Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

home : while children who have not been trained to obey at home become refractory at school, tumultuous among their comrades, tyrants and pests in every position which they occupy, and if converted at all, they bring with them into the church such a violent and unruly disposition as to be troublers of the peace of everybody. Let obedience be enforced in childhood, and it will become easy and natural in after years.

(3.) Religious example ought to be associated with instruction and discipline. What parents desire their children to be and say and do, they should be and say and do in their presence. This is both a safe and a necessary rule. Most people learn very much by insensibly imitating those with whom they associate, both good and bad, but children learn almost everything by imitation. They are far more sensitive than the prepared paper or glass that the photographer exposes to the light in taking his pictures ; for the images and impressions they receive are never lost, but go to fashion their life-long character. And they will more readily copy their parents than any one else. Every word and deed of the parents is noticed and copied by the child. Even the temper and general spirit of parents are insensibly caught by the children. Who, then, can be too cautious and circumspect in his own house!

One thing deserves especial notice here. If you wish your children to respect religion and to become pious in early youth, never talk about the faults of religious people in their presence. This practice is a too common one. If the parents happen to have had any quarrel with a preacher or member of society, if they entertain an opinion of such preacher or member which is not of a favourable character, they are in the habit of pouring out all they have to say in the presence of their children. We have seen and heard such things with deep regret, and have seen sad evidences of the effects of such a bad practice in the character of the children. It has raised prejudices, not a few, in the hearts of children against religion itself; for children, like adults, do not carefully mark the difference between religion as seen in men and religion as read in the Bible. And those very children will soon begin their parents' practice, and be on the watch for some failing or other in the conduct of preachers and members to talk about it as their parents do. And who can wonder if such parents find it difficult to get their children to chapel when they grow up, or that those children are seldom converted to God? The parents have sowed the seeds of evil-speaking by their foolish and unkind practice, and then they blame some preacher or member for the results. It would be well were such practices banished from all our homes as we would expel the plague.

(4.) We cannot omit saying that if parents would properly train their children they should pray with them. To pray for

them in their absence is very proper and good, but it is a very different thing from praying with them and for them. To pray for your children in their hearing will effect three different objects. It will make them feel the importance of religion, and will induce them to pray for themselves. It will also give them to feel that your religion is of a truly benevolent kind, that it leads you to love their souls' best interests, and they will love and admire both you and your religion. But the greatest good it will effect is, it will, if you pray aright, bring down upon their hearts and consciences every time you pray for

them the influence of the Holy Spirit, and the Great Trainer will give them soft hearts, tender consciences, and will lead them to salvation. Let those parents who pray not with their children be prepared to answer for the consequences of such neglect at the last day, if their children live and die impenitent.

In conclusion, let it be said that as soon as family religion comes to be properly estimated and properly cultivated by us, we may expect to have a better race of young men and women than the uprising generation is likely to be, and to witness homes full of peace, harmony, and love ; and just so far as professed Christians have a heart and conscience to cultivate religion at home, will they sincerely and successfully work for the salvation of immortal souls everywhere else.

R. TANFIELD.

ART. IV.-THE TRUE THEORY OF JUSTIFICATION:

AN EXPOSITION.

“What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found ? For if Abraham were justified by works he hath whereof to glory, but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." —Romans iv. 1-5.

THE

THE

scope of the argument before and after this section is to

prove that the acceptance of sinful men is by means of faith, as opposed to justification by the merit of works. It is an excellent device in the writer to fall upon Abraham for an illustration. If the doctrine can be established in reference to him nothing can be more convincing. He was acknowledged to be a very superior man, whose character, though not perfect, was such as to shame the lives of most other men.

If then it can be proved that the best man was not good enough to claim acceptance upon desert, it cuts off all hope of others establishing a claim on that ground. Since a person of such distinction and rectitude could not be justified for his own goodness, certainly the mass of men who regularly or frequently offend cannot be allowed such a plea or privilege. How such an argument would come home to the Jewish members in the church at Rome! The name of the patriarch was dear and venerable to them. It only needs to be proved that he was accepted through pure grace by faith, and all other men are shut up to the same rule. Who shall have the presumption to claim higher than the very fountain of patriarchal dignity! We propose to deal closely and critically with the verses before us, and bring out their meaning in harmony with the scope of the epistle.

The first verse is in Paul's own interrogative style.

