Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

that the soul ever exercises. Were this true, repentance and faith, acknowledged conditions of justification, would totally lose their holy character and become blanks, or loathsome products of the still supremely selfish heart.

(3.) Some of the advocates of the view we are contesting seem to confound the outward obedience of the life with the spirit of obedience in the heart; and they rightly maintain that, the former follows and does not precede justification. It is doubtless true that God does not wait for external obedience before he justifies and accepts, though he may delay the revelation of his act of grace. He is reconciled to the sinner the moment he sees in him the repentance and faith which involve the love constituting the fulfilling of the law. External obedience, then, may be properly regarded as subsequent to justification; but this is a very different thing from its being an ef fect of it. Still, since the heart affects the life, and since the divine glory manifested in justification exalts and expands the heart, justification gives a brighter glory to the words and the doings, which ultimately are words and doings of the illuminated and happy heart.

5. The interpretation we contest appears to us to contradict innumerable declarations of the Scriptures. In what sense can any thing be said to be a condition of salvation but this, that no one can be saved without it? Let any candid man study what Paul says, Rom. 8: 6—8, and we think he can not doubt that in Paul's view subjection or conformity to the law is indispensable to salvation. "The mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit, life and peace; because the mind of the flesh is enmity againt God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh can not please God." Time would fail us were we to attempt to collect the passages which represent holiness or obedience to God as indispensable to his favor. Will it be replied that these passages speak of a meritorious claim to his favor? We reply that they are addressed to sinners, confessedly such, and prescribe the conditions, or some of the conditions, on which they could obtain mercy. Can those who have sinned acquire a meritorious claim to the divine favor? The Bible and the whole Protestant church answer, No. Shall, then, Paul be held to teach that God justifies the ungodly who still in whole or in part hold on to their ungodliness? We can not risk our eternal well-being on such an antinomian doctrine. We regard it as a disgrace to the Gospel, as a pillow which Satan would fain sew under all arm-holes that he may hunt souls.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]









The Book of Ecclesiastes.



WE well recollect a remark of Prof. Stuart, made to the class to which we belonged, when pursuing biblical study under his tuition, to wit, that he would be willing to spend his whole life in the most diligent research, if the result of his investigations might be a development of the meaning and design of the Book of Ecclesiastes. To all the theories pertaining to it, which had been developed by others, insuperable objections presented themselves. Equally unsatisfactory were all the explanations which had suggested themselves to his own mind.

The difficulty common to all the theories of explanation hitherto proposed is this; they either leave the book without any assignable meaning or design, or else fail wholly to explain its entire contents. The true exposition will possess these two characteristics; it will distinctly develope the real design and plan of the book as a whole, and all parts of it will clearly harmonize with the assigned plan and design. The principle of exposition, or rather perhaps the theory pertaining to the plan and design of the book, possessing these characteristics is and must be the true one. The great desideratum, in respect to it, is to find the stand-point from which the real plan and design of the author throughout shall be distinctly visible. This is what we propose to accomplish in the present article. That the author, when he wrote the book, acted under the influence of inspiration, and that the book itself properly belongs to the sacred canon, is here assumed as granted on the part of all evangelical biblical

scholars. That it should be thus regarded, the writer of this article entertains no doubt whatever.

There are two important and widely different senses, however, in which the writings of an author may be regarded as inspired. In the first place, he may be inspired to record certain doctrines, sentiments, or precepts, as in themselves true, and binding upon all into whose hands the record shall fall. Thus Matthew was inspired to record the Sermon on the Mount. Inspiration, in all such instances, is responsible not merely for the fact that such things were uttered, but for the truth and rectitude of all that is recorded. In other instances, however, individuals are inspired to record sentiments as uttered by others, without reference to their truth or falsehood in themselves. In such instances, inspiration is responsible simply and exclusively for the fact that the sentiments recorded were uttered, and not at all for the truth of what was affirmed. Thus as we suppose, Luke was inspired to record the exclamation of Festus to Paul, Acts 26: 24. Inspiration is here responsible, not at all for the sentiment uttered, but for the fact that it was uttered at the time and place referred to. In the same manner we suppose the author of the book of Job was inspired to record the remarks of Job himself, of his three friends, and Elihu, during that memorable controversy. Inspiration is responsible for the fact, that each speaker did utter the sentiments imputed to him, and not for the truth of what is uttered by either of the parties on the occasion.

