Archibald Forbes.

The Christian library: a weekly republication of popular religious ..., Volume 6 online

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we believe that ** all things work together for ffood ;"
then we shall see how this end was accomplisned by
events, which, at the time put us to so much grief,
and involved us in so much surprise. Deli^htftal,
most delightful will it be, to retrace our wmding
and oflen gloomy course, and discern at each
change and turning the reason of the bccurrence,
and the wisdom of Qod ; delightful will it be, to dis-
cern the infineace which all our temporal circum-
stances, all our disappointments, losses, and per-
plexities, had upon our permanent and celestial hap-
piness. How much of divine wisdom, power, good-
ness and fidthfulness, will our short and humble
history present; and what rapturous fervor will the
discovery give to the song of praise which we
shall otter before the throne of Qod and the Lamb.

Revdati4m^ as containing the Scheme of human
tedempiion by Jesus Christ, will be another object
of oar stndy, and soarce of knowledge. The Bible
is given to make God known ; and one page of the
Bible, Tea one verse, makes known more of God
Hum aU the Tolnroe of nature. But, afler all, how



liule do we know of God, of his essence, of his
triune mode of subsistence, of his natural pertec-
tions, of his moral attributes 1 What an unfathom-
able mjTStery is Deity ! In what a pavilion of dark-
ness does Jehovah dwell ! Who, by searching, can
find out Qodi In heaven we shall know "him, for
we shall see hun face to face; we shall behold his
glory, and see nim as he is. We shall have as per-
fect an acquaintance with the divine character, as
a finite mind can attain to; and in this one object,
shall find employment and bliss through eternity.
We shall never exhaust this theme. Eternity is
necessary to study that which is infinite.

We shall there comprehend, so far as it can be
done by a finite mind, the complex person of Jesus
Christ We cannot now understand this ; "great
is the mystery of godliness, — God manifest in the
fiesh ;" bat what we know not now, we shall know
hereafter. Then will the cross be seen, as the cen-
tral point of the divine administration, bright with
ten tnousand glories, and sending out its beams to
the extremity of the moral system. The ruin of
the world by its federal connection with Adam:
the election of the Jews, and the long abandonment
of the Gentiles ; the slow advance of ChristianiW'
to its millennial reign and triumph ; the bearing of
redemption upon other orders of beings beside man;
the difficulties which hang like impenetrable clouds
upon the doctrines of personal election, regenera-
tion, perseverance, the freedom of the will viewed
in connection with divine prescience and predesti-
nation;—^!^ all will be laid open to the view of
elorified saints in heaven. Every thing in the
Scriptures, which is now dark, shall be made light
A reconciling point shall be found for every seem-
ing contradiction, and the faith and patience of the
samts be rewarded, for having received the truth
on the credit of him who spoke it, without demand-
ing to see before they believed.

Such shall be the sources of knowledge in heaven.
O the bliss of eternally drinking in knowledge
fh>m such fountains t

We may now consider the advantaobs which
the heavenly state will possess for the acquisition
of knowledge.

T%e soul will tkere be perfea in koUness, and Ikus
the understanding will be delivered from the distufb^
ing and bewildering injtmenee of stn. In our pre-
sent state of impeTfectioUj the depravinr of our na-
ture contracts and misdirects our judgment : the
corruptions of the heart send up a mist, which veils
the lustre of truth, and conceals its extent and glo-
ry from the mind The judgment cannot now see
spirittml objects in all their range, and order, and
beauty, because of sin. But in heaven this con-
tracting and darkening influence will cease for ever.
No evil bias, no sinfiil prejudice, wttl ever warp
the ju^^ment: no disease of the soul will dim its
eye or enfeeble its power. With eagle pinion it
will soar to the fountain of radiance, and with eagle
vi<;ion bear the fVill blaze of its glory. 7%e naimral
fatmUy of Ihs mind wiU then attain to its fnU maii^
ritf of strength. The mind is here in its infancy:
there it will come to its age. Even the intellect9
of the greatest geniuses, while <m earth, are bat
human miacb in childhood, as we have already
considered, and their most prodigioas efforts but as
infantine exercises. Here they only tried their
powers : but in heaven the mind will put forth to
their ftill extent all those wondrous faculties which
are now shut up and compressed in our nature, tat
want of room and opportunity to expand, fai
heaven, we shall not be dtrterted and caUed off from
the jmrsuit of truth bif <*# imferier interests of tha
bodif: the soul will not be prevented fVom making
excnrsions into the regions of light, by the carea^
wants, and anxieties, which abound m this state of



