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´╗┐Title: Sermons on Various Important Subjects
Author: Lee, Andrew
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Sermons on Various Important Subjects" ***

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SUBJECTS***


SERMONS ON VARIOUS IMPORTANT SUBJECTS: WRITTEN PARTLY ON SUNDRY OF THE
MORE DIFFICULT PASSAGES IN THE SACRED VOLUME.

By

Rev. ANDREW LEE, A.M.



INTRODUCTION

This text has been transcribed from the original by Fredric Lozo,
Mathis, Texas, January 2005.

The original text was typeset using the convention of the American
Colonial Period with a second "s" symbol resembling the letter "f"
which makes reading somewhat difficult for the modern reader. The text
was thus transcribed using the modern single "s" symbol convention.

The original text was photographed and read with an OCR program and
final text for transcription errors and wherever an mistake
has not been corrected, the transcriber sincerely apologizes to the
reader. As for the rest, the transcriber has endeavored to faithfully
maintain as much of the historical record as the ASCII TEXT format
permits, including the original spelling and grammar. Page numbering
was omitted in keeping with e-book format conventions. The reader is
encouraged to use the search feature of the text reader to locate
chapters listed on the contents page.

The work was published by the son of Isaiah Thomas, who is known both
as the father of American printing, and as a Minuteman at Lexington
and Concord in the War of Independence.

Some of the thoughts expressed in these sermons are a refreshing
return to an earlier time before American religious denominations
became fixed in their particular "systematic theology."

Reverend Lee's language and logic give us a glimpse of the purity of
mind and soul that followed in the wake of desperate revolutionary
conflict and the tumultuous years following independence when the
greatest minds of the time formulated the American Constitution and
The Bill of Rights. These sermons seem to address the universal issues
with which men of all times and places have also struggled, in times
of peace as well as war. These issues are articulated here with a
clarity that is perhaps only achieved in those times of great testing,
tears, and tenuous victory that began in 1776 and that would remain
tenuous until after the War of 1812.

Lee lived in a time of great intellectual pursuit and Lee's views of
life and the Lord's Providence seem particularly blessed with
illumination through the Holy Spirit.

Fredric Lozo, January, 2005



SERMONS ON VARIOUS IMPORTANT SUBJECTS: WRITTEN PARTLY ON SUNDRY OF THE
MORE DIFFICULT PASSAGES IN THE SACRED VOLUME.

By

Rev. ANDREW LEE, A.M.
Pastor of the North Church in Lisbon, Connecticut.

Printed at Worcester: By Isaiah Thomas, Jun. Sold by him, and by the
AUTHOR, in Lisbon, Connecticut-Sold also by said Thomas & Whipple, at
their Bookstore in Newburyport.

October----1803



"I KNOW BUT ONE BOOK, THAT CAN JUSTIFY OUR IMPLICIT ACQUIESCENCE IN
IT; AND ON THAT BOOK, A NOBLE DISDAIN OF UNDUE DEFERANCE TO PRIOR
OPINION--CASTS NEW AND INESTIMABLE LIGHT."--Young.



PREFACE

That thick darkness overspread the church after the irruptions of the
northern barbarians, and the desolations which they occasioned in the
Roman empire, is known and acknowledged. Those conquerors professed
the religion of the conquered; but corrupted and spoiled it. Like the
new settlers in the kingdom of Ephraim, they feared the Lord and
served their own gods. In those corruptions antichristian error and
domination originated. The tyranny of opinion became terrible, and
long held human minds enslaved. Few had sentiments of their own. The
orders of the vatican were received as the mandates of heaven. But at
last some discerning and intrepid mortals arose who saw the absurdity
and impiety of the reigning superstition, and dared to disclose them
to a wondering world! Among those bold reformers, LUTHER, CALVIN, and
a few contemporary worthies, hold a distinguished rank. Greatly is the
church indebted to them for the light which they diffused, and the
reformation which they effected. But still the light was imperfect.
Dark shades remained. This particularly appeared in the dogmatism and
bigotry of these same reformers, who often prohibited further
inquiries, or emendations! They had differed from Rome, but no body
must differ from them! As though the infallibility which they denied
to another, had been transferred to themselves!

Too many others, and in more enlightened times, have discovered a
strand measure of the same spirit.....a spirit which hath damped
inquiry and prevented improvement.

Hence, probably, the silence of some expositors on difficult
scriptures, and the sameness observable in some others. For the
complaint of the poet is not without reason,

"That commentators each dark passage shun, and hold their farthing
candle to the fun."

And the sameness which we see in several writers is probably dictated
by fear of singularity, and of incurring the charge of heresy. Minds
are different. When a dozen expositors interpret a difficult text
alike, they must, for some reason, have borrowed from one another.

The writer of the following pages claims no superiority to others,
either in genius or learning; but he claims a right to judge for
himself in matters of faith, and sense of scripture, and presumes to
exercise it--calling no man master. He hath found the original
scriptures, compared with the different translations, to be the best
exposition. To these he early had recourse, and in this way formed an
opinion of the meaning of sundry difficult passages in the volume of
truth. But comparing them afterwards with several expositions,
perceived their meaning to have been mistaken, either by those
writers, or by himself. As they did not convince him that his
constructions were erroneous, he now offers them to the public--Not as
certainly devoid of error--He knows himself to be fallible--but as the
result of some attention; and as that which he conceives their most
probable meaning.

On the prayer of Moses to be blotted out of God's book--the wish of
Paul to be accused from Christ, and the prevalence of infidelity
before the coming of the Son of Man, he published a summary of his
views, some years ago. By the advice of several respected literary
friends, they are now corrected, enlarged and inserted. On the last of
these he wrote A.D. 1785. Subsequent events tend to confirm him in the
sentiments then entertained. Expositors generally consider the prayer
of Moses and the wish of St. Paul to stand related as expressions of
the same temper, and argue from the one to the other. The author
conceives them perfectly foreign to each other, and totally mistaken
by every expositor he hath consulted; as also several of the other
scriptures on which he hath written.

A hint dropped, some years ago, in conversation, by a respected
father,* gave an opening to the writer, relative to one+ of the
following subjects, and occasioned his writing upon it. For the rest,
he is conscious of having borrowed from no writer, except a few
quotations, which are credited in their places. He doth not flatter
himself that his co constructions of scripture will be universally
received. Nor hath he a desire to dictate to others, or a wish that
his own views only should see the light. The press is open to those
who are otherwise minded. The author will read with pleasure, the
different constructions of the candid and ingenuous. But should
strictures of another description appear, they will be viewed with
indifference, and treated with neglect.

* Rev. Dr. Cogswell, of Windham + On 2 Samuel xii. 13.



CONTENTS

SERMON I.

   The Wisdom of God in the Means used to Propagate the Gospel.
   1 Cor. i. 27, 28.--"But God hath chosen the foolish things of the
   world to confound the wise," &c.

SERMON II.

   The Subject Continued.

SERMON III.

   The Declensions of Christianity an argument of its truth.
   Luke xviii. 8.--"When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on
   the earth?"

SERMON IV.

   The Subject Continued.

SERMON V.

   Abram's Horror of Great Darkness.
   Gen. xv. 12.--"And when the sun was going down a deep sleep fell
   upon Abram," &c.

SERMON VI.

   Divine Impartiality Considered.
   Rom. ii. 11.--"For there is no respect of persons with God."

SERMON VII.

   Moses' Prayer to be Blotted out of God's Book.
   Exod. xxxii. 31,32.--"And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said,
   'Oh! This people have sinned,'" &c.

SERMON VIII.

   The Same Subject Continued.

SERMON IX.

   St. Paul's wish to be Accused from Christ.
   Rom. ix. 3.--"For I could with that myself were accursed from
   Christ," &c.

SERMON X.

   David's Sin in the Matter of Uriah.
   2 Sam. xii. 13.--"And David said unto Nathan, 'I have sinned against
   the Lord,'" &c.

SERMON XI.

   The General Character of Christians.
   Gal. v. 24.--"And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh
   with its affections," &c.

SERMON XII.

   The Aggravated Guilt of him who delivered Christ to Pilate.
   John xix. 10, 11.--"Then saith Pilate unto him, 'Speakest thou not
   unto me?'" &c.

SERMON XIII.

   The Trial of Peter's Love to Christ.
   John xxi. 15, 16, 17.--"So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon
   Peter, 'Simon,'" &c.

SERMON XIV.

   Gifts no Certain Evidence of Grace.
   Luke x. 20.--"In this rejoice not that the spirits are subject unto
   you, but," &c.

SERMON XV.

   Human Characters Determined only by Divine Decision
   1 Cor. iv. 3, 4.--"But with me it is a very small thing that I
   should be judged of you," &c.

SERMON XVI.

   Characters will be Disclosed and Justice Awarded.
   1 Cor. iv. 5.--"Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come,
   who both will bring," &c.

SERMON XVII.

   God Willing that all Men should be Saved.
   1 Tim. ii. 4.--"Who will have all men to be saved."

SERMON XVIII.

   Balak's Inquiries relative to the Service of God, and Balaam's
   answer briefly considered.
   Micah vi. 6,7,8.--"Wherewith shall I come before the Lord And bow
   myself before the high God?" &c.

SERMON XIX.

   Confessing Christ an Indispensible Duty.
   2 Tim ii. 12.--"If We deny him, he will deny us."

SERMON XX.

   The Fear which terminates in the Second Death.
   Rev. xxi.8.--"The fearful--shall have their part in the lake, which
   burneth with fire," &c.

SERMON XXI.

   The End of Family Institutions, with Observations on The Importance
   of Education.
   Mal ii. 15.--"And did he not make one? Yet had he the residue of the
   Spirit," &c.

SERMON XXII.

   Parental Duties Considered and Urged--from the same text.

SERMON XXIII.

   The Blessing of God on Filial Piety.
   Jer. xxxv. 19.--"Therefore thus saith the Lord--'Jonadab, the Son of
   Rechab shall not want a man,'" &c.

SERMON XXIV.

   The Character and Supports of Widows Indeed.
   2 Tim. v. 5.--"Now she that is a widow indeed and desolate, trusteth
   in God," &c.

SERMON XXV.

   The Good Man Useful in Life and Happy in Death.
   Psalm xxxvii. 37.--"Mark the perfect man and behold the upright; for
   the end of that man is peace."

SERMON XXVI.

   Departed Saints Fellow Servants with those on Earth.
   Rev. xxii. 9.--"I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren the
   prophets--."

SERMON XXVII.

   The Subject Continued.

SERMON XXVIII.

   The Dangers of Deviating from Divine Institutions.
   Col. ii. 8--"Beware lest any man spoil you through Philosophy and
   vain deceit," &c.
   
SERMON XXIX.

   The Sins of Communities Noted and Punished.
   Mat. xxiii.36.--"Verily I say unto you, all these things shall come
   upon this generation."



 * * * * *



SERMON I.

The Wisdom of God in the means used to propagate the Gospel.

1 Corinthians i. 27, 28.

"But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the
wise; and god hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the
things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things
which are despised, hath God chosen, and things which are not, to
bring to nought things which are." *


* The two discourses on this text were originally one, and preached
before Windham Association, at Thompson, October Session, 1798.
Probably some of the ideas which they contain, may have been suggested
by reading Paley's Evidences of Christianity; but as the author had
not that book in his possession when he wrote on this subject, he is
not able particularly to give credit to that excellent writer, if here
his due.

The mercy promised to the fathers was Christ, the Savior. That "the
desire of all nations should come," was a prediction of his
incarnation; and his entrance here was announced by a heavenly
messenger, with, "Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy--to
all people."

Yet "when he came to his own, his own received him not!" To many he
hath been "a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense!"

The design and tendency of Christianity are most benevolent; but being
opposed to men's lusts, which rule in their members, all the
malevolence of depravity hath been excited against it. Jews and
Gentile united in the opposition. "The kings of the earth stood up and
the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his
Christ--both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the
people of Israel." The Christian religion did not creep into the world
in the dark. It first appeared at an enlightened period, and among the
most enlightened of the nations. The sciences derived from conquered
Greece, had been improved at Rome, and communicated to its
dependencies. Syria was then a province of the Empire. Every movement
in Judea was observed and reported at the metropolis. The crucifixion
of our Savior was sanctioned by a Roman deputy; and the persecuted
Christians were allowed an appeal to Caesar. Soon therefore, did the
religion of Jesus make its way to Rome. The power of Rome had also
reached its acme; and as the spirit of Christianity was diverse from
that of the world, the learning and power of the Empire soon combined
against it. That this religion would be crushed and vanish away as a
dream of the night, was generally expected.

Every circumstance seemed to indicate such an event. Those reputed
wise, considered the gospel scheme as foolishness; and the instrument
which were chosen to propagate it were thought to be weak and
contemptible. It was also observed to spread chiefly among the lower
order of men, who had not the advantages of literature, nor been
initiated in the mysteries of Judaism, all which served to inspire its
enemies with confidence, that it would soon come to nought.

The apostle takes notice, in the context, of the contempt then so
generally poured on Christianity, and declares the wisdom of God in
the permission of it. He also predicts the triumph of the cross;
especially over the powers then combined against it--predictions which
afterwards fulfilled: For those powers were all subdued and humbled,
and Christ and the gospel exalted. The Christian religion was openly
professed, and became the most reputable religion in many countries;
particularly in Syria and at Rome and its numerous provinces; and by
the means then ordered of God. This is the spirit of the text--_God
hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and
the weak things of the world to confound the mighty, &c_.

In discussing the subject, we shall _consider the means used to
propagate the gospel--the opposition made against it--and the wisdom
of God in the choice of the means_; which will bring up to view some
of the objections which have been made against the truth of the
gospel.

In treating of the means used to propagate the gospel, we pass over
the preaching and miracles of Christ, and the wonders which took place
at his inexcuseable in neglecting so great salvation; but they
preceded sending the gospel to the gentiles, and the means used to
spread it among them. The apostle had no reference to Christ, or any
thing done or suffered by him, when he spake of _the foolish and weak,
and base things, used of God, to confound those which are wise and
mighty_. He spake only with reference to the instruments which were
chosen to carry the gospel abroad and persuade the nations of the
earth to receive it.

God hath all creatures at his command; he hath power to press the most
reluctant into his service, and to compel them to bear his messages
and execute his orders; as we see in the case of Balaam and Jonah. God
can make use of man to this end, either by reconciling them to
himself, and attaching them to his interest or by overruling their
corrupt and vicious designs to effect his holy purposes, without their
consent or knowledge. Most of the prophets were brought into his view,
and made desirous to honor him. Many pagan princes, and others, who
knew him not were yet made instrumental in doing his pleasure and
executing his designs. The divine sovereign never wants for agents to
accomplish his purposes. He sitteth on the circle of the heavens, and
orders the affairs of the universe in such a manner as to do his
pleasure. "None can stay his hand." Whether the agents which he
employs are willing or unwilling, mean so, or not, is of no importance
relative to the event. "His purposes stand, and the thoughts of His
heart to all generations." The attempts of creatures to reverse his
orders, and defeat his decree only help to their accomplishment. This
was particularly the case respecting the measures adopted by the
enemies of Christianity to prevent its spreading in the world.

The persons chosen of God and sent forth to propagate the religion of
Christ, were such as human wisdom would have judged very unsuitable.
Twelve poor, despised, illiterate men, were called to be apostles;
--most of them were fishermen. One was a publican; a collector of the
Roman tribute, which had been imposed on the Jews as a conquered
people. An employment so odious, that vile persons, regardless of
character, would only accept it. Such men we should judge exceedingly
unfit for ministers of religion, and not likely to succeed in making
converts to it. Yet such were those who were appointed of God, to be
prime ministers in the Christian church! Such the men who were sent
forth to change the form and administration of Judaism, and overthrew
the systems of Paganism, rendered venerable by a general
establishment, and the religious reverence of ages. The Jews' religion
was from God, who had given abundant evidence of its divine origin.
This Christ came not to destroy. But its external administration was
to be changed; and in apprehension of most of those who professed it,
it was less opposed to the gospel scheme, than Paganism. No others had
greater enmity to Christianity than the Jews, or entered into the
opposition position with warmer zeal. They commonly stood foremost,
and stirred up the Gentiles against it, and often with success.

In treating of the means used to propagate the gospel. We may observe
the powers imparted to those who were employed in the work. These Were
not such as human wisdom would have chosen. "Their weapons were not
carnal, though mighty through God." They had none at their command,
prepared to punish those who would not receive them, or the doctrines
which they inculcated--none to retaliate injuries done them. To abuse
they had nothing to oppose, except a patient exhibition of his temper,
who "when he was reviled, reviled not again, when he suffered
threatened not, committing himself to him who judgeth righteously,"
and praying for his murderers on the cross.

False religions have often been propagated with the sword
--particularly that of Mahomet, and the Romish corruptions of
Christianity. These, especially the latter, were urged with every
species of cruelty--a mode of attempting to proselyte, evincive of
human folly. Arguments totally diverse are requisite to enlighten the
mind and produce conviction of a divine mission. With these came the
apostles of the Lamb. They were "endowed with power from on high;" and
forbidden of their Lord to enter on their ministry until it was
conferred upon them. This was accomplished on the day of Pentecost.

They had been previously convinced of Christ's truth. They seemed
indeed to waver when he suffered, but his resurrection, the
opportunities which they had with him after that event, and his
ascension, which they had witnessed, must have removed every doubt.
But this did not quality them for their work. It did not furnish them
with means to convince others, who had not witnessed those things. But
when the Holy Ghost came upon them, on that memorable occasion, they
were furnished. The gift of miracles was then, more abundantly than
before, imparted to them. In some respects, new and very necessary
communications were then made to them--particularly that of speaking
in tongues, which at once carried evidence of their divine mission,
and enabled them to go into all the world and preach the gospel to
every creature. This was the order of their Lord, but devoid of this
gift they could not have obeyed it.

This gift, as imparted to them, seems to have carried greater evidence
of their truth, than their barely speaking all languages. Men out of
every nation heard them speak on the day of Pentecost, _every man in
his own tongue_! Therefore were they amazed, and convinced that the
apostles were sent of God and that the gospel was of heavenly
derivation.

Those heralds of gospel grace were also inspired with courage to speak
boldly in the name and cause of Christ, nothing terrified by their
enemies; and "when brought before kings and rulers for his sake, a
mouth and wisdom were given them, which all their adversaries were
unable to gainsay or resist."

Such were the means used of God to propagate the gospel? such the
agents whom he employed and such their qualifications.

We are next to consider the opposition which was made to its
propagation.

Various circumstances combined the worlds against it. So far as
Christianity prevailed, every other religion must fall. No other could
stand in connexion with it. The Jewish was not to be overthrown; but
such changes were to take place in its outward form, that those who
did not know it to be typical of a better dispensation, considered it
as included in the general proscription; as doomed to destruction if
Christianity prevailed Against Stephen that was a principal charge
--"We have heard him say, that this Jesus, shall change the customs
which Moses hath delivered us."

The different systems of Paganism were not opposed to one another, as
they were to that of the gospel. They admitted a plurality of God
--some superior? others subordinate. They considered them not only as
holding different ranks, but as reigning over different countries and
nations. If one of their systems was true another might be so. But
Christianity admitted only "one God and one Mediator between God and
man, the man Christ Jesus." It declared that all others who had been
called Gods and worshiped as such, were not Gods--that those who
sacrificed to them, sacrificed to demons--and it denounced utter,
eternal ruin against those who did not forsake them and acknowledge
Jehovah. Those peculiarities, apart from the nature of this religion,
which is opposed to the lusts of men which rule in their members,
would, of course, unite the world against it. Those of every other
religion would make a common interest in opposing this, which had
fellow-ship with none of them, but tended to their entire subversion
and utter ruin. And it is a fact, that the world did unite against the
religion of Jesus, and against those whom he had appointed to
inculcate it. Christianity then appeared devoid of support--the
opposition to have everything on its side. Christ's followers were a
little flock, destitute of power or learning, and in the world's view
utterly contemptible. Rome, the mistress of the world, had reached the
summit of her greatness; and she soon turned all her power against the
feeble band, who were laboring to diffuse the knowledge of Christ. and
calling men from dumb idols, to serve the living God.

To the eye of man how unequal the conflict? Had not those followers of
the Lamb been assured that their redeemer lived--that he was divine
--that he was with them, and would be with them, they would have
declined a contest with those before whom the world trembled. But they
entered, un-dismayed on the work assigned them, went through With and
completed it! They prospered in that to which they were sent. This had
never been done had not God been with them; for none of the advantages
possessed by their enemies were neglected. The first effects of enmity
to Christianity were directed against Christ's person. He had been
some time teaching and doing miracles in Judea, and numbers had
attached themselves to him. They considered him as a prophet mighty in
"word and deed." Some who witnessed his mighty works, exclaimed, "When
Christ cometh will he do more miracles than this man hath done?"
Others, "Is this not the Christ?"

These movements among the Jews drew the attention of their rulers, and
raised them to opposition. A humble, suffering Savior, did not suit
their pride and lust of power. They looked for a temporal deliverer,
who would lead them to victory, and subdue under them, the powers
which held them in subjection. No other would they receive as the
Messiah. As soon, therefore, as the fame of Jesus began to spread
abroad, and numbers treated him with respect, they resolved to destroy
him. At the feast of the passover, which called all the males of
Israel to Jerusalem, they caused him to be apprehended--tried him
their great council--condemned him to death, and importuned the Roman
governor to sentence him to the cross, as a rebel against Caesar.
The charge was not supported--Christ did not aspire to temporal
dominion--"his kingdom was not of this world." The governor declared
him not guilty. Had Christ, like the Arabian deceiver, which
afterwards arose, assumed the sword, marked his way with blood and
carnage, the Jews would have bid him welcome, and flocked to his
standard. Then he might have been denominated a rebel against Caesar.
But nothing of this nature was found upon him. Therefore were the Jews
his enemies; but the imperial magistrate "found no fault in him;"
though persuaded to consent to his death.

But though such were the temper and views of the Romans respecting
Christ, at the time of his sufferings, they were different when his
ministers went forth to set up his religion. When the nature of
Christianity was discovered, and it appeared opposed to Paganism, and
tending to its destruction, the Roman chieftains, who had been taught
to venerate their Gods, and claimed to be high priests of the national
religion, entered with zeal into the views of Christ's enemies, and
reared the standard against his followers. All their powers were
exerted to crush, the cause of the divine Immanuel. Ten general
persecutions are said to have been raised against the Christians; and
myriads of the faithful to have been sacrificed to heathen malice and
bigotry.

Neither were these the only enemies of Christ. The learning of the age
was applied to confound his followers. The sophistry of Grecian
metaphysics directed against his unlettered disciples. Who could have
expected Christ's little flock, devoid of every worldly advantage, to
have maintained their ground against such formidable enemies? Who,
judging by the rules of man's judgment, have entertained a suspicion
that they would not soon be driven from the field? But their cause was
that of God. Heaven was on their side, "In vain did the heathen rage
and the people imagine vain things. He who sitteth in the heavens,
laughed; the Lord had them in derision."



 * * * * * *



SERMON II.

The Wisdom of God in the means used to propagating the Gospel.

1 Corinthians i, 27, 28.

"But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the
wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the
things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things
which are despised, hath God chosen, and things which are not, to
bring to nought things that are."


In the preceding discourse we took a summary view of the means used of
God to propagate the gospel, and of the opposition made to its
propagation.

We are now to consider the wisdom of God in the choice of means to
this end; which will bring up to our view some of the objections which
have been made against the truth of the gospel.

That the gospel is from God, and the means used to propagate it of his
appointment, are from sundry considerations, apparent--particularly
from the miracles wrought by Christ and by his disciples, who went
forth in his name. Conclusive was the reasoning of Nicodemus--"Rabbi,
we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these
miracles that thou doest, except God be with him." God, who is perfect
in wisdom, would choose no improper or unsuitable means. Their wisdom
might not at first appear to men. It did not at first appear. The
world cried folly and weakness. But "The foolishness of God is wiser
than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men."

In God's hand any means are sufficient to effect his designs. The rod
of Moses, when stretched out by divine order, availed to bring all
those plaques on Egypt, by which God made himself known and feared.
When Israel left that land, it availed to open them a passage through
the sea; and afterwards to bring back its waters to the destruction of
their enemies.

Could we see no fitness in divine appointments, we should remember
that "we are of yesterday and know nothing," and not dare to arraign
divine wisdom, or charge folly on God. But in the case before us, his
wisdom is in many respects discernable, as will appear from a
consideration of some of the objections which are made against the
gospel, and against the means appointed of God to propagate it.

One of the objections is taken from the supposed unsuitableness of the
means. Considered in itself this made an objection. It is said the
all-wise God would not have appointed them--that to appoint a company
of poor, despised, ignorant fishermen, as prime ministers of a
religion, is sufficient to prove that it is not from God, who always
useth the best means and most suitable instruments.

It is not strange that this should have been objected at the beginning
of the gospel story, before any effects of the apostles labors
appeared. It is a natural objection for the, proud, who thought
themselves the best judges of wisdom and propriety, to have made at
that day. But it comes with an ill grace from modern infidels, who
cannot deny that Christianity triumphed over the power and learning of
the world combined against it, though such means only were used to
propagate it--such weak instruments employed in it. Naaman, the
Syrian, reasoned at first like one of these objectors, but the success
which attended the prophets directions convinced him of his error. Why
has not the same the like effect on these? Surely, "had this counsel
been of men, it would have come to nought." Under the circumstances in
which Christianity made its appearance, it would have been easily
overthrown; but the power of the world could not overthrow it,
or prevent it from spreading far and wide. It continued--it prospered
--and every opposing system fell before it. Means and instruments
which human wisdom would have judged most suitable, could have done no
more. The success of measures in a contest like this, proves their
fitness.

Under this head it is further objected that the first ministers of the
gospel were ignorant of the arts and sciences cultivated by the
polished nations of the age--that therefore, they were despised,
especially by the Greeks. Despised they might be by those who
"professed themselves wise had become fools." Yet they had all the
knowledge which their work required imparted to them from above. The
language of the schools would have been ill adapted to the simplicity
of the gospel. It would have been unintelligible to many of those to
whom the gospel was sent. The gospel offers salvation to the
unlearned, equally as to the learned--should be expressed, therefore,
in language easy to be understood. Had the apostles and evangelists
used the abstruse language of the schoolmen, to many they would have
spoken in an unknown tongue. Had the scriptures been written in such
language, they would have been much more obscure than they now are.

Though the gospel is plainly written, it may be rendered dark and
mysterious, by a metaphysic dress, It is a peculiar excellency of the
scriptures that they are mostly written in the plain language of
common sense--so plainly, that "he may run who readeth them."

Two of the New Testament writers were men of letters, Paul and Luke;
and we find more obscurity in their writings, especially those of the
former occasioned by allusions to the sciences and usages of the age,
than in the other writers of that holy book. The Apocalypse is indeed
abstruse, but this is not occasioned by the language, which is plain,
but by the subject. That book is chiefly prophetic; and therefore
expressed in the metaphors of prophetic style. Prophecy is not
generally designed to be fully understood, till explained by the
accomplishment.

To take occasion from those who might object to the illiterate
character of primitive gospel ministers, a Paul, and a Luke were found
among them; but neither of them was among those first called to the
Christian ministry. Those first sent forth to preach the gospel were
unlearned men. The great truths of the gospel had been taught, and
many had received them before these (especially St. Paul) had become
believers--that the faith of the first followers of Christ, might
appear, "not to stand in the wisdom of men, but in power of God."

Had the primitive ministry been learned philosophers, or renowned
rhetoricians, suspicions might have arisen that mankind had been
deceived, that they had been bewildered by the subtlety of science, or
charmed by the fascinating power of eloquence, into the belief of a
scheme which they did not understand. This cannot be suspected when
the character of the first Christian ministers is considered, and the
progress which Had been made in propagating the gospel, before any of
the learned were joined as their assistants in the work.

The propriety of the gospel method, may be farther argued from the
nature of the gospel. Wisdom of words is not necessary to communicate
gospel truths, or deep penetration, sufficiently to understand them.
It was a remark of the apostle "that not many wise men after the
flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, were called." The same
observation may yet be made. People of plain common sense more often
receive the gospel, and favor the things of true religion, than those
who affect superior powers, and to understand all mysteries. Those who
are wise in their own imaginations, often reject the counsel of God
against themselves, and put from them offered salvation. The manner in
which the apostles and their fellow laborers preached the gospel, hath
also been objected to as unwise. Their preaching was chiefly a plain
unaffected exhibition of truth, laid before those who heard them, and
left with them. To produce faith in Christ, they declared the time,
place and circumstances of his birth, referring to the prophecies
which foretold them--declared the concurring testimonies of angels and
inspired persons, who gave witness for him--exhibited sketches of his
life--his teaching--his miracles--declared his prediction of his own
death, with the manner, time, and place--also of his resurrection on
the third day, and the fulfillment of those predictions. They referred
to his foretelling Peter's fall and recovery; Judas' treachery and
end, with the events which followed--they referred also to Christ's
teaching and miracles--to those which attended his sufferings and
resurrection--they adduced the evidence which they had of his death
and resurrection--declared the opportunities which they had with him
after his passion--the instructions they received from him--the orders
which he gave them, and his ascension from the mount of Olives, of
which they were witnesses, "confirming their words with
signs following."

To persuade men to receive and obey the gospel, they declared the
consequences to those who received, and to those who rejected it
--that the same Jesus who had died on the cross, was appointed by the
Father, "to be the Judge of quick and dead--that he would come again
in like manner as he had gone away--that all mankind must appear
before his judgment seat to give an account of themselves, and receive
the deeds done in the body," that those who flee for refuge to the
hope of the gospel, will find mercy, and be made forever happy with
God, but those who neglect the gospel will be sent away into
everlasting punishment.

Such interesting truths, those ministers of Christ laid before
mankind, and left with them for their consideration. But they used no
rhetoric to impress them. Neither did they appeal to the passions of
their hearers; in which they followed the pattern set them by their
Lord, who "did not strive, nor cry, nor cause any man to hear his
voice in the streets." With only a fair statement of those truths,
accompanied with the offer of "mercy and grace to help in time of
need," they left mankind to choose for themselves and abide the
consequences.

This some have thought an improper manner of calling men into the
kingdom of Christ; that had been more pathetic in their addresses, and
more argumentative in their applications, they would have labored with
more effect; that this plain and simple method is unworthy of God,
and, not likely to be from him.

If we consider the nature and design of Christianity, such objections
will have little weight. It is not the design of heaven to compel men
to obey the gospel, or to drive them to an unwilling submission to
Christ. If an exhibition of gospel truth and beauty, and the
consequences of receiving or rejecting its overtures, are discarded;
if men refuse, by these means to be persuaded, they are left, and the
consequences follow. To People of sober sense, this method appears
rational. It is not probable that those who are not thus prevailed
with to embrace the gospel, would in any other way be made Christians
indeed. People who are frightened into religion seldom persevere.
Neither do those whose passions are so inflamed that they appear, for
a time, in ecstasies. When their passions subside, they grow cool, and
their religion dies. If the great truths of religion, laid before men,
as was done by Christ and his apostles, do not avail to render them
rationally and sincerely religious, little value is to be put on those
heats of imagination, which produce temporary raptures, and set some
on fire in religion. Such ardent love doth not abide; it soon cools,
and commonly leaves those who had been the subjects of it no better
than it found them, and but too often much worse.

But while some object to the simplicity of the gospel, and to the
plain language and address of the primitive ministry, others are
offended at the mysteries in the Christian system. Who can understand
some things contained in what is called a revelation? And what
valuable ends can be answered by a revelation which is unintelligible?
say these objectors.

But, those points in the Christian scheme which are too deep for human
comprehension, do not relate to practice. All required, in relation to
them, is an assent to their truth, on the credit of God's word. This
is neither difficult nor unreasonable.

Perhaps with only human powers, it may be impossible to comprehend
those subjects which are left mysterious in divine revelation; but are
they incredible if God hath declared them? Few would be the articles
of our creed, did we admit the belief of nothing which we do not
understand. We carry mysteries in ourselves. We are compounded of soul
and body, but who explain the connexion; tell us the essence of either
the one or the other, or define the principles on which the soul
commands the body? We are lost in ourselves, and in all the objects
which surround us.

Whatever God hath declared, we are bound to believe because he hath
declared it; and whatever he hath enjoined, we are bound to do
because he hath enjoined it, though the reasons of his injunctions may
not be revealed. God is under no obligations to explain matters to us.
"God is greater than man. Why dost thou strive with him? He giveth not
account of his matters."

Others object because the Gospel is not sent to all nations. That God
should be supposed to communicate to some, and not to others they
allege to be unreasonable and sufficient to destroy its
credit; especially, as the book which claims to be a revelation
teacheth that "there it no respect of persons with God."

That God makes his creatures to differ respecting talents and
advantages, is a truth not to be denied. Those who on this account,
object to the truth of the gospel, will not deny it. If God makes
differences respecting every thing else, why not respecting religion?
Where is the injustice or impropriety of trying some with gospel
advantages; others only with the light of nature? If requirements vary
with betrustments, none have reason to complain; and that this is the
case is plainly the language of revelation.*

With equal reason might the hand of God in creation be denied, because
different grades are found among creatures, and some have greatly the
advantage over others; and in providence because its distributions are
unequal. That these inequalities are observable, and that they are the
work of God, will be acknowledged by all who believe the being of a
God, and his providential government. If any are disposed to call
these in question, we turn from them. To reason with them would be in
vain. "That which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God
hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him, from the
creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the
things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they
are without excuse."

* Vid. Discourse on Romans, ii. 11.

A scoffing age may cry out against Christianity. To some it may be a
"stumbling block; to others foolishness." Men may exclaim against the
gospel, and against the doctrines and duties of it, and the means
which have been used of God to propagate it. Still "the foolishness
of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than
men." So it hath been in times past; so it will be in times to come.
_The foolish, the weak and base things of the world, have confounded
and brought to nought, all the world termed wise, and great, and
mighty_.

Imperial Rome at the summit of her greatness, could not crush the
cause of him who died on Calvary! "Had this counsel or work been of
men, it would have come to nought." Probably the name of Jesus, would
long ere now have perished from the earth. But all his enemies could
do nothing effectually against him. They could only do what God's
counsel had determined to be done.

Christianity hath still its enemies; of the same character with those
of old. They have overthrown the faith of some. Others they may
seduce. That "scoffers should arise, in the last days walking after
their own lusts; that some should deny the Lord that bought them, and
that many should follow their pernicious ways," were foretold by an
inspired apostle, and "they turned to us for a testimony."

We are called a Christian people. "If we believe the gospel, happy are
we if we obey it." The generality profess to believe it. But how is it
received? Do not many neglect it? Do not some who assent to its truth,
"go their way to their farms, or their merchandize," regardless of it,
neither confessing Christ before men, nor seeking an interest in him?

If the gospel is from God, to such neglecters Of the grace it offers,
it must be "a favor of death unto death!" And is not their number
great? Doth it not increase from year to year, from age to age? To
these who are taken up with sensual pleasures, and with minding only
earthly things, St. Paul would say "even weeping you are enemies to
the cross of Christ, and your end will be destruction."

Let us be persuaded to bring home these considerations to ourselves.
We are deeply interested in them. "The secrets of our hearts will ere
long be judged by the gospel of Christ." To those who will not receive
and obey the gospel, we have only to say, "Notwithstanding, be ye sure
of this, that the Kingdom of God is come nigh unto you."



 * * * * * *



SERMON III.

The Declensions of Christianity, an Argument of its Truth..

Luke xviii. 8.

When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?


"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but be that
believeth not shall be damned." So certified the risen Savior. Faith
is made a condition of salvation. But God requires only a reasonable
service. He must then have given evidence of the truth to which He
requires assent. He hath given it abundantly; Christians "are
compassed about with a cloud of witnesses."

The proofs of Christianity are of two kinds; external and internal.
Both are strong. United they leave infidelity without excuse.

Of external, the chief are miracles and prophecy. Miracles carried
conviction to beholders; and were designed to give credibility to
special messengers. Prophecy is a standing evidence, by which
testimony is borne to the truth of revelation; yea, it is a growing
evidence, which gains strength by every fulfillment.

Some may envy those who lived in this age of miracles supposing them
sufficient to banish every doubt. But the proof arising from the
fulfillment of prophecy, which we enjoy above them, is equal if not
superior to theirs.

The prophecies contain sketches of the history of man, and of the plan
of providence, from their respective dates to the end of the world.
Those which relate _to the declensions of religion, which were to take
place under the gospel dispensation_, will now only be considered.

From those declensions, arguments are drawn against the truth of
Christianity. Was Christianity from God, he would verify the
declaration made by him who claimed to be his Son. _The gates of Hell
shall not prevail against it_. But they do prevail. What was once said
of its author, _Behold the world is gone after him,_ will now apply to
its enemy. This religion is not therefore from God, but of man's
device. Propt up as it is, by human laws, and supported by "the powers
that be," it totters towards ruin. Left to itself, it would soon fall
and come to nought.

Such are the proud vauntings of infidelity, when "iniquity abounds and
the love of many waxeth cold." So when Christ hung on the cross, and
when he slept in the tomb, ignorant of consequences, his disciples
"wept and lamented, and the world rejoiced;" but the time was short.
Soon the world was confounded and the "sorrow of his disciples was
turned into joy." IF the declensions which we witness, are foretold in
scripture, they are no occasion of surprize.

Yea, instead of weakening our faith, they may reasonably increase it.
And when we consider the assurances given us, that these declensions
were to antecede the universal prevalence of true religion; they may
also serve to increase our hope.

To _shew that these declensions are foretold, and that we may expect
yet greater abominations, than have hitherto appeared_, is attempted
in the following discourse.

When _the son of man cometh shall he find faith on the earth_?

That Christ is here intended by the Son of man; and that faith will
be rare among men at the coming of his, referred to, are not doubtful
matters. But what coming of Christ is here referred to? This is first
to be ascertained.

The coming of Christ refers in the scripture, to several events.
Sometimes to his incarnation; sometimes to the destruction of
Jerusalem, and the Jewish polity; sometimes to his coming to judgment;
and sometimes to the beginning of that universal dominion which he is
to exercise on earth in the latter days. Each of these is the subject
of several prophecies.

Christ's incarnation, or his coming to dwell with men, and to obey and
suffer for their redemption, was a principal subject of the old
testament prophecies. "To him gave all the prophets witness."

The divine justice executed on the Jews, in the destruction of their
chief city, and polity, is also termed Christ's coming. This was the
subject of several prophecies of old. It was foretold by Moses, and
sundry others who lived before the gospel day; but more particularly
by Christ, in person just before his sufferings. To this event the
desolations foretold in the twenty fourth of Matthew, and its
parallels in the other gospels, had a primary reference. The metaphors
used to describe it are strong. They have been supposed to refer to
the general judgment; and they have, no doubt an ultimate reference to
it. But they refer, more immediately to another coming of Christ; his
coming to render to the Jews according to their demerits as a people,
soon after they should have filled up the measure of their iniquity by
his crucifixion; which by the circumstances attending it, became a
national act.

That this coming of Christ was particularly intended in those
predictions, is, from several considerations apparent. That the
Christians of that age, who were conversant with the apostles, and
instructed by them, received this to be the meaning of those
prophecies, and that they fled at the approach of the Roman armies,
and escaped the destruction which came on the Jews, are matters of
notoriety. And that this was the primary meaning of those prophecies,
is further evident from an express declaration which they contain;
"_Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away till all
these things be fulfilled_." This closeth the prophecy. The whole
must therefore have received a primary accomplishment, "before that
generation did pass away." This was fulfilled in the destruction of
Jerusalem by Titus.

Christ's coming to judgment, is often foretold in every part of the
new testament, to pass over the intimations given of it in the old.
But none of these can be _the coming of the Son of man_, referred to
in the text. That it cannot refer to his incarnation is evident, from
the time in which the declaration in the text was made. His coming in
the flesh had been then accomplished.

Neither can it refer to his coming to punish Jewish apostasy and
ingratitude; or to his coming to judge the world in righteousness,
because the moral state of the world at neither to those periods,
answers to the description here given. _Shall he find faith on the
earth_?

The ruin of the Jews by the Roman armies, happened about thirty six
years after Christ's crucifixion. Long ere that time the spirit had
been poured out, and many had embraced the gospel. The apostles and
evangelists, had gone, not only to "the lost sheep of the house of
Israel, but also into the way of the Gentiles;" had called "those who
were afar off, as well as those who were near; their sound had gone
into all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." Neither
had they labored among the Gentiles in vain. St. Paul spake by the
Spirit when he declared to the Jews that the salvation of God was sent
unto the Gentiles, and they would hear it. His word was verified.
"Many were added to the Lord, and the number of the disciples was
multiplied."

Such was the state of the world, at that _coming of the Son of man.
Faith was then to be found on the earth_, if not among Jews.

When Christ shall come to judgment, we have reason to believe, that
faith will also be found on earth; and more than at that period we
have now considered.

The scriptures of both testaments, abound with predictions of the
universal prevalence of religion, in the latter days; of the whole
worlds rejoicing under the auspicious government of the Prince of
Peace; of restraints laid on the powers of darkness, that they should
not deceive and seduce mankind. And though we are taught that "the old
serpent will afterwards be loosed, for a little season, and go forth
to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth,"
we have no intimation that the main body of the Church will be
corrupted by his influence, or injured by his power. His adherents may
"compass the camp of the saints, and the beloved city," but will make
no attack upon them. "Fire will come down from God out of heaven, and
destroy them." By some special, perhaps miraculous interpolation of
providence, the people of God will be protected and delivered.

St. john, who gives more particulars of the latter day glory, than
those who had gone before him, fixes the term Christ's reign on earth
a thousand years, which he represents to be those _next preceding_ the
judgment. And agreeably to the statement which he hath made, a
numerous body of saints will then be found to welcome their Lord, and
rejoice before him at his coming.

To this agree the other prophets who treat of this subject. No other
limits the term of Christ's reign; or mentions Satan's being enlarged
and permitted any measure of deceptive influence, after the restraints
laid upon him at the beginning Christ's reign. But others foretell the
happy day, and several seem to dwell delightfully upon it, and
represent it as continuing to the end of time; and none give the
remotest hint that it is to terminate, and iniquity again to become
universally prevalent.

Isaiah often mentions it, and dilates more largely upon it than any
other who lived before the gospel day. From his representations we
should expect it to terminate _only with time_. "I will make the an
_eternal_ excellency--violence shall _no more be heard_ in thy land;
wasting nor destruction within thy borders--the sun shall be _no more_
thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light
unto thee, but the Lord shall be unto thee _an everlasting light_, and
thy God thy glory--the days of thy mourning _shall be ended_--thy
people shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land _forever_."

By the little horn in Daniel's vision, Antichrist is doubtless
intended. When at his fall Christ is to take the kingdom; or it is to
be given to his people, it is to be an abiding kingdom. "And there was
given unto him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people,
nations and languages, should serve him; _his dominion is an
everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, an his kingdom that
which shall not be destroyed_."

This is a prophecy of the universal prevalence of true religion in the
last days, after the reign of Antichrist shall have come to an end. By
the explanation in the latter part of the chapter, the saints are from
that period to have the dominion. It is no more to be taken from them.
"The saints of the most high shall take the kingdom, and _possess the
kingdom for ever, even forever and ever_--and the kingdom and
dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven,
shall be given to the people of the saints of the most high, _whose
kingdom is an ever lasting kingdom_, and all dominion shall serve and
obey him."

These representations agree with that made to St. John, who saw the
church guarded and protected from infernal power and influence, at the
close of the millennium. The only difference consists in the mention
of a few particulars by the apostle, which were not communicated to
the prophets; such as the term of Christ's reign on earth; and some
fruitless attempts of the powers of darkness against his people, after
that term shall have expired.

The coming to judgment cannot therefore be intended in the text.
_There will then be faith on the earth_. But if we consider "that
which is noted in the scripture of truth," respecting the moral state
of the world before and at the time of Christ's coming to reign upon
it, we shall find it answering to this description.

We will therefore, first take a general view _of the prophecies
respecting the moral state of the world, under the gospel
dispensation? Then a more particular view of the great declensions
which were to take place, with a special reference to the state of
religion at the approach of the latter day glory_.

The Savior, in person, and by his Spirit, gave general intimations to
the apostles, of the times which were to pass over them, and over his
church. When they were ordered to preach the gospel in all the world,
beginning at Jerusalem, they were forewarned that the Jews would
reject their testimony, and persecute them, as they had persecuted
their Lord--that soon after "there would be great distress in that
land, and wrath upon that people--that they would fall by the sword;
be led captive into all nations, and that Jerusalem would be trodden
down of the Gentiles, till the times of the Gentiles should be
fulfilled."

The comforter which was to "teach them all things," not only
explaining the nature of Christianity, and causing them to understand
it, but also to unveil futurity before them, taught them, that after
the Jews had rejected the gospel, the Gentiles would receive it, and
the church grow and become great; that a falling away would afterwards
follow, which would spread wide, and continue for a longtime, till it
became nearly total; that when such was the state of the church,
Christ would come, take the kingdom, and reign on earth.

Such were the outlines of futurity, relative to Christianity, as
sketched out before the apostles. But if we descend to particulars,
and examine the prophecies with attention, we shall find that the
defections, which were to take place antecedent to the reign of the
Redeemer, were to be of two kinds--that they were to arise at
different times, and from different sources--that one was to be a
corruption of religion, the other a rejection of it--that the former
was to antecede and prepare the way for the latter.

This will be the subject: of another discourse.



 * * * * * *



SERMON IV.

_The Declensions of Christianity, an Argument of its Truth_.

Luke xviii. 8.

"_When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth_?"


That the coming of the Son of man, is here intended of Christ's coming
at the commencement of the latter day glory, hath been alleged in the
preceding discourse, and several considerations adduced in proof.
Additional evidence will arise from a view of the prophecies _relative
to the great declensions_ which were to take place in the church,
during the gospel day. These, we observed, are of two kinds, one, a
_corruption of religion_, the other _its rejection_.

The intimations given of them in the new testament, are chiefly found
in the writings of St, Paul, Peter and John. They are noticed also by
Jude. The two former suffered martyrdom under Nero. When the time of
their departure drew nigh, they had separately a view of the then
future state of the church; "particularly of the declension which were
to take place in the kingdoms of this world, shall become the kingdom
of our Lord and Christ." St. John had the same opened to his view in
the isle of Patmos.

St. Paul in his second epistle to the Thessalonians, after rectifying
the mistake of those who thought the day of judgment then at hand,
proceeded to inform them that there would be great declensions in the
church before the end of the world. "Let no man deceive you, by any
means, for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away
first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who
opposeth himself above all that is called God, or is worshipped; so
that as God, he sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he
is God." The antichristian defection is here evidently intended. The
apostle toucheth on the same subject in his first epistle to Timothy,
and directs him "to put the brethren in remembrance of these things,"
to prevent surprise when they should happen. This was the first great
declension which was to be permitted in the church.

In his second epistle to the same Christian bishop, written not long
before his death, he resumes the subject of the defections which were
to happen in the church, but with a more particular reference to
defections of a different kind, and of a latter date. Having exhorted
Timothy to faithfulness in the discharge of official duty, he adds a
reason; "For the time will come when they will not endure sound
doctrine; but after their own lusts, shall heap to themselves
teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn their ears from the
truth, and shall be turned unto fables."

This doth not answer to the Romish defection. It was never the
character of that church to "heap to themselves teachers." They never
ran after those of other persuasions, who brought new doctrines. Their
errors were of the contrary kind. They rejected and persecuted every
teacher who did not derive from their _infallible head_, and teach as
he directed. But "itching ears" have misled many of those, who "are
moved away from the hope of the gospel. By turning to fables they have
made shipwreck of faith, and fallen a prey to those who lie in wait to
deceive."

St. peter wrote with equal plainness of the general defections; but
those of infidelity are the subject of his prophecies--"There shall be
false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable
heretics, _even denying the Lord that bought them_, and bring upon
themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious
ways; by reason of whom the truth shall be evil spoken of." The
heresies here intended are depicted too minutely to be mistaken. The
heresiarchs are described as immoral, vain and proud, pretending to
superior knowledge and penetration, despising law and government, and
trampling them under their feet.

Toward the close of his second epistle, the apostle remarks, that he
"wrote to stir up pure minds by way of remembrance; that they might be
mindful of the words spoken before, by the holy prophets"--that is, of
the predictions of inspired men, who had forewarned them of those
deceivers--"Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last
days, scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying where is the
promise of his coming?" And he refers them to St. Paul, who had
predicted their rise in the church--"Even as our beloved brother Paul
also, according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you: As
also in all his epistles, speaking in them _of these things_"--He adds
--"Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware,
lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from
your own stedfastness."

The short epistle of St. Jude is little other than a prophetic
description of the same apostasy and its leaders, whom he terms
"ungodly men, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and
_denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ_--These are
murderers, complainers, walking after their own lusts, and their
mouths speaking great swelling words--But beloved, remember ye
the words which were _spoken before_ of the apostles of our Lord Jesus
Christ; how they told you there should be mockers in the last time,
who should walk after their own lusts."

The errors of Rome are not here intended. They are manifestly errors
of a later date, which were to appear after those of Rome should
subside, having lost their influence. It is repeatedly noted that they
were to arise in _the last days_. They are errors of which this age is
witness--errors which have spread, and are yet spreading? those of
infidelity and atheism, with their usual attendants, immorality in
every hideous form. We should therefore "remember the words which were
spoken before"--the warnings which have been given us of those
defections, which were to intervene those of Antichrist, and _the
coming of the Son of man_.

The Apocalypse, though of more difficult interpretation, contains some
particulars sufficiently intelligible and to our purpose. The writer
enlarges on the Romish apostasy, which he describes more minutely than
any who had preceded him, both in its rise and progress, and also in
the circumstances which should attend its overthrow. He foretells the
spirit, pride, riches, glare of ornaments, strange abominations, and
unprecedented cruelties; the power, signs and lying wonders, which
were to render Rome the wonder and dread of the whole earth. The
portrait is in every part so exact and circumstantial, that none who
are acquainted with the history of that church, can mistake it; unless
blinded by interest or prejudice.

The apostle predicts also the other great defection which was to
follow the antichristian, though in language more obscure and
figurative, "And I saw three unclean spirits, like frogs, come out of
the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of
the mouth of the false prophet for they are the spirits of devils,
working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth, and the
whole world, to gather them to the battle of the great day of God
Almighty." *

* Vid. a discourse on this subject by Timothy Dwight, D.D. President
of Yale College, printed at Newhaven, A.D. 1798.

It deserves particular notice that all these strange declensions,
which were foretold, as to take place in the church, and world, are
represented as _antecedent_ to Christ's reign on earth, and
terminating _before_ the commencement of that blessed era.

It is farther to be observed that during the whole antichristian
defection, God's "two witnesses were to prophecy clothed in
sackcloth." God would have a small, but sufficient number of faithful
servants, who, in low and humble circumstances, would maintain the
truth and be witnesses for him during the reign of man of sin. But
about the end of his reign, they will have finished their testimony.
Their enemies will then prevail against them and destroy them, and for
a short term there will be none to stand up for God +--none to warn
the wicked, or to disturb them in their chosen ways. And they are
represented as exulting in their deliverance from the society of those
who amidst their departures from the living God, had tormented them,++
by warnings of future wrath, and an eternity according to their works.
For this is the way in which God's witnesses torment the wicked.

* * * *

+ Comparatively None. The number will be exceedingly small--the times
resemble those just before the flood, when Noah was said to stand
alone. The pageantry of Romish worship may be kept up in that church,
till mystical Babylon shall be destroyed, in the awful manner foretold
in the Revelation; but infidelity hath long since, tipped the
foundation of catholic religion, being grafted on the ruins of
superstition. The absurd doctrines, and legendary tales of popery, may
have been credited in the dark ages, when many of the clergy were
unable to write their names, or so much as read their alphabet; but
the belief of them is utterly inconsistent with the light everywhere
diffused since the revival of literature.

++ Tormented them. This language is remarkable. It intimates that the
pains occasioned in the wicked, by the warnings of the faithful are
the same, in kind, as those of the damned, and that they are often
severe. This accounts for the mad joy of infidelity--for the frantic
triumphs of those who have persuaded themselves that religion is a
fable. It accounts for the representation here given of the conduct of
an unbelieving world, when infidelity shall have become universal, and
the dead body of religion lie exposed to public scorn. Such is the
time here foretold--a time when the age of atheism may be vauntingly
termed "the age of reason."

* * * * *

God's witnesses testify not only against antichristian errors, but
also against infidelity and the immorality it occasions. When he
ceases to have witnesses there will be none to testify against either
the one or the other. The world must _then_ be deluged in infidelity
and atheism. This agrees with the representation given by the apostle;
who describes the enemies of God as refusing graves to his slaughtered
witnesses, and causing their dead bodies to lie exposed to public
view, that they may rejoice over them, and congratulate one another on
their deliverance from the company of those who had disturbed them in
their sinful indulgences; and such as continuing to be the state of
"the people, and kindreds, and tongues, and nations," till the
witnesses are raised from the dead and ascend to heaven in the
presence of their enemies; when Christianity will revive, and Christ's
reign on earth begin.

