Page images
PDF
EPUB

one and the other were his own? How is this difficulty to be explained?

It would be very easy, my brethren, to evade the question by vague declamation:-or to mystify and apparently solve it, by glozing, and sophistical arguments. It would be easy perhaps to send you hence, under a persuasion that the point had been fully examined, and the difficulty removed. But how long will that persuasion last?-Till the very next time that your thoughts are directed to the subject and then you will find that all the difficulty remains, while the reasoning by which it was removed has been forgotten. Do you ask, why is this?Simply because the difficulty never was removed. It never was, and never will be removed. The moralist will succeed in reconciling these two propositions when the mathematician has succeeded in making two parallel lines meet.

Then why introduce the subject at all, if no explanation can be given of the matter in debate?-What practical benefit can be derived from such inconclusive

discussions ?-The greatest possible benefit, my brethren.-If I have convinced all who now hear me, that the topic before us involves a difficulty beyond the reach of the human intellect, I shall have paved the way for more practical good, than the fullest and most satisfactory explanation of the point could have accomplished.— It is very clear that no man will make any great progress towards Christian perfection who is not a searcher of the Scriptures and who does not search them in a right spirit and with right views. It is also clear, that no man can be so wrong in his views--no man can sit down to the perusal of the holy volume with so little chance of benefitting by his studies-as he who supposes that he shall find all things in it level at once to his comprehension or superable eventually to his diligence. Obviously it is of the greatest importance to awaken men from such delusive dreamings as this, by bringing before them fairly and candidly, a difficulty which all must allow to be insurmountable. They will then be prepared for

what they must necessarily encounterand be ready-not so much to prostrate their understanding, as to make that acknowledgment of its weakness, without a due sense of which no man will effect any progress in heavenly knowledge.

But farther than this-there are many who need comfort-who deserve it-and who are likely to derive it from the declaration which has now been made.There are many to whom the difficulties which they encounter in religion are a source, not of offence, but of disquiet and self-reproach.-A question occurs-suggested either by the enquiry of othersor by their own reflection-involving some point which they are unable to clear up. For this ignorance they tax themselves severely-as if it were their own fault, and might have been removed by more diligent reading-or more careful thought. If the question have been proposed by others, they will mark the smile of triumph with which their embarrassment will be observed, and doubly painful will be their feelings for not only

will they have exposed their own ignorance, but have brought discredit also (as they imagine) upon the word of Truth. Now we all know that on points of earthly wisdom, a child may put a question which the deepest philosopher cannot answerand so in heavenly things the babe in Christ may propose a difficulty, which he who has become a man in knowledge shall not be able to solve-and that because the subject-matter lies beyond the reach of the human understanding.-Let the Christian student therefore persuade himself that he shall encounter many such difficulties in his course-let him be prepared, whenever they occur, to yield to them in an humble spirit-and to acknowledge them with openness and candour-and he will have rendered himself proof, as well against the uneasy misgivings of his own bosom, as against the taunts and cavils of the gainsayer.

There is another circumstance also, which it is most useful and most important to bear in mind with regard to the subject before us, and which is applicable

also to most other Scripture knotsnamely, that it presents a theoretical, not a practical difficulty. It is a difficulty referring to practice no doubt, because it lies at the root of all Christian moralsbut still it is not a difficulty in practice. No man can explain or understand how it is that he himself can be said to work out his own salvation, while he believes at the same time that it is God that worketh in him both to will and to do of his good pleasure. But no man in the world ever found this ignorance an impediment to his working. Let any one set about the discharge of his duties with the difficulty as vividly impressed upon his mind as possible-Let him resolve to use his utmost exertions-though convinced at the same that without the assistance of God's grace those exertions will be useless-let him labour as if success were in his own hands-and pray as if none but God could grant it-And what will be the result?-Because there is a contradiction-or what appears such to our understandings-in the theory on

« EelmineJätka »