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CHRISTIAN CHARITT.



being, bot will be left at leisure to pursue her sub-
lime researches. She will have nothing to hinder
the acquirement and enjoyment of knowledge. To
crown all, heaven is an etenuU sUUe^ and everlast-
ing ages wiU be afbrded through which the glori-
fied mind will carry on its pursuits. Were the
term of human life again protracted to the antedi-
luvian age, what vast attainments would be made
by us all in the discovery of truth I What, then,
must it be to have eternity through which to grow
in knowledge 1

We might notice the cbablacters of our know-
ledge. It will be perfect: by which we are not to
understand that it will be as complete as the nature
t)f. things admiun of, for we should then possess a
coBQprehension equal to that of God. We cannot
perfectly know every thing as it may be known:
our ideas of manv things must be limjled, especial-
ly those which relate to the divine nature. By per-
fection, we meal} freedom from error: our know-
ledge will be free from all admixture of doubt, sus-
pense and fallacy; our attainments will be bound-
ed only by our capacity : there will, perhaps, be a
gradation of mind in neaven, no less obviously
marked than that which exists on earth ; but all ca-
pacities will be filled.

Our knowledge will doubtless be progressive. —
Increase of ideas is, perhaps, in the case of a crea-
ture, essential to felicity. We now find more plea^
sure in receiving a new and important truth, than
we experience in all we before possessed. A state
in which there remains nothing more to be Igipwn,
conveys not an idea of happiness so vividly as that
where the delight of discovering something new is
ever added to the joy of contemplating so much
that is old. What a view of heaven !— An eternal
advance in the most important knowledge ; an ever-
lasting accumulation of ideas; an interminable
progression in truth. In the march of the mind
through intellectual and moral perfection, there is
no period set : this perfection of the just is for ever
oanying on~is carrying on. bot shall never come
to a clptte. Gk>d shall behold his creation for ever
beautifying in his eyes^ for ever drawing near to
himself yei, stjll infinitely dii^ant firom him, the
fimntain of all goodaess. There is not in religion
a more joyftal or triumpnam consideration than this
pei^tual progren which the soul makes in the per-
iS^ction of its nature, without ever arriving at its
ultimate period. Here truth has the advantage of
fable. No fiction, however bold, presents to us a
eonoeption so elevating and astonishing as this in-
terminable line of heavenly excellence. To look
upon the slorified spirit, as gdng on from strength
to strength, adding virtue to virtue, and knowledge
Id knowledge; making approaches to goodness
which is infinite ; for ever adorning the heavens
with new beauties, and brightening in the splen-
dors of moral glory through the ages of eternity ;
A^bas something in it so transcendent, as to sa-
tisfy the most unbonsded ambitioD of an imnior-
tal spirit Christtao I dots not thy heart glow at
the ylought that there is a time marked out in the
annals of heaven, when thou shalt be what the an-
aels now are; when thou shalt shine with that glory
m which j^incipaHties now appear ; and when, in
fbll communion with the Boost High, thou shalt
'^aee him as he is?"

H^ our knowledge in Iwaven will be aeqw/red,
wiliether by tcstiuMny, by immediate revelation, or
bv some method of mental application, it would be
iw to speculate. We know that whatever mode
it determined upon by Ood, will promote, and not
interrupt, our felicity ; we shall nave nothing of
the weariness of study— nothing of the anxiety of
dniYbt— nothing of the torture of suspense. Ideas
will flow into fne soul with the aune ease and plea-



sure on our part as rays of light come to the bodilj
eye.

Whatever knowledge we gaiil in heaven will be
transforming: it will not be mere opinion, or un in-
fluential speculation. All our ideas will oe as fuel,
to feed the flame of love, which will then bum
upon the altar of the soul : all will be quickening,
penetrating, influential. Our opinions will be prin-
ciples of action. Every thing will lead us to see
more of God, to love him with a more intense slow
of holy affection, and to be more conformed to hina.
The light of truth wiU ever be associated with the
warmtn of love. *' We shall be like God, for we
shall see him as he is."

