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Title: Sermons by the late Rev. Richard de Courcy
Author: Courcy, Richard de
Language: English
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DE COURCY***


Transcribed from the 1810 Mathews and Leigh edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org



                                 SERMONS
                               BY THE LATE
                        REV. RICHARD DE COURCY {i}


                                * * * * *

                             With an Essay on
                       PURE AND UNDEFILED RELIGION
                    _and a Preface by Rev. Brian Hill_

                                * * * * *

                             SECOND EDITION.

                                * * * * *

                                 London:
                            Mathews and Leigh
                                   1810

                                * * * * *



PREFACE
BY
THE PRESENT EDITOR.


THE following Essay and Sermons were published, by subscription, soon
after the Author’s death, and were honored with as respectable a list of
subscribers, as any work now extant.  Mr. DE COURCY was so worthy a man,
so distinguished a Christian, and so excellent a preacher, that we need
not wonder, that all who had the happiness of his acquaintance, or
enjoyed the benefit of his public ministry, wished to have, in their
possession, some memorial of so valuable a friend.  Mr. De C.’s views of
the gospel were truly evangelical, the Parishioners of Saint Alkmond
enjoyed the unspeakable advantage of a faithful ministration of the word
of life; for, what he himself “tasted and felt, and handled,” of the good
word of God, the preacher, with much zeal, affection and earnestness,
recommended to others: the devotions of the desk and the instructions of
the pulpit were not at variance; but, the one explained, elucidated and
enforced the other, wherever this great man officiated.  The attention of
hearers, of all descriptions, was sure to be arrested, by the importance
of the doctrines on which he insisted, the clearness with which he
defended them, and the fervor with which they were enforced: his labors
were abundantly blessed; and multitudes, we hope, will appear as his
“crown of rejoicing,” another day.

When the present proprietors (who are also the publishers) of the work,
first contemplated its republication, it was both their wish and
intention to gratify the religious public with a memoir of the Author,
and arrangements were made for that purpose; but a friend of the deceased
expressed a wish, that it might not be carried into execution: it is
therefore withheld.

Happy would it be for the Christian Church, if all who officiate at her
altars could “give as full proof of their ministry.”  Mr. De. C. has not
only ably vindicated “the peculiar doctrines of the gospel,” but he has
shown, in a very masterly manner, that those who claim to themselves the
title of gospel-ministers, are the only persons who preach according to
the 39 Articles, and that, instead of being the enemies of the
Establishment, are its only _consistent_ friends and its most able
defenders.  Having, “cordially and without mental reservation,
equivocation or disguise,” signed the Articles, and declared his “assent
and consent to all and every thing they contain,” and being convinced,
after the most serious investigation and earnest prayer, that the
doctrines of the Church of England _are_ the doctrines of the gospel, he
would have accused himself of hypocrisy and wickedness, had he not
founded all his services upon those important truths, which are found
both in the Bible and the Prayer-book.  And, it is asked, What churches
are so well attended, as those in which the pure word of God is preached?
What clergymen are so truly exemplary in their conduct, as those who are
termed “evangelical ministers? and, What congregations are so ready to
every good word and work,” as those who attend such preachers?  Immoral,
antichristian shepherds scatter the flock; the pious pastor, by his truly
evangelical labors, keeps them in the fold.  When persons leave the
Established Church, it is, in a great majority of instances, because they
cannot receive _there_ “the true bread of life,” and their souls hunger
and thirst after _that_, which they cannot find, _where_ they would
otherwise willingly attend.  Let the established clergy preach the
gospel, and they will have no cause to complain of increasing Sectaries.
{vi}  Of the first edition, very few copies (more than were subscribed
for) being printed, the present publishers presume that they are
performing an office very acceptable, to the religious public, in
presenting them with a new edition of a volume of sermons possessing
every recommendation which such a work _can_ have.  Here will be found
the purest doctrines expressed in the most eloquent and glowing language,
and enforced with all the ardor of the Christian Minister.  Feeling their
immense importance, and being fully convinced that “the gospel is the
power of God unto salvation to every one who believes it,” Mr. De C. “has
not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God;” he has preached the
doctrines of the gospel practically, and enforced its duties
evangelically; he has rescued the scripture-doctrines from the false
imputation, that “the grace of God leads to licentiousness;” he has
described Christian faith, not only in its nature, but in its effects; he
has shown, how the grace of God operates on the heart, and is productive
of the peaceable fruits of holy obedience.  If modern infidels possessed
sufficient candor, to read the “Essay on Pure and Undefiled Religion,”
they must be convinced, that the love of God and Jesus Christ is the only
source of purity of morals, that every species of morality which has not
this foundation, is superficial in its nature and uncertain in its
operation; while he has also shown, that the heart which is enlightened
by the Spirit of God, and purified by the Spirit of Christ, will be the
seat of every holy and heavenly temper.

The present Editor, who is totally unconnected with the family of the
deceased, is far from thinking that Mr. De C.’s works need any
recommendation from _him_.  They speak for themselves; they need only to
be known in order to be admired; for they will always be read with both
pleasure and profit, so long as evangelical piety, fervent devotion and
genuine godliness, have any charms in the estimation of the servants of
Christ.

_London_, _May_, 1810.



PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.


THE following discourses, which were found among the manuscripts of the
Author after his decease, will, no doubt, be extremely acceptable to
those, who have been accustomed to hear the word of truth from his lips,
and who, engaged by his eloquence, and won by his entreaties, have,
through the influence of divine grace, which he never failed to inculcate
as the source of all holy desires, dedicated themselves to God through
Jesus Christ, and become wise unto salvation.

As the copies were written delicately fair, and with wonderful accuracy,
no pains were requisite to decipher, no labor was wanted to correct them;
so that the reader has, in this volume, the genuine works of him, whose
name it bears; {ix} and, whatever he may think of the doctrines which it
contains, I am much mistaken, if he will not be struck with admiration at
the fertility of imagination, the force of argument, and the uncommon
elegance of language, which are herein displayed.  But, let him take
heed, that his attention be not too much engaged by the gay flowers of
oratory; let him compare what he here finds written with the scriptures
of truth, and let him not be in haste, either to censure or approve, till
a competent share of divine knowledge, and a thorough acquaintance with
the work itself, enable him to decide, with some appearance of justice,
on its merits.

I feel the more inclined to recommend this advice, from the impression,
which a _cursory_ view of the following discourses made upon my mind;
for, wishing to pay all possible respect to the memory of my deceased
friend, no sooner was the idea of a publication suggested, than I
volunteered my services to carry it through all its stages, not thinking,
at the moment, of any difficulties, which might occur in the
accomplishment of the design.  Not many hours, I believe, elapsed, before
I began to consider, that some degree of responsibility attached to me as
an Editor, and that I was bound not to make known to the world any
sentiments, of which I did not thoroughly approve; at least, not without
offering an antidote for the evil, which they might occasion.  Under this
persuasion, though extremely reluctant to obtrude myself on the public
notice, or to provoke controversy from the Author’s admirers, I sat down
with the determination not to let a sentence pass unregarded, which I did
not conceive to be strictly conformable to the word of God.  Accordingly,
when I had perused _a few_ discourses I wrote my animadversions freely;
but when I had read and considered _all_ with more minute attention, I
found that several of my objections were levelled against _words_ and
_phrases_, and that, though I choose to express myself upon some points
differently from the Author, we were perfectly agreed in the principal
doctrines of the Christian dispensation.  This being the case, I have
thought it sufficient to refer the reader to his _Bible_, the standard of
truth and orthodoxy; and though, among the variety of opinions which
distract the Christian world, he may conceive it to be almost impossible
to find the road to glory, yet I will venture to assure him, the word of
Christ authorizing me to do so, if his _eye be single his whole body
shall be full of light_; Mat. vi. 22; i.e. he shall be able clearly to
discern the way of salvation; for the Sun of Righteousness shall dispel
the mists of error, and gradually diffusing his beams over the soul,
shall shine more and more, even to the full splendor of the perfect day.

As I firmly believe, that the following discourses, read with candor and
attention, are likely to be productive of much good, I shall here take
the liberty of obviating the objections, which may be made to one point
of doctrine, which forms a prominent feature in the whole.  I allude to
the justification of a sinner by the _imputed righteousness_ of Jesus
Christ.  This doctrine, as it is expressed in one or two passages, might
induce a _hasty_ reader to throw aside the book, and condemn it severely
as leading to licentiousness.  But, I can assure him, that the late Vicar
of Saint Alkmond admitted no such consequences; and I only request him to
read attentively all the discourses in this volume, and he will be
convinced that what has been written upon that subject is neither
designed to set aside the necessity of self-examination, nor of personal
holiness.  As a proof of the former, I beg leave to refer him more
particularly to Sermon VI. p. 240; and of the latter, to the whole of
Sermon II. upon the dedication of the heart to God; in which, as well as
in several others, he will find the most forcible exhortations to
maintain purity of heart, and to abound in the practice of every good
work; insomuch, that if he should take occasion, from any thing here
written, to sin, that grace may abound, let him recollect, that he will
meet the Author before the judgment-seat of Christ, where he must render
an account for his perversion and want of candor, as well as for all his
other crimes.

But not only upon this, but also upon other subjects handled in these
discourses, there have been, and still are, great diversities of
sentiment among divines, not merely among such as are skilful in
controversy, and void of the spirit of heavenly love, but among others,
who are warmly attached to the cause of Christ, who labor much in the
word and doctrine, and whose piety, humility, and other graces, evidently
prove that they are born from above, and live under the continued
influence of the spirit of holiness.  These, conceiving the several
systems, which they have embraced, to be most conducive to the glory of
God, set them forth with all the eloquence and argument of which they are
capable; and sometimes, it must be confessed, in their zeal to defend the
truth, forget the candor, which is due to persons, who are equally
zealous with themselves, and who may, perhaps, have a larger share of
that divine love, which forms the best Christian, though he may be far
from making the most able disputant.  That which constitutes the essence
of Christianity appears to me to be comprised within a very small
compass.  “The law” is “our school-master, to bring us unto Christ, that
we may be justified by faith;” Gal. iii. 24; and faith, working by love,
through the operation of the Holy Ghost, gives us a disposition to
cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and to perfect
holiness in the fear of the Lord.  This, I repeat it, appears to me to be
the essence of Christianity; but, as the talents and capacities of men
are various, as there is a constitutional peculiarity in every
individual, and as education, custom, and connexions, conspire to
constitute the character, it must be expected that truth will be
exhibited in divers manners, not always in its native beauty and
simplicity, but clothed with the gaudy decorations of human wisdom and
philosophy, about which, and not about the truth itself, contentions may
arise, to the great grief and concern of every sincere and pacific
disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It has been thought proper to introduce the following Discourses with an
Essay, found also among the Author’s papers, entitled, _Pure and
Undefiled Religion_, _delineated in its Nature_, _Influence_, _Fruits_,
_Evidences_, _and Consummation_.  Though no text be prefixed to it, yet
it seems to have been originally designed for the pulpit, and to have
been written when the subject of negro emancipation first engaged the
attention of Parliament.  It is unnecessary in this place to point out
its excellencies; suffice it to say, that every friend of _Pure and
Undefiled Religion_ will rejoice that so valuable a treatise was not
disregarded, and consigned, with various unfinished Essays, to oblivion.

                                                               THE EDITOR.



PURE
AND
UNDEFILED RELIGION,
DELINEATED
IN ITS
NATURE, INFLUENCE, FRUITS,
EVIDENCES, AND CONSUMMATION.


    “RELIGION! thou the soul of happiness;
    And groaning Calvary of thee!  There shine
    The noblest truths; there strongest motives sting;
    There sacred violence assaults the soul;
    There nothing but compulsion is forborne.”

                                                           NIGHT THOUGHTS.

Its advocates have not been in general either “many, or mighty, or noble,
or wise, according to this world;” but, on the contrary, riches,
strength, philosophy, and opulence, have distinguished its enemies.
Hypocrisy hath assumed its mask, to give religion its deepest reproach,
to wound it in the house of its friends, and to arm its adversaries with
plausible objections.  And yet, amidst all the attempts of men of
different complexions, to destroy or deny its existence, to abuse or
blaspheme its doctrines, to pervert its nature, to divest it of its
essence, or to obscure its lustre; still, religion is a glorious reality,
and, like its divine Author, from whom it derives its origin and
influence, is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.  An attempt, at
least, to illustrate, if not to prove this position, is the design of the
following pages.  The arrangement I propose, is, to consider religion in
its _origin_, its _foundation_, its _nature_, its _influence_, its
_fruits_, and _evidences_; and recommend it, principally from a
consideration of its _importance_, its _consolations_, its _loveliness_,
its _end_, and _prospects_.

1.  As to the _origin_ of religion, it requires little argument to prove
it divine.  As the very word itself implies something that binds the
heart under the strongest ties of love, homage, and obedience to the
Supreme Being; what can produce this disposition, and give force to those
obligations, but that system of infinite grace which God himself revealed
unto man immediately after the fall? which, in subsequent and brighter
discoveries, formed the basis, and invigorated the principles of that
religion, which distinguished the character of Old Testament saints, and
afterwards attained its meridian lustre under the clear economy of the
gospel, and in the lives of that noble army of martyrs; the history of
whose sanctity, sufferings, and conquests, even unto death, is, in fact,
the history of true religion exemplified in its influence, its origin,
and its triumphs.

It is an established maxim of revelation, that “all things are of God.”
No one doubts, but the credulous atheist, whether the universe be the
result of his power.  But the Creator of the universe and the great
Author of our religion, is one and the same agent.  John, i. 1.  The
former was created and arranged by Omnipotence, and the latter no less
required the exertions of that attribute of Deity.  The heavens declare
his glory, as Creator.  In religion, considered as a plan of redeeming
mercy, shines “the glory of his grace.”  The firmament, with all the orbs
that move there, according to the rules of the most systematic
contrivance, and regular though amazingly swift rotation, deciphers his
wisdom.  But it is in the plan of redemption that “the _manifold_ wisdom
of God” is more illustriously and advantageously displayed.  Religion,
considered as a system, applying itself to the state of man, not as in
innocence, but under the ruin of the fall, is entirely of God.  Man had
no hand in forming it, nature no power in executing it.  It equally
surpassed, in every point of view, the expectations and the desert, the
wisdom and power, of man.  Considered in its renovating and practical
tendency, as a system of morals, its origin is equally of God.  This
appears from the various representations of the purity of its precepts,
as well as from the expressive epithets given to it in the sacred
scriptures.  It is called “the wisdom that is _from above_,—the kingdom
of heaven,—the new _creation_,—the being born from above,—the new man,
which, after God, is created in righteousness, &c.—the fruits of the
spirit,” &c.  If union to Christ be the root of true religion, and good
works its fruit, both are from God.  “OF HIM are ye in Christ Jesus.”  1
Cor. i. 30.  “We are HIS _workmanship_ created in Christ Jesus unto good
works.”  Ephes. ii. 10.  From whence we may deduce this scripture axiom;
that religion, doctrinally or practically considered, is, as to its
original, the offspring of heaven, and the sole glorious work of Him,
“_by_ whom, _through_ whom, and _to_ whom, are ALL THINGS.”

2.  The _foundation_ of religion.  This foundation the scriptures have
expressly laid in the life and death of him who was the Mediator of the
new covenant, having been made, as a _surety_, responsible for the
performance of its grand and awful stipulations.  “Behold,” says Jehovah,
“I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious
corner stone, a sure foundation.”  Isa. xxviii. 16.  1 Pet. ii. 6.
“Other foundation can no man lay,” says St. Paul, “than that is laid,
which is Jesus Christ.”  1 Cor. iii. 11.  This foundation, when it is
laid in the heart by FAITH, which produces a dependence on the salvation
of the Son of God, becomes the only basis of the sinner’s hopes, and
forms within him a living and permanent principle of real godliness.
Convinced of the evil of sin, and justly apprehensive of suffering its
awful penalty, as a transgressor of the law, he looks for relief from his
fears, and pardon for his offences, to “the Lamb of God, who taketh away
the sin of the world.”  Whatever is not built on this foundation may
satisfy the conscience and comport with the religion of that man, who
never saw his guilt in the mirror of God’s law; but every hope not
founded on the Redeemer’s righteousness will prove infinitely
presumptuous and dangerous, and nothing give peace to the conscience, but
what secures the honour of the broken law, and provides an adequate
satisfaction for the inflexible justice of Heaven; and nothing can do
either, but the atoning blood of Jesus Christ applied by faith in that
gospel testimony, which declares, that he who shed it, thought it no
robbery to be equal with God, and presented himself on the cross a
sin-atoning victim to Almighty God.  However, therefore, we may admit the
dictates of candour respecting some points of “doubtful disputation,” and
embrace in Christian love the differing parties respectively; we can
never give up the doctrine of the atonement, without yielding up to our
adversaries, at the same time, the very essence of truth, the glory of
the gospel, and the only foundation of our hopes and prospects for ever.
Nay, we may boldly affirm, that the scheme of religion that is not formed
upon this plan, wants every thing essential to the glory of the divine
perfections, and every thing that can consistently secure the peace and
salvation of man, as a sinner.  All the opponents of this truth, who
choose to discriminate themselves by names flattering to their pride, or
declarative of their attachment to some stale and long-exploded heresy,
are in the same predicament with Jews and Greeks; the basis of whose
religion was pride and self-righteousness.  What men call natural
religion, rational religion, or New Jerusalem doctrine—those pompous
schemes of human contrivance, emblazoned with glittering epithets to
catch the unwary, and only suited to the wild fancy of visionaries and
deists—I say, what men thus call religion, if not founded on the
propitiation and righteousness of the Son of God, is the religion of
Satan, and must lead to his kingdom.  For, how that system, which leaves
out the infinite virtue of the death of Jesus, as an expiation for sin,
can ever bring a man to heaven, I cannot conceive, when I find it
written, “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin,” when that is denied
or degraded, “but a certain fearful looking-for of judgment.”  Heb. x.
26, 27.  So that, as true religion is in its origin of God, who planned
its system, and plants its celestial seed in the heart; so, in its
foundation, it is equally divine, being built on the knowledge of Christ
crucified, and “through faith in his blood.”  Rom. iii. 25.

3.  The _nature_ and _influence_ of religion demand our next
consideration.  To judge accurately both of the one and the other, it
will be necessary to abstract whatever is circumstantial, external,
nominal, or adventitious, and to confine our ideas to that which is
essential and intrinsic.  And in this disquisition, we only act by the
same rule, which we observe when forming a judgment of the real worth of
an individual.  We leave out the accidents of birth, office, titles,
fortune, and form our idea of the man from his mind, from the state of
his heart, from his virtuous excellence.  Any other mode of forming an
estimate of characters in a moral point of view, only tends to confound
our ideas, and leads to a servile admiration of what is neither great nor
excellent in itself: which lays the foundation of all the false homage
men often pay to profligacy and meanness, because they happen to be
titled and rich.  Apply this to religion.  We cannot form a true estimate
of its nature from the pomp and dignities with which the profession of it
is invested in some of its ostensible patrons; nor from any external
forms, however excellent in themselves, if men rest in them, and go no
farther.  Forms no more constitute religion, than the external trappings
of rank and retinue constitute the man.  On the contrary, St. Paul
classes with the very worst of characters, those, “who have only the form
of godliness, but deny its _power_.”  2 Tim. iii. 5.  So does the prophet
Isaiah, when describing those who “drew nigh to God and honoured him with
their lips, while their _hearts_ were FAR FROM him,” Isa. xxix. 13;
though in the language of pomp and delusion they vainly boasted, “The
temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these.”  True religion is
the religion of the _heart_.  For God is a spirit; and they who worship
him, must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Solomon describes its nature, when he demands, in the name of Jehovah,
“My son, give me thy _heart_.”  Prov. xxiii. 26.  So does St. Paul, who
says, “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink,” does not consist in
outward things, “but is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”
Rom. xiv. 17.  And again, when endeavouring to undeceive the Jews, who
were blind on this very point, he says, “He is not a Jew who is one
outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh:
but he is a Jew who is one _inwardly_, and circumcision is that of the
_heart_, in the spirit, not in the letter, whose praise is not of men but
of God.”  Rom. ii. 28, 29.  Forms may be excellent; the means of grace
are necessary, and of divine institution.  They are however but means,
and operate, through the blessing of God, as the transparent medium does,
which admits the light of the sun into a place of worship.  But he who
rests in them, and supposes a regular attendance upon them to be the
whole of what is required in religious homage, thinks and acts as
absurdly as a man, who, trusting to a transparent medium still to give
him light, after the sun had quitted the horizon and ceased to illuminate
the hemisphere, should find himself involved in the darkness of night.  A
sad but true emblem of the situation of the sinner, whose heart is not
given up to God and changed by his grace; who sits down contented with
the formalities of religion, though in the “region and shadow of death,”
till death dissolves the delusion, and consigns him to the blackness of
darkness for ever.

When we say that religion is the religion of the heart, we mean to extend
our description of its nature far beyond outward form, or mere moral
decency.  Religion includes morality, but it comprehends _much more_.  A
sinner may be outwardly moral, and inwardly immoral, as the pharisees
were, full of self-righteousness, pride, love of the world, and
hypocrisy.  The civilization produced by morality alone, is like the
whiting of a sepulchre, which is full of rottenness _within_.  Our Lord’s
advice to such characters among the Jews, was, “cleanse _first_ that
which is WITHIN.”  The essential characteristics of the religion of the
heart, are _faith_, _humility_, and _love_: the first of these graces,
leading the renewed sinner to eye nothing for the justification of his
person before God, or the peace of his conscience, but the complete work
of Jesus finished on the cross; the second, making him abhor himself and
repent as in dust and ashes; and the third, prompting him to love, with a
supreme and ardent affection, that gracious God, who hath loved him in
his Son; and to whom, from that sacred and noble principle, he wishes
heart and life to be solemnly and unreservedly consecrated.  But, in the
religion of a mere moralist, these three graces make no constituent part.
_His_ faith is dead, being made up of speculation, and some general
notions, without any regard to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  His
humility, if he pretend to any, is feigned, or consists in condescending
to let the Redeemer have a _share_ in the honour of his salvation.  And
his love, having no gospel root, is servile, or imaginary, or absolutely
false, not springing from a sense of the pure love of God to sinners in
his crucified Son.  In short, he has every thing of religion but its
essence.  And, wanting that, nothing remains in his possession to boast
of, but the shadow, and the form; whereas, religion itself is a sacred
flame kindled at the cross of Christ; which, while contemplating the love
that bound him there, has, like the living creatures in St. John’s
vision, Rev. iv. “eyes within,” to view with sorrow the fallen and guilty
nature, which requires his blood to cleanse it, and his love to conquer.
A sight that softens the heart, and diffuses throughout all its powers a
sense of the love of God, the strongest incentive to gratitude and
obedience.  Hence, a celebrated Christian poet of our own says,

    “Talk they of morals?  O thou bleeding love!
    Thou Maker of new morals to mankind!
    The grand morality is love of thee!”

