Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

discourses as originally delivered, this appeal to a higher tribunal than that of criticisin, precludes our treating him in the character of a mere author, although it will not be held to substantiate his claims to the literary honours of successful authorship.

Mr. Binney's discourses, however, while bearing the marks of having been composed for the pulpit, not for the press, cannot fail highly to interest and to benefit the reader. They are evidently the production of a man of no ordinary talents, and display considerable originality of thought, united to clear and simple views of Scriptural truth, a correct taste, and a heart susceptible of all the moral inspiration of his theme and office. There are indications too, especially in the dedicatory dis*course', of a character eminently ingenuous and single-minded. Mr. Binney lays open his feelings and the circumstances attending the composition of these lectures, with the candour and confidence of a man unaccustomed to the policy of concealment. And the feeling manner in which he adverts to the causes that prevent or counteract the full benefit that might be derived from the discharge of the sacred office, is adapted at once to engage our sympathy on the side of the pastor, and to admonish the reader as to his own deficiencies in the manner of attending upon the instructions of the pulpit.

We may discover the same candour and ingenuousness in the manner in which Mr. Binney adverts to the doubts connected with the authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews; but we must think, that they have, in this instance, betrayed him into a style of expression which falls below his own convictions, and is in itself exceptionable. The Epistle ' is supposed', he

possess an inspired character, and to be invested with canonical * authority'. Had he regarded this as a mere supposition, incapable of proof, he would not, of course, have occupied about

two-thirds of the sabbaths of three years' in expounding a book of doubtful claim to inspiration. Mr. Binney contends, that it is right to regard any striking instances of its resemblance to St. Paul's Epistles, as a presumption, at least, of its Paul'ine origin and its consequent apostolical authority'. We have so recently entered into this subject at considerable length, that we shall merely remark upon the impropriety of resting the unquestionable authority of this Epistle upon a presumption respecting its Pauline origin. Mr. Binney seems to us to pay too much deference to the cavils of those who have impugned the canonical authority of this Epistle; and in his wish to avoid dogmatism and rash assertion, to run into the opposite and not less prejudicial error of propagating doubt by the language of candour. Even allowing the book to be destitute of aposto• lical authority', says Mr. B., 'it is universally admitted to be a

says, 'to

[ocr errors]

production of the apostolic age'. But the latter admission forbids the former supposition ; especially when it is considered, that the Epistle is cited in the same way as the other canonical Scriptures, by the immediate successors of the Apostles *. In the ensuing pages, the Lecturer' assumes the inspired charac'ter of the Epistle', of which, we doubt not, he feels assured. We have only to regret, that, in a series of popular instructions, he did not assume it as a point which none of his hearers, probably, had ever questioned, or otherwise shew more fully the unreasonableness of any scepticism on the subject. *: The title of the volume will explain the design and character of the discourses. They consist of a series of biographical il

lustrations of the power of faith'. Of the vigour and spirit of these illustrations, the striking observations which not unfrequently occur, and the practical excellency of the discourses, we shall enable our readers to judge, by a few specimens. In glancing at the first two names which occur in the catalogue of faithful men, in the eleventh chapter of this Epistle, two sentiments, Mr. Binney observes, are strongly suggested.

* In the first place. The mention of Abel leads us naturally to inquire after the character of Adam : here is no mention of his faith, who, having taught his children to sin, ought to have taught them also how to believe and to repent. He stands not at the head of this cloud of witnesses, who, should have expected, would have become as distinguished for the elevation of his piety, as he once was for his dreadful disobedience. It were natural to suppose that he should have been exhibited as an instructive example of penitence and faith, leading us back again to that Being whom he too successfully taught us to forsake. But this is not the case. The Holy Spirit, in none of his communications, has recorded any thing of the faith of Adam. However resolute and invincible it may ultimately have become ; however nobly it may have led him to act when surrounded by subsequent temptations; and however brightly it may have illuminated his departing hour, when he came to taste the bitterness of that death, which he himself had introdueeù into the world; however, we repeat, the faith of Adam may have been distinguished by such “infallible proofs,” the Scriptures maintain a solemn and fearful silence on the subject. They attach no worth,--they attribute no greatness,-to the character of the primitive apostate ; they never hold him forth to the admiration of his offspring, to kindle in them the flame of devotion or the purposes of virtue. They say nothing, indeed, of his atter and hopeless impenitence, and therefore they allow us to believe that he was recovered and restored; but, by passing him over in this roll and record of the good, where one of his immediate descendants finds such i an honourable place, they seem to mark his presumption and to memorate his guilt. There is an audible and an eloquent voice in this

