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GOD IN CHRIST JESUS.
BY A. MEANS, D. D., LL. D.,
OF THE GEORGLA CONFERENCE.
“Prepare ye the way of the of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." --Isaiah xl, 3, 4, 5.
In the impulsive language of the great historian of the reformation, “Jesus Christ is the purpose of God in history.” Whereas, unfortunately for the world, the religion of the Messiah has been too often degradingly regarded as a mere appendage to the embodiment of divine truth-a convenient supplement to a reigning system-designed perhaps to embellish or explain it, or at best to furnish mankind, in the character of its great founder, with a lively impersonation of inimitable virtue.
Our views, however, of this grand system of world-reforming and world-saving power, derived from the inspired volume, authorize and require us to announce its claims as coeval with the guilt of Paradise, and constituting a part and parcel of the stupendous economy of the moral and intellectual universe; and like the brilliant rings of Saturn, which adorn his evening skies, engirdling our sin-doomed world, and spanning the moral heavens with a zone of living light, which reveals at once the dignity and the destiny of our race, and solves the otherwise inexplicable problem of human existence. In short, God in Christ Jesus, “reconciling the world unto himself,” is the great truth which illumines Revelation's page from the Pentateuch to the Apocalypse. Such a religion, then, rises into augustness and grandeur in human contemplation, as it challenges the attention and demands the confidence of mankind. But to accomplish its sublime designs it must come with the badges of divinity upon its brow, and the overpowering displays of Omnipotence in its train. Proposing to redeem the world from the curse of ages, and to herald the way to a happy eternity, it must antecedently prepare the human mind for the gradual development of its wonderful truths, and then propitiously begin the extension of its divine sway, which is only to be consummated when the ransomed nations, from the Arctic circles to the line, shall exult in the universality of its millennial reign.
The religion we reverence, then, is not the ephemeral offspring of finite intelligence, much less the surviving spawn of an exploded philosophy. As the sun of heaven was the physical center upon which hung the vast revolutions of all the planetary worlds that circle around him-no less during the first three demiurgic days of Mosaic cosmogony than after he had assumed, upon the fourth, his more brilliant phase and became the measurer of our days and the lightgiver to the universe---so the “Sun of Righteousness,” the great center of the moral heavens, was no less essentially and efficiently present when “ the morning stars sang together, and all the suns of God shouted for joy,” than after four thousand years had rolled away, when, robed in the full-orbed light of his glory, he rose upon the world from the crimson horizon of Calvary. Yea, the “Rock of Ages was no less the stable foundation of christian faith when the authorities of the synagogue, surrounded by the dim outlines of a vague theology, proclaimed “ An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," than when, under the noon-day effulgence of the cross, those God-like doctrines were so benevolently inculcated Love your enemies ; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you."
Thus we are to regard. christianity as an integrant portion of the moral organization of the world, and inseparable from its history and destiny ; blending its issues with the physical condition and final catastrophe of our planet; and yet for the wisest of purposes, and in accordance with an eternal law of heaven, the beauty and symmetry and majesty of its mighty proportions have been reserved for the gradual evolution of succesive centuries.
Nor are all its exalted truths yet illustrated, nor its noblest triumphs yet achieved. Its grand consummation is yet to be effected amid the splendors of the resurrection morning and the glories of the descending throne ; when earth's returning millions, over-spanned by “ new heavens,” and standing upon a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness," clad in the courtly costume of a higher dominion, shall set out afresh upon the diuturnally ascending scale of progressive intellect for a still more exalted goal, nearer, and still nearer the transcendent light of the throne!
Progress towards perfection marks the order of the divine economy in every department of its reign. An approximation to higher from lower conditions characterizes the movements of the physioal, mental, and moral universe. Nature to her profoundest depths felt and obeyed this impulse from her God long before the inspired dictum, “Let us go on to perfection,” fell upon the moral world from the lips of the gifted Apostle of the Gentiles.