An important question here arises, to wit, in which of the senses above named shall we regard the book of Ecclesiastes as inspired? If we assume it as a divine record of sentiments in themselves true, we are, as Prof. Stuart remarked, met at once with insuperable difficulties. Many parts of the record are replete with sentiments the most darkly skeptical, not to say impious. At one time, for example, death is represented as to be preferred to life, and non-existence as better than either. Chap. 4: 2, 3. At another, we are taught that inasmuch as man, neither in life nor in death, has any "pre-eminence above the beast," and the same uncertainty attends the prospect of each in a future state, but one thing remains to man, to yield himself to the unreserved indulgence of his propensities. "For this is his portion, for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?" Chap. 3: 18-22. In another place, we are taught not to be over strict in our respect for duty, on the one hand, nor to become grossly wicked, on the other. The former course would result in self-destruction.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

The latter would issue in premature death. A course of easy virtue, therefore, at an equal remove from "over much righteousness," on the one hand, and from unrestrained licentiousness of morals, on the other, is the true course for man, in the progress of his "vain life." Chap. 7: 16, 17. Inspiration surely is not responsible for the truth and rectitude of the entire teachings of a book replete with such sentiments as these. But when we take our departure, as we are compelled to do, from the idea, that the book is in this sense inspired, the ablest commentators are afloat in respect to its true meaning and design. Who was its author? What was the state and attitude of his mind, when he penned the sentiments here recorded? And why has inspiration embalmed the book as a part of the sacred volume? To the last two of these questions especially, as far as our knowledge extends, a satisfactory answer yet remains to be given. Till such an answer has been given, the book will remain sealed to all its readers. For us to attempt the accomplishment of that which far more wise and learned men have vainly attempted to accomplish, may perhaps, to some at least, appear presumptuous. Yet we shall venture upon the perilous attempt, and venture with the thought be fore us, that while a failure to attain the end we seek, will not, under the circumstances, be regarded as a strange occurrence, such failure, should it happen, may reveal to some other mind the real plan and design of the book. Yet we do not expect to fail. By divine aid, we think we have attained the true idea of this mysterious production. We expect, in the progress of this article, to be able to convince our readers that this is the case.


Without further introductory remarks, we now proceed to introduce our readers to the stand-point from which all parts of the book present themselves to our contemplation.

One of the first things that strike us, on an attentive perusal of the book, is the fact that throughout, it is one connected discourse, that each passage in it is a part of a comprehensive whole. In this respect it is widely diverse in its character from the book of Proverbs, though resembling it in the aphoristic form in which its sentiments are embodied, and thereby evincing, in connection with other circumstances, that the two productions are to be referred to the same author. We fix upon the principle of unity which runs through the book, binding all its diversified parts together, as one of its striking and important characteristics.

Another fact equally manifest and important to be noticed pertaining to the book is this. It presents a revelation of the light in which human life, the condition and destiny of man, and the works and ways of universal providence in respect to him, presented themselves to the author, when in a certain state of mind. The book may be regarded as a standing revelation from God of what these objects will be to every mind when in the same state. This we regrad as the manifest design of the book.

Now if we can fix upon the particular state of mind of which the various parts of the book are an external embodiment and manifestation, the seal is broken, and the entire contents of the book itself are unrolled to our comprehension. We have, in that case, found the true stand-point from which to contemplate the divine revelation before us. Of the truth of these remarks, no careful reader will doubt. The book is not a divine record of what is in reality true of human life, of the condition and destiny of man, or of the movements of providence in respect to him; but of the light in which these objects present themselves to the mind, when in a certain state.

The great question here arises; can we fix upon the state of mind under consideration, and thus find the key which will open to us the real plan and design of the book? The history of the author himself presents a ready answer to this question. There are two marked eras in the life of Solomon, which stand in direct contrast to each other. The first and the bright era was that of his early history, the period in which the "Lord loved Solomon," and "Solomon" in his turn," loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father." The book of Proverbs is a manifestation of the light in which human life, the condition and destiny of man, and the dispensations of providence in respect to him, then presented themselves to his mind. The second era was that of the apostacy of this individual from purity, from wisdom and from, God, the era in which he yielded his whole being to sensual indulgence, and in which "outlandish women" led him from the pure worship of the living God to the shameless practice of the worst abominations of the heathen around him. Such a change in the state of his heart could not fail to be attended with a corresponding revolution in the aspect in which the realities of which we are speaking, would present themselves to his mind. Now, as we suppose, what Ecclesiastes is to this last state of mind, the book of Proverbs is to the first. Each is a standing revelation of the light in which the great realities

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »