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I could find nothing in Scripture to countenance the common notion about the efficacy of the death-bed repentances of old, wilful, hardened sinners. The Bible left on my mind the impression that 'whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.'
Some preachers and writers spoke as if God the Father was sterner, less tender and loving, than the Son. But as we have seen, the Bible taught that Jesus was God's image, His likeness, the incarnation and revelation of God,—God manifest in the flesh.
I read in books, and heard it said in sermons, that God did not answer men's prayers, or grant them any blessing, or receive them at last to heaven, on account of anything good in themselves, or of anything good they did. Yet on looking through the Scriptures I found such passages as these: 'Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.' In the parable of the talents I found God represented as saying, 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.' And in the Prophet I read, 'Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. Because he considereth and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.' I found the whole Bible going on the same principle. God loves what is good for its own sake. It would be strange if He did not. And how any one can think He is honoring God by teaching the contrary we cannot understand.
WESLEY AND THEOLOGY.
JOHN WESLEY AND HIS VIEWS ON CERTAIN POINTS.
easy it is for men to mix up their own fancies, or the vain conceits of others, with divine truth, or rather, how hard it is to avoid doing so,-we may see by the case of John Wesley. Wesley was one of the most devout, and conscientious, and, on the whole, one of the most rational, Scriptural, practical and common-sense men the Christian Church ever had. Compared with theologians generally, he was worthy of the highest praise. He had the greatest reverence for the Scriptures. He early in life declared it to be his determination to be a man of one Book, and that one book the BIBLE; and he acted in accordance with this determination to the best of his knowledge and ability. The Bible was his sole authority. Its testimony decided all questions, settled all controversies. Yet such was the influence of prevailing custom in the theological world, operating on his mind unconsciously from his earliest days, that he unintentionally acted inconsistently with this good resolution in cases without number. Shakespeare makes one of his characters say, "If to do, were as easy as to know what is fittest to be done, beggars would ride on horses, and poor men's cottages would be princes' palaces. I could more easily tell twenty men what it was best to do, than be one of the twenty to carry out my own instructions." And we need no better proof or illustration of the truth of this wise saying, than the case of the good and great John Wesley.
We have seen what his resolution was. Look now at one or two of his sermons. Take first the sermon on God's Approbation of His Works. In that discourse, referring to the primeval earth, he speaks as follows: "The whole surface of it was beautiful in a high degree. The universal face was clothed with living green. And every part was fertile as well as beautiful. It was no where deformed by rough or ragged rocks: it did not shock the view with horrid precipices, huge chasms, or dreary caverns: with deep,
impassable morasses, or deserts of barren sands. We have not any authority to say, with some learned and ingenious authors, that there were no mountains on the original earth; no unevennesses on its surface, yet it is highly probable that they rose and fell, by almost insensible degrees.
"There were no agitations within the bowels of the globe: no violent convulsions: no concussions of the earth: no earthquakes: but all was unmoved as the pillars of heaven. There were then no such things as eruptions of fire: there were no volcanoes, or burning mountains. Neither Vesuvius, Etna, nor Hecla, if they had any being, then poured out smoke and flame, but were covered with a verdant mantle, from the top to the bottom.
"It is probable there was no external sea in the paradisiacal earth: none, until the great deep burst the barriers which were originally appointed for it; indeed there was not then that need of the ocean for navigation which there is now. For either every country produced whatever was requisite either for the necessity or comfort of its inhabitants; or man being then (as he will be again at the resurrection) equal to the angels, was able to convey himself, at his pleasure, to any given distance.
"There were no putrid lakes, no turbid or stagnating waters. The element of air was then always serene, and always friendly to man. It contained no frightful meteors, no unwholesome vapors, no poisonous exhalations. There were no tempests, but only cool and gentle breezes, fanning both man and beast, and wafting the fragrant odors on their silent wings.