These representations may be designed to intimate that the term in
which infidelity will appear to be universal, will be so short that
the warnings of the faithful will not be forgotten--that they will
be kept in mind by the exultations occasioned by deliverance from the
fears of religion, and from the presence of those who had excited
those fears, by exhibiting proofs of religion which they could not
refute. And how natural and common are such exultations, with those
devoid of religious fear? But agreeably to the view given by the
apostle, when such shall have become the state of the world, and the
nations shall be thus felicitating themselves in full persuasion that
all religion is a dream, and death an eternal sleep, the signals of
Christ's coming to take the kingdom, will be given, and witnesses of
the truth of Christianity, which cannot be disputed, suddenly arise,
to the surprize and confusion of scoffing sinners; multitudes of whom
will be swept off by desolating judgments to prepare the way for "the
people of the saints of the most high, _whose kingdom is an
everlasting kingdom_." For that desolations are to close the sad scene
of apostasy, and prepare Christ's way is clearly foretold;
particularly by St. John, who beheld, in vision, "the kings of the
earth, and of the whole world, gathered to the battle of the great day
of God Almighty;" and saw such an effusion of their blood, that "the
harvest of the earth might be considered as reaped, the vine of
the earth as cut and cast into the great wine press of the wrath of
God, whence flowed blood to the horses bridles." *

Thus from the general tenor of prophecy it appears that infidelity
will have overspread the world _when the Son of man shall come_ to
reign upon it: And as this agrees to no other coming of his foretold
by the prophets, there can be no reasonable doubt what _coming_ is
intended in the text. If we keep these things in mind, we will not
wonder at the declensions of religion and prevalence of infidelity.
They will remind us of the remark made by our Savior to his sorrowing
disciples just before his sufferings, "these things have I told you,
that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of
them."

Before, or about the time of this _coming of the Son of man_,
Antichrist will fall--Mahomedan delusion terminate--"The Jews look to
him whom they pierced, and mourn--be gathered the second time" from
their dispersions, and returned to their own land, and the fullness of
the Gentiles be brought in. Perhaps these may be the signs of Christ's
coming, intended by the resurrection of the witnesses, When these
events shall take place "the Lord will be king over all the earth. In
that day there will be one Lord and his name one."

* Revelation xiv. 15, 20.

REFLEXIONS

If we do not mistake the coming of the Son of man, here referred to,
gloomy is the prospect now immediately before us. Hitherto God hath
had his witnesses; but ere long they will cease from their labors, and
leave infidelity undisturbed.

That the cause of the redeemer was to be depressed, before its
universal prevalence in the latter days, is plainly revealed. The only
difficulty is to ascertain the manner. Bishop Newton expects another
confederacy of the catholic powers to destroy the followers of the
Lamb, which will so nearly succeed, that for a short term none will
dare to appear as his followers. But if infidelity was to intervene
the antichristian defection, and prevalence of religion in the latter
days, is this hypothesis probable? Is it not more reasonable to expect
that destruction of the witnesses in another way, and by other
enemies--by the mockers and scoffers of the last times, who should be
generated by papal error and superstition? And doth not the present
state of the world confirm these expectations? The catholic religion
hath been declining for several ages. It received a deadly wound from
Luther and his associates, which hath not yet been healed. From that
period it hath dwindled, and is now little more than a name. But
infidelity hath been, for almost an equal term progressing, and
already stalks out to public view: Yea, it vaunts with shameless
pride, as though sure of victory. And we are constrained to
acknowledge, that "of a truth, it hath laid waste nations and their
countries!"

Our expectation is farther confirmed by observing the change which is
made in the weapons of internal warfare. These are no longer bonds,
imprisonments, tortures and death, but the shafts of ridicule, and
sneers of contempt. "Trials of cruel mocking," now exercise the faith
and patience of the saints. Religion, the dignity and hope of man,
hath become the sport of stupid infidels! The jest of sorry witlings!
These hissings of the serpent are every where to be heard!

Internal malice, never before made so general attack in this way.
Perhaps, with all his sagacity the adversary did not suspect that
creatures made for eternity could be driven from the way of peace by
the derision of fools, till taught it by experience. But this hath
been found his most successful weapon! It hath done greater mischief
to Christianity, than all the rage of persecution!

Many account it honorable, to suffer, pain or loss, with patience, and
to face danger and death with fortitude; but few think themselves
honored by scorn and reproach. Human nature is here attacked on its
weakest side.

Some European scoffers, of high rank, during the last age took the
lead in this mode of attack on Christianity; and have been followed by
a countless throng of noble and ignoble, learned and unlearned, down
to this day. Few infidels are so modest as not to affect wit on the
subject of religion; few witticisms so contemptible as not to meet the
approbation and receive the applause of brother infidels.

That strong combinations have been formed against Christianity, and
also against civil government, in the kingdoms of Europe, and that
they have too successfully undermined both, is an acknowledged fact.

In the leaders of those conspiracies we discover all the traits of
character, attributed in prophecy to the scoffers who should arise in
the last days. When every circumstance, in events so remarkable agree
with the predictions, can doubt remain whether the predictions are
fulfilled?

There hath been faith in this land. It is not yet extinct. But we are
importing the principles, and practices of Europe. "The Mockers of the
last times" are now to be seen on this side the Atlantic. "Many follow
their pernicious ways." We have reason to expect the evils to increase
till "The godly cease and the faithful fail" from among us. _For when
the Son of man cometh shall he find faith on the earth_? This land
will also be overspread with infidelity! "The whole world lie in
wickedness!"

There may be partial revivals of religion, but no general reformation
is to be expected; and after every refreshing, the declensions will
probably be greater than before. Fanatic emotions, here and there, may
flatter some who are friends to religion, but they only serve to
accelerate the spread of infidelity.

It is a gloomy thought! The serious soul saddens; sorrow fills the
good man's heart, if, when he sees little regard paid to religion, he
expects yet greater defections! If when he sees but few of those who
are rising into life, paying attention to the best things, he expects
still fewer of their descendants to be wise and good! Yea that the
declensions will continue and increase, "till all flesh shall become
corrupt, and the earth be filled with violence!" Would to God these
expectations might not be realized; for they are exceedingly
distressing. But they appear to us to be dictated by the spirit of
truth, and confirmed by the history of the world, and by the progress
of events opening to view.

One consideration, however, ministers consolation, shining through the
gloom; namely, the long, holy, happy period, which may be expected to
follow the dark term now approaching.

By _dark_ we mean only in a moral view. Respecting arts and sciences,
mankind may never have been more enlightened than at present. But this
is foreign to religion. When Egypt, Greece, and Rome, were the seats
of the muses, they remained as devoid of religious knowledge, as the
most ignorant barbarians. Arts and sciences may still flourish, and
yet deeper researches be made into the _arcana_ of nature, while
religion is dying and atheism succeeding in its place.

Some intervening links are necessary to connect present age with the
happy times now distant. Who shall fill them, the divine sovereign
will determine. An hour of temptation must try all who dwell upon the
earth. These are the times in which we are tried.

Do we envy those who may live during the Peaceful reign of the
Redeemer? Let us not forget that we are favored above many who have
gone before us--above some of our contemporaries and probably above
those who will succeed us, before the commencement of that happy era.
Nothing necessary to salvation is denied us. If straitened it is in
our own bowels. If faithful to improve the talents put into our hands,
"our labor will not be in vain in the Lord"--God will keep us to his
kingdom. There we shall see Christ's glory, though we may never see it
here as some others who come after us.

Be it also remembered, that the rewards of the coming world, will be
proportioned to the difficulties we may have to encounter here in
this. Those who make their way to heaven through darkness and
temptations, and force their way through hostile bands, will rise to
greater honors there, than though they had ascended by an easier and a
smoother road. Nothing done or suffered in the way of duty will loose
its reward. God hath not said "seek ye my face in vain."

"Wherefore, brethren give diligence to make your calling and election
sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall; for so an
entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting
kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory, both now
and forever. Amen."



 * * * * * *



SERMON V.

Abram's Horror of great Darkness.

Genesis xv. 12.

"And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and
lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him."


If we consider the sketch, given us in scripture, of the life of this
patriarch, we shall find that few have had equal manifestations of the
divine favor. But the light did not at all times shine on him. He had
his dark hours while dwelling in this strange land. Here we find _an
horror of great darkness to have fallen upon him_. The language used
to describe his state, on this occasion, is strong. It expresses more
than the want of God's sensible presence. It describes a state similar
to that of the psalmist, "While I suffer thy terrors I am distracted."
His sufferings probably bore an affinity to those of the Savior when
the father hid his face from him; at which period there was more than
the withdrawing of his sensible presence, the powers of darkness were
suffered to terrify and afflict him--"It was their hour"--God had left
him in their hands. So Abram on this occasion.

Just before God had smiled upon him--"Fear not, Abram: I am thy
shield, and thy exceeding great reward." Then all was light and love.
"The candle of the Lord shone on his head." When he complained that he
had no child to comfort him, or inherit his possessions, God promised
him an heir, and countless progeny--"Look now toward heaven and tell
the stars, if thou be able to number them--So shall thy seed be. And
he believed the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness."
What an occasion of joy? What strange manifestation of divine favor?
They are scarcely paralleled in the history of man. But how sudden the
reverse? The same day--_when the sun was going down_; lo! the
brightness disappears, and _an horror of great darkness fell upon
him_.

A deep _sleep fell upon Abram_. This was not a natural sleep. There is
no probability that he would have given way to weakness, and fallen
into a common sleep, while engaged in covenanting with God; binding
himself with solemn engagements, and receiving tokens of the divine
favor, and the promise of blessings for a great while to come. If he
could have slept while receiving such manifestations of the divine
friendship, it is not probable that his dreams would have been
terrifying: His situation would rather have inspired joyful
sensations, and exciting pleasing expectations. THAT which for want of
language more pertinent and expressive, is here termed sleep, seems to
have been divine ecstasy--such influence of the holy spirit operating
in the soul, as locked it up from everything earthly, and shut out
worldly things, as effectually as a deep sleep, which shuts up the
soul and closeth all its avenues, so that nothing terrestrial can find
admittance.

This was often experienced by the prophets, when God revealed himself
to them, and made known his will. Thus Daniel, when the angel Gabriel
was sent to solve his doubts, and let him into futurity--"Now as he
was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep on my face toward the
ground." The holy prophet, filled with fear at the approach of the
celestial messenger, could not have fallen asleep, like some careless
attendant in the house of God. Yet such is the language used to
express his situation at that time, and afterwards on a similar
occasion.* The three disciples, who witnessed the transfiguration,
experienced similar sensations--sensations which absorbed the soul,
and shut out terrestrial objects, which the evangelist compares to
sleep.

* Daniel viii. 18, x. 9.

But why was Abram's joy, occasioned by the communications of the
morning, so soon turned to horror.

The reasons are with him "Whose judgments are unsearchable, and his
ways past finding out." We may observe, however, that such is the way
of God with man, while here on trial. If at any time a person seems
peculiarly favored of heaven, something of a different nature is
commonly set over against it. Perhaps to remind him that this is not
his rest. We seldom enjoy prosperity without a sensible mixture of
adversity; or without somewhat adverse following in quick succession.
"Even in laughter, the heart is sorrowful, and the end of mirth is
heaviness." Neither are special trials or sorrows sent alone; comforts
and consolations are usually joined with the, or soon succeed them. If
we consider the matter, we shall observe this in ourselves; and may
often discover it in others. We see it in the history of this
patriarch, and that of many of his descendants.

The pilgrimage of Jacob, how remarkably diversified with good and
evil, with joy and sorrow? That also of Joseph--of Moses--of Daniel?
At times each of these were raised high and brought low--sometimes
found themselves at the summit of earthly honor and felicity; at other
times, were cast down, and hope seemed ready to forsake them.

In the history of Job the same things are exemplified in still
stronger colors. That holy man experienced the extremes of honor and
infamy, joy and grief, hope and terror. The prophets and apostles,
passed through scenes in many respects similar; their joys and sorrows
were contrasted to each other. Daniel's mournings and fastings were
followed with remarkable discoveries and cheering revelations; but the
divine communications were almost too strong for frail humanity; they
filled him with dismay, and had well nigh destroyed his mortal body.
"He fainted and was sick certain days."

St. Paul was "caught up into paradise and heard unspeakable words,
which it was not possible for a man to utter"--had a view of the
ineffable glory of the upper world; but trials no less remarkable, and
very severe, were contrasted to those strange distinctions, and more
than earthly joys! "Lest I should be exalted above measure, through
the abundance of the revelations, there was given me a thorn in the
flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted
above measure." *

* 2 Corinthians xii. 4-7.

St. john suffered sore persecutions--was banished from the society of
his fellow Christians, if not from the society of men. But divine
discoveries repaid all his sufferings--heaven's ineffable glories were
opened to his view! What he witnessed could be but very partially
communicated. Language is weak; only faint hints and general
intimations could be given of the "glory which is to be revealed." But
the suffering apostle enjoyed it, and was supported, yea, enraptured
by it.

This life is filled with changes. Good and evil, hope and fear, light
and darkness, are set over against each other. The saints, while they
dwell in the dust, sometimes walk in darkness, and have their hours of
gloom and horror--"The whole creation groaneth and travaileth together
in pain until now--Even those who have the first fruits of the spirit,
groan within themselves, waiting for--the redemption of the body.
Those of whom the world is not worthy, are often in heaviness, through
manifold temptations."

We may wonder at these things: but when we consider them as ordered of
God, the consideration, should calm our minds, and bring us to say
with the astonished Shunamite of old, "It is well." *

* 2 Kings iv. 26.

God doth not order sorrows to his creatures here, because he delights
in their sufferings. "He grieves not willingly, neither afflicts the
children of men. He doth it for their profit, that they may be
partakers of his holiness." And which of the saints hath not received
benefit from it? Who among them hath not sometimes been ready to adopt
the language of the psalmist, "It is good for me, that I have been
afflicted."

"Born of the earth, we are earthly"--our afflictions naturally
descend. We are prone to set our affections on temporal things, and
set up our rest where there is no abiding. Therefore do we need
afflictions to keep us mindful of our situation. Such remains of
depravity are left in the renewed, that prosperity often corrupts
them. But for the sorrows and sufferings ordered out to them, they
would forget God and lose themselves among the deceitful cares, and
infatuating allurements of this strange land.

Intervals of comfort are also needful for them. Were these denied
them, "the spirits would fail before God, and the souls which he hath
made." And intervals of light and joy are given to refresh and cheer,
and animate them to the duties required in this land of darkness and
doubt. But they are not intended to satisfy. They answer like ends to
the Christian during his earthly pilgrimage, as the fruits of Canaan,
carried by the spies into the wilderness did to Israel while
journeying toward the land of promise--serve to give them a glance of
the good things prepared for them, to increase their longings after
them, and animate them to press forward and make their way to the
possession.

Such may be some of the reasons of those varied scenes through which
the people of God are doomed to make their way to glory.

Often the saints find themselves unable to penetrate the design of
heaven in the trials through which lies their way--especially in the
hidings of God's face, so that they cannot discover him. This made no
small part of Job's trial--"Behold I go forward but he is not there;
and backward, but I cannot perceive him; on the left hand where he
doth work, but I cannot behold him; he hideth himself on the right
hand that I cannot see him." Could he have known the reasons of his
trials it would have been a great consolations, but it was denied him,
and the reasons of God's hiding his face from him, no less than those
of his other trials.

So it is also with others. The darkness which involves them makes part
of their trials. It is a common trial of the saints. God will have his
people "live by faith and walk by faith." To live by faith, implies
want of light, and ignorance of the designs of providence. A great
part of the good man's trial here, consists in trusting God without
knowing why such things are required, or such trails ordered out to
him. In this way the saints had great trials under the former
dispensations. A veil was then spread over the method of grace, or way
in which God would bring salvation to men. Even the religious rites
enjoined by the law, were not understood, though they made part of the
duties of every day; they remained mysterious, till Christ removed the
covering cast over them; made known the hidden mystery, and opened
"the way into the holiest by his blood."

Under every dispensation religion greatly consists in referring every
thing to God, and trusting in him, without being let into his designs,
or knowing reasons of his orders. "Blessed is he who hath not seen and
yet hath believed"--Blessed is he who without penetrating the designs
of heaven trusts in God, and conforms to his requirements, not
doubting but all will turn out right--that God will lead him in right
ways, though they may be ways which he knows not.

Abram discovered much of this temper--in obedience to divine order he
left his father's house, and "went forth, not knowing whither he
went." And afterwards, when commanded of God, he took a three days
journey, to offer his son, Isaac, at the place which should be shewn
him.

The trial of this patriarch, recorded in the text, might be, at
that time particularly necessary. God had then admitted him to special
nearness; and special trials might be requisite to keep him humble,
and prevent high thoughts of himself. For such is fallen human nature,
that particular distinctions, even divine communications, though of
grace, are apt to be abused; to foster pride! Though man is poor and
dependant, pride is a sin which very easily besets him. If Paul needed
something to keep him humble when favored with revelations, why not
Abram? Abram was then in the body--compassed with infirmity--liable
to temptation, and prone to seduction. God knew his state--corrected
him therefore, to give him a sense of demerit, when he received him
into covenant and engaged to be his God.

Another design of his darkness and horror at that time, might be to
fill him with awe and reverence of the divine majesty. Had he
experienced nothing of this kind, the strange familiarity to which he
had been admitted of the most high, might have diminished his fear of
God, and caused him to think lightly of the great supreme.

The horror and distress he now experienced might also serve to prepare
him for holy joy, when God should lift on him the light of his
countenance. Light and joy are most refreshing when they follow
darkness and terror. Therefore the joy of those who have been pricked
in their hearts for sin and made to know its exceeding sinfulness,
when they are brought to hope in divine mercy, and believe themselves
forgiven of God. There is reason to believe that the sorrows of this
state will give a zest to the joys of heaven--the darkness of this
state, to the light of that in which darkness is done away--the fear
and concern here.

Some think that what Abram experienced on this occasion was intended
to intimate God's future dealings with his family. They were honored
by being taken into covenant with God, but were to pass through the
horror and darkness of Egyptian bondage--the distress of a wilderness
state, and a war with the Amorites, before they should enjoy the
promised land. Some conceive Abram's sufferings at this time, designed
to prefigure the legal dispensation, under which his seed were to
continue long and suffer many things. However this might be, we know
that Abram did not find rest in this weary land, unallayed with
sorrow. He was doomed to make his way through darkness, doubts and
difficulties.

Such was the portion of this father of the faithful, while he remained
in the body and continued on trail. The same is the portion of all the
saints. "This is not their rest, because it is polluted." Rest is not
to be found on earth. When the remains of sin shall be purged away,
there will be no more darkness, fear or horror. "The former thing will
pass away"

These considerations teach us what we have to expect while we
tabernacle in clay--namely, trials and difficulties, doubts and
darkness--these must be here our portion. Though we may be children of
God, we are not to expect exemption from them till the earthly house
of our tabernacle is dissolved and we are clothed on with our house
which is from heaven.

Those who are strangers to religion may flatter themselves that should
they attain renewing grace and get evidence of it, they should no more
suffer from fear or horror, or the hidings of God's face, but that God
would smile incessantly upon them and cause them to go on their way
rejoicing. But this is far from being the case. Though when persons
first attain a hope towards God, they are glad, their joy is soon
interrupted--doubts and fears arise--their way is dark--"God hideth
his face that they cannot behold him. O that I were as in months past
--when God preserved me--when his candle shined upon my head, and by
his light I walked through darkness--when the Almighty was yet with
me."

This hath been the complaint of many others beside benighted Job. It
is often the language of the saints while in this dark world. "God
often hides his face from those whom his soul loves, so that they walk
on and are sad." This makes them long for heaven, because there "will
be no night there, neither sorrow, nor crying, nor any more death."

In this life sanctification is imperfect. The saints carry about in
them a "body of death." While this continues, they cannot have
uninterrupted peace, but must have intervals of darkness and doubt.
Those who have gone before us have often been troubled and distressed,
and gone on their way sorrowing.

This is the fruit of sin. Man was doomed to it at the apostasy. It
hath been from that time the portion of humanity. None hath been
exempted. Those whom St. John saw walking in white robes and rejoicing
in glory, had "come out of great tribulation."

We can hope for nothing better than to "be followers of them who
through faith and patience inherit the promises." We must travel the
same road and can promise ourselves no better accommodations on our
journey. If Abram, the friend, of God, felt _horror of great
darkness_, after he had been called of God, we have no reason to
expect trials less severe.

Let us not be discouraged, or saint in our minds. The way to glory
lies through this dreary land--to us there is no other way. But the
end will be light. If we keep heaven in our eye, and press on unmoved
by the difficulties, and unawed by the dangers which lie in our way,
"our labor will not be in vain in the Lord." God will be with us. He
will not leave us comfortless; but will support us under difficulties
and guard us to his kingdom. After we shall have suffered awhile, he
will call us from our labors, and reward us with eternal rewards.
"Then shall we obtain joy gladness, and sorrow and mourning shall flee
away." And the time is short.

"He which testifieth these things, saith, surely I come quickly.
Amen." May we have such evidence of an interest in him, as may dispose
us to answer, "Even so come Lord Jesus."



 * * * * * *



SERMON VI.

Divine Impartiality Considered.

Romans ii. 11.

"For there is no respect of persons with God."


The divine impartiality is often asserted in the holy scriptures; and
the assertion coincides with our natural ideas of deity. The pagans
indeed attributed to their Gods, the vices, follies and weaknesses of
men! But the beings whom they adored were mostly taken from among
men, and might be considered as retaining human imperfections,--Had
unbiased reason been consulted to find out a supreme being, a
different object would have been exhibited to view. But it is natural
to mankind to fancy the deity such an one as themselves.
The origin of many erroneous conceptions of the divinity may be found
in the persons who entertain them. To the jaundiced eye, objects
appear discolored. To a mind thoroughly depraved, the source of truth
may seem distorted. Therefore the hope of the Epicure--therefore the
portrait which some have drawn of the divine sovereign, rather
resembling an earthly despot, than the Jehovah of the bible! YET God
is visible in his works and ways. "They are fools and without excuse,
who say, there is no God." And as far as God appears in the works of
creation and providence, he appears as he is. Passion, prejudice, or
depravity may disfigure or hide him; but as far as the discoveries
which God hath made of himself are received, his true character is
discerned.

Of this character impartiality constitutes an essential part. "God is
a rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are judgment; a God of
truth, and without iniquity; just and right is he."

This representation agrees with reason. According to his sense of it,
every man will subscribe it. Yet different apprehensions are
entertained respecting the divine impartiality, as respecting every
thing else. The ideas which some receive others reject as
unreasonable. This is not strange. Minds differ, no less than bodies.

We propose, with deference, now to _exhibit our views of this
interesting subject, the divine impartiality_, especially as it
respects man.

This is the branch of divine impartiality referred to in the text, and
commonly in the scriptures--_There is no respect of PERSONS with God_.

It is important that we form just apprehends on this subject. Mistakes
might inspire groundless expectations, and occasion practical errors,
dishonorable to God, and mischievous to man. But those which are just,
have a tendency to produce sentiments of rational respect and
reverence for the supreme Governor and to point to the way of peace
and blessedness.

Impartiality doth not require an equality of powers or advantages
--that creatures should in this view be treated alike, or made equal.
Infinite wisdom and power are not restricted to a sameness in their
plastic operations, or providential apportionments. Neither is this
sameness the order of heaven.

The number of creatures is great. We cannot reckon them up in order;
nor the different species. Among the myriads of the same species, are
discriminations, sufficient to distinguish them from one another. We
observe this in our race. And in the creatures beneath us. Among
mankind these differences are most noticeable and most interesting.
They relate to every thing which belongs to man--to the mind, and to
the body, and to the powers of each--to the temper--appetites--
passions--talents--trials--opportunities, and means of information.
There is in every respect an almost infinite variety--differences
which run into innumerable particulars. Variety may be considered as a
distinguishing trait in the works, and ways of God. And all is right.
When we consider the hand of God and his providential influence in
them, we seem constrained to adopt the language of the psalmist, "O
Lord how many are thy works? In wisdom hast thou made them all: The
earth is full of thy riches."

These are displays of divine sovereignty. They are beyond our
comprehension. "We see, but we understand not." Of many things brought
into being by divine efficiency, we know neither the design nor use--
can only say, "Thou Lord hast created all things, and for thy pleasure
they are and were created."

The same observation is applicable to the different situations in
which God hath placed creatures of the same class, and the different
talents committed to them--God hath doubtless his reasons for these
discriminations, but hath not revealed them.

By nothing of this kind is the divine impartiality affected; with none
of them is it concerned. God is pleased to try some with ten talents,
others with five, others with only one. That "so it seems good in his
sight," is all we know about it; and all we need to know. Should we
attempt to pry into it, the answer given by our Lord to an officious
enquirer respecting another, might be applied--"What is that to thee?"

The divine impartiality is only concerned to apportion the rule of
duty to the powers and advantages imparted, and to give to each one
according to the manner in which he shall have conformed to the rule
given to direct him, making no difference, other than they may have
affected differently the parts assigned them, or had more or fewer
talents.

If this definition of impartiality is just, we may infer that God
requires of man only "according to that which he hath;" and that in
the final adjustment nothing will be done by partiality, or preferring
one before another.

Could not these be predicated of the supreme governor, we would not
attempt to vindicate his character as an impartial being. The latter
we conceive chiefly respected in the text. Shall treat of each
briefly.

That God requires of man only "according to that which he hath," is
equally the language of reason and revelation. Our Savior teacheth,
that the divine rule will be the same, in this respect, as that which
governs good men--"Unto whom much is given, of him shall much be
required; and to whom men have committed much, of him will they ask
the more."

The apostle had a particular reference in the text to the decisions at
the great day, when "everyone must give account to God, and receive
the deeds done in the body"--and insists that the situation in which
each person had been placed, and the rule given for his direction will
then be brought into the reckoning, and that each one will be judged,
and his state determined by the law, under which he had lived and
acted during his probation. This is the spirit of the context from
verse six to the sixteenth, inclusive. "Who will render to every man
according to his deeds: To them who by a patient continuance in well
doing, seek for glory, and honor and immortality, eternal life: But to
them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey
unrighteousness, indignation and wrath; tribulation and anguish, upon
every soul of man that doeth evil; of the Jew first, and also of the
Gentile: But glory, and honor, and peace, to every man that worketh
good; to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile. _For there is no
respect of persons with God_. For as many as have sinned without law,
shall also perish without law; and as many as have sinned in the law
shall be judged by the law. For not the hearers of the law are just
before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. (For when the
Gentiles which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in
the law, these having not the law, are a law unto themselves; which
shew the works of the law written in their hearts, their conscience
also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing, or
else excusing one another.) In the day when God shall judge the
secrets of men, by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel."

This whole paragraph is an illustration of divine justice and
impartiality as exercised toward mankind. It shows that they are here
for trial--that those who act uprightly will meet the divine
approbation, and be rewarded with eternal rewards; but that a
contentious disregard of duty, and willful continuance in known
wickedness will be the object of divine indignation, which will
occasion tribulation and anguish that in the decisions at the great
day, family and national distinctions will be disregarded--that it
will be required of every one according to the talents committed to
him, and no more, whether he be Jew or Gentile.

Some have doubted whether those left to the light of nature could
possibly meet the divine approbation and find mercy with God; or were
not doomed without remedy to suffer the vengeance of eternal fire.
This we apprehend to be here determined. "Those who have not the law,
may do by nature, the things contained in the law; and the doers of
the law shall be justified."

By "doing the law," no more is intended than acting sincerely,
according to the light imparted. Perfect obedience is not attainable
by imperfect creatures--cannot therefore be here intended by the
apostle. His evident meaning is, that sincerity is accepted of God,
and rewarded with the rewards of grace, and equally of the Gentile, as
of the Jew; _for there is no respect of persons with God_.

Adults, privileged with gospel light, must believe and obey the
gospel. To them is that declaration addressed--"He that believeth and
is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be
damned." This hath no relation to those who have not the means of
faith. "What the law saith, it saith to those who are under it." The
same is true of the gospel.

The equal justice of God in giving to every one according to his
works, or to his improvement of talents, is the spirit of the text and
context, and of many other scriptures. Yea, this one of those great
truths which are borne on the face of revelation--"If ye call on the
Father, who, _without respect of persons_, judgeth every man according
to his works, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear."

Some objections to the preceding definition of divine impartiality are
subjoined, with very brief replies.

It is said "We must be born again or we cannot see the kingdom of
God," and regeneration is the work of God, or effect of divine
influence.

That necessary change, is indeed the work of God, but not to the
exclusion of human cooperation. The holy spirit strives with all who
have the means of grace. None are wholly destitute of supernal
influences--of awakenings and convictions, or devoid of power to
cherish or to resist them. This is intimated in the warnings to beware
of grieving or quenching the spirit. Could men only oppose divine
influence in renovation, they would never be exhorted of God "to make
themselves new hearts, and turn themselves that they may live." *

* Ezekiel xviii. 31.

But natural men are said to be "dead in sin"--and can the dead do
aught which tends to their own resurrection?

The renewed are said to be "dead to sin"--Can they do nothing which
tends to wickedness?+ Metaphors must be understood with latitude. We
should involve ourselves in many absurdities, by always adhering to
the literal sense of those used in scripture. Were we to adhere in all
cases to the literal sense, we should believe Christ to be a rock, a
door, a vine, and receive the Romish doctrine of transubstantiation.

+Romans vi. 2. 11.

But is not "every imagination of the thoughts of sinners hearts," said
in scripture to "be only evil continually?"

Such is said to have been the state of antediluvian sinners, when the
spirit had ceased to strive with them, agreeably to the threatening.*

* Genesis vi. 3.

It is a representation of the last grade of human depravity; but not
applicable to every natural man. Those who are unrenewed are not all
equally depraved. Some "are not far from the kingdom of God."--In some
are things lovely in the Savior's eyes. "Then Jesus, beholding him,
loved him." +

+ Mark xii. 24. x. 21.

It is further asked, Whether every motion toward a return to God, is
not the effect of divine influence? And whether divine influence doth
not necessarily produce effect?--We answer,

To suppose man not capable of acting, but only of being acted on, or
acted with, is to exculpate his enmity against God, and opposition to
his law and gospel. To suppose his enmity and opposition to be the
effect of divine influence, is to excuse them. Blame rests with the
efficient. The creature cannot be culpable, because he is what God
made him; or while he remains what he was made of God. To denominate
either temper or conduct morally good or evil, consent is necessary,
to suppose consent, in the creature, to be the effect of almighty
power operating upon it, nullifies it to the creature, in a moral
view. The work of God cannot be the sin, or holiness, of the creature.

But depravity and wickedness are wrong, and criminal, apart from all
consideration of their source--they are so in themselves.

They cannot therefore be from God, but must have some other source.
The creature which vitiates another, is viewed as culpable, though it
only tempts to wickedness, which is all a creature can do to vitiate
another, and leaves the tempted ability to retain integrity; what must
then be our views of a being whom we conceive to produce the same
effect _by an exertion of Almighty power_?--"God cannot be tempted
with evil, neither tempteth he any man," Is it then supposeable that
he can produce it by direct efficiency?

But suppose him to produce it, Suppose it to derive immediately from
him. Is its nature altered? Is it less criminal or odious?

God forbid that we should make the supposition! It is a compound of
absurdity and blasphemy! As well may we suppose the sun to diffuse
darkness! They "trusted in lying words, who said of old, We are
delivered to do abominations." We fear the Lord; "and will ascribe
righteousness to our Maker."

But doth not God choose some to eternal life, and to this end bring
them into his kingdom, and leave others to perish in their sins?

God chooseth those who hear his voice, and cherish the divine
influences, and leaves those who refuse his grace and grieve his
spirit. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; _if any man hear my
voice, and open the door_, I will come in to him, and sup with him,
and he with me. Every one that asketh receiveth; hath that seeketh,
findeth; and to him that knocked it is opened," Asking is antecedent
to receiving; seeking, to finding; and knocking is the work of those
yet without. When trembling, astonished Saul, of Tarsus enquired,
"Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" he was directed by one sent of
Christ--"The Lord said to Annanias, Arise--go--enquire--for one called
Saul of Tarsus: _For, behold, he prayeth_."

It is further asked, Whether God doth not act as a sovereign, in his
choice of those whom he sanctifies and saves?

God acts as a wise and impartial sovereign. God is not a sovereign in
the sense in which most earthly monarchs are so. Whim, caprice,
passion, prejudice often influence their preferences of some to
others. Not so the divine sovereign. There are reasons for all his
discriminations. They may be veiled at present from our view; but will
one day appear--"The day will declare them," and justify God in them.*

*1 Corinthians iii. 13.

But the elect, it is said, "are chosen from the foundations of the
world; before they have done either good or evil."

Election is indeed, "according to foreknowledge." "Whom God did
foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his
Son."

But God could not foreknow, say some, how a free moral agent would
act, unless he had first determined how he should act!

_A free moral agent, all whose volitions and actions, are fixed by an
immutable decree_! We are ignorant how God knows, or how he foreknows.
Perhaps past and future relate only to creatures, Every thing may be
present to the divine mind--with God there may be _an eternal Now_.
"Beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the
Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." Much which
is known to us, is locked up from creatures below us--they can form no
ideas about it. Still less do we know of God, or the manner of the
divine perceptions. The distance between God and us, is infinitely
greater than between us and creatures of the lowest grade. It is
therefore impossible for us to make deductions from the divine
perceptions, or determine any thing about them. When tempted to it we
should remember the caution given by Zophar,--"Canst thou by searching
find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection? It is
high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou
know?" *

* Job xi. 7, 8.

But as the whole human race are sinners, deserving only of punishment,
is not God at liberty to choose from among them, whom he pleaseth to
sanctify and save, and pass by, and leave whom he pleaseth, to punish
in their sins?

We have no claim on divine justice. All mankind might have been left
to perish. But they are not thus left of God, He hath found a ransom;
and offers salvation to all. No differences will be eventually made
among men without reasons. And the reasons will be in them--_For there
is no respect of persons with God_.

But suppose two persons to be equally guilty and deserving of
condemnation, may not God make one of them a vessel of mercy, and the
other a vessel of wrath? Would the latter have occasion to complain?
Or could injustice be charged on God?

We should not dare to charge him with injustice, did we know such a
case to happen--neither do we presume to determine what God hath
aright to do. But we are sure that no such case ever will happen--that
God will not make an eventual difference in those who are alike, for
_there is no respect of persons with God_.

Some may find mercy who may appear to us less guilty than some others
who may perish in their sins. But it belongs not to us to estimate
comparative guilt. It requires omniscience. "The judge of all the
earth will do right."

INFERENCES

Mankind are here on trial. Different talents are committed to them.
God acts as a sovereign in apportioning betrustments, and will observe
exact impartiality in adjusting retributions.

The idea of talents implies ability to improve them. Gospel
applications speak such to be our state--they are adopted to no other
state.

The fatalist, and those who conceive every human volition and
action to be the effect of divine agency, have no rational motive, to
do, or suffer for religion. "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we
die."

However we may amuse ourselves with idle speculations, this life is
approbation season.--Our use or abuse of the talents we possess will
determine us to happiness, or misery, honor or infamy.

"All have sinned, and are guilty before God--In his sight shall no man
living be justified"--our sole desert is punishment. But God hath had
mercy on us--provided a Savior, and offers us salvation. The offer is
universal--"Whosoever will let him come."

That _there is no respect of persons with God_, is alike the dictate
of reason and revelation, We have only to act with integrity before
God, relying, on his grace in Christ, and his grace will be sufficient
for us.

The man who had the one talent, neglected it, under pretence that he
served a hard master, who required things unreasonable and impossible
--he was condemned; but _only_ for neglecting the talent which he
possessed.

It is required of a man according to that which he hath--this he can
render--the neglect will be fatal. We must all appear before the
judgment seat of Christ, that we may receive the deeds done in the
body, according to that which we have done, whether good or bad. For
God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing,
whether it be good or evil.

An unseen hand is constantly writing down our volitions and actions,
to be reserved to judgment. Ere long the books will be opened, which
will open every heart, and life. Not a circumstance which goes to
constitute a state of trial, will be omitted--all will be brought into
the reckoning, and serve to determine our eternal state.

That state will be determined by the use which we shall have made of
life, and the advantages which we enjoyed in it. The divine
impartiality will then appear--"The ungodly will be convinced of their
ungodly deeds--and of their hard speeches, which they have spoken
against God." None will complain of injustice--none of the condemned
pretend that they receive aught, which others circumstanced as they
were, and acting as they acted, would not have received from the hand
that made them. "Every mouth will be stopped."

This, fellow mortals is our seed time for eternity. "Be not deceived;
God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also of
the Lord, whether he be bond or free--every man shall receive his own
reward, according to his own labor."

Not only the state into which we are to enter at death, but the rank
we are to hold in it depend on present improvement. All the sanctified
will be saved; all who die unrenewed will be damned. But there will
be different grades, both in the upper and lower worlds. Of the saints,
some "will be scarcely saved." To others "will be ministered an
abundant entrance into the kingdom of Christ." There are also greatest
and least in the kingdom of heaven. And among those exiled the world
of light, differences will be made, suited to the different degrees of
criminality. Capernaum will receive a more intolerable doom than
Sodom.*

* Matthew xi. 23, 24.

All these discriminations will be built on the present life, and rise
out of it. This will be so abundantly manifested, "when God shall
judge the world in righteousness," that an assembled universe will
confess, That _there is no respect of persons with God_.



 * * * * * *



SERMON VII.

Moses' Prayer to be blotted out of God's Book.

Exodus xxxii. 31, 32.

"And Moses returned unto the Lord and said, 'Oh! this people have made
them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt, forgive their sin; and if
not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.'"


This is one of the most difficult passages in the holy scriptures.
Many haven attempted to explain it, and in our apprehension, failed in
the attempt. Some will entertain like opinion of the following.
Perhaps justly. We are no less fallible than others.

In matters which have engaged the attention of the learned, and in
which they have differed, assurance is not perhaps to be expected. But
as we are forbidden to call any man master, we have ventured to judge
for ourselves respecting the meaning of the text, and now lay before
the reader the result of our attention to it; not wishing to obtrude
our opinion upon him; but leaving him to form his own as he may find
occasion.

Some suppose that a person must be willing to be damned for the glory
of God, or he cannot be saved; and this scripture hath been alleged in
proof. After a few observations, _to shew that the supposition is
erroneous and absurd; we shall exhibit the various constructions which
have been put on the text, by several expositors; then give our own
sense of it; and close with a few reflections_.

The supposition that man must be willing to be damned, in order to be
saved, is in our apprehension, erroneous and absurd. It supposes a
desire of God's favor to be an unpardonable offence; and a contempt of
it a recommendation to his regard! It supposes that God will banish
those from his presence who long for it; and bring those to dwell in
it who do not desire it! A supposition, which, in our view, carries
its own confutation in it. For the all important inquiry is,
confessedly, how to obtain salvation? The solution which the
supposition exhibits, is this, _by being willing not to obtain it_!

God cannot issue an order, making it the duty of man to be willing
to be damned. To be willing to be damned, implies a willingness
to disobey God, refuse his grace, and continue in unbelief and
impenitence! Should we suppose it possible for God to issue the
order, obedience would be impossible, and equally to those of every
character. The hardened sinner, cannot be thought capable of love to
God, which will dispose him to suffer eternally for God's glory. He
may do that which will occasion eternal sufferings, but not out of
obedience to God--not with design to glorify him.

Neither can the awakened sinner be considered as the subject of such
love of God. They see indeed the evil. Awakened Sinners are not lovers
of God. They see indeed the evil of sin, and are sensible of its
demerit? that they deserve destruction. But this doth not reconcile
them to destruction, and make them willing to receive it. They tremble
at the thoughts of it, strive against sin, and cry after deliverance.
Were they willing to be damned, they would not be afraid of being
damned, or seek in anyway to avoid it.

It is equally impossible for the saint to be reconciled to damnation
as will appear, by considering what it implies. It implies the total
loss of the divine image, and banishment from the divine presence and
favor! It implies being given up to the power of apostate spirits, and
consigned to the same dreary dungeon of despair and horror, which is
prepared for them! It implies being doomed to welter in woe
unutterable, blaspheming God, and execrating the creatures of God,
"world without end!"

When people pretend that they are willing to be damned for the glory
of God, they "know--not what they say nor whereof they affirm." They
leave out the principal ingredients of that dreadful state. Bid they
take them into the account, they would perceive the impossibility of
the thing. To suppose it required is to blaspheme God--to pretend that
man can submit to it, is to belie human nature--to conceive that a
child of God can reconcile himself to it, is to subvert every just
idea of true religion. To require it, God must deny himself! To
consent to it, man must consent to become an infernal! The statement
of the case is a refutation of the scheme.

But if God's glory requires it, will not this reconcile the good and
gain their consent?

God's glory doth not--cannot require it. "The spirit of the Lord is
not straightened." Human guilt and misery are not necessary to God's
honor.

It is necessary that divine justice should be exercised on those who
refuse divine grace; but not necessary that men should refuse divine
grace. "As I live, saith the Lord God. I have no pleasure in the death
of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live."

Such is the language of revelation; and the measures which God hath
adopted relative to our guilty race speak the same language. He hath
provided a city of refuge, and urges the guilty to "turn to the strong
hold."--He weeps over obstinate sinners who refuse his grace? "How
shall I give thee up? How shall I deliver thee?" But rejoiceth over
the penitent, as the father rejoiced over the returning prodigal.

God would not have provided a Savior, and made indiscriminate offers
of pardon and peace had he chosen the destruction of sinners, and had
their ruin been necessary to his honor. But God hath done these
things, and manifested his merciful disposition toward mankind.

We have no need to "do evil that good may come. Our unrighteousness is
not necessary to commend the righteousness of God."

How then, are we to understand the prayer of Moses, placed at the head
of this discourse--_blot me, I pray that, out of thy book which than
hast written_?

As this is one of the principal passages of scripture which are
adduced to support the sentiment we have exploded, a few things may be
premised, before we attempt to explain it.

I. Should it be admitted that Moses here imprecated utter destruction
on himself, it could not be alleged as a precept given to direct
others, but only as a solitary incident, in the history of a saint,
who was then compassed with infirmity. And where is the human
character without a shade? This same Moses neglected to circumcise his
children--broke the tables of God's law--spake unadvisedly with his
lips--yea, committed such offences against God, that he was doomed to
die short of Canaan, in common with rebellious Israel.

II. The time--in which it hath been particularly insisted that a
person must be willing to be damned for God's glory, is at his
entrance on a slate of grace; but Moses had been consecrated to the
service of God long before he made this prayer. Nothing, therefore
respecting the temper of those under the preparatory influences of the
spirit can be argued from it.

III. Should we grant that Moses here imprecated on himself the
greatest evil, a sense of other people's sins, and not a sense of his
own sins, was the occasion. But,

IV. No sufferings of his could have been advantageous to others, had
be submitted to them for their sake. Had he consented to have been a
castaway--to have become an infernal, as we have seen implied in
damnation, this would not have brought salvation to Israel. Moses'
hatred of God, and his sufferings and blasphemies, would not have
atoned for the sins of his people, or tended in any degree to turn
away the wrath of God from them.

It seems surprizing that the whole train of expositors should consider
this good man as imprecating evil on himself for the good of others,
when it is obvious that others could not have been benefited by it.
For though expositors differ respecting the magnitude of the evil,
they seem to agree that he did wish evil to himself, and pray that he
might suffer for his people! We have seen no expositor who is an
exception.

But let us attend to the prayer. _Oh! this people have sinned a great
sin; yet now, if thou will, forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I
prey thee, out of thy book_.

We know the occasion. Israel had fallen into idolatry while Moses was
on the mount--had made an idol, and bowed in adoration before it. God
told Moses what they had done--threatened to destroy them--excused
Moses from praying for them, which had before been his duty, and
promised to reward his faithfulness among so perverse a people, if he
would now "hold his peace, and let God alone to destroy them."
But Moses preferred the good of Israel to the aggrandisement of his
own family, earnestly commended them to the divine mercy, and obtained
the forgiveness of their sin--"The Lord repented of the evil which
he thought to do unto them." But he gave at that time no intimation of
his merciful purpose toward them.

When Moses came down and found the congregation holding a feast to
their idol, he was filled with grief and indignation; and took
measures immediately to punish their sin and bring them to repentance.
He first destroyed their idol and then about three thousands of the
idolaters, by the sword of Levi, who at his call, ranged themselves on
the Lord's side. The next day, fearing that God would exterminate the
nation, agreeably to his threatening, Moses gathered the tribes, set
their sin before them, and told them that he would return to the
divine presence and plead for them, though he knew not that God would
hear him. "Ye have sinned a great sin; and now I will go up unto the
Lord; _peradventure_ I shall make an atonement for your sin. _And
Moses returned unto the Lord and said, Oh! this people have sinned a
great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet, now, if thou wilt,
forgive their sin; and if not blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book
which thou hast written_."

Moses meaning, while praying for Israel, is obvious; but the petition
offered up for himself is not equally so--_blot me, I pray thee, out
of thy book_.

Four different constructions have been put on the is prayer--Some
consider Moses as imprecating damnation on himself, for the good of
his people--Some as praying for annihilation, that they might find
mercy--Some as asking God that he might die with them, if they should
die in the wilderness--Others, that his name might be blotted out of
the page of history, and his memory perish, should Israel be destroyed
and not reach the promised land.

"Blot me" (saith Mr. Cruden) "out of thy book of life--out of the
catalogue, or number of those that shall be saved--wherein Moses does
not express what he thought might be done, but rather wisheth, if it
were possible, that God would accept of him as a sacrifice in their
stead, and by his destruction and annihilation, prevent so great a
mischief to them." *

* Vid. Concordance, under BLOT.

Docr. S. Clark expresseth his sense of the passage to nearly the same
effect.

Did Moses then ask to be made an expiatory sacrifice for the sin of
Israel! Or did he solemnly ask of God what he knew to be so
unreasonable that it could not be granted!

There is no hint in the account given of this affair, that Moses
entertained a thought of being accepted in Israel's stead. He did not
ask to suffer _that they might escape_--he prayed _to be blotted out
of God's book_, if his people could not be forgiven--_If thou wilt,
forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book
which thou hast written_.

Mr. Pool considers Moses as praying to be annihilated that Israel
might be pardoned! "Blot me out of the book of life--out of the
catalogue, or number of those that shall be saved. I suppose Moses
doth not wish his eternal damnation, because that state would imply
both wickedness in himself and dishonor to God; but his
annihilation, or utter lose of this life, and that to come, and all
the happiness of both of them. Nor doth Moses simply desire this, but
only comparatively expresseth his singular zeal for God's glory, and
charity to his people; suggesting that the very thoughts of the
destruction of God's people, and the reproach and blasphemy which
would be cast upon God by means thereof, were so intolerable to him,
that he rather wished, if it were possible, that God would accept him
as a sacrifice in their stead, and by his utter destruction prevent so
great a mischief." *

* Vid. Pool in locum.

Could the learned and judicious Mr. Pool seriously believe that
inspired Moses prayed for annihilation! Or consider him as
entertaining a suspicion that a soul could cease to exist! Or could he
conceive him as deliberately asking of God to make him an expiatory
sacrifice! Or harboring a thought that the sin of his people might be
atoned by his being blotted out from among God's works!--Strange!

Mr. Henry considers Moses as praying to die with Israel, if they must
die in the wilderness.--"If they must be cut off, let me be cut off
with them--let not the land of promise be mine by survivorship. God
had told Moses, that if he would not interpose, he would make him a
great nation--No said Moses, I am so far from desiring to see my name
and family, built on the ruins of Israel, that I choose rather to die
with them." *

* Vid. Henry in loc.

If such is the spirit of this prayer, Moses does not appear resigned
to the divine order, but rather peevish and fretful at the
disappointment of his hope, which he had till then entertained. He had
expected to lead Israel to the land of promise; if not indulged, seems
not to have cared what became of himself or his family; and is thought
here to address his maker, offering distinguishing favors to him, as
Daniel did Belthazzar--"thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards
to another--I desire none of them for myself or mine--If Israel die in
the wilderness, let me die with them"--From angry Jonah such a reply
to the kind offers of a gracious God might not surprize us; but it was
not to have been expected from the meekest of mankind. DOCT. HUNTER,
in his biographical lectures, explodes this idea of Moses' asking to
be damned for the salvation of Israel, and shews the absurdity of that
construction of the text, but understands him as praying to die
himself, before sentence should be executed on his people, if they
were not pardoned. And in the declaration, _whosoever hath sinned
against me, him will I blot out of my book_, he discovers an
intimation, that that offending people should die short of the
promised land! A discovery without a clew. This sin of Israel was
pardoned. Sentence of death in the wilderness was occasioned by a
subsequent act of rebellion, as will be shewn in the sequel.*

* Vid. Hunter's Lect. Vol. iv. Lect. iv

Mr. Fismin considers Moses as here praying to be blotted out of
the page of history, if Israel were not pardoned; so that no record of
his name, or the part which he had acted in the station assigned him,
should he handed down to posterity. An exposition differing from the
plain language of sacred history--_Blot me, I pray thee, out of thy
book, which thou hast written_. The page of history is written by man.

Such are the constructions which have been put on this scripture. The
considerations which have been suggested, oblige us to reject them
all, as founded in mistake. Our sense of the passage, and the reasons,
which in our apprehension, support it, will be the subject of another
discourse.



 * * * * * *



SERMON VIII.

Moses' Prayer to be blotted out of God's Book.

Exodus xxxii. 31, 32.

"And Moses returned unto the Lord and said. Oh! this people have sinned
a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou--wilt,
forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray they, out of thy book
which than hast written."


In the preceding discourse we endeavored to show that the idea of
being willing to be damned for the glory of God is not found in the
text--that the sentiment is erroneous and absurd--then adduced the
constructions which have been put on the text by sundry expositors, and
offered reasons which oblige us to reject them as misconstructions.

It remains, _to give our sense of the passage--the grounds on which it
rests--and some reflections by way of improvement_.

As _to our sense of the passage_--We conceive these puzzling words of
Moses to be no other than a prayer for himself--that his sins which
might stand charged against him in the book of God, might _be blotted
out_, however God might deal with Israel. "SINS are compared to debts,
which are written in the creditor's book, and crossed, or blotted out,
when paid.* Man's sins are written in the book of God's remembrance,
or accounts; out of which all men shall be judged hereafter.+ And when
sin is pardoned it is laid to be blotted out.++ And not to be found
any more, though sought for." +++

* Matthew vi. 32. + Revelations xix. 12. ++ Isaiah xliv. 22.
+++ Jeremiah l. 20.--Vid. Cruden's Concord. under BLOT.

When a debtor hath paid a debt, we are at no loss for his meaning, if
he requests to be crossed, or blotted out of the creditor's book;
nor would doubt arise should one to whom a debt was forgiven prefer
like petition. "You will please to blot me out of your book."

Though Moses had taken no part in this sin of Israel. he knew himself
a sinner; and when praying for others: it is not likely he would
forget himself. The occasion would naturally suggest the value, yea
the necessity of forgiveness, and dispose him to ask it of God. When
others are punished, or but just escape punishment, we commonly look
at home, and consider our own state; and if we see ourselves in
danger, take measures to avoid it. To a sinner the only way of safety
is, repairing to divine mercy, and obtaining a pardon. That Moses
would be excited to this by a view of Israel, at this time, is a
reasonable expectation.

That such was the purpose of Moses' prayer for himself is clearly
indicated by the answer which was given to it--For the _blotting out
of God's book_, is doubtless to be understood in the same sense in the
prayer, and in the answer; and the latter explains the former.

_Oh! this people have sinned a great sin--Yet now, if thou wilt,
forgive their sin; and if not_--if thou wilt not forgive their sin
--_blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book, which thou hast written. And
the Lord said unto Moses_, WHOSOEVER _hath sinned against me, HIM will
I blot out of my book_: THEREFORE _now go lead the people unto the
place of which I have spoken unto thee_.

The passage thus presented to our view, seems scarcely to need a
comment; but such sad work hath been made of this text, and such
strange conclusions been drawn from it that it may be proper to
subjoin a few remarks.

That God had threatened to "destroy that people and blot out their
name from under heaven"--that Moses had prayed for them--and that "the
Lord had repented of the evil which he thought to do unto them" we
have seen above. And here Moses is ordered to resume his march, and
carry up the tribes to the promised land, and the reason is assigned--
"_whosoever_ hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book,
_therefore_, now go lead the people to the place of which I have
spoken unto thee."

When we thus view the subject can a doubt remain respecting the sense
of this text? (But keeping in view the reason here assigned for the
renewed order given to Moses to conduct the tribes to Canaan, namely,
God's determination _to blot of his book--whosoever had sinned against
him_, in this affair) let us try it in the different senses which have
been put upon it.

I. We will suppose _blotting out of God's book_, to mean destroying
soul and body in hell. The divine determination to shew no mercy to
Israel, is then the reason assigned for the order here given to Moses.
The prayer and answer stand thus--_Now if thou wilt, forgive this
people_--Answer--_I will not hear thy prayer for them--no mercy shall
be shewn them, but utter, eternal destruction be their portion_--
THEREFORE _now go lead them to the promised land_!

II. Suppose _blotting out of God's book_ to mean annihilation, and his
answer to the prayer stands thus--_I will destroy this people, and
blot them from among my works_--THEREFORE _go lead them to the place
of which I have spoken unto thee_!

III. Suppose with Mr. Henry, and Doct. Hunter, that it is to be
understood of destruction in the wilderness, and the answer stands
thus--_My wrath shall wax hot against Israel and consume them--they
shall all die in the wilderness_, THEREFORE, _now go lead them to
Canaan_!

