ARISTOTLE - says South in one of his brilliant sermons - Aristotle is but the ruins of an Adam. This being the view of man which the Bible presents, and the Fall accounts for, who receive it in its integrity have been charged with holding low, mean, degrading views of the nature and of the dignity of man. It is true, in so far as the Bible teaches us to believe that all men, in consequence of sin, are criminals in the sight of God and lie under sentence of death; that all are dead in trespasses and sins; that is none that doeth good, no, not one; and that presenting sin in a totally different aspect from that in which it is regarded by many as a light and little thing, sin is exceeding sinful. Hence brought by grace to see its vileness, and to feel its exceeding evil, the holiest men have always been the humblest, the strongest have felt the weakest, the best have thought the worst of themselves — David, the man after God's own heart, saying, I was as a beast before thee; Job, the most remarkable character of his own or any age for piety and uprightness, saying, as he shrank from his own image, I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes; and Paul, though the greatest of all the apostles, much too great as well as honest to fish for compliments and depreciate himself that others might praise him, speaking of himself not as the least, but as less than the leastof all saints. If these are the terms in which men of the purest minds and holiest characters have felt constrained to speak of themselves, how is it possible to entertain too low views of human nature? What terms can express its degradation other than those of Scripture our righteounesses are as filthy rags; or, in figures borrowed from the loathsome leprosy, the whole head is sick, the whole heart is faint, and there is no soundness in us, but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores. We do entertain low views of human nature, and so, however loudly they assert its dignity, do others - all who put locks on their doors and a witness on his oath, build prisons and support police.
Yet to allege that those who believe in the fall and corruption of human nature, cherish only low, degrading views of man, is, in another sense, quite wide of the truth. If the value of anything is to be estimated by its price, to what an immeasurable height of worth does it exalt man that God gave his Son to redeem him ! - redeeming him not with corruptible things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ as of a lamb without spot or blemish. So far from cherishing low views of man, I believe that a gem of inestimable value lies concealed beneath the beggar's rags. A soul is there of divine-like faculties and of priceless worth: and a body also, which, though the seat of appetites that man shares with. brutes, and of passions, perhaps, such as burn in the breasts of fiends, may become more sacred than any fane built by human hands—a temple of the Holy Ghost. There is a worth in man no meanness of circumstances, no degradation of character can altogether conceal. He is a jewel, buried in a heap of corruption; the vilest outcasts possessing powers and affections that need to be sanctified to ally him with angels, and make publicans and harlots fit for heaven. Fallen he be, man is capable of undergoing, and, created anew in Jesus Christ, born of the Spirit, brought from nature into grace, undergoes a more wonndrous change than the insect,when, no longer a worm, no longer crawling on the. ground, no longer feeding on garbage, leaves its shel1 to spend its happy days in sport, flitting from flower to flower; its food their juices and its bed their leaves. We thus assert the dignity of man. Only that his greatest purest dignity is seen, not in what he does, but in what has been done for done for him; not in what poets or philosophers have written, but the Bible has revealed of him as redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, as a living temple of the Holy Spirit, a son of God, and an heir of glory. Yet I remark, notwithstanding —
Man can neither convert nor sanctify himself. Endowed with an intellect which, though defaced, has survived the Fall, his capacities and capabilities are great. As if he were a God, he measures the heavens, weighs the hills in scales, and the mountains in a balance. He subdues the elements, rides on the wind, rides on the waves; makes the lightning his swift messenger; and yoking fire and his chariot wheels, compels them to serve him. Prolific in invention and skilful in arts, as if. he were a creator, he can make the elements he subdues. Image of Him who giveth rain, whose voice is heard thundering in many waters, who casteth out his ice in morsels, and scattereth his hoar-frost like ashes - man makes snow, and ice, and rain, and dew, and lightning; and, falling on the strange discovery that the brilliant diamond is formed of the very same matter as coal, he has boldly pressed on his Maker's steps, and all but succeeded in rivalling nature's gems. But it were hard to say - such is the progress of art and science - what human skill may not accomplish, it has its bounds. There is a line across which it has never passed, and cannot pass; where a voice is heard, saying to the boldest adventurer, Hither shalt thou come, but no further. By no skill or combinations of matter can man give being to the lowest living thing. Master of the elements, by their help he travels the earth with an eagle's speed; wingless, he ascends into the air and traverses its pathless fields ; he makes the sea his high road - skims along its surface or descends to bring up the treasures that with the skeletons of men and wrecks of navies lie on its oozy bed. Yet there is not a living thing, the meanest that lives in earth, or air, or ocean, but it baffles his power to make. It were easier for him to make a planet than a plant. It were at least as easy to kindle a sun, or send a world spinning through the rgalms of space, as to make the lowest living thing - a worm; the green mould of decay; the humblest moss that clothes or lichen that colours a stone; one of those creatures, thousands of which find a sea to swim in in a drop of water. However the vivifying elements, as they are called, of light, and air, and heat, and moisture, may act as auxiliaries to the development of life, all that lives both in the vegetable and animal kingdoms had a parent like itself - from which it sprung by seed, or egg, or germ, or spore; and every attempt which science has made to produce a living creature through the action of dead elements and the combinations of dead matter,, has produced nothing but a failureevery such failure proving that the stream of natural life has its spring in the Creator, its fount nowhere but in God.
