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80 TRINITARIAN AND UNITARIAN DOCTRINES CONCERNING JESUS CHRIST..
puts forth no power to draw off the heart from this present world, and to quicken it in the way of holiness and eternal life. Let no one imagine, then, that he has any proper knowledge of Christ, if that knowledge be not such as takes hold upon the very foundations of his spiritual nature, and exerts & transforming influence upon his character and life. Such power there is in that knowledge when truly possessed. It delivers the soul from darkness and death, and enables it to overcome the world, and to take hold upon eternal life. “ This is Eternal Life.... it is written .... that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” Why should any be willing to cheat themselves here with notions and fancies for the great realities of religion? Why should the soul not enter into the experience of this great and glorious thing, instead of amusing itself with the mere sha. dows and unsubstantial forms of truth?
And as the doctrine we have been contemplating cannot be rightly apprehended, except by coming into contact with the interior life of the soul, so neither can it be properly defended against the objections and reproaches of its enemies, except by being lived out before them in its practical power. It is, after all, a comparatively small matter to maintain the cause of christian. ity, or of any of its doctrines, by argument addressed to the understanding in abstract form, however sufficient and convincing it may be in itself. It is when the truth is made to live in the lives of those who hold it, that it becomes clothed with its highest authority in the view of others. A single holy man or woman, in whom the power of christianity reigns with transforming and sanctifying influence from day to day-in whose spirit, and conversation, and walk, the great lessons of the gospel are exemplified, and its great doctrines exhibited in their practical operation is a more persuasive argu. ment of the truth of religion than the most labored defence of it that ever was drawn up with the pen. It is by this kind of exhibition, rather than by any other, that the truths of christianity have ever asserted their proper power in the world. They have sustained themselves in all ages amidst the errors, and prejudices, and corrupt passions of men, and perpetuated themselves in their original form from generation to generation, not so much because they have always had acute and powerful spirits engaged for their defence, as because they have been lodged in the souls of believers as a part of their own living experience, of which they had no power to divest themselves, and have stood out in their lives as facts, against which disputation could be of no avail. As this remark holds of the christian religion as a whole, so is it good also in regard to each characteristic doctrine belonging to it. There is such a thing as causing them to stand out as it were in a living and tangible form, and making the power of them a thing to be felt. Thus may the true doctrine concerning Christ be made manifest to the consciences of men around, with a more irresistible light than in any other way, when it has entered truly into the experience of the soul, and been felt in its adaptation to all the spir. itual wants of the soul; when in this way it becomes incorporated with the believer's interior life, and from thence shows itself forth in the spirit which he breathes, and in the whole habit of his daily living, by the production of such fruits of peace, confidence, courage, zeal, disinterested benevolence, victory over the powers of the flesh and this present world, heavenly-mindedness, and joy in the Holy Ghost, as cannot fail to attest the mighty power of God in the faith out of which they grow. How this argument speaks from the character and life of Paul!
BY G. W. BAXTER, D.D., PROFESSOR OF THEOLOGY IN THE UNION THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY,
THE WICKED ARE WITHOUT PEACE, ILLUSTRATED BY THE VIEWS AND STATE OF INFIDELS AND OTHERS.
There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.
Top term WICKED is very comprehensive. It includes every one who has not made his peace with God on the plan of the Gospel,or who has not been regenerated and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. And the most charitable view of our fellow men will on this ground compel us to acknowledge, that the wicked form a large majority of our species. The characters of the wicked are greatly diversified; some are openly moral, others are profligate;--some are the ornaments, others are the pests of society;--some are plunged into the grossest errors, others are right in speculation, and only wrong in the state of their hearts; but taken altogether, they form an immense multitude of people, and they all lie under this denunciation from Heaven, that they are strangers to peace. The assertion of the text is made in the most solemn manner. It has not the form, but it has all the solemnity of an oath. The Prophet not only felt himself as in the presence of God, when he wrote this assertion, but he introduces God himself as delivering it. “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”
My design is to illustrate the text, by the application of it to a variety of characters, and to shew that they must be stRANGERS TO PEACE.
Peace, in the meaning of the text, is the privilege of the Christian;-the legacy which our Saviour left his disciples. It is the tranquil state of the soul, which is stayed on God, and which loves the law of God. This peace can arise from nothing but the truths of the scriptures, as applied by the teaching of the Divine Spirit. When the Spirit sanctifies the soul, and gives it a near view of the perfections of God, as revealed in the bible, and as seen in the face of Christ; when the whole character of God is presented as near, and not as a God afar. off;—and when the soul throws itself on the promises of the new covenant, then it is that it possesses that peace, which consti/utes the inheritance of the Christian. This peace never can exist in
an unregenerate heart. The first participation of it, in the ' young convert, fills him with the conviction, and brings him to the confession, that he never felt peace before;-that the ease and security of the sinner, had no resemblance to the peace of the Christian. As a Christian he now looks at the promises as his own;-tlie omnipotence of God is his guarantee forever, and the short afflictions which are permitted to mingle in his cup on earth, shall work out for him an eternal weight of glory.
