[Table of Contents]
|Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)
T H E G O S P E L.
Dr. R. R. Richardson writes in 1839, page 97:
The gospel of Christ, presenting, as it does, eternal life and happiness to the human family, deserves, for its own sake, a full, careful, and unprejudiced examination. The mere announcement that everlasting joys and undying honors are placed within the grasp of mortals, challenges at, once attention and respect.' The lofty hopes which it inspires are allied to the dearest earthly aspirations of the human heart, and the highest aims of worldly ambition; yet they surpass and include them all, as the "glad waters of the dark blue sea" overwhelm and drink up the glittering spray upon the mossy rock which is covered with the flowing tide. And, as to the permanency of their fruition, contrasted with that of sublunary anticipations, they are like the star-paved heavens, compared with the fallen domes and decaying palaces of ruined Tyre; or as the ever-during forests of Lebanon, to the broken column and mouldering capital which bears, as though in mockery, the inscription "Roma Eterna."
Such is the character of the exceeding great and precious promises of the gospel to him who receives it in its original purity and fullness.
In examining a subject of so much importance, the most particular attention should be paid to those rules and principles which the experience of the world has shown to be absolutely necessary to the discovery of truth. The first of these is, that THE MIND MUST BE FREE FROM PREJUDICE.
Prejudice is pre-judgment--judgment formed beforehand without examination. It is obvious that one whose mind is thus preoccupied is unable to receive the truth. He who would possess himself of truth must have the tablets of his judgment pure and receptive.
A second point of great moment in the pursuit of truth, is, that the whole of the evidence be heard, and the WHOLE TRUTH received. The evils which may arise from defective testimony and partial views of truth are incalculably great--greater often than those resulting from falsehood itself. It is a partial exhibition of truth, which, like the gilding upon counterfeit coinage, gives currency to delusion, and success to imposture.
There is no doubt that this error has much to do with the present disturbed state of the Christian profession. Partyism springs from partial views of truth. There is not a single denomination which,  along with its peculiar heresies, does not acknowledge some tenets which are indubitably true. And it can be just as easily shown, that there is not a sect in Christendom which embraces the whole truth, in doctrine and practice, as it was received by the first Christian churches.
It is a melancholy reflection that the unity of the church and the integrity of truth--the sparkling diamond which once graced the coronal of apostolic faithfulness, should be thus broken up into so many insignificant fragments. Christianity, indeed, may now be compared to a ravelled web: each party has run off with a few of its threads, and interwoven them with the flimsy texture of its own many-colored robes--not one of them has had the ability, like Sampson, to carry off the whole of it. Or, it is like an ancient Grecian temple, erected for a Divinity, and once magnificent and perfect, but now overthrown by the rude hand of violence, and the materials carried off to compose a part of the mean fabric of the peasant--the richly sculptured marble, as in modern Athens, has become the stepping-stone to the mud-walled but of squalid poverty!
But again: It is possible for the whole truth to be received, yet rendered inoperative by dilution, or injurious by corrupt additions. We should be careful, therefore, to embrace nothing but the truth, and to preserve its simplicity unimpaired--to seek only the pure bullion, and to keep it untarnished and undrossy.
It is related of the followers of the celebrated Wickliffe, that the Papists used to call them, in derision, Gospellers, because they were wont to speak so often of the original gospel, in place of the legends and traditions of the Catholic superstition. It were well if modern reformers would so signalize themselves by their devotion to the gospel in its simplicity as to deserve so good an appellation.
It is this annunciation which Paul, in the motto which we have prefixed to these papers, denominates "The gospel;" for in the definition which he there supplies, he enumerates in substance the same facts concerning Christ, of which Peter speaks, to wit--"that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; that he was buried, and that he rose the third day according to the scriptures." It matters not whether we say with Peter, that "Him they slew and hanged on a tree--and that to him bear all prophets witness."
And is it then the gospel that Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again? Have these few simple facts constituted the hope of the ancients and the joy of the moderns; the inspiration of the prophet and the fortitude of the martyr? Are these the theme of seraphic and cherubic song, and the power of God himself to the salvation of the world? Can it be that an annunciation so brief, and apparently so simple, has already wrought such important changes in the affairs of  men, and is yet to exert so predominant an influence in the accomplishment of human destiny?--that the same truth which is the solace of the solitary wanderer, is to operate upon the entire mass of the human family? So Paul affirms, and both history and prophecy confirm his declaration.
Nor need we be surprised that so great effects are to be produced by means so simple. This only proves the perfection of the instrument, and is perfectly in accordance with the divine procedure in other cases. To combine simplicity and power is regarded as a manifestation of consummate skill. No one is rewarded for making a machine more complicated. Every improver aims to produce the same or a greater effect by a more simple mechanism. The very simplicity, then, of the gospel, is but an additional evidence of its divine origin.
It is also in harmony with other exhibitions of the wisdom and power of God. In the economy of nature, for instance, there is nothing more common than the accomplishment of the greatest purposes by the simplest means; nor is there anything more familiar than the ready applicability to particular and minor things of principles and powers which are capable of exercising supreme and universal control. It is the same pervading influence, the attraction of gravitation, which brings to the ground a sere and yellow leaf from the oak, or the blazing meteor from heaven, and sustains in their orbits the immense planetary bodies, with their satellites. It is the same power, the attraction of cohesion, which moulds the dew-drop, which, poised upon a slender blade of grass, and touched by the sun's first rays, appears bright and beautiful as the diamond or pearl--"a gem of purest ray serene;" and lifts to the clouds the rocky precipice where the eagle builds her eyrie, and against whose base the waves of ocean rage in vain. It is not strange, then, that the same Divine Mechanician should in the religious and moral world endow the simplest means with power to accomplish the greatest ends, and to act with the same facility upon individuals and upon nations--upon one and upon all.
