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  • THE LIFE OF ADAM CLARKE: BOOK 4,
    ON EARTHLY GLORY, CHURCH NEWS,
    THE PROGRESS OF REVELATION


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    ON EARTHLY GLORY

    Winchester, October 12, “How little is worldly grandeur worth, together with all the most splendid distinctions, which great and pompous titles, or even important offices, confer upon men! They vanish as a dissipated vapor, and the proprietors of them a go their way; and where are they? or of what account? Death is the common lot of all men: and the honors of the great, and the abjectness of the mean, are equally unseen in the tomb. This I saw abundantly exemplified today, while viewing the remains of several kings, Saxon and English, whose very names, much less their persons and importance, are scarcely collectible from Rosy damps, moldy shrines, dust, and cobwebs.” This exhibits a proper estimate of human glory: and verifies the saying of the wise man, — A living dog is better than a dead lion. The meanest living slave is preferable to all these dead potentates. Is there any true greatness, but that of the soul? And has the soul any true nobility unless it is begotten from above, and has the spirit and love of Christ to actuate it? surely none. The term of Servant of the Lord Jesus, I prefer to the glory of these kings: this will stand me in stead, when the other, with all its importance, is eternally forgotten. “In the time of the civil wars, the tombs of several of our kings, who were buried in this cathedral, were broken up and rifled, and the bones thrown indiscriminately about. After the Restoration these were collected, and put in large chests, which are placed in different parts of the choir, and labeled as containing bones of our ancient kings; but which, could not be discriminated.”

    CHURCH NEWS

    Winchester, October “The following remarkable inscription I took down from the wall in this cathedral. ‘The union of two brothers from Avington. ‘The Clerks’ family, were, grandfather, father and son, successively clerks of the Privy Seal. ‘William, the grandfather, had two sons, both Thomas’s; their wives, both Amy’s; their heirs, both Henry’s; and the heirs of Henry’s, both Thomas’s; both their wives were inheritrix’s; and both had two sons and one daughter; and both their daughters issueless. Both of Oxford; both of the Temple; both officers of queen Elizabeth and our noble king James. Both justices of the peace together. Both agree in arms, the one a knight and the other a captain. ‘Si quaeras Avingtonium petus cancellum impensis. ‘Thomas Clerk, of Hyde, 1623.’

    It is not an uncommon case that the things least worthy of commemoration are recorded, while those of the utmost importance, are forgotten: had those two brothers lived and died in the favor of God, and left a clear testimony of His pardoning and sanctifying grace behind them, I doubt, however important the matter, it would not have been thought worthy of being recorded. Yet the inscription above is curious, and deserves to be registered on account of its singular and striking coincidences.”

    THE PROGRESS OF REVELATION

    Winchester, Oct. “Why is it that God has observed so slow a climax in bringing the necessary knowledge of His will, and their interest to mankind? e. g. giving a little under the Patriarchal, an increase under the Mosaic, and the fullness of the blessing under the Gospel Dispensation? It is true, He could have given the whole in the beginning to Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, or any other of the ante or post diluvian Fathers: but that this would not have as effectually answered the Divine purpose, may be safely asserted. “God, like his instrument Nature, delights in progression; and although the works of both, in semine, were finished from the beginning, nevertheless they are not brought forward, to actual and complete existence, but by various accretions. And this appears to be done that the blessings resulting from both may be properly valued, as in their approach, men have time to discover their necessities; and when relieved after a thorough consciousness of their urgency, they see and feel the propriety of being grateful to their kind Benefactor. “Were God to bestow his blessings before the want of them were truly felt, men could not be properly grateful for the reception of blessings, the value of which they had not known by previously feeling the want of them. God gives His blessings that they may be duly esteemed, and He himself become the sole object of our dependence: and this end he secures by a gradual communication of his bounties as they are felt to be necessary. To give them all at once would defeat his own intention, and leave us unconscious of our dependence on, and debt to, His grace. He, therefore, brings forward His various dispensations of mercy and love, as He sees men prepared to receive and value them; and as the receipt of the grace of one dispensation makes way for another, and the soul is thereby rendered capable of more extended views and communications; so the Divine Being causes every succeeding dispensation to exceed that which preceded it: on this ground we find a climax of dispensations, and in each, a progressive gradua ted scale of light, life, power, and holiness. “We first teach our children the power of the letters — then to combine consonants and vowels to make syllables — then to unite syllables in order to make words; then to assort and connect the different kinds of words, in order to form language or regular discourse. To require them to attempt the latter, before they had studied the former, would be absurd. The first step leads to and qualifies for the second; the second for the third, and so on. Thus God deals with the universe; and thus he deals with every individual; — every communication from God, is a kind of seed, which, if properly cultivated, brings forth much fruit. ‘Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.’”