It is difficult to find, in the volume oi revelation,
a stronger internal evidence of its divine original,
than the view it gives of the celestial state, com-
bining, as it does, the perfection of knowledge and
of purity. Every other representation which baa
been given of heaven, bears the mark of an earth-
Iv source, — the proof of being a human device.—
As, in seeking for a Deity, man found the prototype
in his own passions, when he had abandoned tne
one living and true God ; so, in forming a heaven,
he collected all the materials from the objects of his
owu fleshly delights. The Ely.sium of the Greeks
and the Romans; the Hall of the Scandinavians; the
Paradise of Mohammedans; the fantastic abodes
of. the departed Hindoos;-— are all adapted to their
depraved appetites, and were suggested by their
corrupt imaginations. Beyond the pleasures of a
seraglio, of a field of glory or of a hall.resounding
with the shout of victory — beyond the gratification
of sense — man, when lefl to himself, never looked
for the happiness which i<; to constitute his paradise.
A heaven made up of perfect knowledge, and of
perfect love, is a vision entirely and exclusively di-
vine, and which never beamed upon the hinnam
understanding till the splendid image came upon it
from the word of God. How worthy of God is
such a representation of celestial bliss! It is an
emanation from his own nature, as thus described :
— " God is light : God is love." The glorious real-
ity is evidenUy the provision of his own wisdom
and grace ; and the feublime description of it in the
Scriptures, is as evidently the delineation of his
own finger.



CHAPTER XVIL

THE PRB-KMINENGn OF LOVX.

" Now oHde these three. F\iith, Hope, CharUff hui
tM greatest of these is CharUff.**

SccH is the triune nature of true religion, as de-
scribed 1^ an inspired penman ; of that religion
about which myriads of volumes have been written,
and so many controversies have been agitated. —
How short and how simple the account; within
how narrow a compass does it lie ; and how easily
understood, might one have expected, would have
been a subject expressed in terms so familiar as
these. This beautiful verse has furnished the arts
with one of their most ex(^uisite subjects: poets
have Slug the praises of fiiith, hope, and charitv;
the painter Jias exhibited the holy three in all the
glowing colors of his pencil ; and the sculptor has
given them in the pure and almost breathing forms
of his marble ; while the orator has employed them
as the ornaments of his eloquence. But our ora-
tors, poets, sculptors, and paiinters^ have strangely
misunderstood them, and too often proved that they
knew nothing of them but as the abstractions of
their genius : what thtj presented to the eve were
mere earthly forms, whicn bore no resemblance to



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9HR{9TIA1!} CHARITY.



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the.^ddiviaeand spiritual graces: and multitudes
Lave gazed, with admiration kindling into rapture,
on the productions of the artist, who at the same
time had no taste for the virtues described W the
apostle. Religion is a thing esseniially different
from a re^rd to classic elegance, not indeed thai
it is opposed to it, for, as it refines the hear<, it may
be supposed to exert a favorable influence on the
understanding, and by correcting the moral taste.
to give a still clearer perception of the sublime ana
the beautiful. It is greatly to be questioned, how-
ever, whether religion has not received more injury
than benefit fVom the fine arts; whether men have
not become carelessly familiar with the more awful
realities of truth, by the exhibition of the poet,
the painter, and the engraver j and whether they
have not mistaken those sensibilities which have
been awakened by a contemplation of the more
tender and touching scenes of revelation, as de-
scribed npon the canvass or the marble, for the
emotions of true piety. Perhaps the "Paradise
Lost" has done very little to proiluce any serious
concern to avoid everlasting misery ; ** The Descent
from the Cross" by Rubens, or the ** Transfigura-
tion" by Raphael, as little, to draw the heart to
the great objects of Christianity. Innumerable
representations, and many of them verjr splendid
productions too, have been given of Paith, Hope,
and Charity; and doubtless by these means many
kindly emotions have been called for a while into
exercjsc. which, after all. were nothing but a tran-
sient effect of the imagination^ upon the feelings.
It is of vast consequence that we should recollect
that no affections are entitled to the character of
reli^on, but such as are excited by a distinct per-
ception of revealed truth. It is not the emotion
' awakened by a picture presented to the eye, nor by
a sound addressed to the ear, but by the contempla-
tion of a fact, or a statement, laid before the mmd,
that constitutes piety. We now proceed to the sub-
ject of this chapter.