4.  In describing the _influence_ of religion, we mean not to extend it
so far as to suppose it extirpates every vestige of the fall, or destroys
all the relicks of human frailty.  It is not the religion of angels, nor
of “the spirits of just men made perfect,” but the religion of the soul
imprisoned in the body, and embarrassed by that enclosure, in the
exertion of its faculties, that is the subject of our consideration.  It
is the religion of sinners, saved by grace; and, as sinners, to the very
last moment of life, depending upon grace alone: in whom, amidst their
various conflicts, and numberless infirmities, it nevertheless produces
the most surprising effects.  Observe its influence on the heart of a
sinner.  It softens what was obdurate as the rock, and fixes what was
inconstant as the wind; arrests the fugitive in his flight from the ways
of God, and brings the once profligate prodigal back to his father’s
house with a heart pierced with sorrow for past transgressions, and more
deeply still by a sense of the love that pardons them.  It makes the
stout-hearted tremble before the majesty and power of Jehovah, and
constrains the abandoned to give up the most beloved lusts.  It produces
greater wonder still, in obliging the pharisee to give up his
self-righteousness, and the formalist to trust no longer in his forms.
It can light up a sacred flame in the breasts that had been frozen with
formality, and dilate with sentiments of pure benevolence a heart long
contracted by self-complacency or worldly-mindedness.  It bursts the
bonds of the captive who had been “tied and bound with the chain of his
sins;” and makes the self-conceited rationalist, who is no less a captive
than the profligate, to sit down, Mary-like, at the feet of Jesus, in the
character of a pupil, a novitiate, a fool.  It pours the balm of comfort
into the breast of the afflicted, tempted mourner, and makes “the bones
that had been broken to rejoice.”  Psal. li.  What was it that so
instantaneously stopped Saul in his career of cruelty and persecution,
and changed a blasphemer into a preacher of the faith, which once he
destroyed?  What was it that brought Magdalen, a prostitute, to bathe the
feet of Jesus with tears of penitence and joy, and to wipe them with the
hairs of her head?  What was it that tore Zaccheus from an occupation of
worldly-mindedness and extortion, and disposed him to make restitution,
and to give half his goods to the poor?  What was it that made Paul and
Silas sing praises to God, though smarting under the lashes they had
received, and when confined to a loathsome prison? that kept Stephen
composed, and filled him with rapturous views of the glory of God, even
when his murderers were taking his life; and that enabled those pious
heroes of antiquity, mentioned in the Epistle to the Hebrews, to perform
so many wonders?  It was the _sovereign_ influence of religion in the
first instance, its _softening_ and _converting_ power in the second, its
_expanding_ efficacy in the third, and its _victorious_ operation in the
last.

Mark the influence of religion on society.  It is the grand cement of
pure and permanent friendship among individuals; is the great
preservative against disorder and discord in families; is the sacred bond
of union in the assemblies of the righteous; the only safe guarantee of
the faith of nations; the healer of divisions; the sovereign peace-maker
between contending parties; and the most powerful antidote against
strife, animosity, and revenge, and all the other vindictive and
turbulent passions, that disquiet the breasts of individuals, break the
bonds of domestic tranquillity, or disturb the peace of nations.  “From
whence come wars and fightings among you?” says St. James: From religion?
No, from the want of it.  “Come they not hence? even from your lusts that
war in your members.”  Were religion but universally known, and the
empire of the Prince of Peace as extensive as the dominion of pride and
secular power, of ambition and revenge, we should then see all the
belligerent powers of the earth “beat their swords into plough-shares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks,” and wars of every kind cease for
ever.

5.  The _evidences_ of religion.  Religion, when possessing its sacred
empire in the heart, is in scripture called by different names, according
to the different faculties which it governs, or the passions respectively
which it controls.  In the understanding, it is light; in the affections,
love; in the will, acquiescence and submission.  In the passions of the
renewed mind, it is the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of
wisdom; the hope that maketh not ashamed; the joy that is unspeakable and
full of glory; the holy shame that covers the soul with overwhelming awe
in a view of the presence and condescension of God; the peace that
passeth all understanding.  Under crosses, it is patience; under affronts
and injuries, meekness; under persecution and losses for Christ’s sake,
fortitude and resignation; in prosperity, humbleness of mind; in
adversity, spiritual support; in death, triumph.  Considered in a complex
point of view, either as implying the commencement of the divine power
that produces, or the progressive influence of the grace that advances,
that assemblage of the fruits of the Spirit, which form religion into a
sort of bright constellation; it is, the new birth, sanctification, the
divine life, the image of God restored, the soul’s union to Christ, and a
growing meetness for the everlasting inheritance of the saints in light.

Religion, when it can produce tempers so sacred, and so benign, must
necessarily display its nature in a course of external evidence before
the world.  Being in its effects “pure,” and preserving him who is the
subject of it “undefiled” from the corruptions that are in the world, it
must necessarily teach us to live “righteously, soberly, and godly,”
amidst every temptation to injustice, intemperance, and impiety, to which
we are every day exposed; as well as provide for the laws by which every
relation in social life ought to be governed, from the prince and
subject, down to the very lowest ranks of subordinate characters.  But
let us attend to the particular evidence adduced by St. James.  “Pure
religion and undefiled before God, even the Father, is this; to visit the
fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted
from the world.”  Of all the situations, which the calamities of life
distinguish among the sons and daughters of affliction, none could be
more to the apostle’s purpose, than that of the orphan and the widow; and
none more apposite, as an evidence of true religion, than to visit
_such_.  The state of the orphan is greatly to be pitied, as being
destitute of the guide of his youth, and deprived by a premature stroke
of him, to whom nature directs him to look up as to his guardian and
support; in a world too, in a passage through which, youth stands so much
in need of all that a wise and tender father can do for his offspring.
The widow is an object of still greater commiseration; who, besides the
affliction of having been bereft of her dearest earthly friend, is left
to struggle alone with the difficulties of a family and of the world, to
educate with maternal solicitude the party that became an orphan by the
same calamity which made her a widow, and to suffer an affliction, which
is the more poignant, as her sex, age, and the tender relation in which
she had been placed, would contribute to make her feel more sensibly the
loss, to which the orphan seldom adverts.  These are the parties, whom
pure and undefiled religion enjoins us to visit; not for the purpose of
mere form or curiosity, but for the purpose of administering actual
relief, and mingling with the acts of beneficence the counsel and
consolations, which the religion of Jesus inspires.  But how few love to
make _such_ visits! and how fewer still, to make them in _this_ style!
Had our apostle made it a mark of religion to frequent scenes of
dissipation, to run the round of worldly pleasure, to mix with each
convivial assembly, and to visit only the house of laughter and levity,
what multitudes would put in their claim to religion and to the
recompense annexed to it!  But let not the sons and daughters of
dissipation deceive themselves.  Religion seeks different society, loves
different pleasures, visits the abodes of wretchedness and sorrow, and
prefers the house of mourning, where it can shew its sympathy, impart its
benefits, and learn lessons suited to the condition of suffering and
short lived humanity, above all the gilded scenes of earthly splendor.
And we may be bold to say, that if the pleasure-taker could, from the
highest style of sensual indulgence, prove, that he tasted delight in any
degree equal to that, which _he_ feels, who makes the “widow’s heart to
dance for joy;” we would then leave him in peaceable possession of the
amusements that engross his time.  But as he can never possibly prove it,
we must mortify him in the midst of his gratifications, by telling him,
that he who liveth in pleasure is “dead while he liveth;” dead to the
life of religion and to the offices of real humanity; and that there is
an awful day approaching, in which the Judge of heaven and earth shall
say to sinners of a certain description, “In as much as ye did it not to
one of the least of these, ye did it not unto me.”

But humanity and charity do not constitute the whole of religion.
Something more is required; and that is, that a man “keep himself
unspotted from the world.”  The christian character, or the conversation
of a true believer, is, according to scripture metaphor, represented
under the emblem of a white garment; the color denoting purity and glory.
They who walk consistently with their profession, are described as not
sullying the purity of it.  So our Lord says of some in the church of
Sardis, “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis, which have not defiled
their garments, and they shall walk with me in white, for they are
worthy.”  Rev. iii. 4.  Perhaps the allusion in both places is made to
the custom of arraying, as the word signifies, all candidates for
offices, as among the Romans, in white robes.  Christians are candidates
for glory.  They are adorned in the white garment of Christ’s
righteousness for their justification before God; Rev. iii. 5; and they
wear the sacred robe of personal holiness, as the justification of their
character before men.  The former is incapable of defilement, and is that
“fine linen, clean and white, in which the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” is to
be adorned in the grand solemnization of her nuptials in the last day.
The latter, when under the inspection of omniscience, and compared with
the extensive purity of the law, requires to be “washed and made white in
the blood of the Lamb.”  Rev. viii. 14.  It is this last robe, the
Christian’s walk and character, which it is incumbent upon him to keep
unspotted from the world.  And as a white garment shews any accidental
defilement on it sooner and more conspicuously, than one of a different
color; this application of the emblem points out the greater necessity of
watching against every inconsistency, that would disgrace his profession
and bring his character into suspicion.  The world watches for his
halting, and will be ready upon every occasion to impute faults where
there are none, and to aggravate and triumph in real ones.  If
defamation, false charges, misrepresentations, untruths, could really
blot the Christian’s garment, it would be never white.  But the
blackening of the wicked in this respect, is all their own.  Happy and
blessed the Christian, who, when “the world says all manner of evil of
him,” proves by his conduct, that it is “falsely for Christ’s sake.”  But
it is not from hence that his principal danger arises.  The world is less
to be feared when it frowns, than when it smiles; and many a professor,
who has stood firm in the midst of opposition, has been hugged to death
by caresses.  In short, he, who is truly wise, will consider the world as
a hostile country, in which the enemy of his soul has spread ten thousand
snares for the purpose of alluring to destruction.  The whole armour of
God, and all the power of grace, will be requisite to guard and keep him
amidst such innumerable dangers as compass him about.  The power, which
the world has of accommodating its baits and changing its temptations,
will demand the exertion of every grace of the christian soldier.  His
experience will instruct him when to resist, and when to flee; when to
exercise caution, and when to summon up fortitude.  Sometimes he will be
in danger of loving the world; at other times, of fearing it too much.
“The course of this world” being totally opposite to the word of God, and
its principles, maxims, and amusements, tending to promote error, vanity,
and sin, he will often recollect the words of Solomon, “Can a man take
fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?  Can one go upon hot
coals, and his feet not be burned?  So he that goeth in to his
neighbour’s wife; whosoever toucheth her, shall not be innocent.”  Prov.
vi. 27, 29.  And he will pray with David, “Keep back thy servant from
presumptuous sins, let them not have dominion over me, then I shall be
upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.”  Psal.
xix. 13.  The words of St. Paul too, warn and animate him.  “Come out
from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the _unclean thing_,
and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my
sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”  2 Cor. vi. 17, 18.

But it is not only from the spots of gross criminality, or the commission
of flagrant offences, that religion teaches us to keep ourselves pure and
undefiled.  Even the smallest approaches to these, or a _temptation_ to
any, in the secret workings of inward depravity, give the Christian
infinitely more pain, than acts of injustice do the fraudulent; a life of
unremitted excess, the licentious; or adultery, that epitome of all
villanies, the wretch, who, by committing it, gives the most deadly stab
to his own reputation, and the deepest wound to his neighbour’s peace.
An idea in the imagination, a thought, a word, any sudden sally of
unguarded temper, that cannot be justified or harboured, without grieving
the Holy Spirit, and violating truth, will give him pain, and excite
resistance, and produce humiliation.  The conscience of the believer
being “cleansed from dead works to serve the living God,” is susceptible
of the slightest spot; while that, which is totally defiled by long
accumulated guilt, feels no uneasy sensation, and sees not its own
pollution.  Being made the seat of sensibility as well as of purity, the
conscience, though wounded with even a slight offence, is like the tender
organ of the eve, when only a mote incommodes or lacerates its delicate
texture.  It makes him weep, and robs him of repose, till that blood
which washes out the deepest or the slightest stain of sin, and that
Spirit who subdues its power, renew their respective and sovereign
influence.  This guard against the access of inward defilement, and this
gospel mode of cleansing it, are the only safe preservatives from grosser
corruptions.  Therefore, as the heart, like tinder, is too susceptive of
the sparks of temptation, he shuns the converse of those, through whom he
might be drawn aside; thinking his character too sacred to be habitually
mixed or trusted with the company of the gay and irreligious; and his
peace too precious, to be lost by what, in review, must often give so
much pain, without the smallest real advantage.  Even if there were no
other argument to enforce the necessity of keeping ourselves unspotted
from the world, this is sufficiently strong and alarming; that that very
world, by a sinful conformity to which, men contract guilt and risk
salvation, after having acted as _tempter_, will, like Satan, be the very
first to turn _accuser_, and _tormentor_.

The _consolations_ of religion.  When we recommend the consolations of
religion, as an argument to engage men to enter upon the experience and
practice of it, we cannot so far delude their hopes, as to insinuate,
that it excludes every idea of trouble and conflict, as well as every
sensation of sorrow and solicitude.  As compared to a warfare, a
pilgrimage, a race, religion must, of course, presuppose enemies, who
cannot be overcome without fighting; a journey, that cannot be undertaken
and completed without difficulties; and a prize, which cannot be won by
indolence and inaction.

Every science and art is attended with difficulties; and nothing that is
useful and ornamental in the business of life can be acquired without
study, and toil, by which the value and pleasure of the acquisition are
proportionably increased.  Can any persons, then, reasonably expect, that
in a world lying in the wicked one, they should meet with no opposition?
in a body of sin and death, they should feel no conflicts? that their
peace should remain undisturbed by any annoyance from Satan? that no
thorns should perplex their path in a wilderness, in which nothing
naturally grows but sorrow, sin, and care? and that their head should be
hereafter adorned with an immortal crown, without sustaining one previous
cross, or making one sacrifice in their way to it?  They cannot suppose
this.  The great Author of religion says, “Except a man deny himself,
take up his cross and follow me, he cannot be my disciple.  Strive to
enter in at the strait gate.”  Yet, to encourage the diffident, and fix
the resolution of the hesitating and the timid, an apostle assures us,
that God “hath given everlasting consolation and good hope through grace”
to all believers in Christ.

The Lord himself says, “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I
comfort you.  In the world you shall have tribulation; but in me, you
shall have peace.”  The unhappiness of mankind arises in general from
five principal causes; from guilt in the conscience, tyranny in the
passions, want of real enjoyment in what they possess, want of spiritual
resource under affliction, and an inordinate love of life, which makes
death terrible, and even the thought of it the most imbittering intruder
into the human breast.  But against all this mass of wretchedness,
religion provides an antidote.  If we know and follow Christ, he will
bring the peace which he purchased on the cross, into our conscience; he
will sanctify and govern our passions, and make our heart the seat of his
peaceful dominion; the enjoyment of his “favor, which is better than
life,” will give a sacred zest to ordinary comforts, and fill up in our
soul, a void, which the whole world cannot satisfy; he will keep us
resigned amidst the cares of life, and tranquil in the prospect of its
awful close.  Life shall have no real bitterness; sin, no dominion; the
smiling world, no real charms; and death, no real sting, when we can say,
“My beloved is mine, and I am his.”  Under crosses and adversity, we
shall never want a spring of comfort in the salvation of Jesus, nor want
a friend, when interested in the love of Him, who drank up the dregs of
inexpressible sorrow, that we might partake of the richest ingredients in
the cup of gospel consolation.  However chequered our scene of life may
be in the dispensations of Providence, being made up of joys and sorrows,
hopes and fears, crosses and comforts, his grace will enable us to adopt
the language of primitive Christianity, and say, “We are troubled on
every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; as sorrowful,
yet always rejoicing; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”
2 Cor. iv. 8, 9.  “As tribulation aboundeth, our consolations in Christ
shall much more abound.”  And as they flow from a source, which is as
perennial as it is pure, and are founded upon a basis as firm as the
covenant and oath of Jehovah, can any language describe the happiness of
true religion, when its real votaries can pronounce in faith and
experience, the two following sentences of sacred writ?  “Our light
affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more
exceeding and eternal weight of glory.  We _know_ that when the earthly
house of this tabernacle is dissolved, we have a building of God, a house
not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

The _loveliness_ of religion.  Another and most powerful allurement into
the ways of religion, is the _loveliness_ of its character in those who
adorn its profession.  St. Paul ranks “whatsoever things are _lovely_
with whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, and of good report.”
Phil. iv. 8.  And, as true religion is the work of Christ, delineates his
image, and is one of the brightest emanations from the glory of the Sun
of righteousness, we may say of it, as of its divine Author, that it is
“altogether lovely.”  In regulating our opinion, and dilating our ideas
on this subject, some caution is necessary, lest we mistake counterfeits
for the original, and fall in love with appearances, or even with
deformity.  Whatever hopes we may entertain of the existence of religion
in the hearts of some, who profess it, under great disadvantages, arising
from natural temper, prejudices of education, weakness of capacity, or
rusticity of manners; it is not from such that we are to form our idea of
what is amiable.  Still less are we to draw the portrait from the
impertinent sallies of juvenile profession; from the affected look of
solemn ignorance; from the affectedly sanctimonious aspect, with all the
pharisaic contorsions of features and the grimaces that form it, an
apology often for want of genuine sanctity within; not from the starched
behaviour and rigid manners, that excite contempt and confirm prejudices;
not from the insufferable pomp of illiteracy, assuming the dictator’s
air, and demanding all that respect, which an humble sense of
deficiencies would procure; not from the forbidding brow and
sour-address, those terrific guards that some plant around their persons,
lest you should approach too near, or make too free with their
self-consequence; not from the unfortunate manners of those, who behave
as if they thought there should always subsist an irreconcilable variance
between the character of a gentleman and that of a Christian; not from
the false fire of those, who make an abrupt remark, a haughty air, a pert
censure, the marks of religious zeal, and seem to have no more idea of
prudence, than if the word was not to be found in the Bible, and the
grace itself constituted no part of the christian character.  All these
blemishes in religious profession have nothing to do with the loveliness
of religion, and in too many instances carry a strong implication of the
want of the thing itself.  Religion is first pure, then _peaceable_,
“_gentle_, _easy to be entreated_, full of _mercy_ and of good fruits.”
It is modest, unassuming, kind, benevolent.  The “law of kindness is in
its lips;” and, without being servile, fawning, adulatory, or timid, can
tincture the manners of a Christian with delicacy, and give to one, who
is firm as a rock in his attachment to truth, all imaginable softness and
delicacy of address.  It dreads clamor, and is equally remote from
forwardness and impetuosity.  It “bridles the tongue,” and forms that
“unruly member” for uttering the dialect of candor, gentleness, and
caution.  It imparts the wisdom of the serpent without the poison of its
subtilty, and the harmlessness of the dove without its timidity.  It is
discerning, and can explore characters without impertinent curiosity,
without any pretensions to prophetic intuition, or any interference with
the private concerns of others.  It teaches to cultivate friendship from
disinterested motives, and to guard it by acts of delicacy and reciprocal
generosity; and will enable a Christian to make sacrifices here, when the
connexion is manifestly dangerous, whatever may be the consequences
arising from the misrepresentations or slanderous tales of the rejected
party.  In short, the loveliness of religion and religion itself appear
so interwoven with each other, that we cannot in some points of view
_separate_ them without destroying the very essence of Christianity.  Of
this, our Lord’s sermon upon the mount, and St. Paul’s beautiful
delineation of charity, that is _love_, in 1 Cor. xiii. afford a striking
proof.  “Love suffereth long and is kind; charity envieth not, vaunteth
not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh
not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in
iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth (ςεγει covereth) all things,
believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”  The close
examination of one of these passages made a great man once exclaim,
“Either this is not true, or we are not Christians.”  And, perhaps, were
some but to alter the form of the exclamation, by making the first member
of the sentence an affirmative, and leaving the last in its negative
state, and then apply the whole to themselves, they would utter an awful
truth, declarative of the real condition of their character before God.

A distinguished writer observes, that St. Paul, in the above description
of charity, had certain characters in view, whom he wished to wound
through the medium of an abstract delineation, rather than expose them by
personal or local references.  In doing this, he acted like a surgeon,
who once enclosed a lancet in a sponge, which he applied to a breast that
wanted opening, under a pretence of washing it, and by that delicate
method at once prevented the fears of his patient and performed the
operation that restored her health.  But it should seem that the apostle
had to do with persons more impressible by the strokes of his cutting
pen, than those whom, in the present day, an easy and callous profession
hath rendered impenetrable by the lancet of truth, however smooth its
edge, however soft the medium through which it passes, and however
delicate the operation throughout.  Men, long accustomed to the favorite
element of teaching, dictating, and reproving others, seem to claim an
exclusive right of using the lancet themselves.  And, if they have
learned to call rudeness and rusticity of manners, or ill-timed
reprehension, by the sacred name of _faithfulness_, that word so much
abused in the mouths of the forward and impetuous, the disease becomes
almost incurable.  It is in vain that the lancet directed against
themselves be oiled or enveloped in sponge by the most cautious hand.  A
hint will awaken their resentment, and the most delicate wound given to
the vulnerable part will only send them into company to give vent to
their malignant feelings, by copious effusions of slander and invective,
or make them ascend a pulpit to scold and storm there.  Yet the former is
called honesty or faithfulness, and the latter, to the scandal of the
most sacred and lovely exercise, is termed _preaching_.  If any thing be
more surprising than this, it is, that the one should meet with
defenders, and the other with private patrons.  But what is it, which the
ignorance, the false zeal, and the wickedness of some will not prompt
them to defend?  With such, the grand plea is, that the _truth_ is
spoken.  But it is this very fact that is the grand aggravation.  Let
religion be only left out of the question, and our complaints cease.  But
to borrow its sacred name as a vehicle of conveyance for gall and
wormwood, and then to quote it in justification of the most unhallowed
tempers, is a double inconsistency, equally fraught with false reasoning
and sin.  This is to furnish an answer to a question proposed by St.
James, to which he thought none but a negative one could be given.  “Doth
a fountain send forth at the same place _sweet_ water and _bitter_?”
“Yes,” may some say, “we will undertake to exemplify this phenomenon, by
making our tongues the vehicle of malignity and grace.”  We would hope,
however, for the honor of religion, and the credit of the apostle’s
metaphor, that the _malignity only_, in many instances, comes from the
“fountain” within, and the sound of _grace_ is confined to the _tongue_,
as its place of residence.  What, then, are the most splendid talents,
the finest chain of reasoning, or the greatest extent of oratorical
powers, if unaccompanied, as they certainly may be, with the temper of
Christianity?  And in what light are we to look upon that false fire,
which has none of these glittering recommendations, but makes its bold
advance in the rude garb of confidence, illiteracy, and moroseness?  The
former is bearable, as a display of genius; but the latter, having
neither genius nor religion, is insupportably detestable: and the best
antidote against the dangerous influence of both, is a close
consideration of the words of St. Paul, “Put on therefore (AS THE ELECT
OF GOD, holy and beloved) _bowels of mercies_, _kindness_, _humbleness_
of mind, _meekness_, _long-suffering_; Col. iii. 12: let all _bitterness_
and _wrath_, and _anger_, and _clamor_, and _evil-speaking_, be put away
from you, with all _malice_; and be ye _kind_ one to another,
_tender-hearted_, _forgiving_ one another, even as God, for Christ’s
sake, hath forgiven you.”  Ephes. iv. 31, 32.