The whole people, save Moses and Joshua, seem to have participated in
the revolt. We have no account of another exception; _and whosoever
had sinned, God would blot out of his book_. Surely had either of
these been the meaning of _blotting out of God's book_, it would not
have been given as the reason for Moses' resuming his march and
carrying up the tribes to the land of promise. Common sense revolts at
the idea.

But if we understand _blotting out of God's book_ in the sense we have
put upon it, we see at once the propriety of the order given to Moses,
founded on this act of grace. God's having "repented of the evil which
he thought to do unto them." If this is the meaning of the words, the
answer to Moses' prayer amounts to this--"I have heard and hearkened
to your prayer, and pardoned the sin of this people, proceed
_therefore_ in your march, and lead them to the place of which I have
spoken unto thee." The _therefore go now_, doth not surprize us. We
see the order rise out of the divine purpose; but on any of the other
constructions of the text, thwarts and contradicts it; or cannot
surely be assigned as the reason of it. SEVERAL other considerations
illustrate the subject, and confirm our construction of it.

When Moses returned to intercede for Israel, he certainly asked of God
to pardon their sin. _Oh! this people have sinned a great sin, and
have made them gods of gold--Yet now, if than wilt forgive their sin_
--That he was heard and obtained his request appears not only from the
history contained in our context, but from Moses' rehearsal of it just
before his death. He recounted the dealings of God with Israel, when
taking his leave of them on the plains of Moab--In that valedictory
discourse he reminded them of their sin on this occasion--of God's
anger against them--his threatening to destroy them, and how he
pleaded with God in their behalf, and the success which attended his
intercessions for them--"I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure
wherewith the Lord was wroth with you, to destroy you, but _the Lord
hearkened unto me at that time also_." *

* Deuteronomy ix. 19.

Sentence of death in the wilderness was afterwards denounced against
those sinners, and executed upon them, but not to punish this sin; but
the rebellion which was occasioned by the report made by the spies who
were sent to search out the land. On that occasion Moses prayed
fervently for his people, and not wholly without effect--God had
threatened to "smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them,"
but receded from his threatening through the prevalence of that
intercessor in their behalf--"the Lord said I have pardoned according
to thy word;" but at the same time, denounced an irrevokable sentence
of death in the wilderness against those rebels. Then Moses was not
ordered to "lead the people to the place of which God had spoken," but
commanded to go back into the wilderness which they had parted--"turn
you, and get ye into the wilderness by the way of the red sea." +

+ Numbers xiv.

At that time, the exception from the general sentence, was not in
favor of Moses and Joshua, who had been on the mount, and taken no
part in Israel's sin in making the golden calf, but in favor of Caleb
and Joshua, who dissented from the report made by the other spies;
though no intimation is given that Caleb was not with the people, and
did not sin with them in the matter of the golden calf. There is
therefore no doubt respecting the sin which shut that generation out
of Canaan. Nor do we apprehend more occasion for doubt relative to the
prayer of Moses, _to be blotted out of God's book_.

But though the sin of Israel on this occasion was pardoned, and Moses
ordered to lead them to Canaan, some temporal chastisements were
inflicted to teach the evil of sin, and serve as a warning to others
to keep themselves in the fear of God; of which Moses was notified
when ordered to advance with the pardoned tribes? "Nevertheless, in
the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them. And the Lord
plagued the people because they had made the calf which Aaron made."
The manner in which this is mentioned, shows that their sin in that
affair was forgiven, and only some lighter corrections ordered in
consequence of it; which is common after sin is pardoned.

REFLEXIONS.

I. When we consider Moses pouring out his soul before God in behalf
of an offending people, it should excite us, as there may be occasion,
to go and do likewise.

Some pretend that prayer offered up for others, must be unavailing.
God, it is alleged, is immutable, not therefore to be moved to change
his measures by a creature's cries. And prayer for others can have no
tendency, it is said, to operate a change in them, so as to bring them
into the way of mercy, and render them fit objects of it.

We would only observe in reply, that God hath made it our duty to
"pray one for another," * And scripture abounds with records of the
prevalence of such intercessions. We have a striking influence in our
subject--Moses prayed for Israel and was heard--"The Lord hearkened
unto me at that time also." It doth not appear that Israel joined with
Moses in his pleadings at the throne of grace on this occasion. Moses
went up into the mount, leaving Israel on the plain below--"I will go
up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin.
And Moses returned unto the Lord," and pleaded in their behalf. By his
individual power, he seems to have prevailed. This is only one
instance out of many which might be adduced from the history of the
saints--of this saint in particular. Yea, there seems to have been
such power in the pleadings of this man of God, _while praying for
others_, that when God would enter into judgment with them, Moses must
be prevailed with to hold his peace, and not pray for them! "The Lord
spake unto me saying, I have seen this people, and behold it is a
stiff necked people. _Let me alone_ that I may destroy them--_and I
will make of thee a nation mightier and greater than they_." Let me
alone! As though God could not destroy them without Moses' consent!--
And I will make of thee a nation mightier and greater than they! As
though Moses must be bribed to silence, ere judgment could proceed
against them!

* James v. 16.

This representation is not to be received without restriction; but we
may safely infer that "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man
availeth much"--that it often draws down blessings from above on those
who deserve no good.

This should encourage us to wrestle with God in prayer, for the
effusions of his grace on those who deserve judgment without mercy,
and who might receive it from the righteous sovereign, did the
righteous hold their peace, and "let him alone."

II. When we witness this holy many [sic] praying _to be blotted out of
God's book which he had written_, it should remind us of our state as
sinners whose only hope is mercy. "Moses' was faithful in all God's
house." His attainments in the divine life were scarcely equaled; yet
must have perished forever had forgiving grace been denied him. He
knew his state; and a view of Israel's danger called home his thoughts
and led him to implore divine mercy for himself, though he should fail
to obtain it for an ungrateful people. "Oh! forgive the sin of this
people, but if not, forgive my sin--pardoning grace is all my
dependence--hope would fail should it be denied me."

If Moses was thus conscious of guilt, who can say "I have made my
heart clean, I am pure from my sin?--O Lord, enter not into judgment
with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified--
there is not a just man upon earth, who doeth good and sinneth not."
While praying for others, it ill becomes us to forget ourselves.

Are we by office appointed to ask mercy for others and bear them on
our hearts before God? We must not therefore conclude that mercy is
not necessary for us. Like the high priests of old, "We must offer,
first for own sins, and then for the people's." There is only one
intercessor to whom this is needless.

Witnessing the sin and danger of others, should stir us up to the
duty, as it did this leader of Israel. While crying to God for others,
we must beware wrapping up ourselves in fancied purity. To this we are
tempted by a view of greater sins in others, which serve as a foil to
act off our fancied goodness; and especially by the knowledge of
certain great sins in others, of which we know ourselves to be clear.

Some in Moses' situation, would doubtless have adopted that language
--"God I thank thee that I am not as other men are--not as this
people." Very different was the effect it had on him--it reminded him
of his sins, and led him to cry for mercy.

It is of vast importance that we know ourselves--if we attain this
knowledge, from sense of demerit, we shall add to our prayers for
others, _but if not, blot me, I pray thee out of thy book which thou
hast written_.

III. If we do not mistake the sense of the text, the strange doctrine
exploded in the beginning of this discourse, finds no support in it.
And surely the doctrine which reason rejects cannot be supported by
revelation. Reason directs us to pursue that line of conduct which
will be most for our advantage taking the whole term of our existence
into the account. And revelation doth the same--"in keeping God's
commandments there is great reward." If we look through the holy
scriptures we shall find abundant rewards annexed to every
requirement. The idea that despising the promises, and being willing
to renounce the desire and hope of them, should be made a condition of
receiving them, is pitiable weakness and absurdity.

Quite a different spirit is displayed in the history of the saints,
whom we are directed to follow. All the worthies of old "died in faith
not having received the promises, but seen them afar off."--The
renowned leader of Israel "had respect to the recompense of reward"
--yea, "the captain of our salvation," the divine son of Mary, "for
the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the
shame." *

* Hebrews xi. 26, xii. 2.

Here the way of duty requires self denials. The good man is often
called to take up his cross; but the rewards which follow are
constantly held up to view, in revelation, as infinitely surpassing
the losses and sufferings of the present life. "Blessed are ye when
men shall revile and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against
you falsely for my sake: Rejoice and be exceeding glad; for great is
your reward in heaven." Every one who forsaketh worldly advantages,
out of regard to God, will "receive an hundred fold reward, and
inherit eternal life."

This was made known to the primitive Christians. Therefore their
fortitude and zeal to do and suffer in the cause of God--"Our light
affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more
exceeding and eternal weight of glory.--I reckon the sufferings of the
present time, not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be
revealed in us."

Totally groundless and unjust, was that charge--"I knew thee that thou
art an hard man." We serve a just, a kind, a good master. Even a cup
of cold water, given, out of love to him, will in no wise go
unrewarded--he asks no sacrifice of us for nought. Much less that we
would sacrifice ourselves, and be castaways. "Those who honor him, he
will honor."

The slaves of Satan are repaid with misery; but not so the servants of
God. "He is not unrighteous to forget our labor of love." These things
are revealed for our encouragement and support. Yea, God hath "given
us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these we might be
partakers of the divine nature--let us therefore be steadfast,
unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as
we know that our labor is not in vain in the Lord."



 * * * * * *



SERMON IX.

St. Paul's Wish to be accursed from Christ.

Romans ix. 3

"For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my
brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh."


Few characters more remarkable than that of St. Paul, are to be found
in history. He is introduced to our acquaintance on a tragical
occasion--the martyrdom of Stephen, where he appears an accomplice
with murderers--"he was standing by and consenting to his death, and
kept the raiment of them that slew him."

The circumstances of Paul's conversion to Christianity were very
remarkable, and afford strong evidence of its truth. He was not an
ignorant youth, who could be easily deluded. He had all the
advantages of education which that enlightened age afforded. He was
born indeed at Tarsus, a city of Cilicia; but sent to Jerusalem for
an education, and "brought up at the feet of Gamaliel," a famous
Jewish Rabbi, who is said to have been many years president of the
Sanhedrin; and renowned for wisdom and erudition.

Paul's mind was not only early imbued with general science, but he was
particularly instructed in the Jews' religion, and became a zealous
member of the pharisaic sect--verily believed the truth to be with
them--thought it to be his duty to inculcate their sentiments, both
scriptural and traditionary, and oppose all who did not fall in with
their views, and help to increase their influence, and spread their
principles. Therefore his hatred of Christianity, and determination to
destroy it from its foundation--Therefore his implacable aversion to
Christians, and unwearied endeavors to reduce them from the faith, or
compel them to blaspheme, or where he failed in those attempts, to
destroy them from the earth.

But lo! the triumphs of divine grace! This arch enemy, while pursuing
the followers of the Lamb, even to strange cities, is met by the
glorified redeemer, while on his way to Damascus, whither he was
going, "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the
disciples!" Arrested in his course! Convinced of his madness! Brought
to believe on that Jesus whom he had reviled and blasphemed! And even
changed into a preacher of that gospel which he had been so eager to
destroy!

We know the strange process by which these events were effected--how
this proud adversary was subdued and melted into a humble, penitent
believer! We know the zeal with which he entered on the gospel
ministry--what he did--what he suffered, to build up the cause he had
destroyed!

How he persevered to the end, and sealed his testimony with his
blood!--What a trophy of divine power and mercy! "These were the
Lord's doings, and marvelous in our eyes."

But why marvelous? Why should we wonder when we consider the agent?
God is wont to subvert the purposes of his enemies; and often uses
those means and instruments which were prepared and intended against
him, to accomplish his purposes.

Egypt is said, at a particular period, to have dreaded a deliverer,
then expected to arise in Israel--therefore the edict for thy
destruction of the male children which should be born to the Hebrews,
thinking to destroy the deliverer among them. But while that edict was
in operation, as though in contempt of infernal malice, and Egyptian
policy, Moses, the savior of his people, was born. And mark what
followed. Lo! The daughter of Pharaoh becomes his mother. The house of
Pharaoh his asylum! The learned Magi of that hostile empire, his
instructors! And all to fit him for the work for which heaven designed
him. *

* Hunter Vol. ii. Lect. xviii.

So here; this Moses of the New Testament--this destined chieftain
among Christians, is educated among Pharisees; the great enemies of
Christ--instructed by their greatest teacher--inspired with a double
portion of their zeal and rancor against the cause of the Redeemer,
and sent forth to destroy. But lo! This mighty Abaddan of diabolical
and Jewish malice, is arrested in his course--changed into another
man, and all his zeal and learning from that hour directed to buildup
the cause of God! The energy instructed and furnished, but heaven
directed the use and application!

God's purposes stand and will stand. None can stay his hand, or
reverse his decrees. The means chosen to subvert, are used to build
his cause and kingdom. "He taketh the wise in their own craftiness,
and the purposes of the froward are carried headlong."

While Paul remained a Pharisee he was the idol of his nation; but no
sooner did he become a Christian, than their love was turned to
hatred. No other was so abhorred as he. Against no other did they
unite with such determined rancor. Numbers soon leagued together, and
even "bound themselves under a curse not to eat or drink till they had
slain him." But all their machinations were vain. "Obtaining help from
God, of whom he was a chosen vessel, to bear his name to the Gentiles,
and kings, and the people of Israel," he continued many years, and
did, perhaps, more than any other perform in the cause of Christ.
Jewish rancor towards him never abated, but he caught no share of
their bitter spirit? the temper of Christ governed in him? he loved
his enemies, and did them good. Like another Moses he bore Israel on
his heart before God, and made daily intercession for them, weeping at
a view of their sad state, and the evils coming upon them.

Such is the spirit of the context. "I say the truth in Christ, I lie
not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost that I
have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.--_for I could
wish that myself were accursed from Christ, for my brethren, my
kinsmen according to the flesh_".

The depressing occasion of his grief, was the infidelity and obduracy
of his nation--that they refused to hearken to reason and evidence
--were resolved to reject the only Savior; and the evils temporal and
eternal, which he foresaw their temper and conduct would bring upon
them--therefore his "great heaviness and continual sorrow."

In the text--_I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ, for
my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh_, the apostle hath been
thought to imprecate evil on himself for the benefit of his people!
All the expositors we have seen on this passage, conceive him to have
wished some sore calamity to himself for the advantage of his nation!
Though they have differed respecting the magnitude of the evil which
he wished to suffer for their sake.

Doct. Doddridge considers him, as "wishing to be made a curse for
them, as Christ hath been made a curse for us, that so they might be
delivered from the guilt which they had brought on themselves, and be
entitled to the blessings of the rejected gospel."

Doct. S. Clark views him, as "desirous of suffering the calamities to
which his people were doomed for rejecting and crucifying the Savior,
so that, could they all centre in one person, he wished to be the
person, that he might thereby procure salvation for them!"

Grotius and Pool understand him, as "wishing to be separated from the
church of Christ for the sake of the Jews!" Which differs little from
Doct. Hunter's sense of the passage--to which Doct. Guyse adds, "a
desire of every indignity of man, and to be cut off from communion
with Christ, for the sake of Israel;" whom he strangely considers as
prejudiced against Christianity in consequence of their prejudices
against Paul!

But why should the apostle wish evil to himself for their sakes? What
possible advantage could his sufferings have been to his nation? Is it
possible that those learned expositors should conceive that pains and
penalties inflicted on him could have made atonement for their sins,
and expiated their guilt! They must never have read Paul's epistles or
never have entered into the spirit of them, who could entertain such
views as these; or even suspect that aught, save the blood of Christ,
can atone for human guilt. It is strange, therefore, that they could
have imagined that he wished to suffer with this view. And it is no
less so, that it should be thought that prejudices against Paul could
have occasioned Jewish prejudices against Christianity, when it is so
evident that their prejudices against Paul were wholly occasioned by
his attachment to Christianity--he having been high in their esteem
till he became a Christian.

David once asked to suffer in Israel's stead; but the circumstances of
the case were then totally different from those of the case now before
us. Israel were suffering _for his sin_ in numbering the people; "I
have sinned and done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done?
Let thine hand, I pray thee be against me."--But Paul had not sinned,
to bring evil on his people--the guilt was all their own.

Expositors having mistaken Moses' prayer "to be bloated out of God's
book," seem generally to have had that prayer in their eye when they
have attempted to explain the text; and supposing that Moses prayed to
be made sacrifice for Israel, have thought that Paul had the same
spirit, and here followed his example! But that neither of them ever
entertained the thought of suffering to expiate the sin of their
people, and that the two passages bear no kind of relation to each
other, we conceive indubitably certain.

But let us consider the text and judge for ourselves the meaning.

Perhaps the difficulties which have perplexed it may have chiefly
arisen from the translation. The silence of expositors on this head,
while puzzled with the passage, is strange, if the difficulty might
have been obviated by amending to the original. The translation is
plausible solely from this consideration.

Mr. Pool is the only expositor we have ever seen, who hath noted the
difference between the translation and the original; and he labors
hard to bring them together, but, in our apprehension, labors it in
vain.

The passage literally translated stands thus? _For I myself boasted
that I was a curse from Christ, above my brethren, my kinsmen
according to the flesh_. *

* * * * *

* _Euxoman gar autos ego anathema einai apo tou xristou uper tou
adelphon mou suggenon mou kata sarxa_.

_Euxoman_, rendered in translation by _I could wish_ forms in the
imperfect of the indicative mood, in the Auic dialect. Mr. Pool was
too accurate a scholar not to observe the disagreement of the
translation with the original. Some read it as in the indicative; but
it is generally considered as in the optative, and altered by a figure
which takes on _iota_ from the middle, and cuts an _an_ end of the
word forming _Euxoman_, instead of _auxoiman an_. +

But what warrant have we for these alterations? They only serve to
darken a difficult text.

The most natural and common construction of _euxoman_, derives, is, to
glory or boast. _Gloriar_ is the first word used to express the
meaning of it in Schrevelius' Lexicon; and the meaning _euxos_, the
theme of this verb justifies the construction, in preference to that
used by the translators. And the Greek preposition _uper_, which is
rendered for, is often used to signify above, or more than.

+ Vid. Pool in loc.

* * * * *

For the justice of the criticisms we appeal to the learned. If they
are just, our sense of the text will be admitted.

If we consider the context, and the part which had been formerly acted
by the apostle, it will not be difficult to ascertain his meaning, nor
strange that he should express himself as in the text. He begins the
chapter with strong expressions of concern for his nation, who had
rejected him "whose name alone is given under heaven," for the
salvation of men. If they continued to neglect the grace offered them
in the gospel, he knew that they could not escape. And when he looked
on them and mourned over them, the dangers which a few years before
had hung over himself, rose up before him. He had been an unbeliever,
a blasphemer, and a persecutor of the church of Christ; had boasted
his enmity to Christ and opposition to the gospel; in which he had
even exceeded the body of his nation--he had taken the lead against
Christianity--been unrivalled in zeal against the cause, and rancour
against the followers of the Lamb. When warned of his danger, and
admonished to consider what would be his portion, should Jesus prove
to be the Messias, he seems to have derided the friendly warnings, and
imprecated on himself the vengeance of the Nazerene!--to have defied
him to do his worst! to pour his curse upon him!

It is not strange that witnessing the temper of his nation, should
call these things to his remembrance--that the consideration should
affect him--that he should shudder at the prospect of the destruction
which hung over them, and at the recollection of that from which
himself had been "scarcely saved"--that he should exclaim, "God and my
conscience witness my great heaviness and continual sorrow, when I
look on my brethren the Jews, and consider the ruin coming upon them,
from which I have been saved, _so as by fire_! Lately I was even more
the enemy of Christ than they, and boasted greater enmity.. against
him! And should have brought on myself a more intolerable doom, had
not a miracle of power and mercy arrested me in my course!" That such
considerations and a recollection of the share which he had formerly
taken in strengthening the prejudices of his nation against the
truth, should deeply affect him, and draw such expression from him as
we find in the text and context, is not strange. They appear natural
for a person circumstanced as he was at that time; and especially to
one divinely forewarned of the devastation then coming on his place
and nation.

These we conceive to be the feelings and views expressed by the
apostle in the beginning of this chapter--but that he should wish to
be put into the place of Christ; or madly with evil to himself, from
which nobody could be benefited, cannot be suspected; unless with
Festus, we suppose him to have been "beside himself," and not to have
known what he wrote, when he expressed himself as in the text.

REFLECTIONS

I. In Paul's conversion how wonderfully apparent are the wisdom and
power of God? When we view Saul of Tarsus making havoc of the church
in Judea, and soliciting permission to pursue its scattered members
even into exile, we consider him as a determined enemy of Christ. Who
then would suspect that he should be made to feel the power of divine
grace? That he would become a Christian? Yea, a prime minister of
Immanuel! But lo! For this cause did God raise him up! For this work
was he training while drinking at the fount of Science, and learning
the Jews' religion in the school of Gamaliel! While unsanctified he
was a destroyer; but when melted by divine influence into the temper
of the gospel, all his powers and all his acquisitions were
consecrated to the service of God and the Redeemer.

To affect this change in Paul, however unexpected, was not beyond the
power of God; and it was done of God! Neither was it delayed till Paul
had spent his best days in the service of Satan. At setting out to
destroy, he was met of the ascended Savior, transformed by the
renewing of his mind, and from that time devoted to the service of
God; and continued faithful unto death. Many were his trials--severe
his sufferings for the gospel which he preached; but "none of these
things moved him; neither did he count his life dear to himself, that
he might finish his course with joy, and the ministry which he had
received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of
God."

II. The temper manifested by St. Paul when contemplating the state of
his nation, how worthy of imitation? Like his divine Lord, "when
he beheld them he wept over them." Neither was the view unprofitable.
It served to remind him of his own past guilt and danger, and the mercy
which had been exercised toward him. His guilt and danger had been
great. In high handed opposition to heaven, he had even exceeded "his
kinsmen according to the flesh." Witnessing their state brought these
again to his remembrance, and the grace of God which had stopt him in
his course, and saved him from destruction, causing him at once, to
rejoice and tremble!

Many of the children of God when they witness the security of sinners;
how they neglect the great salvation, and harden themselves in sin,
may remember when they did the same themselves and some of them, in a
higher degree than most of those who appear to be walking the downward
road.

Those who have found mercy cannot refrain from mourning over those
whom they see hardening themselves in sin; nor should they cease to
warn them from their way, and to cry to God in their behalf. But their
attention is not wholly taken up from home; it often reverts thither,
and stirs them up to grateful acknowledgments of divine goodness to
themselves. WHO is he that maketh me to differ from the thoughtless
sinner? is a consideration which often rises in the good man's mind,
while looking on the careless and secure. It is a proper and a
profitable consideration--tends to keep him humble and mindful of his
dependence.

Sense of past dangers serve to enhance the value of present safety.
The greater dangers we have escaped, and the more wonderful our
deliverances have been, the greater should be our love to our
deliverer, and the greater our care to make him suitable returns. If
we entertain just views of these things, such will be the effect.
Those to whom most is forgiven love the most.

By reflecting on the riches of divine mercy, we should stir up our
souls to love the Lord. If witnessing the unconcern of others, while
in the broad road, serves to excite us to gratitude for divine
goodness shown to us, "the wrath of man is thereby made to praise the
Lord." Such was the effect which a view of Israel's hardness had on
Paul--May all Christ's disciples cultivate the same temper.

III. In Paul's conversion we see God distinguishing among his enemies,
and calling one into his kingdom who was, from principle, a destroyer
of his saints. Paul was a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee. No sect
among the Jews was more bitter against Christ--no other so eager and
active in their endeavors to crush his cause and subvert his kingdom.
Yet numbers of that sect obtained mercy. The same did not happen
respecting the Saducees. No instance of a Saducee brought to
repentance, can be adduced. Why this discrimination?

There may be reasons not revealed; but some are discernible.

The Pharisees "had a zeal for God, though not according to knowledge."
Saul, the Pharisee, "verily thought, that he ought to do many things
contrary to the name of Jesus"--he did not sin against the light of
his own mind. The same was doubtless the case with many others of
that sect. The Saducees were devoid of principle--had rejected
first principles--those taught by the light of nature. While first
principles are retained, such was the belief of a divine existence--a
difference between good and evil--a future state, in which men will
receive the deeds done in the body, and the like, there remains a
foundation on which religion may rest; but where these are rejected,
the foundation is destroyed. Of the former who have erred in lesser
matters of faith, and been thereby seduced into practical errors, many
have been reclaimed, and brought to repentance: Not so the latter.
"One among a thousand have we not found." And those whose sentiments
border on atheism, or infidelity, are seldom called of God.

There is a certain point of error in opinion, from which a return is
rare. Those who reach it are commonly given up to strong delusions,
which lead to destruction.

And practical errors, especially those which are opposed to
conviction, are highly criminal, and exceedingly dangerous--they fear
the conscience, and provoke God to leave sinners to themselves--"My
spirit shall not always strive with man--the times of ignorance God
winked at, but now commands all men every where to repent."

Saul of Tarsus speaks of himself as a chief of sinners "because he
persecuted the church of God;" yet he obtained mercy! But those who
sin against the light of their own minds, can draw little
encouragement from thence. He hath declared the reason of the
distinguishing mercy shown to him--"because I did it ignorantly in
unbelief." * No sooner was he convinced of his mistake, than he
returned with, "Lord what will thou have me to do?"--So do not those
"who know their master's will and do it not." WOULD we share the
blessedness of believing Saul, we must share his repentance; so shall
we find mercy with God. "For there is no difference between the Jew
and the Greek; for the same Lord over all, is rich unto all that call
upon him." +

* 1 Timothy i. 13. + Romans x. 12.



 * * * * * *



SERMON X.

David's Sin in the Matter of Uriah.

2 Samuel xii, 13.

"And David said unto Nathan, 'I have sinned against the Lord.' And
Nathan said unto David, 'The lord also hath put away thy sin; then
shalt not die.'"


The sin here referred to is that of David in the matter of Uriah. A
strange and sad event--taken in all its circumstances and connections,
it is without a parallel. But the circumstance most to be lamented, is
that mentioned by the prophet, in the close of his message--"By this
deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to
blaspheme."

The justness of this remark, doubtless appeared at that day, in the
triumph of sinners and exultations of scoffers; and the story brought
down to us, "on whom the ends of the world are come" is still abused
to keep vice in countenance.

"Look to David, your man of religion! Your man after God's own heart!
and witness his complicated crimes! and his long continued security
and unconcern under guilt, which cannot be charged on us, who view
religion as a dream!"--So the infidel.

While people of another description, wound God's cause yet more
deeply, by the argument which they draw from this fall of David;
namely, those who are allowedly vicious, yet call themselves "of the
household of faith--who are pure in their own eyes, though not
cleansed from their filthiness." These, when reproved, especially if
their piety is called in question, often recur to David for support
--tell us, that "though eminent for piety, he was guilty of greater
sins than theirs, and long continued in them--that he remained
impenitent till visited by Nathan, after the birth of his child by
Bathsheba. If, say they, be could continue so long secure and
unconcerned, why not longer? And why may not others fall into sins and
continue in them months and years after having received the grace of
God, and after they are numbered among the saints?"

This, we conceive, to be the most baleful conclusion which is drawn
from this history. And could it be made to appear that such was
David's state, for so long a term, we see no way to avoid the
conclusion--see not but the idea which the scriptures give of religion
as a holy principle, productive of a holy life, must be relinquished.

Such is the idea which the scriptures do give of religion--they teach,
that it changeth the heart, and forms the new creature--that "in this
the children of God are manifest, and the children of the Devil; that
whomever doeth not righteousness is not of God; that by their fruits
we are to know men."

Thus speaks that holy book which we believe to be from God, and to
shew us the way of salvation. But if the children of God are not made
to differ from others, if they may live in allowed disregard of the
law of God, like others, these distinctions are idle and unworthy our
regard. This matter demands our attention.

From the subject before us, the errors now mentioned draw their
chief support.

We do not flatter ourselves that we can stop mouths of scoffers, or so
clearly elucidate this dark part of the book of God, that it will no
more be abused to the purposes of depravity; but believe that it may
be made apparent that it hath been mistaken and perverted; and thereby
rendered the more mischievous. This will now be attempted.

That David remained unconcerned and devoid of repentance for the sins
which he committed in the matter of Uriah, till awakened to
consideration by the ministry of Nathan, seems to have been taken for
granted, and to have been the ground of these abuses. This may have
been the common opinion. Whether it is founded in reality, we will now
inquire.

Or those who argue from a supposition that this was the case, we ask
evidence that it was so. That we have no express declaration that
Nathan found him a penitent, we conceive to be all that can be alleged
as evidence that he remained till that time impenitent. To which may
be rejoined, that we have no express declaration that Nathan found him
impenitent. The fact is, both scripture and profane history are silent
respecting the state of David's mind from the commission of the sins,
till he was visited by the prophet. We are left therefore to judge
the matter on other grounds. And on what grounds can we form a more
profitable opinion than by considering _the general character of the
man--the nature and effects of renewing grace--and the temper and
conduct of the delinquent when he was reproved by the prophet_? From a
consideration of these we may derive the most probable solution of the
question, or judge what was probably the state in which David was
found by Nathan.

It may be proper to premise,

I. That good men, while in this state of imperfection, should be
surprized by temptation into sins, and even heinous sins, is neither
new nor strange. Many instances occur in the history of the saints
recorded in the scriptures. "Aaron, the saint of the Lord," and Moses,
whose general character was that of "a servant, faithful in all God's
house," were both seduced into sins of such enormity that they were
excluded the land of promise, in common with rebellious Israel. Among
New Testament saints similar lapses are observable. Even the apostles
forsook the Savior, and fled when Judas led forth the hostile band to
apprehend him; and Peter, when under the influence of fear, with oaths
and imprecations "denied the Lord that bought him!" The habitual
temper of these good men could not be argued--from these sudden acts.
Neither is judgment to be formed of others, except by observing the
general tenor of their lives. Strong and unexpected temptations may,
and often do, seduce the best of those who remain in the body and
retain the weakness of fallen creatures yet on trial.

II. There is something in each one's constitution which predisposes to
certain sins. To every person there is a "sin which most easily besets
him"--from which he is liable to stronger temptation than from other
sins--and temptation to such sins may rise from concurring
circumstances, above its natural state, and become almost invincible.
Nor will any person who reads the history of David doubt to what
particular sin he was naturally most disposed. Neither are we
insensible how one sin prepares the way for another, and strengthens
temptation to it.

David's sins on the occasion before us were complicated and exceeding
sinful. But we know how he was seduced to the first, and how the
others followed of course.

Respecting the state in which he was found by Nathan we may judge,

I. From his general character. This is so well known, that the bare
mention is almost sufficient. The scriptures teach us that he was
pious from his youth. When Samuel was sent to anoint him, sufficient
intimation was given that his heart was right with God. When Elijah,
the first born of Jesse palled before the prophet, pleased with his
appearance, he supposed him to be the man whom God had chosen to rule
his people--"Surely the Lord's anointed is before him"'--but God
refused him with this declaration, "The Lord seeth not appearance, but
the Lord looketh on the heart." David's after life justified the
preference then given him.

No person acquainted with his history as contained in the sacred
records, will scruple his general devotedness to the service of God.

Should doubt arise, we may refer to the charter given of him by the
pen of inspiration, about half a century after his death. "David did
that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and turned not aside
from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save
only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite." *

* 1 Kings xv. 5.

In that matter he greatly erred. There is no need however to consider
him as then fallen from grace. The remains of depravity which
continues after renovation, are sufficient under existing
circumstances to account for his fall on that occasion. But it is
inconcievable that a person of established piety should remain for a
whole year stupid and unconcerned under the guilt of such
transgressions; and the utter improbability of such an event will be
further apparent, if we attend,

II. To the nature and effects of renewing grace. It is no less true of
holy than of unholy principles, that they are operative. The governing
principle, whatever it may be, will bring forth fruit according to its
nature. A GOOD man may be surprized into sin, as we have seen, but he
will not go deliberately into the way of it, like the wicked. Neither
do the two characters, when they have been seduced into sin, reflect
upon it with similar feelings and views. When the good think on their
ways, they are grieved and humbled for their faults, and turn their
feet to God's testimonies; but the wicked bless themselves in their
hearts, as fortunate in the accomplishment of their vicious desires.
The good maintain a sense of God's presence--"Thou God seeth me." The
wicked forget God or doubt his attention to their temper and conduct
--"How doth God know? Is there knowledge in the most high?"

It is not strange if those whose only joys are the pleasures of sense,
felicitate themselves when they attain them; but those who love and
fear the Lord, and prefer his favor above all earthly joys, must have
other views. If sensible that they have offended God, and incurred
his displeasure, it greives them at their hearts, and fills them with
deep concern.

Apart from all considerations of interest, the good see a baseness and
deformity in sin, which render it the object of their aversion. They
consider it the disgrace of their rational nature, and are humbled and
abased when conscious that temptation hath prevailed to seduce them
from the paths of rectitude. IT will not be imagined that David could
banish thought, and drive away reflection, for a whole year after the
commission of such enormous sin; as he committed in the matter now
before us.

It is presumed that no man, retaining reason was ever able soon to
forget any enormity, which he knew himself guilty. The remembrance
always haunts the imagination, and conscience goads the mind with a
thousand stings. The delinquent hath not power to prevent it. He
cannot drive away thought, and turn off his attention to other
objects.

It is further presumed, that every good man is formed to the habit of
reflection; that he often enters into himself by a serious attention
to his state; considers his temper; review's his conduct, and brings
both to the divine standard, that he may know himself, and reform
whatever is amiss.

A person of David's character, especially circumstanced as he was at
that time, could not possibly have been destitute of considerations.
The society of the woman who had been the occasion of the crimes which
had so maimed his character, must have brought those crimes to his
remembrance, and kept them on his mind. Every time she came into his
presence, or cheered him by her smiles, a group of affecting thoughts
must have rushed in upon him; his first offence, an offence which the
law of his God would have obliged him to punish with death, in a
subject, and his after, and still more enormous sins, which he had
committed to hide the first, and possess the object which he was
forbidden even to covet, would occur to his mind. From the lovely
object in his presence, his mind would naturally revert to her late,
first greatly injured, and then murdered husband; to his faithfulness
and zeal for the honor of his king and country, which had torn him
from the embraces of a lovely partner, and the society of a family
dear to him, and would not even suffer him to visit them when liberty
was given him of his prince; to his careful attention to deliver the
letters, by which he had unsuspectingly borne the mandate for his own
murder; to his heroism when ordered up to the walls of the besieged
city, though not supported by the commander in chief; and his noble
exertions to subdue the enemies of Israel, amidst which he had bravely
fallen! Such reflexions must have filled his mind; nor was it possible
that he should have driven them away.

Neither could he do other than condemn the part which he had acted
and feel pain when he considered it. Surely such considerations must
have racked his guilty soul, and made him tremble and mourn in
bitterness of his spirit before God.

A graceless tyrant who neither fears God, nor regards man, may view,
his subjects as made for him, and think himself entitled to deprive
them at his pleasure, of every comfort, and even life. This hath been
the avowed sentiment of many an eastern despot. But it is not
supposeable of a good man--"the man after God's own heart," though now
seduced into certain heinous sins. Surely he could not think on his
ways--on his then late transgressions, but remorse must have harrowed
up his soul! He must have been deeply affected, and led to cry, "God
be merciful to me a sinner!" The feelings of a good man, who had been
seduced into sin and reflected upon it with deep contrition, are
pathetically described by the pen of this same person, in the thirty
second psalm; and description is couched in the first person, as what
himself had experienced. "When I kept silence, my bones waxed old by
reason of my roaring all the days long. For day and night thy hand was
heavy on me; my moisture is turned into the drought of summer." There
is a strong probability that his feeling on this occasion, before he
confessed his sin, and obtained a sense of pardon, are here expressed.
They are the same which we should suppose he must feel while
tormentedwith a sense of such enormous guilt.

III. We are to consider his temper and conduct when reproved by the
prophet.

These are the same which we should expect, did we know him to have
been then a penitent. He was indeed taken by guile, and made to
condemn himself before he perceived that he was the guilty person of
whom the prophet complained. But had he till that time continued
impenitent, it is not probable that he would have been instantly
humbled, and immediately confessed his sin with true contrition. It is
much more probable that he would have resented the application to
himself, as an affront offered to royalty, and avenged himself on the
Lord's messenger.

God hath power instantly to change the sinner's heart without previous
awakenings; but this is not the method of grace. Convictions,
ordinarily, if not invariably, antecede conversion, prepare for it,
and lead to it.

Neither is this the method of grace, only with the sinner at the first
great change, termed the, new birth, but with the saint who falls into
heinous sins, and thereby resembles the sinner. When a good man yields
to temptation and falls from his stedfastness, God commonly hides his
face from him--for a term, and often for a considerable term, he sits
in darkness--is ready to give up his hope--to conclude that he hath
believed in vain--never loved God or hated sin--never passed from
death into life. In fine, he feels similar pains, and passeth in many
respects, a similar change, when renewed again by repentance, as when
first made a new creature.

Do we ever see persons who have been seduced into great and heinous
sins, brought back to God, and comforted with his presence without
sensations of this kind? We presume the instance cannot be adduced. We
should look with a jealous eye on one who pretended to be an example
of it. From the methods of grace at present, we may judge of them in
times past. God is the same--sin equally his aversion, and sinners
alike the objects of his displeasure.

The supposition that a person is one moment a hardened sinner; the
next a thorough penitent, pardoned, restored and comforted of God, is
so diverse from his common manner of treating great offenders, that it
should not be admitted in a given case, without clear and strong
evidence; and in the case before us there is no evidence; even
circumstances have a different aspect.

No sooner was this offender reproved, than he discovered a humble
penitent disposition. He, freely confessed his sin, both to God and
man, as one who had thought on his ways and repented of his
transgressions; which could not have been expected of one who after
the commission of such crimes, remained thoughtless and secure, till
the moment when his guilt and danger were set before him.

But if David was a penitent before he was visited by Nathan, why had
he concealed his repentance? Why spread a veil over it and neglected
to glorify God by a confession of his sins? Did he think it sufficient
to confess to God, and humble himself in secret?

So some argue, and endeavor to cover the sins of which the world knows
them to be guilty. But we are far from suspecting this of David.

To break the divine law is implicitly to condemn it. "What iniquity
have your fathers found in me?" To conceal sorrow for sin, is in
effect to justify it. Then only is God glorified by an offender, when
he takes the blame and the shame of his sins on himself, acknowledging
the law which he hath broken to be "holy, just and good." Of these
things, this offender could not be insensible David was indeed under
strong temptation to hide his sins. He was the head of a family,
several members of which were abandoned characters. These he had
doubtless often reproved. He was the head of a nation, numbers of
which were children of Belial. These he had called to repentance,
reproved, punished. He had long professed religion--perhaps often
declared its power to change the heart and mend the life. But if his
crimes were now made public, he must appear "a sinner above all who
dwelt at Jerusalem!" To have his conduct known would cover him with
shame, and "give great occasion to the enemy to blaspheme, and speak
reproachfully."

Did these considerations prevent him from confessing his sins, and
induce him to cover his transgressions? They were mostly arguments for
his proclaiming his repentance, had his sins been public.

By his sins he had countenanced wickedness, and set the example of it
in a dignified station. By his confession he would condemn it, and
justify the law of God, which forbids it; and by his return to duty,
do every thing then in his power, to repair the injury he had done and
prevent or remove the bad effects of his example. Why then had
he neglected it?

There was only one consideration which could excuse him--that, we
apprehend, justified him. His sins in this affair were not public. It
appears from several circumstances that they were kept out of sight
till the prophet was sent to reprove and publish them, and his
repentance of them. Joab knew indeed that the king wished the death of
Uriah. It is not certain that he knew the cause. If he did, it is not
probable that he had divulged it.

That these matters were not transacted openly, or generally known,
maybe inferred from two considerations, namely, from Bathsheba's going
into mourning for Uriah, and from Nathan's declaration, when he
foretold the evils which would come on David and his family, to punish
his sins on this occasion, notwithstanding his repentance. Mournings
were very short among the Hebrews; but this adulteress would not have
put on mourning, or David delayed to take her to his house, to be his
wife, till her mourning was ended, had this affair been public. But,
that it was not so, is put out of doubt by the language of the prophet
in his address to the king--"Thou didst it secretly."

If the matter was not public, the delinquent was not to be criminated
because he did not make it so. Sins committed in secret are to be
confessed and mourned only before him who sees in secret. Such seems
to have been David's fixation from the time of his fall, till the
publication of his guilt, by the prophet; during which term he felt
all the horrors of conscious guilt; "God's hand lying heavy on him."

As it pleased God that both his fall and recovery should be made
public, the prophet seems to have delivered his message before
witnesses. This took away the ground of temptation longer to hide his
fins, and cleared the way to a public renunciation, and return to
duty. And the fallen prince waited no exhortations--needed no
entreaties--"I acknowledged my sin unto thee; and mine iniquity have I
not hid; I said I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord;
and thou foregavest the iniquity of my sin." *

* Psalm xxxii. 5.

Thus the opinion of those who suppose that David remained impenitent
and secure, till awakened to consideration by the ministry of Nathan,
is devoid of proof, and even of probability. David's well known
character--the nature of renewing grace; and the temper and conduct of
this transgressor, when reproved by the prophet, concur to prove him
then already a penitent; which is confirmed by the consolations
forthwith administered to him by the Lord's messenger.

If in this instance God pardoned, and gave a sense of pardon, to so
heinous an offender, without a moment intervening sense of guilt, and
evidence of pardon and peace, it must have been a very singular divine
treatment of so vile a sinner!

And if David, after having been long eminent for piety, lived a year
of stupid unconcern, under such enormous guilt, it must have been a
very strange event! A phenomenon in the history of man, unequalled in
the annals of the world! Whether there is evidence to justify so
strange a conclusion, judge ye.

If we have not mistaken our subject, this affair gives no countenance
to those who pretend religion to be a thing of nought--that it doth
not change the heart and life, turning men from sin to holiness.
Good people may be seduced into sin, but they are soon renewed by
repentance--soon turn again to the Lord in the way of duty, confessing
their sins and renewing their purposes and engagements to serve the
Lord--"That which I know not teach thou me; and wherein I have done
iniquity, I will do no more."

Neither doth this affair yield comfort and hope to those, who while
they call themselves saints, live like sinners. If _here_, they find
no comfort and support, where will they find it? The only example
thought to have been found in "the footsteps of the flock," fails
them; and we are left to conclude that sanctification is the principal
evidence of justification--"that by their fruits we are to know men."

It is a dark omen when professors paliate their errors and deviations
from duty, by pleading those of saints of old. Those saints erred; but
they did not long continue in sin--"When they thought on their ways
they turned by repentance." Neither did they flatter themselves in
allowed wickedness.

If any allege the sins of former saints in excuse for their own, they
allege not that which distinguished them as saints, but that which
they retained as sinners--not that which they possessed of the image
of God, but that which remained to them of the image of Satan. This
they may have in full, and yet be of their father the Devil. And such
is the sad state of those who allowed serve sin, under whatever
pretence.

Those who are born of God, favor the thing which are of God. Sin is
odious in their view. They long for freedom from it--"Oh wretched man
that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"

The saints wish for heaven, not only that they may see "their father
who is in heaven," and the divine Redeemer, "who loved them and gave
himself for them;" but because there "the spirits of the just are
made perfect"--because there they expect to be holy as God is holy--
because there, to be "satisfied with God's likeness, and rejoice
always before him." May God give us this temper, and keep us to his
kingdom, for his mercy's sake in Christ. Amen.



 * * * * * *



SERMON XI.

General Character of Christians.

Galatians v. 24.

"And they that are Christ's have crucified the Flesh, with the
Affections and Lusts."


St. Paul is supposed to have been the first herald of gospel grace to
the Galatians; and they appear to have rejoiced at the glad tidings,
and to have received the bearer with much respect. But after his
departure, certain judaizing teachers went among them, and labored but
too successfully, to alienate their affections from him, and turn them
form the simplicity of the gospel.

The malice and errors of those deceitful workers, and the mischief
which they occasioned at Galatia, caused the writing of this epistle:
which, like the other writings of this apostle, reflects light on the
gospel in general, while it served to correct the mistakes of those
professors of Christianity, and guide their erring footsteps into the
way of peace and truth.

It is not our design to enter into the controversy between this
inspired teacher, and his enemies. We are only concerned to understand
him, and shall receive his instructions as communicated from above.
The primary design of this epistle was to refute those false teachers
who urged circumcision, and the observance of sundry parts of the
Levitical code, which had been abrogated by the gospel. This appears
to have been a leading error of those anarchists. That the apostle did
not lay the intolerable burdens of the Mosaic ritual, on the
professors of Christianity, was made the ground of a charge against
him. St. Paul defended himself by evincing the errors of his
opponents, shewing that Christians are made free from the ceremonial
law; and that their justification before God is not in virtue of any
obedience of their own, to either the ceremonial, or the moral law,
but of grace through faith in Christ.

In the former part of the epistle, he shows the impossibility of
justification in any other than the gospel way--especially in that
way, to which those false teachers directed--shews that they subverted
the gospel, and rendered Christ's sufferings of no effect--"By the
works of the law, shall no flesh be justified--If righteousness come
by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." *

* Chapter ii. 16, 21.

We conceive these to be obvious truths, and wonder that they should be
matter of doubt, or dispute, among those who are favored with
revelation, and receive it as given of God. Perfect obedience is
evidently the demand of the divine law, and condemnation is denounced
against the breakers of it. "This do, and thou shalt live, but the
soul that sinneth, it shall die." * But none of our race keep the law.
"There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good and sinneth not."
The scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise "by faith
of Jesus Christ, might be given to them that believe." Mankind are
"shut up to the faith in Christ.." This is the way in which God "hath
mercy on whom he will have mercy. He that believeth shall be saved;
but he that believeth not shall be damned." Therefore the hope of the
apostle, in the way of faith, while discarding hope in any other way.
"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by
the faith of Jesus Christ; even we have believed in Jesus Christ,
that we might be justified by the Faith of Christ, and not by the
works of the law."

* Lev. xviii. 5. Ezek. xviii. 4.

From the reasoning of the apostle, the false teachers at Galatia seem
not to have urged obedience to the whole law. Circumcision they taught
to be indispensible. St. Paul allures them, that if they were under
obligation to receive circumcision, they were equally obliged to keep
the whole law; and that they bound themselves to this by submitting to
be circumcised--that if they reverted to the law, and placed their
dependence on their obedience to it, they renounced the grace of
Christ, and would not be benefited by it.

"Behold, I Paul, say unto you, that if ye be circumcised. Christ
shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that it is
circumcised, that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. Christ is
become of none effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the
law, ye are fallen from grace,"

While such was the state of those who followed the judaizing teachers,
those who retained the gospel as taught by the apostle, had another
hope--a hope which would not make ashamed--a hope in divine grace
through faith in Christ--"We through the spirit wait for the hope of
righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision
availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by
love."

Such is every Christian's hope before God. He "counts all things to be
loss and dung that he win Christ; but the righteousness which is of
God by faith."

But while St. Paul was exhibiting and urging these important truths,
on the wavering Galatians, he foresaw, that it would be objected, that
the scheme which he advanced, tended to licentiousness--that if men
might be saved by faith without the works of the law, they might
indulge themselves in sin--that this would render Christ the minister
of sin. The same objection appears to have been made at Rome, where a
faction existed similar to this at Galatia. This consequence the
apostle rejected with abhorrence. "Do we then make void the law
through faith? God forbid: Yea we establish the law."

The Levitical code included both the ceremonial and the moral law.
Though St. Paul declares justification unattainable by obedience to
either or to both, he did not set aside the moral law, as no longer
obligatory, as he did the ceremonial. This latter had answered the
ends of its appointment, and was abolished by fulfillment. It was only
a shadow of good things to come, and fled away before that of which it
was a shadow. Christ had therefore blotted it out and taken it away.
But the moral law was not done away. Christ hath fulfilled it for
those who believe on him; but it doth not therefore cease to be
obligatory upon them. It is of universal and eternal obligation. The
salvation of mankind, doth not, however, depend on their obedience to
it. If it did, they could not be saved, because all mankind have
broken it. "Salvation is of grace, through faith."

Instead of setting Christians free from obligation to keep the moral
law, what Christ hath done for them strengthens their obligations to
obey it. An increase of mercies is an increase of obligations to serve
the Lord.

But yet more is done to secure obedience from those who are Christ's
--yea enough to secure it. A change passeth on them, when they become
his, which reconciles them to the law, and causes them to delight in
it, and in the duties which it enjoins. This produces a pleasing
conformity to it--"his commandments are not grievous." Their obedience
is sincere and universal. Others may render a partial obedience, out
of fear, but the obedience of the renewed flows from love, and hath
respect to all God's commandments.

Remains of depravity abide in the Christian, but they do not
habitually govern in him. That they are not wholly purged out of his
nature, is to him the occasion of grief--causes him to go sorrowing:
But he doth not gain complete deliverance till he puts off the body.
He puts on, however, the gospel armor, and maintains a warfare against
his own corruptions within, no less than against the powers of
darkness without. Though sometimes wounded, and made to go on his way
halting, he is in his general course victorious, rising superior to
opposition, and living unto God. "Whosoever is born of God, doth not
commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because
he is born of God"--cannot sin: like others, allowedly and habitually.
"How shall he who is dead to sin, live any longer therein?"

Such is the character of the Christian, as drawn in the bible; so that
all ground of objection to the gospel scheme, as drawn by St. Paul, is
removed. Those who are Christ's instead of taking liberty to sin,
because "they are not under the law, but under grace," are of all men
most careful to do God's commandments; and from the noblest
principles. Their obedience is not servile, but filial.

This is the spirit of the text. _They that are Christ's have crucified
the flesh, with the afflictions and lusts--HAVE crucified_. The change
which frees from the governing power of indwelling corruption, and
disposeth to walk in newness of life, hath already passed upon them.
None are Christ's till this change takes place in them.

But while the apostle vindicates the doctrine of grace, and shews its
beneficial influence on the morals of men, care is taken to guard
against mistakes on the other hand--not to give occasion to consider
renewing grace as wholly eradicating the principles of depravity, and
putting an end, at once to the spiritual context. This subject is
treated more largely in the epistle to the Romans.* But the opposition
of natural and gracious principles, is here mentioned, and some of its
effects described. "The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the
spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other;
so that ye cannot do the things that ye would."

* Chapter vii.

In every man, whatever may be his character, there are different
principles, which, struggle and contend with one another. The natural
man feels a bias to wickedness, and wishes to indulge his depraved
inclinations. But reason forbids, and conscience remonstrates, and
warns him to beware what he doth--reminds him that to yield to passion
is wrong--to indulge appetite unreasonably is sinful--that for these
things God will bring him into judgment. Thus the principles implanted
in the mind, by the God of nature, withstand the sinner in his way,
and resist him in his course; they hold him back and restrain him from
gratifying his natural desires--from doing that to which he is
inclined, and hath power to do. By this means he is prevented from
giving full latitude to his corruptions; yea, he is sometimes
influenced to do good. Herod was a vile character; but "he feared
John, knowing that he was a just man, and an holy, and observed him;
and when he heard him he did many things, and heard him gladly." *
Many similar instances might be adduced. There is not a sinner who
doth not feel the natural bias, and the power of reason and
conscience, driving and contending within him; and sometimes the one
prevails to influence his conduct, and sometimes the other.

* Mark vi. 20.

Neither is the Christian free from similar struggles. Reason and
conscience have naturally the same power in him which they have in
others. The corrupt bias, is also weakened in renovation; yea receives
a deadly wound. But it is not immediately destroyed. Still its
influence is felt, and its effects observed. Sometimes it evinceth so
much power, that its deadly wound seems to be healed. Reason and
conscience, strengthened by renewing grace, ordinarily prevail over
indwelling depravity; but not without a struggle, as every Christian
can testify--neither do the better principles always conquer.
Sometimes the opposing principles, or powers, prevail, and lead to
error and wickedness. Thus "the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and
the spirit against the flesh--so that ye cannot do the things that ye
would."

Neither the regenerate, nor the unregenerate, are free to do all that
to which the generally governing principle inclines. The difference
between the renewed, and the unrenewed, is not that the former is free
from temptation, the latter overcome by it, at every attack. Neither
is the case. Both meet with temptation, and often that which is
severe. Each sometimes overcomes; at other times is overcome by it.
But the renewed formed to the habit of attention and watchfulness, and
looking to God for help, and acting, in the main, uprightly before
God, is usually a conqueror; while the unrenewed, habitually careless,
and negligent of watchfulness and prayer, is more often conquered, and
hurried into error and wickedness. The renewed are chiefly
restrained by love to God and duty; the unrenewed by fear of
punishment; Though fear hath a degree of influence on the former; and
other considerations, beside fear, are not wholly, devoid of influence
on the latter.

How far a Christian may be influenced by remaining corruption, and
carried away by the prevalence of temptation; or how far a sinner may
be restrained by the influence of those principles and considerations,
which withstand him in his course, we are unable to determine. That
both feel and are influenced by those opposing principles, is not
matter of doubt. We experience it in ourselves, whatever our
characters may be; and we observe it in others. None are so moulded
into the divine image, as to become perfect--neither doth depravity
attain so complete an ascendant over any who remain in the body, as to
divest them of all restraints, and yield them wholly up to the vicious
propensity. Restraints, yea inward restraints operate in degree, on
the most depraved.

This is a mixed state. The good and the bad are here blended together.
"The wheat and the tares must grow together until the harvest"--yea
not only in every field, but in every heart. None are perfectly good,
or completely bad, while in this world. The finishing traits of
character are referred to that to come. In that world we expect, that
both the righteous and the wicked, will be perfect in their kind
--"the spirits of the just be made perfect"--those of the opposite
character put on the full image of their infernal parent.

