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lieve merely for the sake of believing, or to show our ready submission to the will of God: but because the objects which are revealed to us for our belief, have a natural tendency to produce a most important and blessed change on our happiness and our characters. Every object. which is believed by us operates on our characters according to its own nature. If therefore
we have taken a wrong view of revelation, that wrong view will operate upon us, and produce a bad effect on our characters. This shows the importance of a correct knowledge of the truth contained in revelation. A man's character is formed by his beliefs. Let us suppose a person of good natural affections to have his mind occupied continually by the history of an injurious fraud which he believes to have been practised against him, on some occasion. It is impossible that he can escape being miserable, and becoming morally depraved. His bad passions, by being constantly excited, must grow in strength and in susceptibility of similar impressions, and his happier affections, by being unexercised, must fade and die. Let us again suppose a man with less amiable natural qualities, whose life or fortune had been at one time saved by the self-sacrificing generosity of a friend. If this event makes such an impression on him, as to be more present to his thoughts than any other, it cannot fail of softening and improving his character, and increasing his happiness. His good affections are thus continually exercised, and must therefore be continually gaining strength, whilst bad passions
are at the same time displaced. Of those who have acquired the character of misanthropes, probably nine out of ten, have, like Timon, been men of generous dispositions, who, having been deceived in friendship, have ever after looked on fair professions as the symbols of dishonest intentions. Their feelings of contempt and hatred, and wounded pride, being thus continually exercised by this unfortunate belief, the whole frame of their character has been ruined, and their peace of mind destroyed. And it is possible that, if we could look into the hearts of men and trace their history, we might find some of the brightest examples of benevolence amongst those whose natural dispositions were most opposite to it, but who had allowed the history of the Redeemer's love so to abide in them, that it had softened and changed their hearts, and healed their diseased affections.
Any circumstance to which we attach much importance is naturally much present to our minds. And on this point there is as great room for deception, as on any other. I have perhaps been unfortunate, or I have been injured, and I am distressed by it; but is this matter really of that importance which it assumes in my mind? I may have been correctly informed in all the particulars of this injury, which has been committed against me. I may not overrate the malice, or the fraud, or the baseness of the perpetrators. I therefore do not believe so far what is false. Yet I may attach a false importance to it. And then neither can my impression of the act be a just impression, nor my belief of it a correct belief.
This is a question which we have often occasion to ask ourselves in the course of this world's events, and this is a judgment and a conclusion to which unbiassed reason must often conduct us. But when we come to speak of eternal things, the question must be put in another form. Do I attach to this matter the importance which really belongs to it? Its importance I cannot but admit to be infinite; my all depends upon it for ever; and yet it takes but slight hold of my mind. Surely then I do not understand its importance; and if so, I cannot believe its importance, I do not believe the thing as it is.
Our minds receive an influence from every thing by which they are occupied, and according to the degree in which they are occupied by it, and this degree is determined by the importance which our feelings attribute to it. then the importance of the Gospel is believed, it will occupy the mind much; and if it does so, it will keep the affections in healthy exercise, and a right direction. If it does not occupy our minds, its importance is not seen, and therefore its real nature is not believed. Objects assume importance in our minds, according to the relation which they bear to the general bent of our affections. Thus any event which promises either to increase or diminish his wealth, assumes great importance in the mind of an avaricious man. The small importance, therefore, which is often attached to the Gospel, by those who may even have heard and read much about it, and profess to believe in it, arises from the cir
cumstance of their affections having an opposite bent. There is something in the Gospel, and in the holy character of Him whose message it is, from which they shrink. No doubt this proceeds from their ignorance that happiness is a quality of holiness; but this ignorance is not a guiltless ignorance, nor is the unbelief connected with it a guiltless unbelief. They are the consequences of unholiness of heart. An unholy heart hates holiness, and therefore is blind to its excellence, and will not believe that happiness is inseparable from it. Our unbelief of the Gospel, then, and of its importance, ought not to be regarded as an act for which we can never be morally accountable, nor should it be spoken of as a mere misfortune. There is a
moral guilt attached to it. It arises from a discordance between the moral state of our minds, and the character of God which is exhibited in the Gospel. It arises from the depravity of our affections. And this depravity it is, which makes the work of the Spirit necessary. The things concerning Christ must be taken by the Spirit and shown to the heart, and brought in contact with the affections, and kept there, before their inestimable preciousness can be felt or believed. But this depravity of our affections, and our absolute need of Divine assistance, are no excuses for unbelief. Sin consists in this depravity. If a man were guiltless
because he acted under the influence of a strong and overbearing moral depravity, then the more depraved we were, the less guilty we should be. There is a great difference be
tween moral necessity and natural necessity. We never say that a blind man ought to see, because we know that he lies under a natural inability; but we say that an unfeeling man ought to feel, and that an implacable man ought to forgive and forget injuries, because he lies under no natural disability to do so, but only under the moral disability of his own corrupt heart, which is the very thing which constitutes his culpability. God loves right so perfectly, that he cannot sin; he lies under the necessity of his own moral attributes to do always what is good, and in this moral necessity does his infinite excellence consist. A sinner loves sin so well, that he cannot but sin; and in this moral necessity does his culpability consist. This moral necessity to do, evil is formed by the misdirection of the affections to improper objects, and it becomes stronger and stronger by every act in subordination to it. It is the mark of perdition upon the soul. But how is this fearful barrier to be broken down? By no other means is it possible, but by bringing the affections into contact with the high and holy objects of eternity. This is the true philosopher's stone, which converts the iron fetters of sin, into a golden chain of love, binding the heart to God and heaven. The most hardened sinner has yet some conscience left. He knows that all is not quite right, and hence he has occasional fears that all is not quite safe. This sense of sin, and these fears, if he allows them to operate on his mind, would lead him to the Gospel, and there would he find a cure. Every man can judge tolera