Some little acquaintance with the religious world, added, I hope, to some
little knowledge of religion itself, has helped to furnish these remarks.
Subjects are seen to most advantage, when placed in a contrasted point of
view.  And as there cannot exist a greater contrast than the essence of
religion, when opposed to the spurious profession of it, or the
loveliness of its character to the deformity in which it is sometimes
exhibited; a regard to truth, and a sincere desire to recommend it in its
native beauty to those who may have mistaken its nature, or to such as
may have been prejudiced through the unlovely behaviour of its
injudicious patrons, have extorted from me a discrimination of
characters, which, if more amply discussed, would be proportionably
useful.  Let none then impute to religion, what is only imputable to
fallen man, who abuses it; nor any form his ideas of it from the
unsightly attire in which enthusiasm or false zeal _chooses_ to array it.
To view its genuine excellence, search the scriptures.  To form a
collective idea of its principal _features_, take into your account the
faith of Abraham, the meekness of Moses, the patience of Job, the wisdom
of Solomon, with the deep repentance and sacred zeal of his father; that
most noble act of forgiveness shewn by Joseph to his brethren, and by
Stephen to his murderers, with the triumph of this lovely temper in the
conduct of Jacob towards the enraged Esau; the holy intrepidity of
prophets, the persevering boldness of apostles, together with the noble
sacrifices which they made, who “took joyfully the spoiling of their
goods, and who loved not their lives even unto death,” for the sake of
the gospel; the invincible zeal of St. Paul, the boldness of Peter, the
affectionate and amiable temper of “the beloved disciple.”  But, as some
infirmity was blended with the virtues of the most illustrious of these
characters, behold all their respective and detached excellencies,
concentring in their most bright assemblage, without frailty or sin, in
the sacred person and spotless life of the blessed Jesus.  In him, the
scattered rays of human and angelic excellence all meet, and from him
they derive their irradiation.  And it is in Jesus alone that you see all
the essence, and all the loveliness of religion exemplified; because of
him alone it is true “that he was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate
from sinners.”  Form your ideas, in both respects, from him; and from
that excellence in every character, that most resembles him.  “Let that
mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”  Phil. ii.  “Be ye
followers of me, says Paul, even as I also am of Christ.”  And then say,
whether religion does not surpass in beauty and excellence, every thing
below; that assumes the name of the one or the other.  What is it that
guides reason, sanctifies philosophy, adorns literature?  What, but
religion?  Without which, the sublimest style of mental exertion may be
not only useless in the end, but even pernicious.  What is the loveliest
form, or the lustre of the fairest countenance, unaccompanied with those
tempers and that demeanor, which religion teaches?  What is the crowning
accomplishment in all those graces, that charm the beholder, and make the
possessor of them happy?  Religion.  Of how much greater worth is the
aspect of benevolence, the look of modesty, the calm reply, the gentle
and unassuming carriage, than all the blooming tincture of a skin!  In
vain do the rose and lily diversify their lovely tints to beautify that
countenance, which covers a heart full of pride and vanity.  Even when
disease or age makes ravages on external charms, religion possesses the
exclusive power of rendering itself amiable under all these
disadvantages, and of communicating loveliness amidst all the ruins of
declining nature.  But, without religion, how awful the idea of a form,
once the object of adoration, consumed by disease and turned into
putrefaction by death! once the fair enclosure of a mind, the seat of
sin, and now separated, for a season, from those tempers, which being let
loose upon the soul, fill it, in its disembodied state, with misery and
terror; and, when returning, as they will do in the morning of the
resurrection, will complete the unhappiness and disgrace of soul and body
for ever!  Solemn reflection!  Sufficient, one would think, to inspire
parents with the ambition of instilling religion, as the grand endowment,
into the minds of their children; and to make their offspring anxious to
seek the one thing needful.  In short, the most elaborate mode of
education, in which this is omitted, is but a refined mode of training up
the rising generation to the most certain destruction.  It is religion
that gives the loveliest charms to youth, and makes the hoary head a
crown of glory.  Even the monarch upon his throne is not half so august
by the crown that adorns his brow, as he is, by the religion which makes
him the father of his people, and the obedient subject of the King of
kings.

_The prospects_ of religion.  Were the religion of Jesus Christ to be
limited in the duration of its influence to this life alone, it would
well demand the care and anxiety of mankind to understand its nature.
But “godliness hath not only the promise of this life,” of a secure
passage through all its snares, and of a proportion of grace to surmount
every difficulty, and come off victorious, but it hath also a promise of
that life “which is to come.”  The title to it is secured by the
everlasting righteousness of Christ, the gift of the Father, the covenant
faithfulness of the three persons in the Godhead, and the representation
of all God’s elect in the highest heavens, in the person of their
illustrious Head.  “I will,” says he in John, xvii. “that they whom thou
hast given me be _with me where I am_, that they may behold my glory.”
“Whom he justified, them he _also_ GLORIFIED.”  Rom. viii.  “It is the
Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  He that believeth hath
eternal life,” in the earnest and commencement of it, and shall
infallibly have it in its consummation.  “He will give grace and he will
give glory.”  Psal. lxxxiv.  The first-fruits here ensure the inheritance
hereafter.  What Jehovah hath transferred in the bond of the covenant, he
will never annul or revoke; because “two immutable things,” the promise
and oath, “in which it was impossible for God to lie,” shew to the heirs
of promise the immutability of his counsel, and make their admission to
glory a certainty in prospect, and, at last, in possession.  Thus speaks
in the language of sovereign authority the divine person who undertook to
purchase, and claims the honour of conferring, eternal life upon his
people, “I GIVE UNTO THEM ETERNAL LIFE, AND THEY SHALL NEVER PERISH.”

Such is the glorious prospect, which religion, as a system of infallible
truth and divine certainty, sets before the believer in Christ.  Several
considerations unite their force to prove this prospect of future
blessedness, to be in every respect worthy of Him, who gives it, and
fully calculated to ascertain the hopes of those who entertain it.  The
basis of the expectation is the well ordered covenant, or that
irreversible stipulation in the contracting parties, by which the Father
hath agreed “to give eternal life to as many as he hath given” to the
Son.  John, xvii.  This title-deed is sealed with the blood of the Surety
of the New Testament, who became responsible for fulfilling all its
conditions.  The testament supposes the death of the testator; without
which, it has no force.  And the testament, solemnly executed by that
event, implies a bequest of blessings, the transfer of which must take
place in perfect conformity to the will of the testator; which will is a
perfect transcript of the covenant of redemption agreed upon “in the
counsel of peace which was between both” the Father and the Son before
all worlds.  The work finished upon the cross by the Mediator, was the
accomplishment of that “obedience unto death,” which he had stipulated to
render to law and justice, in doing and suffering the will of the Father.
Psal. xl.  Heb. x.  The believer, who receives God’s testimony respecting
this transaction, “lays hold of the covenant” to save him from death;
apprehends the Mediator’s righteousness as his title to glory, and sees
the inheritance now secure by a reversion of the forfeiture incurred
through the disobedience of Adam.  Here is firm footing.  On this rock
the believer founds his salvation and builds his prospects, which ought
never to be obscured by doubts and uncertainty, since the expectations,
which the gospel teaches him to entertain, spring from a hope that is
“sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the vail.”  Heb.
vi. 19.

How different is the prospect, afforded through the medium of promises,
from that vouchsafed to Moses of the land of Canaan!  He was commanded to
ascend the top of mount Pisgah, was from thence shewn the goodly
inheritance, but, to call to his remembrance and to punish his sin, at
the waters of Meribah, was told he must die on that mount, and never
personally enter that land which his eye then so wishfully surveyed.
Faith gives the prospective view of the celestial Canaan; hope
anticipates an admission into it; and nothing can possibly occur to
darken the animating prospect, to frustrate the joyful anticipation, or
to hinder actual possession.  Sin, that would bar the entry, is taken
away by the sacrifice of the Son of God.  The great “forerunner is _for
us_ entered,” and hath taken possession of the glorious inheritance in
behalf of his people.  Not one angry cloud can intercept the prospect,
since the Sun of Righteousness hath arisen with healing in his wings, to
dissipate those noxious mists of darkness, which would otherwise have
enveloped in impenetrable gloom our views of future happiness.  “He hath
blotted out as a thick cloud our transgressions, and as a cloud our
sins.”  The purchase is made in full proportion to the extent and glory
of the inheritance, though in both respects infinite.  The promise of
admission is given by Him, whose veracity is pledged, and whose
omnipotence is exerted, to accomplish what he hath spoken.  The believer
has, therefore, nothing to do but die, and take possession of a portion,
of which earth and hell, sin and Satan, law and justice, life and death,
cannot deprive him.

Delightful prospect! glorious inheritance!  What are the dim uncertain
prospects which this world affords, when compared with the luminous and
well grounded prospect of future glory!  Or what is the duration of them,
even if they were realized to the full extent of human wishes, compared
with that glorious eternity, which is to stamp perpetuity and purity on
the Christian’s bliss through everlasting ages!  Here some earthly hope
seizes the imagination, and paints there in captivating colours some fair
future prospect, that looks bright, and promises bliss.  A slight
contingence, such as this world abounds with, soon occurs, makes the
imaginary Eden vanish, and leaves the soul smarting under the anguish of
delusive and disappointed expectation.  Happy if those, who have existed
in this ideal earthly heaven, see their error, and lay hold on a hope,
the powers of which, in their greatest expansion, can never form the idea
of that immortality with which it blooms!  How often does vain man rest
his hope on an arm of flesh, and erect his prospects on human promises,
uncertain as the wind, and unsolid as the floating bubble!  Religion
teaches us to desert these weak resources, and to rely on the promises of
the gospel, which, he who revealed them, wants neither sincerity nor
ability to fulfil.  While multitudes circumscribe their views, and
contract their happiness within the narrow limits of a miserable and
short-lived existence, imbittered by cares and bounded by time; the
believer passes these boundaries, with a noble ambition, enlivens his
prospects, and expands his views with the anticipation of future glory.
Thus, “mounting on wings as eagles,” he ascends the sacred hill of
contemplation; from thence views by the eye of faith the fair
inheritance, which is prepared for him; and often breaks out into
effusions of joy and gratitude, under the impressions of such a ravishing
prospect.  “What a rich inheritance does my wondering eye survey!  How
extensive! how glorious!  What is a land flowing with milk and honey, the
glory of Israel’s portion, compared with a country, where there are
rivers of pleasures, and joys for evermore!  Here no sorrow can imbitter,
no sin diminish, no enemies interrupt, no lapse of time exhaust, the joys
of its blest inhabitants.  Here is an eternal sabbath, an uninterrupted
state of repose.  No fruits of the curse, no assaults of Satan, can
endanger the bliss of this Eden, through which flows the river of life,
clear as crystal, from the throne of God and of the Lamb, and in which
grows the tree of life, whose fruit is the repast of heaven, and whose
leaves are for the healing of the nations.  Here is that society, which
the most perfect harmony unites, which the blood of Christ redeemed, and
which his grace shall animate with songs of never-ending praise.  Here is
the mansion of rest and glory, which the Redeemer went before to prepare
for his once disconsolate disciples.  But is this mansion mine?  Yes.  He
who purchased it is mine, and I am his; and the mansion where he dwells
is mine, by covenant right, by gratuitous donation, by unalterable
promise, by rich redemption.  Unworthy of admission, his righteousness
alone is my title and recommendation.  Ah! what are now the little busy
scenes of earth, that perplex the mind and engross so much time and
thought? or what the gilded trifles of the world, riches, honors, and
pleasures?  They all die away and disappear, absorbed in this delightful
prospect, as stars that vanish before the mid-day sun.  The world
recedes, heaven opens to my view, death is advancing to fix the period,
where my happiness begins, that shall never conclude.  Soon shall I see
Him, in whom all my hopes and happiness are wrapt up, and cast my crown
in deep humility before his throne.  Let the world change, time flow with
its wonted velocity, the outward man decay, and death put on his most
terrific form: still this can make no alteration in my state, or impede
my prospects into glory.  I rejoice in hope of it, and shall one day
enter upon the possession of what ‘eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, and
which it hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive.’”

Whether we consider religion in its origin, foundation, nature,
influence, fruits, and evidences; or examine the consolations it imparts,
the attractive loveliness it displays, and the prospects it opens to its
happy votaries; it must, in every point of view, be a concern of great
importance.

The _importance_ of religion.  This an inspired writer comprehends in the
following short sentence, “Godliness is profitable for all things.”
Man’s best interests here and hereafter, are essentially interwoven with
the experience and practice of it.  As a dependent, dying, sinful
creature, he can never act his part honorably through life, or meet death
without dismay or stupefaction, but as supported by the guidance and
consolations of true religion.  In every line of life it is of infinite
utility.  By making sin hateful, it guards against the false maxims or
vicious examples, that would hide the deformity, or give sanction to the
practice of that great abomination.  If we ask, Why do fraud, injustice,
oppression, predominate, to the overturning of all the rights of
humanity, the laws of conscience, and the claims of civil liberty?  The
answer is at hand.  Because the sacred mandates of religion, which
transfer these privileges as the unalienable claim of human nature, have
been disregarded.  Had the voice of religion been only heard, and her
merciful dictates obeyed, an inhuman traffic would not, for so long a
season, have transmitted its bitter fruits to this country, at the
expense of the blood, the sweat and toil, the lives and liberties of
millions of our fellow-creatures.  Barbarous traffic! that begins, and is
prompted by avarice, is conducted by desolation, oppression, and
unprovoked hostilities, and that ends in a species of slavery, which, in
point of enormity, has hardly ever had an example among the most
uncivilized heathens!  But who knows but the happy hour of emancipation
is at hand?  The cries of the poor Africans, that have long entered the
ears of the Lord of Sabbath, are likely soon to be carried to the ears of
our legislators, through the laudable exertions of some, who deserve all
praise for having taken the lead in this humane undertaking.  Others are
taking up the subject with equal ardor.  Let us figure to ourselves,
thousands of our fellow-creatures, torn from the embraces of friends and
relations, and dragged from their native home; sold by an African tyrant,
to a greater one from England; linked together like oxen under a yoke;
driven in that ignominious situation to a floating prison that is to
receive them; treated without the smallest regard to the delicacy of sex
or age; and at last, after a voyage that proves fatal to many,
transported to a foreign clime, there to undergo the severest toil, and
smart under the lash of a merciless planter; and there, by an
accumulation of slavery and misery, often sold by public advertisement
like beasts of the field, and transmitted from one mercenary hand to
another; till exhausted by excessive toil, or cut off by the tortures of
an inventive barbarity, death comes at last, self-procured in many
instances, to close the dismal tragedy.  I say, let us form to ourselves
an idea of this concatenated slavery and misery, in the case of millions
of our own species, who have the reason and feelings of men, and then we
shall unite our prayers and supplications with the rest of the nation,
for the purpose of procuring the abolition of such an execrable traffic.
It is a solecism in politics, that in a free constitution, like that of
Great Britain, there should exist _one_ slave in the whole extent of the
British empire.  How great the solecism, then, that it should connive at
the commerce that enslaves thousands!  Should our legislators take the
matter into serious consideration, the act that would emancipate the
subjects of West Indian vassalage, would reflect the highest honor on the
wisdom and humanity of British legislation, and make the British name
more dear and more illustrious, than all the conquests that have carried
it with so much renown to every distant corner of the globe.  The event
would form a memorable epocha in the annals of British history; would
exemplify the genius of that pure and undefiled religion, the leading
characteristic of which is, that it is “_full of mercy_;” and would be an
imitation of its great Author, who “came not to destroy men’s lives but
to save them;” not to rob them of the sweets of liberty, but in the most
exalted sense to make them free.  The voice of religion, the voice of
justice, the voice of humanity, the voice of the nation, and I am sure I
may add, the voice of God, says, “Abolish slavery, and extend the
blessings of freedom to the oppressed Africans.”  What a high indulgence
would it be to the feelings of humanity, to be the bearer of the act that
would confirm the blessing, and spread the joyful intelligence through
the seats of oppression and slavery abroad! {50}

But it is not to the West Indies or to Africa alone, that we are to wish
the blessings of liberty.  Even in this land of freedom we abound with
slaves; who, while entreating liberty for others, feel not the chains
that enslave themselves to a degree the most humiliating.  Many boast of
political freedom, who are under the galling yoke of spiritual thraldom.
They are tied and bound with the chains of sin, which is the worst
slavery, and are led captive by Satan, the most dreadful of tyrants.  Yet
they bear his yoke contentedly, and feel not the chains that form a sad
prelude of eternal captivity.  But here the great importance of religion
is displayed.  By revealing an act of emancipation from the council of
the Trinity, and directing a world of captives to look for life and
liberty to Jesus the mighty Redeemer, it “opens the prison to them that
are bound,” Isa. lxi. 1, and shows a ransom paid down by his precious
death, which makes infinite justice say in behalf of the sinner who
believes the record, “Deliver him from going down to the pit.”  Oh! that
each enslaved sinner may apply the great redemption! and, “knowing the
truth as it is in Jesus,” be set free from the entanglements of the
world, the dominion of his lusts, or the more refined but deeply rooted
delusion of self-righteousness!

See the importance of religion, when other things, even the most
estimable, are brought in competition with it.  Form life’s estimate
agreeably to the pursuits and plans of its greatest admirers, and throw
into the scale whatever weighs heaviest in the opinion of the sons of
opulence and of dissipation.  Load the balance with riches, honors, pomp,
and pleasures, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride
of life.  This is the whole aggregate of terrestrial good.  But what can
all this avail, to shield the sinner from the terrors of the law, the
clamors of conscience, or the wrath of Heaven? to give him tranquillity
of mind under the pain of inward reproaches, or afford him confidence in
the hour of dissolution.  “Riches profit not in the day of wrath; but
righteousness delivereth from death.”  Prov. xi. 4.  For how short a
season are riches possessed!  How many thorny cares, and ensnaring
temptations, are connected with that possession to imbitter and make it
dangerous.  That inward peace which religion inspires, is so far from
being the companion of opulence, that the wealthy and the great are in
general strangers to its heaven-born influence.  The happiness that flows
from it, quits the mansions of vicious pomp and earthly magnificence, and
takes up its abode in the dwellings of poverty and dependence, where
grace teaches contentment, and opens through Christ the prospect of final
deliverance from every trouble, in its root and effects.  Examine more
closely these opposite conditions, with the characters respectively which
they include.  Fancy a sinner, full of wealth and bold in sin.  He lives
“as without God in the world,” indulges his pride, and feeds his lusts
with the provision, which might be used to the noblest purposes.
Accustomed to the tribute of flattery and homage from unfortunate and
fawning dependants, his heart drinks in the luscious poison, which feeds
his self-consequence, but at the same time renders him more sensible of
mortification from the affronts of superiors, and impatient under the
afflictive hand of Providence.  His heart swells and says, “Who is the
Lord that I should obey him?” and his life more emphatically speaks the
insolent question.  In his family, in his closet, in his conversation, in
his thoughts, God has no place, religion is not allowed to enter; except
when infidelity fills the scorner’s chair, profaneness animates “the song
of the drunkard,” or Satan suggests the bold imprecation, the vulgar
oath, or immodest jest.  That is, religion is never introduced but to be
_ridiculed_, nor suffered admission for a moment, but to be driven out
again with disgrace by the scourge of the infidel’s tongue.  Thus he
lives independent of the Being, who gave him life, and rebellious against
the mercy that spares it.  But mercy will not always spare, nor life
always last.  See him on his death-bed.  The farce of life is ending; the
curtain about to be drawn on all its pleasurable scenes; and the dismal
tragedy begins.  If not hardened with infidelity or stupified by disease,
all within feels dark, uncertain, and disturbed, full of fears and
forebodings, the prelude of hell.  What will his riches avail him now?
They can procure him medicines, physicians, attendants.  But the king of
terrors mocks all their assistance.  The sinner wants now, what they
cannot give: he wants _religion_.  But the joys of that, with all the
peace and hope it inspires, are fled for ever.  Behold the contrast.
Look into the humble habitation of a little family, sequestered from the
noise and snares of life, like the humble shrub in a valley, that escapes
the fury of the tempest, which tears up by the roots the lofty cedar.
See at the head of this modest happy household, an upright Christian,
whose industry provides them food, and whose religious example leads them
in the way to heaven.  His daily resolution resembles that of Joshua, “As
for me and my house, we will serve the Lord;” and his practice
exemplifies it.  The morning finds him upon his knees to implore the
blessing of Heaven: the day is closed with thanksgivings to God for the
gift of his Son, and for every domestic, social, and personal blessing
vouchsafed, of which his evening sacrifice is a solemn and grateful
recognition.  The sacred scriptures are constantly applied to, as to a
source of uncorrupted truth, of consolation, guidance, and instruction.
The religion which they inspire, sweetens his cares, is a spur to
industry, and helps him to bear the frowns of the world, or the
visitations of domestic affliction, with patience and submission;
persuaded that the goodness and faithfulness of his heavenly Father will
“make all work together for good.”  To walk by faith with God reconciled
to him through the Son of his love; to act as under the inspection of his
all-seeing eye in his intercourse with men; to bring forth the fruits of
faith and keep a conscience void of the least allowed offence;
_constitute_ the main business of life, and the chief object of his care
and solicitude.

But {55} see the righteous drawing near the hour of his dissolution; then
do the graces of faith, of patience, and of resignation, shine forth with
the most resplendent lustre.  Confidently relying upon the mercy of God
through Jesus Christ, neither the debilitating pains of protracted
sickness, nor the more excruciating agonies of acute disorders, provoke a
murmur from his lips.  At the prospect of that hour, the very thought of
which is terrible to the unbeliever, his happy soul exults; and knowing
that death is the gate to everlasting life, he longs for the moment of
his dismission, when he shall enter into the joy of his Lord, and join
the glorified spirits of the redeemed in songs of unceasing praise.  How
important is Religion, if such be it’s termination, and with how much
justice are all our afflictions called light and momentary, seeing they
work out for us an eternal and exceeding weight of glory!  O my soul, let
me die the death of the righteous, and let my latter end be like his!



SERMON I.


               EVANGELICAL TRUTHS STATED, AND THE CHARGE OF
                 NOVELTY AS A GROUND OF PREJUDICE AGAINST
                           THE GOSPEL, REFUTED.

                  [Preached at Nantwich, July 28, 1782.]

    “What new doctrine is this?”  MARK, i. 27.

IF you look back to the twenty-first verse of the chapter, you find our
Lord teaching in a synagogue at Capernaum, and all his hearers filled
with astonishment at his doctrine.  Truth naked and unadorned has been
known often to produce this effect.  How irresistibly powerful must have
been its efficacy, in the mouth of such a Teacher! whose manner was as
engaging, as his wisdom was profound!  What seems principally to have
struck the audience, while listening to the incomparable doctrines of the
Lord Jesus, was, “that he taught them as one that had authority, and not
as the scribes.”  For, as the origin of truth is divine, it claims the
just prerogative of commanding obedience to its sanctions, and gives its
advocates an authority in pleading her injured rights, which error can
seldom counterfeit.

That our blessed Lord might authenticate his mission, and enforce his
doctrine, he took occasion, in the synagogue, to dispossess a demoniac.
The unclean spirit that tormented him instantly yielded obedience to the
word of Jesus, after having previously acknowledged him to be “the Holy
One of God,” verse 24.  A miracle, performed upon such an occasion, and
attested by a variety of circumstances of public notoriety, excited the
amazement of all present; who said, “What thing is this?  What new
doctrine is this?”  Two things were the object of their surprise; the
miraculous cure of the demoniac, and the supposed novelty of our Lord’s
doctrine.  But had they been properly conversant in the writings of their
favorite lawgiver Moses, they would have seen, that Jesus came not to
reveal truths in their nature absolutely new, and altogether unknown; but
only to place in a new light, to communicate by a new style of preaching,
and to enforce by motives unfolded with clearer radiance, those original
truths, which the divine legation and ritual economy of Moses, as well as
the corroborating testimony of all the prophets, were intended to teach
from the beginning.  See Acts, x. 43, and John, v. 45.  But St. Paul
accounts for this ignorance in the Jews, and the prejudices which sprung
from it, by observing, that “their minds were blinded: for, until this
day, remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the Old
Testament; which vail is done away in Christ.”  2 Cor. iii. 14.  Had not
“a vail” of darkness and unbelief “been upon their hearts,” they would
have both known and acknowledged, that the doctrines which Jesus
preached, were of patriarchal as well as Mosaic antiquity; and that
Jehovah himself “preached _that gospel_ unto Abraham,” Gal. iii. 8, which
Jesus came to confirm and elucidate by a dispensation, superior in light
and glory to any that had preceded it; and that what “God spake at sundry
times and in divers manners unto the fathers by the prophets, he spake in
the last days by his Son.”  Heb. i. 1.

Blindness in the Jews made them fix the charge of novelty on the
doctrines of Christ, although so visibly inscribed with the marks of
divine authenticity; and the effect of that presumptive and hasty
imputation, was an unwillingness to receive his testimony or credit the
truth of his mission; and the consequence, a stubborn opposition to truth
and a fatal insensibility in sin, terminating, at last, in such judgments
as render them now a hissing and a proverb to all the nations of the
earth.

But, are such prejudices new? or was the baneful root of them confined
only to the regions of Judæa?  No.  In this land, and in this day, with
all the advantages which we derive from the free circulation of the word
of God, and from a national establishment so auspicious to the interests
of truth, there are multitudes, who are ready to cry out, when they hear
the gospel, as “certain philosophers of the Epicureans and of the Stoics”
did, when Paul preached at Athens, “Thou bringest certain strange things
to our ears.  May we know what this _new doctrine_, whereof thou
speakest, is?”  Acts, xvii. 19, 20.  Thus, with many, to attribute
novelty to a system, is the way to reprobate, and make it odious.  And
there are not a few, who satisfy themselves with no other argument for
their unbelief, than that they may have happened not to hear before, what
they contemptuously spurn.  As if the nature of truth can be altered, or
the credit of it shaken, by the want of previous acquaintance.  We should
have thought it a strange species of argumentation, had the Athenian
philosophers attempted to demonstrate, that St. Paul’s doctrine must have
been false, merely because it was new, and they happened not to hear it
before.  Yet upon this weak ground, do numbers reject the truth, and
militate against their own happiness; while their conduct is as grossly
repugnant to the dictates of calm reason and common sense, as it is
reprobated by the voice of scripture.  It will be a poor excuse, for any
to make at the tribunal of Christ, that they contemned the great
doctrines of revelation, merely because they thought them novel, when
they neglected the opportunity of being convinced to the contrary; or
that they adopted their ideas, and regulated their practice, by the
maxims of the world.  Such apologies, with all the mistake and
precipitancy on which they are founded, may pass current now with those,
who are credulous enough to drink in the monstrous absurdities of
infidelity, whether ancient or modern.  But, they will never satisfy
those, who wishing to investigate truth at the fountain-head, like the
noble Bereans, “search the scriptures daily, whether those things are
so.”  Acts, xvii. 11.  And that none here may ignorantly plead such
excuses, for their indifference or unbelief on a subject of such vast
concern, I will endeavour, _First_, to show what the doctrine is which we
preach, and on which we build our eternal all; and, _Secondly_, That this
doctrine is no more justly chargeable with novelty, than it is with
error; and, _Thirdly_, That other objections brought against the
ministers of the gospel, are equally frivolous and undeserved.

I.  As to the doctrines, which we preach, although we look upon ourselves
accountable for them to that most excellent church, whose system of
theology is the glory of her establishment, and the sacred depositum of
all her ministers; yet, when truth is concerned, we acknowledge ourselves
obliged to look from her authority, venerable as it is, to the infallible
decisions of the lively oracles of God; since every church and every
doctrine must be tried, must stand or fall, by that great standard.  To
the sacred scriptures we are glad to appeal, as to a divine authority,
not superseding, but corroborating the doctrines of our church; without
which, no obligation, arising merely from a national establishment, could
lie upon the conscience to believe and receive them.  And, indeed, the
liberality and candor of our church appear in this, that she unites with
the state in granting what, it must be confessed, are the natural rights
of all who think themselves authorized to dissent from her: and admits in
her sixth _article_, that “whatsoever may not be proved by holy
scripture, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed
as an article of faith.”  Taking it for granted, however, that her
constitution is founded upon a scripture model, and her articles
consonant with the truth as it is in Jesus, while she requires, and has
indeed an indisputable right to insist, that her ministers should preach
those doctrines, and those only, which she had professedly derived from
the fountain of truth in sacred writ; she has manifestly opened to them a
fair opportunity of investigating the origin, and examining the tendency,
of the system she hath received, and of acting agreeably to the result of
their researches.  No dissentient, therefore, can plead hardship or
injury in this case.  If he be out of the church, he is not compelled to
come in.  And if he should happen to be within the pale of her communion,
no compulsion is exercised to keep him there.  He was supposed to enter
freely and cordially, and is permitted as freely to go out, if his
sentiments are inimical to her great distinguishing doctrines.  She hath
only claimed, what every society in the world hath thought itself
warranted to claim for the security of its laws and the benefit of its
members; and that is, a liberty of judging for herself.  And that
judgment she conceives to be obligatory and directory to her ministers,
not as set up in opposition to the word of God, but as perfectly
coincident with its authority.

In this, view, when a minister of the Church of England is either
directly by controversy, or indirectly by secretly-invidious imputations,
called upon to declare and vindicate his sentiments; to all the members
of the same church with himself, he has a right to quote her authority as
a sufficient justification of the tenets he inculcates; and has an equal
right to expect, that an unequivocal appeal to her discriminating
doctrines ought to be considered as an indirect evidence, at least, of
the uprightness of his intentions, if not of the orthodoxy of his
sentiments.  He thinks himself authorized to expect too, that he should
be reputed an honest man, as long as he professes to advance nothing but
in subserviency to the scheme of doctrine which he solemnly subscribed at
his ordination.  And should he happen to err, yet candor should
acknowledge, that he is mistaken with the Church of England, since her
sentiments he avows as his own.  And in such venerable company he is not,
and cannot be supposed to be ashamed to declare them, that all may judge
for themselves of the inconsistency or validity of his pretensions.  And,
when interrogated, he might think it a sufficient apology to say, “If you
wish to know my sentiments, from any secret supposition of their
heterodoxy, I refer you to the 39 articles of that church, of which we
are both members.  I subscribed to those articles with hand and heart.
My assent and consent to them were sincere and unequivocal.  I firmly
believe them to be agreeable to the word of God; and, while they
epitomize the sentiments of the church, they speak my own.  As such I
believe them, and I preach them.  Read over those articles, therefore,
and you may then know, what are the leading topics of my ministrations.”
Such an answer a minister of the gospel might esteem a reasonable and a
sufficient one, to cavillers of every description, when either ignorance
censures, or malevolence detracts.  But lest, upon the present occasion,
such an appeal should be thought to carry too much the appearance of
indolence and evasion, I will endeavour, with all the faithfulness and
precision in my power, to state the outlines of that system of doctrine,
which I verily believe to be according to truth and godliness, and upon
which I build my own hopes and prospects for eternity.

1.  Although the nature of God, as a Being of infinite wisdom, power,
justice, glory, purity, and goodness, surpasses the comprehension of men
and angels; yet, according to the revelation which he hath thought proper
to give of himself in holy scripture, we think ourselves authorized to
believe, and to preach in consequence, that in the divine essence there
are three persons, who are incomprehensibly _one_ in all the perfections
of the Godhead; and, according to their respective offices in the economy
of redemption, are called in scripture, _Father_, _Son_, and _Spirit_;
that, though economically and personally three, they are essentially one;
that all objections to this doctrine arising from the incomprehensibility
of it, apply equally to the truth of the very being of a God; and that a
denial of it, is one of those heresies that enter very deeply into an
apostacy from the truth and power of godliness.  The doctrine of the
Trinity, or of three co-equal and co-essential persons in one undivided
Godhead, as an object of adoration to men and angels, we look upon as one
of the great mysteries of revelation, and as a fundamental article in the
Christian faith.  If the opponents of this leading tenet think proper, as
too many of them have done, to ridicule it as inexplicable, and contrary
to reason; we are sorry for their inconsistency, and would remind them,
that their sneers might very easily be retorted on themselves, were they
only required to account for, and reconcile with reason, a thousand
phenomena in nature, the existence of which they dare not dispute, though
their occult qualities, origin, and extent of operation, are wrapt up in
mystery.  And if nature, in some of the most common and sensible objects,
abounds with mysteries, which philosophy cannot explore or account for;
how incomprehensible must the God of nature be, when his own peculiar
mode of existence is the object of contemplation!  We believe, therefore,
that the impenetrable mystery that envelopes the doctrine of the Trinity
from the comprehension of reason, ought to be no bar to the reception of
it; and that it ought to be believed upon the simple authority of
revelation, like other doctrines equally mysterious, which it would be
folly and blasphemy to contradict for a moment.

2.  We believe that God made man at first upright, but that he hath
sought out many inventions; and that the moral image of the Deity stamped
on his heart was obliterated by his disobedience: in consequence of
which, he instantly fell into a deplorable state of darkness, bondage,
and death.—That all mankind were radically and federally in Adam, and
were to stand or fall in him.—That his apostacy affected all his
descendants, who inherit his fallen nature, with all the guilt and
depravity inherent in it.  And, though the disobedience of Adam was not,
and could not be the sin of his posterity in point of personal
concurrence; yet, as an act of high treason in a nobleman is considered,
by an attainder in the law, as affecting his children, and they suffer in
their titles and inheritance for what was properly and personally the
crime of their ancestors; so an entail of the penalty annexed to the act
of original transgression, which is death, proves more forcibly, than a
thousand arguments, that there must be also an entail of guilt; and that
“in Adam _all_ died,” 1 Cor. xv. 22, because by “his disobedience they
were made _sinners_,” κατεσταθησαν ἁμαρτωλοι, Rom. v. 19, constituted
transgressors.  And, therefore, according to the 9th article of the
Church of England, that “man is very far gone from original
righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil;” and that
although he still possesses all the original faculties, which in their
state of primeval rectitude constituted man the image of his Maker, yet
they are now so depraved and alienated by the fall, as to require a
divine agency to regulate and renew them.  Indeed, the dreadful disorder
which death hath introduced into the natural world, loudly speaks the
prior existence of some fatal evil in the moral world; and evinces, that
the cause must be as malignant as the effect is universal.  We assert,
upon the authority of scripture, that the consequences of the first
transgression to Adam and all his descendants, which “were in his loins,”
as the sons of Levi are said to have “paid tithes in Abraham,” Heb. vii.
9, 10, appear to have been, a loss of the divine image, a forfeiture of
happiness, a death in sin, a subjection to the death of the body, and an
obnoxiousness to death eternal of both soul and body; and that all,
without exception, that are naturally engendered of the offspring of
Adam, “are by nature children of wrath.”  Ephes. ii. 1, 3.  Rom. v.
14–21.  Rom. vi. 23.

3.  It is of the highest importance to the system of Christianity, to
maintain the doctrine of human guilt and depravity, because it is such an
advantageous foil to set forth the unbounded love and glorious redemption
of the Lord Jesus Christ; which, without an acknowledgment of the
apostacy of man, must of course be reputed a solemn redundancy, if not an
absolute nonentity.  And it always happens, that they who deny the fall
reject some of the capital doctrines of revelation, that are concomitant
with it, and are generally convicted of entertaining low and blasphemous
thoughts concerning the person and salvation of the Son of God.  But as
we take for granted, that that original sin, which some have dared, in
derision, to call original nonsense, is a most melancholy and humiliating
matter of fact, we assert, that the only person qualified for rescuing
man from the consequences of that depraved and helpless condition into
which he was plunged by sin, was the eternal Son of God.  Of him we
believe, that his qualifications for the high office of Mediator between
God and man depend entirely upon the truth of his divinity; that when the
scriptures call Jesus God, they give him that divine title in the proper
sense of the word; that he is, as Mediator, subordinate and delegated,
and sent; but not, as _God_.  We believe the inspired writers continually
mean to represent him, under that name of divinity, as one with the
Father in the essence of the Godhead, because he claims all the other
incommunicable attributes peculiar to it; such as omniscience,
omnipresence, omnipotence, eternity of existence a _parte ante_, &c.  We
cannot conceive that Jehovah would be the infringer of his own law, in
commanding “all the angels of God to worship” the Son, Heb. i. 6, if the
Son were not by nature God; since a subordinate Deity, as an object of
inferior adoration, is an idea expressly repugnant to the very letter of
that law, which enjoins the worship of one God, and condemns the
translation of it to any other being: and to worship any creature,
whether a seraph or a quadruped, whether angelic or superangelic, is
idolatry; that since the great Lawgiver could never intend to violate his
own law, which is as unchangeable as his own nature, in commanding homage
to be paid to the Messiah, he meant to proclaim to all the earth, that
“in him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, παν το πληρωμα της
θεοτητος σωματικως” Col. ii. 9.

We preach Jesus, therefore, as very God; as the agent, and end of all
things; for by him and for him were all things in heaven and earth
created.  Col. i. 16.  We preach his blood as deriving all its efficacy
to atone for sin, and purge the conscience, from the infinite dignity of
his divine nature.  We believe his righteousness to be “the righteousness
of God” in all respects consummate, and divinely glorious; 2 Cor. v. 21;
and that, abstracted from the fulness of the Godhead, it could have no
more availed towards the justification of a sinner before God, than the
righteousness of Gabriel.  We believe that it was the incomprehensible
yet real union of the divine nature to the human, in the person of the
Lord Christ, that enabled him to make “a full, perfect, and sufficient
sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for sin,” to bruise the serpent’s
head, to conquer death, and to tread the wine-press of the wrath of God.
We believe Jesus to be God-man, and point lost sinners to him as the
object of their trust and adoration; and we are fully persuaded, that,
take away the truth of our Lord’s proper Deity, and you discard the rock
on which the church is built, and subvert the foundation of his people’s
hopes.  If unbelievers start the old trite objection of proud reason,
that this doctrine too is unworthy of acceptation, because
incomprehensible, our answer is in the words of the apostle, “Great is
the _mystery_ of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh.”  1 Tim. iii.
16.

4.  As to the decrees and dispensations of Almighty God, which originate
in “the good pleasure of his will,” Ephes. i. 5, and are made subservient
to his glory, I would wish to think of them with caution and humility,
and to speak of them with the most profound reverence: And though I
cannot but acknowledge that my thoughts recoil with horror at the idea of
God’s dooming sinners to hell by a positive decree of reprobation, or of
his taking a delight and complacency in the misery of any of his
creatures; yet I cannot withhold my hearty assent to that authority,
which declares, that believers were “chosen in Christ before the
foundation of the world;” Ephes. i. 4; that they are “elect according to
the fore-knowledge of God;” Pet. i. 2; that they are “chosen to
salvation,” 1 Thes. ii. 13, as the certain end of that choice; and, as
the 17th article says, “that the godly consideration of our election in
Christ is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to such as
_feel_ in themselves the working of the spirit of Christ.”

The adversaries of this doctrine, who, in the warmth of their zeal,
apprehend, that a discriminating election of sinners to salvation,
irrespective of any moving or meritorious cause in the creature, is an
impeachment of the divine justice, seem to forget, that to form a
judgment of God’s dispensations from _our_ ideas of equity, is fallacious
and dangerous; since, “as the heavens are above the earth, so are his
thoughts above our thoughts, and his ways above our ways.”  Isa. lv. 9.
For “who hath known the mind of the Lord? or, being his counsellor, hath
directed him?”  Rom. xi. 34.  Since the wisdom of God hath appeared
foolishness to the world, why may not the very equity of his proceedings
to the same incompetent and partial judges be construed into injustice?
Yet who would argue, that the conclusion in either case is according to
truth?  Rather, who would not conclude, that the same false reasoning
that has deluded mankind into an error, respecting the _wisdom_ of God’s
dispensations, should also incline them to arraign the _justice_ of them
too?  A race of beings suffering for their apostacy under the hand of
God, must, of course, view the dispensation that inflicts their
punishment, in a very malignant light, and cannot be looked upon as
competent judges in a case, wherein torment excites rebellion, and
prompts them to blaspheme the hand of the Most High, merely because it
holds the vengeful rod of chastisement.  The angels that left their first
estate, no doubt, think it hard, that they should be “reserved in chains
under darkness unto the judgment of the great day;” and, while they are
suffering justly, are, probably, ready enough to curse God as an
arbitrary tyrant, because their remediless condition leaves them in that
power of his wrath for ever?  Yet what is the opinion of such unhappy
beings, but the impotent rage of rebels against the just dispensations of
the Holy One of Israel?

The charge of injustice comes with a very ill grace too from the mouth of
rebels incarnate.  They have no claim upon Jehovah for a single favor.
Having forfeited all by sin, their real desert is death eternal.  So
that, had Jehovah thought proper to have passed by the whole human race,
they would have had no more real cause to blame, as unjust, this judicial
pretention, than the angels have, who are unexceptionably and eternally
lost.  Instead of quarrelling, therefore, with his dispensations and his
truths, which, like his own nature, are inscrutable; it becomes us, as
sinners, to fall down at his footstool with self-abhorrence, and to adore
that great mystery of redemption that hath opened a way of salvation for
any; and, instead of indulging a proud and disputatious temper, “to give
all diligence to make our calling and election sure.”  If a contrary
spirit were carried to its full extent, there would be no end of
impeaching the divine justice in the affairs of the universe.  The same
pride that actuated the Jews to kill the Son of God, because he pleaded
the divine sovereignty in choosing Naaman and the woman of Sarepta as
objects of his favors, above all the lepers or widows in Israel, Luke,
iv. 27, would lead men to inquire with arrogance, why this man is born to
riches and honors, while another inherits poverty and wretchedness;—why
some are idiots, and others adorned with bright and cultivated
understandings;—why some inherit disease from their birth, and drag on a
miserable life for years in torture and pining sickness, while others
enjoy an unintermitted portion of health through every period of their
lives, and go down to their graves without any pain, save that of dying,
which, with such, is often a short and easy transition;—why it is the
fate of some to be the unhappy subjects of insanity, that torturing
disease of the mind, which secludes them from society, and makes them
dreaded as the most furious animals; while others, by the free and
vigorous exertion of their mental powers, are ornaments to society, and
preside in the management of states and empires;—why multitudes are
condemned to the galleys, or, for no other crime but that of defenceless
and impoverished condition, are sold for slaves, and, by an inhuman
traffic, become the property of Christian tyrants, who often treat them
more barbarously than the beasts that perish, while others enjoy the
protection of law, and all the blessings of civil and religious
liberty;—why one country is burnt up with heat, another is a region of
inhospitable deserts, or inaccessible mountains; a scene of barrenness
and desolation; and a third is visited with the pestilence, or shaken
with continual earthquakes; while other parts of the globe are crowned
with perpetual verdure, are blessed with plenty and fertility, and enjoy
that constitutional peace, and unanimity, to which those nations are
strangers, that are torn with faction and depopulated by the sword;—why
some countries are visited with that first of all national blessings, the
_light of the gospel_, while others are suffered to lie for ages buried
in paganism and superstition;—why, in particular, the Jews should have
been God’s favorite people for more than half the period of the world’s
present existence, and the Gentiles excluded from their privileges, till
the set time for their incorporation arrived;—and why the gospel meets
with a more favorable reception in some places than in others, where
there is no reason to suppose that the difference arises from any
superior disposition in the hearts of the inhabitants, all being alike
dead in sin.  These are phenomena in the dispensations of providence,
which, according to the principles of some, ought to be made a subject of
curious and querulous investigation, as well as the mysterious dealings
of divine grace.  But, if God hath a right to do what he will with his
own, in dispensing temporal favors, why should he not be equally a
sovereign in bestowing spiritual ones? since, among all the children of
men, there does not exist a single claimant deserving for his own sake
either the one or the other, in the smallest degree of vouchsafement?
“Who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him
again?”  Rom. xi. 35.  And, if any, viewing the goodness and severity of
God with a curious eye, should still persist in reiterating objections,
and ask, “Why doth he yet find fault? for, who hath resisted his will?”
Our answer is in the words of St. Paul, “Nay, but, O man! who art thou
that repliest against God?  Shall the thing formed say to him that formed
it, Why hast thou made me thus?”  Rom. ix. 20.

While we assert the eternal sovereignty of God in choosing sinners to
salvation, we would not insinuate that any compulsion is exercised over
the will.  The freedom of that is eminently preserved by the grace that
restores it to the original object of its choice.  The will is not
compelled, but drawn, _suavi omnipotentiâ et omnipotenti suavitate_, by a
sweet and all-powerful at traction; and then the sinner is “made willing
in the day of God’s power.”  Psal. cx.  Neither has this great truth the
least tendency to relax the obligation of personal holiness, or to affect
the interests of morality in the world; since the people of God are said
to be “chosen in Christ, _that they should be_ holy and without blame
before him in love.”  Ephes. i. 4.  The invidious charge, that, “if
persons are chosen to salvation they may live as they list,” has no
foundation in truth and facts; and there is no position more abominable
in our view, than that by which some accommodate to us, “Let us do evil,
that good may come.”  And to sin, _because_ grace abounds, we esteem a
species of the most detestable and first-rate wickedness.  If some have
abused these doctrines to purposes of licentiousness; it should be
remembered, that the world in general use the opposite ones as an opiate
to lull them asleep in fatal supineness.  So that, if any argument be
founded on the number of those who are influenced by these tenets
respectively, an immense majority will be on the side of opposition both
to truth and godliness; and the argument must, of course, preponderate in
favor of those, who, by partial judges, are supposed to be most affected
by it.  But as we admit of no election, but such as hath holiness for one
of its salutary streams, and look for no perseverance, but such as
implies the habitual practice of good works, and a continuance in them
even to the end; so we insist, that, without the election of grace, the
power to perform them would be wanting, and the hopes of salvation rest
on a very precarious foundation.  It is the everlasting spring, from
whence floweth that river of God, which is full of water, that gladdens
the church with its perennial source and inexhaustible supplies.  Built
upon this rock, the people of God are secure; and their salvation as
great a certainty, as the purposes, dispensations, covenant, promises,
and blood of Jesus, can make it.

5.  On the doctrine of justification, the scriptures teach us, that the
only meritorious cause or primary ground of it before God, is the
righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, which includes his obedience to
the moral law, and the satisfaction he made to divine justice by his
expiatory sufferings:—that this righteousness is transferred to the
believer by a gratuitous imputation, and being apprehended by faith,
constitutes the ground of his peace, as well as the matter of his
justification before God:—that it is given “unto all,” as a free and
unmerited donation, and is “upon all them that believe,” Rom. iii. 22, as
a rich and immaculate garment of salvation:—that the moment a sinner
believes in Jesus with ever so weak a faith, his justification before God
is complete, because he lays hold on the perfect righteousness of Christ.
And by him _all_ that believe are justified from _all_ things.  Acts,
xiii. 39.  “There is _no_ condemnation to them.”  Rom. viii. 1.—And that
the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ being, in all respects,
consummate and glorious, cannot want, and will not admit of, any works of
the sinner as auxiliary to his justification.  For, “by the obedience of
_One_ many are made righteous.”  Rom. v. 19.  And “to him that worketh
not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is
counted to him for righteousness.”  Rom. iv. 5.

The faith that apprehends the righteousness of Christ, is the gift of
God; and, before it exists, no works deserve the name of good, because,
until a man’s person is accepted, his works cannot be well-pleasing in
the sight of God; and till the tree is made good, the fruit cannot be
good.  No good works can precede justification by faith; and therefore
the 13th article properly observes, that “works done before the grace of
Christ, and the inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God, for
as much as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ.”  Which truth St.
Paul confirms, by declaring, that “without faith it is impossible to
please God.”  Heb. xi. 6.  Good works, therefore, are subsequent to
justification, and are not the matter, but the evidences of it.  They
justify a believer before men, but his faith justifies him before God;
because, the fruits of righteousness, though deserving commendation from
man, are open with all their imperfection before the eye of omniscience;
and “in his sight can no man living be justified.”  Psal. cxliii. 2.  And
in order that this part of the subject may be summed up in as perspicuous
and concise a manner as possible, I close it with laying before you the
following distinction; viz. _A believer is justified meritoriously by the
righteousness of Christ_, _instrumentally by faith_, _and declaratively
by works_.  In the first sense, he is justified before God; in the
second, in his own conscience; and in the third, before the world.  These
several truths are equally inimical, by this distinction, to the pride of
self righteousness, and the licentious pleas of Antinomianism.  And, by
this arrangement, the truth is so guarded on all sides, that Christ, and
faith, and works, have their respective place, without any injury or
dishonor to one or the other.  For, though Christ hath, and will have in
all things the pre-eminence, and both faith and works act in
subordination, and lay all their honors at the Redeemer’s feet; yet both
are indispensably necessary, since without faith there is no pleasing
God, and that faith which hath not works can save no man.  This
distinction, and the truths which arise from it, you will find vindicated
in the 11th, 12th, and 13th articles of the Church of England.

6.  As to faith and repentance, if men, when they call them the
conditions of salvation, only mean, that we cannot be saved without them,
in this point of view we perfectly agree.  But if, under these terms, is
conveyed an insinuation, either that they are performed by any power of
the creature, or possess such a degree of merit, as to be intrinsically
conditional of salvation, which I fear is often intended, we then enter
our protest against not only the inaccuracy, but the dangerous error,
couched under the expression.  Both repentance and faith are the gifts of
God.  What is given, cannot be a condition of the love of the giver; but
must be the effect of it.  It is the greatest solecism in divinity and
common sense, to say, that the favors bestowed are the conditions of
antecedent affection.  As well might we argue, that the effects produced
in the earth by the sun’s rays, are the condition of his existence as the
source of light and heat.  Whereas the very reverse is true.  The light
of the universe, and the fertility of the earth, depend upon the
influence of that great luminary; without which, the world would be a
dungeon, and all creation a blank.  Thus the Lord Jesus Christ shines in
the firmament of his church as the Sun of Righteousness.  The light of
faith and the renovating influence of repentance, are those beneficial
rays which he emits, as tokens of his love and power.  The effects
produced prove to individuals that this Sun shineth; but they do not make
him shine.  His glory is independent, as his goodness is undeserved.
Besides, as the power to believe and repent, is from God, Acts, v. 31,
John, vi. 29, these acts of the mind can possess no merit or proper
conditionally, unless it can be supposed that a sinner has a right to
expect heaven for what is not his own.  And when so much is attributed to
faith and repentance, the great object of both is forgotten.  And that
object is the Lord our righteousness; whose obedience and death were the
great conditions of reconciliation; without which, one sinner could not
have been saved.  When we talk of the conditions of salvation, we should,
therefore, remember, that “to do the will of the Father,” which implies
the performance of these conditions, is represented in Psal. xl. 6, and
Heb. x. 9, as the sole work of the Redeemer.

7.  We conceive it to be of the utmost importance, as well for the
consistency of the gospel plan, as the happiness of sinners, to maintain
the necessity of a _divine inspiration_; not for the purpose of working
miracles, as some absurdly imagine that expression always implies; but
for the purpose of effecting that great change in the heart, without
which, none can enter the kingdom of heaven.  A change so difficult to
produce, that it is called in scripture a new birth, John, iii. 7; a new
creation, 2 Cor. v. 17; a translation from darkness to light, and from
the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of Christ; and that requires an
exertion of the same omnipotent power that brought light out of darkness
in the beginning, and arranged the universe itself.  When St. Paul says,
that “if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his,” Rom.
viii. 9, we apprehend the apostle declares an awful truth, that not only
affected his cotemporaries, but in which all are concerned to the end of
time.  And since the world as much wants now to be “convinced of sin, of
righteousness, and of judgment,” John, xvi. 8, as in the day that our
Lord promised to send the Holy Ghost for these important purposes; it is
reasonable to conclude, that his inspiration is still continued with the
church, notwithstanding the opposition which this truth meets with from
multitudes, many of whom call _that_ enthusiasm, which they are taught to
pray for in the services of the church.  But the misfortune is, they make
their own stupid feelings a comment upon those of others; and the force
of their arguing centres entirely in this, that the influences of the
spirit must have ceased, because they never felt them.  Which is
reasoning, just as wise and conclusive, as if a man born blind should
insist that there is no such colour as scarlet, because he never saw it.

Thus have I endeavoured to give you a summary of the truths of God,
which, like the several links in a chain, are so closely connected, that
whatever affects one, endangers more or less the whole system; while, to
maintain the distinct authority of each, and to point out its coherence
with every concomitant link in the golden chain of evangelical truth,
must necessarily tend to the preservation of the whole.  But it remains
now that I shew that,

II.  The system of doctrine I have laid down, is no more justly
chargeable with novelty than with error.

To urge antiquity alone, as a sufficient recommendation of any doctrine,
is often the refuge of superstition driven to its last resource.  And it
is well known how much this plea is maintained by the Church of Rome, as
a covert for all the errors, impositions, and pious frauds, that for
centuries have banished purity and truth from her communion.  The plea of
antiquity is but a fallacious one at best; since error is very old as
well as truth, and in every age of the church men have always called in
the suffrage of their ancestors as a sort of sanction for their own
blasphemies; imputing to antiquity a certain virtue to make error
venerable, or to stamp a dignity on folly, merely because it may have
happened to be folly before the flood.  Equally inconclusive and
fallacious too, are either the objections started against any doctrine,
or the countenance sought in favor of it, merely because it may be new.
People are apt, in most cases, to be strangely wedded to antiquity;
insomuch, that a friendly effort to rescue them even from nonsense, or to
liberate them from slavery, has been at different times construed into a
dangerous innovation.  When men have been habituated to an old track,
they become in time so reconciled to it, that what with indolence and a
stupid predilection in favor of antiquity, they discover an unwillingness
to be driven out of it.  And the man that has courage enough to make the
attempt, does it often at his peril.  The person that first declared
there were any such beings as _antipodes_, was put to death as a monster
of wickedness.  The discovery was new; and the mere novelty was enough,
in the opinion of a sage pope, to constitute him a heretic, and judge him
worthy of death.  Yet, it seems necessary to guard with proper caution
against the pretensions of novelty.  Men are often ambitious of making
new discoveries in religion, as well as in other sciences.  And when long
established truth in the scriptures checks them in their bold attempts to
advance any thing absolutely new, they will often put ingenuity upon the
rack, at least, to devise some new refinement upon an old error, that
they may set themselves at the head of a party, and rear their own
consequence upon the ruins of truth and peace.  A bigot of this class has
more than once complained bitterly, that, “in the Church of England,
there is nothing new left to be found out in religion; but that the 39
articles tell all.”  As if religion were a fluctuating system, that
requires to be changed and improved like fashions of a day.

From these observations it is plain, that the pleas, both of antiquity
and novelty, either for or against any thing, are indecisive, and may be
dangerous; and that when any doctrines are proposed to us, our principal
inquiry should be, not whether they are new or old, but whether they are
_true_.  It is not the _date_ of a bond that gives it its validity in
law, but the sign manual, and the attestation of witnesses.  Who ever
thought of inquiring, _when_ a piece of money was coined, provided the
metal were pure, and its currency legal.  Gold is the same in every age;
and none would think it more intrinsically valuable, either for the
antiquity or novelty of its coinage.  So, the nature of truth cannot be
affected by any accidental circumstances of date, time, and place; and
all, who are in search of it, merely for its own sake, will make no
account of such trivial considerations.  However, as prejudices are
sometimes best removed by being a little humoured in their requisitions,
capricious as they are, I will endeavour to shew that the truths I have
stated, claim antiquity as well as purity for the ground of their
excellency.

1.  If the writings of Moses may be considered among the most venerable
and authentic records, I think I can prove my point even from the
Pentateuch.  A plural substantive and verb singular in the very first
verse in the Bible, united in a description of the act and agent in
creation, convey, if not a direct proof, yet a very strong intimation, of
a plurality of persons in the Godhead, and of their oneness in point of
essence.  But that truth is more expressly declared, when upon the fall
of man Jehovah says, “The man is become as one of us.”  Gen. iii. 22.—The
history of the first transgression is recorded in the same chapter.  And
the effects of it soon appeared in the murder committed by Cain against
his own brother, and in the flagrant wickedness of one of his
descendants, that infamous polygamist Lamech.  The communication of the
original taint from father to son is so expressly recorded by Moses, that
when St. Paul says, that “by one man’s disobedience many were made
sinners,” he does not speak more intelligibly, than when the Jewish
Lawgiver says, that “Adam begat a son in his own likeness;” Gen. v.
3,—“in his own,” as contradistinguished from the divine image, in which
he had been created.  What words can more forcibly describe the total and
desperate apostacy of the human heart, than the following?  “And God saw
that _every_ imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was _only_ evil
_continually_.”  Gen. vi. 5.  And what was the universal deluge, but a
tremendous comment on this humiliating truth?  And, lest it should be
presumed, that postdeluvian wickedness was less flagrant than that which
provoked God to destroy the inhabitants of the earth with a flood, or,
that human nature was materially altered for the better, David says, that
“God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there
were any that did understand and seek God.  But, behold! they are _all_
gone aside, there is none that doeth good, no _not one_.”  Psal. xiv. 2,
3.  A passage of scripture this, which the Apostle Paul quotes in Rom.
iii. “to prove that both Jews and Gentiles are _all under sin_.”  Rom.
iii. 9.

2.  The appointment of sacrifices, as typifying the way of salvation
through Christ, appears to have been one of Jehovah’s earliest
institutions after the fall.  For the flesh of those animals, with the
skins of which the Lord God clothed our first parents, was probably
offered up as a sacrifice; the one, prefigurative of the expiatory death
of Christ, and the other, of the imputation of his righteousness, that
best robe, with which the nakedness of guilty sinners is covered from the
eye of God’s justice.  This supposition respecting the appointment of
sacrifices immediately after the fall, appears to be confirmed by the
conduct of Abel.  The great characteristic of his piety consisted in the
presenting to the Lord “of the firstlings of the flock.”  Gen. iv. 4.
This act, which implied a consciousness of his guilt, and a dependence on
the great propitiation of the Messiah, was done in faith; and, therefore,
“Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.”  Heb. xi.
4.  The same institution, which Jehovah appointed to Adam and his
household, and was continued through the patriarchal æra, became at last
one of the principal ceremonies in the law of Moses.  The necessity of an
atonement for sin was promulgated in every beast that was slain; and the
great truth was not only kept up by the solemnity of an annual festival,
but also by a daily sacrifice.  The blood poured forth upon these
occasions was called the blood of atonement.  The constant repetition of
sacrifices was intended to preach that unalterable maxim, common both to
the law and the gospel, that “without shedding of blood is no remission.”
And what the economy of Moses exhibited in shadowy types, was at last
illustrated substantially in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who
“hath offered one sacrifice for sin, and hath put it away by the offering
of himself once for all.”  Heb. x. 12.  So that both law and gospel unite
in proclaiming to the inhabitants of the earth, that “there is none other
name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved;” but the
all-meritorious name of the Lamb of God.  Acts, iv. 12.

3.  If we require the testimony of the prophets, their unanimous suffrage
is ready to confirm the truths I am pleading for.—Can the doctrine of
_original sin_ be more explicitly or feelingly taught, than in the
confession of the Royal Psalmist?  “Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and
in sin did my mother conceive me!”  Psal. li. 5; or, than in the
description of the human heart by Jeremiah?  “The heart is deceitful
above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?”  Jer. xvii 9.
The glory of the Lord of hosts in Isaiah’s vision, (chapter vi. compared
with John, xii. 41, and Acts, xxviii. 25,) was the glory of the Trinity:
and what words can more expressly or more sublimely delineate the divine
nature of Jesus, than those of this enraptured prophet, when he styles
him “Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the
Prince of Peace.”  Isa. ix. 6.  The same inspired writer, who is very
justly styled the evangelist of the prophets, declares, in language
equally intelligible and sublime, the doctrine of our Lord’s vicarious
satisfaction, of the translation of our guilt to him, and of his
righteousness to us, in his 53d chapter.  “And the Lord laid on him the
iniquity of us all—for the transgression of my people was he smitten—by
the knowledge of him shall my righteous servant justify many; for he
shall bear their iniquities.”  Verse 6, 8, 11.  The same truth is taught
by _Daniel_, when he prophesies, that “Messiah should be cut off, but not
for himself; that he should make reconciliation for iniquity, and bring
in everlasting righteousness.”  Dan. ix. 24, 26.  _Zechariah_ speaks of
the sword of justice as drawn against the “man that was Jehovah’s
fellow,” and of the “fountain of his blood opened for sin and
uncleanness.”  Zech. xiii. 1, 7.  When we assert that sinners are
justified before God, only by the righteousness of the Lord Jesus,
apprehended by faith, to the exclusion of all works in point of merit, we
think ourselves authorized to do so by the authority of the prophets and
of the apostles.  “This is his name,” says Jeremiah, “whereby he shall be
called the Lord our Righteousness.”  Jer. xxiii. 6.  And Habakkuk speaks
the same truth, when he says, that “the just shall live by faith,” Habak.
ii. 4, compared with Heb. x. 38.  The work of the Holy Ghost, for the
purpose of cleansing the heart from the love of sin and the dominion of
inward idols, is described by Ezekiel under the similitude of applying
clean water to the body.  “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and
ye shall be clean—a new heart also will I give you—and I will put my
spirit within you.”  Ezek. xxxvi. 25–27.  The same divine agency is by
Malachi compared to the operation of fire on metal, to purify it from any
adherent dross: Mal. iii. 3.  And our blessed Lord himself hath compared
the Spirit’s influence to the effects produced by these two elements
respectively.  To all these, we may superadd the testimony of Joel: “And
it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all
flesh.”  Joel, ii. 28.  For though this promise, as quoted by Peter in
Acts, ii. 17, relates principally to the miraculous effusion of the Holy
Ghost on the day of Pentecost, yet it comprehends also a prediction of
his saving influences to all that believe among Jews and Gentiles.

4.  That God hath loved his people from everlasting, Jer. xxxi. 3,—that
he will “rest in his love,” Zeph. iii. 17, without variableness or shadow
of turning—that “he knoweth,” with a peculiar and discriminating
knowledge, “them that trust in him,” Nab. i. 7,—that “he delighteth in
mercy, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage,”
Mic. vii. 18,—that “salvation is of the Lord,” Jonah, ii. 9, and must be
a glorious certainty, since its contrivance and execution are both the
Lord’s—that he will “bring again the captivity of his people,” Amos,
viii. 14, and “heal their backslidings, and love them freely,” Hos. xiv.
4,—that “the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but that
the kindness of the Lord shall not depart from his people, nor the
covenant of his peace be removed,” Isa. liv. 10,—are glorious truths,
expressed in scripture language, and corroborated by the concurring
testimony of the prophets Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Nahum, Micah, Jonah, Amos,
Hosea, and Isaiah.

As I have already made an appeal to the inspired writers of the New
Testament, I shall not reiterate their testimony; though, as it is so
very copious, it would be no difficult matter to produce new and
additional evidence to authenticate the great doctrines which I have
undertaken to defend.  Suffice it to observe, that if revelation had been
confined to the contents of the 6th, 10th, and 17th of St. John’s gospel;
from those three chapters alone we might collect materials sufficient for
laying the foundation, and rearing the superstructure, of the temple of
truth.  In that small portion of sacred scripture you have the whole
gospel epitomized; and that, not by the opinion of an apostle, but by the
infallible authority of that great Prophet, “who spake as never man
spake,” and from whose judgment there can lie no appeal.

It would be a task far from difficult to collect the opinion of the
primitive Fathers on these subjects, and to point out their coincidence
with the doctrines of the established church.  Those of them that
flourished nearest to the days of the apostles, such as Tertullian,
Irenæus, Justin Martyr, &c. and those venerable ecclesiastics that
presided at the council of Nice in Bithynia, and united, at the instance
of Constantine the Great, in condemning the heresy of Arius; or the not
less respectable names of Augustin and Hierom, who so ably defended the
truth against the subtleties and errors of Pelagius;—are authorities in
our favor, not only venerable for their antiquity, but, what is more
valuable, for the purity and consistency of those systems, in which they
guard the truth and combat error, even when abetted by such heræsiarchs
as Arius and Pelagius; the former at the head of those, who blaspheme the
Deity of the Son of God; and the latter, of those that deny the fall.
But, to come nearer home.  In the reign of James I. several of our
English bishops were sent over by that monarch to the synod of Dort,
which was convened for the purpose of examining and condemning the tenets
of Arminius.  Among these the names of Bishop Hall, and Davenant, shine
with distinguished lustre.  In the reigns of Edward the VIth, and Queen
Elizabeth, the doctrines contained in the 39 articles, and the two books
of _homilies_, received the sanction of both houses of parliament; and
the former were compiled expressly for the purpose of “avoiding diversity
of opinions.”  The doctrines contained in them receive no small
recommendation from such excellent reformers as Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley,
Hooper; men that sealed the truth with their blood.  Let any man of
common honesty and candor but read over the homilies and articles, and
then say, whether they do not avow, as consonant to the sacred
scriptures, those tenets, which, by many, and even by persons that have
subscribed them, are, in the present day, branded with terms the most
opprobrious.  I appeal to the common sense of any man, whether the 1_st_
_Article_ does not expressly and unequivocally receive the doctrine of
_the Trinity_—the 2d, the divinity and consubstantiality of the Son with
the Father—the 9th, the doctrine of _original sin_—the 10th, the
inability of the human will without the prevenient operation of the grace
of Christ—the 11th, the nature of _justification_, not by works, but by
the merits of Christ—the 13th, the inefficacy, and even sinfulness, of
works antecedent to “the grace of Christ and the inspiration of his
Spirit”—whether the 15th does not disavow the notion of impeccability in
this life—and whether the 17th does not as expressly, but more copiously,
and, if possible, more unambiguously, state the doctrine of election.

A solemn subscription, and as unequivocal as solemn, to these doctrines,
is required of every man that commences a minister in the establishment.
As long as we preach these doctrines, we act consistently with the
sincere attachment which we promised to her interests.  And will any
person be bold enough to assert that these doctrines are _new_? when they
manifestly claim, at least, the æra of the reformation as a sanction for
their antiquity?  Whether they be true or false, is not the question
immediately under consideration.  _That_ has been discussed already.  But
are they _new_?  Or, are they not the discriminating doctrines of the
Church of England?  If they are not, how came a number of the clergy a
few years ago to associate at a tavern, and there to project a petition
to parliament for easing their consciences from the burden of subscribing
them?  And why do their brethren among Arians and Socinians at this time
so bitterly regret the existence of these doctrines amongst us?  I grant
that to two sorts of people they may appear new; either to those, who
never heard them before, or to such as “are lost” to all the light and
power of truth, “in whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of
them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ,
who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”  2 Cor. iv. 4.  Or they
may be reputed so, by those who never took the trouble to read the
articles of their own church.  And it is not a little remarkable, that
they are most forward to bring this charge, who are the most incompetent
judges of the matter.

In order to do the work of Satan, and prejudice people’s minds against
the truth, it has been the industrious contrivance of some to call
certain systems by some obnoxious epithet of novelty, enthusiasm, or
fanaticism.  Whether these words have some meaning, or none at all, is
never inquired by the vulgar.  Nor does it appear to be ever the wish of
those who use them, to give any explanation of them.  If they can only
frighten men from the truth, and the preachers of it, by the bugbear of
some obnoxious appellation; _they_ are satisfied, and so is the _devil_
too.  But the application of hackneyed epithets, we esteem the effect of
ignorance, want of politeness and candor, and often the refuge of enmity
against the gospel; which, when disarmed of arguments, and stript of
every plea for its unreasonable opposition, at last flies to the
scorner’s chair to call names, and vent the poison of asps in
calumniating and traducing, when it can do nothing more.  But “none of
these things move us; neither count we our lives dear unto us, so that we
might finish our course with joy; and the ministry, which we have
received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”
Acts, xx. 24.

We beg, however, brethren, it may be remembered, that the application of
any name, by which the laborious and faithful ministers of Christ are
distinguished from those who live in indolence and luxurious ease, we
esteem an honor; because we recollect, that even the blessed Jesus
himself, who “went about doing good,” was nevertheless stigmatized with
names of the most diabolical import, and his apostles branded as men
“that turned the world upside down.”  But, any epithet that conveys the
most distant idea of propagating doctrines repugnant to those, which our
reformers have given us in the articles, homilies, and liturgy of our
church; or any name that implies any infringement on the constitution or
discipline of our most excellent establishment, we totally disavow; and I
must be excused, if I add, that to call men, who are so warmly attached
to the interests of the Church of England, by names that imply the
contrary, is both unjust and invidious.  Although we honor many, who
happen not to be within the pale of the establishment, and love all, who
love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, by whatever denomination they
may be distinguished, (for, difference in non-essentials ought to be no
bar to Christian Catholicism among the common friends of truth,) yet we
profess to be of no party, and to call no man master upon earth, but the
great Prophet and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus the Lord.
The very summit of our ambition is to acquit ourselves as faithful
embassadors of the Prince of Peace, and to see the interests of the
everlasting gospel crowned with prosperity, in the conversion of sinners.
Compared with this great end of our function, the consideration of
worldly emoluments, or human applause, is lighter than vanity itself:
for, to an enlightened minister of Christ, the salvation of immortal
souls from sin and hell, is an event of infinitely greater moment than
the temporal salvation of kingdoms and empires.  To this great event he
wishes to direct all his studies, prayers, and exhortations; and rejoices
to spend and be spent, if haply he may be instrumental in saving one
sinner from the damnation of hell.  If, in the delivery of his message,
any thing should seem _new_, as to _matter_ or _manner_, the novelty is
rather eventual than real.  When the cause of God, and the interests of
souls, are under consideration, who can help being in earnest?  The
highest degree of pathos, which sentiment, expression, and gesture
united, can arrive at, will always fall far below the dignity of our
subject, and the solemnity of our charge, when called to address an
assembly of dying mortals, and to declare to them the whole counsel of
God.  However, without controverting the objections made to a particular
manner of conveying gospel truths, we do insist that the matter is
agreeable to the system we solemnly subscribed at our ordination; and we
defy any man living to prove, that the doctrines I have this day
delivered, are _new_; unless the charge of novelty can be brought against
the doctrines of the reformation.  Examine them, brethren, with care and
coolness of temper.  Compare them with the scriptures, first; and then
read over the 39 articles.  If you love truth, you will do the first.  If
you love the Church of England, you will do the last.  And if you have
any pretension to candor of inquiry, or solicitude about your everlasting
interests, you will not desist; till you have found an answer to Pilate’s
question, “What is truth?”

“Consider what I say; and the Lord give you understanding in all things!”
2 Tim. ii. 7.



SERMON II.


   THE NATURE AND NECESSITY OF GIVING THE HEART TO GOD, CONSIDERED AND
                                ENFORCED.

                  [Preached at Nantwich, July 1, 1781.]

    “_My son_, _give me thine heart_.”  PROV. xxiii. 26.

IT is a very strong proof of the depravity of human nature, that the most
persuasive arguments, that revelation itself can furnish, are
insufficient to induce the children of men to seek the things that belong
to their everlasting peace.  When the world calls, and secular interest
prompts, they want no spur to their assiduity, no incentive to their
zeal.  The greatest toil is sustained with cheerfulness, difficulties
apparently insuperable are surmounted with ease, and no degree of
solicitude is deemed excessive, although in the ardor of pursuit, the
only object that presents itself, is either the fascinating phantom of
pleasure, the accursed lure of gold, or the bubble of worldly honor,
which often is burst by the same uncertain breath that inflated it.  But
when God calls, either in the menacing language of incensed majesty, or
in the attractive voice of parental mercy and pity; how slow to hear are
the insensible creatures that are addressed! how unwilling to yield
obedience to a call, that invites them to happiness, to heaven!  Although
the way into which they are solicited to enter, and walk, is the path of
glory, honor, and immortality; yet how many objections are made, how many
difficulties started, to impede or intimidate the heart in a pursuit of
its best, its eternal interests!  And, although present peace, as an
earnest of permanent bliss in reversion; a sense of the divine favor, as
a pledge of one day entering his kingdom; all the unsearchable riches of
grace, and all the inexhaustible treasures of glory, are the substantial
blessings held forth to sinners in the gospel of the blessed God; yet,
how strangely is all this profusion of grace and goodness overlooked or
contemned, even by those who are most interested in it!  In the eyes of
multitudes, worldly vanities possess more intrinsic charms than the
eternal realities of the invisible world; He, who is “altogether lovely,”
has no form or comeliness, in the opinion of the gay, the proud, and the
self-righteous; and all the glories of heaven itself are so depreciated
in the estimate of deluded mortals, that, in their false balance, a
feather outweighs a kingdom, and a never-dying soul is of less value than
the bread that perisheth.

An infatuation of so gross and of so perilous a nature, can arise only
from some dreadful evil latent in the innermost recesses of the mind.
This evil is _sin_, which hath depraved the soul’s noblest faculties, and
given it a corrupt bias, by which it is disinclined to that which is
good, and precipitated to that which is evil.  Otherwise, men would never
act with such fatal inconsistency, as they appear universally to do, when
the objects proposed to their choice are the temporary pleasures of sin
on the one hand, and the unsearchable riches of Christ on the other.
Were not something dreadfully amiss within, the human mind would not be
so totally blind to its own favorite principle, self-interest, as to
admit its weight, when worldly acquisitions are in view, and yet forget
it, when even a vast eternity is at stake.  What, but the utmost
carnality and depravation of heart, can make men fly in their Maker’s
face, or rush upon the thick bosses of his buckler, by trampling under
foot, what it is their duty and happiness to observe and reverence!  And
what, but the very foolishness of folly, can prompt them to prefer the
slavery of the devil to the liberty of the sons of God!  Or what, but the
most vitiated taste, can make them relish the foulest dregs of
sensuality, and discover no thirst for those rivers of pleasure, that
flow deep and pure at God’s right hand!

Whatever the Father of mercies enjoins, must be a transcript of his
law,—holy, just, and good.  His counsels are replete with wisdom, and are
admirably directed to the great end of making us better and happier.  His
service is founded upon principles the most highly reasonable, and leads
to bliss of the most permanent nature.  When he commands, he consults our
good; and when he threatens, no less than when he promises, his end is to
save.  When he demands any thing of us, he only asks his own; and
acquiescence here is salvation.  And what but the most perverse
repugnancy to the divine will can ever prevent us from complying with
proposals, that equally involve in them our own happiness and the glory
of God?  O the hardness of the heart of man, that can make him a foe to
himself, and an enemy to his God!  Can any demand, for instance, be
couched in terms more reasonable or more captivating, than those in our
text? whether we suppose them as the affectionate request of Solomon to
his son, or, as the tender and just requisition of one greater than
Solomon to the sons of men?  Hath not God an indisputable right to our
hearts?  Is not his claim to them founded on reasons that derive their
strength and cogency from the greatest and most gracious works of
JEHOVAH?  Ask creation; consult all the dispensations of providence; but
especially that grand dispensation of grace and mercy in the gospel; and
then say, who ought to have our hearts, but He, who made them, and bled
for them?  Oh! that when the important question is put, “Who amongst us
will give God, the Creator, Preserver, and Redeemer of men his heart?”
there may not be one negative voice in this assembly!  And may he, who
hath all power both in heaven and in earth, “who openeth and no man
shutteth,” effectually conquer every prejudice against the truth, while I
proceed to consider; _First_, What is implied in giving the heart to God;
_Secondly_, The tempers which ought to actuate us in making the
surrender; _Thirdly_, The necessity of doing this, principally arising
from the natural state of the heart; _Fourthly_, The motives to induce us
to comply with God’s reasonable demand.

I.  What is implied in giving the heart to God?  Now, in order to
complete this important surrender, it is indispensably requisite, that
unruly appetites should be subdued, and the most beloved lusts
sacrificed;—the alienated affections restored to their original claimant,
and set upon God as their supreme object,—and an outward evidence of the
truth of this dedication be given, in an habitual consecration of our
corporeal faculties, our time, health, families, fortune, &c. to the
honor and service of the Lord.

1.  It implies the conquest of passions, and the sacrifice of the most
beloved lusts.  These in the heart are like rebels in a state.  They
usurp the chief power; and, while they domineer, there “is confusion and
every evil work.”  Reason is subjected to the loose reins of impetuous
passion.  God, the rightful sovereign, is dethroned.  His law is
violated.  His will despised.  While Satan, that infernal usurper, gives
laws to every faculty, and “leads the heart captive at his will.”  And
what renders this scene of anarchy and rebellion the more melancholy, is,
that the heart naturally hugs its own chains, and delights to feed the
vipers that spread poison and death through all its powers.  From hence
arises the cordial love of sin, and a delight in those sinful
propensities, which lead to endless ruin.  And from hence arises the
difficulty of giving the heart to God: because it is requisite that every
inordinate pursuit be checked, every tyrannical passion bridled, and
every sin, whether gainful, or constitutional, or fashionable, be
mortified, before the heart can be emancipated from its slavery.  For,
how can it be free, while the tyrant sin reigns in it?  Let none,
therefore, boast of liberty, until the predominant lusts that lead him
captive are given up, and sacrificed at the foot of the cross.  Neither
let any suppose, unless they wish to flatter themselves to their ruin,
that their hearts are right with God, so long as they harbour internal
adversaries, which he hateth.  As well might they attempt to reconcile
light and darkness, Christ and Belial, together; or to make the liberty
of a Briton consist with the thraldom of a galley slave.

And here it seems necessary to observe, that our renunciation of sin must
extend not to gross indulgences merely, but to spiritual wickedness, to
internal favorite lusts, to the secret working of which no eye is privy,
but God’s and our own.  Though the parting with them should exceed the
pain that attends “the plucking out a right eye, or cutting off a right
arm,” the one the most tender organ, and the other the most useful member
in the human frame; yet they must be given up; and not some, but all.
Thus it is written: “O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that
thou mayest be saved!  How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within
thee?”  Jer. iv. 14.  “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny
himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”  Mark, viii. 34.  No man,
therefore, can be said to have given his heart to God, until he hath
given up his sins, and until his heart hath been cleansed from the guilt,
and rescued from the tyrannical sway of those vicious inclinations, by
which he had been made the miserable dupe of Satan and the world.

It would incur equal danger and absurdity for any man to conclude that he
is a partaker of the blessing recommended in our text, either because he
may have _outwardly reformed_, or desisted from sordid and impious
gratifications _through accident_.  In the former case, the partial
change is effected by a mere regard to reputation, without any real love
of virtue, or hatred of sin; and thus a degree of outward reformation,
where the heart is not renovated in its leading principles, may spring
from pride, and perfectly consist with the inherency of every corruption,
which self-complacency and formality can nurture.  Or the apparent
alteration may be the result of that pain of mind, which is often
occasioned by embarrassed circumstances, a distempered constitution, or a
sullied reputation; and is not seldom produced by some temporary pangs of
legal remorse, or corrosions of natural conscience.  When the hand of the
Lord was stretched out against Pharaoh, he seemed to relent and repent.
But no sooner were the desolating judgments removed, and the apprehension
of present danger ceased, but the impious tyrant “hardened his heart,”
and gave evident proof, that service arising from servile fear is
transient and deceitful, and that the obedience of a slave and that of a
son differ very materially in this, that the one is permanent and
voluntary, the other temporary and compelled.  Belshazzer was filled with
horror, when he beheld the awful hand-writing that announced his
approaching doom.  Felix trembles, when Paul “reasons” before him “of
righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come.”  And Herod “did many
things” while he sat under the ministry of John the Baptist.  But not one
of these men trembled or acted to any saving purpose, because the secret
attachment to the most abandoned lusts remained.  Sin was too sweet in an
adulterous heart to be given up for the awful warning of an apostle, or
the intrepid reproof of the illustrious forerunner of the Son of God.  So
that many things may be done, and yet if _one_ thing be omitted,—if the
_heart_ be not given to God—it annuls all the rest; and all the
concessions and seeming remorse extorted by present sufferings, or the
dread of future torments, are often as insincere as the reformation
produced by them is superficial.  Besides, let us be extremely cautious
how we conclude, that either ourselves or others are safe, because a
degree of outward decency or freedom from grosser impieties may have
taken place; since it is very possible that one great evil may be
exchanged for a _greater_, and the _last_ state of some sinners may be
worse than the _first_.  Mat. xii. 43–45.  A sepulchre, whited and
ornamented to a high degree, may nevertheless be the seat of rottenness
and putrefaction.  So a reformed licentiate, where the renovation of the
_heart_ is wanting, has been often known to sink into the very dregs of
formality and self-righteousness, and to turn out a virulent blasphemer
of the most glorious and discriminating doctrines of the gospel.  If the
_heart_ be not washed from the wickedness of domineering _pride_,
_worldly conformity_, _fear of man_, _self-conceit_, and _unbelief_, to
“wash the outside of the cup and platter,” will avail nothing.  “Cleanse
_first_ that which is WITHIN,” is our Lord’s direction.  Mat. xxiii. 26.

As to the other case alluded to above, it often happens that a degree of
reformation may take place through accident, or the unavoidable course of
nature.  This happens either through old age, or those contingencies,
which often suddenly deprive some, of the means of gratifying their
lusts.  When the vigor of constitution is abated by declining age, or
ruined by a long series of debaucheries; when health sinks with the lapse
of time, or fortunes are exhausted by long extravagance; the aged become
chaste, and the young, sober, _through necessity_.  But neither, in
numerous instances, forsake their sins in reality.  Their sins have only
forsaken _them_.  This would appear evident to a demonstration, were both
only placed in the circumstances that once contributed fuel to their
passions.  Were only youth, health, or fortune, restored, the aged miser
would again add his love of lewdness to that of money, and the enfeebled
or impoverished rake return to all his juvenile voluptuousness, with
greater ardor than ever.  Through all the varying circumstances of life,
the heart of an unconverted sinner is still the same, and the sinner
himself would be the same, if no such variation occurred, by which his
pursuits are circumscribed, or his line of sinning altered.  But where
the heart is really transformed, former lusts are hated; the remembrance
of sin is grievous; the burden of it is intolerable; and a desire to
mortify it is deeply rooted, and universal..  Pure principles are
implanted.  Noble passions predominate.  Sublime desires and spiritual
appetites attract the heart to God, and fix the conversation in heaven.
From whence it arises, that to give the heart to God implies,

2.  A restoration of the alienated affections to their original claimant,
and a placing of them upon God as their supreme object.

The heart is the seat of the affections; and the principal of these is
_love_.  According to the nature of the object, or the degree with which
some objects are pursued, this affection becomes either innocent or
criminal, sordid or sublime.  If sin in general be the object, love is
then the most diabolical passion, and pollutes every other faculty of the
mind.  Before the fall, it was the glory and happiness of man to love God
perfectly and incessantly.  Since that melancholy event, it is his
misfortune to be under the influence of a “carnal mind φρονημα σαρξ that
is _enmity_ against God, and is not subject to the law of God, neither
indeed can be.”  Rom. viii. 7.  Hence flows an innate propensity to love
the world, and from the ignorance and pride of the heart to idolize
_self_.  This alienation of the affections is, in scripture, called
adultery; and they who love the world rather than God, are branded, in
the same unflattering, pages, with the odious epithet of “adulterers and
adulteresses.”  James, iv. 4.  It matters not, _what_ the thing is, to
which we give a primary place in our affections; even though it may be a
necessary, an useful, a lawful, or even an amiable object, yet if it be
loved inordinately, or with a supreme affection, it instantly becomes an
idol: insomuch that our Lord saith, “He that loveth _father_ or _mother_,
_son_ or _daughter_, more than me, is not worthy of me.”  Mat. x. 37.
Things unlawful, or of moral turpitude, are not to be loved at all.  And
things lawful are only to be loved in a certain degree.  It is not the
_love_ of these last that is sinful; but the _excess_ or inordinacy of
that love.  In giving the heart to God, or restoring the idolatrous
alienation of the affections to him, _that_ is given back which was
originally his property.  He then possesses the supreme affection,
delight, and homage of the heart;—is the centre of its wishes, and the
spring of its comforts.  This is called “yielding ourselves to the Lord.”
2 Chron. xxx. 8.  And the grateful language of such a solemn surrender
is, “Whom have I in heaven but THEE? and there is none upon earth that I
desire beside THEE?”  Psal. lxxiii. 25.

Where the affections are thus gained over, the other sublime faculties
follow of course.  The contrariety of the will is broken, and made to
bend in submission to the divine will.  Reason resigns its pretensions to
the sacred authority of revelation; and the intellectual powers are
extricated from the teeming darkness of nature, and brought, by the
irradiating spirit, into the bright regions of light and liberty.  And
the memory is so sanctified as to become the faithful repository of
sacred truth.  Conscience is reinstated in her viceregency in the soul;
and being cleansed by the blood of Christ from the guilt and pollution of
sin, establishes peace in the heart, and pours the balm of pardoning love
into all its wounds.  All the passions are made the willing captives of
the prince of peace; and instead of rending the heart with their
impetuous and clashing propensities, unite in forming concord and harmony
there, by exerting their respective powers in subordination to the grace
of God.  Thus fear, joy, desire, hope, anger, sorrow, hatred, are no
longer so many noxious springs fraught with impoisoned waters, but convey
to the heart, in their respective streams, the health and purity which
they have derived from the fountain of life.  Those things are dreaded,
which had been once pursued with eagerness.  Indignation burns against
once beloved idols; and affection fixes on objects, that had formerly
been rejected with scorn and contempt.  The heart weeps over what it once
rejoiced in; and bleeds at the remembrance of those things, which, but
lately, perhaps, were the spring of all its shallow and unholy mirth.
Objects are now desired insatiably, for which the heart never before
panted, and upon which the mind never bestowed one serious thought.
Instead of living under the anguish of worldly disappointments, hope now
plumes her golden wing, and stretches with a nobler flight towards the
confines of a glorious eternity; leaves the sordid trash of earth below,
and soars in joyful anticipation of heavenly realities.  The slavish fear
of the creature gives place to the filial fear of God; and he who was
awed by the frown of a worm like himself, now reveres the great
Omnipotent, who hath power to destroy both body and soul in hell.  The
love of the world is expelled by the love of Jesus; and the lusts of the
flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life, all lose their
charms, or rather appear infinitely odious, when compared with even the
reproach of the cross, much more when contrasted with the happy prospect
of a crown of glory.  The “sorrow of the world, which worketh death,” is
exchanged for that godly sorrow, which worketh repentance unto life; and
“joy unspeakable and full of glory,” succeeds the bitterness of
conviction of sin, and brings a foretaste of heaven.  God, whom the heart
once hated, and the sinner shunned, is contemplated in all his august and
amiable perfections, with delight and wonder; while the humble believer,
enraptured with a view of him as reconciled to him in the Son of his
love, gives vent to the fulness of his heart in the most glowing
effusions of gratitude and astonishment.

    “—Thou my _All_!
    My theme! my inspiration! and my crown!
    My strength in age!  My rise in low estate!
    My soul’s ambition! pleasure! wealth! my world!
    My light in darkness! and my life in death!
    My boast thro’ time! bliss thro’ eternity!
    Eternity, too short to speak thy praise,
    Or fathom thy profound of love to man!
    To man, of men the meanest, ev’n to _me_!
    My sacrifice!  My God!—What things are these!”

                                                                    YOUNG.

3.  An outward evidence that the heart is given to God, appears in the
habitual consecration of the corporeal faculties, of time, health,
fortune, family, &c. to the honor of God.

As in every science some first rudiments or primary principles must
precede the attainment of complete knowledge; and in every structure a
foundation must be well chosen for the security of what is to rest upon
it; so, in the great concerns of religion, some permanent principles must
be rooted in the heart, before the sacred superstructure of holiness and
righteousness can be reared in the life.  Where the former are implanted,
the latter will follow of course; as a good tree in a rich soil will
necessarily produce good fruit.  But this fertilization produced in the
heart is the effect, not of natural goodness, but of efficacious grace.
When, therefore, the citadel is stormed and taken, the outworks fall with
it, in consequence.  So that, as soon as the heart is given to God,
outward fruits appear in the conversation; without which, nothing can be
more fallacious or fatal than the most towering profession.  And,
therefore, in the clause that stands in immediate connexion with the
text, it is added, “And let thine eyes observe my ways.”  For, “if any
man be in Christ he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold
all things are become new.”  2 Cor. v. 17.  The conversation takes a new
turn; and pure words and true, issue from that mouth which was once
filled with malice, blasphemies, and uncleanness.  The feet are swift to
bear the renewed sinner to the house of God, which once carried him to
the haunts of the profane.  Health is no longer consumed in the service
of sin; nor time wasted on the egregious follies of pleasure and
dissipation.  The body, once a co-partner with the soul in rebellion
against God, is now the sacred temple of his in-dwelling Spirit; and all
the members are now “yielded as servants to righteousness unto holiness.”
Rom. vi. 19.  And the principles, which lead to this universal
dedication, are arguments of its genuineness, while they provide for its
permanency: which reminds me of the second general head, under which I
proposed considering,

II.  The manner or temper, which should actuate us in making the
surrender of all we have and are to the glory of God.

1.  This great affair should be done _solemnly_.  If reciprocal acts of
covenant and amity among the children of men, require deliberation, and
are executed in a manner the most serious and binding, where only
temporal inheritances or transitory engagements are concerned; how much
more deliberate and solemn should that act be, whereby the soul maintains
an intercourse with the awful Majesty of Heaven, and soul and body, with
their respective functions, are surrendered to the service of the Most
High for ever! in which God is chosen as the soul’s portion, and every
thing is to be sacrificed to his injunctions, or given up to his care and
guardianship!  O with what profound reverence and self-abnegation should
we make the tender of our hearts to Him, when his majesty, or our
vileness, is considered.  “Commune with your own heart, therefore, and in
your chamber,” about this solemn act, and “pay thy vows unto the Most
High.”  Count the cost of surrendering your heart to him; since, without
due reflection, you may be disappointed and basely retract, when you hear
that unless you deny yourself, and take up your cross, you cannot be his
disciple.

2.  No _reserve_ must enter into any act of dedication to God; much less
into that, by which we restore him his own property.  He is a jealous
God, and will have the _whole_ heart or none.  He cannot, he will not
bear a rival.  He must have the pre-eminence in the affections.  A
divided heart is his abomination.  Remember how the Lord’s anger was
kindled against Saul, because, when commanded to destroy the Amalekites,
“he _spared_ Agag and the _best_ of the sheep, and all that was _good_,
and would not _utterly_ destroy them.”  1 Sam. xv. 9.  And ponder well
the case of the rich young man, in the gospel, who approached the Lord
Jesus with a seeming desire to give him his heart, but “went away
sorrowful,” when Jesus insisted on the sacrifice of his bosom sin, and
recommended the utility of taking up the cross.  It was upon that
memorable occasion, that our Lord said, “A rich man shall hardly enter
into the kingdom of heaven,” Mat. xix. 23; that is, the difficulty of
entering heaven is great to all who have riches, and rises to an
impossibility, where they are trusted in, and idolized.  And the case is
the same in every circumstance, where the heart is divided between any
thing and God.  So that, if there be a competitor within, that shares
your affections, so as to rob Jesus of his prerogative over them, be
assured you are yet in “the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of
iniquity.”  And the idol, whether it be the love of pleasure, or profit,
or honor, or self, must be pulled down, or it will dethrone Christ, and
ruin your immortal souls.

