« EelmineJätka »
let not this system, which I endeavour to expose, triumph in like manner over those who would speak unto you the truth. If from the system I turn to speak of those men who have given themselves up to it, they are like lambs for the profession of meekness; but, oh! their tender mercies are cruel: there is not a drop of comfort, not a cup full of cold water. Their Gospel is either falsehood, or it is uncertainty; either error or doubt. Their law is iron obligation, not holy love. Their rule and modes are sectarian, and not catholic. Their zeal, the zeal of proselytism, and not of salvation: their burdens, of one kind and another, intolerable: their doctrine, as thin as the gossamer's web, yea, false in most points, insufficient in all: their morals, the morals of expediency : their charity, narrow as their own party: their judgments, of all within most flattering and delusive, of all without most censorious and unjust. They have shut up fourfifths, yea, nine-tenths of the sacred volume. All the prophecies they have spiritualized away. They have robbed the Jews of what God gave them to be their consolation; they have delivered themselves from the judgments of which God would have had them to stand in awe; they have bereaved the church of her ordinances; they have deprived believers of their privileges ; they have taken arms against the hope of the coming of the Lord; they have scoffed at judgment: and, in truth, there seemeth to me hardly a feature of the Scribes and Pharisees which hath not re-appeared in this sect of the church. Go to others, let it be the Liberals, you know what they are, and you know what they are aiming at: if you are deceived, you deserve to be deceived ; an ordinary measure of sagacity would keep you right. Go, likewise to the churchman of the old school: he also is plain and straight-forward : you know what he will support, and what he will oppose with all his heart. There is an honesty and a downrightness about what these professors stigmatize as "the world,” which in their "religious world” you seek for in vain. Every thing there floats upon the restless waves of appearance: what catches the common eye, what takes the common ear, what “so many good men approve,” what “ many good men disapprove." They deem that they cannot be wrong, when leaning to the multitude. And yet, what saith the Scripture ? “Woe unto you, when all men speak well of you.” “Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth unto destruction, and many there be that go in thereat." They profess to be religious: you expect therefore to find them opposing a measure to make irreligious and unprincipled men magistrates; but you are disappointed. You expect to find them, as being Protestants, opposed to any league with the apostasy of Rome; but you are disappointed. They
ever prove the reverse of what you look for, because they are like whited sepulchres, which outwardly are beautiful, but inwardly are full of dead men's bones; because like graves they are, which appear not while you are treading amongst them. And much more could I say, but that I hasten to be done with a subject so painful to my heart; yet from which I will not Ainch until I have performed my task unto the Lord. Oh that I could shake this empire of man over the mind of his fellow-man, and rear in its stead the Lordship of Christ and the Fatherhood of God! Oh that I could make religion to rest on the word and ordinances of Christ, and not in the opinions of men! Then, indeed, should I have accomplished something to recompense the pain and travail of these unpleasant inquiries.
We come at length to the last of these denunciations.
Ver. 29:“Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous; and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets : wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.”—There is something very startling at first hearing, and upon mature reflection very profound, in this last count, upon which the Lord arraigneth the Scribes and Pharisees and denounceth woe upon them. For no one would put it down as an evil sign of evil times, that the people should delight to adorn the tombs of the martyrs of God; and yet our Lord expressly doth so, and chargeth it upon them, notwithstanding the reason which they assigned for it: “ if we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.” Now, whence cometh it that he should so arraign them for that which seemeth in itself so comely and beautiful? A part of the reason, no doubt, is, as he declares, that they thereby bore witness unto themselves that they were the children of them which killed the prophets. And how is this a reason? It is a reason, because the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children, and upon the children's children.” It is said, in Luke, "Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres. Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute; that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation; from the blood of Abel, unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, it shall be required of this generation." And how truly this was fulfilled is proved in the history of our Lord, and in the Acts of the Apostles. Most mani
fest, therefore, it is, that this mania which had seized them, of building and adorning the tombs of the prophets whom their fathers slew, was a part of that same deep system of pharisaical self-sufficiency and deception which had possessed the whole sect. The Lord inculcates that they should have been ashamed of the deeds of their fathers, that they should have been sorry for them, that they should have drawn over them the veil of oblivion; or, rather, remembered them with humility in the presence of God, wept for them day and night, and prayed that he would not count against them the innocent blood which their fathers had shed: instead of which, they lifted up a momument to commemorate the deed, and did it all over with beautiful emblazonment. They were not careful to hope or to desire that they themselves were not of that wicked race who had been guilty of such deeds, but they were self-confident that they themselves would never be in like wise guilty. They told the tale of their father's guilt, and added, But we are better than our fathers! Shameful, unnatural effrontery, and proud selfsufficiency! No doubt they looked upon it as an act of great piety to be at so much charges with the tombs of the prophets. They thought that it indicated a like spirit in themselves, and that they also should be found ready to die for the testimony of the truth. Pride is always near a fall; and of all forms of pride that is the most hateful which boasts itself at the expense of our fathers. If they had visited those tombs, and wept over the wickedness of their fathers; if they had strewed them with ashes of their humiliation, and watered them with tears of their lamentation, it had been well: God would have turned away from them his judgment and his wrath. But, at the time when they had in their heart the wickedness to conceive and compass the death of the Son of God; well said the Lord of them, “ Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell!” they were pleasing their vanity and blinding their eyes with gay and gaudy decorations of the prophets' tombs. It is a principle, besides, which you will find invariably to hold of human nature, that when the reality of a thing—be it a feeling, an idea, a form of character, or a strain of action-can no longer be borne by a people; then they cry out for an image of it; whether a statue, or a picture, or a scenic representation, or some other shadow and type of the reality: and according as the people are devoted to the shadow or type, you may eertainly conclude that they will be indifferent to, or set against the reality, whereever it may appear. The birds that love the twilight or the moonbeam, cannot endure the glory of the sun. Every one knows, that the greatest frequenters of the theatre, and who are most deeply moved with its representations of poverty and wretchedness and passion and pity, are the very people who
VOL. II.-NO. J.