Hear, 0 Israel, the Lord thy God is one Lord! is the testimony borne to the divine unity by all the kingdoms over which he sways his sceptre. - There are innumerable analogies between nature and grace; and the correspondence between God's works in both kingdoms only grows more manifest the more carefully they are studied. The discoveries of science are shedding a clearer and clearer, light on the Word of God: and in the matter of spiritual life- the study of nature prepares us to receive the revelations of the Bible. It is with the one as with the other life. As unable to awake the sinner as to awake the dead, man cannot give it. Our life is hid with Christ in god. Nor will any who sees how no combination of means and circumstances though important as auxiliaries to its development, can create life, changing dead into living matter, be astonished that Jesus, turning all eyes and hopes on himslf, siad "I am the Way, the truth, and the life" Therefore, he says, because I live, ye shall live also; and thus it is true both of conversion and sanctification, "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh in vain".
It follows, from the foregoing, that we owe our success in spiritual matters not to ourselves, but to God. In temporal things, his hand is always as present, and sometimes almost as visible, as when it appeared to Belshazzars eyes writing his doom on the plaster of his palace wall. It may be said, indeed, that manifest interpositions of Providence are rare; and that for every ten persons in whose fortunes they appear, they appear in the shape of remarkable prosperity, relief from troubles, escape from danger or from imminent death, there are ten thousand who earn their bread, and bring up their families, and win their way in life entirely, so far as appearances go, by their own exertions. Another King of Babylon - uncrowned, dethroned, bereft of reason, driven out to herd with cattle, the greatest, saddest spectacle of earthly vanity the world has seen - presents a monument of the unsoundness and danger of such views. He was taught to feel in his fall the hand he denied in his elevation. And since the heart may swell as proudly under frieze as imperial purple, and God be as little recognised amid the few comforts of a cottage as amid the luxuries of a palace, let us beware. Many have been guilty of Nebuchadnezzar's crime, who neither wore his crown nor bore his punishment.
What though our lives have been distinguished by no remarkable providences - does that prove that their success and our thanks are not due to God? Tell me not that the hand of the diligent maketh rich. Will it do so unless He pleases? If he sees meet that men shall be poor, in vain they rise up early and lie down late, and eat bread of sorrow. If he sends rain to drown out fields, can we shut up the windows of heaven? If he raises a storm to sink our merchantmen, can we walk the sea with the foot of Jesus, or rise with him to bid the waves be still? If he roll a tide of bankruptcy over the affrighted land, can we arrest its progress, and say, ere it break on our house and beat it down, Hither shalt thou come, but no further? In other words, hast thou an arm like God, or canst thou thunder with a voice like him? The means we use to preserve life and health, acquire wealth, honour or any other earthly blessings,, are nothing more than the levers, cranks, shafts, and rolling wheels of a machine, of which God is the moving power. It is his will, not ours, that makes our hearts to beat and the blood in our veins to circulate; that makes food nourish and sweet sleep refresh us ; that makes our business yield its profits and our fields their harvests; that sustains our efforts and crowns them with success. When our mountain standeth strong, let him hide his face, and we are troubled?.Therefore," says the psalmist; in a burst of adoration, "thine, 0 Lord, is the ‘greatness and the power, and, the glory, and the victory, and the majesty for all that is in the heaven and the earth is thine: thine is the kingdom; and both riches and honour come from thee; and thou reignest over all."