3.  The heart should be given up _cheerfully_.  In every offering
presented to God, it is required, that we should not “give grudgingly or
of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver.”  2 Cor. ix. 7.  This is a
requisition more especially important, when the heart is the gift, and
God the receiver.  Why should we hesitate or grudge to give him _his
own_?  Instead, therefore, of entertaining one repining thought at the
idea, we should rather rejoice that we have hearts to give the Lord, and
that he is so condescending as to take them at our hands.  Mark with what
readiness and vivacity the sensualist and the pleasure-taker devote their
time and affections to pursuits of the most trifling and sordid nature.
These poor deluded idolizers of a perishing world, think no time too
long, and no pains too great, though exhausted in a service that is
perfect bondage.  They want no arguments to enforce conformity to the
world, neither is the smallest compulsion necessary to drive them to
their pleasures.  Self-gratification is a sufficient inducement.  Earthly
things have an irresistible attraction.  The current of their affections
carries them away with an impetuous tide; and they glide swiftly and
cheerfully along, though the objects of their false felicity are empty
and precarious as the bubble, and the deceitful stream is wafting them
with a rapid but imperceptible course, to the gulf of ruin.  And shall
these infatuated triflers be such willing slaves of Satan, such cheerful
devotees to folly? and we engage in the service of the blessed Jesus,
with reluctance or reserve?  Shall they give the world and its God their
_whole_ hearts? and we _divide_ ours with Him, who made them and redeemed
them?  Shall they _fly_, when dissipation solicits, and amusements call?
and shall we _creep_, when the God of love cries “Follow me?”  Forbid it
gratitude, devotion, and common sense!  Rather may we say, “Thine we are,
Lord, by ties the most sacred, and obligations the most binding, and thou
shalt have our whole hearts; for, thou art worthy!”  And, in order to
prevail on you to do this, give me leave to urge those,

III.  Motives, which ought to prompt our compliance with the reasonable
demand in the text.  Now, these are founded upon the state of the human
heart by nature—the many mercies we receive from God, the uncertainty of
time, and the great danger of procrastination—and the nature of Him, who
makes the demand.

1.  If the heart were now in its primeval state of rectitude and purity,
the requisitions of its attachment and obedience would be superfluous.
But as it is very far gone from original righteousness, and estranged
from its great original of blessedness and perfection; the effaced
characters of holiness and purity must be restored by the agency of the
Holy Ghost; and the foul stain of sin expunged by the blood of Jesus.
Hence, the scriptures so strongly insist upon the necessity of “a _new_
heart and a right spirit,” Psal. li. because the natural heart is
“deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.”  Jer. xvii. 9.
And, as the same infallible authority declares, that “except a man be
born again he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven,” John, iii. 3, see the
important necessity of that great change, and of the act of voluntary
surrender, by which it takes place.  If you wish that obduracy, which
steels them both against threatenings and promises, softened; and that
corruption, which makes your hearts naturally the sink of sin, pardoned
and subdued, you must give them to Jesus, for these great purposes.
Fancy not that any power of the creature is sufficient to accomplish
this.  Sad experience may teach you the contrary.  Therefore, until your
heart be given to God, the fountain being evil, the streams must be so of
course.  So that, all your thoughts, words, and actions, like the foul
exhalations that ascend from a stagnated and putrid lake, must partake of
the polluted source, from whence they rise, and be infinitely odious in
the sight of the Lord.  And sooner shall God cease to be, or his word
fail in its accomplishment, than any sinner, with an unchanged heart,
shall enter his kingdom.

2.  Consider the mercies of God.  How great! how numerous! when traced
from the moment of your birth, through the successive stages of life to
the present hour; or contemplated in his glorious works, and most
merciful dispensations!  Divine mercy hath spared the life, which divine
power first gave, and a long list of favors, as unmerited as they are
numerous, hath swelled the account through every interval of your days.
Fruitful seasons, exuberant plenty, outward peace, the possession of
health, the light of yonder sun that cheers the world with his prolific
beam, and the clouds that drop fatness on the earth, vallies standing
thick with corn, and liberty, that crown of national privileges, are all
mercies, that have a voice, would sinners but hear it, that cries, “Oh
that men would therefore praise the Lord for his goodness, and declare
the wonders that he doeth for the children of men!”  Psal. cvii. 8.
Reflect upon the mercies of redemption—upon the breadth, length, depth,
and height of them, as they shine out in richest lustre in Jesus Christ;
and say, Should you withhold your heart from the Father of these mercies?
Because he is merciful, will you presume?  And while he is dispensing his
favors, will you rebel against him?  Had not mercy interposed, your
worthless heart had never been inquired after; and had God dealt with you
as your sins deserved, you might have been at this moment beyond the
reach of mercy for ever.

3.  Know that another day may find you in eternity.  And if the great
work should not be done, who would be in your condition for ten thousand
worlds?  It is high time to awake out of sleep.  You have, perhaps,
sometimes seen and acknowledged the necessity of seeking the Lord.  But,
as if this were a kind of bondage in which you were to engage, or some
grievous business you wished to postpone; you have been putting it off to
some distant period, as if life were at your own disposal, or religion
the last thing a man should think of.  Or, you wished to give your heart
to God; but a constant succession of snares and rivals hath to this day
prevented.  Oh that you may procrastinate and delay no longer!  Lest,
while you are asking leave of the world and your lusts to give your heart
to God, death should strike the fatal blow, and transmit you to the
eternal world, to lament for ever your having trifled with your immortal
soul, your time, your conscience, and with God.

4.  I come now to urge the last motive, taken from the nature of the
person, who says, “My son, give me thine heart.”  That person is God; the
most high, and holy God; the Creator, Preserver, and Redeemer of men, who
gave us a being, and, when in a state of apostacy, took our nature, and
was manifest in the flesh, that he might save us from sin.  The three
persons in the Godhead, Father, Son, and Spirit, unite in the request;
especially the second, who groaned beneath our weight of woes, and sunk
under the burden of our imputed guilt; whose bitter passion bespoke the
horrid nature of sin, and the greatness of redeeming love.  It is Jesus,
the chiefest among ten thousand, that asks your hearts, O sinners!  They
are the purchase of his blood; and can you deny him his own dear-bought
property?  See him in his bloody sweat, or view him bleeding and mangled
on the cross, and then say, whether he must not have loved your hearts,
when Gethsemane’s garden and Calvary’s mount have been witnesses to the
intenseness of his desire to win them?  Fancy that you were present at
the tragical scene of his sufferings, and that you saw him this moment
nailed to the accursed tree; and that, while in this state of ignominy
and torture, you were accosted with the following address from his
precious dying lips:—“Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold
and see, if there was ever sorrow like unto my sorrow!  Behold in my
hands and feet the marks of my dying love; and see, there gushes forth a
fountain in which the guilty may wash and be clean.  While my temples
stream with blood, they are disgraced with a crown of thorns that
lacerate them, which I contentedly wear, that a diadem of glory may
encircle your brow.  My heart is big with sorrow, and upon my eye-lids is
the shadow of death.  My soul is transfixed with the arrows of Almighty
vengeance, the poison whereof is the bitterest ingredient in my cup of
sorrow.  For your sins I suffer all this, and die to save you from death
eternal.  The last drop of my blood shall be shed to expiate your guilt,
and the merit of it shall cleanse the earth, and perfume heaven.  My
dying breath shall be spent in prayer for the persons who brought me to
this shame and pain; and I shall rejoice in this travail of my soul, if
you look to me for salvation.  I die to win your heart.  Do not plant
additional daggers in mine, or tear open my wounds afresh by denying my
request.  O, my son! give ME thine heart.”—Thus may we suppose the dying
love of Jesus to address us.  And who can withstand such philanthropy, or
withhold his heart from a Redeemer, who asks it in agony and blood?  A
believer, contemplating his crucified Lord in such circumstances of love
and sorrow, would say, with the poet,

    “O may I breathe no longer than I breathe
    My soul in praise to Him, who gave my soul,
    And all her infinite of prospect fair,
    Cut thro’ the shades of hell, Great Love, by thee!
    Oh! most adorable! most unador’d!
    Where shall that praise begin, which ne’er should end?”

And now, brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and upon the
authority of his sacred word, I beg leave to put the grand question;
which I pray that every one of us may be able to answer in the
affirmative, HAVE YOU GIVEN YOUR HEARTS TO GOD?  I ask the question most
solemnly, as one that must shortly meet you at the judgment-seat of
Christ; where if either preacher or hearers appear without the blessing
suggested in the text, it would be better we had never been born.
Remember, as you will answer at the great and terrible day of the Lord,
that I have this day begged you to give Christ your hearts.  If you do,
he will wash them in his blood; he will make them happy, and keep them
so.  But, if the world engross your affections, and sin be suffered to
tyrannize in your heart, the consequence will be horrible beyond all
conception.  Will you, therefore, _can_ you, _dare_ you deny a request,
that involves in it your eternal happiness or misery?  May there not be
one dissentient voice!  But, with the most unanimous and solemn
surrender, may all cry out, “Here are our hearts; blessed Jesus, take
them, and seal them eternally thine.”  Amen and Amen.



SERMON III.


                    AN INVITATION TO THE GOSPEL FEAST.

    “_Come_; _for all things are now ready_.”  LUKE, xiv. 17.

THE parable, from whence I have selected the text, resembles, in its
general import, _that_ recorded in Mat. xxii. 2–10.  The design of our
Lord, in both, is, to represent, under the similitude of a sumptuous
feast, the rich provision, which he hath made for his people in the
_covenant_ of redemption;—the _suitableness_ of that provision to all the
effects and consequences of our fall;—the _medium_ of its conveyance, the
divine person and glorious salvation of the Son of God;—the extensive and
merciful _invitation_, given in the gospel to participate of its rich
blessings;—and the different _reception_, which that gospel meets with
from the men of the world; some treating it with indifference and scorn,
and others, through grace, embracing it as the most acceptable message,
that ever addressed the ears of mortals, and as the most invaluable gift,
that God could bestow, or sinners receive.

These are the principal topics illustrated in both parables: the analogy,
beauty, and important tendency of which must strike the mind of any
person, whose eyes have been opened to see the worth of his soul, and the
method by which its guilt is to be expiated and its pollutions cleansed;
who is athirst for truth, and longs to experience that happiness, which
only they feel, who know Christ and him crucified: by such an one, the
blessings exhibited in the parable will be considered as the most
gracious vouchsafement of Heaven; and the _call_ given in the text, as
infinitely superior in importance, to that which would invite the most
indigent beggar to the table of plenty and munificence, or raise a
fettered captive from the _terrors_ of a dungeon to the splendor of a
throne.

Though the parable, when delivered by our Lord, had a more immediate
reference to the state of the Jews; yet, as Providence hath distinguished
us by a similar greatness of religious privileges; and to abuse and
slight these favors is a characteristic of our guilt, as it was of
theirs; since, whatever was written aforetime was written for our
learning; and it is a matter that involves in it consequences of the most
serious nature, whether we receive or reject that greatest of all the
favors of Providence, the GOSPEL of the blessed God; I shall take
occasion to enforce the important invitation in the text, by considering:
I. The nature of the provision to which sinners are invited: II. The
extent and freeness of the invitation itself: III. The grand argument to
excite obedience to the invitation, viz.  “All things are ready.”

1.  As to the nature of the provision to which sinners are invited, it is
represented under the similitude of a _feast_; prepared in the counsels
of the Trinity before all worlds, and exhibited in the fulness of time,
when Messiah, the bread of life, came down from heaven, and “gave himself
a ransom for many.”  A feast, where all is of God’s providing; and in
which, although the entertainment cost an immense sum, and infinitely
surpasseth all the delicacies of nature, yet all is offered “without
money and without price.”  Isa. lv. 1.  A _great_ feast, because of the
_dignity_ of him who prepared it, the rich _provision_ made in it by the
hand of munificent grace, and the _multitudes_ that in all ages have been
fed from this exhaustless store.  It is called in the context a _supper_;
and the period in which the invitation was given is called _supper-time_;
perhaps in allusion to the period of our Lord’s incarnation, and of the
promulgation of the gospel, which happened in the eve of time, and is
therefore styled by prophets and apostles “the last days,” Acts, ii. 17.
Heb. i. 2, or last dispensation: not, that the blessings of redemption
were _confined_ to that period, or commenced only with the manifestation
of Christ in the flesh.  Abraham rejoiced to see his day; and he saw it,
and was glad.  John, viii. 56.  And the gospel was preached to him, when
Jehovah said, “In thee shall all nations of the earth be blessed.”  Gal.
iii. 8.  The promise made to our first parents after the fall was a
virtual exhibition of the gospel feast; and the whole economy of Moses,
with all its rites, types, and oblations, but “a shadow of good things to
come,” of which Christ is the substance.  Heb. x. 1.  Israel in the
wilderness “ate the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same
spiritual drink.  For, they drank of that spiritual rock that followed
them: and that rock was Christ.”  1 Cor. x. 3, 4.  The prophets were
raised up at different periods, to unfold the blessings contained in the
original promise to preach Christ, and predict his “sufferings and the
glory that was to follow.”  For, “to him give all the prophets witness,”
Acts, x. 43: so that, from the beginning of time, in the family of Adam,
the days of the patriarchs, and prophets, and the dispensation of Moses,
the same truth was revealed that afterwards shone forth with superior
lustre under the gospel dispensation; and believers then feasted by faith
on that Paschal Lamb, that was at last actually offered up to take away
the sin of the world.  But it was not till after a period of four
thousand years had elapsed, that the longings of the church of God were
indulged with that “feast of fat things,” Isa. xxv. 6, now exhibited in
the gospel.  As there is but one sun to illuminate both hemispheres, and
his rays are sent forth in all directions; so there is but one Sun of
Righteousness to both dispensations; and both are illuminated, though
with different degrees of irradiation; the light vouchsafed to the church
before the coming of Christ, resembling that of the “morning spread upon
the mountains;” the evangelical light, like the sun in his meridian
brightness.  Yet, as the church is one, so is the sun that illuminates
her; and that sun is the Lord our righteousness.

Some, guided in their interpretation of scripture, more by sound than by
sense, and by the analogy of faith, have supposed, that the feast in the
text, to which sinners are invited, is the sacrament of the Lord’s
supper; and they have added one fatal mistake to another, by assuming
from hence a false authority of giving unlimited and pressing invitations
to sinners to approach that sacred ordinance; as if, because, when the
bread and wine are prepared for the celebration of it, “and all things”
in _that_ sense “are ready,” therefore every man, who receives the
invitation, ought to “come.”  Without enlarging here on the extreme folly
and danger of pressing men to come to the sacrament, before they have by
faith come to Christ; I cannot help observing, that the scripture before
us affords no room to justify their conduct, or to countenance the absurd
comment, on which the temerity of it is founded.  Not to say, that the
parable looks back to a period long _before_ the sacrament was
instituted, and that the extensive invitation before us is absolutely
incompatible with the state of communicants in general; it is sufficient
to refute the interpretation imposed on the text only to observe, that a
parable cannot delineate an ordinance consisting of outward symbols;
since this would be to make one set of external images and metaphors
explanatory of another; and even to make the latter, the _thing
signified_, when it is itself _but a sign_.  The nature of a parable, and
that of a sacrament, may agree in delineating one subject common to both;
but they cannot mutually represent each other.  Thus, the sacrament of
the Lord’s supper is a feast, but it is only so as being in its elements
a representation of the body and blood of Christ.  These are the “inward
part and thing signified.”  But to those who receive the sign, without
acting faith on the thing signified, the sacrament becomes no feast at
all: they have no life or enjoyment in it; and through their unbelief it
turns eventually into poison instead of food.  So that what is the inward
spiritual substance of that institution, constitutes also the divine
realities couched under the metaphors in the parable.  The supper in both
is, Jesus crucified for sinners, with all the riches of his atonement and
dying love; on which the soul of a believer feeds, as its richest repast.

This reasoning is further strengthened by the consideration, that in the
corresponding parable in Mat. xxii. the _kingdom of heaven_ is said to be
like unto a man making a great supper or a wedding for his son.  Now, the
kingdom of heaven never signifies a sacrament; but is used, when
occurring in parables, to represent the spiritual kingdom of the Messiah;
or, the manner in which he conducts the affairs of his church at large,
with respect to the dispensation of the gospel, and the influence of his
grace.  And this observation leads us of course to examine one most
striking circumstance introduced by St. Matthew into the correspondent
parable, as stated by _him_; which is, that the feast was made upon
occasion of “a _marriage_ which a king made for his son.” {138}  The
marriage is the union between Christ and his church, which he espoused to
himself from all eternity in “the counsel of peace which was between” the
Father and him.  Ephes. v. 32.  Zech. vi. 13.  He agreed to be the
church’s bridegroom; to take her into covenant relation, and into a most
sublime and intimate union with himself.  He stipulated to purchase her
with his blood; and to transfer, as a dowry richer than heaven and earth,
the glorious righteousness which he was to bring in by his life and
death; together with all the personal excellencies and divine
perfections, which make him the chief among ten thousand and altogether
lovely.  The day of his nativity was the day of his espousals; and the
hour of his death, the important hour of her redemption.  Each ransomed
sinner in his regeneration exemplifies this spiritual marriage; and
Christ does that actually in time, as fast as his redeemed are called,
which he did decretively before the foundation of the world.  And when
all the purposes of his grace shall be finished, and “the number of his
elect accomplished,” then shall the grand and final solemnization of the
nuptials between the heavenly bridegroom and his church take place; and
heaven and earth shall sing, “Let us be glad and rejoice: for the
marriage of the LAMB is come, and his WIFE hath made herself ready.”
Rev. xix. 7.

It is, from hence, easy to perceive, that the high entertainment provided
for sinners, elected, redeemed, regenerated, and united to Christ, is,
the everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure, of which he is
the messenger and the mediator; the conditions whereof were fulfilled by
his perfect obedience and meritorious death and passion; and all the
blessings comprehended in which, are as sure as the stipulation of the
glorious Trinity, the inviolable oath and promises of Jehovah, and the
redemption of Christ Jesus, could possibly make them.  This gracious
covenant is the eternal charter of all their privileges; and is,
therefore, all their desire and all their salvation.  2 Sam. xxiii. 5.
They consider it as incapable of being ever invalidated by the
requisitions of law or justice, the accusations of Satan, or the demerit
of the foulest iniquity.  “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s
elect?  It is GOD that justifieth: Who is he that condemneth?  It is
Christ that died.”  Rom. viii. 33, 34.  They behold the contents of this
mysterious volume unfolded in the person of the Mediator—for, none in
heaven or in earth was found worthy so much as to look upon, much less to
open, the book with seven seals, but himself, Rev. v. 3,—and they see,
with rapture, its glorious ratification by his testamentary death.
Herein they read, not only their exemption from guilt, but also their
well-grounded title to everlasting glory, through the imputed
righteousness of God manifest in the flesh.  O what a rich feast is this
covenant to him who “takes hold” of it by faith, Isa. lvi. 4, to save him
from sinking in the gulf of perdition, and to secure his everlasting
salvation!  With such a hold, he stands the shock of earth and hell,
maintains his ground amidst ten thousand difficulties and dangers; sees
his enemies all under his feet; sings in the ways of the Lord, that great
is the glory of the Lord; and, “although the fig-tree should not blossom,
or fruit be in the vines, the labor of the olive should fail, and the
fields should yield no meat, the flock should be cut off from the fold,
and there should be no herd in the stall: yet,” participating of such a
banquet, and standing upon such a rock, he “rejoices in the Lord, and
joys in the God of his salvation.”  Hab. iii. 17, 18.

The covenant _agreed upon_ between the persons of the Trinity, is the
feast _prepared_: the covenant revealed, is that feast _exhibited_.  But,
O what a mysterious and gracious exhibition!  Behold it in the person, in
the obedience, and death, of the Prince of Peace! in that profound
mystery, “God reconciling the world unto himself, by bearing their sins
in his own body on the tree,” and putting himself in our law-place, to
endure the dreadful curse and wrath of Jehovah!  2 Cor. v. 19. 1 Pet. ii.
24. Gal. iii. 13.  When the Jews asked, “How can this man give us his
flesh to eat?  Jesus answered, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man,
and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.”  John, vi. 52, 53.  His
flesh and blood are the life, the feast, the salvation of sinners.  The
rending of the one, and the effusion of the other, constituted that great
propitiation, by which sin is fully expiated, and inexorable justice
completely satisfied.  Remission of sins, peace with God, and peace in
the conscience, all spring from this mysterious source.  When the eye of
reason, blinded by unbelief, views the Saviour in his humiliation, his
poverty, his sorrows, his death; it sees no form nor comeliness in him,
to make him an object of desire or attraction; pride abhors the sight,
and self-righteousness turns away with disgust.  But in that man of
sorrows, covered with blood, crowned with thorns, and nailed to the
accursed tree, the believer beholds the most glorious and beauteous
object in the whole universe of God; because he considers and trusts in
him as that great sacrifice, in the offering up of which all the
perfections of Deity shine forth in the most stupendous exhibition.
Faith beholds ten thousand charms in a dying Christ, that captivate the
heart, and fill it with love and amazement.  The beauty and glory of all
creation are eclipsed by the superior excellence of this bleeding Prince
of Peace.  “The chief among ten thousand, the altogether lovely,” are the
favorite epithets, by which the enraptured soul speaks its love and
admiration of Jesus: and “WHAT SHALL I RENDER?” is the astonished
question it utters for a gift so great.  What faith sees, and admires, it
feasts upon.  The flesh of Jesus is meat indeed, and his blood, drink
indeed, John, vi. 55, when that appropriating grace is in lively
exercise.  Hence, every thing that belongs to the _crucified_ Jesus,
becomes a feast, for food and delight, for strength and refreshment.  His
blood and righteousness, his offices, and relations to his people; his
several titles that characterize his compassion, and delineate his
affection towards them; afford so many inexhaustible themes for
delightful meditation; by which the souls of the weary are satiated, and
the conscience of the burdened sinner calmed, and set at liberty.  His
agony and bloody sweat, his cross and passion, are healing springs, from
whence ten thousand salutary streams of life, peace, and salvation, flow.

    A wond’rous feast his love prepares,
    Bought with his blood, his groans, and tears!

Hence, the _promises_ are a feast, because they are all sealed with his
blood; and the _gospel_ is a feast, because it publishes a free and
complete salvation through his name;—that dear name, which, “like
ointment poured forth,” diffuses an exquisite fragrance throughout all
the promises, and communicates a preciousness to the gospel, which makes
it a rich savor of life unto life.  And, when in that sacrament, which,
by sacred and significant symbols, exhibits his dying love, the soul is
enabled to eat the bread of life, and drink that stream that gushes from
the smitten ROCK, 1 Cor. x. 4; it then joins issue with the experience of
the church in the Song of Solomon, “He brought me into the
banqueting-house, and his banner over me was love.”  Solomon’s Song, ii.
4.