The gray dawn and the rosy tints of twilight must gently train the delicate retina to meet the bolder blaze of the rising sun and the meridian brightness of the perfect day. The swelling bud and the opening flower must be evoked from the torpid sleep of winter ; the genial breath of spring start once more the bounding pulse of forest life ; and then, and not till then, will earth's green glories and her golden harvests vindicate the perfection of the vegetable kingdom. Nay, this law of physical progression is traceable in its action from the elementary atom up to the highest combinations in the inorganic world from the microscopic cellule which nurses the germ of vegetable and animal life, up to the gorgeous organization of planets and guns in the profound depths of space. Geology, from her venerable records graven with the stylus of passing centuries upon her eternal tablets of rock, convincingly establishes its prevalence and power, and by a striking and unpremeditated harmony of testimony, from the deep subterranean tombs of the Fauna and Flora of a preAdamic world, substantially confirms the ascending order of creation, as in the cosmical details of the Mosaic history. There was a time, according to the annunciations of both, when the elements of our planet constituted but a diffuse, nebulous, chaotic mass, “ without form and void," and when “ darkness was upon the face of the deep :" a time when, in the magnificent oriental phrase of inspiration, it had but just “ issued out of the womb," and when the cloud was made the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddling band for it."* This, however, was but its elementary condition. “Let there be light, and there was light," was the next step in the order of sequence. Then followed, as successive links in the continuous chain, the condensation of the nebulous mass into fluids and solids, the retreat of oceans and seas into their cavernous beds, and the upheaval of islands, continents, and mountain ranges above the retiring floods. Passing by the Algæ of the seas, next come the first manifestations of terrestrial vegetation, beginning in the upper Silurian system, and advancing in the geologic scale, through the old red sandstone, the Perinean and Triassic systems, up to the Tertiary. From the flowerless, leafless, and stemless Thallogeus, at the base of the scale, to the Monocotyledons, Polycotyledons, and lastly the Dicotyledons of our orchards and forests—a wonderful palæontological series, almost exactly corresponding with the modern botanical arrangement of the distinguished Linneus, and still more strangely harmonizing with the simple but clear order of creation reported by Moses, and divided by that sacred cosmologist into "grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree, yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself,” as the apple, peach, plum, pear, &c.
* Job xxxviii, 8, 9.
Then in the upward grade of organic life, revealed in this geologio series, and in still more remarkable parallelism with the classification of Cuvier, the greatest zoologist of modern times, appear the inhabitants of the animal kingdom, from the star-like type of the seaurchins in the Silurian zone, through the regularly expanding line of fishes, reptiles, birds, and mammals, in the various superincumbent strata, up to the grand consummation of organic being upon earth, in the Tertiary formation, the incomparable microcosm of Man himself, the last crowning work of this sublunary creation, as announced by the God of the Bible, and confirmed by the imperishable records of the rooky world. So that we may appropriately exclaim with Dryden :
“ From harmony, from heavenly harmony,
This universal frame began :
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in man." But mind too, must reach its climax by progressive development. Yon pale and puling infant, which now lies in unconscious depondence upon the bosom of its mother, and dozes its monotonous days away, must patiently await, through the long lapse of half a century, the tedious metamorphosing toil of six hundred millions of pulses, in expanding its fragile form, and unfolding its dormant powers; and then the world shall gaze with astonishment and awe upon the won
derful Corsican, whose mighty intellect, like the heavings of an ocean in a storm, sports with the noblest fabrics of other minds, and proudly rolls the tide of its triumphs over a trembling continent: or may dwell with admiration and delight upon that peerless model of a man, who, unfurling the stainless flag of freedom over the shouting millions of the American people, and sweeping the circle of their dominion over half a hemisphere-wins from their filial hearts the endearing appellation of “The Father of his Country.”
Surely, then, the interests or the moral world, which stir man's noblest ambition, inspire his loftiest hopes, and embrace within their awful range the dooms of eternity, cannot be governed by a less wise, comprehensive, and patient policy. No, verily, for the stupendous plan which was elaborated in heaven for the enlargement, elevation, and SALVATION of human nature, contemplated that nature in its earliest and worst phases, and has continued, through successive centuries, to follow and control the destinies of mankind, and to uncover its splendors and widen the horizon of its light, as their mental and moral disfranchisement seemed to require. Even now, its grand movements are seen but “ in transitu.” We have only beheld “ the beginning of the end.” The transcendent triumphs of christianity are yet in the distance, when the resources of the social, commercial, scientific, and religious worlds-multiplied a hundred fold—shall pour in their spontaneous contributions, to swell the tide of the Divine glory, and complete the bliss of the nations.
She occupies, as we have seen, an integral, luminous, and commanding position in the great prolific scheme of the existing universe, and is inseparably associated with its history and destiny. No lapse of ages subdues her energies; no past successes limit her conquests, and no geographical boundaries circumscribe her dominions. The circumference of the globe alone is the sphere of her extension, and the ultimate purification of the nations the laudable object of her toils. And in anticipation of these world-wide moral victories, the herald-notes of the coming jubilec are already sounded from the thousand pulpits of the land ; and Faith, smiling as she looks from her exalted stand-point, over the christian schools, and colleges, and churches, and mission fields of the age, which throng upon her view, significantly points to the skies, and utters the inspiring language of the text: “Prepare ye the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God."