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ray of light save that proceeding from the promises of Christ; but for that very reason, in obedience to Christ's exhortations, he will agonize to enter in at the strait gate,' will ‘lift up his voice for understanding, and seek for wisdom as for hid treasures;' and he who thus seeks will, doubtless, learn the meaning of the statement: The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a treasure hid in a field, which, when a man findeth, he goeth and selleth all that he hath and buyeth that field' (Matt. xiii. 44).
Hence it was that Christ said : 'For judgment am I come into the world, that they which see not might see, and they which see might be made blind' (John xiii. 30); for it is evident that he who, believing the words of Christ, recognises his own blindness and the danger of being deceived, will come to Christ and seek from Him and from His words wisdom, righteousness, and sancti. fication and redemption; and he who does so is told that he shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life' (John viii. 12); while those who, because they reject Christ's warnings, think they see, and receive not the love of the truth and therefore will not seek it, must necessarily be made blind' and remain in darkness.
It would thus appear that the substance of Christ's warnings upon this subject is that the world in general cannot, or rather will not, receive the Spirit of truth; that the majority would in consequence be deceived, and few only would discover the way which leadeth unto life ; while the reason that the latter are guided into the truth, and the rest are blinded, is that the one believe, and the other ignore, these warnings.
Hence it is written that there is a covering cast over all people’ and a 'vail that is spread over all nations,' which is not to be taken away until the time when death is swallowed up in victory, and the Lord will wipe away tears from all faces, and the rebuke of His people is taken away from all the earth' (Isa. xxv. 8).
THE SPIRIT OF RITUALISM.
'I THANK Thee, O Father,' said Christ, 'that Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in Thy sight' (Matt. xi. 25). Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein’ (Mark x. 15). It is sufficiently clear from what has been said that it is only those who, like children, recognise their own weakness, and ignorance, and need, who will earnestly seek wisdom of God, and only those who will attain the knowledge of the truth. They, and they only, will be taught of God,' and Christ has said that none else will truly come to Him (John vi. 44, 45).
But why should not this be the case with all who hear and read the precepts and warnings of Christ, and profess to believe them? Why is it that those precepts and warnings which reveal to man his ignorance and need, clear and simple as they are, should have so little effect? Why is it that the world, while professing to believe in Christ, should yet be unable to receive the Spirit of truth? What is the cause of this glamour ? What is the nature of the vail cast over all nations'?
It is true that the natural man is blind, and his understanding is darkened ; yet conscience, the remnant of the image of God, still exists in him, and he recognises the nature of righteousness and wickedness when
they are brought before him, and approves the one and condemns the other. In short, the remarkable progress of the Gospel among the Gentile nations at first—the eagerness with which they accepted it-shows that the natural man, if unbiassed by other influences, will not reject the truth which reveals and explains the evil in himself and others, and the consequent misery in the world, and which shows him the way in which he may be delivered from it.
But the God of this world is said to 'blind the minds' of men, and it will be found that the substance of the vail, which has been cast over the hearts of men by him who deceiveth the whole world, is religion.'
By religion, however, is to be understood, not true faith and dependence on God, but those outward forms, ordinances, and ritual, which are regarded by many as the substance of righteousness, and who therefore substitute 'religiousness' for righteousness.
The ultra-religious classes among the Jews not only made void their own Scriptures by their traditions, but were the most bitter opponents and haters of Christ, and of the truth He taught. They, from the first, conspired against Him, obtained the decree for His death, and persuaded the people to demand, 'not this man, but Barrabas.' The people themselves, who could not pretend to the same degree of religious piety, would have accepted Christ. They 'heard Him, it is said, ‘gladly'; they followed Him in multitudes, and 'wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth,' and it was only through the influence of those who they looked up to as their spiritual guides, and who appeared righteous indeed unto men, that they finally rejected Christ, and joined in the cry, . Crucify Him!'
The same classes were the chief opponents of the Apostles ; they suborned false witnesses against Stephen, and stoned him, stirred up the devout women and chief
men in Antioch, and raised persecutions against Paul and Barnabas, and in every city persuaded the people to reject the truth which was preached to them.
So, also, when they, having filled up the measure of their iniquity, had perished, or, being few in number, had lost all influence, it was still the religionists of Paganism, its priests and philosophers, who became in their turn the bitter opponents of a faith which threatened their religion. Similarly, at the Reformation, when the Bible was again brought to light, and the art of printing disseminated the knowledge of the truth, it was the priesthood and ultra-religionists of Romanism who were the agents or instigators of the fearful massacres, the tortures, burnings, and crusades against the Protestants.
Hence we find that while Christ spoke words of mercy and encouraging exhortation to the greatest sinners, He had nothing but stern denunciations for the apparently pious religionists of the day. He spoke of them as if the very righteousness which they so zealously followed was worse than all other sin, as if the effect of that religiousness, which to them seemed to secure their salvation, made their case hopeless; as if there was something in this religiousness which destroyed the souls of those who followed it.
The Jewish religionist was no doubt in earnest. He had, indeed, 'a zeal for God, though not according to knowledge'; and, like Saul, the Pharisee might, as ' touching the righteousness of the law,' be blameless '; but his religion and outward righteousness, instead of changing his heart, only increased that pride and selfconfidence which is the salient feature of spiritual death, and which was the cause of his hatred to the truth.
'Ye are of your father, the devil,' said Christ to them, and the deeds of your father ye will do.' The condemnation of Satan was pride, and its effect love of murder and hatred of truth (John viii. 44), and in their rejection of the truth, and their crucifixion of Christ, and persecution of His followers, the Jews justified Christ's prediction. But the Jew is only a type of the religionist of all ages
—of those who before had persecuted the prophets, because they, like Christ, had sought to show them the worthlessness of the false righteousness in which they trusted, and equally the type of those who, in subsequent ages, have persecuted the witnesses of the truth, and have slain the martyrs of Jesus. Therefore Christ said to them : 'Upon this generation (or class of men)* shall come all the righteous blood slain upon the earth' (Matt xxiii. 35, 36)—that is to say, He asserts that the religionists of the world would ever be the haters and persecutors of the righteous, and of those who witness to the truth.
Thus it would appear that there is no state of spiritual death so hopeless as that of the religionist whose conscience is deadened by the possession of a seeming righteousness consisting in the punctual and assiduous performance of the outward rites of religion, and it is therefore important to consider the nature of those moral causes which produce this state; and this is the more important because this very religiousness, and those who follow it, have ever received the highest praise from the world, as if in illustration of the statement of Christ : Whatsoever is highly esteemed among men is abomination unto God' (Luke xvi. 15).
The natural man shrinks from God, and it is the very existence of conscience in him which causes him to do 80 ; for that shrinking is due to the consciousness that 'the thoughts and imaginations of the heart are evil continually,' and therefore opposed to the holiness of Him who cannot look upon iniquity.' But this same consciousness of alienation from God produces a sense of ill-desert, indebtedness, and anticipation of future evil,
* Ste the explanation of the word generation,' sect. iv., ch. vi., p. 417.