IMPROVEMENT.

_If those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with its
affections and lusts_, How stands the case with us? Are we thus made
to differ from the wicked world? Do we love God--believe on his Son--
do his commandments, and trust his grace? Then, "to us to live is
Christ, and to die gain." Here we must have trials--this is not our
rest. But the time is short. Soon we shall be called "from our labors,
and our works will follow us," Soon we shall be with Christ--behold
his glory, and rejoice in his presence. Happy state!

But let us beware deception. Some "hold a lie in their right hands;
cry peace when there is no peace to them." Let us commune with our own
hearts; attend to our temper and conduct; inquire whether we have
taken up our cross, and are following Christ? Whether the spirit of
Christ dwelleth in us. If we have not his spirit, we are none of his.
"If we have his spirit we walk as he walked." If this is our happy
state, we shall ere long hear from our Judge, "come ye blessed of my
Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundations of
the world." But if found sinners, a very different doom awaits us.



 * * * * * *



SERMON XII.

The aggravated Guilt of him who delivered Christ to Pilate.

John xix.10, 11.

"Then saith Pilate unto him, 'Speakest thou not unto me? Knowest thou
not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release
thee?' Jesus answered, 'Thou couldest have no power against me, except
it were given thee from above: Therefore he that delivered me unto
thee hath the greater sin.'"


Judea was conquered by the Romans and reduced to a province of their
empire, before Christ suffered for the sins of men. When the Jews
conspired his death, Pilate was governor of that province. The power
of life and death was in his hands. Though said to have been devoid of
principle, he was unwilling to give sentence against Jesus. Free from
Jewish prejudices, he was convinced of Christ's innocence; that he had
committed no offence, either against his own nation, or against the
Romans; but that for envy he had been arraigned, condemned, and
delivered up as a malefactor.

A mighty prince was then expected to arise in Israel. That he would
save his people from their enemies, and crush the powers which held
them in subjection, was the general idea entertained of him. But the
Jews had no expectations of such a deliverer in the Son of Mary; nor
did the Roman Governor see aught in him to excite suspicion of a
formidable enemy. He wished, therefore, to release him; repeatedly
declared him not guilty; and would have set him at liberty, but the
Jews opposed. They declared that "by their law he ought to die,
because he made himself the Son of God"--or gave himself out for the
expected Messias.

This was probably the first hint which Pilate received of this nature,
and it seems to have alarmed him. "When he heard that saying he was
more afraid."

Pilate was not an Atheist. He appears to have had some knowledge of a
divine existence and belief of a superintending providence. Living
among the Jews, he was, no doubt, acquainted with their religion, and
their expectations of a deliverer; and if there was a suspicion that
this was that deliverer, it concerned him to act with caution; at
least to make inquiry. He therefore returned to the judgment hall, and
entered on another examination of the prisoner. He began by inquiring
after his origin. "He said to Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave
him no answer." The test follows, in which we observe the following
particulars, viz:

I. Pilate blaming Jesus, for refusing to answer him--boasting of his
power, and appealing to our Lord, that he possessed it. _Speakest thou
not unto me? Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and
have power to release thee_?

II. Christ reminding Pilate, that he possessed only delegated power;
intimating that he was accountable for the use he made of it. _Thou
couldest have no power against me, except it was given thee from
above_.

III. Christ aggravating the guilt of those who had delivered him to
Pilate, from a consideration of the power which he possessed, in which
there might be an allusion to Pilate's character as an unprincipled
man. _Therefore, he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin_.
We will treat of these in their order.

I. We observe Pilate blaming Jesus for refusing to answer him;
boasting of his power, and appealing to our Lord that he possessed it.
_Speakest thou not unto me? Knowest thou not that I have power to
crucify thee, and have power to release thee_?

But why is Christ faulted? He had said enough to convince the court of
his innocence. The judge had repeatedly and publicly declared it. "I
find no fault in him."

Christ's silence was not sullen, or contemptuous. He had said enough.
His silence was prudent--perhaps necessary. He had come into the world
to suffer--"to make his soul an offering for sin." Had he said more,
perhaps Pilate had not dared to give sentence against him. Had not
Christ died the ends of his coming had been frustrated. Therefore was
he now dumb before his oppressors, agreeably to the prophecy. "He is
brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep is dumb before his
shearers, so he opened not his mouth."

It was necessary that evidence should be given of Christ's innocence,
sufficient to convince the honest mind, that he was not a malefactor
--that he did not die for his own sin. This had been given. It was
enough--rendered his murderers inexcuseable. The wisdom of providence
permitted no more.

Pilate declared himself convinced. But then _he had power either to
crucify Christ, or to release him_. He felt himself possessed of this
power, and appealed to our Lord whether he did not possess it.

Pilate knew what was right--what he ought to do. Conscience directed
him to acquit the guiltless. But this did not necessitate him to do
it. He had power to do right. He had power also to do wrong.

Others possess similar power. Every moral agent hath power to obey or
disobey the dictates of his conscience. It is not the method of heaven
to compel men to good, or leave them to be compelled to evil. God
intended man to be a free agent, who should choose for himself the
part he would act; and endowed him with a self determining power, to
capacitate him to choose. Devoid of this power, he could not be
accountable.

Man ought to be governed by reason and conscience. These make known
his duty, and offer proper motives to induce him to discharge it. But
they do not oblige him to it. It is referred to his own choice. If he
prefer doing wrong, to doing right, he may do it.

This is exemplified in the case before us. Sufficient evidence was
given of Christ's innocence. The judge was convinced, and knew that it
was his duty to treat him as innocent. But if to answer worldly ends,
or in any respect to gratify depravity, he preferred crucifying the
guiltless, he had power to do it. Though Jesus was the Son of God, God
had left him in the hands of the enemy. "It was their hour and the
power of darkness." They chose and conspired his death. The Jews would
not receive such a Messias. Pilate did not choose to offend the Jews.
The former urged his crucifixion, for fear "all men would believe on
him." The latter was prevailed with to condemn the guiltless, because
he wished to gratify the chiefs of the nation which he governed. Both
sinned against the light of their own minds, not of necessity, but out
of choice--knowingly did wrong to gain worldly ends; or avoid temporal
disadvantages.

Sinners commonly act on the same principles. They can distinguish
between good an evil--can "judge of themselves what is right." They
know it to be their duty to choose the good, and refuse the evil. But
possessing power to counteract the dictates of conscience, often to
gain worldly ends, and answer sinister views, do counteract them
--choose that for which they are condemned of themselves.

It is folly to pretend that our choices are necessary. The proposition
involves absurdity. Choice and necessity are often opposites.

Some bewildered in the labyrinth of metaphysics have doubted the
plainest truths--the existence of matter! And even their own
existence! But these doubts are a species of madness. To the person of
common sense they are unnecessary. Let him only believe his senses,
which the author of nature hath given to instruct him, and they will
all vanish.

In the case before us, a single glance inward, carries full conviction
that we are free. To offer arguments in proof is superfluous--is
trifling--it is to ape the philosopher who attempted to syllogize
himself into a conviction of his own existence! *

* Cogito, ergo sum. Descartes.

From the knowledge of our capacity, and liberty of choice, ariseth
sense of merit and demerit. And thence our expectation of reward or
punishment from an enlightened and righteous tribunal. Were we
necessitated to actions, now, the most criminal, we should have no
sense of guilt; neither should we fear condemnation from a just judge
on their account. Did we choose such actions, if we knew our choices
to be the effect of invincible, supernal influence, they would give us
no concern. On our part, no criminality would be attached to them; it
would rest with the efficient. Had Pilate been compelled to give
sentence against Christ, he would have had no sense of guilt; nor
could he have been justly criminated. But when the motives which
actuated him, and his freedom of choice are considered, he must have
been condemned of himself, and of all mankind.

When Pilate appealed to our Lord, that he was possessed of power,
either _to crucify or release him_, the justice of the claim is
admitted; but then,

II. He is reminded by the divine prisoner, that he possessed only
delegated power, intimating that he was accountable for the use he
should make of it. _Thou couldest have no power against me, except it
were given thee from above_.

Pilate probably prided himself on his exaltation. He was set in
authority. In his province, his power resembled that formerly in the
hands of the Babalonish tyrant: "Whom he would he slew, and whom he
would he kept alive." It might flatter his pride to end himself the
judge of Judah; others as being of divine origin--the Son of God--the
expected Messias, who was to deliver Israel. and raise them to power.
Perhaps he valued himself on power to do either right or wrong--that
he was necessitated to neither. _Knowest thou not that I have power to
crucify thee, and have power to release thee_?

Though Christ had given him no answer when Pilate demanded his origin,
he now reminds him, boasting of his power, that it was all derived, or
delegated; particularly that which he possessed over his prisoner,
whom he had acknowledged to be faultless: _Thou couldest have no power
against me except it were given thee from above_. As though he had
said, "Remember Pilate, that with all your high feelings, and parade
of power, you have no power which is properly your own; none which is
not derived from above; none for the use of which you are not
accountable. There is one who ruleth in the kingdoms of men, and
giveth them to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over them the basest
of men," To answer his mysterious purposes you are now in authority;
but forget not whence it is derived, and the consequences of abusing
it. "There may be oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of
judgment and justice in a province, but marvel not at the matter; for
he who is higher than the highest regardeth"--he will set all right in
the end. For the use which you make of your powers, you must give
account to him.

Such seems to have been the import of Christ's reply to this haughty
ruler, boasting of powers, on this occasion. What sentiments it raised
in the breast of this Roman, we are not informed; but the reply was
full of salutary counsel and instruction. Had Pilate regarded it as he
ought, it would have prevented him from having been a principal actor
in the vilest enormity ever committed on this globe.

Pilate seems to have felt in degree, the weight of Christ's reply, and
to have been the more concerned. For it follows: "From thenceforth
Pilate sought to release him." He had sought it before. "From
henceforth," he was yet more desirous to set Christ at liberty, and
exerted himself more earnestly to persuade the Jews to consent to his
discharge.

But this was not all which Christ said on the occasion; he added,

II. Another observation, which related to those who had conspired his
death, and brought him to Pilate's bar; perhaps more particularly to
Judas, who had betrayed him--therefore HE that delivered me unto thee
hath the greater sin. If only one person is here intended, as having
delivered Christ to Pilate, Judas must have been the person.


That Pilate possessed such power, the power of life and death, is
declared an aggravation of his guilt, who had delivered him to Pilate;
in which there might be an allusion to Pilate's character as an
unprincipled man. He was known to be under the government of appetite,
passion, or selfishness. He had been often guilty of injustice and
cruelty in his public administration. Therefore had his enemies the
greater sin in delivering Jesus unto him.

Such we apprehend to be the meaning of the text; which hath been
thought to be obscure and difficult. The difficulty will strike us, if
we read the whole passage as it stands in the translation. Pilate
saith unto him, Speak thou not unto me? Knowest thou not that I have
power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered,

Thou couldest have no power against me, except it were given thee from
above; THEREFORE he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.

The last clause seems at first view, to refer to the words which
immediately precede, which is to understand our Savior as aggravating
the guilt of those who delivered him to Pilate, from the consideration
of Pilate's power having been derived from above.

This cannot be the meaning. All power in the hands of creatures, maybe
traced to the same source. It is derived from above. But the source
whence power is derived is out of the question respecting the merit or
demerit attending the use of it. The guilt of him who delivered Christ
to Pilate, was neither increased nor diminished by it.

The consequence, THEREFORE he that delivered me unto thee hath the
greater sin, looks back to words preceding--I have power to crucify
thee, and have power to release thee. His sin was great, who delivered
Christ to such an one; to one possessed, of his power, and of his
character; much greater than though he had delivered him to one devoid
of power to crucify; or to one who was a man of principle. Delivering
Jesus to Pilate was like delivering Daniel to the lions; or the three
children to the fiery furnace. The rage of the lions, and the power of
the flames, were restrained by the greater power of God; but no thanks
to the enemies of those holy men--they could be considered in no other
light than that of murderers.

The Supreme ruler could have restrained Pilate and have prevented his
having yielded to Christ's enemies, and given him to their will. But
the determinate counsel of heaven had otherwise resolved before the
incarnation. "It was necessary that Christ should suffer, and enter
into his glory." Therefore was he given up to the rage of his enemies
who thirsted for his blood.

Christ's crucifixion was the design of his enemies in delivering him
to Pilate. This was their sin. God overruled it for good, and made it
the occasion of glory to himself, and salvation to sinners. This is no
alleviation of their guilt. "They meant not so; neither did their
heart think so. For envy did they deliver him."

What Christ said concerning the source, whence Pilate derived his
power, comes in by a parenthesis. It is unconnected with the other
parts of the sentence, which is complete without it. "I have power to
crucify thee--The greater is their sin who delivered me to you. But
you have no power against me that you have not received from above.
Remember it is derived from heaven, and to the God of heaven you are
accountable for the use you make of it."

This memento, which comes in by the bye, was a proper caution to the
ruler not to abuse his power. Had he acted agreeable to the evident
design of it--so acted, as to have been justified to himself, and able
to give a good account to the source of power, for the use he made of
that which was delegated to him, it would have prevented him from
delivering Jesus to his enemies, add kept him clear of a crime, the
perpetration of which, darkened even the natural world, and throw it
into convulsions!

Pilate felt so much force in the warning, that he was perplexed. He
wished to acquit the prisoner; of whose innocence he was satisfied;
hut he feared the Jews. He was probably apprehensive that they might
inform against him at Rome, as he knew, that much of his past
administration could not be justified. He had not therefore the
courage to tell the Jews, that justice forbad, and he would not
condemn the guiltless. What had he to do with justice, who had often
sported with it, to gratify his passions, or gain his selfish
purposes? Who had done it openly, and it was matter of public
notoriety? The Jews urged, "if thou let this man go, thou art not
Caesar's friend." Pilate trembled; but his fear of Caesar prevailed
above his fear of God. "He conferred therefore, that it should be as
they required, and delivered Jesus to their will."

REFLECTIONS

I. When we contemplate these things, what a series of wonders rise to
our view? The state of man--the way in which he was brought into it;
and that in which only he could be delivered from it, are all
mysterious! Man had ruined himself--ruined his race! Human guilt could
not be expiated without blood! Without blood divine! Man had sinned,
and the Son of God must suffer, or sin could not be pardoned! No other
sacrifice could make atonement. Christ consented to undertake the work
of our redemption--to "make his soul an offering for sin!" But how? He
must take human nature! Become man! Wonder of wonders! Still
difficulty remained. He must die, "the just for the unjust!" In what
manner could this be accomplished? Christ's sufferings would be, of
all crimes, the most sinful, in those by whom he suffered. No good man
could knowingly take part in them. They could only be the work of
Christ's enemies, and of the enemies of God, and goodness.

It is no small part of this mystery, that the good should oppose, and
that it should be their duty to oppose, that which had become
necessary for man's salvation! And that the wicked should be engaged
to do that which was requisite for this end! And that their enmity
against God and the Redeemer, should excite and influence them
thereto!

But though every thing relating to this matter is too deep for us.
Deity had no embarrassment. To omniscience all was easy and obvious.
The great Supreme needed only to sit at helm, superintend and overrule
the lulls of apostate creatures, to effect the purposes of his grace!
Need only to permit man freely to follow his own inclinations! "The
wrath of man would thus be made to praise God;" and the designs of
mercy be accomplished! The greatest good be occasioned by the greatest
evil! God glorified, and sinners saved!

The mystery of redemption was veiled, till atonement had been made
for sin. That satisfaction was to be made to divine justice, by
the sufferings of a divine person, remained a hidden mystery, till
explained by the event. This was necessary. Had the enemy been able to
penetrate the design, these things would not have been done. Satan
would not have instigated, nor his adherents crucified the Lord of
glory.

The powers of darkness were laboring to subvert and destroy; they
vainly thought to defeat the purposes of grace; but were made
instrumental in their accomplishment. "The wise were taken in their
own craftiness; the purposes of the froward carried headlong; but the
divine purposes stood, and God performed all his pleasure! Oh, the
depths of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How
unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!"

II. Another thing which our subject suggests to our consideration, is
the way of God with man. God hath provided a savior, and offered
salvation--he hath pointed out the way of duty, and commanded us to
walk in it--allured us thereto by promises, and barred up the way to
destruction by threatenings. Those who enjoy the gospel, have life and
death set before them. But no constraint is laid upon them--they
choose for themselves, and the consequences follow.

Though the best services of fallen man are imperfect, and mercy
offered in Christ his only hope, he hath reason to expect saving mercy
while seeking it in the way of duty, and only while thus seeking. When
we "keep consciences void of offence, toward God and men, then are we
satisfied from ourselves," and expect the approbation of our judge.
When we act differently, we are condemned of ourselves, and tremble to
approach the enlightened tribunal.

These views are natural--they are written on the heart or conscience,
by the creator's hand, and indicate what we may reasonably expect from
him who knows our hearts--from him who is moral governor of all
worlds.

As we know ourselves to be free agents, and as we possess only
delegated powers, we are certainly accountable for the use which we
make of those powers. The duties which rise out of such a situation,
and the consequences which will follow, according to the manner in
which we act our parts, need not to be pointed out--they lie open to
every eye.

III. When we consider the struggle in Pilate's breast, between sense
of duty, and a desire to please the world, and how it terminated, we
see the danger of wanting fixed principles of rectitude--of not being
determined, at all events, to do right, whatever may be the
consequences.

Pilate's duty was plain. He knew his duty--felt his obligation to do
it, and wished to do it, that he might feel easy, and not be concerned
for consequences. But he had formerly sacrificed conscience to
appetite, passion, or selfishness, and it was known. This exposed him
to temptation again to do wrong. He who had violated conscience to
gain worldly ends, might do it again. Pilate had exposed himself by
past conduct--could not justify his past administration--his enemies
might report him to Caesar--he could not answer for himself before
Caesar; but if he would again violate conscience, oblige the Jews, in
a matter they had much at heart, he hoped their friendship--that they
would spread a veil over his past conduct, and report in his favor at
Rome.

Such was the situation into which he had brought himself by willful
deviations from duty--thence temptations to farther and greater
deviations--temptations not easily overcome--temptations by which he
was overcome, and seduced to the most horrid wickedness--crucifying
the Lord of glory!

Those who would maintain their integrity, and stand in the evil day,
must resolve to do right; to obey the dictates of conscience; they
must beware the beginnings of sin; hold no parley with the enemy;
never hesitate, whether it is not best, in any case to yield to
temptation; nor make attempts to please those who wish them, and dare
to importune them to counteract the light of their own minds--
"trimming their way to seek love."

To enter on such a course, is to go on forbidden ground. It is to
pass the bounds, and go into the way of seduction. "Enter not into the
path of the wicked, and go not into the way of evil men. Avoid it,
pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away." *

* Proverbs iv. 14.

What the poet observes, respecting one species of temptation, holds,
in degree, of every other.

"In spite of all the virtue we can boast, The _person_ who deliberates
in lost."--Young.



 * * * * * *



SERMON XIII.

The Trial of Peter's love to Christ.

John xxi. 15, 16, 17.

"So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of
Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?' He saith unto him, 'Yea, Lord;
thou knowest that I love thee.' He saith unto him, 'Feed my lambs.' He
saith to him again a second time, 'Simon son of Jonas, lovest
thou me?' He saith unto him. 'Yea Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.'
He saith unto him, 'Feed my sheep.' He saith unto him the third time,
'Simon son of Jonas, lovest thou me?' Peter was grieved, because he said
to him the third time, 'Lovest thou me?' And he said unto him, 'Lord,
thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.' Jesus saith
unto him, 'Feed my sheep.'"


"This was the third time that Jesus shewed himself to the disciples
after he was risen from the dead." But it was not the last time. "He
often shewed himself alive: after his passion, being seen of them for
forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of
God." Once he appeared to a Christian assembly--"was seen by above
five hundred brethren" at the same time. When he had given to his
disciples those infallible proofs of his resurrection, and those
instructions, which their work required, "while they beheld, he was
taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight."
This visit was made to a part of the disciples at the sea of Tiberias;
whither they had retired after the crucifixion; but whether to follow
their former occupation, or in expectation of meeting there the risen
Savior, who had promised to manifest himself to them in Galilee, we
are not informed. They were however engaged in fishing, when after the
fruitless labors of a night, they saw Jesus in the morning standing on
the shore.

God looks favorably on his people when he sees them employed in honest
secular business; and sometimes manifests himself to them.

This was a kind instructive visit, to these disciples; especially to
Peter. Peter was of a bold, forward disposition, naturally eager and
confident, and so strongly attached to his Lord, that he thought
nothing could separate him from him--neither allurements, nor terrors.
Therefore when Christ warned his family of his approaching sufferings,
and the effect which they would have on them--that "they would be
offended because of him--yea be scattered from him and leave him
alone:" Peter did not believe him! He had such love to Christ, and
felt so determined to adhere to him, in all extremities, that he dared
to declare, "Though all shall be offended, yet will not I." And when
his Lord, assured him that he would thrice deny him that very night,
he was not convinced. It only served to draw from him a more vehement
and positive assertion, "If I should die with thee I will not deny
thee in any wise." But he soon found his mistake. Three times, before
the next morning dawned, did he deny his Savior--with oaths and
imprecations did he deny him!

This sinner was soon renewed by repentance. And one design of Christ's
visit at this time, seems to have been to assure the penitent, that
his sin, in "denying the Lord who bought him," was pardoned, and that
he was confirmed in the office to which he had been previously called.
But the manner in which this was done carried in it a reproof, which
must have called his sin to remembrance, causing his soul to be
humbled in him. Let us turn our attention to the subject.

_In the text we see Christ questioning Peter, and trying his love
--Peter appealing to Christ for the reality of it--and Christ
directing Peter how to manifest his love to him--by feeding his
flock_.

I. We see Christ questioning Peter and trying his love. _Simon, son of
Jonas, lovest thou me more than these_?

Simon was the original name of this apostle. Cephas and Peter, which
signify a rock, or stone, were names given him of Christ, expressive
of that firmness of character, for which he was remarkable. These
though commonly used, after they were given him, were omitted on this
occasion; probably as a tacit reproof of his denial of his Lord, a
little before; which had been occasioned by the failure of his
courage--by the deficiency of his firmness.

The manner in which his divine master, here addressed this disciple,
seemed to imply a doubt of his love; or of the supremacy of it. CHRIST
knew the heart. Peter's love was not hidden from him. But while he
dwelt with men, he treated people according to their apparent
characters; thereby setting an example to his followers who can judge
others only by appearances or that which is external.

Jesus did not immediately address himself to Peter, as soon as he had
made himself known; but after he had been some time in the company of
these friends and followers, and they had made a friendly meal
together, he turned to this disciple, and in the presence of his
brethren, who had witnessed his high professions of love, and
determination never to forsake or deny him, and the part he had acted
soon after, addressed him, as in the text; _Simon, son of Jonas,
lovest thou me more than these_?

What had happened a little before, rendered this question highly
proper. One of the twelve had fallen. One, whom the others had not
suspected. Nothing had appeared, which marked out Judas for the
traitor, during the time of his going out and in with the other
disciples. Christ, though he knew him, and gave frequent intimations
that there was a traitor among them, had never designated him. When
they were told that one of them should betray their Lord, their eyes
were not turned upon Judas, but each one appeared jealous of himself,
"Lord is it I?" But his hypocrisy had now been made manifest and he
had gone to his own place. Such had he been found who was the steward
in Christ's family! That with respect to him, the other disciples had
been deceived, now appeared. And Peter, who had been To forward and
zealous, and professed such warm love to Christ, had lately denied
him! And though he had returned, professing himself a penitent, his
sincerity is questioned, and he is called on, to clear up his
character.

It was important that this matter should be determined, that the other
disciples might know how to treat this late offender--whether he was
to be received as a brother, or to be considered as deposed from his
office, and to be succeeded by another. This was probably the reason
of Christ's addressing him, as here in the presence of his brethren.
_Lovest thou me more than these_?

If he had the love of Christ dwelling in him, and that love was
supreme, Christ would forgive the past and continue to employ him as a
shepherd to feed his flock. Therefore did he apply to this late
offending pastor, and demand of him in the presence of his brethren,
whether he really loved him, with such a love as was necessary to
constitute him a disciple.

This had been long before settled, and determined, to be love superior
to that which is borne to the world, or the riches and honors, or
friendships and relations of it, or even life in it. "He that loveth
father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: He that loveth son
or daughter more than me is not worthy of me: He that taketh not his
cross and followeth after me, is not worthy of me: He that findeth his
life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find
it." *

* Matthew x. 37.

The purport of this and parallel declarations of the divine teacher,
are not obscure; they plainly teach that we cannot be Christ's
disciples, unless our love to him surpasseth that which we bear any
thing terrestrial. Therefore the question put to Simon, agreeably to
these prior definitions of that love to Christ which is necessary to
constitute a person his disciple, marked particularly by the last
clause of it, "more than these?"

Expositors have generally put another sense on this question, and in
our apprehension, a mistaken sense. They have considered our Lord as
inquiring of Simon whether his love exceeded that of his fellow
disciples. "Lovest thou me more than these thy fellow disciples love
me?"

This cannot be the sense of the question. This is a question which
Simon could not have answered; and which it would have been wrong in
him to have attempted to answer; a question therefore which Christ
would not have put to put to him, or required him to answer. To have
answered it, Simon must have known the heart of others; but to have
pretended to the knowledge of them, would have been claiming a divine
prerogative.

But Peter had declared on Christ's forewarning them that "they would
all be offended because of him, although all shall be offended, yet
will not I."

He had indeed made that declaration; but he had not judged others, or
pretended to determine that they would or would not be offended
because of him. Peter knew that he loved Christ--that the love of
Christ was generally a governing principle in his heart. He felt the
strength of it so sensibly at that time, that he did not conceive it
possible that any dangers or sufferings could ever induce him to
forsake his Lord; or in any respect, be offended because of him.
Therefore his confident declaration, that he would stand by him in
every extremity, though he should be left to stand alone. Leaving the
future conduct of others, to determine the measure of their love to
Christ, he spake only of his own. "Though all men shall be offended
because of thee, yet will not I be offended." As though he had said;

"I do not pretend to know the hearts of others; but I think I know my
own; and that I have such love to thee my Lord, that nothing can
separate me from thee." Jesus answered, "Verily I say unto thee,
that this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice."
Peter replied, "Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny
thee. Likewise also said all his disciples."

They no doubt all spoke the language of their hearts; all expressed
the determination of their souls at the time; though they were soon
convinced of their mistake--that they did not sufficiently know
themselves--their own weakness--the need they stood in of divine
support.

Peter, in particular, expressed the genuine feelings of his own warm
and honest heart; but without the smallest intimation, that he
suspected his fellow disciples; or pretended to judge them.

And is there reason to think that Christ would put him upon this work?
That he would require him to judge them, and compare his love with
theirs? Especially when we consider Christ's former prohibition of
judging others, which he had early made a law to his disciples. "Judge
not that ye be not judged :" And remember that Christians are
directed, "in all lowliness of mind, to esteem others better than
themselves."

Some have been disposed to think highly of themselves, and meanly of
others--to say to others, "Stand by thyself; come not near me; I am
holier than thou"--Some, to "compare themselves with others and exalt
themselves above others." But not so the humble Christian--Not so the
meek follower of Jesus. Nor is there any thing favorable to such
temper and conduct to be found in the sacred volume. The spirit and
tenor of the divine rule is opposed to it, and speaks persons of this
character, objects of divine aversion.

This temper, and its opposite, are exemplified in the pharisee and
publican, who went up to the temple to pray. "God I thank thee, that I
am not as other men--or even as this publican." Thus the pharisee. But
"the publican standing afar off, would not lift up so much as" his
eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, "God be merciful to
me a sinner." We know which of these met the divine approbation.

Now, is it supposable, that the Savior would put a question to Simon,
which would countenance the pharasaic disposition? Or that he would
require him to judge the hearts of others? Or compare himself with
others, in a matter which required the knowledge of their hearts?

It seems strange that this should be thought by any one, to be the
sense of Christ's question to Peter; much more that this should be the
most common construction of it, by expositors.

II. In answer to our Lord's question to Simon, we find him in the text
appealing to our Lord, for the reality of his love. "_Thou knowest
that I love thee--Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I that I
love thee_."

It is observable that Peter rests the whole matter on Christ's
knowledge of the heart. Peter makes no plea--adduces no evidence--
mentions no circumstances, evidential of his love to Christ, but
refers the matter back directly to him, as the searcher of hearts and
leaves it with him. _Thou knowest that I love thee_.

The grieved, and distressed apostle, could have mentioned many things
as proofs of his love to Jesus; yea of the strength of his affection
for him. He might have pleaded his profession respecting Christ, at
the time when he was honored with the name of Peter--an honorable
distinction, and designed to recommend him to the acceptance of his
fellow disciples. * He might have mentioned what passed, when Christ
asked the twelve, whether they "would also go away?" When many
offended at his doctrine forsook him, after having followed him, and
professed themselves his disciples. Simon had on that occasion made a
noble profession, shewing that he was a disciple indeed--"Lord, to
whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe
and are sure, that thou art that Christ, the son of the living God?"
He might have pleaded, that he had singly dared to draw his sword
against the multitude, which came to apprehend his Lord--that he had
resolutely attacked them, and maintained the conflict, with the whole
band, till disarmed by a command from his divine Sovereign to put up
his sword into its sheath--that he had followed Christ, when most of
the others forsook him and fled--had ventured into the judgment hall
to attend his trial and witness the event--that though there surprised
and terrified into a denial of Christ, when he saw him contrary to his
expectations, resign himself to death, by the wicked hands of
unbelieving Jews, aided by heathen soldiers, yet that only one kind
look from his captive Lord, had brought him to repent and mourn in the
bitterness of his soul, that he had not agreeably to his former
purpose, died with his divine master--He might have alleged, that he
had not forsaken Christ's family and friends, even when Christ hung on
the cross or slept in the tomb; though his most faithful followers,
had then been ready to conclude, that they had been deceived, when
"they trusted that it was he who should have redeemed Israel"--that he
had watched Christ's corpse, and been with the first to examine the
report of his resurrection, and among the first who believed it--and
that even then, at that appearance of his Lord, he only of those
present, when they saw him standing on the shore, could not wait till
the boat should convey him to the land, but had thrown himself into
the sea, leaving the fish which they had enclosed, to continue in
their own element, and swam to the shore, not perhaps, without
endangering his life, that he might not delay to receive and welcome
his Lord.

* Matthew xv. 12-19.

These, and probably many other things, evidential of the reality and
strength of his love to Christ, Simon might have alleged,
notwithstanding his late defection--distinctions, which perhaps none
of his fellow disciples could have pleaded; and which, had any share
of the pharisaic spirit rested on him, might have induced him to claim
that superiority to his brethren, which a certain church afterwards
attributed to him.

To have mentioned these, might have strengthened the charity of his
fellow disciples towards him; but he knew that none of them were
requisite, to convince Christ of his love. Though he had done, and
suffered, and exposed himself for Christ, more than others, he put in
no claim to a reward--he had done less than was his duty. His
dependence was on grace. Therefore did he decline the mention, of what
some would have boasted, and appealed directly to his Savior, as the
searcher of hearts, to judge of the matter in question--of his love,
and the measure of it--appealed to him who had put the question,
_lovest thou me more than these?_ To clear up his character and bear
witness to the reality and measure of his affection toward him--_Yea
Lord, thou knowest that I love thee_.

In this appeal he not only shewed his sincerity, but reflected honor
on Christ, by an acknowledgement of his divinity. The knowledge of the
heart is the prerogative of Deity. "I the Lord search the heart, I try
the reins, to give to every man according to his way, and according to
the fruit of his doings. The Lord searcheth all hearts, and
understandeth the imaginations of the thoughts." The exalted Savior,
afterwards made himself known as possessing this power, and appointed
to exercise it, in adjusting the rewards of another life. "All the
churches shall know that I am he who searcheth the hearts and reins;
and I will give to every one of you according to your works." But this
had not been clearly revealed, when Christ paid the visit to his
disciples at the sea of Tiberias. The Christian dispensation was then
scarcely set up. Darkness still brooded on the minds, even of the
apostles. It continued till the outpouring of the Spirit, on the day
of Pentecost, when the promise of "the Comforter, to teach them all
things, and bring all things to their remembrance," was fulfilled. But
Simon seems to have anticipated these public manifestations and
discoveries--to have at this time been convinced, that Christ was
omniscient--THOU KNOWEST ALL THINGS; _thou knowest that I love thee_.

In this appeal, Christ was farther honored, by Simon's open, public
reliance on his goodness. He had then lately dishonored Christ, by a
shameful denial--a denial, when to have acknowledged him, would have
done him the greatest honor. But such was his confidence in the
goodness of his Lord, that he dared to trust himself with him--had no
concern, that resentment of the part he had acted, would induce him,
in whom he trusted, to overlook his penitence, and pass his humble
confidence unnoticed--did not fear to trust himself in Christ's hands,
and leave it to him to make known his character to his fellow
disciples.

In these things the faith of Simon, and the nature of his faith
appeared. He not only believed Jesus to be the Christ, but he believed
the divinity of Christ. His faith did not terminate in a bare assent,
but convinced of his sufficiency, and of his justice, and mercy and
readiness to forgive the returning penitent, he gave himself up to
Christ and trusted in him to pardon his sins and save him by his
grace. Though sensible of his own demerit, fear did not drive him away
from the Savior, but induced him to return to him and put his whole
trust in him.

Such is the nature of justifying faith. Those who are subjects of it,
deeply sensible of their sins, "look to the Lamb of God, who taketh
away the sin of the world," and place all their dependence on him; and
they are not disappointed--; "Whoso believeth shall not be ashamed."

Thus Simon's faith and love were owned of Christ; and this late
offender not only pardoned, but continued in his office; a pastor of
Christ's flock. _Feed my lambs--Feed my sheep_, were the replies to
the appeals made by the offender, that he loved the Savior. In this
manner was he directed,

III. To manifest his love to Christ.--It might have been thought
that Simon had fallen from his office when he denied his Lord; with
oaths and imprecations, denied his knowledge of him. If so, he was
here restored; Christ entrusted him again with the care "of his flock
--which he had purchased with his blood;" and reappointed him to "give
them their meat in due season." His having had this charge here given
him, argued the pardon of his offences, and his restoration to favor.
He would not have been required to do the work of an apostle, had not
his transgression been forgiven, and his sin been blotted out. Judas
had no such trust reposed in him after his fall; no such duty required
of him. "By his transgression he fell from his ministry and
apostleship, that he might go to his own place, and another take his
office." Judas repented; but not with repentance unto life. His
repentance led to death by his own hand. Diverse was that of Simon,
both in its nature and effects. His was "Godly sorrow, which wrought
repentance unto life"--which caused him to devote himself wholly to
the service of the Redeemer, and at last to lay down his life for his
sake.

REFLECTIONS

I. Our subject teacheth the folly of felt dependence. Who ever
appeared to have stronger confidence in himself than Peter? Yet few
have fallen more shamefully than he.

If we lean to ourselves, like things will probably befall us. Our
strength is weakness. Our enemies are many and powerful; they are long
versed in the arts of deception; well acquainted with our weakness;
know how, and when, and where to attack us to advantage. Left to
ourselves, we should doubtless be snared and taken by them.

Simon was naturally bold and resolute; had great love to Christ, and
zeal for his honor: Yet all did not enable him "to stand in the evil
day." If Peter fell, who, left to himself, can stand? Not one. But God
is able to make the weakest and most feeble stand, and will make them
stand if they trust in him. "My grace is sufficient for thee, for my
strength is made perfect in weakness." Blessed are they who trust in
him.

II. An high opinion of a person's own strength, or love to God and the
Redeemer, is most commonly the prelude to a fall. When one thinks
himself strong, and feels secure, he is soon taught weakness and
dependence, and the need he stands in of a divine guardian, by some
advantage gained over him by the enemy: Whereas, those who are
sensible of their own weakness, and trust in God, are holden up, and
made to stand. "Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my
infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon--me for when I am
weak, then am I strong."

III. As self knowledge is of great importance, unnecessary to our
reforming that which is amiss, and to our trading in him who is able
to keep us, we should often try ourselves, as in his presence--his, to
whom our hearts are open. It becomes us often to retire inward, and
examine whether the love of Christ dwelleth in us? _Whether we love
him more than these_? Than the world and the things of it? If Christ
is not uppermost in our hearts, "we are not worthy of him." But if we
can answer the question put to Simon, as he answered it, _Lord thou
knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee_, happy are we. We
remain in a state of imperfection--may often have occasion to mourn
some practical denial of Christ; still, if _he who knoweth all things,
knoweth that we love him_, our love to him will not he overlooked; he
will own us before his Father, and reward us with eternal rewards.

IV. Christ's disciples, while in the body, often err; if acquainted
with ourselves, we must often know this of ourselves; do we then see
our faults?

If any who call themselves Christians live in neglect of self
examination, and are consequently strangers to themselves, there is
great reason to fear that they are strangers also to the Christian
life. The Christian communes much with his own heart, and finds daily
occasion to mourn before God, that his service is so defective, and
that he so often denies his Lord, by heedless lapses, or by suffering
temptation to have such power over him. When the Lord looked on Peter,
and thereby brought to his remembrance the warnings which he had given
him, his confidence in himself, and then his fall, he went out and
wept bitterly.

Every Christian hath a measure of this spirit, and is grieved at his
heart, when he calls to mind his shameful denials of his Lord. If any,
who think themselves his disciples are blind to their faults, or
little affected with them--ready to excuse or extenuate them,
especially if hidden from the world; or feel reluctant to take shame
to themselves, when they have fallen, it nearly concerns them to
examine the grounds of their hope toward God; there is reason to fear
that they "hold a lie in their right hands." Those who are Christ's
discern their faults; confess and forsake them. Their falls art made
the occasion of greater watchfulness, and care to keep themselves from
every wicked thing, and perfect holiness in the fear of God. May he
grant this to be our temper, for his mercy's sake in Christ. Amen.



 * * * * * *



SERMON XIV.

Gifts no certain Evidence of Grace.

Luke x. 20

"In this rejoice not, that the Spirits are subject unto you; but
rather rejoice, because your Names are written in Heaven."


Abundant notice of Christ's coming preceded that interesting' event.
"To him gave all the prophets witness."

Neither was his entrance here unattended. It was announced by an
angelic choir; by a miraculous star; and by a band of eastern magi.
The manger which contained him, was particularly pointed out to the
shepherds, and his person designated by inspired Simon and Anna.
Again,

When entering on his ministry, witness was given for him, both from
heaven, and on earth; from heaven by the visible descent of the Holy
Ghost, which rested on him, and by a voice testifying that he was the
Son in God; on earth by John, and soon after by the seventy: For these
were sent to prepare his way, and introduce him to his work.

John was sent before, "to make ready a people prepared for the Lord"
--"Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." The seventy, to
declare him then entering on his ministry--"The kingdom of God is
come nigh unto you."--John did no miracles; but the seventy witnessed
Christ's truth, and their own by wonders wrought in his name. In the
orders given to them at their mission, we find them only directed to
heal the sick, as an evidence of Christ's arrival, and their being
sent of him; but by the report made at their return they appeared to
have been empowered to cast out devils. They probably did all the
mighty works done by the twelve, and by their Lord. Thus they prepared
his way.

Doing miracles in Christ's name would raise in those who witnessed it,
a desire to see him of whom they spake, and whose power they
displayed: And "they were sent two and two before his face into every
city and place whither he himself would come."

Had they only proclaimed his arrival, some might have listened; but
few would have "believed their report." Greater evidence than their
word would have been demanded; as was afterwards of Christ--"What sign
shewest thou, that we may believe thee?" Neither would the demand have
been unreasonable. Special messages require special evidence; and it
is always given to those who are sent of God.

Every deceiver may pretend to a divine mission; but we are forbidden
to "believe every spirit, and commanded to try the spirits." The
church at Ephesus is commended for having obeyed this command--"Thou
hast tried them which say that they are apostles, and are not, and
hast found them liars."

Our Savior speaking of the Jews' rejection of him, aggravates their
guilt, by a consideration or the plenitude of the evidence which had
been given them of his truth. "If I had not done among them the works
which none other man did, they had not had sin--but now they have no
cloak for their sin--they have both seen and hated both me and my
Father." *

* John xv. 22-24.

At the return of the seventy they appear to have been elated with the
exercise of the miraculous powers which had been delegated to them--"And
the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are
subject unto us through thy name."

They had witnessed Christ's miracles, but seem not to have wrought
miracles themselves till now; and when they found themselves able to
do the mighty works which they had admired in their Lord they were
filled with joy.

Having made their report, Christ enlarged their powers and promised them
protection--"Behold I give you power to tread on serpents and scorpions,
and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall by any means
hurt you." But to prevent them from setting an undue value on these
distinctions, the caution in the text is subjoined--"_Notwithstanding,
in this rejoice not that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather,
rejoice because your names are written in heaven_".

In discussing the subject, we will, first _consider the caution or
prohibition--In this rejoice not that the spirits are subject unto
you; then the command--But rather rejoice because your names are
written in heaven_.

I. WE are to consider the caution, or prohibition--_In this rejoice
not, &c_.

But why not? Was it not matter of joy that spirits, evil spirits were
subject to them? That they were able to dislodge them from the bodies
of men, by commanding them in Christ's name? Certainly. This enabled
them to answer the ends of their mission, which had been but very
partially answered without it. Wherefore then the prohibition?

It is rather the excess of their joy, than the joy itself which is
here forbidden. They seem to have placed an undue value on this power;
to have exalted it above it's place, particularly as it concerned
themselves. This was the first thing they mentioned at their return;
nothing beside seems to have made so deep an impression upon them, or
to have given them equal self importance.

To them there were other things more interesting and important; that
they were accepted of God, and numbered among the faithful, and that
their _names were written_ in heaven, were to them occasions of much
greater joy. The gift of miracles proved their mission, and drew the
attention of those who witnessed their mighty works; but this was not
a saving gift. A person might possess it, yet remain unrenewed, and
perish in his sins.

Some appear to have exercised this power, who professed no relation to
Christ, but were openly connected with his enemies. This is evident
from his expostulation with those who attributed to infernal agency,
the authority with which he extorted obedience from evil spirits--"If
I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out?
Therefore shall they be your judges." * The same appears from another
incident, recorded by St. Mark--"And John answered, saying, Master, we
saw one casting on devils in thy name, and he followed not us, and we
forbid him, because he followeth not us. And Jesus said,
Forbid him not: For there is no man who shall do a miracle in my name,
that can lightly speak evil of me." +

* Luke xi. 19. + St. Mark ix. 38, 39.

It seems that some who had seen the disciples cast out devils in
Christ's name, though not themselves his disciples, attempted to do
the same and succeeded; and that things of this nature were not
uncommon after Christ began his ministry; though it did not always, if
at all succeed, after his sufferings and exaltation. ++

++ Acts xix. 13.

The gift of miracles, like other gifts, was distinct from sanctifying
grace. This grace was often joined with that gift; but not always.
There was no necessary connexion between them.

Under the former dispensation, the gift of prophecy did not certainly
argue a renewed nature. It was sometimes given without it. Balaam had
this gift. The deceiver who brought back the man of God who was sent
from Judah to reprove Jeroboam, had it. By divine order he told the
Jew what would happen to him, because he disobeyed the word of the
Lord, and returned to eat bread in that place. Neither is there a
trait of sanctity visible on the prophet Jonah, though he was
compelled to bear God's messages to Ninevah, and used to make other
special communications to men.

Under the gospel dispensation divine administration hath seen the
same. Judas had doubtless the gift of miracles in common with his
fellow disciples; and many will appeal to the judge in the great day,
that they "have prophesied in his name, in his name cast out devils,
and in his name done many wonderful works, to whom he will profess, I
never knew you," and whom he will send away among the workers of
iniquity.

Men are too often estimated by their gifts. Many consider those as the
best men who possess the most enlarged, and especially the most showy
talents; and despise those of a different description, as though their
gifts and graces must be equal. But this is wrong. A person may
possess the talents of an angel of light, who hath the temper of an
infernal. Such is probably the state of apostate spirits. And some of
the greatest of mankind have been some of the worst and most
abandoned.

Though this must be evident to the considerate, there is yet a
disposition in man to judge others, yea, and himself too, by gifts
apart from the grace which falsifies gifts, and renders them
beneficial, both to the possessor, and to the world; and at the same
time keeps the possessor humble, and prevents him from thinking of
himself, above that which he ought to think.

Neither are the renewed out of danger from this quarter.
Sanctification being imperfect, distinguished gifts, or usefulness, or
uncommon divine communications, are liable to be abused and made to
foster pride and raise in the worm too high an opinion of himself. St.
Paul "though not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles," needed
something to keep him humble and prevent him from being elated by the
revelations which were made to him. And he left these things on record
as a warning to others; and particularly noted them to the church at
Corinth, which abounded with miraculous gifts, and among whom they
were exceedingly abused. He declared them not only inferior to
charity, or holy love, but, considered in themselves, as of no
estimation in a moral view; that a person might possess them in the
highest degree, and yet be nothing in religion--"Though I speak with
the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as
sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of
prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though
1 have all faith, so that I could remove mountains and have, not
charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the
poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it
profiteth me nothing." * The apostle here supposeth a person possessed
of the most eminent miraculous gifts, yet wholly destitute of
religion. Could no such case happen, he would not have made the
supposition. He did not write to amuse, but to edify and instruct.

* 1 Cor xiii. 1, &c.

Some at Corinth prided themselves in their gifts and despised others
--perhaps men's moral state was estimated by them. Therefore did he
show the use of those gifts--that they were distinct from renewing
grace--that the latter was more excellent than the former; and that
the possession of the latter could not be argued from the exercise of
the former.

Those gifts were very useful at that day, and in that city, which was
filled with idolatry, and almost the headquarters of paganism; but to
the possessor they were of less value than Christian graces--"Covet
earnestly the best gifts; and yet shew I unto you a more excellent
way"--Namely, the charity described in the following chapter, of which
we have been treating above.

To prevent the seventy from indulging the spirit which the apostle
afterwards thus reproved at Corinth, was the design of the caution
given them in the text. Christ observed how they valued themselves on
their gifts and checked the spirit its beginning. _Rejoice not that
the spirits are subject unto you._

II. We are to consider the command--_But rather rejoice because your
names are written in heaven_.

The names of the saints are represented as _written in Heaven_, This
language is figurative, accommodated to human weakness. God hath
promised salvation to the faithful and caused them to hope in his
mercy; but memorandums are not necessary to remind him of his
promises, or records in heaven to entitle the faithful to the heavenly
inheritance. God's counsels are always before him. The phraseology of
the text is borrowed from the customs of men, who need memorandums
and records to secure the fulfillment of engagements.

When men are made free of a city, or state, they are enrolled in the
archives of the community--Thence probably the metaphorical language
of the text, and similar scriptures: For we often find matters which
are determined in the divine councils represented as written in
celestial records--Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to
another, and the Lord hearkened and heard, and _a book of remembrance
was written before him_, for them that thought on "his name." Zion is
said to be "graven on the palms of his hands"--The saints to be
_written_ "in the book of life--The dead to be judged out of the
things _written_ in the books" which will be opened at the grand
assize when the world will be judged in righteousness.

As the rewards of grace are made sure to the righteous, the address to
the seventy speaks their knowledge of it--_Rejoice because your names
are written in heaven_. They could not rejoice in an unknown good. But
the manner in which their privileged state is mentioned supposes them
acquainted with it. Christ did not here reveal it--did not say, _your
names are written in heaven, therefore rejoice_, but rejoice because
they are written there--because you know it to be the case.

Neither do they appear to have possessed knowledge, in this respect,
which others are denied. Others are also exhorted to rejoice in the
Lord. The suffering Christians of that age were often reminded of the
rewards in reserve for them, as what would abundantly compensate all
their sufferings here; which supposed them acquainted with their title
to glory.

But how did they attain this knowledge? And how may others attain it?

By considering the conditions of the promises and seeing that they
have complied with them. The promises are made to faith and
repentance, to love and obedience. Where these are found on a person,
that person may know that _his name is written in heaven_.

Obedience flows from faith and love. "Every good tree bringeth forth
good fruit." The fruits of grace, are the evidences of grace, and the
only evidences on which there is dependence. Should an angel from
heaven testify to a person that his name was written there, the
evidence should be inferior to that which ariseth from the Christian
temper evidenced by fruits of holiness. If these were found, that
would be useless; if wanting, inefficient. "By their fruits ye shall
know them. In this the children of God are manifest." Had a person
such testimony from heaven, he could know that the bearer was from
above, only by attending to his own heart and life.

"Satan can transform himself into an angel of light." Permitted of God
he might have access to our minds and persuade us that _our names were
written in heaven_, while we remained enemies to God and under the
condemning sentence of his law, had we no rule by which to try
ourselves, and judge of our state; but this is not denied us. Yet some
are probably deceived, through infernal influence, and filled with
vain hopes. Mistaking the sophistry of Satan, for the operation of the
divine Spirit, they boast communion with God and call themselves his
children while no portion of the Christian temper is found upon them.
Doubtless some, who have gloried in special divine communications have
been deceived, relative to the nature and source of the operations
which they have experienced. Supposed visions and revelations, are
often no other than illusions of fancy, freaks of imagination, or
effects of diabolical influence, those affected with them often appear
confident of that which sober reason rejects as groundless.

If when we turn the eye inward, we discover faith in Christ, sorrow
for sin, love to God, devotedness to his service, and reliance on his
grace through a Mediator, and these are evidenced by fruits of
holiness, we need no other evidence that _our names are written in
heaven_: But if there are wanting, hope is vain and confidence
delusive--Gifts, the most extraordinary, even those of prophecy and
miracles are totally unavailing. They leave us but as "sounding brass
and tinkling cymbals."

Instances of this kind have formerly occurred: They may occur again.
It concerns us therefore to look to ourselves, and see that our hopes
are not built on the sand.

REFLECTIONS.

I. The subjection of evil spirits to Christ shows the universality of
his dominion: For even apostate spirits have not, in every respect,
broken from under his government. He sets them their bounds which they
cannot pass. "Hitherto shalt thou come and no farther." When dislodged
from a man by his order they cannot not enter a swine without his
permission. They are permitted indeed to indulge depravity, but no
farther than infinite wisdom sees it; and oftentimes their malice is
made subservient to the divine purposes. While Christ had his
residence on earth, they were permitted to possess the bodies of men,
and his superior power was manifested in their ejection, and thereby a
few species of evidence was given to his truth of the gospel--yea they
were sometimes made to confess him, when men denied him! "I know thee
who thou art; the Holy One of God." *

* Luke iv. 34.

In various ways God hath made use of apostate spirits to effect his
holy and merciful designs. They have been used to try the faith, and
thereby fit them for glory and honor--Witness the strange trials
brought on Job! And all served to restrain pride and depravity, and by
the trial of his faith and exercise of his graces, to prepare him for
a brighter crown. They may also be instrumental in bringing sinners to
repentance. St. Paul speaks of "delivering one to Satan for the
destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved in the day of
the Lord Jesus: And of delivering men to Satan, that they might learn
not to blaspheme." *

* 1 Cor. v. 5, 1 Tim. i. 20.

II. Our subject teacheth us not to value ourselves on account of
gifts, or powers. Gifts and grace, we have seen to be distinct
--that the former are a kind of common flock, designed not so much for
the benefit of the possessor, as of the public; and that a person may
possess them in large measure, and yet continue a rebel against God
and perish in his rebellion.

God hath wise reasons for the bestowment of gifts, and, in someway,
gets glory to himself thereby. But every talent is liable to abuse. If
any man abuse them God will require it. Justice may be glorified,
where goodness is neglected, and grace despised.

There is power with God to compel such use of his gifts as he
requires. By overruling the degeneracy of fallen creatures, they often
subserve the more mischievous. Gifts, under the influence his holy
purposes. Princes who know him not, are often instrumental in
executing his designs.--the Assyrian and Persian monarchs were
formerly made to execute his judicial designs on other nations and on
his people, though "they meant not so, neither did their hearts think
so." Other potentates do the same, and in the same way. Yea God hath
power to compel unwilling obedience to his known commands, and hath
sometimes done it. Balaam was made to bless Israel and foretel their
greatness, while yet the enemy of Israel, and of the God of Israel;
and Jonah, to bear God's messages to Nineveh.

To be thus used of God gives no title to his favor. "When God had
performed his whole work on Mount Zion," he punished the proud
Assyrian whom he had used in the execution of his justice: And Balaam
perished among the enemies of Israel. Service undesignedly performed,
and that which is the effect of constraint, find no encouragement in
revelation. "If I do this thing willingly, I have a reward; but if
against my will, a dispensation is committed unto me; what is my
reward then?"

III. Though it is lawful to covet earnestly the best gifts, there is
a more "excellent way"--there is that which is more valuable,
especially to the possessor--the grace which sanctifies the heart. If
we have this grace the more gifts we possess the better--they are all
consecrated to the service of God. If we have only gifts they may
render us of grace, are beneficial, but under that of depravity,
baleful in their effects.

Some pride themselves in the powers which they possess, and despise
those of inferior abilities--some mistake gifts for graces, or the
sure evidences of them. But the day is at hand which will correct
mistakes, and exhibit every thing in its proper light. Then the humble
followers of the Lamb, who pass through life unnoticed, or unknown,
will be found written in heaven, and will be owned and honored, as the
redeemed of the Lord. But those who neglect the grace offered in
Christ, though they may possess the greatest powers--may speak with
tongues of men and angels, and have all faith to the removing of
mountains, will be denied of the eternal Judge, and sent away into
everlasting punishment. Wherefore, _rejoice not, though the spirits
may be subject unto you; but rather rejoice because your names are
written in heaven_.