Fatth is the oelief of testimony, accompanied, if
the testimon3r be delivered by a living individual,
by a disposition to depend npon his veracity ; and,
if it relate to something in wnich we are interested,
with an expectation of the fulfilment of the promise.
In reference to ^iritual things, it means a firm per-
suasion of the truth of what uoa has revealed in his
word. " Faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen :" or, as the passage
is rendered by some, " Faith is the confidence of
things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
It i^ a belief, not only that the Bible u» true, but of
the truth contained in the Bible: it is not merely a
perception of the evidences of Christianity, as a di-
vine revelation, but also a perception of the truth of
its doctrines. OeneraX faith, means a belief of all
that GM has revealed in the Scriptures, whether it
be invitation or promise, command or tbreateninff,
prophecy or history; and it is this that the apostle
describes in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to
the H^rews. Paith in Christ, or justifying faith
relates to thit part of the divine word which testis
fies concerning the person and work of the Redeem-
er. Saviaj: belief takes into its view every thing
contained m the word of God, but its speciad object
is the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Son of God and the
Saviour of the world : Just as the eye of » condemn-
ed criminal, at the place of execution, beholds the
assooibled multitude, ^ fatal tree, and the messen-
ger whom he sees hastening with the reprieve ; bnt
It is on the latter that his view is fixed with the
greatest steadiness and delight. Faith in Christ,
then, is a fall persuasion of the truth of the glorious
go»pel concerning BifHj accompanied by s fall con-
fidence in h^ veracity, and an expectation of the
fnUUmeDt of his word. It is not a mere notion, a



purely intellectual act : but certainly ioiplies an ex-
ercise of the will. It is the beKef of something
spoken by a living person, and necessarily involves
a confidence in his veracity ; it is something inte-
resting To us^ and must contain expectation. Hence
it is represented by the apostle as synonymous with
the act of committing the soul into the hands of
Christ. ** I know whom I have believed, and am
persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have
committed to him." If it were a purely intellectual
act, hotv could it be the subject of command or the
matter of duty — For can that wliich is exclusively
mental contain either moral good or evil 1 If faith
be purelv intellectual, must not Unbelief, its oppo-
site, ht the same 1 But it is said, that as the di^x>-
sition influences the judgment; and leads to either
faith or unbelief, according lo the state of the heart,
the moral excellence of one, and the turpitude of the
other, arises from its cause. But is not the Scrip-
ture most explicit in its condemnation of unbelief,
as evil in itself: and in its commendation of fsdth,
as morally exceUeut 1 The question is not what is
the meanmg of the term faith as employed by metap
physicians, but as employed by the apostles ; an^
this meaning can be gathered only from their writ-
ings, in which many terms are emploj[cd with a sig-
nification somewhat different to that in whidh they
are employed in ordinary discourse. Justification,
for instance, in reference to ordinary affairs, means
the act of declaring an accused person to be inno-
cent of the charge brought against him ; but, as the
term is used by the sacred writers, means nothing
mbre than treating a person acknowledged to be
guilty, as righteous, for the sake of the ri^teous-
ness of Christ.

Faith is not that which constitutes the grouhd of
^our acceptance with GK>d, but which places us upon
that ground: it is not our justifying righteousness,
but that which tmites us to Christ, and appropriates
his righteousness to ourselves. It is true that a dif-
ferent view seems to be given by the apostle, when
he says, quoting the Old Testament expression,
" Abraham believed GM, and it was counted to
him for righteousness.** It would seem from hence,
and so it has been contended, that his faith was ac-
cepted in lieu of his obedience, as, the matter of his
righteousness, and the ground of his acceptance
with GK>d. But a more correct translation of the
passage will rectiAr this mistake, and prevent what
must be considerea a fundamental error on the very
important doctrine of justification by faith. " Abra-
ham believed God, and it was reckoned to him,
*tOi* 'in order to,* or 'towards,* his justification .*•♦
It is not, then, for our faith, but by it, that we are
justified : faith, as an act of ours, is no more the
meritorioas ground of our justification than any

* Great efforts have been made by the opponents
of the imputation' of Christ's righteousness to be-
lievers for their justification, and esp^ciallj by
M*Knight, to overturn this doctrine, by the aid of
the text we are now considering. This critic
thought he had found in this passage a triumphant
proof that our own faith, or act of believing, and not
Christ's obedience unto death, constitutes our justi-
fying righteousness, in lieu of our own good works.
It is a little remarkable that so acnte a critic should
have overlookcHl the force of the Greek preposition
(«(,) not oQ^ly as e9tablished by other scnol^i^i hot
by himself: for in Us preliminary Bssay on the
meaning of Greek Particles, which he has prefixed
to his Expontion of the Epistle to the Romans, al-
though he gives fourfeen different but harmomons
renderings of this preposition, the meaning of ** for**
or " in lieu of,** has no place. We have ^* concern-
ing,** " in order to," " towards," but not " for .•** and
yet he has given it thb meaning iu the text.



