صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

God had said, became the turning point of his existence. God's word entered his soul, and that word became his judge. If he obeyed the word of God, which is just what conscience is in every man, it would signify its approval; if he hesitated, the word would remonstrate and warn; and if he disobeyed, the word would condemn.

Can it be imagined for a moment, that a just God will ask more from a sinful creature than he asked from a holy one? It may be said, that it is impossible for any other man to be placed in Adam's circumstances: no doubt, with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible; and “what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh.” (Rom. viii. 3.) “ There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Tim. ii. 5, 6.) The moral extremes in the nature of God and men are reunited in Christ, after being sundered in Adam; and “ God will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. ii. 4.) Any attempt to explain away this passage is futile. I have already referred to it and similar passages in which the doctrine of the certain salvation of all whom God foreknew is taught; but to restrict its application, even to them, would be wrong, as it is the undoubted will of God that all men, by which is intended every descendant of Adam, whether of the seed of the woman, or the seed of the serpent, should come unto the knowledge of the truth. While men are in this world, which is a state of probation, by the trials and experiences of which their moral nature is trained and disciplined, God is in Christ reconciling them unto Himself, not imputing unto them their trespasses. The times of men's ignorance God has winked at; but wherever the message of reconciliation is received, its command to every man who hears it is, repent and believe. Where the message of reconciliation is not heard, conscience supplies its place, and it is only asked of a man according to what he hath, and not according to what he hath not. God looks not at the acts of a man's life, but at the state of a man's heart; for out of the heart are the issues of life. If there be in a man a willing mind, then God accepts his work in Christ. The command to Adam was, eat not of that tree; do whatever else you please, I shall not be offended, if you but keep my word in this one thing. To the man without law or gospel, God's command is, and it is written in his heart, violate not your conscience; your sins and transgressions may be innumerable, and very aggravated; you may be living from day to day in the practice of most awful wickedness; you may die as you have lived: but if your whole conduct has been the natural and inevitable consequence of Adam's first transgression, then for all that, I call you not to account: all the mischief done through the first Adam, is completely and entirely removed in the second Adam; whatever guilt or misery has been entailed upon you by your descent from Adam, is wholly and completely removed in the person of Christ, the Mediator between God and men.

The light of conscience must be very dim in the mind of a heathen idolater, but this, instead of being a disadvantage to him, is rather a marvellous display of mercy. The less the light shines, the more easy will be obedience to its requirements; and it is well known, that conscience is blunted or tender, just in the proportion that a man's life is vicious or virtuous; so that this law in man's moral nature, in its operation, preserves a just and equitable balance between what God demands through conscience, and what man can yield in his particular circumstances. God is in every man in exact proportion to the extent that each man can bear His presence and knowledge; and what He now asks from every man in his present condition, is not more grevious than what He asked from Adam in paradise. The case of Adam is intended as a figure of the case of every man throughout all ages of the world's history; and what God has said in every heart is, be willing to do my will, and who is he that will harm you? To illustrate this in the case of a heathen, we shall suppose that his conscience says to him: thou shalt not steal from thy neighbour. The word in his mind, the idea, becomes associated with his moral nature. He may have very absurd views of honest and upright dealing; but conscience will cause him to select something as the forbidden tree: he may imagine that if by trickery or deceit he can impose upon his neighbour, and cheat him out of his property, that this is not wrong; and he may conclude, that if he but stop short of doing personal violence, and taking the property of his neighbour by force, that all will be well. The question is not, whether this man's views of morality are right or wrong? but the question simply is, what does he himself believe his conscience to say? Well, he is willing to the extent that he is enlightened, to do God's will; and he resolves he will not do violence to his neighbour, or take his property from him by force. This resolution becomes the turning point of his existence, and it brings Satan into the field of conflict. The struggle commences; Satan on the one hand acting over again the scene in paradise, endeavours by every possible means to drive the man from his resolution; he cannot extinguish the light, for it is the light of God in the man, and that awful power belongs only to the man himself; he attempts, however, to persuade the man out of his determination, and it may be, within a very few hours after the man has resolved what he will do, Satan succeeds in tempting him to wrong his conscience, by placing him in circumstances which have had the effect of inflaming his cupidity. Even then he is no worse than Adam was when he transgressed. When Adam and Eve had disobeyed, “the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked: and they sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.” (Gen. ii. 7, 8.) No heathen can know less of God's purpose in Christ than Adam and Eve did at this stage of their existence; and every heathen having the light of conscience can do what they did —know that they have sinned, show regret, feel ashamed, desire to propitiate God's favour, and be afraid of the voice of their conscience: and God is reasonable, He asks nothing more. As reasonable would it be to have expected Adam and Eve to believe in God's merciful purpose, when they knew nothing of it, as to expect a heathen man to believe in Him of whom he has not heard. But observe, the spirit displayed by Adam and Eve, is the spirit of every penitent, whether christian or heathen; and give the heathen, in the case supposed, the same evidence in his heart concerning God's purpose of mercy in Christ, that he received in regard

to God's will in the matter of dishonesty, and the result would be precisely the same—he would resolve to believe in Christ. The same spirit will produce the same results in every man who rules himself by it; the manner of its manifestation will vary according to the knowledge and the circumstances of each individual; but the spirit is the same in all—it is a willingness to do God's will. Let us suppose the strongest possible case for the sake of further illustration. This heathen knows nothing of grace, knows nothing whatever of the actual character of God; but the Holy Spirit operating upon the conscience, suggests to the man the idea that he may obtain mercy for his sin. It is well known that this idea does prevail among all heathens, and is embodied in their sacrificial acts of devotion to their idols. The idol they make to worship, proves that they have within them a faint glimmering of light as to the existence of a Supreme Being; and the idol must be regarded as a faithful image of their knowledge of God. In like manner, their sacrifices are a public manifestation of the knowledge they possess of the mercy of God. We shall suppose that this heathen, after his fall, resolved again that he would not any more steal from his neighbour, and that he did this in obedience to his conscience; he was then again willing to do the will of God, and the fact of his recent sin would make him more determined than ever. Satan again comes; he tempts him, and the man sins. Immediately, however, his eyes are opened; he is again ashamed; he repents; the idea of mercy is suggested; he hopes to obtain it. This will continue to the end of his life; it will be one course of temptation, sin, and hope for mercy; the only thing which must not fail is a willing mind to do the will of God; and is it not

« السابقةمتابعة »