But again: it will be evident that the gospel must be of necessity something very simple, when it is recollected that it is to be preached to every creature. The great majority of the human race are ignorant and debased, slow of apprehension, and feeble in their capacity. The gospel is designed to open their blinded eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, to inform the understanding and to move the heart. That it has accomplished this purpose wherever it has been faithfully exhibited, and that the present civilization and refinement of the nations is mainly owing to its influence, is admitted by the best informed. Being then suited to the comprehension of all--the European, the Indian, the Negro, and the rude Barbarian, it can not be anything abstruse or remote, but must necessarily be easily perceived,  understood, and felt. Could we indeed suppose for one moment that this divine and glorious gospel had transformed itself into those ponderous and complicated bodies of divinity which life will scarce afford time to read, or eternity to understand, we might well despair of our own salvation and the conversion of the world.
How different might now have been the state of the world if the gospel in its simplicity had been exhibited to mankind since the days of the Apostles! And to what a speedy termination it would bring the discords, feuds, and party jealousies of Christendom, if all would confine themselves to the joyful tidings that Christ has died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he rose the third day according to the Scriptures! These are facts, not opinions or speculations. These are easily proved, readily understood, and quickly felt. "And by these also we are saved," says our Apostle, "if we keep them in remembrance."
Among the causes, indeed, which have contributed to, produce the present confused state of the Christian profession, there has not been one more efficient than the sentiment that the whole Bible is a doctrinal treatise upon Christianity; and that the gospel is so equally diffused throughout the whole, like the blood in the human system, which may be made to flow from every part, that it may be found indifferently anywhere from Genesis to Revelation, and equally in the prophecies of Balaam, or the song of Solomon, as in the testimony of Matthew Levi or the Acts of the Apostles. This view of the Scriptures places the mind at once upon the wide ocean, careless by what gale or to what country it may be driven. Where every fact or incident is regarded as equally important, all become at the same time alike uninteresting; where there is no distinction, there can be no arrangement; where there is no beginning, there can be no conclusion. As well might a person suppose that light is universally diffused throughout nature, and that he could possess himself of it by putting into his pocket the shining pebbles by which it is reflected. To direct his attention to the sun as the true source of light, would not sooner interrupt the labors of such a virtuoso, than would the proper exhibition of the simple facts of the gospel give a new turn to the investigations of the modern Bible student.
That all Scripture given by inspiration is profitable for the various purposes for which its different parts are designed, and that it is all necessary to the perfection of the godly man, is cheerfully admitted. But what we would insist upon is this: that it is with the gospel facts we have first and chiefly to do; that it is by these we are first met on the part of Heaven; and that these not only comprise all that is necessary, so far as the Christian faith, and the salvation of the sinner is concerned, but involve necessarily and immediately the consideration  of all preceding and succeeding revelations. Like the rich clusters of the vine in which the new wine is found, there is a blessing in them; and like these same clusters also, which are both the first in design and the last in production, the gospel facts (Christ and him crucified) are the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega of revelation. In short, there is not a principle of action, or an exhortation to duty; a hope or a privilege; an institution or a doctrine in Christianity, which is not deducible from these simple facts, as the oak is evolved from the acorn, or the leaf unfolded from the bud. We would not be understood to say, however, that human reason could have made these deductions, any more than that human power could bring an oak out of an acorn. Christianity is as much beyond the reason of man, as the works of nature are beyond his power. The eyes of Reason could not even perceive its existence, unless it were revealed by the light of faith, and unfolded in its maturity by the efficient influences of a divine agency. Yet it is no sooner thus presented, than reason at once perceives the absolute and necessary connection which subsists between its different parts; the relations of principles and laws; of facts and results; of means and ends; and is enabled to trace the steps of that inductive process by which the whole has been elaborated from a single germ.
We have spoken of the simplicity of the gospel as a means of salvation, and endeavored to show that this simplicity is not only evidence of its divine origin and perfection, and in accordance with the economy of nature; but that the gospel is by this means adapted to the capacity and understanding of those to whom it is addressed--human beings indiscriminately, rich and poor; high and low.
He, then, who believes the gospel, believes the Bible; believes everything necessary to salvation; everything which can or ever did rejoice, redeem, or exalt one of Adam's race. What can be added to the gospel? What more can be desired by man, sinful and mortal, than to be delivered from sin and to be blessed with immortality? And how perfectly suited, then, the gospel of Christ to the wants and circumstances of the human family!
Robert Richardson. Extracts from "The Gospel.--No. I."
The Millennial Harbinger 10 (March 1839): |
|2. ----------. Extracts from "The Gospel.--No. III." The Millennial Harbinger 10 (May 1839): 222-224.|
|3. ----------. Extracts from "The Gospel.--No. IV." The Millennial Harbinger 10 (May 1839): 314-316.|
|4. ----------. Extracts from "The Gospel.--No. V." The Millennial Harbinger 10 (October 1839): 433-435.|
[Table of Contents]
|Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)