Images de page
PDF
ePub

universe is but the manifestation of his eternal power and Godhead; the revealed Word is but the expression of His love and wisdom; the succession of events is but the unfolding of His providence. He was before all; and He is above all, and within all. As the Source and Centre of life, He perceives with infinitely greater perfection than the soul perceives in the body, every affection and sensation that moves creation, even to its farthest boundary, with its causes, relations, and consequences, to eternity. Compared with this, what are the highest powers and the greatest attainments of men or of angels! They sink into utter insignificance. By laborious and long continued research, man has penetrated some of the secrets of nature, of providence, and of revelation; but the further he proceeds in his researches, the more profound do their mysteries become ;--the more he knows, the more he sees that what he does know is as nothing compared with what he does not know. And although he is capable of advancing in knowledge to eternity, yet he never can attain the knowledge of all that lies within the sphere of finite existence, much less can he ever approach the first limit of that central light in which Jehovah God has His residence, and from which He beholds all the works of His hands. When we reflect that the works of God, though in themselves finite, yet present an image of His infinity, and therefore contain a fund of knowledge that can never be exhausted, so that even natural science has no limit, it is evident that our knowledge of the Divine works must for ever be comparatively superficial and imperfect. It will be true in eternity, as it is in time, that we look but upon the outward appearance; and after and beyond all we can discover, there is a principle within that transcends all our powers of perception, and which must for ever remain unknown except by the Lord alone. This is not less true with regard to the spiritual than the natural world—the world of mind than the world of matter. Man, as an image of God and an epitome of both worlds, is not less replete with wonders than the worlds he was created to inhabit. The human soul, still more fearfully and wonderfully made than the human body, has, both in its structure and functions, secrets which we can never fully search out or comprehend. Even the connection between motives and actions, between principle and practice, cannot be known with certainty but by Him who is Himself the Beginning and the End. We who look upon the outward appearance can form at best but an imperfect judgment, and are always liable to form a fallacious one, respecting the state and character of others. God only, who looketh

upon the heart, can know infallibly what man is: “He needeth not that any should testify of man, for He knows what is in man."

But although we cannot judge infallibly, it does not follow that we are not to judge at all. Judgment is a necessity of our intellectual and moral nature; it enters into every act of the understanding and into every determination of the

ill; and persons as well as things are its legitimate objects. There is, indeed, one sense in which judgment is interdicted: it is that in which our Lord spake of it when he said, "Judge not, that ye be not judged; for with what judgment ye judge ye

shall be judged, and with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again.” That which is here forbidden is the judgment of truth without love-of the head without the heart. Judgment from truth alone is severe and merciless : and whoso judges without mercy, without mercy shall he be judged; for he who has no mercy in his judgments, has not in himself that through which he can obtain and in which he can receive the mercy of Divine judgment. Man is judged by the Divine law, not as it exists without him, but as it exists within him; not as it is written on tables of stone, but as it is inscribed on the table of his own memory or of his own heart. But where we are allowed to judge, it is necessary that we judge not according to the appearance, but that we judge righteous judgment. But if man looks but on the outward appearance, and can never clearly behold the inward reality, how can he ever judge otherwise than according to the appearance? and how, then, can he ever judge righteous judgment ? To judge righteous judgment, he must temper his knowledge with his ignorance—his knowledge of the outward man with his ignorance of the inward man—his knowledge of the outward act by his ignorance of the inward motive. It is true that an idea of the motive enters into our judgments; and human laws determine the character of certain overt acts by the “intent" with which they were committed. No doubt the motives in a general way can in most instances be known, or to a certain extent can be discovered ; and so far as they can be known they are to be taken into account, since the more we know the more certainty we have of judging rightly. But in the individual and private judgment which the Christian is called upon to exercise, and which is that we now chiefly have in view, we are to take a much deeper view of human nature than that which the common and legal decisions of men require or perhaps admit. We are to reflect that a thousand secret springs lie deeply seated in the human soul, whose activity enters into every human action. Man's highest and most essential motives have their seat beyond the ordinary sphere of human scrutiny. They do not lie within the civil or the moral, but within the spiritual sphere of his mind; and no one can judge of them but the Lord alone. Of man's

The Intellectual Repository, July 1, 1862.

spiritual ends, and of his spiritual state, we may indeed judge conditionally, but not absolutely. We may say that if certain men really are what by their outward character they appear to be, they are not fit for the kingdom of God. But it is not in the province, because it is not in the power, of any finite judge, or of any human tribunal, to pronounce on the spiritual state or on the final doom of any man living—this belongs to the Lord alone.

The manner which necessity imposes upon us of judging of human character, as of all other things, is the inverse of that according to which the divine judgment proceeds. We look from without; the Lord looks from within. We look at the heart through the actions; the Lord looks at the actions through the heart. We judge of the inward state by the outward character; the Lord judges the outward character by the inward state. It is evident, therefore, that man's judgment and the Lord's judgment must often be very different from, and, in some cases, must be the very reverse of, each other. As from various causes the outward appearance, by which our human judgment is so much determined, is never an infallible, and not always a faithful, index of the real inward state of the heart; no one can be certain of forming from the acts, much less from the opinions of others, a certainly true judgment of their state and destiny. This demands of us the exercise of charity towards our fellowcreatures, and a careful avoidance of trenching on the Divine prerogative of judging of their essential states, or pronouncing on their final condition.

