Page images

person, to be loved and adored: Go, (says our Lord) and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Soil, and of the Holy Ghost, Matth. xxviii. 19.

The prophets, at a great distance of time, foretold the birth, life, passion and ascension of Christ, the Mission of the Holy Ghost, and the conversion of the Gentiles; but the Gospel positively and clearly lays down the Prescience, Providence, Omnipotence, immense Charity, and other attributes of God. No man hath seen God at any time, but the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, hath declared him, Jolin i. 18. That is, Christ leaving his immortal state for a time, condescended to the condition of vile mortality, that he might discover to us the secrets of his Father, which were known to him onlv.

The law is, as it were, the sbadow; but the gospel is the very substance itself. Thus the acts of the patriarchs, the oracles and symbolic visions of the prophets, the sacrifices, ceremonies and decrees of the laws, which received their sanctions by the blood of animals, were types and preludes which enigmatically represented Christ to the people; but the Gospel manifestly and clearly exhibits to us Christ, his Mysteries and Sacraments. This is positively affirmed by St. Paul, who says, We all with open face beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, *are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even

as by the spirit of the Lord, 2 Cor. iii. 18. And in confirmation of this, the same apostle begins his epistle to the Romans thus: “ Paul a servant of Jesus Christ called 66 to be an apostle, set apart to preach the Gospel of 6 God, which he had promised before by his prophets in 6 the Holy Scriptures concerning his Son, &c.

The law was a messenger of fear and terror; but the Gospel, of Love and Peace: the one threatened death to transgressors, the other, rewards to believers. By the law all were servants; but by the gospel all are free. Agreeable to this are the words of St. Paul: “God hath 66 made us able ministers of the New Testament, not of “ the Letter, but of the Spirit; for the Letter killeth, but 6 the Spirit giveth life. For if the ministration of death,

[ocr errors]

law was a me Peace: theds to believeall are free

(that is, the Law threatening death) written with let. 66 ters, and on stones, was glorious, &c. how shall not the 6 ministration of the spirit be more glorious ?" From whence we may justly define the gospel to be a law of liberty, a law of the spirit, a law of beneficence and charity.

The promises of the law were of a temporary nature, subject to vicissitudes; but tbe gospel promises are celestial and eternal. In the law were promised the good things of the earth, such as plenty of oil, wine, cattle, &c. but in the gospel, the enjoyment of the company of Christ, and everlasting happiness. Joshua conducted the Israelites to a land flowing with milk and honey, but it was to the land of the dying: Christ hath brought us into the land of the living, a land shining with and abounding in grace and glory. Besides, the law was burthensome in respect of its threefold division into Moral, Ceremonial and Judicial, many parts of which decreed death to transgressors; but the obligations laid on the professors of the gospel are easy and pleasant. Come unto me (says our Blessed Saviour) all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burthen is light. Matth. xi. 28, &c.

The law was an introduction to Christ and the gospel; but the gospel is the boundary and end of the law. St. Paul says, Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth, Rom. x. 4. Wherefore St. Bernard very justly calls Christ the fruit of the promises of the law, alluding to the seminal virtue of plants: “ for fruit (says he) is the purpose to which seeds tend, and in which they terminate."

The pre-excellence of the gospel will yet appear much greater if we consider that the law was limited to the Jews only; whereas the gospel was to be diffused all over the world. The law was likewise imperfect with respect to its duration; for it was only temporary, being to continue no longer than the coming of the gospel, at which time it was to cease. This is expressly affirmed by the apostle to the Hebrews, who says, For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before, for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did, by the which we draw nigh unto God, Hebrews vii. 18, 19.