To produce a real peace, man must have an assurance that things will be well with him forever. To be in comfort to-day would not do, if the scene might change to-morrow. Or, could he be assured of his prosperity during his life on earth, whilst an eternity of misery might await him beyond the grave, he must be a stranger to peace.
We shall first apply the proposition of the text to the mere speculative believer, whose heart has never been regenerated by divine grace. This man may possess the hope of divine favor, or he may not. If he possess a hope, it is one which is not supported by the bible, and which will not bear a scriptural investigation. If he read the scriptures, he will find that his faith, his prayers, his humility, his love of holiness, his desire after communion with God, and his conflicts with the evils of his heart, are not such as belong to the children of God, and of course that his hope is not built on a good foundation. If on the other hand, the speculative believer has no hope of his present acceptance with God, he must quiet his conscience by the promise of future repentance. But there are so many things to weaken the faith of that promise, that it cannot divest his mind of all uneasiness. Whatever period he may have fixed upon for his future repentance, death may come before that period arrives or the period may find him without any resolutions
for the fulfilment of his promise. He cannot but know that a similar procrastination has ruined thousands, and he is probably conscious to himself, that he has already passed some periods, which he had solemnly fixed upon, as the times of his becoming religious. In this case then the man has much which ought to disturb his peace.
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But it is my intention to apply this subject principally to professed unbelievers. Much has been written and published to prove that the bible is the word of God, and of course, that the infidel is in a dangerous error. It is not my intention to enter' into the general argument on this subject, but simply to maintain and enforce this truth, that the infidel must be a stranger to peace. This seems to be an appropriate remedy in his case. It was to unite peace with those enjoyments which the bible condemns, that he became an infidel, and could he be convinced, that the rejection of the bible will not calm his fears, and that infidelity, without producing peace, only leads him into greater danger, and removes him further from hope, on the supposition that the bible should prove true, it might make a salutary im pression on his mind. At any rate, if the only object, for which he became an infidel is to be lost, and if the life of an infidel must be filled with perturbation as often as he thinks of the future, these considerations ought to deter a wise man from embracing the infidel creed. The great cause of secret dread to the infidel is, that he can have no assurance, that he will not find that very state of things in eternity, which the bible describes. He can have no assurance that there is no hell in eternity. An atheist, declaining about chance making the world, and about the inconceivable power of chance, was greatly confounded by some one asking him, if such a chance as he described might not be able to make a hell. It is true the infidel may not have the same assurance of hell as if he believed the bible, yet when all hope from the bible is given up, the mere possibility, and much more, the probability, that that book may prove true, is a terrible thought. The sword suspended over the guest by a single hair, had no certainty of falling, but the consideration that if it should fall, death would be inevitable, was sufficient to destroy all his enjoyment. The sword suspended over the head of the infidel, threatens the death of the soul, and neither atheist nor deist can know that this sword will not fall.
The first class of infidels which I shall notice, consists of those who have rejected the bible without knowing by what evidence the bible is supported. They did not doubt the truth or oppose
the claims of Christianity, till they found that Christianity was opposed to their lives; and the best reason they can now give for their unbelief is, that they had heard of some great men who had rejected the bible as a system of priestcraft. It is evident at first view, that these men can have no pretensions to peace, Every thing with them is in the dark; they know not whither they are going; they follow their leaders, and if their leaders are ruined, they will be ruined also. Besides they know not what induced their leaders to become unbelievers. It may have been prejudice, or the strictness of the bible in condemning their conduct. Here is certainly a bad security for things of infinite importance. If such men are without alarm, their security does not arise from their creed. It must arise from something else. Perhaps they are banishing all thought;their days have been days of prosperity and health;—they are rejoicing in their youth, and the days of darkness they have never considered. Have they tried their principles on a sick bed? Have they found them sufficient for the hours of adversity; for the approach of death and the coming of the Judge?
But perhaps it may be thought that there are no such infidels as I have described, and that such trifling, where the highest interests of man are concerned, is a folly too great for human nature. I hesitate not to say. that there are many infidels who take their creeds on trust, and who have no better reason to silence the voice of conscience, and the misgivings of a dying hour, than that some philosophers have believed that religion was a dream. Some years ago, when professed infidelity was more common in this country than at present, I have no doubt that nine out of ten, or indeed ninety-nine out of an hundred of our infidels, were of this description. One of the most distinguished infidels who ever lived in our country, has given, as I think, sufficient proof in his writings lately published, that even he had taken his creed upon trust, When speaking on politics he was not the same man, as when he spoke on religion. In his religious discussions there is a crudeness, not to say a coarseness, and a want of all that plausibility which his pen spread over every other topic, which showed the man to be dealing in borrowed coin, and that he had not made himself familiar with his subject. But we have evidence to the same point in the numerous confessions of infidels who had never examined their creeds, and in the many cases of those, who, when at last brought to the examination, have renounced their creeds and professed Christianity,