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§ IV.—CHAPTER IX.
THE GOSPEL A DIVINE POWER OF MORAL ELEVATION AND CONSOLATION.
How directly the Gospel manifests the wisdom and goodness of God has been already apparent. It is throughout expressly and most impressively a revelation of both. It is not merely, however, on its own profession, as it were, but moreover in its practical effects, that we are enabled to appeal to it so confidently in this respect. It not merely tells us that God is love, but it exhibits the fact in its widely beneficent influence.
It is, indeed, impossible to conceive how the Divine wisdom and goodness could have been demonstrated, in the special circumstances which tend to obscure them, more effectually than by such a discovery as the gospel. The great difficulty, we have seen, upon which inquiry can throw no light—before which the highest efforts of human wisdom are powerless—is the existence of moral evil. In such a conjuncture the gospel meets us, not only telling us of Divine wisdom and goodness, but proving itself to be the 357revelation of both in its effectual dealing with sin. It lays hold of this fact as no philosophy has ever done, revealing at once its true character and the means of deliverance from it. It presents, for the first time, the full reality of the evil, and the full power of redemption from it.
This redemptive power of the gospel presents a twofold aspect of pardon and of sanctification. Human life, in its deep disorder, needed not only a new power of virtue, but a free gift of reconciliation. Before the soul can rise in holy love to God, the curse of estrangement from Him must be removed, and this is only accomplished by the sacrifice of the Cross. The living and thankful surrender of the human to the Divine will (whereby sin is evermore subdued, and virtue evermore advanced), only rests on the great fact of Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice. It is this which alone renders Christian virtue possible, and gives it all its meaning. It was such a sacrifice as this for which all heathenism cried out, but which all human effort could not make. It was the want of such a sacrifice that left heathenism so powerless. The human heart can only rest on the eternal foundation of an accomplished atonement, whereby God is beheld “reconciling the world unto Himself,” and “not imputing unto man his trespasses.” Here alone it finds a power of Divine peace and restoration. The blessing of pardon comes to it in Jesus Christ with an unspeakable force of healing. Its wounds are medicated, its terrors allayed, its burden of transgression removed; and, rejoicing in the grace of the Divine presence, it catches the sunlight of Divine purity as it falls on it in clear effulgence.
The gift of reconciliation and the power of moral renovation 358are inseparably conjoined in the gospel. It meets man’s necessity of mediation with an offended God in order that it may destroy within him the dominion of sin, and reconstitute and advance the kingdom of moral order. Heathenism could do neither. It could neither abate the terrors of guilt, nor give strength in the struggle with evil. But the gospel, by one and the same power, accomplishes both. The act of grace only completes itself in the work of holiness, which inseparably takes its rise in the former, and grows therefrom, as the fair tree from its happy springing in the prepared soil. The seeds of a new moral wellbeing are already quickened in the first contact of the soul with the Divine favour, and ready to develop into all forms of moral loveliness. All springs from, and all depends upon, the Divine power revealed by the gospel. Such a power alone enables man successfully to resist temptation and overcome evil. It alone secures him the mastery over all that is base and disorderly within him. It alone strengthens him for daily duty, and when the enticements of sin prove strongest, and the sense of responsibility sleeps, guards him from the snare of earthly passion, and guides him in the way of heavenly aspiration. Other agencies may so far help to improve his social condition, and even to refine and elevate his moral affections; but they cannot any of them, as this does, touch with renewing power the secret springs of his being, and advance him into a higher sphere of spiritual purity. They cannot any of them, as this does, raise him above the world of sense, and bring him near to the God of holiness. “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh 359the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”
Further, the gospel is an effectual source of consolation to man. In a previous chapter we have spoken of the beneficent use of sorrow, and of the virtuous strength and beauty which its presence often achieves in human life. It now becomes us to observe that the Divine element which is thus in sorrow, only rises to its genuine measure and reality in the gospel. Here alone does it become truly tempered into patience, and deepened into experience, and exalted into hope. Here alone does earthly grief become transmuted into heavenly fervour, and tears change into rapture. Here only does the sorrowing soul rise into spiritual strength, and a rare and self-denying devotion, where the light of Heaven illuminates its darkness; and in the brightness thus reflected from a higher sphere, “the sufferings of this present time are felt not worthy to be compared with the glory to be revealed.”
This consoling revelation of futurity is among the most divinely beneficent features of the gospel. Previously, there may have been a dim sense of man’s immortality, and of the preparatory character of this life in relation to a higher. There were some, we know, who could write with pathetic beauty of the nobler life upon which the soul would enter beyond the grave; but the clear reality of a future life was alone disclosed in the revelation of the Lord Jesus. He alone “abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” It is only through His blessed teaching that the faith of immortality has become the living 360possession of the human mind and heart. He alone has shed an eternal brightness around the darkness of the present, and made all who believe in Him to feel with an unquenchable conviction that they shall never die. “I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”
In what a light of Divine meaning does this revelation of immortality set the brief period of earthly life! What a source of consoling strength is it to the weary human heart in its struggles with sin and sorrow! It comes as a beam piercing the darkness from a higher region of wisdom and love, of truth and justice, touching what were otherwise dim and strange with a radiance of heavenly significance, and the “otherwise unmeaning ciphers of time changing to orders of untold value.” It is this faith of eternal life which now in so many homes lightens privation, and in so many hearts keeps off despair; which brings peace to the troubled, and resignation to the mourner, and takes even the gloom of fear from the night of death, as it opens up the heaven beyond.
The meaning which the gospel has thus shed on life and death and futurity, giving man to see their true relation, serves, perhaps more than anything else, to reconcile the difficulties of time, and “to justify the ways of God to man.” For it opens up a boundless prospect of being, in the light of which the perplexities of this earthly scene, if they do not disappear, yet become significant of divine results 361of the most exalted and beneficent character. Whatever there may be here that passes his comprehension, or even sometimes wearies his heart, the Christian, carrying as he does the peace of God within him, while the glory of immortality shines before him, is enabled to thank God and take courage.362
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