We shall therefore take a rapid survey of some of the various aspects # under which our fellow-creatures are presented to our view, and consider

some of the appearances by which our judgments respecting them are generally formed, or by which they are greatly influenced. We

may first view mankind as they are distinguished into Christians and heathens, and consider the outward appearances by which our judgments on their present state and final condition are likely to be determined. Heathen nations being without the light of Christianity, and living, under the sanction of their religions, in practices which the Christian religion condemns, we may be ready to conclude that heathen nations are excluded from all participation in the salvation that came by Jesus Christ, and which is made known through the Gospel. It is, no doubt, true that there is none other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved but that of Jesus Christ, yet it is equally true that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of Him. The name of Jesus Christ is not so narrow or so local as are the words of human language by which it is expressed ; that name is in every human creed that acknowledges a Saviour, in every human aspiration after life and immortality, in every effort after a righteous life. The spirit of Jesus, with all the virtue and power of His sacred Name, or of His Divine Humanity, is present everywhere, and is ready to enter every sincere heart, whether it be surrounded by Christian or heathen symbols. Were not this the case, would not that Being who desires not the death of the sinner have found a way to make His saving Name known to all the nations of the earth? Man looketh upon the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart; and He who looks upon the heart will accept its sincere worship, even when the thoughts are directed to another than the true God, or the eyes are turned to an idol. The heathen may be deficent in holiness as well as in knowledge; but we are to remember, in this as as in every other respect, that it is where much is given that much shall be required. Before, therefore, we can judge righteously of the relative states of the heathen and the Christian world, we must consider them according to the dissimilar means they possess of spiritual knowledge and improvement; if we do so, it may perhaps cause an abatement of the more favourable judgment we are prone to pronounce on the real condition of Christian nations as compared with that of those that are heathen,—to reflect whether in the great essentials of religion, love to God and charity to man, the Christian so far excels the heathen as his superior means might lead us to expect. But whatever may be man's judgment, we may be sure that the Lord, who looketh upon the heart, will pronounce a judgment absolutely just in itself, however different it may be to the superficial judgment of those who look upon the outward appearance. We

may next consider the Christian world itself as it is divided into various sects. In some few instances the grounds of difference are such as perhaps may be of sufficient importance to form a legitimate cause of separation ; but in most cases, the differences are so inconsiderable and unimportant that they never could have been made the plea for rending the church asunder, had not the leaders and members of the church looked principally at the outward appearance of the things of the church, and unduly magnified and exalted them. Had religion been seen to consist essentially in love to God and charity to man, Christians would not have divided upon such unimportant points as are many of those which distinguish the sections of the church. Had the two great commandments, on which hang all the law and the prophets, been practically acknowledged as the real ground of Christian fellowship, not only would such divisions have been prevented, but the grounds and the occasions of them would not have existed, for many of these divisions have evidently originated, not so much in the abundance of faith as in the want of charity. It is not the doctrines of religion themselves that cause division, it is what men add to them. That which is of God has an undeviating tendency to unite all; that which is of man has a constant tendency to divide them. Had charity and love maintained the place which they once occupied in the faith and practice of the church, no serious errors could have obtained her sanction, and no trifling error could have disturbed her harmony so far as to produce enmity or even division. A candid examination may convince us that the religious differences of the various sectaries are more apparent than real. But to take the professing church as it is, it is from looking at the outward appearance that so wide a difference seems to exist between some of her sects, and that such different results are expected from them. If we view the principles of the church so far as they are adapted to promote purity of heart and holiness of life, peace on earth and good will towards men, we shall find the ground of real difference among her various sections greatly narrowed indeed ; and if we can in any measure realise the idea, that God looks on the members of His church not according to their forms and appearances, as resulting from their particular faith, but according to their inward principles and love of good, we will readily conceive that all sects stand much more on a level in the sight of God than they do in the sight of men, and especially of each other.

What, then, is our duty in regard to forming our judgment on Christians or their distinctions? Plainly this, that we ought to suppress in ourselves a sectarian spirit, nor look with a sectarian eye, nor judge of others by their sectarian peculiarities; but endeavour to regard them on the broad principles of Christian truth and love, and estimate them by their zeal for the general improvement and progress of mankind in happiness, and not by their efforts to advance their own prosperity as a sect at the expense of others.

There are various other points of contrast which might be selected for considering the apparent, as distinguished from the real, differences of human character. We might consider men as distinguished into different nations, into distinct families, into governors and the governed, into rich and poor, educated and illiterate, trained and undisciplined, old and

young; and it might be shewn that outward appearances are much more different than inward states, and that the appearance according to the ordinary modes of judging, and, indeed, according to any human discernment, is incapable of giving us a knowledge of the true state of the heart.

We will confine ourselves, however, to some remarks applicable to

« PrécédentContinuer »