[ocr errors]

* See page 401 of our last volume.

very silence of scripture. We are taught by it both the displeasure of Jehovah against sin, and that to the second adam, rather than to the first, we are to look for the means and the motives of repossessing our primitive preeminence.

In the second place. We observe and are affected by the contrast between the fate of Abel and Enoch. The one was crushed to the earth by the hand of a brutal and ferocious murderer; the other was conveyed to heaven, most likely by the “ ministry” of some benevolent intelligence. The one met death in its most repulsive form, and will probably be the longest tenant of the sepulchre ; the other entirely escaped it, and was the first to possess the happiness of perfect and immortal humanity. There is something instructive, in these characters being placed side by side on the page of revelation. The strong contrast they form strikes the mind as something remarkable. . It seems to furnish an illustration of the mysterious diversities of fact and circumstance, which are perpetually occurring in the moral go vernment of God. When we see righteous Abel falling beneath the stroke of inhumanity and violence, we are ready to fear that God hath forsaken the earth. While our feelings are yet occupied with the painful apprehension, another and an opposite picture passes before us, exciting another and an opposite train of emotion. We are called to lift our eyes from the blood of the first martyr, and to behold a member of that very species upon which the sentence of death has been pronounced, escaping from this guilty world, without experiencing for a moment a pang of its bitterness ; and we are as much astonished by the extraordinary interference of God in this instance, as we were confounded by the palpable want of it in the other; and we are taught, how cautiously it becomes us to pronounce on the character of Deity and the purposes of Providence, from single instances and isolated facts ; how perfectly we may suppose harmony is preserved in the great whole, however inexplicable to us are particular appearances; and that, in the end, when we attain to that world where we shall no longer “ see but in part," we may expect God to prove his own interpreter,—to develop to his people the hidden reasons and the relative consistency of those events in his government, which, at present, are as mysterious in their occurrence, as the apparent abandonment of distinguished faith, or the bodily translation of imperfect virtue..

pp. 77-80. The illustration of the faith of Noah, in the fifth lecture, is very beautifully and impressively drawn.

God never brought a judgement upon any nation without previous, distinct, and intelligible warnings. This is a principle of the Divine government illustrated by the whole history of the church and the world. Lot warned Sodom; the Israelites, Egypt; their prophets, the Israelites; Jonah, Nineveh ; Jesus and his apostles, Jerusalem and Judea. And thus Noah, both by his actual declaration of the “ word of the Lord”, and his building in the view of the people the vessel of safety, testified the Divine intentions, and warned the world of the “ coming wrath". The perseverance of the prophet amid the complicated opposition which he had unquestionably to sustain, evinces his unqualified confidence in the truth of God, and his uncommon vigour of principle and purpose. The work itself, which he was commanded to perform, required immense labour, and occupied many years. In the course of this time, subject, as he certainly was, to the fluctuating feelings of our common nature, many might be the doubts, and painful the suspicions, which his faith had to encounter and expel. The absence of all impression from his preaching, though accompanied, perhaps, with agonizing emotion; the apathy of a thoughtless, or the contempt of an incredulous age; the rejection of his message, and the ridicule of his fears; might all concur to repress his ardour, and constitute a severe test of his fidelity. That he was thus tried from without, by the conduct of men, and in a variety of ways, appears to me not only probable but certain. I doubt not that he was incessantly insulted, -scouted as a fanatic or a madman, for spending his time upon that which, it would be said, could never be of any use but to perpetuate his folly. It is generally supposed that arts and sciences were cultivated to a considerable extent by the antediluvians. Nature, at any rate, would be as bountiful and as unrestrained as at present, in conferring original capacity; or, perhaps, in her youthful achievements and primeval communications, she reached a standard and bestowed with a munificence which has never been repeated. There were then, I imagine, persons distinguished by every form of intellect and genius ; there was native power and acquired perfection'; there were poets, architects, philosophers, and other and brilliant modifications of mind, as we have them now; and every one of them, I can suppose, exerted their peculiar acuteness, and combined their separate ability, to pour contempt upon the man of God. When the matter was sufficiently known to become a topic of general conversation, crowds of persons would assemble to look at the work as it advanced, and to laugh at the labour and the apprehensions of the patriarch. One would ridicule its form and dimensions; another the absurdity of a ship upon a mountain; the philosopher might demonstrate the physical impossibility of the predicted fact; and the poet might exercise his wit in contemptuous ballads on the doating enthusiast. All this I think likely; and to sustain it all, year after year,--to preach without success,--to oppose apparently the intelligence as well as the frivolity of the age,—to act only to become a by-word and a jest,--this would require a faith of no ordinary character; and Noah's actual perseverance in defiance of it all, proved his to be distinguished by incomparable strength.