For all spiritual blessings we equally depend on God. How does the state of heathen countries prove that except he build the house, they labour in vain that build it. In their case the experiment has been tried: and the result, to, keep up the figure, is a house indeed, but one based on sand; daubed with untempered mortar; and ready, so soon as the floods rise, and the winds blow, and the rains descend, to bury its miserable owner in its ruins. What man, independently of his word, can know of God, and do for himself, is not proved, as some allege, by the correct principles of morality, and conceptions of the divine Being to be found in the writings of the infidels. They parade the world in borrowed. feathers, and shine in stolen gems. Whatever is high in their morality, or correct in their notions of God, I trace to the very book they profess to despise and reject. Would we see what man can know of God, or be without him and his word, turn to those lands where no ray of gospel truth has ever shone; and where, by the lurid light of altars red with blood; we see man kneeling to a beast, to a stock, to a stone; practising cruelties and crimes he vainly seeks to expiate by offering the fruit of his body for the sin of his soul. Darkness covereth the earth, and gross darkness the people.
And when we open the Bible it is to see, in whatever aspect our salvation is regarded, that the pivot on which it turns is not the power or will of man, but the mercy and the might of God. Whose was the love salvation sprang from? whose the Eden promise that begat hope in the bosom of despair? whose the finger that wrote the holy law? whose the prophets that heralded the Saviour? whose the Son that was cradled in Bethlehem and crucified on Calvary? whose the spirit that, taking of the things of Christ, applies them - turning the sinner into a saint, a child of the devil into a son of god and an heir of glory? These questions admit of but one answer. That love, that promise, that finger, that Son, that Spirit is God's. In him all our well-springs are; nor by any hand but his was forged one single link of the golden chain that binds believers to the skies: "Whom he did foreknow, them he did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son; and whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom He called, them he also justified, and whom He justified them He also glorified .
What the Bible in these words, elsewhere, and everywhere indeed, teaches, daily experience proves. Thousands possess the means of salvation, and might be saved, who are not. They starve by a table loaded with bread; die beside a fountain into which they have only to descend to be healed: with Christ within their sight, within their cry, opening heaven to others, they perish with the thief who perished at his bleeding side. Two men are in one bed, one is taken, and the other left:- two women are grinding at the mill, one is taken, and the other left - a circumstance painfully illustrating in the spiritual history of many a family and many a church. Of two children reared under the same roof, taught the same truths, guarded with the same holy care, one is taken and the other left - of two members of the same church, sitting in the same pew, hearing the same sermons, baptised in the same font and drinking of the same cup, how dissimilar their fates !- one is taken and the other left. Mysteries these that nothing can unlock but this, that salvation is not of flesh or blood, or of the will of man, but of God - that it is not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.
For the purpose of teaching a truth that should inspire and animate our prayers, God has often wrought out his ends by the most unlikely means. There are objects in nature not less astonishing for the smallness of the worker than the greatness of the work. Such are the coral walls around those lovely isles that, carpeted with flowers, clothed with palms, and enjoying an everlasting summer, lie scattered like gems on the bosom of the Pacific. These, with the ocean roaring in its fury before them and behind them the lagoon lying like a molten mirror broken only by the dash of a sea bird or the dip of passing oar, are stupendous ramparts. Compared to them our greatest break-waters dwindle into insignificance. One of these reefs off the coast of New Holland is a thousand miles in length, and how many hundred feet in depth, I know not Yet the masons that build these are creatures so small as to be almost invisible. Such might works does God accomplish by instruments so mean! a sight that helps a believer - though he has to say with Nehemiah, I have a great work to do - to take heart and hope, and say with Paul, I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
But we have not to go to nature to see God accomplishing great purposes by unlikely means. The Bible is full of such examples. We should have committed the treasures of divine truth to the charge of some mighty monarch, and called the Saviour of the world from the loins of a Cyrus or a Caesar - of one whose weakness should not tempt him to seek safety in a lie, and whose whose family should have been in no danger of dying through famine. My ways are not as your ways, says God, neither are my thoughts as your thoughts. In Abraham, - an obscure Chaldean, an exile, a wanderer without any home but a tent, or property in the soil but a grave, God puts the dearest interests of mankind into the weakest hands.. In that patriarch the hopes of the world hang on a man around whose head swords are flashing, and into whose breast - but that his steward perhaps in the battle he fought to rescue Lot thrusts it aside - the robber buries his spear. In him and Sarah the hopes of the world are hung on a pair whose bed is childless, and on whose heads time has shed its snows.
And again, when a child is born to them in Isaac the salvation of a lost world hangs by a single strand: and again in Jacob s family, it turns on a dream and fortunes as unlikely as any that fill the pages of a romance. With Abraham in the battle; with Isaac on the altar; with Joseph in the dungeon; with Moses cast on the water; with Rahab in the beleaguered city; on yon field, where, with two armies looking on, a stripling goes out to meet the giant on yon plain, where, through the midnight gloom, we see a mother hurrying with her babe from the swords of Herod and the massacre of Bethlehem, how often was the light of truth nearly extinguished, the ark that carried the hopes of the world all but wrecked? Never to human sight was good ship more nearly wrecked!