 * * * * * *



SERMON XV.

Human Characters determined only by Divine decision.

1 Corinthians iv. 3, 4.

"But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you,
or of man's judgment; yea I judge not mine own self. For I know
nothing by myself, yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth
me is the Lord."


Corinth was one of the principal cities of Greece. Enjoying every
advantage of situation, it became rich and populous. Most cities in
similar circumstances have become vicious. This became exceedingly so.

The religion of Corinth was paganism, which naturally led to sundry
vices. Bacchus and Venus had there their temples and their votaries;
and luxury, the child of affluence, led to vice generally. From such a
combination of circumstances, the inhabitants, like the men of Sodom,
"were sinners before the Lord exceedingly." It might be justly stiled,
like Pergamos, "The place where Satan's seat was."

Yet God had much people in that city, which continue and labor in it,
which he did for more than eighteen months. Nor did he labor in vain.
He gathered there a large and flourishing church; which appears to
have been enriched with a greater effusion of miraculous gifts, than
any other of the primitive churches. The state of Corinth, where God
had been unknown, and where superstition had reigned, might render
this necessary in order to give success to the gospel. Miracles are
adapted to arrest the attention of those who would be deaf to the
voice of reason and regardless of proofs drawn from it.
But those gifts were abused. They were made the occasion of pride, and
of divisions: Which shews that there is nothing in the nature or
miraculous gifts, which secures the proper use of them; that they are
no evidence of renovation.

Though the apostle labored to great and happy effect in that city of
the Gentiles, after his departure, deceitful workers went among them,
and availed themselves of his absence to make divisions, and alienate
their affections from him. This seems to have occasioned his writing
the epistles addressed to them, which constitutes a valuable part of
the sacred volume.

The calumnies of his enemies, and the effect which they had on the
Corinthians, are alluded to in the text; which contains an expression
of his feelings on the occasion.

In discussing the subject, we shall just glance at these matters, and
add a brief improvement.

St. Paul's character, both as a Minister and as a Christian, was
impeached by those enemies. They represented him as an unfaithful, or
unskillful laborer in the gospel, and as one who was not a subject
of divine grace.

This appears from his statement in the beginning of the context, and
from the text. Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of
Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required
in stewards that a man be found faithful, "_But with me it is a very
small thing, that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment,
yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself, yet am
I not hereby justified: But he that judgeth me is the Lord_."

The apostle here professeth himself "a minister of Christ and steward
of the mysteries of God," and directs the Corinthians to consider him
in that light; or as one put in trust with the gospel to teach its
mysteries, inculcate its truths, urge its duties, and tender its
supports.

The term _mystery_ is used in Scripture, to express things not
discoverable by the light of reason, but knowable by revelation. It is
also used to express incomprehensibles; which may be objects of faith
on the credit of divine truth. The former is the more common sense of
the term in the gospel, particularly in the passage before us, and
generally in St. Paul's epistles. "We speak the wisdom of God in a
_mystery_--the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto
our glory; which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they
known it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But it is
written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into
the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that
love him. _But God hath revealed them into us by his Spirit_."

The gospel plan of salvation was a _mystery_, a hidden _mystery_, till
the gospel day. It was hidden from the prophets who foretold it; and
from the apostles, till after Christ's sufferings and resurrection.
They understood very little of it; knew almost nothing about it till
after the ascension, when the comforter was sent down "to teach them
all things, and bring all things to their remembrance." To them it was
then matter of wonder. They had not been made to understand that
Christ was to bear the sins of men--"that he was to suffer and enter
into his glory:" And when he did suffer, "they knew not the Scripture,
that he must rise again from the dead."

Another gospel _mystery_ was the calling of the Gentiles--that
salvation was intended for them, and to be offered to them, in Christ,
equally as to the natural seed of Jacob. "If ye have heard of the
dispensation of the grace of God, which is given me to you ward; how
that by revelation he made known unto me _the mystery_--which in other
ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed
unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: _That the Gentiles
should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his
promise in Christ, by the Gospel_, whereof I am made a minister." *

* Ephesian iii. 2-7.

These were some of the mysteries dispensed by this steward of
the mysteries of God; who "shunned not to declare all the counsel of
God."

He declared the deep things, which human reason could not have
discovered; and those also which it cannot comprehend. These are to be
found in Paul's teachings, as well as the plain things which are easy
to be understood.

But the principal business of this "steward o the mysteries of God,"
was to open the way of salvation through a Savior, and shew that
provision is made in him for the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles,
and offered alike to those of every nation; and to lead men to the
knowledge of themselves and the Redeemer, and teach them how they
might be benefited by divine grace in him.

And while he acknowledged the obligations, of fidelity, he declared
himself no way greatly affected by the judgment which might be passed
upon him by his fellow mortals. _But with me it is a small thing to be
judged of you, or of man's judgment_. An intimation that he was judged
and censured by some of them. This was, doubtless, matter of notoriety
at Corinth; but he little regarded it. It made no change in him, or in
the manner in which he discharged the duties of his office. He was
chiefly concerned to obtain the approbation of an higher tribunal
that of his divine matter, the------dge of all. The judgment of fellow
mortals did not move him--_He that judgeth me is the Lord_.

Not that he was wholly indifferent to the opinion entertained of him
by his fellow men. Had be been so, he would not have undertaken his
own defence as in these epistles, A measure of esteem was necessary to
his usefulness in the ministry. Had all who heard him thought him the
enemy of God, he could have done no good in it. Therefore his endeavor
to rectify their mistakes. And the rather because he held the truth as
it is in Jesus; so that in rejecting him, and the doctrines which he
taught, they turned aside into errors which might fatally mislead
them. But he did not wrong his conscience to please them, or depart
from truth to gain their approbation--"Do I seek to please men? For if
I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." Had Paul
been chiefly concerned to please men, he would have continued a
Pharisee.

The person who would please Christ, while paying such deference to the
opinions of men as fairly to weigh every objection against his faith
or practice, and try them by the divine rule, must be careful to
conform to that rule, whatever opinions may be entertained of him. Of
the meaning of the rule he must judge for himself before God--"calling
no man master." The reasons of his faith and practice, and his
construction of the divine rule, he may lay before his fellow men, to
remove the grounds of prejudice; but he must rise so far above their
frowns a------atteries, as not to be influenced by them to disguise
his sentiments, or counteract his own judgment of the law of God, of
the gospel of Christ, or of the duties incumbent on him.

It is not by human judgments that we are to stand or fall. It is happy
that this is the case; that the good man hath a judge more just and
candid than his fellow servants; one who knows and pities his
weakness, though he hath none of his own: "Let me fall into the hands
of the Lord, for his mercies are great; and let me not fall into the
hand of man."

But the apostle did not stop with a declaration that the judgment of
others did not move him; he brought it home to himself: _Yea, I judge
not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself, yet am I not hereby
justified; but he that judgeth me is the Lord_. St. Paul had a witness
in himself that he was sincere and upright before God--"Our rejoicing
is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity, and
Godly sincerity, not by fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we
have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly toward
you."

The same is the import of his declaration in the text--"_I know
nothing by myself_--am conscious of no allowed wickedness--of no
willful error, either in profession or practice." But he dared not to
assert that he had made no mistakes--_yet am I not hereby justified_.
He knew himself liable to error--did not "trust his own heart". _He
that judgeth me is the Lord_--"his judgment is according to truth--
that will determine my character, and fix my doom."

The apostle could remember a time in which he had conscientiously done
wrong. He had persecuted the church; killed Christ's disciples, and
thought he was doing right; verily believed that he was doing God
service!--Now he acted conscientiously in "preaching the faith he
had once destroyed"--in the manner of his preaching it; and
discharging every ministerial and Christian duty; though he was
censured and calumniated by some, and suspected by others. He followed
the light of his own mind, and determined to follow it; so to act as
not to be condemned of himself. But he knew that the standard of
rectitude did not follow his views, and vary with his judgment. "If
his heart did not condemn him, he had confidence toward God; yet he
knew God to be greater than his heart," and possessed of all
knowledge; dared not therefore affirm that his judge would approve of
all which he approved--_Yet am I not hereby justified--he that judgeth
me is the Lord_.

IMPROVEMENT.

I. We See that censure may be incurred without neglect of duty, When
Paul converted to Christianity, he was made an apostle, and ordered of
the Redeemer to preach the gospel. He obeyed. He was guided in his
work by the spirit of God; yet he was blamed by some, and suspected by
others.

That Christ's faithful servants are slandered and reproached is not a
new thing under the sun. It hath been common among men. And herein
they are only made like their Lord. And shall they think it strange?
"It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the
servant as his Lord. If they call the master of the house Beelzebub,
how much more them of his household?"

When opposition and reproaches come from those who profess friendship
to Christ they wound the deeper. This however, hath often happened. It
happened to the apostle at Corinth, and elsewhere. If we witness that
which is similar, we need not be surprized, as though some strange
thing had happened.

II. Are we unjustly censured by our fellow servants, or reproached
while in the way of our duty? We have here an example worthy our
imitation. St. Paul was chiefly concerned to approve himself to God.
We should be so too--should study to acquaint ourselves with the
divine rule, and to conform to it; not disobeying God to please men.

Great care is requisite to know our duty. Enveloped in darkness, and
biassed to error, it is often difficult to find out the right way. But
we are not left without instruction. A rule is given us by which we
may "judge of ourselves, what is right." Of that role we must judge
for ourselves, and by it try ourselves. "To our own master we stand or
fall." To obtain his approbation should be our chief concern. "If God
be with us, who can be against us?"

III. Knowing ourselves fallible, it becomes us to maintain a jealousy
over ourselves, and be constantly on our guard. We should consider,
that though we do not sin wilfully, and our own hearts do not condemn
us, _yet we are not hereby justified_. We are conscious that we have
often, erred, and made wrong conclusions, when we did not design to
leave the right way. We are liable to do the same again. Our eye
should therefore be to God for direction and guidance--"That which I
know not, teach thou me; if I have done iniquity, I will do no more."

This is the more necessary, because "the light which is in us may have
become darkness." For there are those who "put darkness for light and
light for darkness." Those with whom this is the case know it not;
they flatter themselves and cry peace. "To the pure, all things are
pure; but to them that are defiled, and unbelieving, is nothing pure;
but even their mind and conscience is defiled." This often happens to
those who for a time yield to temptation and go in to the ways of sin;
they contract false principles, and judge by them, and probably
sometimes live and die under the deceptive influence of their
darkening power. None would dare to plead before the bar of Christ,
that they were his disciples, "and had eat and drank in his presence,"
had they not been deceived into false views of duty, and mistaken
apprehensions of the conditions of acceptance with him.

Judging well of ourselves doth not ensure justification at the bar of
heaven. Our judgments of ourselves may be erroneous. If they are so,
they will be reversed. We shall "be judged out of the books, according
to our works;" not according to our false and deceitful views. _I know
nothing by myself, yet, am I not hereby justified. For not he that
commandeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth_.



 * * * * * *



SERMON XVI.

Characters will be disclosed, and Justice awarded.

1 Corinthians iv. 5.

"--Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both wilt
bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest
the counsels of the hearts; and then shall everyman have praise of
God."


St. Paul having professed himself a minister of Christ, and steward of
the mysteries of God, acknowledged the obligations of fidelity, and
disclaimed anxious concern respecting the opinion entertained of him
by his fellow men, because the Lord was his judge, here adds a
caution, reprehensive of the censorious spirit of the Corinthians, who
seem to have listened to his enemies, and given into their suspicions
of the apostle. _Therefore judge nothing before the time_--

In the text we observe a caution against rash judging the characters
of men--a declaration that they will be known when the Lord comes
--and that some things commendable will then be found in all--then
shall every man have praise of God. We observe--

I. A caution _against rash judging the characters of men--judge
nothing before the time, until the Lord come_.

Civil judges may give judgment according to law and evidence, on those
brought before them for trial--so may the church on those arraigned at
her tribunal. These are necessary to the subsistence of civil and
ecclesiastical communities; therefore ordered of God. It is another
species of judging which is here forbidden; judging the characters of
men, especially such as profess Godliness, and appear to act
sincerely; pretending to determine their moral state, before the
motives which actuate them are disclosed. This is judging before the
time, and without evidence on which to ground a judgment; which the
wise man observes to be folly and a shame to him who doth it.

This had been done at Corinth, by the enemies of the apostle; and hath
been done by others in every age. There have ever been people who have
dared to scatter their censorious decisions at random, according to
the prevalence of humor, caprice, or prejudice; often to the wounding
of the faithful; and rending of the body of Christ.

This occasions temporary mischief; but the day is coming when all
those disorders will be rectified. The censurer, and the censured,
will stand at the same bar, and be tried by the same Judge. Every
wrong judgment will then be reversed, and every injurious suspicion be
removed. For,

II. Every _man's character will be known when the Lord comes--who will
bring to light the hidden sufferings of darkness, and will make
manifest the counsels of the hearts_.

Many things necessary to determine the moral characters of men are
hidden from mortal eyes. We are ignorant of _the counsels_ of the
hearts--do not know their purposes and views. Without this knowledge,
right judgment cannot be formed.

Our knowledge of ourselves is imperfect. For self knowledge we have
advantages which we have not for the knowledge of others. We can turn
inward, and contemplate the motives which govern, and the views which
actuate us. But pride, passion, prejudice, or the corrupt bias,
operating in ways unperceived, often blinds the mental eye, and
renders us strangers at home. "Whoso trusteth his own heart is a
fool.--The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately
wicked, who can know it?" It requires great attention to form a just
judgment of ourselves--yea, to attain that self knowledge which is
necessary for us. With regard to the knowledge of others, the
difficulty is still greater. We can neither see the heart, nor know
the thoughts and designs.

We are often at a loss for the motives which occasion things which
fall under our observation. Other things which might cast light upon
them, are hidden from us. But when the Lord cometh, the veil spread
over secret matters will be removed. "There is nothing covered, that
shall not be revealed, or hid that shall not be known."
_The Lord will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make
manifest the counsels of the hearts_.

How hearts will be opened to view, we know not. Perhaps when the veil
of flesh is removed, minds may possess an intuitive knowledge of each
other--be able to look into one another, as while in the body, they
look into themselves. Here, this is mercifully prevented; but may be
no longer necessary in another state of existence. It may be
requisite, to that investigation of characters which we are taught to
expect at Christ's coming. For it is the language of the text, and
other Scriptures, that every impediment to the complete knowledge of
each other, will then be done away; that no person's character will
longer remain problematical. _The hidden works of darkness will be
brought to light, and the counsels of the hearts made manifest_.

Astonishing scenes of wickedness will then, no doubt, be disclosed.
Probably each one will discover things in himself which he had not
suspected--depravity, unfairness, disingenuity, the bare suspicion of
which by others, would be resented as affrontive.

When the prophet forewarned Hazael of the cruelties which he would
exercise when he should be king of Syria, his nature seemed to revolt
--he could not suspect himself capable of such enormities. "But
what! is thy servant a dog?" But all was verified when he had ascended
the throne!

But though a world of hidden iniquity will appear when the counsels of
the hearts shall be made manifest. Good things will also be opened to
view which had till that day been concealed--yea,

III. Some _things commendable will be found in all, Then shall every
man have praise of God_.

All are sinners. "There is none good but one, that is God." Some "are
sinners exceedingly." Some will continue such till they shall have
time no longer--die as they have lived, and be sentenced to "have
their part in the lake of fire--which is the second death."

But though numbers of this description will be found when the Lord
comes, it is presumed that there will be none among them in whom there
wilt be nothing commendable--who will never have done a praise worthy
action.

When "every work is brought into judgment and every secret thing,
whether it be good or evil," every thing commendable which hath been
done by the wicked, will come into the reckoning. Nothing will be
overlooked, because done by sinners. The prejudices inherent in
mankind often render them blind to what is commendable in an enemy,
and cause them to magnify his failings; but not so the Deity. God is
perfect. "The way of man will he render unto him," whatever may be
his general character.

The saints are not equal in virtue and the attainments of grace.
Therefore the differences which will be made among them. When they
shall stand before the Judge, their whole probation, with all its
circumstances, will be reviewed, and every praise worthy purpose,
desire and action will be considered and rewarded. On the other hand,
every neglect of duty and every deviation from it will come into the
account and make deduction from the weight of glory reserved for them.

And among the enemies of God, some will be found greater sinners than
others--to have sinned longer--against greater lights, and to have
been guilty of more and greater crimes. To such will be reserved the
greater weight of woe. In order to these discriminations their whole
probation will be considered. And in those on whom sentence of
condemnation will pass, the righteous judge will take due notice of
every pause which they shall have made in the ways of sin--of every
instance in which they may have denied themselves, out of regard to
the divine authority, though it may have been out of fear of God's
judgments, and of every act of kindness done by them, to a fellow
creature. Every thing of this nature, will be considered, and make
some deduction from the punishment which would otherwise have been
inflicted on them. The judge will pass nothing of this kind unnoticed,
condemning the sinner to the same degree of suffering, as though it
had not been found upon him. A cup of cold water given to a disciple
of Christ, will not lose its reward. *

* Matthew x. 42.

 "Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and
observed him; and when he heard him he did many things, and heard him
gladly." Herod's punishment will not be, in every respect, the same,
as though he had paid no attention to John's teaching. He will not be
punished for refusing to hear John, when he did hear him or for
refusing to do, what he did do, in compliance with his counsel: Though
he will be condemned as, eventually the murderer of that holy man. His
partial obedience might be extorted by fear; but this is preferable to
disobedience; otherwise fear would not be urged as a motive to
obedience. "Fear him who is able to destroy soul and body in hell."
If preferable to disobedience, a difference will be made between those
who obey from no higher principle, and those who disobey.

Here God certainly makes a difference between them. When Rehoboam
humbled himself in the time of his affliction, "the wrath of the Lord
turned from him that he would not destroy him: And also in Judah
things went well." But his repentance was not unto life. The character
given him at his death is that of a wicked man.

When Ahab, affrighted by the preaching of Elijah, as he was going to
take possession of the vineyard of murdered Naboth, "humbled himself
and walked softly:" God signified his approbation of his legal
repentance and partial amendment, in preference to his former course;
though he afterwards cut him off in his sins.

These are unequivocal evidences that partial obedience, though
dictated by the servile principle of fear, is preferable, in divine
estimation, to allowed disobedience. God makes a difference in his
treatment of people here, on this account: suspends his judgments, and
mitigates somewhat of their severity, where he sees this kind of
relenting in sinners. If God doth this here, is there not reason to
believe that he will do it hereafter: The rules of divine
administration are doubtless uniform in time and eternity. Where he
gives a comparative preference here, he will do the same hereafter.
So we observe our Savior noting things commendable in some who did
not belong to his kingdom. When the young ruler who came to inquire
what he should do to inherit eternal life, declared that he had kept
the commandments from his youth up, he was viewed with comparative
approbation.--"Then Jesus beholding him, loved him." It is not
conceivable that his partial conformity to the divine law had not made
him to differ from those who had allowedly disregarded it--that his
character was as bad as theirs--though he soon made it evident that
the one thing needful was not found upon him. *

* Mark x. 17, &c.

Some suppose that the unrenewed can do nothing but sin against God
_with all their might_--that every purpose of their hearts is
_necessarily_ enmity against him, and all their volitions and actions
determined opposition to his law and government: But we conceive that
neither Scripture, nor experience justify the supposition--that were
such their state, they would be in no degree, the subjects of moral
government, and would not be addressed of God as moral agents.

Were mankind wholly given up of God, and his Spirit withdrawn from
them, such might become their state; but this is not the case. The
Holy Spirit strives with them. They are empowered to resist the
Spirit, or cherish its influences. This is manifest from the divine
exhortations addressed to them, and from their conduct. Sometimes they
pause in the way to destruction--listen to counsels and warnings--do
things which God requires, and deny themselves gratifications which
are in their power, because God hath forbidden and threatened to
punish them. The person is not to be found who hath not a witness in
himself that this is the case.

Should we affirm that none, who are in a state of nature, can be
influenced by sense of duty to deny themselves, or attempt obedience
to God's law, it might give occasion to false hopes. Those, the
general course of whose lives is opposition to God, sure that they
sometimes deny themselves, and like Herod, do things enjoined from
above, might flatter themselves that they were children of God, while
belonging to another family, and that they should have peace, when
there was no peace to them. _Yet_ when _the Lord cometh, who will
bring to light the hidden things of darkness and make manifest the
counsels of the hearts, every man shall have praise of God_.

God will overlook nothing commendable which may have been done by the
vilest of the human race, while on probation; and some things
commendable will be found in the most degenerated; though in many, the
good will be found so low as to leave them on the whole, the servants
of sin, and consequently to take their portion among the workers of
iniquity.

REFLECTIONS,

I. The day is coming which will scatter the darkness or the present
state. Here many things confound us. "We see but we understand not."
We wonder sometimes at what God orders, and oftener at what be
permits. The time approaches in which all these mysteries will be
cleared up. We shall perceive wisdom and goodness in all the divine
administration. Our wonder at providential regulations will terminate.

Now we often wonder at things done by our fellow men--are unable to
discover the motives which actuate them--perhaps frequently mistake
them. But this uncertainty will not be perpetual. The veil spread over
these things will be removed when _the hidden things of darkness are
brought to light and the counsels of the hearts made manifest_. Then,
every hidden purpose will be laid open, and every secret counsel
disclosed.

II. Vain are the attempts of mankind to conceal their crimes, or
disguise their characters. For a time they may hide their nefarious
views, and pass themselves for other manner of persons than they are;
but it is only a temporary matter; all are hastening to an omniscient
tribunal which will open every heart and life to general inspection.
Every one will then be made to stand out, as he is to public view!
"Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and
some men they follow after. Likewise also the good works of some are
manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid."
Hitherto there are secret sins, and mistaken characters; but ere long
there will be neither. "Every man's work shall be made manifest, for
the day shall declare it."

What folly then is hypocrisy? Every one would despise the delinquent,
who, while passing to trial should impose on his fellows with
protestations of innocence, when he knew the judge acquainted with his
guilt, and that he would soon disclose it, and open it to public view.
Such is the part acted by those who endeavor to hide their true
characters while making their way to the bar of God.

III. These considerations, speak comfort to the righteous, and terror
to the wicked. The sincerity of the former will ere long be made
manifest. All the injurious charges brought against them, will appear
to be injurious, and they will he cleared of every aspersion. Their
integrity will be displayed, and they _will have praise of God_.
Nothing they shall have done or suffered, out of regard to God will be
forgotten or go unrewarded. Yea, their desires and purposes to honor
him here, though ability or opportunity to carry them into effect
might not be allowed them, will be proclaimed and rewarded. "God is
not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love"--"David did
well that it was in his heart to build an house to God's name"
--therefore the divine promise "to build him an house and establish
the throne of his kingdom forever."

But the wicked who may have passed through life under the shades of
darkness, been mistaken, perhaps, for the righteous, will rise at the
great day, "to shame, and everlasting contempt." Their sins will then
find them out. For "God's eyes art on the ways of man, and he seeth
all his goings. There is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the
workers of iniquity may hide themselves." And all are written in God's
book, and reserved to judgment; when he "will give to every one,
according to his works. Woe unto the wicked, it shall be ill with him,
for the reward of his hands shall be given him." This will be enough
to make miserable. There needs no more than the withdrawing of mercy,
and leaving justice to take its course. This will be the portion of
those who neglect offered salvation. But,

IV. Sinners who have, at all, denied themselves, out of regard to the
divine authority, or done aught which God required, though ever so
partially, will not loose the benefit of it. Proportioned to its
nature, and the degree of rectitude found in it, it will deduct from
the punishment which the want of it would have occasioned. The
condemned will stand speechless before the judge--have no reason to
offer why judgment should not be executed upon them. By the clear
manifestation of their guilt, and the impartial justice of God, they
will be constrained to acknowledge the perfect fairness and equity,
yea, the moral necessity of the sentence by which the last gleam of
their hope will be extinguished!

Thus will both the mercies and judgments of God be justified of all,
when he _shall bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make
manifest the counsels of the hearts_.



 * * * * * *



SERMON XVII.

God willing that all Men should be saved.

1 Timothy ii. 4.

"Who will have all Men to be saved,--."


In verse first, the apostle directs "prayers and thanksgivings to be
made for all men;"--which he declares to "be good and acceptable in
the sight of God our Savior; _who will have all men to be saved_." Had
salvation been provided for only a part of the human race, prayer and
thanksgivings could have been, consistently made only for a part.
Those for whom no provision was made, would be in like state with
persons who have committed the sin unto death, for whom St. John
intimates prayer is not to be offered up. "There is a sin unto death;
I do not say that he shall pray for it." But such is naturally the
state of none of the children of Adam. Divine goodness is extended to
all, and salvation offered to them; therefore is prayer and praise to
be offered up for all men.

It is now proposed, _briefly to consider the divine goodness expressed
in the text--Who will have all men to be saved--then some abuses of
the revelation which is made of this goodness to mankind_.

I. We _are to consider the divine goodness here expressed--Who will
have all men to be saved_.

The salvation intended, is that of the soul. This comprehends
deliverance from merited sufferings, and the bestowment of happiness
which is the contrast of it.

The provision which is made for the comfort and happiness of mankind
in this life, evinces strange goodness in God. When we consider what
man was made of God, and what he hath made himself, the divine
benevolence here displayed, is wonderful! Strange that man was not
destroyed and blotted out from among God's works!

Some suppose this to have been our first parents idea of the
threatening in case of disobedience, and expressed by them, when they
attempted to hide themselves from the divine presence, after their
fall. *

* Genesis iii. 9.

Had man then been destroyed, the race would have been extinct. But he
was spared; suffered long to continue and rear a family, from which
the myriads of human kind have descended. Though exiled Eden, and
doomed to labor and sorrow, he was still at the head of this lower
creation, and creatures below him generally subservient to his
comfortable subsistence. The ground was indeed cursed for his sake and
fatiguing cultivation rendered necessary; but still it yielded the
necessaries, and many of the comforts of life; though not the sweets
of its primitive state.

These effusions of divine goodness were probably the wonder of angels,
though so little noticed by men, the ungrateful objects of them.

But these were inconsiderable, compared with the strange provision
made for their eternal salvation.

That God bears good will to mankind, not--withstanding their apostasy,
and is desirous of their salvation, is from many considerations
apparent. It is the spirit of the text, and the general language of
the scriptures, as will be shewn in the sequel.

That God is willing that all should be saved, appears from the
sufficiency of the provision which is made for the salvation of
sinners; the frequent declarations that it is designed for all; the
offers which are made indiscriminately to all; and the suitableness of
the provision to the circumstances of all.

1. From the sufficiency of the provision which is made for the
salvation of sinners, This is adequate to the salvation of the whole
race. Christ, being a divine person, made an infinite atonement. In
him there is a fulness of merit. Was the number of sinners ten times
greater than that of our whole race, there would be no need of another
Savior, or of Christ's dying again for their redemption. In him
"dwells the whole fulness of the Godhead bodily." The reason all are
not saved, is not a deficiency of merit in the Redeemer, or any
limitation of his satisfaction. Sinners "are not straitened in him,
but in their own bowels."

2. That God is willing all should be saved appears from the frequent
declarations of scripture, that Christ died for all--Who gave
himself a ransom _for all_, to be testified in due time--We see Jesus
who was made a little lower than the angels, that he, by the grace of
God, should taste death _for every man_. The love of Christ
constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one _died for all_,
then were all dead; and that he _died for all_, that they who live
should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for
them, and rose again.

3. The same appears in the offers made _to all_. When after his
resurrection Christ sent forth his apostles to effect his gracious
purposes, both his orders and promises were indefinite--"Go ye into
all the world and preach the gospel _to every creature_. He that
believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not
shall be damned."

Had salvation been provided for only a part of mankind, and the Savior
been unwilling the residue should be saved, he would not have given
charge to his ministers to tender salvation _to all--to every
creature_, and declared that whoever came up to the specified
conditions, should be saved.

Nothing false or insincere can be predicted of God our Savior. His
words are truth. His offers and proposals are fair and open. That
which appears the most obvious meaning of them is their meaning. And
surely the offers of salvation appear to be made to all who hear the
sound of the gospel; and they are invited and urged to accept them.
They were so by Christ. "In the last day, that great day of the
feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come
unto me and drink." * And they were so by his apostles when sent into
all the earth to spread the gospel among the nations, and call them to
come to Christ for life.

* John vii. 37.

4. The same thing appears from the suitableness of the provision
which is made for the salvation of sinners, to the circumstances of
all men.

Man needed an atonement, and he needed assistance, and both are
provided in Christ. Of the former we have spoken, and there is no need
to add. Man's weakness is such that he is unable of himself to
conquer either spiritual enemies without, or his own corruptions
within. Through Christ needed aid is offered to him; he is invited to
the throne of grace, and assured that he shall not seek in vain,
but "obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Ask, and it
shall be given you; seek and ye shall find--If ye being evil know how
to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly
father give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" Though mankind have
rebelled against God, he is more ready to hear their cries, and give
his spirit to sanctify and save them, than the most affectionate
earthly parent to shew kindness to his child.

The gospel is designed as a remedy for human weakness, equally as for
human guile. It is every way adapted to the circumstances of the
creatures to whom it offers salvation. It is a fair tender of pardon
and peace, of life and happiness to all who hear its joyful sound; it
not only opens these blessings to their view, but brings them within
their reach.

5. The divine benevolence is farther evident from the
exercise of forbearance towards ingrates, who neglect and slight
offered salvation. God doth not soon enter into judgment with them,
but waits with much long suffering; repeats his calls and warnings;
urges sinners in various ways, and by various means, to turn and live;
inwardly by the strivings of his Spirit, and warnings of conscience;
outwardly by his word; his providence, and the voice of those whom he
sends "to warn the wicked from their way, and beseech them in Christ's
stead to be reconciled to God."

The reason of all these applications to sinful man, is that mentioned
by St. Peter--"The Lord is long suffering to us ward, not willing that
any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."

II. We _are to consider some abuses of the revelation of divine
goodness which is made to mankind_.

There is no gift of God which depravity may not abuse. The belief
of the divine perfections, especially of the divine mercy and benignity
is often made the occasion of sin. Those whose "hearts are turned
away from the Lord, when they hear the words of the curse, are wont to
bless themselves in their hearts, saying, we shall have peace, though
we walk in the imagination of our hearts, to add drunkenness to
thirst." When called to repentance, they banish fear and lull
themselves into security, with the revelation of divine grace and
mercy which they find in the scriptures; making that a favor of death,
which was ordained to be unto life--"With the Lord there is mercy;
with him there is plenteous redemption; with him there is
forgiveness;" not that he should be feared, but that his fear should
be cast off, and his terror not make men afraid to sin--"God hath no
pleasure in the death of sinners--judgment is his strange Work--he
will not enter into judgment--will not destroy the work of his hands."
Thus mercy is made to absorb the other divine attributes, and sinners
emboldened in wickedness. By such considerations they make themselves
vile without concern. Some become so hardened and unfeeling, that the
approach of death doth not alarm them. By an habitual course of
wickedness, their consciences are rendered callous, and they are
insensible both to fear and shame, and continue so till death puts a
period to probation, and seals them up for eternity!

These consequences are not apprehended at the entrance on a vicious
course. The young sinner designs only to take some youthful liberties,
and not to stray very far away, or long to deviate from the path of
duty; but the farther he goes in the wrong, the stronger are his
attachments to the pleasures of sin--the less his concern--the weaker
and more defiant his purposes of amendment. He never finds the more
convenient reason, which he promised himself at setting out in the way
of wickedness; yea, the farther he proceeds in it, the greater is the
difficulty of retracing his steps, and turning back from his
wandering. Many who thus turn aside from the path of truth, probably
settle into a state of security, and continue in it, till they have
time no longer.

Was man grateful, divine goodness would lead him to repentance; but
under the influence of depravity, it hath a different effect--is made
the occasion of more ungodliness! What baseness! "Sin because grace
abounds! Whose damnation is just! How can such escape? The wrath of
God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and
ungodliness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness."

For sins of ignorance, and those into which men were surprized by
unexpected temptations, sacrifices were ordered in the law, and
pardon, on certain conditions, promised: But it was not promised
presumptuous sinners. To them the law spake nothing but terror. "The
soul that doth ought presumptuously--the same reproacheth the Lord;
and that soul shall be cut off from his people. Because he hath
despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken his commandment, that
soul shall be utterly cutoff; his iniquity shall be upon him." *

* Numbers xv. 30, 31.

The person who lives in all good conscience, may hope in the divine
mercy for the pardon of involuntary errors: But with what face can the
willful offender ask mercy of God? No plea which is not affrontive can
he make before him--"Shall I not visit for these things, saith the
Lord: And shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?"

That awful threatening, or prophetic denunciation, "The Lord will not
spare him; but the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke
against that man, and all the curses written in this book [the law]
shall lie upon him," regards willful sinners, flattering themselves
with expectation of divine favor. *

* Deuteronomy xxix. 20.

When St. Paul would magnify the riches of divine grace in the
salvation of the chief of sinners, he exemplifies it in himself--"Who
before was a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious--Howbeit for
this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew
forth all long suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter
believe on him to life everlasting." But he subjoins an alarming hint
that those who sin wilfully, have no reason to express like mercy from
God. "But I obtained mercy _because_ I did it ignorantly in unbelief."
That no mercy would have been shewn him had he done those things
presumptuously, is here intimated with sufficient plainness. This
deserves the attention of those who sin presuming on divine mercy.
Surely they cannot reasonably expect mercy from him "who is no
respecter of persons," if Paul "obtained it _because he did those
things ignorantly in unbelief_." If this is duly considered, Will not
presumptuous sinners believe and tremble? Will they not perceive their
hopes to be vain?

2. Another abuse of the revelation of divine mercy is the universal
scheme which is built upon it. The text and similar passages of
scripture are alleged as evidence that none can be lost.

To help the argument, it is said--"To be influenced to obedience by
fear is low and mercenary; and God would not urge men to duty by so
unworthy a principle."

But was not fear of punishment used as a guard to innocence while man
remained upright? "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely
die." Had the influence of fear, operating to duty, been wrong, God
would not have urged it as a motive to obedience. "Let no man say
when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: For God cannot be tempted
with evil, neither tempteth he any man." If God useth this as an
argument to excite to duty, it must be a proper argument. That it is
thus used in all his word, admits no dispute. Every teacher whom God
hath sent to teach the way of life, and persuade men to walk in it,
hath used it. The divine teacher is not to be excepted--"Fear him who
is able to destroy soul and body in hell, yea, I say unto you, fear
him." And when he delineates the process at the great day, after
declaring that the righteous and the wicked will be separated from
each other, the whole is closed with that solemn declaration--"These
shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life
eternal."

To be influenced by promises is no less mercenary than being driven by
terror. And this is also proposed as an incitement to obedience. "God
hath given us exceeding great and precious promises, that by them we
should become partakers of a divine nature."

Every inspired teacher hath called men to repentance in the same
manner, and urged it by the same arguments. Proof is needless. To
pretend that application is not made, by divine order, to the hopes
and fears of mankind, is trifling--Yea to pretend that they are not
urged by the dread of eternal punishment, is to deny the most obvious
truth.

And is there no cause for his fear? Doth God frighten men with vain
terrors? Doth he threaten evils which can never come?

Or if this argument was necessary to be used with man before be fell,
is it needless since he hath fallen?

But _God our Savior will have all men to saved_; and shall not that
which he wills be effected? Can any thing contrary to his pleasure
take place?

Much doth take place in this world, which, is not pleasing to God;
which he doth not will, or approve. This may be predicated generally
of sin. "Sin is the abominable thing which he hates.--He is angry
with the wicked every day." Would he be angry, if all which is done
was pleasing in his sight?

God is holy. Sin is opposition to his nature, forbidden by his law,
and declared to be his abhorrence. To suppose that he should hate and
forbid sin, yet approve of it and be pleased with it, is absurdity and
folly.

God permits sin; but neither wills nor approves it. "Christ pleased
not himself." * Much is permitted under his administration, which he
doth not order, but forbids and abhors. Yea, God orders some things,
as moral governor (in consequence of other things done contrary to his
directions) which are not pleasing to him, considered in themselves.
"He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men"--But
finds it necessary to afflict. Grief and sorrow are known under the
divine administration, and ordered out to mortals by providential
dispensation. But these natural evils are always in consequence of
moral evil, which is not the effect of divine influence, but ariseth
from another source and hath another author. It ariseth from the abuse
of powers which were given for better purposes. Where sin hath gone
before, sorrows follow after; but they are not pleasing to the Supreme
Governor.

* Rom. xv. 3.

The wickedness of the old world occasioned the deluge; but it is
impossible to read the Mosaic account of those events, and suspect
that they were pleasing to Deity.

We may make the same remark respecting the declensions of Israel and
Judah and the judgments which followed. "O thou son of man, speak
unto the house of Israel, Thus ye speak, saying, if our transgressions
and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then
live? Say unto them, as I live saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure
in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and
live; turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways; for why will ye die, 0
house of Israel?" * By another prophet we find God mourning over them
--"How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee,
Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah, and set thee as Zeboim? Mine
heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together."

* Ezekial xxxiii. 10.

That people continued in their sins and perished in them: But will
any who read these messages, sent them of God, conceive their crimes,
and the desolations which followed, when they had filled up the
measure of their iniquity, to be pleasing to God, or the effect of
divine order and influence?

Will those who read our Savior's lamentations over Jerusalem, and the
destruction soon after brought upon that city and nation, because
"they did not know the time of their visitation," consider those
events as pleasing to him? His predictions were verified--"their
enemies cast a trench about them, compassed them round and kept them
in on every side--laid their city even with the ground, and her
children within her; not leaving one stone upon another--Zion was
ploughed like a field"--vast numbers perished in the siege--many were
crucified after the city was taken--the residue scattered among all
nations, and the sword drawn out after them! The compassionate
Redeemer called those sinners to repentance--warned them of the evils
which they would bring on themselves, by refusing the grace which
he offered them, and wept over them when filling up the measure of
their guilt! But when they had been tried the appointed time, and
continued obstinate, till the divine patience was exhausted, he
entered into judgment with them and gave them according to their
works.

Similar will be the event of persevering obstinacy in others. Man is
placed here for trial--endowed with powers sufficient to render him a
probationer; which implies capacity to use, or abuse his powers. The
abuse is sin. The way of duty is made known, needed assistance
conferred, the reasonableness of obedience shewn, and the injunction,
"occupy; till I come," subjoined, but no compulsion is used. Thus
circumstanced, it is referred to man to choose for himself.

God operates indeed on man; but only as on a free moral agent. Divine
influences coincide with human liberty. Those who are willing and
obedient find mercy. Over such the Savior rejoices, and their faith
and love are rewarded with the rewards of grace. But those who neglect
so great salvation, are left to perish in their sins.

That God can confidently do other than leave them to perish, is to us
unknown. It may be impossible to renew them by repentance--beyond the
power of Omnipotence to save them!

The conditions of salvation are fixed: No change can be made in them.
"The impenitent heart treasureth up wrath. He that believeth not
shall be damned. If we do not believe, yet God abideth faithful; he
cannot deny himself." The terms of acceptance with God are laid before
us; the event depends on the choice we make. SUCH we conceive to be
man's situation here: Such the ground of the applications made to him
in the gospel, and the promises and threatening annexed to the
proposals therein contained. On another, supposition do they appear
rational. On no other can we account for our Savior's declaration that
Sodom, had she enjoyed Capernaum's advantages, would have remained
till his day. *

* Matthew xi. 23.

Divine benevolence is great; but it will not secure salvation to
gospel despisers: They "will wonder and perish." As the first
covenant had conditions annexed to it, so hath the new covenant. To
pretend that there are none--that man hath no concern to secure the
divine favor, is to charge folly on God, in all the overtures which
are made to man in the gospel.

Life and death are now set before us. We may be saved, or we may
perish. Which will be our portion depends on the effect which the
proposals of grace have upon us. Today if ye will hear God's voice
harden not your hearts. Behold now is the accepted time; behold now is
the day of salvation. Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest
not what a day may bring forth. Beware lest you * destroy a soul for
which Christ died; and lest you have occasion at last to take up that
lamentation--"The harvest is past, the summer is ended and we are not
saved."

* Romans xiv. 15.



 * * * * * *



SERMON XVIII.

Balak's inquiries relative to the service of God, and Balaam's answer,
briefly considered.

Micah vi. 6, 7, 8.

"Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the
high God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of
a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with, thousands of rams, or with
ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first born for my
transgression; the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?--He hath
shewed thee, 0 man, what is good: And what doth the Lord require of
thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy
God?"


As mankind are endowed with reason, and profess to be governed by it,
their revolts from God are practical criminations of him: Therefore
his expostulations with his people of old, when they forsook him and
followed other gods--"What iniquity have your fathers found in me? O
my people what have I done unto thee? And wherein have I wearied thee?
Testify against me." *

* Jeremiah ii. 5. Micah vi. 3.

Israel as a people were going away from God, and he condescended to
reason with them, and show them their ingratitude and baseness. To
this end, he reminded them of his past care of them, and kindness to
them, as a nation, from the time of their deliverance from bondage in
Egypt--"I brought thee out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee
from the house of servants"--After just glancing at that deliverance,
he passes over the wonders wrought for them at the red sea, and in the
wilderness, and their numerous rebellions, while he was leading them
as a flock, and supplying their wants by a series of miracles, and
enlarges on an event which took place on the borders of Canaan, the
attempts made by Balak, the king of Moab, to prevail with him to leave
his people and go over to him, and help him against them, and his
faithfulness to Israel on that occasion--"O my people, remember now
what Balak, king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam, the son of Beor
answered him from Shittim to Gilgal; that ye may know the
righteousness of the Lord." *

* Numbers xxii. &c.

 Balak's consultations, or inquiries, are contained in the two last
verses of our text: Balaam's answer in the third. In Balak's inquiries
we see the ideas which he entertained of God, and of the service which
he supposed would be acceptable to Him, and engage, him to forsake his
people, and deliver him from his fears on their account. Balaam's
answer corrects Balak's mistakes, and discovers surprizingly just
apprehensions of the true God, and true religion, though
depravity prevailed, and caused him to counteract his convictions, by
advising Balak to measures directly opposed to his sense of duty.

To open and explain this subject is the design of the following
discourse.

It may be proper to premise that Israel did not make war either on
Moab or Ammon. Those nations were descended from Lot, and Moses was
forbidden to molest them in possession of the lands which God had
given them. Moab might have had peace, and the friendship of Israel,
but refused it, and joined the confederacy against them. When the
tribes of Israel reached the borders of Moab, which lay in their way
to Canaan, Balak and his people were intimidated by their numbers, and
by their martial appearance. They did not therefore, sue for peace,
but resolved to neglect no measures to subdue and conquer them.

It was an ancient custom among the heathen at their entrance on a war,
to devote the enemy to destruction, and solicit their gods to forsake
them. Balak thought this a matter of importance before he entered into
a war with Israel. This ceremony was commonly performed by the
priests, or ministers of religion. How this had been to Moab we are
not informed; but on occasion before us, the affrighted sovereign of
that people, sent to some distance for Balaam, a famous soothsayer or
diviner, of whose prevalence with the powers above he had a high
opinion, to be the agent in this business.

Balaam was really a remarkable person; few more so occur in history.
Few others had more knowledge of the true God, or juster ideas of the
service which he requires of mankind. But his character will be
developed in the sequel.

This renowned soothsayer refused at first to listen to the invitation
of the king of Moab, assigning a sufficient reason for his refusal
--"The Lord refuseth to give me leave"--but when a second embassy
arrived, more numerous and move honorable, and with the proffer of
great honors and rewards, his ambition and covetousness were inflamed,
and he resolved from that moment to secure them. The first seems to
have been only a common embassy, and to have carried only the usual
rewards of divination. We know what followed. Balaam sinned in asking
a second time for liberty to go and curse Israel, when God had once
refused him, and told him that they were blessed. He asked, however,
and was in judgment permitted to go, but only to act agreeably to
divine direction which would be given on the spot; but he went,
determined to secure the wages of unrighteousness. Seeing his design,
God met him in the way, and by a strange and miraculous communication
and warning, made him afraid to curse his people, and even compelled
him to bless them altogether. But to come to our subject,

I. We are to consider Balak's inquiries.--_Wherewith shall I come
before the Lord_?

Balak had so deep a sense of the danger which threatened him, that he
was ready to bring the most costly sacrifices, if they would avail to
render propitious the God who had wrought such wonders in Egypt and in
the wilderness for the salvation of his people. He would offer all the
cattle, and all the oil of his kingdom, _thousands of ram, and ten
thousands of rivers of oil_! Yea, he would even offer his _first
born_, the heir of his crown! Would not refute the dearest of his
offspring to atone for his sin, and bring over the God of Israel to be
his God, in the time of his distress!

Such were his proposals. We may observe in them several mistakes
respecting the service of God, or the homage which is acceptable to
him; mistakes not uncommon among men. As,

First a supposition that sins may be atoned and mankind allowed to
continue in them, if they will come up to the price. The country of
Moab abounded with flocks, particularly with sheep; * it abounded also
with oil; and Balak supposed that the divine favor might be obtained
by sacrifices of this kind--by a profusion of them--_thousands of
ram, and ten thousands of rivers of oil_. He knew himself a sinner--he
knew that he had taken part against the God of Israel; had served
other gods, who were his rivals. But now he saw his need of the divine
favor and he wished to purchase it--at any price, to purchase it. He
was ready to pay for his sins; only waited to know the price, and he
would make the payment!

* 2 Kings iii. 4.

Not a word do we hear of his parting with his sins and returning back
by repentance.

Few left to the light of nature seem to have conceived the necessity
of repentance, in order to obtain the divine favor. For their sins,
they must somehow, make atonement, and they would then be forgiven,
though they continued to commit them! Mankind have entertained
different ideas of what was necessary to make atonement. The more
common idea hath been, that it was to be done by sacrifice; however
they came by that idea. It probably derived by tradition from the
first family of our race. But there seems to have been a general
mistake respecting the design of sacrifice. By those devoid of
revelation, it hath not been considered as pointing to a divine
sacrifice, but as having in _itself_ an atoning virtue. So it seems to
have been viewed by this Moabitish prince.

Another mistake respecting sacrifices, which hath been common in the
world, is this--That their value depends on their cost to the offerer.
This was a mistake of Balak. If common offerings, and the usual number
of victims would not procure the divine favor and atone for his sins,
he would offer more, and more costly ones--_thousands of rams, and ten
thousands of rivers of oil_! Such a profusion of sacrifices, of the
same kind, or partly so, with those offered by Israel, so many more
they were able, coming out of the wilderness, to offer, he hoped would
prevail to detach from them their God, and buy him so to be his
friend!

But if not, if these were too little, he would sacrifice his
offspring! _Give his first born for his transgression--the fruit of
his body for the sin of his soul_! A sacrifice much more costly, much
more painful, than that of all earthly treasure! Surely such an
offering must prevail!

Similar conclusions have not been very uncommon! The homage offered up
to God hath been estimated by its cost to the offerer! A circumstance
which adds nothing to its value. The value of what is done for God
depends on its conformity to his orders. That its cost to the offerer
enhances its value, in the divine estimation, supposes him to be
pleased with the sufferings of his creatures, and delighted with their
sorrows, than which, nothing is farther from truth. "God grieveth not
willingly--Judgment is his strange work." Were it otherwise, the more
reluctant the offerer, the more acceptable would be the offering: But
God loves a cheerful giver; yea, he is so pleased with this
disposition, that he accepts and rewards it, where ability is wanting
to carry it into action. "If there be first a willing mind, it is
accepted." *

* 2 Corinthians viii. 12.

The sacrifices of old derived all their value from the sacrifice of
Christ, to which they pointed. God had determined, when and how they
would be offered. Additions to the number, or cost, added nothing to
their value, but had a contrary effect, spoiled and rendered them
unavailing. Human victims, the most costly, and therefore supposed by
the heathen, to be the most efficacious, were so far from having power
with God to draw down his blessing, that they most certainly drew his
curse on all who offered them. This was one of the sins of the
Canaanites, which above all others, availed to bring the divine
judgments upon them. And when Israel fell into the same sin, it
kindled the wrath of God against them to their destruction. This was
the sin of Manasseh, "which God would not pardon."

Balak first proposed other sacrifices--a profusion of them; but if
they were not sufficient to atone for his sins and procure the
friendship of Jehovah, seems to have thought that the sacrifice of his
first born must avail!

Such were his blunders respecting the nature of that religion which
would render him acceptable to the true God. He seems not once to have
thought of repentance; or if he did, he made no offer of it--did not
once propose "crucifying the flesh with its affections and lusts." He
chose rather to sacrifice all the treasures of his kingdom, and all
the members of his family, than part with his sins and become holy in
heart and life.

Such is the temper of depravity. The servants of sin are sooner
persuaded to make any other sacrifice than that of their lusts and
corruptions. And many foolishly flatter themselves that other
sacrifices will avail to procure the divine favor--that holiness of
heart and life are not indispensibly requisite, but that something
beside may be substituted in its stead. Countless examples of this
folly meet us in history, and even in the history only catholic church
of Christ!

Thus did Balak mistake the nature of true religion, and consider it as
consisting in that which was foreign, yea, repugnant to its nature.
Such were his proposals which he spread before Balaam, and of which he
required his opinion. Let us hear then the answer of the Sage.

Balaam was better instructed: He appears to have understood the nature
of true religion, and clearly points it out to Balak, though he
neglected himself to conform to it. _He hath shewed thee, 0 man, what
is good: And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and
to love mercy, and to walk humbly, with thy God_?

There is scarcely a better definition of true religion to be found in
the bible.

He _hath shewed thee, 0 man, what is good_.--From Balak's inquiry we
should be ready to conclude that he was ignorant of God and religion
--that he supposed that God preferred sacrifice to justice and mercy
--that sacrifice would supply their place and render them of no
account. Balaam tells him that he had been better instructed;
though we know not where, or how. _He hath shewed thee, what is good_;
and he appeals to Balak whether this was not the case--_What doth the
Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy_, &c.

To _do justly_--There is no true religion where justice is not
received as a foundation principle. "I the Lord love judgment; I hate
robbery for burnt offerings; and I will direct their work in truth." *
Fraudulent people may pretend to religion; may make many and long
prayer, but their religion is of no avail; their sacrifices are an
abomination. + Witness the scribes and pharisees, who received
the greater damnation.

* Isaiah l xi. 8. + Isaiah i. 10. &c.

The next characteristic trait here given of the good man, is the love
of mercy. _What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly and to
love mercy_?

There is something particularly to be observed in the language here
used--_love mercy_.--It may not be in every one's power to shew mercy;
but every man may, and every good man does _love mercy_. To "feed the
hungry and clothe the naked," are acts of mercy, but not in the power
of all men. Some are, themselves wholly dependent on the mercy of
others for their own support.

Justice often restrains and sets bounds to the exercise of mercy. The
judge may be grieved for the malefactor, and wish that he could shew
mercy to him, but find himself obliged to condemn him and suffer
justice to take its course. The debts which a person hath contracted
may require all his goods, or all his necessities do not require. In
such cases he is under obligation to shut the hand of charity, even
against the proper objects of it. We have no right to defraud some,
that we may shew mercy to others. Justice is a prior duty. We are tied
up to the discharge of it--are bound to _do justly_; whereas it is
only required that we _love mercy_. The love of mercy will dispose us
to shew mercy, where we have ability to do it without violating
justice. Yea, it will cause us to do it with pleasure, rendering us
like God, who "delights in mercy."

Acts of mercy may proceed from other principles beside the love of
mercy, but these do not answer to the divine requirement. In the view
of him who sees the heart they are not characteristic of renovation,
or a heart right with God.

The third particular here mentioned as constituting the finishing part
of the good man's character, is humility--_that he walks humbly with,
his God_--that he is sensible of his imperfection, and of his need of
mercy from God. This always makes a part of the good man's character.

The good man, while he is just to all, and while kind and benevolent,
and disposed to do good to all, as he hath opportunity and ability,
retains a sense of his defects, of his remaining depravity--that he
but too often deviates from his own principles--that in every thing he
comes short of his duty. Therefore doth he confess himself "an
unprofitable servant"--that he lays God under no obligation--yea, that
he lives on mercy--that all the good things which he receives, are
unmerited, the gifts of divine grace--that was mercy denied him,
and "the reward of his hands given to him, it would be ill with him"
--he should be undone forever.

Such is the character drawn by the Eastern soothsayer in the last
verse of our text: And it is the perfect character of a child of God,
in this state of imperfection, trial, and improvement, where he is
pressing on towards that perfection which he never attains till he
"puts off the body, and is clothed on with his house which is from
heaven." Then "the spirits of just men are made perfect," and not
till then.

"The spirits of just men"--The words are expressive, plainly implying
that none who allow themselves in injustice are the children of God
--that all the saints will eventually be found, to be "Israelites
indeed in whom there is no guile."

Thus did Balaam instruct Balak, or remind him of what God required.
Balak did not regard him. He could not be persuaded to make such
sacrifices as these. He would give all the treasures of his kingdom,
and even the fruit of his body, to procure the favor of God; but to
sacrifice his corruptions, and put on the temper of a saint!--These
were hard requirements--he must be excused! Therefore did he dismiss
his instructor, who hitherto had "spoken only the word which God had
put into his mouth"--and went away though he went sorrowing!