If we consider the whole texture and composition of the gospel, we shall find it very happily adapted to all ages, degrees and conditions; and that it may be justly called an universal library of wisdom and knowledge, wherein every one may see their duty, and learn to put it in practice. If we attentively examine the conduct of the great Founder of the Gospel, while on earth, we shall plainly see that his whole life was one continued series of moral discipline; and that what he taught to others, himself practised, enforcing his precepts by his own example. While the world were anxiously seeking after the pernicious bait of wealth, he was content and calm in the midst of poverty. Impatient man could not brook an affront; but he patiently submitted to the vilest reproach. Corporal pains were terrible to human nature; but he bore whipping and scourging without the least lamentation. Nothing so shocking to poor mortality as the bare apprehension of its dissolution; but he quietly submitted himself to the most ignominious deatheren the death of the cross.

That the law. was imperfect we have already made appear; but there is not any thing which so clearly points out its imperfections and deficiencies as does Christ himself, in that admirable parallel which he draws between the Old Testament and the New, and which is contained in the 5th chapter of St. Matthew. He there sets both in a true light: shews the necessity of reforming and improving some decrees of the law, and instituting a better and more useful system of virtue and piety. The precepts of the law were positive and conformable to nature; but the commands of the Gospel transcend them: they are far more instructing, and furnish us with the most wholesome counsel, and the most beneficial admonitions. A new commandment (says our Blessed Saviour) I give unto you, That ye love one another, as I have loved you, John xii. 31.

If we address ourselves, as we ought, to the practice of that system of Evangelical Theology contained in the 5th chapter of St. Matthew, we may, from thence, draw such demonstrable inferences as will direct us in the performance of our duty, and crown our obedience with re. wards. From the beatitudes in the beginning of this chapter, we are assured, from our Blessed Lord's own mouth, that if we are poor in spirit, we shall gain the kingdom of heaven: if we mourn here, we shall be comforted: if we hunger and thirst after righteousness, we shall be satisfied. For this reason St. Augustine says, 6. The happiness of this life consists in the Holy Gospel, 6 and the rest of the Sacred records, without which we 6 cannot come to the knowledge of God.” All true knowledge, virtue and perfection, that a Christian can desire, or attain to, are contained in the Gospels. There Christ teaches us, that righteousness and holiness consist in the inward purity and integrity of the mind, not in the outward shew of works—in a conscience void of offence; not in the pompous applause of men-in humility; not in ostentation-in contempt, not in pursuit of worldly honors

- And he likewise teaches us to love our enemies as well as our friends.

The law layeth down a naked precept to the understanding of man; but the Gospel, at the same time that it instructs, inspires his will with grace to perform what is commanded him. Christ, in his Gospel, does not express himself externally to our ears, but internally to our minds, where, by his persuasive spirit, he inclines us to believe and practice what he teaches: My words, says he, are spirit and life, John vi. 63. And to this purpose the apostle to the Hebrews cites the prophet Jeremiah: 66 This is the Testament that I will make unto them after 66 those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into " their hearts, and in their minds I will write them," Jer. xxxi. 33.

From these distinguished excellencies of the Gospels, and the preference deservedly given them to all other sacred writings, there can be no motive so pressing to incite us to the study of them as their own worth; and, next to that, our interest, which we cannot be said more

really to pursue, than by a strict and religious observance of the duties contained in them.

The heavens declare thy glory, Lord;

In every star thy wisdom shines;
But when our eyes behold thy word,

We read thy name in fairer lines.

The rolling sun, the changing light,

And nights and days thy power confess;
But the vast volume thou hast writ

Reveals thy justice'and thy grace..

Sun, moon and stars convey thy praise

Round the whole earth, in one large band ;
So when thy truth began its race,

It touched and glanced on every land.

Nor shall thy spreading Gospel rest,

Till through the world thy truth has run:
Till Christ has all the nations bless'd

That see the light, or feel the sun.

Great Sun of Righteousness arise,

Bless the dark world with heavenly light;
Thy Gospel makes the simple wise,

Thy Laws are pure, thy Judgments right.

Thy noblest wonders here we view,

In souls renewed, and sins forgiven:
Lord, cleanse our minds, our souls renew,

And make thy word our guide to heaven.

« PreviousContinue »