Nothing is more remarkable in the Bible than to see how God, as if to teach us to trust in nothing and in none but Himself, selects means that seem the worst fitted to accomplish his end. Does he choose an ambassador to Pharaoh ? - it is a man of stammering tongue. Are the streams of Jericho to be sweetened ? - salt is cast into the spring. Are the eyes of the blind to be opened ? - they are rubbed with clay. Are the battlements of a city to be thrown down? - the means employed is, not the blast of a mine, but the breath of an empty trumpet. Is a rock to be riven ? - the lightning is left to sleep above and the earthquake with its throes to sleep below, and the instrument is one, a rod, much more likely to be shivered on the rock than to shiver it. Is the world to be converted by preaching, and won from sensual delights to a faith whose symbol is a cross and whose crown is to be won among the fires of martyrdom? - leaving schools, and halls, and colleges, God summons his preachers from the shores of Galilee, The helm of the Church is entrusted to hands that had never steered aught but a fishing-boat; and by the mouth of one who had been its bloodiest persecutor, Christ pleads his cause before the philosophers of Athens and in the palaces of Rome.
And when he chose the weak things of the world to confound the strong, and the foolish to confound the wise, what did God mean to teach us but that we are to look above the instruments to the great hand that moves them and that, whether it was a giant or a devil that was to be conquered, the eyes of the body or of the soul that were to be opened, walls of stone, or, what are stronger, walls of ignorance and sin that were to be overthrown, men are but instruments in his hand, the meanest mighty with Him, the mightiest mean without Him! This inability forms no reason why a sinner seeking to be saved, or a saint to be sanctified, should not use means - giving all diligence, indeed to lay hold on eternal life, to grow in grace to make their calling and election sure. Well justly is God's service called reasonable. It requires is that men bring the common sense to their spiritual interests which they employ in conducting their ordinary affairs. "Give us day by day our daily bread" does not imply that we expect to be fed like Israel with manna, or like Elijah by ravens. While by such a prayer acknowledging himself a pensioner on God's bounty, man sows his fields; waits on his business and on his God; prays and ploughs together. Even so in all, likewise, that concerns our highest interests, we are, to use the. words of Scripture to be "fellow-labourers," co-operating, working together with God; doing on our part what we can do, and God on his part doing what,. though indispensable, we cannot do. These two cases, taken from Christ's history, happily illustrate this.
It is a Sabbath morning; and, its doors, open as the hour of, worship approaches, the synagoue begins to fill .Among those who enter is a man with a withered hand; and however others come, there is haste in his step and high expectation seated on his brow. Blessed day, now is his chance to be healed. Jesus is in the neighbourhood, and is sure to be at worship. Early there, likely the first, this crippled man, heeding nothing else, looking at none, talking with none, keeps his eye on the door - keenly observing all who enter, and often, as it opens and Christ appears not, disappointed. At length the feet of a group are heard; again the door opens; and the colour that flushes his face tells that the person has now come whom he has come to meet. Nor is this all he can do, and does. Observing where Jesus, attended by his disciples, sits, he rises, and, elbowing the crowd aside without regard to their challenge or murmurs, pushes on to place himself before the Saviour, - right in his eye.
All this he can do, and does, and more. Ordinarily concealing a deformity he was ashamed of, he now drops his robe, and, exposing the poor unsightly hand in the hope that it may catch Christ's eye and move his pity, sits with looks fixed imploringly on our Lord. There was no need for him to speak. His eager looks and the poor bared, withered hand were touching prayers. Nor did these prayers wait long for an answer. The eye that never saw misery but to pity it is at length turned on him; and Jesus says, Stretch out thine hand! Strange command to others, perhaps also to himself - as bidding him do the very thing he had no power to do. Still he tries it. Again doing what he can, he makes an effort - and, Glory to God! bursting from his lips, succeeds. Virtue goes out of Christ. The shrunken hand instantly acquires a healthful colour, swells into its right proportions. In his joy the man shuts and opens it; moves the pliant fingers, and holds the miracle aloft to the gaze of a crowd, dumb with astonishment. Give him harp, and with that hand he would sweep its sounding strings to the praise of Jesus. Pattern to men who have souls to be saved, and hearts to cure, he did what he could - using all means within his power to obtain the blessing. And, did people, with equal eagerness, repair to the church on Sabbath, as he to .the synagogue, to meet Jesus Christ, and with the same earnestness and the same faith, lay out their sins and soul's sorrows before him, our Sabbaths would witness greater works than this - He who healed that withered hand healing withered hearts, and, whether they required to be saved or sanctified, giving power to them that have no might.