The same is the temper of too many others. We may do much which God
requires, may even go beyond and do much which he doth not require,
and yet be nothing in religion. There must be the spirit and temper of
true religion. There can be no commutation--Nothing will be accepted
as a substitute. _We must do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with
our God_, or have no part in him. Nothing without it will be accepted;
not even "giving the body to be burned."

People may also have a good speculative acquaintance with religion and
yet remain devoid of it. Such cases sometimes occur. Such an one
occurred in him who spake so well in our text. Balaam appears to have
had a perfect knowledge of the nature of religion; to have understood
what it was and wherein it consisted. He was sensible also of the
importance of being found at last to have lived under the influence of
it. Therefore when looking forward to the period of his dissolution
did he utter that earnest wish or prayer--"Let me die the death of
the righteous, and let my last end be like his." Yet he was not a good
man! his knowledge resided in his head: It never reached his heart.
"He loved the wages of unrighteousness;" lived and died under the
government of depravity and wickedness! He dared not indeed to go in
direct opposition to the letter of the divine command--dared not curse
Israel with his lips, though he longed to do it, and wished the curse
to fall upon them, while he was blessing them and forefilling their
future greatness. But he dared privately to advise Balak "to cast a
stumbling block before them"--To send among them the women of Moab,
and seduce them to uncleanness and idolatry, in order to bring the
curse of heaven upon them! His advice was followed and partly
succeeded! Not to procure a victory for Moab, but to bring the
judgments of God upon Israel; twenty four thousands of whom fell by
the pestilence which was sent to punish "their sin the matter of
Peor." And more tragical events would probably have followed, had not
Phinebas stood up and executed vengeance on some of the principal
offenders, and thus turned away the anger of the Lord from his
offending people.*

* Numbers xv. and xxi. 16.

* * * * *

Who can contemplate these things without astonishment! Who consider
the character and conduct of Balaam and not be amazed! That a man so
instructed respecting the divine character, the nature of religion,
and the consequences which will follow human conduct here, should dare
to set himself deliberately to evade the divine law, as wicked and
artful men do human laws, surprises and confounds us! Yet so it
certainly was in the case before us!

We are not left ignorant of the consequences: To him the "end of
those things was death," eternal death, for he died in rebellion
against God. And he seems to have anticipated the event; when speaking
of the divine being, the true God and Redeemer, he breaks out into
that language--"I shall see him, but not now; I shall behold him, but
not nigh."

We can form no judgment of a person's moral state by his speculative
knowledge of God and religion. Knowledge in divine things is
important; on many accounts it is so; but it does not ensure goodness
of heart, without which we cannot be saved; we may have "all
knowledge," yet perish in our sins. So it happened to Balaam, and
probably to others beside him. "If ye know these things happy are
ye, _if ye do them_."

But we are chiefly concerned at home--to know our own state. _Do we do
justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God_? If these are found
upon us, happy are we; but if any of them are habitually wanting to
us, we "are yet in our sins, and the wrath of God abideth on us."

If any are disposed to inquire with Balak, _Wherewith shall I come
before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God_? Let them attend
to the answer given by Balaam--if we add, reliance on divine grace in
Christ no better answer can be given.

How far those of old were let into the gospel way of salvation we know
not. Balaam expressed the temper of a child of God. Whoever possessed
that temper relied on divine mercy, while endeavoring to fulfil all
righteousness. Such would refer themselves to divine grace; and surely
God would not be wanting to them. He might lead them by a way which
they understood not; "but would bring them to their desired haven,
and unto God their exceeding joy. Their labor would not be in vain in
the Lord."

Dependence on divine mercy is still our duty. Though favored with
gospel light, many things are yet hidden from us. Let us therefore do
justly love mercy, and walk humbly with God, and he will guide us
through the darkness, and bring us through to the rest which he hath
prepared for those who love and serve, and trust him here. For these
there is no commutation. Knowledge the most perfect; faith the most
miraculous; and sacrifices the most costly, would all be of no avail.
God hath shewn us what is good, and what he requires. May we hear and
obey. Amen.



 * * * * * *



SERMON XIX.

Confessing Christ an indispensable Duty.

2 Timothy ii, 12.

"--If we deny him, he also will deny us."


This is predicated of Christ; and looks forward to the day when all
mankind will stand before him as their judge.

Denying Christ is here declared to be a mortal sin. Those found guilty
of it will hear that sentence--"Depart ye cursed!" But this is to be
understood only of a persevering denial of him. Those who turn by a
timely repentance, will find mercy. This is true of every sin. But
repentance may be too late. It must antecede death, or it will be of
no avail. The day of grace terminates with life. From that period man
ceases to be a probationer, and his state is unalterably fixed.

When the offers of pardon and peace are sent abroad, some will not
hear. Who will receive, and who reject the grace of life, is to us
unknown. Our expectations are often disappointed. Some come to Christ
of whom we had little hope; others cannot be persuaded, of whom our
hopes were strong. We have only to "preach Christ; warning every man,
and teaching every man," and must leave the event.

Some live where the sound of gospel grace is not heard. "We" are made
to differ from them. "To us is the word of this salvation sent."
But this doth not secure salvation to us. We must hear and obey. "If
we neglect so great salvation, we shall not escape."

Among the indispensable requirements of the gospel, is that of
confessing Christ, Himself hath determined it. "Whosoever shall
confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father which is in
heaven; but whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I deny before
my Father which is in heaven." *

* Matthew x. 32.

Whether the apostle had this declaration of our Savior's in his eye;
or it was revealed to him by the holy Spirit, we are not informed; but
his language in the text is express to the same purpose--_If we deny
him, he also will deny us_.

These declarations have a particular reference to the duty of
appearing openly to be Christ's disciples; especially in times of
persecution, when Christian's are exposed to sufferings and death for
his sake. Even in such times, confessing Christ is a condition of
being confessed by him. If we think this a hard requirement, and
refuse compliance, we shall have no part in him.

What are we then to understand _by confessing and denying Christ_.

Considering one of these may suffice. The text regards the latter. To
this we will therefore turn our attention.

Christ _may be denied in words; or in works; or by a perversion of the
gospel, causing it to become another gospel_. We will treat of each
briefly.

I. Christ may be denied in words.

As "with the mouth confession is made to salvation," so with the
mouth we may "deny the Lord who bought us." This is done by those who
deny that Jesus is the Christ; Thus he was denied by the Jews, among
whom he was born, and passed the days of his earthly residence.

That people had many peculiar advantages for knowing Christ, and many
special evidences of his truth. "To them were committed the oracles
of God." They had the prophets who testified of Christ. To them did he
appeal, and by them call on the Jews to try his claims to the
Messiasship--"Search the scriptures; they are they which testify of
me." That people also witnessed his miracles, "which were such as no
man could do except God were with him." They witnessed the wonders
which attended his birth--those which attended, and followed his
death--many of that nation, who had seen his crucifixion, and the
soldier's spear pierce his heart while he hung on the cross, saw him
alive after his passion; and a sufficient number, mostly, if not
wholly Jews, witnessed his ascension. Yet as a people they rejected
him, and continued in unbelief! Not only denied him before Pilate, but
notwithstanding the teaching and miracles of the apostles, persevered
in their denial of him, and perished in it! This was foretold. Christ
warned them of the event of their infidelity--"If ye believe not that
I am he, ye shall perish in your sins." But they would not hear.

By the Gentiles the gospel was more kindly received. Though devoid of
that knowledge of God and true religion which might have prepared them
for the reception of it, when they witnessed the mighty works, wrought
by those who preached it, they believed. Miracles are appeals to the
senses of mankind. And when those who had worshipped dumb idols,
beheld the wonders wrought by the ministers of Christ, they perceived
that they were sent of God, and became obedient to the faith. Then did
"many come from the east and west, and set down in the kingdom of
God; while the children of the kingdom were call out." Christianity
spread abroad. "The heathen were given to the Son for an inheritance,
and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession." For several
ages, most who were educated in Christian lands, and blessed with
revelation, professed to believe the gospel. But in later ages there
hath been a falling away, agreeably to the predictions which went
before, and many deny the truth of the gospel, and reject it as
fabulous.

II. Christ may be denied in works. He is so by some who in words
confess him.

Those who enroll themselves among Christ's disciples, thereby engage
to be his followers. This is enjoined and made a term of acceptance.
"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his
cross and follow me--whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after
me, cannot be my disciple."

To follow Christ is to cultivate his temper, and tread in his steps.
"Christ was meek and lowly in heart." He did God's commandments. It
was "his meat to do the will of him that sent him." Those who are his
disciples have learnt of him. The same mind is in them, which is in
him. When this divine temper is wrought into the soul, it appears in
the life. Those who have his spirit, walk as he walked.

Some call themselves Christians, who do not follow Christ. But he doth
not acknowledge them to be his. He ranks them among those who deny
him, "Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and done: the things which I say?
Then are ye my friends, when ye do all things, whatsoever I have
commanded you."

Christ's name is blasphemed, when those who call themselves
after him live in allowed wickedness. Sore are the wounds which he
hath received in the house of his friends. No other have been so deep
and deadly.

But those who while they call themselves Christ's friends, live like
the wicked world, discover their hypocrisy--that they are not of
Christ's flock--"His flock hear his voice and follow him." Others
may creep in unawares, but they are not of his fold. The apostle
speaks of these false professors in his epistle to Titus. * "They
profess that they know God, but in works they deny him, being
abominable and disobedient, and unto every good works reprobate." +

* Titus i. 16. + Titus i. 16.

Others deny Christ by refusing to confess him: "For the refusal is in
works to deny him."

Under the former dispensation certain duties were enjoined as tokens
of subjection to the divine Sovereign. To neglect them, was considered
as breaking the covenant of God. "And God said to Abram, thou shalt
keep my covenant, thou and thy seed after thee. This is my covenant
which ye shall keep between me and you, and thy seed after thee: Every
man child among you shall be circumcised. The uncircumcised man child
shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant." ++ An
attendance on the passover was enjoined under the same penalty. The
person who should neglect it, was ordered to be cut off from Israel.
Every rite and ceremony enjoined in the law was obligatory. To neglect
them was to set up the standard of rebellion against God--deny his
sovereignty--his right to give law. Those who persevered in neglect,
after warnings, were no more to be considered as his people.

++ Genesis xvii. 9-14.

Under the gospel dispensation, duties of like import are enjoined, and
under the same penalty. The tokens of belonging to Christ are
commanded. To neglect them is to reject the Savior, and forfeit
the benefits of an interest in him. Among these an open profession of
faith in Christ, is one of the chief. So it was considered by the
apostles, and primitive Christians. They dared not neglect it when it
cost every worldly comfort, and even life. Neither was it a groundless
fear which excited them to so costly a duty. Their Lord, had expressly
declared, that "whoever should be ashamed of him, before an evil and
adulterous generation, he would be ashamed of them before his Father,
and before his angels."

If we attend to our context we shall see that the apostle has here a
special reference to denying Christ in this way--"Remember that Jesus
Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead, according to
my gospel: Wherein I suffer trouble as an evil doer, even unto bonds;
but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for
the elect's sake, that they may obtain salvation, which is in Christ
Jesus, with eternal glory. It is a faithful saying, for if we be dead
with him, we shall also live with him: If we differ, we shall also
reign with him: _If we deny him, he also will deny us_: If we believe
not; yet he abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself."

The apostle persevered though he suffered the loss of all things, and
incurred every indignity and sorrow; and even when he foresaw the loss
of life, in consequence of adhering to the Christian cause and
continuing to preach the gospel. When some who were concerned for
him, would have dissuaded him from adventuring among the enemies of
Christianity, especially as his dangers and sufferings among them,
were foretold by a prophet, he refused their counsel and adhered to
his purpose, though tenderly affected with their concern for him.
"What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? For I am ready not only
to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord
Jesus," and when his last conflict approached, apprized of what was
before him, he advanced without dismay--"I am now ready to be offered
and the time of my departure is at hand."

St. Paul might have avoided all the evils which he endured because he
belonged to Christ, by only practically denying him: But he dared not
deny him. He knew the consequences which would follow the part he
acted. "If we suffer we shall also reign with him; _if we deny him, he
also will deny us_. Having respect to the recompence of reward," he
pressed on, exulting in the prospect before him--"I have fought a
good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which
the Lord the righteous Judge, shall give me in that day."

If to neglect professing Christ, when it exposed to such sufferings
was considered as denying him, and incurred the forfeiture of an
interest in him, will it now be dispensed with? No, when it exposeth
to no suffering, or loss? When it both became the most cheap and easy
of all duties?

Are the terms of acceptance with God in Christ changed? Are
they not the same as formerly? Doubtless they are essentially the
same. "There is no respect of persons with God." If to neglect the
badges of discipleship was formerly to deny Christ, it is still to
deny him. _If we deny him, he also will deny us_.

III. Christ may be denied by a perversion of the gospel, causing it to
become another gospel.

Some of this description were found in the primitive church. Such were
those who made Christ the minister of sin--who considered the design
of his coming, not to be "to destroy the works of the devil," but to
render it safe to live in sin and indulge depravity. Such were those
who held the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes; and the doctrine of Balaam,
which were probably nearly akin, giving countenance to uncleanliness.
Such were also those pretendedly enlightened persons, who claimed
knowledge in divine things, superior to that of the apostles, and
taught that chastity, and temperance, and sundry other duties enjoined
of God, were not obligatory on believers. These are described by St.
Peter and Jude, as enemies of Christ.

In later ages the gospel hath not been less corrupted, by some, who
have called themselves Christians. It hath become in their hands,
another gospel.

It maybe difficult precisely to determine, all who in this way deny
Christ: But when the manifest tendency of any scheme, called
Christian, is to lead to sin, render secure in sin, or build the hope
of salvation on any other foundation than the mercy of God, and merits
of the Redeemer, it must lead to a practical denial of Christ. To the
sacred standard should every system be referred. Those which deviate
essentially there from, lead to a denial of Christ; and will produce a
denial by him before his Father in heaven.

REFLECTIONS.

If we do not mistake the Scriptures, those who deny Christ are without
hope; and those who reject and those who neglect the gospel, or refuse
to confess the Savior, are to be reckoned among them.

Some are otherwise minded. "If a person only acts sincerely, no
matter what his religious principles, (say some) or whether he hath
religious principles; he will find mercy with God and be accepted of
him;" an opinion which is spreading in this liberal age!

We would gladly adopt it, and receive to the arms of charity all who
appear to act honestly, could we see reason for it. But, in our
apprehension, the word of truth condemns those who deny Christ, and
declares that they will be denied by him before his heavenly Father.
We read of damnable heresies--of those who are given up to strong
delusions that they should believe a lie that they might be damned.
--And find an express declaration, cutting off unbelievers from all
hope.--"He that believeth not shall be damned."

Whatever God may do with those who have not the gospel, those to whom
it is sent must believe, receive and obey it, or perish in their sins.
This is so plainly and expressly declared in the word of truth, that
we wonder doubts should arise in the minds of those who believe it.

Nor is it less strange, that confessing Christ should be thought a
matter of indifference. Scripture is equally express respecting this
matter, as the other. We have seen that under the former dispensation,
God's covenant and the tokens of it were commanded, under penalty of
excision from his people--That in the apostolic age, Christ was to be
confessed, under penalty of being denied by him in the presence of
God. These are not matters of doubt.

They are stoney ground hearers who "are offended when persecution
ariseth because of the word." These bring no fruit to perfection.

If the terms of acceptance with Christ are the same now as formerly:
If they are not lowered down from their original, a denial of him,
either verbal or practical, will shut men out of his kingdom.

It becomes those who have a hope toward God while such their state, to
consider these things. "It is a faithful saying--If we suffer with
him, we shall also reign with him; _If we deny him, he also will deny
us_."



 * * * * * *



SERMON XX.

The Fear which terminates in the Second Death.

Revelation xxi. 8.

"The fearful--shall have their part in the lake which burneth with
fire and brimstone; which is the second death."


The terms on which only we can be Christ's disciples are laid before
us in the Scriptures, and we are counselled to consider them before we
engage to be his.

Though Christ was born to be a king, his kingdom is not of this world.
He doth not persuade men with the prospect of great things here; but
on the contrary warns his followers, that "in this world they shall
have tribulation;" pointing them to another, as the place of their
rest, and teaching them there to expect the reward of their labors and
suffering here. And here the saints in every age, have groaned,
being burdened. Had God provided nothing better for them, he would be
ashamed to be called their God.

The primitive Christians drank largely of the bitter cup. All the
apostles, except John, are said to have sealed their testimony with
their blood. John at an advanced age, died peaceably in his bed at
Ephesus. But he did not escape persecution here. When the revelation
was made to him, he was in exile for the word of God and for the
testimony of Jesus. For his consolation, and for the edification of
the church, he was visited in his lonely state, by the exalted
Redeemer, who unveiled futurity before him, briefly sketching the
changes which were to pass over his people till the consummation of
all things. The vision closed with the solemn, dreadful process of the
great day, and its consequences to the righteous and to the wicked.

The divine visitant enlarged on the glories of the heavenly state
beyond any of the prophets who had gone before. The description is
clothed in figurative language, affording only a partial view of "the
glory which is to be revealed;" sufficient however to convince us,
that "eye hath not seen, ear heard, or the heart of man conceived the
things which God hath prepared for those who love him."

But who will be made to possess these glorious things? They are
offered to all who hear the sound of the gospel; but conquering
believers will only attain them. Their contrast will be the portion
of others.

This life is a warfare, in which we are called to contend with our own
corruptions and with the powers of darkness--"He that overcometh
shall inherit all things:" But those who are overcome, _will have
their part in the lake of fire--which is the second death_.

To understand the grounds of this context is highly important.
Mistakes here may be fatal. To assist the inquirer, the characters of
conquerors and captives are drawn in the scriptures. The verse of
which the text is a part, mentions several general characters of the
latter kind, and determines their future portion--_The fearful, and
unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and
sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the
lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second
death_.

In the prosecution of our subject, only one of these general
characters will be considered--_the fearful_.

Who then are intended by _the fearful_? And what is the fear which
leads to destruction?

Fearful, is a term seldom used to describe sinners. It occurs, we
believe, in no other scripture. Every kind of fear is not sinful; much
less inconsistent with a state of grace. "The fear of Lord is the
beginning of wisdom"--it disposes the subject of it to mind the things
which belong to peace, and flee to the hope set before him in gospel.
The fear of God is often used to describe the good man, and given as a
leading trait in his character. It is noted in favor of Obadiah, the
servant of Ahab, that he "feared the Lord greatly."

To have no fear of God before one's eyes, is expressive of great
obduracy in sin; of the last grade of depravity. Yet in the text, the
fearful, are mentioned as the first rank of those who will have their
part in the burning lake! What then is this fear?

It may be of several kinds; particularly--that to which precludes
trust in God, and reliance on his grace in Christ--that which operates
to explain away the law of God--that which puts men upon duty in order
to atone for sin--and that which shrinks from the hardships of
religion.

I. The fear which leads down to the lake of fire, may be that which
precludes trust in God and reliance on his grace in Christ.

Faith in Christ, and reliance on divine grace in him, are conditions
of salvation. Where these are wanting Christ will not profit. Faith
and reliance are united. The latter is dependant on the former, and
riseth out of it. "He that cometh to God, must believe that he is,
and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him."

The fearful and unbelieving are here set together--the fearful and
unbelieving shall have their part--Perhaps they are thus joined to
intimate that the fear intended precludes the faith to which the
promises are made.

The sinner who is the subject of this fear hath so deep a sense of the
sinfulness of sin, especially of his own, that he is afraid to make
God his hope--afraid to look up to the throne of grace, or to ask
mercy of God. He would gladly flee the divine presence, like the first
guilty pair, when they heard the voice of God walking in the garden
after their fall. When fear hath this effect, it drives the sinner
from the mercy which alone can save him.

"Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. He
came to seek and save that which was lost." To sinners, mercy is
offered in him. Were we without sin, we should have no need of mercy.
If we flee from Christ because we are sinners, we flee the mercy which
alone can save us, and put offered salvation from us; for it is
offered us only in him. To drive sinners away from the Savior by fear,
when he can hold them no longer secure in sin, is an old device of the
deceiver, which hath probably often succeeded.

On secure and awakened sinners, different delusive arts are practised.
The former are persuaded that sin is a trivial evil, far from meriting
eternal punishment; that God is not greatly offended at it; that it is
easy to obtain forgiveness; that as we are required to forgive every
offender who saith, I repent, God will do the same; that it is only to
ask mercy, when we can sin no longer, and it will be immediately
granted; so that there is very little danger in sin. But those who
are awakened--who see the evil of sin, and tremble for fear of God's
judgments, are tempted to believe that divine justice will only be
exercised, especially to them--that their sins are unpardonable; their
day of grace ended, and that they have nothing before them but "a
certain fearful looking for of judgment." In such suggestion, the
design of the tempter is to drive sinners to despair, and thus drive
them away from Christ. If he avails to effect it, his end is gained;
for there is salvation in no other.

It is emphatically true of the despairing sinner, that he "cannot go
to Christ for life." All who go to him, believe him able and willing
to save. Devoid of this faith none can go to him. Therefore doth the
fear which precludes faith lead down to ruin.

II. Fear _which operates to explain away the law of God, hath the same
effect_.

This is sometimes the effect of fear. Those who believe that there is
a God, and that the holy scriptures are his word, cannot feel secure
while they consider themselves condemned by his law, and view
themselves as the objects of his wrath.

Therefore do the slaves of depravity endeavor to explain away God's
law--therefore to persuade themselves that certain duties are not
required--that certain self denials are not enjoined; or that there is
something in their particular case which exempts them from _this or
that_, which is required of others.

The cunning which some discover in finding out excuses and evasions,
by which to cheat themselves and silence their consciences, is
affecting. It shews them to be the slaves of Satan, and servants of
corruption, and that they love their masters, and refuse to go out
free, when liberty is offered.

When people of this description pretend to inquire what is their duty,
their real design is to evade the obligations of it. And they often
succeed to persuade themselves that they are free from the obligations
of it. But few others are deceived. The veil of the covering spread
over their designs and views, is opaque only to themselves; to others
it is transparent, and leaves them without excuse.

Frequent instances of this unfairness are visible in the world. When
people make themselves easy and secure, without faith which works by
love and purifies the heart--without repentance which mourns for sin
as dishonorable to God, and in itself an evil thing, and a bitter, and
without devotedness to the service of God, as well as a reliance on
his grace in Christ, no matter what they substitute in the place of
these graces, all is of no avail; hope is built on the sand. That many
of these vain substitutes are to be found among men, Who is
insensible? When fear hath this effect, it leads down to the fiery
lake.

III. Sometimes _fear puts men upon duty in order to atone for sin and
merit the divine favor_. Afraid of God's judgments, they set
themselves to do commanded duties, and place their dependence on these
doings of their own.

Duties done by men have nothing meritorious in them. The design of
many things which God hath enjoined is to serve as a schoolmaster to
bring men to Christ. None are intended to save by any virtue in them.
By nothing which man can do is God made his debtor. Neither doth ought
done by man recommend to the divine favor if perverted and made the
ground of hope toward God.

The sinner's best recommendation to the divine favor is a sense of his
own demerit, which leads him humble and self abased to cast himself on
grace in a mediator. His most prevalent prayer is that made by the
publican--"God be merciful to me a sinner." Sinners are invited to
the Savior, and encouraged to hope in him--"Look unto me and be ye
saved all the ends of the earth. It is a faithful saying, that Christ
came into the world to save sinners." But he saves only those who
receive and trust in him. If we go about to establish our own
righteousness, relying on our own doings as the ground of our
acceptance with God, he will give to us according to our works
--"Behold all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about
with sparks; walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye
have kindled: This shall ye have from mine hand, ye shall lie down in
sorrow." *

*Isaiah l. 11.

Not that sinners are to neglect the means of grace, or indulge in sin.
When God promised his church to give them a new heart, and cause them
to walk in his statutes, he declared that those blessings should be
given in answer to prayer--"Yet for this will I be inquired of by the
house of Israel to do it for them." And when the apostle teaches how
to seek renewing grace, he directs to "lay apart all filthiness and
superfluity of naughtiness and receive with meekness, the ingrafted
word."

Saving grace is perhaps, never given till it is asked of God. Sinners
are made to see their need of this divine gift and led to cry to God
for it. It is then when they ask that they receive. That they shall
not ask in vain, is intimated with sufficient clearness in the word of
truth. "Whosoever shalt call on the name of the Lord, shall be saved.
If thou knewest the gift of God--_thou wouldest have asked of him_,
and he would have given thee living water."

Yet the sinner merits nothing by any doings of his. The true penitent
is sensible of it. He relies on grace alone; and asks mercy of God for
the sake of him "who died for his offences, and rose again for his
justification." He seeks in the use of appointed means because it is
the way of duty, and the way in which God is wont "to have mercy, on
whom he will have mercy;" who are commonly chosen from among those who
seek his face.

As fear puts some on duty, it excites others to that which is not
duty--puts them on doing things which are not required. Such are the
pilgrimages and penances of the Romanists; and such the severities
which some others have practised on themselves with a view to atone
for sin and render Deity propitious.

These have no tendency to conciliate heaven. A curse is more likely to
follow them than a blessing; yet in this way some have thought to
atone for sin and make peace with an offended God!*

* Vide Sermon on Colossians ii. 8.

IV. There is yet one other kind of fear which leads to destruction
--that _which causes men to shrink from the hardships of religion_;
and decline the difficulties which lie in the way of duty.

Difficulties and temptations were not peculiar to the first ages of
Christianity. St. Paul, after mentioning his own, declares them, in a
measure, common to all Christ's followers--"Yea, and all who will
live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution."

The trials and difficulties of the righteous are divers, but none
escape them. Many arise from indwelling corruption--many from an
insnaring world--many from Satan's malice and devices.

In fallen man there is a bias to error and wickedness. Not to suffer
his own lusts to draw him away, and entice him to sin, requires great
self denial.

From a wicked world temptations also arise and difficulties spring up.
In this land, the enemies of religion, have not power to kill and
destroy the faithful; but they have power to pour contempt upon them.
Cruel mockings may severely try those who fear neither the gibbet, nor
the stake. These do try the people of God at this day.

Neither do the powers of darkness cease to trouble and afflict--to
assault the faithful with their temptations, and to lay snares to
entangle them.

"Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking
whom he may devour." Satan's devices are without number--his attacks
are made from every quarter; and he is often so hidden that it is
difficult to discover him. Sometimes he assumes the mark of religion
--is "transformed into an angel of light," the more effectually to
cover his dark designs. Such is his enmity that he is indefatigable in
his endeavors to seduce and to destroy--such his craft and experience,
that he is wise to accomplish his nefarious designs: And against the
saints his rage is the greater, because he knoweth that his time is
short.

Here the people of God live in a state of warfare--conflict with many
enemies and suffer many sorrows. Often they are called to suffer for
Christ--because they are numbered among his followers and wear his
livery.

If any of these things move us, if we are afraid to encounter these
hardships, are discouraged in our Christian course and induced to turn
back from after Christ, our fear will destroy us--it will cause us _to
have our part in the lake of fire--which is the second death_.

This hath happened to some who have assumed the Christian name, and
for a time appeared among Christ's disciples! They have forsaken him.

There is an hour of temptation, which trieth those who dwell on the
earth; many fail in the trying hour. Attacked by enemies and assaulted
by temptations, they yield themselves captives to their spiritual
enemies. This happens to some who had "heard the word and received it
with joy--in the time of temptation, they are offended and fall away."
Wanting courage to stand on the Lord's side, when it exposes them to
reproach and sufferings, they suffer themselves to be overcome of
evil, and fall from their stedfastness. These are Christians only in
name. The real Christian possesseth a noble courage which raiseth him
superior to every trial, and enableth him to subdue every enemy. The
storms of temptation beat upon him; but he stands firm--resists the
powers of darkness and his own corruptions--is moved neither by the
frowns, nor flatteries of the world. Like an eminent saint of old, he
"hath respect to the recompence of reward," keeps heaven in his eye,
and presseth on in his way thither. "Through Christ strengthening
him, he doth all things and abounds--holds out to the end and is made
more than a conqueror."

To such "pertain the promises--they overcome--will inherit all
things. God will be their God, and they will be his children."

But those who cannot, "endure hardness as good soldiers"--who faint,
and fail in the day of trial, suffering the enemy to prevail, and
themselves to be overcome, "will lose that which they have wrought--
others will take their crowns, _and they will have their part in the
lake of fire and brimstone: Which is the second death_."

Thus we have seen who are intended by the fearful, and their sad
state. Influenced by fear which drives them from the Savior; or leads
them to explain away God's law; or drive them to duty in order to
atone for sin; or too timid to take up the cross and follow Christ,
they have no part in him. They are afraid of misery; and their fear
indulged, will bring misery upon them far beyond their fear! For "who
knows the power of God's anger."

Before us the door of mercy is yet open. We are invited to Christ for
life. God hath no pleasure in the death of sinners. He is ready to
receive the returning prodigal. His arm is not shortened that it
cannot save. He offers pardon and peace to the chief of sinners. The
deeper sense we have of sin, the more we abhor ourselves for sin, the
more welcome to his grace.

Weary and heavy laden sinners are particularly invited to the Savior.
He will not send them empty away. As the returning prodigal was
received by his father, so is every repenting sinner, by his Father in
heaven. When the prodigal resolved to return with, a "Father I have
sinned--the father saw him a great way off," and all his bowels
yearned over him--"he had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck,
and killed him"--bid him a hearty welcome--lavished the richest favors
on him, and called all to rejoice at his return. In like manner our
heavenly Father receives the returning penitent. This is the spirit of
the parable.

Fear not then, ye who mourn in Zion. Come empty and naked as ye are,
and fall down before an offended God, with, "Father I have sinned.
--God be merciful to me a sinner." Come thus to God, and cast
yourselves on his grace in Christ, and his grace will be sufficient
for you. We are warranted to promise you a kind reception.

Let none think to hide their sins by excuses or palliations. They are
all open to the divine eye. "There is no darkness, nor shadow of
death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves." Neither let
any think to atone for their sins by doings of their own. The blood of
Christ is the only atonement. Our best services are polluted with sin.
Let us endeavor to see our sins as they are, renounce them all, and
repair to the mercy of God in Christ. There is a fulness of merit in
Christ, and a fulness of mercy in God. There we may trust and not be
ashamed.

Let none be discouraged by the difficulties which lie in their way, or
faint under the hardships of the cross. If God calls us to trials he
will support us under them--yea, if we make him our hope, and are not
needlessly wanting to ourselves, he will make us more than conquerors;
he will make us triumphers in Christ. But if we fear to enter the
lists against our spiritual enemies or to endure ought to which we are
called in the way of duty, whether it be contempt, sufferings, or
loss, we shall bring greater sorrows on ourselves by shrinking back in
the day of trial, than by pressing forward, and bearing all which duty
requires.

Our sorrows, if we abide faithful, and are not moved away from the
hope of the gospel, will be only temporary; and under the pressure of
them, we shall be supported by Omnipotence; but if we draw back, and
refuse to deny ourselves, fainting in the day of trial, our sorrows
and sufferings will be eternal, and as such as Omnipotence can only
inflict!



 * * * * * *
 
 
 
SERMON XXI.

The Ends of Family Institution, with observations on the Importance of
Education.

Malachi ii. 15.

"And did not he make one? Ye had he the residue of the Spirit. And
wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed.--"


Toward the close of the Babylonish captivity, religion revived among
the Jews. Several zealous and able reformers were raised up and
advanced to power, whose influence was blessed to call back that
people from their declensions, and prepare them for mercy. But the
effect of their labors was only temporary. When they were gone off
the stage, the people again apostatized, neglected the worship and
ordinances of God, and became vicious and corrupt. This prophet, who
lived several ages after their return to Canaan, was sent to reprove
their irreligion and the immoralities, which abounded among them and
had infected every order of men.

One of the sins then rife in Israel, was a family sin. Family
contentions, which frequently terminated in divorces, were
become common.

Divorces were permitted to the Hebrews, "for the hardness of their
hearts, but it was not so from the beginning."

Larger communities are all made up of families. Evils therefore which
affect the latter, cannot but affect the former. Were all the families
which compose an empire divided and unhappy, the empire would be so.

It is also worthy of notice, that the first rudiments of character,
which render good or bad, and cause people to be blessings or curses
in society, are commonly begun in those nurseries of our race. The
bias there given, seldom wholly wears off; it is generally carried, in
degree, through life. Probably many of the evils which afflicted the
Jews in the days of this prophet, had their origin in the cradles of
the nation. He was therefore directed to strike at the root of evils,
and by endeavoring to reform the smaller societies of which the larger
were composed, to reform the whole. With this view he led back the
minds of those among whom he ministered, to the origin of families,
and declared the merciful design of the Most High, in their
institution--_That he might seek a godly see._

Seeking a godly seed is not the only design. It is however a principal
design, and will be chiefly regarded in the following discourse.

One thing designed is the comfort and advantage of the several members
of these little communities. But to the attainment of these ends, they
must keep respectively, in their places, and act faithfully in them.
The heads must live together in harmony, and unite in ordering the
common affairs of the society; and the inferior members must submit to
their authority, and do the duties of their stations.

Human happiness greatly depends on the temper and conduct of those who
are connected in the nearest relations, and live together. Suppose
trouble abroad, yet if one hath peace and friendship in his family,
and finds order and affection at home, he will not be very unhappy. He
will often "retire to his secret chambers, and shut the doors about
him, till the evils are past." But the house divided against itself,
is a scene of confusion and trouble. Contentions there are like a
continual dropping.

The man who hath affluence and honor; who is respected or envied
abroad, is but a wretch, if his retirements are unquiet; if his family
connexions are peevish and disagreeable, and the inferior members rise
in rebellion and refuse obedience to his reasonable requirements, or
neglect the duties of their stations. Fidelity and affection in the
nearest relations, yields the greatest temporal felicity; the want of
them occasions the most pungent grief which is experienced in life;
that which arises from sense of guilt excepted.

The part acted by every member of a family, effects the whole. None
can rejoice or mourn alone. All participate in the joy or grief. All
are affected by the discharge, or neglect of relative duties: Joy and
sorrow keep pace with them.

Neither are the evils which arise from these abuses to be avoided by
celibacy, without incurring others of a serious nature. Man is formed
for society. An help meet was necessary even in Eden. To have remained
alone would have rendered an earthly paradise a tiresome place.
Therefore was a suitable companion given of God, to crown the joys of
innocence.

The comfort and advantage of the members is manifestly one design of
family institution; but where the duties of the several relations are
neglected, or counteracted, the ends are frustrated, and the blessing
changed into a curse. "It is better to dwell in the wilderness than
with a contentious and angry woman." And the woman, who instead of a
kind and virtuous companion, is joined to a tyrant, or a man of
Belial, must have sorrow upon, sorrow, till death comes to her relief.

But the design of family institution expressed in the last clause of
the text--_That he might find a godly seed, will be chiefly attended
to_.

We are here taught that God made one, and only one to be man's
companion and helper--_that he might seek a godly feed_. One is
necessary for this purpose; more would rather hinder than help. With
one there is a joint interest; more would cause divisions.

To answer the ends proposed, the connexion must be for life. It must
not be left to the parties or either of them, to dissolve it at
pleasure, as the Jews of that age contended. This liberty the prophet
shews to be contrary to the spirit and design of marriage. He observes
that though God _had the residue of the Spirit_--all power, and
could easily have made many, he made only one, to be the companion and
helper of man--that this indicated the design of marriage to be an
indissoluble connexion, which was ordained to continue till death.
This which is intimated in the text, is confirmed by our Savior in his
reply to the Pharisees who questioned him on this subject. *

* Matthew xix. 3-10.

In farther discussing our subject, _after a few desultory observations
on the importance of education, especially parental education, we
shall inquire in what ways, and by what means parents are required to
fed a godly seed_.

Much culture is necessary to man's attaining his proper rank in
creation. This should begin at an early period, and naturally devolves
on parents, who, by providential appointment, are guardians of the
infancy and childhood of their offspring.

Brutes need no instruction in order to fill the places designed for
them of the Creator. Neither do they need example. Instinct supplies
their places--teacheth all which they need to know; and teacheth
perfectly. The several kinds of beasts and birds, shut out from their
dams, and secluded from their own species, act according to their
natures in the same manner, as though brought up with them--discover
the same disposition--use the same methods of seeking their food, and
providing for themselves and their young--and express themselves in
the same language, or by the same notes. Nature left to herself,
respecting every thing which belongs to them, is a sufficient, yea an
infallible instructor. Some of the brutes may be taught to mimick man;
others to know and serve him; but these are foreign to their rank.
Everything, properly belonging to them, is taught by nature,
independent of man. Had man never existed, some of them might have
lived and filled their places in creation without him.

But man, the head of this lower world, requires particular attention.
His mind requires more than his body. Should man come forward to act
his part here, with only the same kind of attention which
nature teacheth the brute to bestow on her young, what would he be?
How would he appear? Suppose some savage horde to attend only to the
bodies of their offspring, during infancy and childhood, and then send
them abroad to follow nature!--Uncultivated nature! Living at large
like the brutal inhabitants of the forest! Can we form an idea of
ought more shocking? Surely such a people would be more brutal than
the brutes!

To prevent these dreadfuls, and render man the noble creature for
which he is designed, happy in himself, an honor to his Creator, and a
blessing among God's works, are the ends proposed in education.
These usually originate in that culture which is begun by parents. The
foundation of honor or infamy, usefulness or mischief, happiness or
misery, is commonly laid in the morning of life. The impressions then
made, are deep and lasting; the bias then given to the mind, goes far
to form the character of the man. We see therefore the goodness of God
in an institution which hath such important objects in view--which is
designed to plant in infant minds the seeds of virtue, and form
mankind for usefulness and honor.--_And wherefore one? That he might
seek a godly seed_.

This work would have been incumbent on man had he retained his first
estate. It would then have belonged to parents to cultivate the tender
mind and direct it in right ways. Marriage was instituted before the
apostasy, of which a principal design is that mentioned in the text:
For the prophet speaks of man in his original state. In innocence man
had his work assigned him--was made for action. Idleness would have
constituted no part of his felicity, had he remained upright. When he
came out of the Creator's hand, he was "put into the garden to dress
it and to keep it." His disposition to idleness may have been
occasioned by the fall. Had man retained his maker's image, it is not
probable that young minds would have received habits of virtue, and
been imbued with knowledge, without parental aid--that instinct would
have supplied the place of instruction, and superseded the use of it.

Had man remained upright his whole work have been diverse from that
which now employs him. The earth would have required little culture
--none which would have wearied its inhabitants. The mind, free from
every corrupt bias, would have been open to instruction, which would
have flowed from the parent and been received by the child, with
delightful ease and joy. Man devoted to the service of God, would have
devoted his all to God, especially his offspring. Then to have poured
knowledge, and especially the knowledge of God, into the placid docile
mind of the pious youth, what delight would it have given to the soul
glowing with divine love!

Since the apostasy, children are the joy of parents. With all their
depravity and perverseness, which greatly lower down the comfort
parents would otherwise occasion, they love them next to life, and see
their improvements with peculiar joy. Especially doth the godly
parent rejoice to witness in them good things toward the Lord--
religious dispositions--concern to know and serve God, and become _a
godly seed_. "He hath no greater joy than to observe his children
walking in the truth." Had man retained his first estate, his joy of
this kind would have been full. He would have trained up a holy, happy
progeny--"a seed to serve the Lord."

In the present state of human nature, the raising of _a godly seed_,
is more difficult, but no less necessary. Endeavors to this end may be
even more so. Man left from his childhood, uninstructed and
unrestrained, to follow his natural bias, would become a monster
among God's creatures! Therefore the importance of parental
faithfulness, as divine honor, and human happiness are regarded.



 * * * * * *



SERMON XXII.

Parental Duties considered and urged.

Malachi ii. 15.

"And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the Spirit. And
wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed."


Some general observations on the importance of education, especially
parental education, were made in the preceding discourse. We are now
to consider the ways and means by which parents, are _to seek a godly
seed_.

Only general directions can here be given. Much will be left to the
discretion of those concerned.

Some of the principal parental duties are, _Dedication of their
children to God, followed by instruction--restraint--good example, and
prayer_.

We shall treat on each of these briefly in their order.

1. Of _dedication of children to God. By a godly seed_, children
consecrated to the service of God, and set apart for him, is commonly
intended, This implies some rites of consecration. These there have
been, probably, from the beginning; though we have no information what
they were, till the days of Abram.

Before the flood we read of "sons of God" who married "the daughters
of men;" a sad union which led to the universal degeneracy of mankind.
The "sons of God" are supposed to have been the descendants of Seth;
"the daughters of men," to have been of the family of Cain. But why
the distinction of "sons of God, and daughters of men?" It arose, no
doubt, from external differences. The former had the seal of godliness
set upon them, whatever that seal might be; and were trained up to
attend the worship and ordinances of God--they were visibly of the
household of faith; none of which were the case with the latter. *
That the former were all renewed, and children of God by regeneration,
is not probable--they are termed sons of God, on account of their
covenant relation to him.

* Tenders of pardon and life were made to the whole human race,
through a Mediator, and the church at first included the whole family
of Adam; but this did not long continue. Cain, enraged that his
offering was not accepted, slew his brother, and "went out from the
presence of the Lord"--left his father's house, in which God was
worshipped, and where his ordinances were administered--cast off
religion, and taught his children to disregard it. His progeny were
not deficient in worldly wisdom. They cultivated the arts of life, and
made improvements in them, as appears from the sketch of their history
given by Moses. + But they were without God in the world; having cast
off his fear, and the apprehension of his presence, and their
accountableness, which often follow the dereliction of the divine
institutions.

+ Genesis iv. 17-22.

So the posterity of Jacob were called "the children of God--the
people of God--a holy seed--a royal priesthood," because of their
external, nominal distinctions. These appropriate terms continued as
long as they remained God's visible people, and had the seal of his
covenant set upon them, though they had so corrupted themselves as to
be even worse than the heathen. And Jerusalem is called the _holy
city_ even after it had filled up the measure of its wickedness by
murdering the Lord of glory. *

* Matthew xxvii. 53.

From the days of Abraham, we know the seal of God's covenant, and how
parents have been required to dedicate their offspring to him, as a
visible sign of their being consecrated to his service, and as a bond
on parents to train them up in his fear. And those who have been of
the household of faith, and been duly instructed, have considered
themselves obliged to discharge these duties; nor have they neglected
them.

2. Dedication _must be followed by instruction_. Parents must
cultivate the tender mind--instill the principles of virtue--infuse
the knowledge of God, and of the duties due to God and man. This is a
matter of the greatest importance. If youthful minds are not imbued
with knowledge and virtue, they will not remain blank; the void will
be filled with that which tends to mischief, and leads to woe
and infamy.

When we look among pagans and savages, we are struck with their vices
and follies, which raise our disgust, or excite our pity. But who hath
made us to differ from them! Is it not that divine Sovereign who
"divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons
of Adam," who cast our lot among the civilized and enlightened, who
having been taught, of God, taught us the way of happiness? Had we
been born among heathens, we should probably have been heathens; if
among savages, should not have differed from them--should have
gloried, perhaps in those refinements in cruelty, which they consider
an accomplishment, but which we shudder to hear related. It is not
probable that we should have had native discernment sufficient to have
raised us above our fellows--to have enabled us to discover their
delusions and the absurdity of their views. Had we been denied
revelation, we should probably have been ignorant of our fallen state
and need of a Savior, and might have "perished for lack of vision."

How far God might have pitied our necessary ignorance, we know not;
but we can now discern no way of salvation, except by faith in Christ,
with repentance from dead works. Now, the knowledge of these, and the
necessity of holiness of heart and life, we have received, not by
immediate revelation, but from our fellow men. And most of those who
receive them, to saving effect, receive the first impressions in early
life; receive them from those with whom they are conversant in
their tender years. The forming mankind to virtue, and rendering them
_a godly seed_, depends much on the means _then_ used with them, and
the bias then given to the mind.

3. Restraint is _also necessary in the morning of life_. BY nature man
is inclined to evil. This disposition originated in the apostasy and
descends to the whole race, rendering them untractable and
unreachable--easily susceptible of bad impressions and indisposed to
good ones. It appears and operates at a very early period of life.
"The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as
they are born speaking lies. Their poison is like the poison of a
serpent; they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear."--

Such declarations are not indeed to be understood literally. None are
equal transgressors, before they are capable of moral action, which is
the state of the new born infant. He cannot speak lies who hath not
yet attained the power of speech. The poison of human depravity may,
however be compared to that of the serpent, which begins in its
formation, and discovers itself when first capable of action. We see
the effects of depravity in the child, while reason is yet weak and
only budding forth. It is one of the first appearances in the progress
of a human being from infancy to manhood. When these are discovered,
restraint should begin. Parents who seek _a godly seed_, should no
longer delay to counteract the corrupt disposition, and endeavor to
give the young creature, committed to their care, another and a better
bias.

But, alas! Parental affection too often degenerates into weakness, and
giving way to natural perverseness, suffers it to take its course; the
consequences of which are often fatal to peace and honor in after
life; perhaps in that also which is to come. It is of primary
importance that restraint should hold back the young agent from that
which is evil; and as far as may be, prevent him from associating with
the vile, who disregard the voice of conscience and harden themselves
in sin.

Suitable correction to impress an early sense of the evil of sin, and
praise to encourage and allure in the paths of virtue, are also acts
of kindness to the unexperienced creature who is entering on the war
of life, and coming forward to act its part among enemies and
temptations, and thus to prepare for honor or infamy, joy or misery
eternal. Though no fruit of this kind attention may immediately appear
beneficial consequences commonly follow; though sometimes at a later
period than was expected; yea after expectation hath ceased.

4. Example is _another mean of seeking a godly seed_.

Good example is particularly incumbent on all who are exalted to rule,
whether in larger, or smaller communities. In the history of Israel we
observe the morals of the nation commonly agreeing with those of the
governing prince. Nor was this peculiar to that people; it holds
generally, in a considerable degree, of every other. The manners and
morals of all who live in society, usually take a tinge from those of
their rulers. This is particularly the case with smaller societies;
especially with families. Children often imbibe the sentiments, learn
the manners, and catch somewhat of the tempers of those with whom they
live, as well as learn their language. _Do we seek a godly seed_? It
concerns us to be careful what examples we set before the youth who
attend us.

Youth watch and observe adults, especially those to whom they look up
as friends, and whose love and kindness they daily experience. Adults
are disposed to think favorably of those who shew them kindness. From
the view of a child, it hides every fault. That a thing was done by a
respected parent justifies it to a child, however criminal it might
appear in another.

The temper and conduct, of a benefactor, make a deeper impression than
his words, and have more influence on the judgment of those entering
on life. Even little children feel the force of our Savior's rule of
judging--"By their fruits ye shall know them." Every thing conspires
to prejudice children in favor of parents, and to dispose them to
follow their examples. Bad example is in them especially seducing.
Children generally follow it, where it is set before them. Coinciding
with their natural bias, precept and counsel are commonly lost upon
them, if taught by parental example to do evil. It is therefore of the
greatest importance, especially to the members of a family, that the
head should "behave himself wisely in a perfect way, and walk within
his house with a perfect heart."

5. Prayer, _especially family prayer is another means seeking a godly
seed_.

This duty is important, as it tends to solemnize the heart, and
produce a serious and devout temper; and as it tends to draw down the
divine blessing on those who attend it.

When children witness a parent daily looking up to heaven, and
fervently imploring the divine blessing on himself and them--when they
hear him humbly confessing sin, and its demerits, and imploring
pardon--when they observe him devoutly thanking God for existence, for
continuance in life, and for all its comforts--when they hear him
asking grace to help and divine direction and guidance--when they see
him besieging the throne of grace for the Holy Spirit to renew and
sanctify them, enable them to do every duty, fill them with love to
God and man, enable them to bear injuries and requite them with
kindness, yea, to be good and do good--to make them faithful unto
death and then to receive them to the mansions of glory, and are
called to join in these solemn addresses to heaven, What other lesson
is equally instructive? What hath so dire a tendency to solemnize the
heart and impress it with the most just and weighty religious
sentiments? In this view, family prayer is of vast importance. If
attended as every serious person may attend it, cannot be wholly
without effect, and hath often the happiest effect.

It is not great talents, or showy gifts, but seriousness, solemnity
and fervor, which render prayer prevalent with God and beneficial to
man, as a means of exciting to other duties, and producing religious
awe and reverence.

This duty is also important, as tending to draw down the divine
blessing on the devout worshipper and on his connexions.

Every good gift cometh down from God; but his gifts are usually
bestowed in answer to prayer--"Ye have not because ye ask not--Ask,
and it shall be given you--for every one that asketh, receiveth."
--Spiritual mercies are seldom given but in answer to prayer; and
seldom long denied to earnest persevering prayer. This is the spirit
of one of our Savior's parables, * and the purport of many passages in
the word of God.

* Luke xviii. 1, &c.

And when a person hath omitted nothing in his power to make his
children wise to salvation, what so natural, what so reasonable, as to
bring them to God, and pour out his soul before him, for his blessing
upon them? And what so prevalent with "him who heareth prayer?"

It is storied of Augustine, who lived in the fourth century, that
though the son of an eminently pious mother, he was a very vicious
youth--that a Christian seeing him pass in the street, spake of him as
an abandoned character, with whom it was disgraceful to associate
--which another hearing, observed, that he was the child of so many
prayers, _that he could not believe that he would be lost_--nor was he
lost. Those prayers were heard. He was called of God, and like Saul of
Tarsus, made a chosen vessel to bear God's name to a scoffing world,
and do much in the cause of the divine Redeemer. *

* Witherspoon's Sermon on Education.

The fervent prayers which godly parents offer up for their children,
ascend like the prayers and aims of good Cornelius for a memorial
before God. When sincere and persevering, they return not empty. They
often draw down the divine blessing on those for whom they are offered
up. If they fail through filial obstinacy and perverseness, they draw
a blessing on themselves, to their eternal joy.

 * * * * *

These are some of the ways in which parents should seek a godly feed.
But, alas! These duties are much neglected; therefore the declension
of religion, and the prevalence of vice.

Those who enter into covenant with God, bind themselves to discharge
these duties. Others are not devoid of obligation to do the same. They
are duties which rise out of the parental relation, and are
indissolubly connected with it.

Parents have a fondness for their children, and with their felicity.
But do not some who believe them made for eternity, take care only for
the mortal part, which after all their care must ere long become food
for worms, and turn to dust! Are there not parents who neither
dedicate their children to God, nor teach them his fear, nor walk
before them in the right way, nor commend them to the divine mercy!
Cruel parents! Unhappy children! How difficult, how dangerous
their situation! By nature disposed to error--assaulted by subtil
enemies, whose temptations fall in with their natural bias, and are
strengthened by the conduct of those whom they love as friends and
revere as guides! Little chance have such unexperienced and
unsuspecting creatures to escape the snares which surround them!
Dangerous, and almost desperate is their situation!

Perhaps the endless misery of some may be greatly chargeable on those
who under God, gave them being! Affecting thought! It concerns parents
to think on these things. If they consider, they must feel their
obligation _to seek a godly seed_, and be afraid to neglect it.

And let pious parents be persuaded to labor and not faint in the
discharge of the duties which they owe to God, and the young immortals
committed to their care. Though their counsels may be condemned, and
their prayers seem not to be regarded by him who hath power to change
the heart, let them not be discouraged, but persevere. "Those who sow
in tears shall reap in joy." Though the seed lie long under the clods,
it will not be lost, but some how, bring forth fruit.

The counsels, warnings, and examples of faithful godly parents
commonly make some impression on the children who affect to disregard
them. The most dissolute have their serious moments; their pangs of
remorse and terror. At such seasons their parents' warnings, prayers
and tears recur to their minds, and seem to rise up before them. This
often happens after parental labors have ceased; and after the
impressions they might have made, were supposed to have been effaced,
they sometimes produce happy effects.

Few children who have been dedicated to God, taught to know and serve
him, and the consequences which will follow their conduct here, and
witnessed their parents' deep concern, and earned cries to God in
their behalf can forget them--they must, they do, at times, affect
them. While any thing of this nature remains, there is hope.
Some, who in early life, scoff at warning and counsel, are afterwards
brought to repentance: And such often testify, that impressions made
by parental faithfulness in their tender years, were the means of
their awakening and amendment. This should encourage those whose
children give them little hope, to persevere in the discharge of duty.

"The Lord said of Abraham--I know him, that he will command his
children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of
the Lord, to do justice and judgment, _that the Lord might bring upon
Abraham that which he hath spoken of him_." What? The richest and most
lasting blessings--_because "he would command his children--to keep
the way of the Lord_."

"It is not a vain thing to serve God. Then--(when he maketh up his
jewels) shall ye return and discern between the righteous and the
wicked; between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not."
In no other way can we serve him more acceptably than by following
Abraham's example--"commanding our households to serve the Lord," and
setting them the example. Whoso doth it, "shall in no wise lose his
reward."

And happy the youth who second the endeavors of their parents to
render them _a godly seed_. Such "will find life and obtain favor of
the Lord." Here, they rejoice the hearts of those who love them, and
smooth the rugged path of age. The years which to others have no
pleasures in them, are not devoid of comfort to those who witness
filial piety and hope to live again in a godly offspring. Such parents
rejoice in death, and their _godly seed_, will rejoice with them
forever, in heavenly mansions.



 * * * * * *



SERMON XXIII.

The Blessing of God on Filial Piety.