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CHRISTIAN CHARITY.



other of oar perfonoanees; f<Mr, if it were, we should
sull be justified by works,~as faith is as much a
work as penitence. The apostle is sufficiently ex-
plicit on this head, where he says, " But now the
righteousness of GkkI without law is manifested, be-
ing witnessed by the law and the prophets; even
the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ
unto all and upon all them that believe." '* To him
that worketh not, but believeth on him that jnstifieih
the ungodly, his faith is reckoned towards justifica-
tion." " By the obedience of one shall many be
made righteous." " Chhst is the end of the law for
righteousness to every one that believeth."

QoPB is the desire and expectation of those future
good thinjp which Gk>d has promised in his word.
Faith believes the promise, nope desires its fulfil-
ment It is essential to hope, that its object be some
food thing, either supposed or real ; for no one can
esire that which is evil, as evil : and its object must
be something fiUwre ; for who ejroects that of which
he is already in fxjssession 1 Desire, without ex-
pectation, is either mere wififaing, or else despond-
ency ; expectation, without desire, is either inaifler-
ence or aread : the union of both constitutes hope.
The object of Christian hope is thus stated k^ the
apostle :— " Belove^, ttow are we the sons of God ;
and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we
know that when he shall appear we shall be like
him, lor we shall see him as ne is : and every man
that hath this hope in him" [in Christ] " purifieth
himself, even as he is pure." Paul represents it as
that which the whole rational creation has groaned
ailer, ever since the entrance of sin into the world.
" I reckon that the sufleriugs of this present time are
not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall
be revealra in us. t*or the earnest expectation of
the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the
sons of God. For the creature was made subject to
vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath
subjected the same in hope, because the creature it-
selr also shall be delivered from the bonda^ of cor-
ruption into the glorious liberty of the children of
God. For we know that the whole creation groao-
eth and travaileth in pain together until now. And
not only they, but ourselves also, which have the
first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan
within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit,
the redemption of the b^y. For we are saved by
hope : but hope that is seen is not hope ; for what a
man seeth, wny doth he yet hope fori But if we
hope for that we see not, then dfo we with patience
wait for it."*

*Rom. viii. 13—25. This passage has been
thought to contain inexplicable difficulties, and to
have been in the mind of the apostle Peter when he
spoke of the things bard to be understood in the
writings of Paul. Upon this text some have raised
the benevolent, but, as it strikes me, the groundless,
hvpolbesis of the resurrection of the brute creation.
If we are* willing tp be guided hy the generally ac-
knowledged canon of interpretation, St explaining
a difficult passage by the context, we shaU find a
light which will conduct us through the intricacies
onhis text, and illuminate our course as we proceed.
If we examine the context, we shall find, both from
whi^t precedes and what follows, that the apostle is
speaking of the future happiness of the righteous.—
The passage Is introduced thus ; ** I reckon that the
•ofierings of this present time are nor worthy to be
compared with the glory that shall be revealed in
us ;*^ then follows the expression, " for the earnest
expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifesta-
tion of the SODS of God ;" or, as it might be render-
ed, " looketh for the revelation of the sons of God ;"
i. €. the glory to be revealed, of which he had just
spoken. Next comes a parenthetical description of



Christian hope is not a mere feeble and fhictnat-
ing expectation of eten^al happiness, partaking
more of the nature of uncertainty than of oon&
dence ; for it is, by a beautifbl figure of speech,
called a sure and steadfast anchor; and in other
places, without a figure, it is called a lively hope, a
good nope, and a confident one ; and we are also
admonished to go on to tke full assivranct of hope:
expressions, especially the last, which amount to the



Online LibraryArchibald ForbesThe Christian library: a weekly republication of popular religious ..., Volume 6 → online text (page 17 of 121)