"The sun, the fountain of fire, 'Of this great world both eye and soul,' was situated at the most exact distance from the earth, so as to yield a sufficient quantity of heat, (neither too little nor too much) to every part of it. God had not yet Bid his angels turn askance this oblique globe.' There was, therefore, then no country that groaned under 'The rage of Arctos, and eternal frost.' There was no violent winter, or sultry summer; no extreme either of heat or cold. No soil was burned up by the solar heat: none uninhabitable through the want of it.
"There were then no impetuous currents of air, no tempestuous winds, no furious hail, no torrents of rain, no
WESLEY AND THEOLOGY.
rolling thunders or forky lightnings. One perennial spring was perpetually smiling over the whole surface of the earth." · Speaking of vegetable productions, he says,
"There were no weeds, no plants that encumbered the ground. Much less were there any poisonous ones, tending to hurt any one creature."
Referring to the living creatures of the sea, he says, "None of these then attempted to devour, or in any wise hurt one another. All were peaceful and quiet, as were the watery fields wherein they ranged at pleasure.' Referring to insects, he adds,
"The spider was then as harmless as the fly, and did not then lie in wait for blood. The weakest of them crept securely over the earth, or spread their gilded wings in the air, that wavered in the breeze and glittered in the sun, without any to make them afraid. Meantime, the reptiles of every kind were equally harmless, and more intelligent than they."
Referring to birds and beasts, he says,
"Among all these there were no birds or beasts of prey: none that destroyed or molested another."
All this may be very beautiful poetry, such as one might expect from the "fine frenzy" of a loving, lawless genius, but it is not Scripture, nor is it science or philosophy. We have not a doubt but that God made all things right,that all His works were very good; the Scriptures tell us that very plainly: but they do not tell us that the things named by Wesley constituted their goodness. He thinks that the earth could not be good if it had on its surface rough or rugged rocks, horrid precipices, huge chasms, or dreary caverns, with impassable morasses, or deserts of barren sands. We think otherwise. We think the earth is all the better, and even all the more beautiful for rough and rugged rocks, for horrid precipices, huge chasms, and dreary caverns. So far from regarding the rough and rugged rocks as deformities, we look on them as ornaments. So far from appearing to us as an evil, they appear a good. Even the impassable morasses, and the deserts of barren sands may have their use. If man had met with nothing in the state of the earth that stood in the way of his will or pleasure; if he had met with nothing in the shape of
difficulty or inconvenience, it would have been a terrible calamity. All man's powers are developed and perfected by exertion; and without exertion, without vigorous exertion-he would not, as at present constituted, be capable of enjoying life. Man cannot be happy without work. We therefore believe that it was wise and kind in God, independent of Adam's sin, to make impassable morasses, and barren deserts, &c., to exercise man's powers of mind and body in draining the morasses, and fertilizing the deserts. We believe that the earth was very good; but we believe that the rough and rugged rocks, the horrid precipices, huge chasms, dreary caverns, with the deep impassable morasses, and the deserts of barren sands, were parts of the earth's goodness, were manifestations both of the wisdom and goodness of God.
Wesley thinks there were mountains on the earth before sin was committed, but that their sides were not abrupt or difficult of ascent; that they rose and fell by almost insensible degrees. This passage also goes on the false supposition, that whatever things would be likely to render great exertion necessary on the part of man, would be an evil; whereas such things are among man's greatest blessings.
Wesley farther tells us, that there were no agitations within the bowels of the earth, no violent convulsions, no concussions of the earth, no earthquakes, no eruptions of fire, no volcanoes, or burning mountains. There is proof however, that there were all these things, not only before sin was committed, but before man himself was created.
Nor do we regard earthquakes and volcanoes as evils. They are calculated even at the present to answer good ends. They tend to make men feel their absolute dependence upon God, and thus lead them to obey His law. They are striking revelations of God's power, and perpetual lessons of piety. And they have other uses.
He says, "If Vesuvius, Etna, or Hecla, existed before sin was committed, they were covered with a verdant mantle from the top to the bottom." But is a mountain either better or more beautiful for being covered with a verdant mantle from the top to the bottom? Is it either better or more beautiful for having no abrupt sides, difficult of ascent,-for rising and falling by almost insensible degrees?