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make it impossible that they could please him. Now, to a rational inquirer, it does not seem very consistent with the ideas that are entertained of the greatness and goodness of God, to imagine that any imperfect being should have been the immediate production of his creative power ; (and that He did make man originally perfect, the Scripture positively asserts, Eccles. vii. 29;) or, that He should have been the Former of any nature that was utterly incapable of fulfilling his commands, of successfully combating with its own infirmities, and of surmounting those difficulties which virtue enjoined it to overcome.
But supposing it to have been endued by its great Creator with sufficient energy for the accomplishment of these purposes, would it not become indispensably necessary for the honour of God that it should do so? And that his honour and glory should be completely vindicated in the sight of every order of intellectual beings, whose faculties include the observation of our world, by having it clearly proved, by the most express and public demonstration, that the human nature which He had created and formed, though liable to frailty, was still invested with such powers as would infallibly arm it for every contest, render it superior over all difficulties, and enable it to exemplify a perfect pattern of virtue. A complete coincidence is discoverable between these inferences and the declarations contained in the gospel,* for that likewise “alleges” the same existing necessity
* Our subsequent pages will, we venture to promise, prove the truth of this assertion.
for the full vindication of God's honour, by human nature obtaining a victory over every infirmity, and delineating a life of unblemished goodness: assigning also the same reason for this necessity, as that deduced from the foregoing reasoning, namely, “To the intent, that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known the manifold wisdom of God."*
New Testament information is, however, very far from confining its declarations to merely proclaiming the necessity that existed for the vindication of God's honour; for it is there affirmed, that what both reason and Scripture unite in pointing out as essentially necessary to be performed, was actually accomplished even amidst the most difficult circumstances and the most arduous trials; and informs us, that this was undertaken and executed by a great and illustrious Being who declared himself to be the Son of God.t
Before we proceed in our researches, it appears requisite to observe in what manner the doctrines contained in the gospel were first offered to the attention of the hearers; and Scripture resolves this inquiry, by informing us that “St. Paul's manner was to reason with them out of the Scriptures, opening and alleging that Christ must
* The whole passage runs thus, “ Might be known by the Church,” &c. In a future
will be given as recorded in Ephes. iii. 10, with an annexed comment, connected with the purpose to which it has here been quoted and applied.
+ This work will contain a very brief inquiry into the nature of the Deity; and in what light Christ desigaed us to understand his declaration of being the Son of God.
needs have suffered.” (Acts xvii. 2.) Therefore, as this was a subject which had been originally opened and alleged upon rational grounds, by the apostle Paul, we may certainly expect to find among his writings, and those of his contemporaries, such information as must ever establish it on this basis. By these writers we are given to understand, that the difficult task which Christ undertook to perform, did partly consist in endeavouring to effect a thorough reformation in the hearts, the lives, and the opinions of mankind. “ He required them to give up all their former prejudices, superstitions, and traditions; all their favourite rites and ceremonies, and what was perhaps still dearer to them, their darling vices and propensities, their hypocrisy, rapaciousness, and voluptuousness."* “Openly condemning them for having made the laws of God of no effect through their traditions.” (Matt. xv. 6.) Now, we may easily conceive what kind of reception such admonitions would meet with from the leaders of the Jewish nation, who, it is natural to suppose, would be highly incensed against him for opposing, and exposing, their obstinate prejudices and deep-rooted vices, which, the history informs us, he continually did. The inevitable consequence of administering such reproofs was, as Christ himself observes, incurring the hatred of the world. “ The world, saith he, hateth me, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.” (John vii. 7.) And the consequence produced by this hatred, combining itself
* Porteus's Lectures.
with some political' motives, (for the world was gone after him, and if they, the Jewish rulers, let him alone, the Romans would come and take away their place and their nation, John xi. 48,) induced and determined them to put him to a cruel death. An obvious remark immediately presents itself; namely, that had He been deterred from prosecuting his design by the fear of any suffering it was in the power of man to inflict, his character would have been stained by imperfection, the vindication of God's honour had been unachieved, and the infirmities incidental to human nature had maintained their victory over virtue.
It is, however, very far from our intention to propound the sufferings of Christ, as an exclusive argument whereby to evidence the truth of his mission, as hundreds of other persons have sustained tortures with perhaps equal firmness to that which He evinced during the trying scene of execution; but as we propose, in our future pages, very particularly to inquire why Christ must needs have suffered, and what peculiarity of circumstances rendered his sorrows unlike all other sorrows, suffice it here to remark, that as many have endured the most excruciating deaths, rather than the forfeiture of virtue, it became indispensably requisite for the great Christian Champion to exemplify this noble resolution in its full extent, and patiently to endure every trial incidental to humanity. That the trial of our virtue is the proposed end of our residence in this world, is an opinion that seems to have been
generally adopted, and which Scripture clearly supports by asserting, that God proves his people, whether they will walk in his law or no; (Exod. xvi. 4;) that man may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. (Isaiah vii. 15.)
A moment's reflection must show us, that a state adapted for this purpose could not possibly be constituted without the existence of difficulties; and some further consideration may, perhaps, discover to us the necessity of our passing through a probationary state. For does not the perfection of virtue, and even its very existence, entirely consist in the love of virtue, which love can alone be duced by its being brought in contact with its opponent vice? And is not a free agency of the will an essential ingredient in the composition of all rational beings, who without it would be mere machines, scarce worthy of the name, or of their great Creator's favour; and could that free agency be exercised without good and evil being placed before it for its choice? Our love of virtue, therefore, and adherence to it must be proved by the degree of vigilance with which we endeavour to combat with frailties that attack our nature, which, if not opposed, would insensibly lead us into error; by the diligence with which we cultivate every amiable disposition in our hearts, which, if neglected, would soon become productive of thorns and briars; by enjoying the innocent pleasures of life within the bound of reason and moderation, which, if not restrained within these limits, would betray us into vice; and by our disregarding the frowns of the world when