    ON CONSCIENCE

    “Conscience is defined by some, that judgment which the rational soul passes on her own actions: and is a faculty of the soul itself, and consequently natural to it. Others say, ‘It is a ray of the Divine light.’ Milton calls it ‘God’s umpire:’ and Dr. Young seems to call it ‘a God in man.’ To me it appears to be no other than a faculty of the mind, capable of receiving light and information from the Spirit of God: and is the same to the soul in spiritual matters, as the eye is to the body in the things which concern vision. The eye is not light in itself, nor is it capable, of discerning any object, but by the instrumentality of natural or artificial light. But it has organs properly adapted to the reception of the rays of light, and the various images of the objects which they exhibit. When these are present to an eye, the structure of which is perfect, then there is discernment or perception of those objects which are within the sphere of vision: but when the light is absent, there is no perception of t he figure, dimensions, situation, or color of any object, howsoever entire or perfect the optic nerves may be. In the same manner, comparing spiritual things with natural, the Spirit of God enlightens that eye of the soul which we call conscience; it penetrates it with its effulgence, and speaking, as human language will permit on the subject, it has organs properly adapted for the reception of the Spirit’s emanations, which when received into the conscience exhibit a real view of the situation, state, &c. of the soul as it stands in reference to God and eternity. Thus the Scripture says, The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirits: that is, it shines into the conscience, and reflects throughout the soul, a conviction, proportioned to the degree of light communicated, of condemnation, pardon, or acquittance, according to the end of its coming.

    Conscience is sometimes said to be good, — bad, — tender, — seared, &c. Good, if it acquit or approve; bad, if it condemn or disapprove; tender, if alarmed at the least approach of evil, and is severe in scrutinizing the various operations of the mind and passions, as well as the actions of the body: and seared, if it no longer act thus, the Spirit of God being so grieved that its light is no longer dispensed, and conscience no longer passes judgment on the actions of the man. These epithets can scarcely belong to it, if the common definition be admitted; but on the general definition already given, these terms are easily understood, and are exceedingly proper: e. g. a good conscience, is that to which the Spirit of God has brought intelligence of the pardon of all the sins of the soul, and its reconciliation to God through the Blood of the Covenant; and this good conscience retained, implies God’s continued approbation of such a person’s conduct. A bad or evil conscience, is that which records a charge of guilt brought against the soul by the Holy Spirit, on account of the transgression of God’s holy law; the light of that Spirit showing the soul the nature of sin, and its own guilty conduct. A tender conscience, is that which is fully irradiated by the light of the Holy Spirit, which enables the soul to view the good as good, the evil as evil, in every him important respect; and, consequently, leads it to abominate the latter and cleave to the former: and, if at any time it act in the smallest measure opposite to those views, it is severe in selfreprehension, and bitter in its regrets. A darkened, seared, or hardened conscience, is that which has little or non of this divine light; the soul having by repeated transgression grieved the Spirit of God, that it has withdrawn its lights, in consequence of which, the man feels no remorse, but goes on in repeated acts of transgression, unaffected either by threatenings or promises; and careless about the destruction which awaits it: this is what the Scripture means by the conscience being seared as with a hot iron; i.e. by repeated transgressions, and resisting of the Holy Ghost. “The word conscience itself vindicates the above explanation: — it is compounded of con, “together or with,” and “scio, I know;” because it knows or combines with, by or together with, the Spirit of God. — The Greek word “suneideisis,” [soon-aye-day-sis] which is the only word used for conscience through the whole of the New Testament, has precisely the same meaning, being compounded of “sun, together or with,” and “eido, know:” and this definition will apply to it in all its operations. “From the above, I think we may safely make the following inferences: — 1. All men have what is commonly termed conscience, and conscience plainly supposes the influence of the Divine Spirit in it, convincing of sin, righteousness, and judgment. 2. The Spirit of God is given to enlighten, convince, strengthen, and bring men back to God, and fit them for glory by purifying their hearts. 3. Therefore all men may be saved who attend to and coincide with the convictions and light communicated: for the God of the Christians does not give men his Spirit to enlighten, i. e. merely to leave them without excuse; but that it may direct, strengthen, lead them to himself, that they may be finally saved. 4. That this Spirit comes from the grace of God, is demonstrable from hence: ‘It is a good and perfect gift,’ and St. James says, ‘all such come from the Father of lights.’ Besides, it is such a grace as cannot be merited; for, as it is God’s Spirit, it is of infinite value: yet it is given: — that, then, which is no t merited, and yet is given, must be of grace, not condemning or ineffectual grace, for no such principle comes from or resides in the Godhead. “Thus it appears that all men are partakers of the grace of God; for all acknowledge that conscience is common to all: and this implies, as I hope has been proved, the spirit of grace given by Christ Jesus, not that the world might be thereby condemned, but that it might be saved. Nevertheless, multitudes who are partakers of this heavenly gift, sin against it, lose it, and perish everlastingly: not through any defect in the gift, but through the abuse of it. “Hence I again infer: — l. That God wills all men to be saved; for he dispenses the true light to every man that comes into the world. “2. That he gives a sufficiency of grace to accomplish that end: for who can suppose that the influences of the Holy Spirit are insufficient for that purpose, if not obstinately resisted? God will not force the human will — he cannot, because he has made it will, and consequently free — freedom is essential to the notion of it, and to its existence. All force God will resist and overthrow that opposes the salvation of the soul: but the volitions of the soul he will not, cannot force, for this would imply the destruction of what himself wills should exist, and should exist in this mode: because the mode here is essential to the existence. “3. That this grace is amissable: — this is sufficiently evident in all those who perish, none of which were destitute of conscience, in one or other period of their lives. “4. And lastly: grace received, does not necessarily imply grace retained; as immense numbers resist the Holy Ghost in their consciences, and so grieve this good spirit as to cause it to depart from them; and then they go on frowardly in the way of their own heart, being left to the hardness and darkness of their own minds. — Therefore, let him that standeth, take heed lest he fall, not only foully but finally.”

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