63. The last circumstance from which we illustrate the faith of Noah, is the calm confidence with which he committed himself to the Supreme protection, at the time of the actual catastrophe. It is true, this confidence would be greatly encouraged by two circumstances, by the miraculous approach of many animals to the ark, and the commenced infliction of the threatening judgement. Both of these would assure him that he had not been

deluded by imaginary impressions. There was still, however, a demand for firm and steady faith, as, at the moment of first entering upon danger, we often experience misgiyings, which in prospect we anticipated not. After his protracted trials of another kind, this moment arrived to Noah. He was called to

[ocr errors]

the commitment of himself to the Divine disposal in a way which none had ever been called before. His work was finished,-his testimony given,—the world and himself were about to witness the truth or falsehood of his personal predictions. I know not but that a rabble attended his entrance into the ark, and shouted defiance to his warnings, and taunted him with the necessity he would soon find, of leaving his romantic retreat, and returning to the very same scenes he had been dooming to destruction. But he persevered, -too sensibly persuaded both of the faithfulness of God and the infatuation of mankind. entered the ark”, says the historian, " and the Lord shut him in". What a moment must that have been! What a feeling must have succeeded this act of security!

« The Lord shut him in". Whát a new and indefinable sensation must then have absorbed his mind! He had taken his last look of the world and man; he was now, if we may SO speak, sensibly suspended upon Deity. The windows of heaven and the fountains of the deep were opened ; the elements descended, and the waters advanced ; now, perhaps, numbers of those who had rejected his testimony were heard crowding to the ark, expressing penitence and imploring aid, when it was too late; at length, one by one, the voices were hushed ; the water was perceived to prevail to destroy each individual as he became too weak to grapple with their force, — till, rising over all, extinguishing for ever their importunity, diffusing the silence of death, -and lifting the ark from her foundations,—the prophet would feel the increasing necessity of reliance upon God, as he felt left alone amid the ruins of nature, abandoned to the agitated element, in danger of being tossed by contending currents, or dashed upon some yet uncovered elevation.'

pp. 149–153. Not less striking is the reference to the antediluvian world, in the exordium to the seventh lecture, on the faith of Abraham. i

The persons whose faith we have attempted hitherto to illustrate, lived, so to speak, not only in a former age, but in a former world. They existed previous to the deluge. They were conspicuous for their virtue amidst those portions of the species, whose depravity and crime gradually accumulating, at length so insolently insulted heaven, as to occasion the infliction of that tremendous catastrophe. By this event the whole frame of nature was convulsed. Much of the grand and the beautiful in the scenery of the primitive earth,-much that had at first excited the song, and perhaps the surprise, of superior natures, and much that had prompted the expression and raised the rapture of patriarchal piety,-unquestionably perished. The scourge, however, was gradually removed. The waters returned to their place. Hills and valleys were formed and fertilized. The surface of the earth assumed its present aspect and appearances, and again became habitable by man.

Man was continued as before. He sustained no injury; his nature underwent no change. The descendants of the second father of mankind were in all respects the same as those of the first, though, in one sense, the world upon which they looked was not. The same material, indeed, exists now, as existed in the days of the antediluvians; but its modifications and phenomena are probably dif

« AnteriorContinuar »