can the least endure the sight of real wretchedness and distress, or enact the noble part of succouring, or the still more noble part of enduring it; and of all mean spirits and poltroons, those be generally the most notorious who strut the stage in heroic pomp. So I hold it to be, with respect to religion also, that just in proportion as the mind cometh to desire the objects of faith and of worship under the imagery and statuary of the fine arts—and perhaps I might extend the observation also to music, though this be far less exceptionable—in what proportion the sense hath a craving for satisfaction, and would have a hand in demonstrating the matter to the spirit, in that proportion doth the spirit confess its own impotence, and demean itself from its own dignity; and devotion, true devotion, cooleth ; and knowledge is hidden, and purity is soiled, and the objects of faith and hope are degraded; and God himself departeth from his only worthy and glorious habitation in the person of his Son, and becometh associated with wood, and stone, and brass, and gold, and other works of the hand of man. And in like wise cometh it to pass, that when a people desire to look upon the achievements or sufferings of their fathers painted in a picture or carved upon stone, in trophies of victory, in storied urns, or sepulchral ornaments, instead of laying up the memory of them in the heart, telling the story of them to their children, and taking them in their hand to visit the solitary moss-covered stone and weep together there, and deprecate God's judgment from the land : when, I say, instead of this, they please their fancy, their convenience, their idleness, with decorated and ornamental tombs, it doth indicate that the true spirit and feeling of sacredness is departed, and can no longer live in the heart, and, lest it should altogether die, cravetb that it may live in the sight. And so it comes to pass, that at the very time when a people are most busy in setting up the idols of things which should be contemplated by the spirit in the idea rather than by the sense in the idol, they are furthest removed from the love of what they seem to doat on; and they are then also most ready, if any originals of their images should appear amongst them, to treat such
with contempt, with cruelty, and with destruction : as did the Papists unto every man who walked in the footsteps of Christ and the Apostles and the martyrs, to whom they consecrated images and festal days commemorative of their martyrdom. The sense ever lusteth against the Spirit, and the fruits of the sense are ever contrary to the fruits of the Spirit.
These things cannot be gainsayed, especially when we see our Lord placing the two things in closest connection with each other,-outward and apparent reverence for the tombs of the prophets, and readiness to destroy the Great Prophet and the
prophets whom he should send. Be assured that the connection between these two things is not accidental, but necessary, as we have sought to explain above. Be assured, moreover, that it is no secondary, but a primary, sign of a declining church, when it thus addicteth itself to the memory and the commemoration of the sufferings and actions of worthy men, instead of devoting itself to the sufferings and actings of Christ, who both set them the example, and was in them the Author and Finisher of their faith. It betokens a great decay in the living church, thus to have recourse to the worthies of a by-gone age. It betokens a blindness and want of discernment to discover the living testifying ones, whom God ever hath, or an unwillingness to admit the work of God in them, when thus men flit away back into other times, and endeavour to idolize the memory of frail men like themselves. For these, and many other reasons which I cannot enter into, this sign of a declining church well deserveth the place which the Lord hath given it in this roll of accusations against the Scribes and Pharisees.
Now, then, we go to look for the parallel in the present state of the church. This same feature hath been long revealing itself in the Church of Scotland ; and long before I reflected upon it in connection with the passage before us, I saw it; and I may say I have stood almost alone in holding it up as a sign of a declining church. The rage for visiting and holding meetings at the graves of the Covenanters ; the desire to repair, and renew, and beautify the stones which covered their mouldering dust; the gathering of large congregations and making of collections for that end, which of late days has started into existence, I look upon as a sign of the church parallel with that before us. If, amongst those who take up this bastard testimony, I found any lamentation over the sin which lieth upon the nation for the blood of these men, or any apprehension that it was yet to be required of us, or any melancholy gloomy portents of whatever kind, I would be comforted in tắis exhibition of their zeal. If I saw any deep feeling of their own sins, any contrast of their own short-coming with the faithfulness of the noble army of martyrs, any boldness of testimony against the declension and shameful prevarication of the truth which almost universally prevaileth, then indeed I should have hope. But when I witness only a vain parade of patriotism, or hear an idle tale of sentiment about moors, and mosses, and caves, and other such trifling circumstances; when I see the people parting merrily and cheerily, well pleased with what they have done, and thinking themselves mighty valiant for the truth's sake; what else can I regard it than a piece of pharisaical ostentation, destitute of right and good feeling, seeking food for its selfapprobation in its ability to sympathize with greatness which