Jeremiah xxxv. 19.

"Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, 'Jonadab,
the son of Rechab, shall not want a man to stand before me forever.'"


Israel were greatly depraved before the days of this prophet, who was
sent to reprove and call them to repentance. The prophet faithfully
discharged his trust; but labored to very little effect. The chiefs of
the nation were offended at its warnings and predictions--rose up
against him--shut him up in prison; yea in a dark dungeon, where
he sank in the mire; and even sought his life! He was not, however
discouraged.. He continued "to warn the wicked from his way, that he
should turn from it. None of these things moved him."

This was not the only messenger sent of God to warn that people--he
sent to them all his servants, the prophets; but they would not hear;
The Jews of that age flattered themselves, that God would never enter
into judgment with them. "He might pour his fury on the heathen; but
they should escape--their place and nation would never feel the
effects of his wrath, or become the theatre of his judgments--they
were his people--necessary to his honor--he was their God; and
would continue their God, whatever their character, or conduct."

The prophets warned them of their mistake--told them that the
judgments of heaven hung over them--that their city and sanctuary
would be destroyed, many of them perish in the war, and the residue he
removed into strange lands, there to serve their enemies--"but they
seemed to that degenerate people as those who mocked, and they
believed them not."

There is a certain grade of depravity which scoffs at warnings and
laughs at the shakings of God's spear! When this hath become the
general character of a people, desolating judgments are near. Those
who conceive mercy to be the only attribute of Deity; or the only
attribute which he can exercise _towards them_, are commonly deaf to
warnings. Sure evidence that they are given up of God--that his spirit
hath ceased to strive with them. Rarely are those brought to
repentance who entertain such views of God. Perhaps never, unless
their views of him are changed. They have no fear of God before their
eyes. If mercy absorbed every other attribute, there could be no place
for fear. And of what enormity are those incapable who have lost
the fear of God? Such corruption of principle is the bane of practice,
and prelude of ruin and wretchedness. The history of the Hebrews, and
the history of mankind, confirm the truth of this remark.

This prophet having long warned his charge to no purpose, is here
directed to apply to them in another manner--to try to shame them into
contrition, by setting before them the part acted by a particular
family which dwelt among them--the Rechabites, who had for ages
religiously obeyed the injunctions of one of their ancestors, left
probably as his dying charge.

Some of that progenitor's requirements seemed rigorous, but being the
order of a respected ancestor the family considered them as
obligatory; nor could they be persuaded to violate them in
any particular, though publicly invited to it by a prophet.

It _may be proper here to make some inquiries relative to these
Rechabites--to the person whose charge they conceived so binding; and
the nature and design of the charge_.

The Rechabites are said to have been a branch of the Kenites, and to
have descended from Hobab, the son of Jethro, Moses' father in law. *

* Vide Henry and Brown's Dictionary.

While Israel were encamped at the foot of Mount Sinai, that
Midianitish priest, or prince, visited Moses, bringing with him,
Zipporah, the wife of Moses and her children, who had been sent to her
father's as a place of safety, during the troubles in Egypt. Not long
after, Hobab, the son of Jethro, appears to have been with Israel in
the wilderness; and he was invited to go with them to the land of
promise, and take his lot among them, and was promised an equal share
of blessings with the seed of Jacob--"If thou wilt go with us, it
shall be, that what goodness the Lord shall do unto us, the same will
we do unto thee." At first Hobab declined, but he eventually complied;
as his descendants were among the Hebrews after their settlement in
Canaan, and they continued among them, and remained a distinct family,
down to the captivity.

One branch of these Kenites was denominated from Rechab, an
illustrious chief of the house of Hobab; who had a son, or descendant,
named Jonadab, or Jehonadab, as his name is sometimes written. Jonadab
was renowned for wisdom and piety. He flourished in the days of Jehu,
almost three centuries before the Babylonish captivity; and was so
famed for sanctity and attachment to true religion, that only being
seen in his company was a recommendation to the regard of its friends.
Therefore was he treated with respect by Jehu, while he pretended a
regard for the true God--therefore was he taken up by that prince into
his chariot, and made his partner in the destruction of idolatry. Such
was the man who left this charge to his descendants, which was so
sacredly regarded by them, for so long a term.

This was a remarkable family. Another who have paid equal attention to
the orders of a departed progenitor, and in which none of the members
appear to have degenerated from his virtue, is not perhaps to be
found in the annals of mankind! But our surprise will increase if we
attend to the nature of the charge.

The prophet was directed to gather the whole family of the Rechabites
--bring them into the house of the Lord--set wine before them and
invite them to drink. He obeyed; offering them a treat, as a family
known and respected in Israel.

This was not done to tempt them, but to reprove the Jews, who resorted
in great numbers to the temple; though they had cast off the fear of
the God there worshipped. God knew, and had probably informed the
prophet, that the wine would be refused. It was refused, and the
reason, assigned--"We will drink no wine; for Jonadab,--the son of
Rechab, our father commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine, ye,
nor your sons forever, Neither shall ye build house, nor sow seed, nor
have any: But all your days ye shall dwell in tents; that ye may live
many days, in the land where ye be strangers."

Some of these may seem to be strange restrictions; but they speak the
piety of him who laid them, and his regard to the eternal, if not to
the temporal interests, of his posterity. The prohibition seems to
have been the same with the law of the Nazerites. Wine is doubtless
here used in a large sense, for every kind of strong drink. "Wine was
given to make glad the heart of man." He is allowed to use it with
temperance and sobriety: But so many abuse it to their own hurt, and
to the injury of society, that it is rather a curse, than a blessing,
to the world. Seeing the evils which resulted from the abuse--the
devastation of men and morals, which it occasioned, this good man,
from love to his offspring, warned them wholly to abstain from it. And
what evils would many others have avoided, had they considered the
counsel as given to them, and like this family, religiously regarded
it? The ravages of intemperance, exceed those of the sword; and the
moral evils it hath occasioned surpass description!

But why the other restrictions included in the charge? Why must the
descendants of Jonadab be denied the comfort of warm and convenient
dwellings, and reside in tents through every season of the year, to
all generations? Why must they possess neither fields nor vineyards,
which were allowed to others, and promised to Israel, as part of the
blessing, when they should settle in Canaan?

Peculiarities unknown to us, might render it proper for them to submit
to self denials to which others are not called. What they were we
presume not to determine. *

* Mr. Henry undertakes to assign the reasons of all these injunctions;
but as none can be assigned which are not merely conjectural, we
choose rather to leave each one to make his own conjectures, as he may
find occasion.

Mankind are exceedingly prone to set up their rest here, and promise
themselves permanent dwellings on this rolling ball. Could this man of
God persuade his posterity that this was not their home, and engage
them to seek another country, that is, an heavenly, and lay up their
treasure there, whatever self denials it might cost them, it must
have been, on the whole for their advantage. This might be the general
design of his counsel.

But whatever might be the design, admirable was the effect. The whole
family seemed to have listened to his advice, and for many ages to
have obeyed his voice! "Thus have we obeyed the voice of Jonadab, the
son of Rechab our father, in all that he charged us--and done
according to all that he commanded us!"

This was not said only of themselves, who then flood before the
prophet, but of the whole family, from the time the charge was given,
down to that day. There is not the smallest probability that a
numerous family would inquire after, and find out a code of rules and
regulations which had been given nearly three centuries before, and
all take it on them to observe them, if they had been neglected by
their fathers, down to their time. They had doubtless been observed
with punctuality from the days of Jonadab. Their answer to the prophet
implies it. This had been known in Israel. Therefore were they brought
into public view, and made the occasion of a solemn rebuke of that
favored, but ungrateful people who had disregarded the injunctions
of an infinite God! This was the end proposed in bringing the
Rechabites into the temple at this time, and gave occasion to the
record here made to their honor, and to the blessings promised them
from above.

Some may laugh at the singularity of this strange family--may consider
it an evidence of weakness to pay such regard to the silly
requisitions of a superstitious ancestor--deny themselves so many
comforts--make themselves so singular--engage those with whom they
married to conform to the rules of their house, and instil the same
into their children from generation to generation! But whatever we may
think of them, it is manifest that this supposed weakness met the
divine approbation. The prophet speaks of them with honor; blesseth
them in the name of the Lord, and declares, in his name, that their
filial piety shall not go unrewarded. "And Jeremiah said unto the
house of the Rechabites, Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of
Israel, Because ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father,
and--done according to all that he commanded you: _Therefore, thus
saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Jonadab the son of Rechab,
shall not want a man to stand before me forever_."

These are not simply expressions of approbation, but contain
invaluable promises. They are made in the language of the old
testament, but to those blessed with gospel light, their meaning is
not obscure or difficult. The promise secured the continuance of this
family, and a succession of men of piety and virtue in it as long as
God's people continued--They should _never want a man to stand before
the Lord_--to serve him. That family had no office at the temple, but
in a course of regular devotion, they stood before God, to minister
unto him. This should continue--they should remain a religious family.
Men of piety should always be found among them.

When the prophet had laid these matters before the Jews, he made the
application, and denounced the judgments of God against them, unless
they turned by repentance. "Thus faith the Lord of Hosts, the God of
Israel, Go, and tell the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of
Jerusalem--Will ye not receive instruction to hearken to my words?
Saith the Lord. The words of Jonadab, the son of Rechab, that he
commanded his sons not to drink wine, are performed; for unto this day
they drink none, but obey their father's commandment: Notwithstanding
I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye hearkened
not unto me."

The prophet then proceeded to remind them of the warnings which had
been given them, and the means which had been used with them, and to
denounce the judgments of God against them--"Thus saith the Lord of
Hosts, the God of Israel, I will bring upon Judah, and upon all the
inhabitants of Jerusalem, all the evil that I have pronounced
against them; because I have spoken unto them, but they have not
heard; and have called unto them, but they have not answered."

If we consider the state of that people, and the advantages which
they had neglected and abused, we shall be convinced that their guilt
was attended with many aggravations--no other people had so many
advantages and means of information; and few beside were equally
depraved.

The family of Rechab might rise up against them and condemn them. That
family had been long obedient to a man like themselves--the
Jews had been disobedient to the God who is above. Jonadab was dead
--if his descendants disregarded his injunctions, he might have no
power to punish their disobedience; but the God of Israel lived--was
acquainted with all their crimes, and able to punish their sin upon
them. Neither doth it appear that the Rechabites had ever been
reminded of the orders of their progenitor, or their obligation to
obey him; but the Jews had been often reminded of their duty; in the
stated, and ordinary means of grace they were daily reminded of their
obligation to obey God; and he had also sent all his servants the
prophets, to call them to repentance; neither had God required such
self denials of his people, as Jonadab of his posterity--yet Jonadab
had been obeyed, and God had been disobeyed! His people "would not
receive instruction." Therefore were his judgments executed upon them,
agreeably to his threatening; and they are left on record for our
instruction. "Now these things happened unto them for ensamples [sic];
and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the
world are come."

REFLECTIONS.

In the part acted by the father of the Rechabites, we witness the
concern of a good man, that his children should mind the things of
religion. That good man did not scruple to lay heavy burdens on his
descendants, and cut them off from many temporal enjoyments, if it
might serve to keep them humble, and cause them _to stand before the
Lord_. He chose rather to have his family poor, than to have them
proud and vicious.--Hardships which might serve to keep them mindful
of their situation here, he judged advantageous: Therefore the charge
he left with them.

Pious parents do not generally leave such things in charge to their
children. They do not, however, neglect the concerns of religion, or
leave their families ignorant of them, or their obligation to regard
them. They teach them to fear the Lord, and live in all good
conscience before him.

II. In the historical sketch here given of the Rechabites, we see how
good people of old, were influenced by parental authority--how they
considered themselves bound to remember and obey the injunctions of
religious ancestors, as they wished the blessing of God. Where such
injunctions are disregarded it is an evidence of great depravity.

Sad instances of this kind we sometimes witness in this degenerate
age. We sometimes see godly parents, who had labored before in vain to
render their children truely religions, spend their last hours in
urging them not to receive the grace of God in vain--see them with
deep concern, and with their dying breath, charging them to mind the
things of religion, and not rest until they have found the Savior.
Though at first some impression seems to be made, it often soon wears
off, and the warnings and counsels of those who loved them as their
own souls, are forgotten and neglected!

Could these things be foreseen, sense of duty would only extort such
admonitions from a pious parent, at the solemn period of his
departure; for like a neglected gospel, they are "a favor of death
unto death," to those who hear them!

But this is not always the case. No means have a more direct and
powerful tendency to awaken the secure, and excite the attention of
the careless, than the dying concern and counsel of the saints.
Perhaps no other means are oftener blessed to this end. This leads us
to observe,

III. That the part we act here may have consequences, long after we
shall have gone off the stage. This venerable Kenite left a solemn
charge to his posterity; but who could foresee the effect? There was
little reason to expect that his descendants would regard it, and be
advantaged by it for centuries; yet it seems to have been the case!
His counsels, strengthened by his example, made an indelible
impression, and were means of distinguishing his family for many
generations!

This should encourage others to follow his example--to charge their
children to "keep the way of the Lord, and walk in his ordinances and
commandments blameless." Who knows that his posterity may not imitate
those of this man of God? And for as long a term? Who can determine
that his good example, and counsels may not do good on earth, when his
body shall be mouldering in the grave, and his soul rejoicing in the
presence of his God.

On the other hand, there is more than equal reason to expect that a
parent's bad example will be no less extensively influential to
mischief. Many are seduced to their ruin by the contagion of evil
example; nor is any other more perniciously prevalent than that of a
parent, or progenitor.

Be it then the concern of all who fear the Lord to charge their
children, to fear him, and to set them the example of "standing
before the Lord." So to do, is to sow the seeds of virtue and piety. A
harvest may follow, even after expectation hath failed. If no other
advantage accrues, the faithful will deliver his own soul; he may be
the occasion of delivering others; "converting sinners from the error
of their ways; saving souls from death, and hiding multitudes of
sins." *

* James v. 19, 20.

IV. The honorable mention made of the Rechabites, and the blessings
promised them, should influence children to listen to the pious
counsels of their parents, and attend the duties which they consider
important, and charge them to attend, especially at the close of life.

That the godly when on the verge of eternity, are divinely influenced
to warn their friends, and predict the good or evil before them, was
an opinion which prevailed among the ancients. Therefore the sacred
attention paid to their dying words, and scrupulous regard of their
dying counsels. Whether we admit, or reject the sentiment, the
counsels which are given at such seasons are serious, solemn, and the
effect of love unfeigned. Those to whom they are given commonly view
matters in the same light, and consider them as interesting realities,
when they come to be themselves in similar circumstances.

Have our pious ancestors left ought in charge to us? It concerns us to
consider their counsels and injunctions; and unless we have clear and
strong reasons forbidding, we are bound to obey them.

Children are usually safe in following the last counsels of their
parents. Few who sustain that endearing relation, are devoid of
concern for the honor and happiness of their offspring. However they
may have themselves conducted, while in the pursuit of worldly
objects, or under the influence of appetite or passion, when they come
to stand on the brink of another world, the fascinating charms of
this, lose their power--the infinite difference between time and
eternity appears; and the true value of objects is seen and estimated.
Then the counsel which is given is that of wisdom--it points to duty
--to peace and honor--to joy and glory,

It is further observable that rich promises are made in scripture to
those who honor and obey their parents, and dreadful curses denounced
against those who despise and disobey them. "Honor thy father and thy
mother, that it may be well with thee and that thou mayest live long
upon the earth. This is the first commandment with promise. The eye
that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the
ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat
it." These scriptures are not of private interpretation.

V. Where the blessing of heaven hath long rested on a family, and
religion been prevalent in it for many generations, the right way
becomes comparatively easy. Those born there, grow up in the fear of
God, and are early taught to know and serve him. But how aggravated
the guilt of those who under such circumstances forsake the way of the
Lord--cut of the entail of mercy and entail a curse on their
posterity--shut up the kingdom of heaven against their own offspring;
neither going in themselves, nor suffering those who are entering to
go in?

Lost to the fear of God, such hardened sinners may cry peace, but
there is no peace to them! It concerns them to look to themselves, for
evil is before them! A descent from pious ancestors will not turn away
the wrath of God, from those who harden themselves in sin. No--It
increaseth their guilt and will increase their condemnation. The Jews
flattered themselves "because they had Abraham to their father; but
many came from the east and from the west and set down with Abraham in
the kingdom of God, and the children of the kingdom were cast out"
--Yea, having filled up the measure of their sins, wrath came upon
them, to the uttermost, in this world; and in that to come, it will be
more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha than for them.



 * * * * * *



SERMON XXIV.

The Character and Supports of Widows indeed.

1 Timothy v. 5.

"Now she that is a Widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God and
continueth in supplications and prayers night and day." *


* Preached at the house of one made a widow by her husband's
desertion; who left her in straitened circumstances to provide for a
young family.

Timothy was ordained a bishop of the church at Ephesus; and this
epistle was written to him by St. Paul, his spiritual father, to teach
him "how to behave himself in the house of God, which is the church
of the living God."

The former part of the context contains directions respecting the
treatment of widows; and especially poor widows who belonged to the
church, and were supported at their expense. He is first directed
to "honor widows who were widows indeed." Here the apostle explains
his meaning, by designating the character intended. Now "_She that is
a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in
supplications and prayers night and day_."

Every widow did not answer to this description. There were some who
answered to no part of it, as he shews below. These Timothy was not
required to honor--not directed to provide for them, or employ them in
the business of the church; though certain poor and pious women were
then used to minister to the sick, of their own sex, and discharge
other charitable labors among them.

In discoursing on our subject, we shall _make a few observations on
the sorrows of widowhood; then glance at the duties of it; and the
supports which God hath provided for widows indeed_.

A widowed state is naturally desolate, Most widows pass many solitary
hours--a lonesome and melancholy situation;--especially after having
known and enjoyed the social intercourse of connubial life. The value
of all our comforts is best known by experience; more especially by
their loss, after a temporary possession.

But the conjugal connexion is sometimes unhappy. In such cases a
widowed state is a release from the trials and difficulties which
attended it, which may be severe and distressing. The misconduct, or
unkindness of those in the nearest relation, wounds in the tenderest
part, and occasions the most pungent grief. True.--Yet a state of
widowhood, after such a connexion, is commonly more unhappy than after
a happy marriage. Many disagreeables are generally left to afflict the
desolate. Reflections on such connexions and the trying scenes passed
while they continued, are disagreeable; and many cares peculiar to
their situation often distress the widows. The care of offspring,
where there are offspring, devolves wholely on them; which, if left in
straitened circumstances, is often a burden they are unable to bear.
And where aid is kindly afforded, still the concern which lies on
them, is oft times distressing. "Pangs and sorrows take hold upon
them--their couch is wet with tears; their eyes consumed with grief."
If those thus tried are _widows indeed_, they follow the line drawn in
the text--_trust in God, and continue in prayers and supplications
night and day_.

As it is the duty, it is also the comfort and support of _the desolate
to trust in God_. When streams dry up, we go to the fountain: So when
creature comforts fail, interest unites with duty, in pointing us
tothe Creator. He is the source of comfort--that which comes by means
of the creature comes from him. The creature is only the medium of
conveyance.

When the saints become desolate--when their worldly comforts fail and
their hopes decay, they are directed to return to God and put their
trust in him; and also to bring with them, those for whom they feel
interested--their helpless dear ones, and he hath promised them
protection. "Leave thy fatherless children, and I will preserve them
alive, and let thy widows trust in me."

Fallen creatures are exceedingly prone to lean to the world--to
promise themselves comfort in it, and support from it. They generally
look elsewhere before they look to God. Disappointed in one worldly
object they often run to another, and another. They never come to the
Creator, and make him their hope, till convinced that what they seek
is not to be found in the creature. God sometimes brings his people
into straits, and strips them of their earthly dependencies, that
having no where else to trust they may come to him and cast their care
upon him.

Even the Christian may need the rod of adversity to keep him mindful
of his dependence on God, and prevent his resting on the creature for
support. For after union with Christ, worldly objects retain too large
a share of his affection, and he is too much inclined to lean upon
them. His attachment to these things is often too strong; draws away
his heart from God, and renders him too little mindful of him who is
his portion and rest. Therefore is it often necessary to deprive him
of his earthly dependencies, that being desolate, he may return to God
and renew his reliance on him.

It becomes the desolate, not only to trust in God, but to be thankful
that they may trust in him. Those who have God for their portion, have
an abiding satisfying portion. God will be more and better to them
than earthly friends, or earthly treasures. Friends often forsake
them; or cease to be friends, and become enemies--"Riches take
to themselves wings and fly away." But God abides; he hath said, I
will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. *

* Hebrews xiii. 5.

Now _she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, while she trusteth in
God continueth in supplications and prayers night and day_.

Those of this character when they find themselves destitute of worldly
comforts and supports, go to God and pour out their souls into his
bosom. Like the Psalmist they stir up themselves to trust in him. We
find that saint expostulating with himself in a time of trouble and
darkness, and chiding his despondent temper. "Why art thou cast down,
O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God;
for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and
my God."

While thus stirring up themselves to trust in God, the saints pour out
their souls before him in fervent prayer. This the apostle declares to
be the manner of those, whom he terms _widows indeed--they trust in
God, and continue in supplications and prayers night and day_.

Such was the aged Anna, who met the infant Savior, when he was brought
into the temple, to do for him after the custom of the law. "She
departed not from the temple, but served God, with fastings and
prayers night and day."

The child, when in affliction, is wont to run to its parents and tell
them the sad tale of its sorrows. So the child of God, stripped of
other supports, spreads its grief before him who possesses all power,
and is able to deliver out of all distresses: And as the child
continues its cries and pleadings with its parent, as long as its
sorrows continue; so the child of God, while it remains in affliction,
perseveres in supplications and prayers to its Father in heaven.

When seeking temporal blessings the good man asks with submission,
"Not as I will but as thou wilt"--teach me to acquiesce in thy
dealings and to say "thy will be done." But when seeking spiritual
blessings, he cannot be too importunate, or persevering. Respecting
these, the divine glory, unites with his interest, in requiring him to
"be instant in prayer--to pray and not faint." Or, to use the bold
language of the prophet, to resolve to "give God no rest," till he
hears and helps. In such cases the saints may plead God's honor and
the glory of his great name, as well as their own necessities.

When we come to ask mercy of God, and to pray for grace to love and
serve him, we may plead and expostulate for the bestowment. Is it not
thy will, that we should be renewed and sanctified--that we should
repent of sin--believe the gospel, and follow after holiness? Is it
not thy will that we should become new creatures--love thee--love our
duty, and resign ourselves to thy disposal? Is it not thy will, that
we should act with propriety under every trial, and discharge with
faithfulness every duty--that we should honor thee in adversity, as
well as in prosperity? Grant us then those divine influences which are
necessary for us. The honor of thy great name is concerned--it unites
with our necessities in requiting the bestowment of the mercies which
we ask.

Thus did Moses when pleading for Israel, when God had threatened to
destroy them for their rebellions against him. "Now if thou kill this
people as one man, then the nations which have heard the same of thee,
shall speak saying, Because the Lord was not able to bring this people
into the land which he sware unto them, therefore hath he slain them
in the wilderness--pardon, I beseech thee, the sin of this people,
according to the greatness of thy mercy"--So Joshua, on a similar
occasion: His plea in their behalf is urged from this consideration,
that the honor of God was concerned, and required the mercy which he
implored--"What wilt thou do unto thy great name? What? If Israel
turn their backs before their enemies? If thy people fail to drive out
their enemies and possess the land which thou hast sworn to give
them?"

We may use the same argument when interceding for the grace which we
need to enable us to glorify God by a becoming temper and conduct
under trials, and by a suitable improvement of providential
dispensations; and it will be our best plea, or most prevalent
argument.

We may meet with discouragements--God may seem deaf to our cries--to
delay his mercy; but if we "pray and faint not," he will not always
say to us, nay. He will hear and help us. For his own name's sake he
will do it.

When the woman of Canaan asked mercy for her daughter, no
encouragement was given to her first petition--the reply seemed harsh
--"It is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to dogs."
But she persevered, and her faith, and fervor prevailed. "Be it unto
thee even as thou wilt." The same will be the answer to every humble
suppliant for spiritual mercies, and for divine supports, who
perseveres in his addresses at the throne of grace.

Respecting temporal matters, we know not what to pray for as we ought
--know not what is best for us. Afflictions may be mercies. They
often are so. Some have blessed God for them here; more will probably
do it hereafter. That they do not usually denote want of love in God,
is manifest from the declarations of his word--"Whom the Lord loveth
he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure
chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons--if ye are without
chastisement, then are ye bastards and not sons." Those were
determined sinners, given over to reprobation, of whom God said, "Why
should ye be stricken any more! Ye will revolt more and more."

When afflictions serve to purge away sin--to "purify and make white,"
they are changed into mercies. Instead of complaining, we have reason
to bless God for them. This hath often happened. Afflictions arrest
the attention--lead to consideration, and reclaim from error. "Before
I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep thy word."

Prosperity hath often a different effect. To the wicked it is
frequently fatal in its consequences; here they have their good
things, and they rest in them, forgetful of God, and the other world
which they must soon enter, to receive according to their works.
Neither do the people of God always escape injury when they attain the
things they here desire. The prosperity we covet is more dangerous
than the adversity we dread. Few can bear prosperity--few remain long
uncorrupted in a prosperous state. A state so difficult and dangerous
is seldom long the state of the righteous. It is more commonly the
state of the wicked. The righteous have their trials here; and this
kind of trial, [prosperity] hath more often seduced them, than its
opposite. David and Solomon were sad examples of the baleful effects
of power and greatness, riches and honor; but they were brought back
to God and duty by the rod of disappointment;--by the correctings of
affliction.

Adversity is not always productive of good. Some repine at the orders
of providence--at their lot in the world. Trials sour their minds and
render them morose and peevish. We read of some who "blaspheme the God
of heaven" because of their sufferings. These are enemies of God, and
their sufferings here, are a prelude to greater sufferings hereafter.
The case is different with those who have Christ's spirit; they see a
providence in whatever they meet with here; refer themselves to him
who rules over all to choose for them, and order out their changes,
not doubting but his grace will be sufficient for them, and all work
for their good.

We are sure that God orders wisely. The station then, which he assigns
to us, is most suitable for us; the comforts and corrections which he
dispenses, most fit and proper. If wise for ourselves we would not
wish for alterations in them. We shall only be concerned to follow
where God leads, and only pray that he will not leave us, but guide us
to his kingdom.

Let us bring home these considerations, and inquire how we are
affected by God's dealings with us, and what temper we maintain? We
have comforts and corrections. Do we see the hand of God in them;
acknowledge the comforts to be undeserved, and the corrections less
than our demerits? Do we bless God for the former, and humble
ourselves under the latter? Or do the former render us forgetful of
God, and proud and scornful towards men? Do the latter humble and
abase us; keep us mindful that this is not our rest, and quicken our
preparations for that world where all tears will he wiped away from
our eyes? Or do they cause us to murmur and repine, as though we
suffered unjustly?

Both mercies and afflictions will be a favor of life or death,
according to the effect which they have upon us, and the temper and
disposition they produce in us. If mercies increase our love to God,
and concern to honor him, then are they mercies indeed. So are
afflictions, if they humble us and quicken us in the way of duty; but
if their effect is different they increase our guilt, and will
increase our condemnation.

Whatever may be our situation here--whether we have kind and faithful
friends, or are left desolate, or are surrounded with enemies; whether
we have joys or sorrows, we need the divine influence to enable us to
make a good improvement, and to render them the occasion of good. We
need divine aid and influence, no less in prosperity than in
adversity. Whatever, therefore, may be our situation and
circumstances, sensible of our weakness and blindness, let us return
to God as our rest, _trust in him, and continue in supplications and
prayers night and day_; and his grace will be sufficient for us; for
he hath said to none "seek ye my face in vain."



 * * * * * *



SERMON XXV.

The Good Man Useful In Life and Happy in Death.

Psalm xxxvii. 37.

"Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: For the end of that man
is peace." *


* Preached at the funeral of Asa Witter, Esq. Oct. 9th, 1792.

The subject of this psalm is the way and end of the righteous and the
wicked. It is designed to calm the minds of good people when tried
with adversity, and to reconcile them to the divine administration in
the unequal distributions of Providence, and the apparent disregard of
character, in those distributions. With these views, the writer, after
glancing at the lives of saints and sinners, calls our attention to
their end, noting the manner of their exit out of life.

The text relates to the righteous. In discoursing upon it, _We shall
consider the excellence of their characters, and their peaceful end;
and add a few reflections_.

I. We _are to consider the excellence of their characters. Mark the
perfect man and behold the upright_.--

The _perfect man_.--This may seem a strange representation of an
imperfect creature--a creature which viewed in the glass of the divine
law appears deformed, and tried by the perfect rule must be condemned
--a creature whose best services can find acceptance with God, only on
the plan of grace! For such is man since the apostasy--such the
saints feel and confess themselves. But however strange the
representation, it is drawn by the pen of inspiration, and applied
tothe saints.

Perfection is sometimes attributed to particular saints. "Noah was a
just man and _perfect_ in his generation." Similar is the description
given of Job. "There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job:
And that man was perfect and upright."

In the text, the term perfect, hath not a particular reference, but
refers generally, to those who have been renewed by divine grace. But
when applied to a fallen creature it must be understood with
limitation. We have seen it applied to Job: Hear him then speaking of
himself--"If I justify myself, my own mouth shall condemn me. If I say
I am _perfect_ it shall prove me perverse."

St. John held a high rank among the faithful; yet speaking of the
saints, and including himself, he observes--"If we say that we have
no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us--If We confess
our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins". * St. Paul had
before declared that "there is none righteous, and that the Scripture
hath concluded all under sin."

* 1 John i. 8-10.

In what sense then are the saints perfect? And wherein consists the
excellence of their character?

1. The saints are _perfect_ in Christ. "In him dwells all the fulness
of the Godhead bodily." His righteousness is made theirs. "They are
complete in him. He is made of God unto them wisdom and righteousness,
sanctification and redemption." In this view every good man is a
_perfect_ man.

The saints before the gospel day were but very partially instructed
respecting the way of salvation. They knew not how they were to be
saved through a Redeemer who had not come in the flesh. But the matter
was open to the divine eye. And it is observable that the term
_perfect_ is never assumed by the saints. They confess their own
emptiness and abase themselves before God. Where perfection is
attributed to them, it is always by those who spake as moved by the
Holy Ghost.

2. The saints are the subjects not only of an imputed, but also of an
inherent righteousness: And have been so from the beginning. Noah
was a just man and perfect--Job _perfect_ and upright. In this respect
they were not made to differ from other saints. All the saints are
born of God--they are renewed after the image of the Creator and made
to bear the image of the heavenly. The change which takes place in
them causes them to favor the things of God; to love holiness, and
delight to do good as they have opportunity and ability.

They are just and upright; just toward man, and upright before God.

Justice respects the part which mankind act toward one another. It is
opposed to fraud and injustice. The just man is fair in his dealings
--gives to all their dues--is careful to fulfil every trust, and to
do by others as he would others should do by him.

Such is the character given of him of old, who "was _perfect_ in his
generations," when "the whole earth was filled with violence, because
all flesh had corrupted their way," And every good man follows his
example; hath respect to all God's commandments, and hates every evil
way. Perfection, in the strict sense of the term, is his wish, and his
aim, though he doth not expect to attain it while resident in the
body. But he "forgets the things which are behind and reaching forth
to those which are before, he presses on," endeavoring a nearer
conformity to the divine pattern.

While he is just toward man, he is sincere toward God, acting
uprightly before him. He is really the good man he appears. His
profession is not dissembled. His heart is right--his eye single.
Sincerity is gospel perfection. In this true religion very essentially
consists: And it is found on all the saints.

The good man keeps in mind his covenant engagements. For the vows of
God are upon him and he is careful to fulfil them. He doth not wish to
be released from his obligations with which he is bound to be the
Lord's and to serve him. He is concerned to honor God--thinks nothing
unimportant which he hath required, though the reasons of the
requirement may lie out of sight. "Lord what wilt thou have me to
do?" is his daily inquiry. And he seeks to know, that he may do his
duty. He waits on God in the ways of his appointment, and is busy
about the work assigned him. He is also steady in his counsels and
uniform in his conduct. His heart is established by grace, and his
life accords with the inward principle. He is not whiffling and
unsteady, "carried about by every wind of doctrine"--taken and drawn
away by every new scheme of religion; but "holds fast the faithful
word; and is able by sound doctrine both to exhort and convince
gainsayers." He doth not "put his hand to the plough and look back,"
but perseveres to the end, and is faithful unto death. The fear and
love of God reigning in his heart, govern his life and direct his way,
rendering him an uniform character Therefore do those most intimately
--acquainted with him, convinced of his integrity--: that he is free
from duplicity, and that he abhors evil, and all approaches toward it,
both value him themselves, and make him known to others; and by
bringing him into public view, render him a public blessing. Neither
doth he disappoint their expectations, but according to his ability,
acquits himself with honor, and doth good to all around him.

Others may differ from him in speculative opinions; other good men.
Such differences are unavoidable in this state of darkness and
uncertainty. No two persons see alike in every thing, whatever may be
pretended. But those who know _the perfect and upright man_, will
generally allow that he acts sincerely towards God and man. While
those who are connected with him by tender ties, who are so happy as
to make with him the journey of life, are led by a thousand kind
offices and nameless acts of benevolence and goodness to revere and
love him.

Such is the character intended in the text--Such _the perfect man and
upright_ in himself, and in the estimation of those who know him. Thus
doth he pass through life, feeling and confessing his deficiencies,
lamenting that he can do no more for God's honor, and relying on grace
alone in Christ, for acceptance with him.

When a person of this description "having served his generation, by
the will of God falls asleep," not only relatives and near connexions,
but all who know his worth, mourn his exit, and weeping around his
corse, bedew his hearse with tears. His name is revered, his memory is
blessed, and even envy is silent.


II. We are to consider his peaceful end--_The end of that man is
peace_.

By a person's _end_, his death, the period of his mortal life is
intended. It doth not intend the end of his existence--the modern
infidel terms used to express death. So in other scriptures; as
when God foretold the destruction of the old world--"The end of all
flesh is before me." So Balaam, when looking forward to his exit out
of life--"Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end
be like his." Had death been the period of his existence, it would
have been a matter of indifference whether it found him righteous or
wicked. As to hope in death there would have been no difference. But
this is not the case. Man hath an immortal part within. At the period
of mortal life, he enters on an interminable state.

Mark _the perfect man, and behold the upright: For the end of that man
is peace_. He finds peace at the approach of death--in death, and
after death. In order to a due estimation of the value of true
religion in Himself, and in its reward, we are here called to observe
the good man's _end_. It demands our careful attention. For the scene
is peculiarly instructive. It animates to a discharge of the duties of
life and supports under its troubles; especially at the approach of
death, when worldly comforts fly away.

The wicked who live in habitual neglect of religion, or the indulgence
of vicious desires, are commonly filled with dismay and horror, if
reason remains, when they perceive their end draw nigh. The flights
which they have cast on the gospel, and on the grace therein offered;
their neglects of known duty; their acts of injustice, intemperance,
uncleanness, or other immoralities, the remembrance of which were
almost obliterated by time, at that awful period rise up before them!
Conscience awakes; and when they consider the denunciations of divine
wrath against those who do such things, and have pleasure in them,
fear harrows up their souls! They anticipate eternal woe, and are
filled with agonizing horror! Then do they appear all hurry and
confusion! The great work of life to do, and opportunity gone forever!
Bewailing past madness they cry undone! Undone! Such often continues
their state, till the king of terrors driving them away without hope,
shuts up the scene!

But _the perfect and upright man_, how happily different when death
draws near? If possessed of himself, like the still summer's evening,
he is calm and serene. He talks of death with as much composure, as
one returning from a strange country, to his native land; or as one
returning from captivity and slavery, to his father's house, to his
family, and to the society of friends, dear as life, and with much
more raised expectations!

Some ties of nature--dear connexions, bind him indeed to earth, and
would detain him here; but stronger bonds allure and draw him away
toward a better world. If concern for dear ones he must leave behind
intrudes and tempts him to wish a longer stay, he remembers that
though he dies, his God lives--that God hath stiled himself the
"Father of the fatherless and judge of the widow;" that he hath said
"Leave thy fatherless children with me, I will preserve them alive,
and let thy widows trust in me." Supported by such comforting
declarations--such kind promises of a faithful God, and the allured
belief of his mercy and truth, he resigns them to his care and leaves
them with him, not doubting, but he will preserve them, or dispose of
them, as shall be most for his own glory, and their good.

As to temporal matters, which often trouble those, who are chiefly
concerned about worldly things, they cannot greatly affect one who
believes himself heir to an eternal inheritance. For the comfort of
those whom he leaves behind, he wishes to have his temporalities
settled, and his accompts intelligible; that no disputes may arise, no
injustice be done; but as to any concern which he personally takes in
them, they appear in his view contemptible. He views them as unworthy
his regard, as the beggar, who hath been called to the possession of a
crown the rags which he casts off to put on his robes.

As death approacheth, _the perfect and upright man_, who realizeth his
state, looks back with comfort, approving the part he hath acted,
after renovation, and forward to the enjoyment of God, with
stedfast hope and strong consolation.

We have this happiness of a dying saint, exemplified in St. Paul--"I
am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand: I
have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the
faith: Henceforth there is laid, up for me a crown of righteousness,
which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day."--His
rejoicing was "the testimony of his conscience, that in simplicity
and godly sincerity, he had had his conversion in the world." In the
testimony of his conscience, he read the evidence of his good estate
--of his sincerity towards God, and of his interest in Christ, He
viewed nothing which he had done as meritorious--as laying God under
obligation, Grace in Christ was all his hope. But he considered his
love to God, and his zeal in his cause, as evidential that he was born
of God, and the subject of divine grace in the Redeemer. Thence he
inferred his title to the inheritance, prepared of God for those who
love him.

Other saints do the same. In the testimony of conscience that they
love God, and have obtained grace to serve him, they read their
interest in the covenant and in the promises, in all their divine
fulness.

This is the best, yea, the only evidence, of an interest in them.
Where this is found, the matter is determined; there can be no
reasonable doubt of their good estate; but where it is wanting, every
thing beside is of no avail.

It is natural for a servant, when he sees a reckoning day at hand, to
look back, and inquire how he hath improved his trust, and what
account he hath to give? And from the testimony of conscience, he
anticipates the reception he may expect from his lord. MANKIND feel
themselves accountable to God and naturally expect to receive from his
impartial hand, according to their works; and when they perceive their
probation drawing to a close, they naturally look about them, and
inquire how they can appear before their Judge?

The dying Christian is sometimes heard observing to those about him
--"My glass is almost run. Would to God I had been more faithful,
and done more for him who loved me, and gave himself for me. But
blessed be his name, he hath enabled me to choose him for my portion,
and enabled me to serve him in sincerity; though I have done it with
much weakness and imperfection. Now I rely on his grace; his grace
will be sufficient for me; it will support me in death, and reward my
poor services with an eternal reward."

But if conscience, as death approacheth, speaks a different language
--If it testifies to a departing soul--"You have neglected, the
great salvation--lived in pleasure and been wanton, minding only
earthly things," it fills the soul with anguish unutterable, causing
it to anticipate eternal horrors!

The _perfect and upright_, as he rejoiceth at the approach of death,
if reason remains, often rejoiceth in death. "When he walks the dark
valley, God's rod and staff comfort him--He fears no evil because God
is with him." He is sometimes, ready to exclaim in the triumphant
language of the resurrection, "O death! where is thy sting? O grave
where is thy victory?"

Sometimes indeed, the upright, while here, "walk in darkness"
--Sometimes the lamp of reason goes out, before the departure of the
soul; so that the dying Christian hath no sense of his situation. At
other times, God may hide his face from those whom his soul loves,
and cause them to go on their way sorrowing. Possibly this may
continue to the close of life! But if it doth, the clouds are all
dispersed at the moment of death, No sooner are the clayey
tabernacles dissolved, than the veil is rent, and the brightness of
celestial glory shines in upon them. Peace eternal and divine, is
theirs forever. Clouds will no more hide God's face--Fears and
doubts, no more distress them; nor Satan call his fiery darts at
them, again forever.

In the other world, God will dwell with his people, and "wipe away all
tears from their eyes: There will be no more death, neither sorrow,
nor crying, nor any more pain; for the former things will all have
passed away. There will be no more curse, because no more sin. For the
spirits of the just will be made perfect." They will then be with God
and rejoice before him; for they will have "entered into his temple
to go no more out."

REFLECTIONS

 I. The considerations which have been suggested afford comfort to the
righteous, while groaning under the burdens and sorrows of life, and
support in the solemn hour of death. They minister consolation also to
those who mourn the loss of pious friends--an occasion of sorrow which
we often experience in this vale of tears.

Here all have trials and afflictions--_the perfect and upright_ not
excepted. But the time is short. The good man's trouble terminates
with mortal life. _His end is peace_--his immortality glorious.

The wicked are dismayed when they look forward and consider their end,
or the time of their departure. To the good man it is desirable--"He
then rests from his labors, and his works follow him." St. Paul, "had
a desire to depart, and be with Christ." He knew that "a crown of
righteousness was laid up for him which the Lord, the righteous Judge,
would give him at that day." This was not peculiar to him; it is
common to all those "who love Christ's appearing." Those now in glory
were lately sufferers here: But their sufferings are ended--"They
have entered into peace: They rest in their beds, walking in their
uprightness."

II. Our subject teacheth the conditions on which only we can hope for
peace in death, and happiness after death. These depend on the use
which we make of life--on the manner in which we are affected by the
overtures made us in the gospel; they are the fruit of receiving
Christ and obeying the gospel; for it brings salvation only to those
who obey it.

Would we "die the death of the righteous, and have our last end like
his," our lives must be preparatory--we must "mind the things which
belong to our peace--live in all good conscience before God, and not
suffer ourselves to be moved away from the hope of the gospel."

III. Though when "the mystery of God shall be finished, his judgments
will be made manifest;" hitherto, "his way is in the sea, and his
judgments are a great deep." We know that his way is perfect; but
witness many things in the divine administration, which we do not
understand. We have no line to fathom the depths of providence.

Often _the perfect and the upright_ are early removed out of life
--those who are friends of religion, and supporters of order and
justice; whose hearts are filled with benevolence--who are the
excellent of the earth! While those of different characters, who we
should suppose might well be spared, yea, whose removal, we should
judge a mercy to the world, are left to prolong their days! Some who
are early vicious, and daily grow worse are nevertheless continued,
and permitted to dishonor God, and spread error and mischief among
mankind, till at "an hundred years old they die accursed!"

Such events often occur, and under the divine administration! They are
permitted of him who cannot mistake! In a sense, they are the Lord's
doings, and marvelous in our eyes!

"The Lord reigneth, let the earth, rejoice--Clouds and darkness are
round about him: Righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his
throne. Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen
thine heart; wait, I say, on the Lord."



 * * * * * *



SERMON XXVI.

Departed Saints Fellowservants with those yet on Earth.

Revelation xxii. 9.

"I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets."


The revelation made to St. John in the isle of Patmos, was a comfort
to the suffering apostle, and a blessing to the church. "Blessed is
he that readeth, and they that hear the word, of this prophecy." The
beginning indeed was dark; the prophetic sketch, was for sometime,
gloomy: It unfolded a strange scene of declensions and abominations,
which were to disgrace the church of Christ and mar its beauty; and
dismal series of woes on woes, for many ages. The church then so pure,
was to be corrupted, to become "the mother of harlots and abominations
of the earth, and to make herself drunk with the blood of the saints
and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus!" When the apostle "saw,
he wondered with great admiration." Had the vision closed with similar
discoveries, no joy would have been occasioned by them; but grief
ineffable. The apostle might have sunk under them. But they finally
appeared diverse, and adapted to comfort him, and fill his heart with
joy. He saw the cause of Christ triumphant--true religion to have
become universal, and heavenly glory the reward of the faithful!

When the veil which had been spread over these things was drawn aside,
and they broke out to the view of this man of God, he seems to have
been enraptured and lost in ecstacy. He prostrated himself in
adoration of the celestial messenger: But was forbidden by the angel
--"See, thou do it not; I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren
that have the testimony of Jesus.--Worship God." This happened at
the beginning of the joyful part of the vision, when the triumphs of
Christianity were first disclosed. *

* Revelation xix. 10.

We are under no temptation to give undue honors to bearers of evil
tidings; But even "the feet of those who bring good tidings are
beautiful."

The angel having thus restrained the apostle from paying him divine
homage, proceeded to finish the sketch which he had begun of the glory
which remains for the people of God. When it was nearly completed, the
still imbodied saint, again forgot himself, and overcome by a sight
too strong and glorious for frail humanity fell down in humble
adoration of the heavenly minister!

Mad with joy he appears to have been bewildered, and in a momentary
delirium; but was again prevented by the angel; and the same reason
assigned as before--_I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the
prophets_.

This declaration is remarkable. How are we to understand it?

It should seem that this messenger from above was originally one of
our race. _I am thy fellowservant_.--

We are inclined to believe that he had once inhabited a human body,
and had his residence on earth--that this was one of the old prophets,
who having been released from the work to which he had been first
called, was now serving God under another form, in a more dignified
station and with greater powers than he had possessed while yet on
probation.

We may mistake the Scripture but have been induced to believe that
when the saints drop these bodies, and are joined "to the spirits of
the just made perfect," they become angels, and are afterwards
employed in the service of God, as his messengers and agents, whom he
"sends forth to minister to the heirs of salvation," and to transact
business for which he hath fitted them, and in which he is pleased to
employ them.

Some reasons for this belief are adduced in the following discourse.

When a child of God is released from the body, he is freed from the
remains of depravity, and form this native bias to evil, and according
to his nature, made perfect in holiness. His reason is retained; yea,
his rational capacity is enlarged; and those who are associated with
the blessed inhabitants of the upper world, doubtless enjoy better
means of information than are to be found on earth.

Some indeed, have fancied, that soul and body sleep together from the
epoch of death till the resurrection. That during that term, the soul
is chained down in a state of insensibility! That the happiness of the
saints, during the intermediate term, is no other than a sleep without
dreams--a temporary nonexistence! Strange!

The thoughts of death would make the good man tremble, did he
conceive such to be its nature. Here he is compassed with infirmity,
and groans, being burdened. But such an existence, which capacitates
him to do somewhat to honor God, and benefit man, is preferable to a
suspension of existence.

Suspension of existence! What is a suspension of existence, but a
temporary annihilation!--A complete solecism! From such a state there
could be no resurrection. There could be only another creation, which
must constitute not the same, but another creature. The idea of a
suspension of existence, is scarcely supportable; and the reality of
it contradicted by every part of revelation.

Death is represented in the Scriptures, as a separation of soul and
body; not as their sleeping together. "Thou changest his countenance,
_sendeth him away_;" is a description of death drawn by Job--which
answers to that given of Rachel's--

"_As her soul was departing_, for she died." And a resurrection is
represented as a return of the soul to the body from which it had been
seperated: As of the widow's son whom Elijah raised from the dead
--"_And the soul of the child came into him again_, and he revived."
The language of the New Testament is the same. "This day thou shalt be
fellow sufferer on the cross, whose body was the same day committed to
the grave." St. Paul "had a desire _to depart_ and to be with Christ,"
which he opposed to _abiding in the flesh_. If soul and body sleep
together in the grave, he would have been no sooner with Christ. than
though he had lived here till the resurrection. When St. John was
indulged a sight of heaven, he saw the souls of the martyrs who had
been slain before that period, and heard them crying for vengeance on
the murderers who were yet living on earth. *

* Revelation vi. 9, 10.

The Scriptures are so explicit respecting the state of the dead, that
a suspicion that they remain senseless while their bodies moulder in
the dust, appears strange. The righteous dead certainly rejoice in
God's presence and are associated with fellow saints. The Lamb, which
is in the midst of the throne, feed them, and leads them "to
fountains of living waters; and God wipes away all tears from their
eyes."

Neither do they remain inactive--"They serve God day and night
--in his temple," some may say. God's temple may here mean the
universe, that vast temple which he hath built in every part of which
his saints may serve him. *

* Revelation xxi. 22.

Surely the glorified spirit is not confined to a single apartment in
the house of God, and not suffered to go abroad, and see his glory,
and the exercise of his perfections in the works of creation and
providence! Were such his situation, it would differ little from that
of the delinquent who is confined to his cell, or prison. Such cannot
be the state of a glorified soul--of a soul released from a body,
which while on trial, served as a clog to restrain the servant, and
prevent him from quitting the station, in which he had been placed, or
leaving the work assigned him. It cannot be the state of one
sanctified throughout; of one raised above temptation, either to stray
into devious paths, or be slothful in the service of his God.

Much of our felicity here ariseth from a contemplation of the works of
creation and providence. In these we see divine wisdom and goodness;
learn to know God; to fear and love him. The good man carries this
disposition with him when he exchangeth worlds; his desire of
knowledge, and especially the knowledge of God, and the works and ways
of God. And is there not reason to believe that glorified saints have
power and liberty to range among the works of the all perfect
Sovereign; trace the evidences of the divine perfections, and witness
their effects, and that this is one source of their happiness?

A relish for knowledge is a quality of the mind, natural to it, and
inseparable from it. We observe it in children, who at an early period
discover a desire of information, and perpetually seek it by
questioning those more advanced. The same disposition is resident in
adults, and productive of the attainments in science which both
delight the mind and dignify the man. In heaven, the glorified spirit,
hath doubtless advantages for attaining the knowledge of God and
divine things, and opportunity to satisfy his desire after it, if it
can be satisfied; for it is itself a happiness. It gives a zest to
information, and will probably continue, and be an endless source of
enjoyment. The creature may never know so much of god as to desire no
farther knowledge of him; or so much of the works and ways of god, as
to with no increase of that knowledge. Acquisitions in knowledge and
enjoyment may progress together in the world of spirits. And who can
fix their limits? They may be as boundless as eternity!

Turn now your thoughts on Sir Isaac Newton that renowned philosopher
and Christian. Was his enlarged and inquisitive mind satisfied at
death? Did not he carry with him a desire to visit every planet, not
only of our own but of other systems, and pry into the _arcana_ of
nature to be found in them all? If enabled and permitted, he may
still be ranging among the works of God, to learn yet more of his
wisdom, power and goodness, in his works and ways, which are
unsearchable, and past the comprehension of created beings!
Probably other glorified Spirits have a Share; it, may be a large
share of the same temper.

And if they are capable of bearing the message of their divine
Sovereign, or doing aught for his honor, it must be a pleasure to
glorified spirits to be so employed. Here the good man delights to
serve the Lord. Will this cease to be his disposition when the remains
of depravity shall be done away? Will not this disposition be
increased and strengthened? Or is there reason to think that those
will have no power to serve God, who are freed from sluggish bodies?

Of certain glorified spirits it was declared to the apostle, as we
have seen, that they "serve God day and night"--They have no need of
rest--they never grow weary. How they serve God without the use of
bodily organs, is to us unknown. But it doth not follow that they are
incapable of it. God can give them power, and teach them to accomplish
all his pleasure.

That departed saints have sometimes been sent down to our world, to
make known God's will, and deliver his messages, we believe to be
taught in the scriptures--_I am thy fellow servant and of thy brethren
the prophets_.

Who not of our race could have made such a declaration? _A
fellowservant_, is a servant of the same species, or rank. Our
fellows are our equals; those of the same class in creation. Brutes
are creatures; but we do not consider them as _fellow creatures_. We
might, however, with as much propriety as the angel could call himself
John's _fellowservant_, had he belonged to another species, or class
or servants.

The term _prophet_, carries, in our apprehension, the same thing in it
--speaks the heavenly messenger to have been one of our race. By
prophets, we understand inspired men. We believe this to be every
where its meaning in the scriptures. And the term _brethren--"of thy
brethren the prophets_", confirms our sense of the text--_I am thy
fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets_. Strange language, if
this was one of the angels who kept their first estate; one who never
dwelt in flesh, nor inhabited a human body! But if this was one of the
old prophets, Samuel, Nathan, Daniel, or any other of those who had
tabernacled in flesh, and been sent to warn his brethren, and foretell
things to come, the language is easy and natural. *

* * * * *

* _Sundulos sou gar eimi, xai ton adelphon sou ton prophaton_.
Doct. Doddridge in his notes on this passage observes, that it may be
rendered _I am thy fellow servant and the fellow servant of thy
brethren the prophets_.

But the translation in the Bible is perfectly literal. The sentence is
elliptical. The elipsis may as well be filled by _tis_, as by
_sundoulos_. If filled by the former, it reads thus, _I am a fellow
servant, and one of the brethren the prophets_. This, for the reasons
given above, we conceive to be the sense of the passage. The learned
reader wilt judge for himself.

* * * * *

If we search the scriptures, we shall see that the saints whose bodies
were in the grave, have been sometimes thus used of God.

When Saul went to consult the powers of darkness, because the Lord did
not answer him in the time of his distress, Samuel, who had died some
time before, was sent of God to reprove that rebellious prince, and
denounce his doom.

Some indeed suppose that the apparition was not Samuel, but an
infernal! But the sacred historian represents it as being Samuel, and
why should we reject his testimony?

The sorceress had not power by her charms, to call back the prophet
from the world of spirits. But God had power to send him on his
business; to enable him to make himself visible, and foretel the evils
which then hung over Saul and Israel: And from several considerations
we think it evident that he did do it.