“What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?” It is respectful to give the patriarch this title, “ Abraham our father.” It is a question, however, what is intended by this. As some construe it, it imports the headship of the Jewish people, the natural relationship in which he stood to the whole of that section of the ancient world. Antagonist to this is the fact, that as we go deeper into this chapter we find him called the father of the Gentiles, at least of as many of them as come within the circle of faith. The punctuation in some copies of our translation is such as to favour the idea of pedigree. Some read the verse with a comma after the word Abraham, and then make the clause 66 our father” flow into the next clause without any point or pause, which certainly makes it express the notion of lineal descent. So it reads, “our fatber as pertaining to the flesh,” i.e., from whom we derive our pedigree, by tracing our birth from son to sire backward till we reach him as our origin. It is true that he was their father after the flesh, and they gloried in him as their chief ancestor. But to reach the meaning in this verse we must lose sight of that fact, and make another construction of the words. We must not construe 66 our father” with the clause, “as pertaining to the flesh," but with the verb, “bath found.” Such a disposition of the parts brings out quite another sense. Reference to the original warrants us in this arrangement of the words. This is the exact order of them. “What shall we say then that Abraham our father hath found, as pertaining to the flesh ?” Did he find any spiritual profit as pertaining to the flesh ? Did “the flesh,” whatever it may mean, contribute anything to his justification ? Was he justified by it wholly ? Or if justified chiefly by another means, did the flesh add some little weight that was wanting to make the balance beam droop down in his favour? The flesh did not help him the least in relation to his justification. The flesh may mean circumcision, a painful ceremony, in which the flesh was circularly cut on the eighth day after birth, leaving a scar behind it for evidence. Or it may mean moral actions performed on the strength of a man's natural powers. In this second sense of the term the flesh is uniformly spoken of in terms of disparagement as being weak or wicked, strong for evil, and feeble for good. It is a habitation only for vile tenantry. “In me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing." It gives birth to an offspring only evil. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” It is a stage on which only vile deeds are performed. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these : adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness," and a catalogue of others of like character. “ The flesh profiteth nothing." Neither from circumcision, a ceremony performed on the flesh, nor from legal obedience, which is sometimes denominated flesh, did the patriarch obtain his justification. As pertaining to the flesh he did not win favour. In respect of the flesh he found nothing, or possibly worse than nothing.

Hath foundis an expressive and significant verb. It is well adapted to the economy of grace in which all things are found for us, and in which we find whatever we need, all prepared to our hand, and thrown into our way that we may find it. It is no accident that we find pardon, peace, or grace. Yet we may say that we light upon it in a sense independently of ourselves, quite out of the sphere of moral desert, not within our own grounds, but in another man's field. And we are allowed to take up the treasure and carry it off. We found it. We did not make it, buy it, work for it, or win it by noble deeds, but we found it. How it came to lie in our way at all is another question, which, if we push it, will lead us to conclude that we owe deepest gratitude to a friendly power that foreran us in the whole affair. Abraham found the priceless pearl that all believers find. But it was not by dint of merit, or by his own moral prowess. He found grace and found it graciously on the principle of pure bounty. “Noah found grace

eyes

of the Lord.” Gen. vi. 8. 6 If now I have found grace in thine eyes," is the common plea of Old Testament saints. To "obtain mercy and find grace" is the only hope of the best of men, and is a privilege open to the worst. We may not boast of a treasure, or a possession, which we have dropped on in a manner so foreign to ourselves, and so far from our own reach or conceptions, or deserts. We feel differently about a thing which we find, than we feel about what we have purchased, or manufactured, or compassed, or conjured into existence by some device or movement of

in the

K

it up.

our own. So let us feel, then, concerning this, if we are indeed in Abraham's secret. He found favour, acquittal, acceptance, or what other gracious name the reader pleases to call it by; but he was none helped in the affair by any legal works or ceremonial transactions. The same idea is pursued in

Verse 2. “For if Abraham were justified by works he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.” It is admitted that the patriarch was justified. It is denied that he was justified by works, or had any advantage from the flesh, as noted in the previous verse, flesh and works being equivalents. There is often something to be supplied in reading Paul's writings. The mind has to throw in something between the lines, to connect the links of his logical chain. So here the reader is supposed to have at hand the undisputed axiom, that no man has any ground of boasting in the presence of God. Then the logic is simple and conclusive. No man can have ground of boasting ; but justification by works would create a ground of boasting. Therefore Abraham was not justified by works. It is indicated, at an earlier point, that justification by works opens the way for boasting, whereas the way of faith bears

“ Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law ? of works? Nay, but by the law of faith.” (iii. 27.) The other position, namely, that there can be no glorying before God, we think he has assumed without formal notice, unless we take the following clause, “ but not before God," to mean that much, by the help of an ellipsis, to be supplied. If he has assumed what we suppose, it is quite in harmony with the entire scope of previously written scripture. It is both understood and expressed that there must be no glorying. “ Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches. But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth ; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” Jer. ix. 23, 24. Whoever glories makes himself a rival to him to whom alone glory is due. Kings have had their crowns shifted off their heads, and their sceptres struck out of their hands, for giving scope to a boasting tongue. Nebuchadnezzar paid dearly for his offence against this rule. For seven years he was debased as a beast, and had to companionate with beasts till the term of penalty was exhausted. For the same sin his grandson lost both life and kingdom. It was known both in Palestine and in ancient heathendom, that boasting was an offence against the Supreme. Of nothing must men boast. Least of all must they speak of character. The man who names righteousness must ascribe it only to his Maker. “I will go in the strength of the Lord God, I will make mention of thy righteousness even of thine only.” Ps. lxxi. 16. It is the de

« AnteriorContinuar »