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assistance and encouragement on the road of repentance. But both is this moral pleasure greatly strengthened and enhanced by a more immediate reference to the will of God, and also a new motive of action is supplied, more present and powerful, than can be given by the remembrance of the pleasure attending former instances of self-denial, or the expectation of such pleasure for the future.
A belief in the presence and co-operation of God enables men to do, what as mere moral agents they would never effect, nor indeed attempt. In this sense it is from its operation as a principle of conduct, as well as by its gift of justification, that, the Gospel “is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth 3.”
Let it be our endeavour, that this power be effectually shown forth in us. And with a deep consciousness, that “we are not sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves “,” let us cling firmly to the hope of being enabled to “ do all things through Christ who strengtheneth us 5.'
3 Rom. i. 16.
4 2 Cor. iii. 5.
5 Phil. iv. 13.
THE LETTER AND THE SPIRIT.
1 Cor. x, 11.
NOW ALL THESE THINGS HAPPENED UNTO THEM FOR ENSAMPLES,
AND THEY ARE WRITTEN FOR OUR ADMONITION UPON WHOM
THE ENDS OF THE WORLD ARE COME.
St. Paul, in this passage, is urging upon the notice of his newly-founded church at Corinth, the situation and conduct, the sins and punishment of the Jewish people, under the dispensation of the Mosaic law, in order to remind them, how the lessons, supplied by the history of God's former people, were applicable to the existing members of the church of Christ.
With this view he points out the analogy between the condition of the two parties, placed, as they certainly were, under widely different circumstances; and shows, how the things, which happened unto the one, might be ensamples to the other. He tells them, that the Israelites, who followed Moses in the wilderness, had all been under the miraculous cloud, and had all been partakers of the deliverance in the Red sea; as those, he was addressing, had all been baptized in the water of baptism, and therein admitted to the benefits of the atonement, and covenant of grace. The Israelites, again, had all eaten of the same spiritual meat, viz. the manna, which God gave them as bread from heaven, and had all drank of the same spiritual drink, viz. the water, which at the word of the Lord burst from the stony bosom of the rock; as the Christian converts had all eaten of the real bread from heaven, viz. the spiritual body of Christ; and drank the spiritual drink provided for them in partaking of his blood.
The lesson, drawn by the Apostle from this comparison, is the important one, that, as the Israelites were not safe from transgression and from punishment, though they had thus been made partakers of the blessings of the Almighty, so too the disciples of Christ, admitted to the privileges of the covenant of grace, should not therefore imagine themselves secure of salvation, and not liable to fall into sin, and incur condemnation.
The inference, which St. Paul thus applies to the Corinthian church, comes home, my brethren, equally to ourselves; and should teach us not to rest supinely in our Christian privileges, but to improve them to the fruits of Christian grace : lest, as with many of his ancient church, “ God was not well pleased,” but “they were overthrown in the wilderness ;" so we too, though elect to share in the blessings of the gospel, and called to be partakers
of the promises of our Lord, may not be found in the last day among those chosen to receive the rewards reserved for the righteous in heaven.
But my object, in pointing out how St. Paul makes use of the records of the ancient church for the instruction of his Christian brethren, does not confine itself to displaying the truth, that we also, elect to privileges, as they were, may, as they did, fall into condemnation. I wish rather to make a more general remark, upon the method, by which he draws lessons applicable to those whom he then wished to instruct from what occurred in widely different situations : and to observe, that it is in this way, that we must, in very many cases, apply to our own times and circumstances the instruction afforded by his writings, and those of the other Apostles. As he drew, from what took place under one state of things, inferences, which he adapted to another; so must we apply to our existing condition lessons, given in immediate reference to very different subjects; and thus extract the spirit of revealed wisdom, where the letter may be one, with which we have little, or no concern.
For a very large part of the Apostolic epistles is occupied in treating of points peculiar either to the times in which they were written, or to the persons, to whom they were addressed, as a right understanding of the nature of these writings, must at once show us would necessarily be the case.
If indeed we are looking at the scriptures, as intended primarily to convey a systematic scheme of doctrine, the incidental manner, in which the truths they reveal are brought forward, may perhaps not unnaturally surprise us. It will then seem, that the declaration of the most important doctrines has depended upon circumstances almost accidental, if we may ever be justified in using such a word, and that it was left for the ignorance, the errors, the weakness, and even the sins of Christian communities, to call forth those instructions, which we should expect to find in a more systematic form, unconnected with allusions to passing events, and unembarrassed by applications to particular persons or things. We shall be led to make this remark, even with reference to the teaching of our Lord recorded in the gospels, and it will occur to us still more forcibly in reading the epistles.
But consideration will show us, that any difficulty, which may suggest itself to our minds in connection with this fact, does not arise from the real nature of the case, but from our imperfect view of it. We shall see, that the scriptures were not, in their origin, that, which we have been erroneously led to expect them to be—that in fact they were not for the most part a revelation to those persons, to whom they were addressed. They were written to those, who were already believers in Christianity; and they were not therefore so