Page images



(See p. 251.)


What, then, if

"DOES this give you offence? you should see the Son of Man ascending where he was before?"

In these and the following words, Jesus is remarking upon, and in part explaining, what he has before said. The purport of the words is this: Does it offend you that I speak of my death? Would your offence continue, should you see me after my death ascending to heaven?

It may be that Jesus here referred to his ascension from earth and disappearance from the view of his disciples. But if he did so, that miracle was, I conceive, present to his mind only as a proof and visible emblem of what he principally intended in his words, What he principally intended was his return to God from whom he came, after passing through his sufferings and death.

* From Mr. Norton's Notes on the Gospels.

on whom we and all things are entirely dependent, and to look up to Him with perfect confidence and love. It has made known to us that we are to live for ever; it has brought life and immortality to light. Man was a creature of this earth, and it has raised him to a far nobler rank, and taught him to regard himself as an immortal being, the child of God. It calls the sinner to reformation and hope. It affords to virtue the highest possible sanctions. It gives to sorrow its best, and often its only consolation. It presents us, in the life of our great Master, with an example of that moral perfection which is to be the constant object of our exertions. It has established the truths which it teaches, upon evidence the most satisfactory. It is a most glorious display of the benevolence of the Deity, and of his care for the beings of this earth. It has lifted the veil which separated God from his creatures, and this life from eternity.

But all this, it seems, is NOTHING, unless it also teach, that there are three persons who constitute the one God; or at least that there is some threefold distinction, we know not what, in the Divinity; that one of these persons or distinctions was united in a most incomprehensible manner to the human nature of Christ, so that the sufferings of the latter were the sufferings of the former; and that it is only through these sufferings of the Son of God that we may hope for the mercy of his Father. The religion of joy and consolation will, it is contended, lose its value, unless it announce to us, that we are created under the wrath and

curse of God; that it is impossible for us to perform his will, unless our moral natures be created anew; and that this is a favor denied to far the greater part of men, who are required to perform what he has made it morally impossible they should perform, with the most unrelenting rigor, and under penalty of the most terrible and everlasting torments. Such doctrines as these are represented as the peculiar doctrines of Christianity, those from which it derives its value; and our opponents appear to think, that if nothing better was to be effected than to make God known to men, to reveal to them his paternal character, to bring life and immortality to light, and to furnish the highest motives to virtue, it was not worth while for the Deity to interpose in a special manner to effect purposes so unimportant.

The doctrines which we believe to be established by Christianity are doctrines of inestimable value. The question of their truth is one which interests us most deeply. Our happiness and our virtue are at stake on the decision. If they are not true, we are miserable indeed. The brute, satisfied with the enjoyments of the present day, has a preferable tenure of existence to that of man, if they are both to perish together. But if these doctrines are true, there is a prospect displayed before us inconceivably glorious and delightful. They are truths which it was worthy of God to teach. Look again at the doctrines which we are opposing. Are these doctrines of any importance or value? Is it important to our virtue and happiness, that

there should be a threefold distinction in the Divine Nature; or that the mercy of God which is extended toward us should have been PURCHASED with the blood of his Son? Is it desirable for us to be satisfied that our natures are so depraved, that, till they are changed by the act of God, we can do nothing to please him? Examine the creeds of what is called Orthodoxy; and read the summary of obligations which these creeds teach us that we lie under to God as our MAKER. What obligations would be due from his creatures to a being who had formed them under his "displeasure and curse," made them "bond-slaves to Satan," and "JUSTLY LIABLE 99 - the absurdity is as gross as the impiety-"to all punishments in this world, and in that which is to come." With what feelings might such creatures JUSTLY regard their Maker? What is the character which they would have a right to ascribe to him? It would be mockery to ask, if it be desirable that this doctrine should be true; or if Christianity would lose its value, should it appear that it taught no such doctrine.

It is because we have a strong conviction of the inestimable importance of TRUE RELIGION to human virtue and happiness, and therefore desire to promote its influence, that we wish men to know and believe that these are not the doctrines of Christianity. It is because God ought to be the object of our perfect veneration and love, that we revolt at doctrines which confound and darken our ideas of his nature, which represent one person in

the Deity as exacting, and another as submitting to, the punishment of our offences; and at other doctrines far worse than these, which, if it were possible for them to have their full influence upon the mind, would make God an object of utter horror and detestation. We believe that the great truths of religion taught by Christianity are the foundation of public and private happiness, of the good order of well-regulated society, of purity of morals, of our domestic enjoyments, of all that is most generous and most disinterested in the human character, of all those qualities which endear man to man; that they make life cheerful, and reconcile us to death; and that it is on these that the character must be formed which will fit us for heaven; — and it is therefore that we wish them to be presented to men such as they really are, free from the gross errors which human folly and perversity have connected with them,-errors that have prevented their reception, and essentially counteracted their influence.

Especially at the present time, when, through the discredit and odium cast upon Christianity by the false systems that have assumed its name, its power has been annihilated through a great part of the civilized world, and it has come to be regarded by a very large portion of the educated classes of society as an obsolete superstition, the call is most imperative upon those to whom the welfare of their fellow-men is an object of concern, to use all means at their command to re-establish its true character. If they are indeed engaged in

« EelmineJätka »