which compose the greater part of the bulk of the New Testamentand which are something more than cruel mockery, if the objects of them have ears that cannot hear, and hearts that cannot understand them. But no-If God be true, man is a free agent.

And now what says the second clause of the sentence !-" It is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure."—What different language is this ? What a sudden transition from strength to weakness does it imply ?--Why, the being who but now appeared to be walking firm and erect, in just reliance upon his own powers cannot take a single step without the assistance of another !--and yet this statement, equally with the other, is the assertion of “God who cannot lie." - Christ himself says, that no man can come to him except the Father draw or incline him-and at the very moment he says this, he holds out an earnest invitation to all to come to him, implying that they could obey him if they chose, and so bringing the contradictory terms into close juxta-position as they stand in the passage from St. Paul.--Our scriptural church speaks after the same manner. The free agency, and entire accountableness of man she avows and maintains most explicitly, on the one hand--and on the other, declares that until we be first quickened by the Holy Spirit of God, there is neither health nor life in us.-Without God, she says that we are not able to please God, and therefore

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