The woman appears to have been surprized when she saw Samuel. To her,
he was an unexpected visitor. By his means she found out Saul, whom
before she did not know in his disguise.--Apostate spirits if they
ever gave responses to those who consulted them, commonly flattered
them in their crimes, or gave ambiguous answers to their inquiries;
but not so the ghost which appeared on this occasion. Most pointedly
did it reprove the abandoned prince, who was adding iniquity to
transgression, and hardening himself in the time of trouble! And most
expressly did it foretel the evils which were coming on the offending
inquirer, his family and people! Could an apostate spirit have done
these things? Or would he if he could? God hath sometimes used wicked
men to foretel future events, and compelled them to denounce his
judgments; but have we any account of his making this use of fallen
angels? Of his making known his purposes to them, and enabling
them to give the genuine proof of true prophets? It is further
observable, that part of the message related to taking the kingdom
from Saul, and giving it to David--"The Lord hath done to him as he
spake by me," is his language. God had foretold this by Samuel; not by
Satan, or a messenger of Satan.

There is every reason to believe that Samuel really appeared on this
occasion--that God sent him to deliver the sad message to the
impious rebel, who instead of humbling himself in the time of his
trouble, sinned yet more against the Lord.

If we attribute these divine communications to infernal agency, why
not others? If once we turn aside from the literal sense of scripture,
where shall we stop? But should we doubt whether in this instance, a
departed saint was sent down to visit earth, and transact the business
of HIM who is Lord of all, other instances may certainly be adduced
--if not in the Old Testament, yet beyond a doubt in the New. But this
will be the subject of another discourse.



 * * * * * *



SERMON XXVII.

Departed Saints Fellow servants with those yet on Earth.

REVELATION xxii.

"I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets."


That the saints do not remain insensible, while their bodies are in
the dull, but become angels, * see and serve God and bear his
messages, and minister to the heirs of salvation, hath been argued
from several considerations, in the preceding discourse; but we
chiefly depend on revelation. The text and several other scriptures,
we conceive to be our purpose, and sufficient to establish our theory,
and that the same is illustrated and confirmed by sacred history, both
of the Old and New Testament. One instance of a departed saint, sent
as a messenger from heaven to earth, hath been adduced from the Old
Testament: We now advert to the New.

* The term angel signifies a messenger. If glorified saints are used
to carry God's messages, or sent to do his business, they are made
angels, in the proper sense of the word. Such appear to have been the
angelic band, who united in praising God, when the Lamb prevailed to
open the book of his decrees and reveal them to the apostle--"And
they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy--for thou wast slain,
and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and
tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God, kings
and priests: _And we shall reign on the earth_." * Surely these must
have been of our race.

* REVELATION v. 9, 10.

Here our proof in explicit. We can conceive of no evasion. Two of our
race _who had long before been removed from earth to heaven_, were
certainly sent to visit the Savior, just before this sufferings
--Moses and Elias, who attended him on the mount, whither he retired
with three of his disciples, and conversed with him in their presence.
St. Luke hath described their appearance, and told the subject of
their conversation--"Who appeared, in glory and spake of his decease,
which he should accomplish at Jerusalem." *

* Luke ix. 29.

Moses had then been dead more than fourteen centuries. Elias had not
tasted death, but he had been changed. That change had passed upon him
which will pass on the saints who shall be alive at Christ's coming.
The change must have been great, or he could not have ascended to
heaven in a chariot of fire, or lived above the region of air which
surrounds this globe.

These two saints, seem, on this occasion, to have been assimilated to
each other--"They both appeared in glory"--were company for each
other, and sent together to testify for Christ, before chosen
witnesses. Our Savior's resurrection was also attended by witnesses
who had been for time in the world of spirits--"And the graves were
opened, and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out
of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and
appeared unto many." *

* Matthew xxvii. 52, 53.

But it is only departed saints who are employed to bear God's
messages. There is no intimation in scripture, that those who die in
their sins, are afterwards sent, or suffered to go abroad. There is
reason to believe, that as the saints are made perfect at death, so
all that bears an affinity to goodness, ceases at that period, in the
unrenewed, and that they put on the complete image of him who is
termed their father. If this is the case, they would spread mischief
and misery, were they permitted access to those who remain in the
body, and liable to temptation. However this might be, we are assured
that they are confined in the infernal prison, and will continue
prisoners till the great day.

This is intimated by our Savior, when he warns the sinner to "agree
with his adversary quickly, while in the way with him--lest he should
be cast into prison"--because should this happen there will be no
release "till he shall pay the utmost farthing." This speaks the
state of impenitents, to be from the time of their death, that of
prisoners, who can neither break their prison, or obtain, so much as a
temporary release, till they shall have suffered all their demerits.

The same is intimated in the parable of the rich man Lazarus. The rich
sinner is represented as passing, at death, into a place of torment,
and confinement, and as despairing of even a momentary enlargement.
Other wise he would not have requested that Lazarus might be sent to
warn his brethren who were then living on earth, but rather that he
might have gone himself. Him they would have known; and he could have
given them a feeling description of the miseries which living in
pleasure, regardless of the one thing needful, will draw after it.
Many advantages might have been expected from this personal appearance
to his brethren, but he preferred no such petition.

His prayer that Lazarus might be sent, was probably intended to
intimate that departed spirits remember their former state on earth,
and the relatives and acquaintance whom they leave upon it; that they
retain a concern for them; that they know that good spirits are used
of God to transact matters relative to their spiritual concerns, and
that those who die in their sins are kept in confinement, and not
permitted to go forth; no, not to warn fellow sinners, whom they have
left behind them.

This agrees with what is said by St. Peter, respecting the
antediluvians. He speaks of those as being "spirits in prison" in the
apostolic age, "who were disobedient, when the long suffering of God
waited with them, in the days of Noah."

It farther appears that their imprisonment is a state of darkness.
"Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness? to whom is
reserved the blackness of darkness forever." This darkness is probably
a contrast to the light enjoyed by glorified saints. They are
doubtless let into the purposes of heaven--to them the mystery of
divine providence is opened. They see and admire the wisdom and
goodness of God, in those dispensations, which while here, filled them
with wonder. But it seems that the wicked are not let into these
things, but driven away in darkness, and left enveloped in it--"None
of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand."

This may serve to explain a passage in Job, which might seem opposed
to our construction of the text--"His sons come to honor and he
knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of
them." * If we understand this of the wicked, it will harmonize with
the other scriptures which have been adduced. Though some understand
the words of Job, as descriptive of a man's state at the approach of
death, at which period he is often lost and bewildered, and
consequently unaffected with, any thing which may happen to his
dearest connexions, for whom, in health, and while possessed of
reason, he felt greatly interested. This construction is favored by
the words which follow, in which he is represented as still pained in
body, as well as mind--"But his flesh upon him shall have pain, and
his soul within him shall mourn." +

* Job xiv. 21. + Vid. Henry in locum.

If we do not mistake the scriptures, our pious departed friends may
sometimes attend us, and witness the manner in which we act our parts.

Natural relations terminate with life; but we do not believe that the
friendships here contracted cease at death; that the remembrance of
the kind offices done to a good man here is then obliterated; that
those who had been helpers of one another in this life are forever
lost to each other when they cease to be together here; or that the
endearments of friendship and reciprocal affection are then
extinguished to revive not more.

Departed spirits must retain a remembrance of what they did here, and
of those who acted with them. They cannot otherwise give account of
themselves; or witness the divine justice and impartiality relative to
matters which had been common to themselves and others. But these will
be made manifest. All in heaven and on earth will see and confess the
perfect rectitude of the divine administration.

Some suppose that the knowledge of things done on earth, and regard
for mortals would render departed saints unhappy; that therefore they
are incredible.

But is not God grieved at the obstinacy of sinners? "When God saw
that the wickedness of man was great in the earth--it repented the
Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his
heart." * Was he then unhappy? Departed saints may have similar
sensations, whatever may be implied in them. The same objection may be
made to the divine knowledge of mankind, as to that of the saints--We
do not take it on us to explain either. The same may also be objected
to supposing that the saints will be made acquainted with the
decisions of the Judge at the great day--that they will then see any
who were dear to them here, sent away with the workers of iniquity.

* Genesis vi. 5.

If the manifest rectitude, and moral necessity of the divine
decisions, will then satisfy the righteous, and their greater love to
God reconcile them to the execution of his judgments on all the
impenitent, why not as soon as they shall have put off the remains of
depravity, and become "the spirits of the just made perfect?" THOSE
in glory are doubtless acquainted with the moral state of the world
--"There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth." *

* Luke xv. 7-10

That the powers of light and darkness take part in the concerns of
mankind, and interest themselves in their affairs, and that they
conflict with each other on their account, we are taught in
revelation. *

Our departed friends who have known and loved us here, may be among
the invisible witnesses of our conduct, and among our invisible
helpers. They may rejoice, if we act well our parts, or weep if we are
numbered among sinners, or careless neglecters of the grace of life.

* Daniel x. 13. Jude 9

Perhaps the pious parent who hath died in the Lord, may regard the
little orphan which he hath left behind. Experienced in the troubles
and difficulties, snares and temptations of this life, he may watch
over it, and in ways to us unknown "do it good and not evil all the
days of its life." Little ones are not destitute of invisible keepers
--"_Their angels_ do always behold the face of my Father which is in
heaven." *

* Matthew xviii. 10.

Some are early called out of life; make but a transient visit to the
scene of sorrow, and just taste the bitter cup of affliction. But
though short their stay, they may yet begin to form some dear
connexions--connexions which might perhaps have been ensnaring; for
more set bad, than good examples before the little strangers committed
to their care. These, taken from the evils to come, may be friends to
those who had appear to befriend their helpless state in this strange
land--may watch for their good, and rejoice if they see them minding
the things which belong to their peace, and by a wise improvement of
more talents than had been committed to themselves, preparing for
greater joys and honors in the kingdom of God.

Those who had sustained a still nearer relation--who had been "one
flesh" may bear like regard to those "with whom they had taken sweet
counsel and walked to the house of God in company"--and may be the
first to welcome their arrival at the world of joy.

The Romish church have abused the doctrine which we conceive to be
contained in the text, by decreeing adoration to departed saints.
Others have gone into the opposite extreme, denying that they know
ought of terrestrial matters, or have any concern in them. Adoration
belongs exclusively to God. It belongs neither to glorified saints,
nor to angels of light, though the latter "are all sent forth to
minister to the heirs of salvation." * "Thou shalt worship the Lord
thy God, and him only shalt thou serve."

* Hebrews i. 14.

The righteous are not suffered to continue here by reason of death.
Their removal is one of our severest trials. Our subject ministers
support and comfort under it. When we reflect upon it, we seem to hear
them calling to us from behind the scene, with "Weep not for us--we
are not dead. Our bodies sleep, but our spirits wake"--Death is not
the period of our existence. It is only our removal--our birth day
into the world of glory.--We are joined "to the spirits of the just
made perfect"--enjoy the society and that of the angels of God--behold
the face of our heavenly Father, and of the divine Redeemer.
We rejoice to see you "followers of those who through faith and
patience inherit the promises"--are ready to help you in your work,
and to shout God's praises, and unite in songs of triumph, should you
come off conquerors, and rise from your humble state of sorrows,
sufferings and temptations, to be our companions in glory.

These are consoling and animating views. They tend to excite a divine
ambition in working out our salvation.

We are yet doomed "to bear the heat and burden day." But we are not
alone--not unobserved. God, angels, and the good, who were lately "our
companions in tribulation," witness the part we act. We would not
dishonor ourselves in their view, and sink ourselves in their
estimation. If they are ready to help our infirmity, we would not
render their heavenly aid of no avail, or cut ourselves off from
enjoying their society.

Consider some dear departed child of God thus interested in your
concerns, and you will find it a spur to duty, and an incentive to
labor and not faint in the work assigned you, preparatory to your
joining the church of the first born above. Think now that the godly
ones who loved you here, and labored to animate you in the service of
God--or those who lately looked to you for counsel and guidance,
having made their way to glory, are waiting your arrival and longing
to hail your entrance into the kingdom, and by all the strength of
your love to them, now freed from the imperfections of their earthly
residence, and made glorious and heavenly, you will find yourself
drawn on toward that state of blessedness, in which you hope again to
rejoice with those whose distresses you witnessed here--yea whose
dying agonies, may have chilled your frame and filled you with anguish
unutterable!

To meet them again, and find yourself and them, forever removed from
the fear of evil, either natural or moral--forever secure the divine
friendship--forever happy and glorious in the enjoyment of God, "the
former things being all passed away, and all tears forever wiped from
your eyes!" There to recount with those blessed spirits, the
travels and trials of this life, and look back, perhaps, on many
hairbreadth escapes from eternal death! There, to dwell on the wonders
of divine love and mercy exercised towards you, and often in things
which you once thought to be against you! Who would not willingly
suffer many deaths to enjoy these things?

Such considerations are animating in duty, and supporting in times of
trial. If realized, we shall adopt the language of the suffering
apostle--"None of these things move me, neither do I count my life
dear to myself, that I may finish my course with joy"--and share
such blessed society--such inconceivable felicity and glory in my
Father's house above, in which are many mansions!



 * * * * * *



SERMON XXVIII.

The Danger of Deviating from Divine Institutions.

Colossians ii, 8.

"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit,
after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not
after Christ."


St. Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles. The care of the churches
gathered among them devolved particularly on him. At the writing of
this epistle he had no personal acquaintance with the church to which
it is addressed.* Epaphras, a bishop of the Colossians, then his
fellow prisoner at Rome, had made him acquainted with their state, and
the danger they were in from false teachers, who, during the absence
of their minister, labored to turn them from the duplicity of the
gospel; and this letter was written, through divine influence, to
guard them against those deceivers, and persuade them to abide in
Christ.

* Verse 1.

To this end he counselled them to keep to the divine directions,
carefully avoiding every alteration, or addition, which might be urged
upon them by uninspired men, though they might come with a shew of
wisdom and humility, and profession of regard to the honor of God and
happiness.

Many of the most successful attacks on God's earthly kingdom have been
made in this way. Open rebellion against God, is found chiefly on
those who have no faith in him; who are therefore devoid of his fear.
Others are tempted mostly to other sins, and induced to make indirect
opposition to the divine government, from them, the tempter hides the
truth, and leads them into error, and thus causes them to pull down
the cause which they aim to build up, and fight against God with a
view to serve him.

So much of God appears in his works, that comparatively few can be
made to doubt his existence, or his providential government. Hence few
are prevailed with to renounce his fear and rise directly against him;
but many are deceived, and consequently engaged to act with his
enemies.

Here a common source of seduction hath been suggesting improvements on
divine institutions--that _this_ and _that_, which God hath not
ordered, would help his cause and promote his interest. Sometimes the
improvements are attempted under pretence of divine order, and urged
with his authority; but this veil is not always spread over endeavors
to change his institutes. They are often urged as means adapted to
help his cause, without pretence to divine order requiring the use of
them; Much, it is alleged, is left to human discretion. This taken
for granted, the rest is easy. It is only to say _these measures_ are
wise and good, calculated to help on the cause of God, and whoever
denies it, is considered as fighting against God.

Thus men are led away from the divine institutions to those of human
invention. Human wisdom is exalted above divine; and all with a view
to glorify God!

Thus was the tempter laboring, through the instrumentality of his
agents, to seduce the Colossians, when this epistle was written, and
it is chiefly intended to counteract their influence, and prevent that
church from being moved away from the hope of the gospel, which they
had received.

In discussing the subject, We shall first _glance at the measures used
by those deceivers_--then consider _the success which hath attended
this mode of fighting against God, and seducing mankind, adding a few
observations on the influence of tradition and the rudiments and
customs of the world_.

The Colossian seducers appear to have been of two kinds--Jewish and
Gentile. The former seem not to have differed from those at Rome,
Corinth, Galatia, and those in Judea. They were Jewish Christians, who
were so attached to the Mosaic ritual, that they wished to continue
it, and graft Christianity upon it, rendering the religion of Christ
only an appendage to that of Moses. They insisted that the ceremonial
law remained in force--insisted especially on the observance of
circumcision; and probably on the traditions so highly valued by the
Pharisees. But the apostle assured this Gentile Church, that they were
complete "in Christ", and needed nothing of this kind to recommend
them to God, or to secure his favor--that "Christ had blotted out the
hand writing of ordinances, and taken it away, nailing it to his
cross"--that the ceremonial law, being only "a shadow of good things
to come," was fulfilled in Christ, and no longer obligatory; and
warned them to stand fast in their Christian liberty, and suffer no
man to judge them respecting such things, or impose such burdens upon
them.

The Gentile seducers were converts from Paganism, and no less eager to
introduce the tenets and rites of their superstition. One of
the errors, which, from the particular mention made of it, they seem to
have urged, was the worshipping of angels, "Let no man beguile you of
your reward, in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels,
intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up
by his fleshly mind." *

* Verse 18.

Mankind seem, at a pretty early period, generally to have given into
the idea of so vast a distance between God and man, that man is
unworthy to come into his presence, and can approach him acceptably
only through a mediator. But just views of a mediator were never
communicated to the scattered branches of our race, or soon lost
from among them. Most of the heathens offered religious homage to
departed heroes; or to those who had been revered while inhabitants of
earth. To them were their prayers addressed, that they might bear them
to the God of nature, and by their influence render him propitious.

Here was the appearance of humility--So sensible of their unworthiness
that they dared not approach God in their own names, or present their
own petitions--others who had ceased to sin, and been admitted to the
divine presence, must intercede for them. But this was "a voluntary
humility"--not ordered of God--a mere matter of human invention.

A mediator is indeed necessary for man since the fall; but man is not
left to choose his mediator. One every way suitable is provided,
through whom we may have access to God: "There is one God, and one
Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."

The apostle further observes, that those who directed them to worship
angels, arrogated a knowledge of matters not revealed. God hath given
no intimation of such use to be made of angels, but ordered man to
approach him in the name of Christ. Those who go to God in other ways,
or depending on other intercessors, are said "not to hold the head." *
"The head of every man is Christ." + Such people will lose their
reward. "Let no man beguile you of your reward, in a voluntary
humility and worshipping of angels"--The rewards of grace are promised
to obedience but not to "willful worship, or voluntary humility." The
utmost these can hope is forgiveness.

*Verse 9. + 1 Corinthians xi. 3.

When Paul assured the Colossians that they were "complete in Christ,"
he had reference to the errors of all the deceivers who were laboring
to seduce them. Gentile philosophy is as useless to the Christian, as
Jewish rites. Christ hath the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in him.
We' have only to rely on divine mercy, through faith, in him, and we
shall not be ashamed.

Such we conceive to be the sum of the instructions and warnings here
given to the Colossians. They were only to keep to the divine
directions, and seek salvation agreeably thereto, regardless of _the
traditions of men and rudiments of the world_.

All error is deviation from divine rule. To this men are tempted with
a view to honor God. This is a fruitful source of error. And when
error is once generated, it is often diffused and perpetuated by
tradition, custom, and _the rudiments of the world_.

We proceed to consider _the success which hath attended this mode of
fighting against God--that is, suggesting improvements on divine
institutions and appointments_.

The first attempt to seduce our race seems to have been of this kind.
"The woman being deceived was in the transgression," Made upright,
she could not have been persuaded to disobey God, unless she was led
to believe that she might, some how, honor God in consequence of that
disobedience. But how?--"In the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes
shall be opened; and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil"--Then
she could honor God better than while destitute of knowledge which
would liken her to superior intelligences. "And when the woman saw
that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes,
and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit
thereof and did eat." Thus some suppose the tempter to have prevailed
against her. It may be thought strange that she should expect good to
rise out of evil. Her descendants have often entertained such
expectations; but they are depraved, and their minds are darkened.

Whether this was the sophism by which Satan's victory was obtained, we
presume not to determine. It is however certain that he prevailed by
deception; by persuading our common mother that advantage would accrue
from ceasing to follow the divine directions.

Cain, her eldest son, fell into a sin of the same kind; was induced to
change divine institutions. "Cain brought the fruit of the ground an
offering unto the Lord," instead of the firstlings of the flock. The
fruit of the ground did not typify the sacrifice of Christ, and had
not been ordered of God. It was a mode of honoring him of Cain's
devising. He thought to improve on divine appointments; or dared to
change them to suit his circumstances. "Cain was a tiller of the
ground." The fruits of the ground were the product of his own labors
--"Of such as he had, he would bring his offering. What advantage
would accrue from changing with his brother to procure what God had
required? God needed nothing and could receive nothing from his
creatures."

Abel believed himself under obligation to conform to the divine order,
and in that way to seek the divine favor. Cain had not this faith. He
was confident that another way would do as well; and followed the
dictates of his own fancied wisdom. * Therefore their different
reception. Had Cain been equally obedient with Abel no difference
would have been made. Cain is appealed to, to judge of this matter for
himself--"If thou dost well, shalt thou not be accepted?" TO do well,
is to regulate principle and practice by the divine order; in both
these Cain was deficient. They are commonly united. Error in principle
occasions error in practice.

* These are not mere conjectures--they are intimated by St. Jude, when
he declares the schismatics of his day "have gone in the way of Cain
and Core." Core, or Korah, certainly attempted to change a divine
order by which the functions of the priesthood were appropriated to
the family of Aaron. And the schismatics, who were contemporary with
the apostles, set themselves up for teachers in the church without a
regular, or supernal call to the ministry. These went in the way of
Cain. His sin must therefore have been a departure from divine
institutions.

Not many ages after the deluge idolatry was introduced into the world,
and corrupted and spoiled the worship of God. This seems to have been,
at first, a design to improve on the homage which was paid to the true
God.

Adoration offered to other than God, is idolatry. This is of two
kinds--that offered to angels, and departed spirits, and that offered
to the heavenly bodies and to images. The former is said to have been
originally designed to engage those to whom it was addressed to act
the part of mediators with God. The heavenly bodies were adored as the
supposed residences of Deity. Image worship was intended to help
devotion. It was thought that visible representations would serve to
impress a reverence for the objects of worship on the mind, and
solemnize the heart. With this view, images and paintings were
introduced into temples and places of worship. They appeared to have
effect. The worshippers seemed more devout. A happy discovery, which
had not occurred to Omniscience!

To increase the good effects, further improvements were suggested.
Images were made of the precious metals, and enriched with gems and
costly attire, and art was exhausted to embellish them. They were also
consecrated with magnificent and solemn rites. After consecration, the
celestials to whom they dedicated, were supposed to descend and dwell
in them, and thus to be present with their worshippers, to hear their
prayers, witness their gratitude, and smell a sweet savor in their
sacrifices. And as temples were built, and images consecrated chiefly
to inferior deities, who were worshipped as mediators, the homage
which was paid to them was suited to the conceptions which the
worshippers entertained of the objects of their worship; and being
mostly taken from among men, the offerings were adapted to the
characters which they had respectively sustained while resident in the
body. Hence the homage paid to Baal, Moloch, Mars, Bacchus, Venus and
others. Thus every abomination was sanctioned, and made an object of
religion!

The use of images was common among the Easterns at an early period,
and communicated to the Hebrews, who were conversant with them, before
their settlement in Canaan. In Egypt, or certainly in the wilderness
it was found among them. They were particularly guilty of this sin
while Moses was on the mount with God. And the use which they then
made of images was the same which hath been mentioned. As soon as the
golden calf was finished, Aaron, who had entered into their views,
made proclamation--"Tomorrow is the feast of the Lord--[of Jehovah."]
Moses, who had greatly helped them in the worship and service of God,
was gone, and the idol was intended to supply his place; to help their
devotion, and excite them to honor the true God! "Up make us Gods--
for this Moses--we wot not what is become of him."

The idolatrous worship of the Romanists in later ages is of the same
kind. Their churches abound with rich images, and are adorned with
exquisite paintings; the likeness of Christ agonising on the cross,
and other affecting representations, designed to impress religious
subjection the heart and excite devotion. Such is the use which they
profess to make of them. And they seem not devoid of effect.
Protestants who have attended their worship, have observed greater
appearances of fervor, and greater moving of the passions, than are
usual in the religious assembles of other denominations of Christians.
And their adoration of angels and departed saints, is only as of
mediators and intercessors, who may present their prayers, and obtain
favor for them--the very idolatry of paganism.

In these things there is a shew of wisdom and humility--wisdom to
devise means to impress a sense of religion, and humility to draw nigh
to God by the intervention of those more worthy than themselves; and
the means seem not destitute of influence; they produce warm zeal, and
all the fervor of devotion; yea, all those feelings and emotions which
are thought by some to constitute the offence of religion.

And why is not all this right? Why are not these ways of honoring God
and exciting devotion commendable, when they render the worshipper
thus fervent in spirit to serve the Lord?

The reason is obvious--they are not required--yea, they are
forbidden of the divine Sovereign. "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy
God, and him _only_ shalt thou serve. Thou shalt not make unto thee
any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven
above, or in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters under the
earth--I the Lord thy God am a jealous God."--

Pretending to honor God by direct disobedience is peculiarly
affrontive. Such worshippers "provoke him to his face. Their
offerings his soul hateth. They are a smoke in his nose, and a fire
that burneth all the day." Every thing of this nature, whatever may
be its design, is rebellion against God. Against no other sin hath he
manifested greater indignation.

No instance can be adduced of such homage being accepted, or of good
resulting from such worship. Yea, it hath commonly been followed with
the severest marks of the divine resentment. Witness the evils which
came upon Israel when they made the golden calf, to help their
devotions. Witness those which fell on the family and kingdom of
Jeroboam, when he forsook the appointed worship of God, and the
ministry of the Levites whom God had appointed to wait at the altar.
Jeroboam did not introduce the worship of Baal, or the other heathen
gods. This was done afterwards by the influence of Jezebel. He only
appointed other places of worship, beside that which God had chosen,
and consecrated others to minister who had not the attachments of the
Levites to the house of David and city of Zion, and made images to
help the devotion of his people; and lo! his family perish; a brand of
infamy is set on his name; and because his people walk in his ways,
they are finally "broken and cease to be a people!"

The divine resentment of attempts to change the ordinances of God, or
make innovations in his worship even where they seem _to have been
done out of concern for his honor_, is left on record in his word.
Saul once offered sacrifice. The necessity of his affairs seemed to
require it. He professed to have done it with reluctance, but to have
thought it his duty--"I said the Philistines will come down upon me,
and I have not made supplication unto the Lord: I forced myself
therefore, and offered a burnt offering." But Saul was not of the
family of Aaron, to whom the right of sacrificing solely appertained
by divine appointment. Hence instead of conciliating the divine favor,
his officious zeal offended heaven--for that act of disobedience he
was threatened with deposition; and a repetition of attempting to
improve on divine orders, in sparing the best cattle of Amelek to
sacrifice unto the Lord, confirmed the sentence, * placed another
on the throne, and led to the ruin of the rebellious prince. Uzzah only
put forth his hand to steady the trembling ark, and was struck dead
for his rashness, beside the ark of God. +

* 1 Samuel xiii. 1-14, xv. 15-13. + 2 Samuel vi. 6, 7.

Some spoiled through philosophy and vain deceit, have made changes in
the divine institutions, and attempted improvements upon them, since
the commencement of the gospel day. This hath been a leading trait of
character in the chiefs of the Romish church. Many of the heads of
that communion have signalized themselves in this way. And some of
their alterations have operated to impress what was thought to be
religion, as hath been observed. Another way in which they have
manifested the same disposition hath been the multiplying of holy days.
Under various pretences, nearly half the days in the year have been
consecrated to religion, by order of those gods on earth. Some real,
and many fictitious saints, have days consecrated to their memory.

Here is a great shew of wisdom, and zeal for God, and his cause in the
world; calling men so often from their temporal concerns to attend to
the duties of religion! Who can do other than approve it? Doubtless
many have been deceived by appearances, and considered those as wise
and good who have done these things. But this is far from being their
character. These have been the doings of "Antichrist, the Man of sin
--the Son of perdition! Because of these things cometh the wrath of
God, on the children of disobedience!" All these specious measures are
no better than Saul's sacrificing, Uzzah's steadying the ark, and the
use of images in divine worship! They are opposition to the orders of
the Most High, and rebellion against him.

"Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work, but the seventh day
is the sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work"
--Whoever takes it on himself to alter this appointment, "thinks to
change times and laws;" which was foretold of him who should "speak
great words against the Most High." *

* Daniel vii. 25.

The Lord's day, is the only day which God hath sanctified under the
gospel dispensation. This infinite wisdom judged sufficient. Had more
been requisite, more would have been consecrated by divine order. But
not a hint of any other holy day is to be found in the New Testament. +

* * * * *

+ Neither the day of Christ's birth, death, resurrection or ascension
appear to have been regarded as holy time, or any way distinguished
from the other days of the year, during the apostolic age. The former
of these is not marked in the scriptures. Whether it happened on the
twentyfifth of December, or at some other season is uncertain. So are
the times in which the apostles and primitive Christians suffered
martyrdom. These events are veiled. Divine providence hath hidden them
from mankind, probably for the same reason that the body of Moses was
hidden from Israel--to prevent its being made an object of idolatrous
worship--or for the same which is supposed to have occasioned our
Lord's seeming neglect of his mother, and his severer reproof given to
Peter, than to any other of his disciples--"Get thee behind me Satan;"
namely, that idolatrous honor, which he foresaw would be afterwards
paid them by some called Christians.

Easter is once mentioned in our translation of the New Testament; but
it is not found in the Greek original. The word there used is "Pasxa,"
the Passover. It is mentioned only to note the time in which Herod
intended to have brought forth Peter and delivered him up to his
enemies. *

* Acts xii. 4.

* * * * *

Occasional calls there may be to fasting and thanksgiving; and we
have scripture warrant for attending them in their seasons. But fixing
on certain days of the year, or month, statedly to call men from their
secular business to attend to religion, and requiring the consecration
of them to religion is adding to the book of God. However well
intended, it goes on mistaken principles, and however specious in
appearance, is affronting the wisdom and authority of heaven.

Most of the errors referred to above, are found among Pagans or
Catholics; but is nothing of the same kind chargeable on Protestants?
"Are there not with us sins against the Lord our God?" And of the
same nature with those we have been contemplating? The knowledge of
other's errors in ay be for our warning; but the knowledge of our own
is requisite to our reformation. Where then are we directed of God,
religiously to observe Christmas, Lent, or Easter? Where to attend the
eucharist only twice or thrice a year; and never without one, or more
preparatory lectures? * Where to add a third prayer at the
administration of that ordinance, when our divine pattern only blessed
the bread before he distributed it to his disciples, and gave thanks
to the Father, before he divided to them the cup? Where are we
directed to attend quarterly seasons of prayer, or to hold weekly
conferences for religious purposes?

* * * * *

* We would not be understood to intend that all religious meeting on
week days are unlawful. Special occasions often require them. But the
Lord's day is the only time set apart by divine order for the stated
attendance. No other hath he consecrated to the business of religion.
Neither would we be considered as denying the legality of ever uniting
to seek the Lord previous to the celebration of eucharist. We may look
to God to assist and accept us in every duty. But if we consider these
preparatory exercises as indispensibly requisite, and as constituting
a part of the duty, we do it without divine warrant.

From an attention to the gospel history, we are induced to believe
that the celebration of that ordinance constituted a part of the
common duties of every Lord's day, while the apostles ministered in
the Christian church; + and that an attendance at the sacramental
table, was not distinguished by any special preparatory exercises,
diverse from those which anteceded other sanctuary duties. No trace of
distinction, in these respects, is to be found in scripture; neither
precept nor example can be adduced to support it. Whence then its
origin?

+ Acts xx. 7.

Did not it derive from Rome? We know the errors of the Romish church
relative to the eucharist; and their tendency to induce a belief that
it is more holy, and requires greater sanctity in communicant, than is
requisite to an attendance on other ordinances. And the same notion is
prevalent and many who have withdrawn from the communion of that
church. Many serious people who attend other religious duties with
pleasure and advantage, are afraid to obey Christ's dying command! Is
not this a relic of popery? When Luther left the papal communion, his
reformation, particularly relative to this ordinance, was but partial.
Many other protestants retain a tinge of catholic leaven. Is not the
distinction respecting the sanctity of divine ordinances from this
source? It is not found in the gospel. If the exercises under
consideration serve to perpetuate this unscriptural distinction, and
to drive men from a plain and important duty, they have a baleful
effect. They may be well intended. Doubtless they are so by the
generality of those who attend them. It is painful to be obliged to
dissent from men whom we receive as brethren, and revere as
Christians. But after much deliberation, such are our views of the
subject before us; and we offer them to the serious consideration of
the followers of Christ.

* * * * *

But these are well intended. So probably was Uzzah's steadying the
ark--But some of these do help on the cause of God, and even more than
the stale attendance on Lord's day duties. So thought those who
introduced images and paintings into churches. [Some indeed attend
those who neglected Lord's day duties.]

Have we then discovered defects in the divine plan! And do we feel
ourselves capable of making emendations in it!--Of "teaching eternal
wisdom how to rule!"--How to effect its purposes of mercy!

Beware _lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit,
after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world and not
after Christ_. Vain man would be wise--He naturally thinks himself
qualified, even to ameliorate divine institutions. Temptation to this
sin coincides with a natural bias in depraved humanity. Many and very
mischievous errors have issued from it. Would we escape the snare, we
must listen to the apostle speaking in the text. The sum of his advice
is to keep to the divine directions, especially in matters of
religion. These are contained and plainly taught in the holy
Scriptures, which we have in our hands, and of the sense of which we
must judge for ourselves; remembering that we are accountable to God
the judge of all.

As some are _spoiled through philosophy and vain deceit_, others are
corrupted by regard to _the tradition of men and rudiments of the
world_. This endangered the Colossians, and eventually ruined the
church at Rome. The leading errors of paganism were thereby introduced
into that Christian church, and rendered it completely antichristian.
Errors which seemed to have been destroyed by Christianity, were again
revived, and the abominations which they had occasioned, were acted
over again with enlargements!

The _traditions of men and rudiments of the world_, have still their
seducing influence. Most men swim down with the current of the times
--adopt the sentiments and conform to the usages of those with whom
they live. The popular scheme of religion, they consider as the
orthodox scheme, and the religion of the land, the true religion.
Therefore is one nation Papists, another Protestants, one Calvinists,
another Lutherans. These differences of sentiment do not arise from
differences in the mental constitutions of nations, but from the
accidental differences of situation.

Few have sufficient independence of mind to "judge of themselves what
is right." Many who "call Christ Lord, receive for doctrines the
commandments of men." Therefore doth religion vary like the fashions
of the world. Was the fashion of the world to be the rule of judgment,
it might be wise to follow it: But "we must every one give an account
of himself to God," and be judged by the rule which be hath given us.
It becomes as therefore to "call no man master, because one is our
Matter, even Christ." To him we are accountable. At our peril do we
neglect obedience to his commands.

It concerns us to do all things according to the pattern drawn out
before us in the Scriptures. Against the natural bias to affect
improvements on divine institutions, and against the prevalence of
fashion and contagion of popular opinion, we should be particularly on
our guard. "For cursed is every one who confirmeth not all the words
of God's law to do them, and all the people shall say, Amen."



 * * * * * *



SERMON XXIX.

The Sins of Communities Noted and Punished.

Matthew xxiii. 36.

"Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this
generation."


This is predicated of the judgments of God on those who had shed the
blood of his saints. The Savior declares that all the righteous blood
which had been shed on the earth from that of Abel down to the gospel
day, should come on that generation!

But is not this unreasonable and contrary to the Scriptures? "Far be
wickedness from God and iniquity from the Almighty. For the work of
man shall be render unto him, and cause every man to find according to
his ways--The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and
the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him." Such is the language
of revelation.

And is not that of reason the same? Will reason justify punishing some
men for other men's sins? Those who lived in the days of our Savior
had no share in the murder of Abel, or of many others who had died by
wicked hands. Those dire events had been accomplished before they had
existence. How then could they be answerable for them? To solve this
mystery we must consider man in a twofold view--as an individual and
as the member of a community.

As individuals mankind are solely accountable for the parts which they
act personally. In the judgment of the great day, they will only be
judged for the use which they shall have made of the talents committed
to them here--"We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ;
that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to
that he hath done, whether good or bad,"

But every individual is a member of the human race, and of some
community. The race, as such, and the larger branches of it, the
nations and empires into which it is divided, are amenable to the
Supreme Governor, and liable to punishment, if in their public
characters, they rebel against him. And righteous individuals, may be
involved in the judgments sent to punish the sins of the community to
which they belong. They often are so. Personal rectitude is not
designated by an exemption from national calamities. Discriminations
will eventually be made in its favor, but not here. Here "all things
come alike unto all, and there is one event to the righteous and the
wicked."

To _shew such to be the general rule of the divine administration in
the government of the world, is the design of the following
discourse_: Which will explain the text.

The world, and the communities into which it is divided, have their
probation no less than persons; and there are reasons in which God
enters into judgment with them and adjusts retributions to their moral
states.

In discussing the subject, we shall treat, _first of families, then of
larger communities, and of the world_.

The first family of our race affords an example to our purpose. Before
that family was increased by a single branch issuing from it, it
rebelled against God, and God entered into judgment with it, and
punished its sin upon it. And the punishments was not restricted to
the offending pair, but extended to their race in common with
themselves: All were doomed to sufferings and death _in consequence of
their sin_. And the sentence hath been executing upon them from that
period to the present time. Mankind have gone through life sorrowing;
and "death hath reigned even over those, who have not sinned after
the similitude of Adam's transgression." Neither have discriminations
been made in favor of the saints, but they have been involved in the
general calamity, and groaned with the rest of the creation.

In some respects this was an exempt case, but in the general diffusion
of punishment on the various branches of the family, it accords with
the divine administration respecting other families, as appears from
sacred history, and from the general history of the human race.
Countless examples might be adduced.

The murder of Abel was not punished solely on Cain, but also on his
family. The ground cursed for _his_ sin, did not yield _to them_ its
strength; and they were deprived of those religious instructions which
they would no doubt have received, had their father dwelt "in the
presence of the Lord," or remained in the family of Adam which
contained the church of God. Many of the evils which fell on that
sinner, fell also on his children and rested on them till the
extinction of his race by the deluge.

Similar were the consequences which followed the sins of Ham and
Esau: But these more properly rank under the head of communities: But
instances of families which have suffered, yea perished, by judgments
sent to punish the sins of their heads, often occur.

When sundry of the princes of Israel rebelled against God in the
wilderness, and attempted a subversion of the government which God had
instituted for his people, they did not perish alone, but their
families perished with them, though no intimations are given that they
were all _partakers_ in their sin--yea, though it is more than
intimated that _some of them_ were not capable of partaking in it
--"They came out and stood in the doors of their tents, and their
wives, and their sons, and their little ones." And as soon as Moses
had warned the congregation, and foretold the manner of their death,
"the ground clave asunder that was under them, and the earth opened
her mouth and swallowed them up, and their houses--and they and all
that appertained to them went down alive into the pit, and the earth
doted upon them; and they perished." *

* Numbers xvi. 27-33.

To these might be added the families of Achan, Eli, Saul, Jeroboam,
Baasha, Ahab and others. No special personal guilt was found on many
members of these families. They died to expiate family guilt. We know
of none chargeable on Abimelech, or the other priests who were slain
by order of Saul. The sins of Eli and his house, were punished upon
them, agreeably to the divine denunciation, first by a nameless
prophet; afterwards by Samuel. In one of the sons of Jeroboam, "were
found good things toward the Lord God of Israel:" Therefore was he
removed by an early death, and the residue of the family were
afterwards destroyed with the sword to punish the sin of the father,
"who had sinned and made Israel to sin."

The divine administration is still the same. In later ages instances
might be adduced, especially among princes, of families extirpated
(after a term of family probation, which had been abused by wickedness
and dishonored by crimes) to punish family guilt. But these might be
more liable to be disputed than those recorded in sacred history.
Though we think it evident, from common observation, that the curse of
heaven usually rests on the descendants of those who cast off the fear
of God and harden themselves in sin, and that God visits the
iniquities of fathers on their children.

We turn our attention next to larger communities. Here we find the
divine administration regulated by the same rules.

Morals are as necessary to larger communities as to families, or
individuals, alike required of them. And they are equally amenable to
HIM who is over all, and receive like returns from his impartial
hands, according to their works. The chief difference made between
communities and persons, respects the time and place, in which they
are judged and rewarded: Respecting the former, they take place in
this world; respecting the latter, in that to come. Persons will live
again after death. Communities, as such, exist only here.
Here therefore communities must be remunerated [sic]. They are so.
God tries them, and proportions retributions to their moral state.
"Righteousness exalteth a nation;" but wickedness degrades and
destroys it. The strength and happiness of a people are proportioned
to their morals, and increase and diminish with them.

Perhaps it will be said, These are the natural conferences of moral
good and evil. They are so. And these consequences are the effects of
divine order; of the constitution which God hath established. Hence
the divine declaration by the prophet: "At what instant I shall speak
concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to
pull down, and to destroy; if that nation against whom I have
pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I
thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning
a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if it do
evil in my fight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the
good wherewith I said, I would benefit them." *

* Jeremiah xviii. 7-10.

This declaration is verified in the divine administration. God often
bears with nations and communities, even to long suffering; but if
they continue to revolt, he fails not to punish their sin upon them.
When a community hath filled up the measure of its iniquity, judgment
is executed upon it; not according to the moral character of those who
then compose it, but according to its character considered as a nation
which hath been tried God's appointed time.

While a community is on trial its conduct is recorded; its acts of
disobedience to the divine Sovereign are charged to the community, and
when its probation ends, they are brought into the reckoning and
punished upon it, unless repentance and reformation intervene and
prevent it. That "the sin of the Amorites was not full," was assigned
as a reason for deferring the settlement of Abram's race in the land
of Canaan. God would not enter into judgment with them, till the
measure of their guilt had reached a certain height; but the sins of
every generation helped to swell the account, till they were ripe for
ruin. The Hebrews were then ordered to destroy them utterly--"every
thing that breathed." It was not the sins of only that generation
which occasioned this sentence, but the sins of the nations. Many
individuals who had no personal guilt were included in the sentence,
and destroyed by its execution. The infants perished with the adults.
The divine judgments executed on other wicked communities, have been
similar. Sodom, and her daughters were each of them a petty kingdom;
and when they had severally filled up the measure of their crimes,
they all perished together, old and young.

If more examples are desired, look to the seed of Jacob. That people
had a long probation; but when they had filled up the measure of
national guilt, their sins were brought to remembrance and punished
upon them. The ten tribes revolted from God, when they left the house
of David and set Jeroboam on the throne. For more than two centuries
and an half God waited with them, and warned them of the evils which
their sins would bring upon them; but they repented not. When their
iniquity was full, he gave their enemies power over them; "rooted
them up out of the good land which he had given their fathers, and
scattered them beyond the river."

The kingdom of Judah remained about an hundred and thirty years after
"Ephraim was broken that he was not a people." Those, who adhered to
the house of David did not revolt so early as those who seceded at the
division of the kingdom. Divine worship according to the law of Moses,
was kept up among them; and several pious princes reigned over them.
But though the progress of impiety was less rapid than in the other
kingdom, there was a departure from the living God, and idolatry and
immorality prevailed, till they also filled up the measure of their
sins. Then, impartial heaven "stretched over Jerusalem the line of
Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab." *

* 2 Kings xxi. 13.

The generation on which those judgments were executed was greatly
depraved, and like the men of Sodom, sinners exceedingly; but their
sins alone would not have occasioned those desolations; they were
added to the national account, and filled up the measure of national
guilt. One of their kings did much to swell that account. Mention is
made, more than once, of his sins, particularly of the innocent blood
which he shed, as fixing the doom of the nation, rendering prayer for
it unavailing and its ruin inevitable. "Though Moses and Samuel stood
before me, yet my mind could not be towards this people: Cast them out
of my sight; I will cause them to be removed into all the kingdoms of
the earth, _because of Manassah, the king of Judah, for that which he
did in Jerusalem_." * Wantonly shedding the blood of his subjects, was
one of the sins charged upon him. This sin is, in a sense,
unpardonable. "Blood defileth the land; and the land cannot be
cleansed of the blood that is shed in it, but by the blood of him that
shed it." + Manasseh's blood was not shed. Therefore was the land
destined to suffer, Josiah, who reigned after Manasseh, was pious; but
after he had done every thing in his power to atone for the sins of
his fathers, and reclaim the nation, and not wholly without effect, it
is expressly noted that "the Lord turned not from the fierceness of
his wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of
all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal." And after
the judgments had been executed, it is again remarked that they were
sent to punish the sins of that wicked ruler--"Surely at the
commandment of the Lord came this upon Judah, _for the sins of
Manasseh, according to all that he did; and also for the innocent
blood that he shed, for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, which
the Lord would not pardon_." ++

* Jeremiah xv. 1-4. + Numbers xxxv. 33. ++ 2 Kings xxiii. 26,
xxiv. 3, 4.

Manasseh was gone off the stage; so were all who had shared in his
guilt; that prince had, moreover, repented and obtained personal
forgiveness; but his crimes had filled up the measure of national
wickedness, and judgment must follow. There was no remedy.

These are conclusive evidence that the sins of a people, and
especially of the rulers of a people, which are not punished by the
civil arm, are charged to the people, and eventually punished upon
them.

As there are seasons in which God judgeth nations and communities, and
renders to them according to their works, there are also seasons in
which he doth the same by the world. That this will be done at the end
of the world, or at the judgment of the great day, is not matter of
doubt with believers in revelation. But some other seasons of divine
judgment are now more particularly intended. For there are seasons in
which God's judgments are abroad in the earth--in which the sins of
the world seem to be brought to remembrance, and punished on its
inhabitants.

Eminently such was the six hundredth year of the life of Noah. "When
the earth was corrupt before God, and filled with violence," he
entered into judgment, and punished the sin of the world, in the
destruction of its inhabitants. God did not "do his work, his strange
work, or bring to pass his act, his strange act," as soon as "the
wickedness of man was great, and every imagination of the thoughts of
his heart only evil continually." He waited long. But when the vast
term allowed to antediluvian sinners was expired, he swept off a race
who had been disobedient while long suffering mercy waited with them.

The sin of the world was then full. Human guilt had long been
augmenting, and at length occasioned that awful display of divine
justice. Many who were at that time destroyed were, no doubt great and
old offenders; but many others differed from them, were but entering
on life, not capable, of personal guilt, yet they were involved in the
general calamity. Those of every character perished together, "The
flood came and took them all away."

There hath been no other season in which the divine judgments toward
the whole world have been so signally manifest as at the deluge. There
have however, been times in which they have been very general and very
severe. One of those times was at hand in our Savior's day. On the
generation which lived when he suffered for the sins of men, were some
of the vials of divine wrath poured out, though not those in which
the wrath of God was filled up. Perhaps at no period yet past, that of
the deluge excepted, hath God visited the sins of men with greater
severity. If the divine judgments fell then more particularly on the
Jews, the other nations did not escape. If the Jews suffered more than
others, there were reasons; nor are they wholly concealed.

The Jews had enjoyed greater religious privileges than others--had
more means of instruction in divine things, and had neglected and
abused them, and seem to have more completely filled up the measure of
their iniquity than any other people. "To whom much is given, of them
is the more required; and those who know their duty and yet do things
worthy of stripes shall be beaten with many stripes."

God was also at that time avenging "the righteous blood which had
been shed upon the earth"--the blood of his saints who had been
martyred, of which more than a double portion was chargeable
on that people. They had of old killed the prophets, and persecuted
those who had been sent of God to warn them from their ways. The same
was still their governing temper, and to a greater degree than at any
former period of their history.

They were also the church of God; and he was now entering into
judgment with his church, as a community the measure of whose iniquity
was full. This was nearly their situation when the Savior addressed
them, as in our context--"Fill ye up the measure of your fathers."
THIS was not a command, but a prediction of what was then nearly
accomplished; and he told them how it would be completed--by their
killing and crucifying the messengers of heaven, at whose head was the
divine messenger who then addressed them--that when they should have
done these things, God would enter into judgment with them, and avenge
on them "all the righteous blood which had been shed in his church
from the foundation of the world." _Verify I say unto you, all these
things shall come on this generation_. And he assured them that it
would desolate their country, and that it would remain destitute of
those religious privileges which they then enjoyed, till they should
become of another spirit--"Behold your house is left unto you
desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye
shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."

As soon as Christ was alone with his disciples he gave them a
description of those desolations which is recorded in the following
chapter, and is so plain, and made such an impression on the
Christians of that day, who were mostly Jews, that they fled at the
approach of the Roman armies and escaped the calamities which
overwhelmed their nation. Whoever reads the history of that age will
be convinced of the truth of that prediction--Then shall be great
tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to that
time, no, nor ever shall see. "Those were the days of vengeance, that
all things which were written might be fulfilled."

Another of the seasons of divine judgments occurred at the subversion
of the Roman empire by the Northern barbarians. That mighty empire
comprehended a very large portion of the then known world. It had
become exceedingly populous. Italy, in particular was chiefly covered
with the dwellings of men, like one continued city; and almost the
whole empire swarmed with inhabitants, and many parts were cultivated
like a garden. But when those savages broke into it, they carried fire
and sword wherever they went. Like the armies of God's judgments
described by the prophet Joel, they carried terror and destruction
--"A fire devoured before them, and behind them a flame burned: The
land was as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate
wilderness; and nothing escaped them." * The most populous and
fruitful parts of that vast empire were literally made desolate, and
became a wilderness; and many places have never recovered their former
lustre, and few become equally populous to this day.

* Joel ii. 3.

Waving the particular mention of other periods in which the judgments
of God have been made manifest, would only observe, that we are taught
by the prophets, to expect desolating judgments before the beginning
of the latter day glory, and that they will be very general--that the
sins, not of this, or that community, but of the world will come into
remembrance before God; and that the full vials of his wrath will be
poured out, not barely to avenge the sins of that generation, but the
sins of the world, the measure of their iniquity being then full.

The most terrifying metaphors are used to prefigure the judgments
which will then be executed on mankind. The destruction of men is
compared to the harvest and vintage! But the language of prophecy, if
we consider the human race as the objects of the harvest and vintage,
admits no augmentation of terror. "And I looked, and behold a white
cloud, and upon the cloud one sat, like unto the Son of Man, having on
his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another
angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice, to him that
sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle and reap: For the time is come
for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he that
sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth, and the earth was
reaped. And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven,
he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the
altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him
that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and
gather the clutters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are
fully ripe. And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and
gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great wine press
of the wrath of God. And the wine press was trodden without the city;
and blood came out of the wine press, even unto the horses bridles,
by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs." *

* Revelation xiv. 14-22.

The scenes here depicted are yet future. They are confirmed, and in
some measure illustrated by other prophecies; but as our understanding
of prophecies must remain partial till explained by their
accomplishment, we leave the intelligent reader to his own reflections
upon them.

INFERENCES.

I. That communities, both small and great are on trial here, and that
they are eventually called into judgment and rewarded and punished
according to their use, or abuse of talents, is fairly deducible from
the subject under consideration. Such being the divine administration,
we see the importance of national virtue. Morals are the health and
strength of a community: While they remain no enemy can prevail
against it. "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that
fear him, and delivereth them"--But when a community degenerates, and
become corrupt and vicious, their guardian angel quits his
charge, and their guardian God becomes the avenger of their crimes.

II. We see also the importance of good government, and good rulers,
who will execute righteous laws with fidelity, and in their own
persons, set the example of obedience to them. The example of those in
authority hath a commanding influence. Their principles and practices,
draw many after them. We see this exemplified in the history of the
Hebrews: When their great men were good men, virtue was respected, and
the nation rejoiced; but "the wicked walked on every side, when the
vilest men were exalted," and the degrading, and even desolating
judgments of heaven followed. "These things happened unto them for
ensamples; and are written for our admonition," *

* 1 Corinthians x. 11.

III. The character of individuals is not to be judged by their
circumstances here. When judgments are abroad to punish national
wickedness they do not always fall on the most guilty--they fall on
the community.--All who belong to it are obnoxious. "Suppose ye that
the Gallileans whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices were
sinners above all the Gallileans, because they suffered such things? I
tell you, Nay; except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." All
have sins sufficient to justify God in taking them away when, and how,
he pleaseth.

Was there not another life, impartiality would require a different
divine administration. Discriminations would here be made according to
the difference of moral characters. They are not made. The iniquity of
fathers is visited on their children; the iniquity of communities on
particular generations, and on individuals; and often on those who are
not the most guilty! We see it in every part of the sketch which
we have taken of the divine government.

The doctrine of another life clears up this mystery. Without the
belief of it we cannot "ascribe righteousness to our Maker;" but when
we take it into the account every difficulty is removed, That there is
another life, in which the perfect rectitude of divine providence will
appear, is a dictate of reason, and the explicit language of
revelation.

IV. When the mystery of God is finished, and the veil now spread over
the divine administration taken away, we shall see the wisdom,
justice, and goodness of those parts of it, which now, seeing only in
part, we contemplate with surprize and wonder.--"That all the
righteous blood shed on the earth, from that of righteous Abel, to our
Savior's day, should be required of that generation;" and that there
should be seasons in which the sins of nations and of the world are
avenged on particular generations, who are made to bear the sins of
those who had gone before them, and on individuals, not distinguished
by their crimes, will no more astonish and confound us!

We now witness such things in the divine administration! We cannot but
witness them. We shall then see the reasons of them, and be satisfied;
we shall join in that angelic ascription, "Even so Lord God Almighty,
true and righteous are thy judgments." * Till that decisive day, let
us wait on the Lord, and in the way of well doing, trust in his mercy
--"For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things; To whom
be glory forever." +

* Revelation xvi. 7. + Romans xi. 26.

AMEN.





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