Take another case. Covered with dust, footsore and weary, a messenger presents himself to our Lord, and speaking in Mary and Martha's name, says, Behold he whom thou lovest is sick! Tell a mother that her child is fallen into the river. It is enough. She stays to ask no questions, to hear no more. She is off on flying feet; and, descrying its sinking head, with one wild scream she leaps like a flash into the roaring flood. With no such haste, much as he loved Lazarus, did Jesus turn his steps to Bethany; but abiding where he was for two days, left his friend to die; even as, with a still grander purpose in view, on seeing the serpent creep into Eden he made no haste from heaven, but left our first parents to fall. He whom he loved has died, is buried; and four days thereafter the news that "the Master is come" brings the sisters this consolation, that, though they have lost a brother in Lazarus, they have still a friend in Christ - one who sticketh closer than any brother, and who, as the event proved, can restore a brother. They go to the grave to weep, but He to wrench its bars asunder, and stand there more conspicuously than in almost any other scene both God and man; in his works a God and in his tears a man. He is to raise the dead. Yet though the chief he is not the only actor on a stage where it might be fancied man had no part to play. By tomb men do not sit mere spectators of the might and majesty of Godhead, Jesus addressing them to say, Stand back, stand still and see the salvation of God! A great stone closes the mouth of the sepulchre; standing, with the Saviour front and the corpse behind it, between the living and the dead. It must be removed: and Christ has only to say the word, and, moved by hands invisible, it rolls away to disclose the secrets of the tomb. But he who takes away stony hearts, because none other can, does not take away this stone; nor address it, but those who have put it there, and can take it thence. He requires them to do what they can - each doing their part; theirs to roll away the stone and his to raise the dead. Now, though we can neither convert nor sanctify ourselves or others, yet man has somthing, and much to do, as is plain from such words as these, "Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die?" Strictly speaking, we cannot make us a new heart, but we can place ourselves or others in a position for God to make it. We can remove obstructions to that gracious and holy change - we can dispel ignorance, put away temptation, abandon bad habits - the drunkard's cup, for instance - renounce pleasures that occupy our hearts. Thus removing what obstructs the flow of life and grace from Christ, we can "take away the stone ;" and, cooperating with God in the use of these and all divinely-appointed means, we can, and, as we can, we ought to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, God working in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
It. is with man and God in .the production of spiritual, as with the skies and the soil in the production of material, fruit. Gathering harvests each successive year from fields whose wealth of fruitfulness seems exhaustless - .we say, How bountiful is the earth,? - the world's, like the widow's, meal-barrel, is never empty. We speak of the fruits of earth, and the flowers of earth, and the harvests of earth but these, her offspring, have another parent. Heaven claims their sweet and fragrant odours, and glorious colours, as hers, and most her own.
To the treasures of light; heat, rain, and dews, poured from exhaustless skies on the dull cold soil, earth's flowers owe the beauty, her gardens their fruits, her fields their golden harvests. Each, at any rate, has its own part to do; nor would a husbandman labour to less purpose under a sunless sky on fields bound hard with frost and buried in perpetual snow, than preachers without the cheering, warming, enlivening influences of the Sun of Righteousness, the dews of grace, and the blessing of the Spirit. Man's is but a husbandman's office - to plant; to water; nothing more. .‘ "Paul,". as the apostle himself says, "planteth, Apollos watereth, but God giveth the increase; so, then, neither is he that planteth anything, nor he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase." And thus, whether we preach, or are preached to, when most diligent in the use of means, let a sense of our inability turn our eyes and all our hope on God. With him is the blessing and the residue of the Spirit. Nothing, indeed, so much hinders the cure of a soul as what helps the cure of a body. Many as the analogies between the processes of grace nature are, here there is none - but a total dissimilarity. In that anxious sick room, where life and death struggle for the mastery, it is all-important to sustain the patient's strength. This offers so to speak, his only chance; and for that end there is no charm in drug or stimulant more potent than boundless confidence in the skill of the physician. Such confidence in man lies at the foundation of the physician s success; such confidence in man is fatal to a minister's. This may be one reason why, with so many sermons, there are so few conversions; why, among the crowds that throng God's house, so many depart unblessed, unsaved, unsanctified - no better, but rather worse. God will not give His blessing to such as, shutting Him out, put their confidence in the use of means - in the virtue of sacraments or the power of sermons, in dead books or living preachers, he is a jealous God, and will nor give His glory to another.

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