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GENERAL HISTORY OF RELIGION.
OUR first parents, before the Fall, were altogether holy. The law of God was written upon their hearts, and, while they delighted in it as perfectly good, they obeyed it in all its length and breadth. Their religion was, in its nature, the same with that of Heaven. According to the universal and perpetual order of the Divine Government, they were entitled, on account of their own righteousness of character and conduct, to the favour of their Maker, which is happiness and life. They were not, however, placed out of the reach of evil. They had a trial of their faithfulness to stand, before their moral state should be rendered eternally secure. In that trial they failed. The commandment of God, through the temptation of the Devil, was wilfully transgressed. Thus, "by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men for that all have sinned." Rom. v. 12.
The ruin was awful. The greatest calamity in the wide universe of God, is sin. The human race was now brought into that condition which is the most deplorable that any mind can conceive. Struck out from the order and happiness of the general creation, and cut off from all intercourse with God, it presented only a spectacle of horror and terrific desolation, uncheered by the smallest gleam of hope. The state of man was the same with that into which a part of the angels had fallen; a state of rebellion against the Almighty, of exclusion from peace, a state of infinite wrath, of death without hope and without end.
But God had mercy. When no arm but his own could
save, he determined to help. He left the angels to perish without relief, but stretched forth his hand to rescue sinking man. Heb. ii. 16. A great Salvation was provided. A wonderful arrangement had been from the beginning made in heaven, to recover the lost. The eternal Son of God engaged to become a sacrifice for their guilt, and the Father consented to receive once more into favour, and by his Spirit to restore to holiness, as many as should be willing to accept the atonement thus wonderfully secured. And because the nature of man's depravity was such, that not one of all the race would ever be naturally willing to embrace the offer of mercy, even after such condescension and love on the part of God, the arrangement of Divine compassion extended yet farther. It was determined that, in consideration of the Saviour's work, the Holy Spirit should be sent forth into the hearts of men, to enlighten and persuade them, so that some of them might become willing to be saved. Thus it was made certain, that the Redeemer should "see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied;" (Is. liii. 11;) and that, out of the multitude of Adam's fallen children, a portion would yet gloriously rise from ruin and find a happy restoration to the great family of God. Here originated the Church.
The church is a society made up of the Redeemer's people. In its visible character, as a body regularly organized in this world, it comprehends all, who in any age profess to be his people, and externally are placed under that constitution which he has appointed for their government and improvement. In its invisible character,—that is, as it appears to the eye of God, who searcheth the heart-it embraces only those who are really and truly the people of Christ, redeemed by his blood, and made meet by his grace "to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." Many belong to the church as an outward body on earth, who have no part in its glorious reality, as a body spiritually united to its Great Head. The institution of the church had respect, no doubt, only to those who become truly thus united to Christ; its object was, by means of the truth of God, (which it was appointed to preserve from age to age, and to employ instrumentally for the salvation of men,) to bring out from the darkness of the world, as many as might