As the provision, which God hath been pleased to lay up in the covenant
of grace, and the redemption of his Son, is calculated to communicate
entertainment infinitely more exalted and refined, than what can be
derived from the highest gratification of the senses; it follows, that
the feast we are considering, is of a _spiritual_ nature: it is a feast
for the _soul_, that nobler part of us, which constitutes our real
selves, and in which are lodged the quickest perceptions and most
permanent susceptibility of pleasure.  For, as the soul, in the extent of
its desires, the capacious powers of its exertion, and the resources of
its enjoyments, surpasses, in so great a degree, that earthly vehicle in
which it dwells, and by an union with which its immortal vigor is so much
repressed and circumscribed; so are the _pleasures_ of the mind capable
of being proportionably more pure, more lasting, more refined, and more
sublime.  But, as the senses are so intimately connected with the
rational faculties, and form those inlets by which various pleasing
sensations are conveyed to the soul; hence the enjoyments of the latter
are called, in scripture, by those very terms which describe the
exertions and distinguish the nature of the former.  Thus believers are
said, “to _taste_ and _see_ that the Lord is good,” Psal. xxxiv. 8; to
“_handle_ the word of life,” 1 John, i. 1; to “_drink_ the river of
pleasures,” Psal. xxvi. 8; and to “_eat_ the bread of life.”  And those
objects in creation which strike the senses with the most exquisite
delight, or are best calculated to convey strength and nutriment to
animal nature, are selected, by the inspired writers, as symbols of those
resources, from whence the rich variety of a Christian’s pleasures are
derived.  The blessings of redemption are compared by the prophet to
_wine_ and _milk_.  Isa. lv. 1.  This, the most nutritive—that, the most
exhilarating—liquid in nature.  The delicious droppings of the honey-comb
were inferior in sweetness, in the opinion of David, to the word of God;
and even “the most fine gold” had, in his estimation, no value, when
weighed in the balance with that sacred treasure.  What object in nature
is so celebrated as the _rose_, for its fragrance? the _lily_ of the
vallies, for beauty? and the _sun_, for grandeur and utility?  Yet, the
pleasure, which the senses imbibe from the splendor of the one, or the
perfumes of the other, is languid and transient, compared with the
superior satisfaction which the enlightened soul feels, when
contemplating the amiable perfections of that Redeemer, who was white in
immaculate innocence as the lily; who, as the rose of Sharon, blushed in
blood; whose sacrifice sends up an odor before the throne of God, that
perfumes the heavens and the earth with the sweetest incense; and who as
the Sun of Righteousness, risen with healing in his wings, irradiates and
cheers a world, naturally sunk in misery and sin.

From hence it follows, that there is a divine reality in true religion,
of which the soul of a Christian is as sensible, as when the eye beholds
a beauteous object; the mouth tastes delicious food; or the ear is
charmed with harmonious sounds.  To dispute or deny this, would be to rob
Christianity of its essence, the gospel of its power, Christ of his
preciousness, and the soul of its heaven upon earth; and to place the
sordid gratifications of the epicure and the brute upon a level with the
enjoyments of a Christian living in happy communion with his God,
exulting in a sense of his favor, and anticipating the prospect of
everlasting felicity.  But what pleasure is comparable, then, with that
of all the faculties of the mind, engaged in intercourse with a
reconciled God?  The _understanding_ is feasted with views of the
unsearchable riches of Christ.  The _will_ is captivated with sweet
complacency in the plan of salvation through him.  The _affections_
banquet on the sense of pardoning love.  And the _memory_ is a repository
of ten thousand sacred sweets, collected from that bed of roses, the
scriptures of truth, and treasured up there, for the purpose of feeding
and regaling each spiritual sense.  Thus is the _whole soul_ feasted.
And this is the feast of saints on earth; and this, the banquet of the
skies.

But, what endears the provision, and the God of all grace, who made it,
is; that it is a feast for _sinners_—for sinners of the race of Adam—for
the poor, the wretched, the guilty, and the undone—for those, who have
nothing to pay, nothing to plead, and nothing to bring but misery and
sin.  And this leads me to consider,

II.  The extent and freeness of the invitation itself.

We are here carefully to distinguish the general invitation of a preached
gospel from the inward and effectual call of the Holy Spirit: because,
though in the salvation of individuals they always co-operate, yet
experience demonstrates, that, in innumerable instances, the influences
of the latter do not necessarily and invariably attend the promulgation
of the former.  If they did, what multitudes would be saved!  Yet, that
sinners may be left without excuse for their obstinacy and unbelief, the
ministers of Christ are authorized to “preach the gospel to every
creature;” Mark, xvi. 15; and to give a general call, to all that have
ears to hear, to come to the gospel feast.  And, whatever some may argue
to the contrary, who affect to be “wise above that which is written,” and
who indulge themselves in a sort of mischievous refinement on the system
of evangelical truth; yet it is evident, as well from the blessings which
have particularly distinguished the ministrations of those, who give a
general call, as from the fact recorded in the parable, of multitudes
having been actually invited, who made light of the invitation; that the
ministers of Christ are warranted to “set life and death before all,” and
to beseech them to “choose life, that they may live;” Deut. xxx. 15; yea,
to exhort even a Simon Magus to “pray God, if haply the sin of his heart
may be forgiven,” though previously in “the gall of bitterness and the
bonds of iniquity.”  Acts, viii. 22.  Yet they know that the power to
“choose life,” to “pray with the spirit,” and the blessing of
forgiveness, are all of God; that none can “come to Christ except the
Father _draw_ him;” John, vi. 44; and that a putrid corpse in the grave
could as soon raise itself to life, or the “dry bones,” Ezek. xxxvii.
1–4, in Ezekiel’s vision, form themselves, by their own power, into an
army of living men, as sinners “dead in sin,” Ephes. ii. 1, can, without
a divine agency, obey the invitation of the gospel.  But, knowing that to
obey, and not to reason against the divine command, is the duty of
ministers; satisfied that secret things belong unto the Lord, who
reserves the knowledge of the human heart, and the distribution of his
own favors, to himself; and being persuaded that God can make the breath
of life accompany the breath of men, for the purpose of “quickening _whom
he will_,” John, v. 21, they, therefore, in imitation of the prophet, who
cried out, “O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!” say to sinners in
general, “Come; for all things are now ready.”

Besides, the gospel furnishes us with arguments so forcible, and contains
in itself motives so constraining, as to warrant and encourage an address
to all, as rational creatures.  These arguments and these motives are
principally reducible to this one, that “God commendeth his love towards
us, in that when we were yet SINNERS, Christ died for us.”  Rom. v. 8.
And, as all are in that predicament, it is upon a presupposition of that
humiliating truth, and the suitableness of a proportionate remedy, that I
proceed to urge the gospel invitation upon all present, and to recommend
the great provision of the covenant, because it exhibits a feast for
_sinners_.  This is the leading motive.

1.  Had man retained his primeval innocence; to delight himself in God as
his supreme portion, and to feast the powers of his soul in contemplating
his glorious perfections; would have been an employ as easy as it would
have been pleasant.  In that case, the creatures would have been
considered as so many streams leading up to one common fountain of
goodness and blessedness; while the wisdom, power, and benignity, which
they displayed, would have afforded to the mind an exhaustless fund of
love, and praise, and wonder, through everlasting ages.  But he sinned;
and by sin was cut off from the fountain of his happiness.  The crown of
honor fell from his head; and the moral image of God, in which he had
been created, was lost.  So that whatever delight he may have once
experienced, in a contemplation of the nature, works, and attributes of
Deity; it must have all ceased in the moment of his transgression.  He
could not, in his fallen state, have derived any comfort from a view of
perfections, that bore the tremendous aspect towards him as a rebel
against his Maker.  But here grace interposed.  The guilty fugitive is
called back from his apostacy, and invited to a scene, where he beholds
all Heaven’s attributes receiving their respective claims, and all
harmonizing together for the purpose of his salvation.  Even stern
_justice_ itself advances to plead the sinner’s cause; and, in sweet
concert with truth and mercy, to shower blessings on his guilty head.  It
points to Calvary; there shews its vindictive sword lying at the foot of
the cross, reeking with the blood of the slaughtered LAMB; and cries with
a loud voice, “Deliver him from going down to the pit; for I have found a
ransom.”  Job, xxxiii. 24.  Thus justice infinite, joins to spread the
most delicious part of the gospel repast; because it is written, “God is
just, and the justifier of him who believeth in Jesus.”  Rom. iii. 26.
And, though this part of the feast may be particularly disgustful to the
disciple of Sozo, {151} who tramples under foot the blood of the
covenant, by denying its atoning virtue, and the Deity of him who shed
it; though it may be thought unworthy the notice of the proud Sceptic,
who employs his philosophic wit to ridicule what he does not understand;
or, though the Pharisee should be so enamored with his dear idol, Self,
as to fly from a truth that aims at pulling the dagon of
self-righteousness down to the ground; yet to one, who hath _felt_
himself a sinner, and hath been made to _dread_ the requisitions of God’s
justice as a bar to preclude the claims of mercy, no saying will appear
so worthy of acceptation, as that “Christ Jesus came into the world to
save the chief of sinners,” and that God is both “faithful and _just_,”
when he extends forgiveness through his Son.  1 Tim. i. 15. 1 John, i. 9.

2.  The condition of the persons, for whom the gospel feast is prepared,
affords another most powerful motive to encourage our approach to it.
The messengers in the parable were commanded to invite “the poor, the
maimed, the halt, and the blind.”  Persons labouring under bodily
infirmities, here represent poor sinners oppressed with spiritual
maladies, and waiting, like the paralytic at Bethesda’s pool, for a cure.
Such crowd about the door of mercy; and only such will bless the hand of
the great Physician.  The call is general: but, to none will it be
particular, or welcome, or effectual, but to those who _see_ their wants,
and _feel_ their sins.  The message of the gospel is manna itself for
sweetness, to such as have received the sentence of death in themselves
by the law.  But the “_full_ soul loatheth _this_ honey-comb.”  Prov.
xxvii. 7.  It would be deemed an insult, to spread a feast for the full;
to recommend a physician, or propose a remedy to persons in health; to
offer water to him that is not thirsty, or a garment to him who is
already clothed; to preach liberty to him who is not bound, or to point
him to a fountain who is clean in his own eyes.  But, though the “whole
have no need of a physician, but they that are sick,” Mat. ix. 12, to
such as see themselves foul and leprous, lost, and guilty, the streams of
Jordan were not more efficacious to eradicate Naaman’s leprosy, than the
fountain of Christ’s blood is to cleanse from sins of the deepest dye.
Say not then, “I am unworthy; my sins are too enormous to be forgiven; my
spiritual maladies of too long standing, and too inveterate, to be cured;
and my heart of too stubborn a mould, to be softened or vanquished.”  If
all the enormities of Manasseh, the blasphemings and persecutions of
Saul, the backslidings of David and Peter, and all the guilt of Magdalen,
met in thy single person, so as to make thee a monster in iniquity; yet,
all this accumulated transgression would be no more to the infinite merit
of the Redeemer’s blood, than the smallest cloud to the sun’s meridian
brightness, or the debt of one single mite to the treasure of an empire;
than a drop to the ocean, or a grain of sand to the globe.  “The blood of
Jesus cleanseth from ALL sin.”  1 John, i. 7.  No patient ever failed
under the care of that great Physician: no indigent beggar was ever
spurned from his door: no heart ever remained unsoftened under the
influence of his grace: no sinner ever perished at the foot of his cross.
If you are weary and heavy laden, Jesus saith, “Come unto ME, and I will
give you rest.”  Mat. xi. 28.  If your heart be hard and unbelieving, he
saith again, “My son give _me_ thine heart.”  Prov. xxiii. 26.  If your
transgressions are numerous and aggravated, he saith again, “Though your
sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like
crimson, they shall be as wool.”  Isa. i. 18.  If all the rebellion of
the prodigal centres in thy conduct, and thou, nevertheless, art desirous
of returning to thy God; see, as in his case, the Father of mercies runs
to meet thee, he opens his arms to embrace thee, his house to receive
thee, his wardrobe to clothe thee, his heart to love and pity thee, and
he spreads his table with the richest dainties wherewith to feed thy
famished soul.  And if thou still persist to think thy case even worse
than his, and unbelief could furnish thee with ten thousand arguments to
keep thee from coming to Christ, the following glorious promise is
sufficient to overturn them all: “Him that cometh to me, I will in _no
wise_ cast out.”  John, vi. 37.

3.  But, the last, and by no means the least motive, that I shall mention
under this head, as an inducement to warrant and encourage the
self-diffident and returning sinner to partake of the blessings of the
gospel, is, that they are all the free gift of God through Jesus Christ
our Lord.  Rom. vi. 23.  “Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the
waters; and he that hath no money, let him come.”  Isa. lv. 1.  Indeed a
moment’s serious reflection on the nature of the favors requisite to a
sinner’s salvation, such as, an interest in the covenant, peace with
Heaven, pardon of sin, justification before God, the spirit of holiness,
and eternal life; or on the greatness of the price, with which they have
been purchased, even “the blood of God;” Acts, xx. 28; or on the demerit
of those, who are the recipients of those immense favors;—might convince
any one of the folly and presumption of expecting the very least, on the
ground of personal worthiness; and yet encourage the hope and banish the
fears of the weakest and most depressed sinner upon earth.  “Think not”
then, as the apostle said to Simon the sorcerer, “that the gift of God
may be purchased with money”—with human merit.  Acts, viii. 20.  Were you
a possessor of all the treasures of the earth, or of all the moral
excellencies that ever centred in any natural man since the fall, you
would not therefore be entitled to even the crumbs that fall from God’s
table.  Yet the deepest poverty, the greatest unworthiness, are no bars
to preclude your receiving the choicest of his favors, even eternal life.
As, therefore, you _have_ nothing to pay off the immense debt you owe, so
nothing is required; no merit, no works, no recommendation whatever.  All
is purchased already; and all gratuitously tendered.  Nothing remains for
the sinner, convinced of his lost condition, but to receive with an empty
hand and humble heart what infinite beneficence freely offers.  Mercy’s
door is open.  The ministers of Christ invite you in.  The master of the
feast bids you welcome, saying, “Eat, O friends, drink; yea, drink
abundantly, O beloved.”  Solomon’s Song, v. 1.  The table is spread with
ten thousand rich and costly benefits.  The banquet is a feast of love;
and “the spirit and the bride say, _Come_, and let him that heareth, say,
_Come_, and let him that is athirst, _Come_, and whosoever will, let him
take the water of life freely.”  Rev. xxii. 17.—But this leads me to
urge,

III.  The grand argument mentioned in the text to excite obedience to the
invitation, viz. “All things are ready.”

This head of the discourse will contain little more than a recapitulation
of the principal subjects already considered; and they might, indeed, on
that account, be thought superfluous.  But, as upon occasion of a
sumptuous entertainment, it would engage the attendance of a guest more,
to see presented all together the several delicacies to which he is
invited, than to hear a logical discussion about their various qualities;
I shall, therefore, now bring together in one view, all that a God of
rich grace and profuse munificence hath exhibited in the gospel feast;
praying, if it be his blessed will, that all who hear the invitation this
day may have grace to accept it.

“All things are ready.”—The great _deed_ is ready, that recites the
covenant stipulations between the Father and the Son, and records the
names of all the ransomed of the Lord; signed by infinite truth, and
sealed with blood.  Psal. xl. 6–9.  Heb. x. 5–9.

The great _sacrifice_ is ready; on which the fire of vindictive justice
fell, in the day of our Lord’s crucifixion; prefigured by the beasts that
bled for a long succession of ages on Jewish altars; typified in Isaac,
but realized in that propitiatory victim, the crucified Jesus.  Heb. x.
1,12.

A _pardon_ is ready; procured for infinite offence; for crimes of the
deepest dye; for sinners of the most flagrant complexion; and which
speaks its value infinite, bought with the blood of God incarnate.
Ephes. i. 7.  Acts, xx. 28.

A _righteousness_ is ready; wrought out by the obedience and death of
Messiah; the imputation of which covers guilt, screens from the curse of
the law; fulfils its precepts, and satisfies justice; a righteousness,
which “justifieth from ALL things, and is _unto_ all” as a free gift,
“and” as a spotless robe “_upon_ all them that believe.”  Acts, xiii. 39.
Rom. iii. 20.  This is the wedding-garment.  Mat. xxii. 11.

A _fountain_ is ready; that gushes from the Saviour’s side, with a
mingled stream of water and blood; to wash away the guilt and filth of
sin; of efficacy to purify from all uncleanness; where thousands have
bathed their leprous souls, and in which thousands more may wash and be
clean as an angel of light.  Zech. xiii. 1.

A _provision_ is ready; rich in inexhaustible supplies of _strength_ for
the weak, of _wisdom_ for the ignorant, of _medicine_ for the diseased,
of _consolation_ for them that mourn, of _bread_ of life for the hungry,
of _water_ from a never-failing spring for the _thirsty_; and all in
Christ, free for his people as the air they breathe, and deep in
boundless fulness as the ocean.  John, i. 16.

The _Spirit of holiness_ is ready; to change the desert of the human
heart into an Eden, and to make springs of grace arise, where streams of
bitterness and pollution flowed before; to take of the things of Christ,
and shew them in all their riches to the poor and contrite; to form the
new creation, and take away the heart of stone.  Isa. xxxv. 1.  Ezek.
xxxvi. 26.

The _promises_ are ready; to attest the truth of God; to seal the
salvation of Christ; to give encouragement to the weary and heavy laden
to cast their burdens on him; and to delineate his all-sufficiency: in
him they meet: in him they are all yea and amen: from him they derive
their preciousness, and every one of them is as unchangeable as the God
that spoke them. 2 Pet. i. 4.  Mat. v. 18.

The _Father_ of mercies is ready; to receive the returning prodigal, to
blot out his rebellions, and love him freely.  The _Son_ is ready; to
plead the purchase of his blood, and carry the sheep that was lost into
the fold of his flock.

The _ministers of the gospel are_ ready; to preach deliverance to the
captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to
instruct the ignorant, and guide their feet into the way of peace; and to
rejoice in seeing the fruit of the travail of Christ’s soul in the
salvation of sinners.

_Angels_ are ready; to take up their harps of gold, and tune them to
notes of the sweetest harmony; to make the heaven and the heaven of
heavens resound with praises to Emmanuel, and with joy over one sinner
that repenteth.  Oh! that they may repeat that anthem to-day, which they
have had occasion to sing, whenever souls have been brought home to
Christ!  These blessed spirits watch with eagerness the effects of the
gospel-message; and when any one sinner obeys it, they fly with the good
news to the realms of light, and diffuse fresh joy through all the
spirits that surround the throne.  But if angels could weep, surely they
would drop a tear, with sorrow and surprise, to see sinners spurn a
feast, which their Creator prepared, and to which they themselves would
have been proud of an invitation.

Come, then, ye that dread the wrath of God, and wish to escape from those
sins that have exposed you to it; ye, who are oppressed with their
intolerable load, and can find no relief from all the expedients you have
hitherto adopted; O come to this sacred feast of redeeming love!
Multitudes, whose case was worse than yours, have been admitted to it;
have found the blessings they stood in need of, and are now feasting
around the throne of God and of the Lamb.  They, like you, were afraid to
come; and their unworthiness, which should have driven to Christ, kept
them, for a long time, from him; till, having at last seen all resources
fail, every creature a broken cistern, and all their works and duties but
miserable comforters and physicians of no value; they were obliged to go
with all their complaints, and wants, and wounds, to him, who is the
sinner’s forlorn hope; and in Jesus they met with a physician and a
friend: He bound up their wounds, supplied their wants, removed their
burdens, spoke peace to their consciences, and shewed them all the riches
of his grace and righteousness to comfort and support.  One look by faith
to his bleeding sacrifice, dispelled the gloom that covered their
desponding minds, and filled them with hope, and joy, and peace.  They
only wonder now, that they should have so long doubted of his sufficiency
and love; and, if any thing _could_ interrupt for a moment the bliss of
saints above, it would give them pain, even in heaven, to reflect, that
they should have ever entertained a suspicion of Christ’s ability and
willingness to save; or have hesitated to come to the gospel feast when
God himself invited.  But their doubts are now for ever done away; and it
magnifies the riches of sovereign grace, that Jesus conquered and
pardoned the unbelief, that gave the lie to his promises, and depreciated
the great remedy of his atonement.  Yet, having “come out of great
tribulation, and washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of
the Lamb,” “they hunger no more, neither thirst any more: but the Lamb,
which is in the midst of the throne, doth feed them, and lead them to
fountains of living waters; and God hath wiped away all tears from their
eyes.”  Rev. vii. 14, 16, 17.

As the feast recommended in the text is of a sacred nature, it can of
course afford no entertainment, and give no encouragement, to those
presumptuous professors, who dare “to sin because grace abounds;” who
take occasion, from the sumptuousness of the gospel feast, and the
benignity of its Founder, to quote his very favors in justification of
the most abominable licentiousness of manners; and sit down to his table
only to insult him for the liberality that spread it.  _Grace_, it is
true, and grace alone, presides throughout with unrivalled glory, in
contriving, accomplishing, and applying the great plan of salvation
through the Redeemer.  And though that grace confers all its favors
gratuitously, and strongly presupposes the guilt and unworthiness of the
recipients of them; yet as personal holiness is one of the favors it
communicates, and makes a considerable branch of the evidences of a
sinner’s salvation; they who leave it out in their pretended systems of
evangelical truth, or disregard it in their walk and conversation, are
convicted by the very fact of fatal error on the one hand, as well as of
practical impiety on the other.  For “the grace of God that bringeth
salvation, teacheth us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we
should live righteously, soberly, and godly, in this present world.”  Tit
ii. 12.  Whoever sits down to the banquet of redeeming love, is supposed
to rise up with a heart overflowing with gratitude to Jesus for the
blessings imparted to him, and to go away more wise, more happy, and more
holy.  To act differently, would be to imitate the outrage of a
victorious army rioting on the spoils of the vanquished, and intoxicating
themselves with the fruits of their Commander’s conquests.  Christ hath
conquered for us; and the gospel feast is the consequence of his glorious
victory over sin and hell.  Believers conquer and feast with him.  But
their triumph ought to be sober, and their mode of rejoicing suited to
the dangers they have escaped, and the sacred service in which they are
engaged.  But they who make Christ, either in their systems or their
practice, “the minister of sin,” bear his name in vain, or expose it to
reproach in the face of the world.  The gospel, therefore, spreads no
feast for the Antinomian; and, where it is abused, the food which it
exhibits is turned into poison, and proves a savor of death unto death.
“Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.  And let every one that
nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”

Ye devotees of pleasure, ye lovers of the world, ye egregious triflers
with your immortal interests; ye, who, though hastening to your graves,
are still sporting on destruction’s brink, and indulge a false and fatal
levity, though the precipice is before you, and one single step would
determine your doom for ever; ye, who have been pursuing phantoms, and
grasping at shadows, while you suck happiness in a world lying in
wickedness, and, amidst all your cares and schemes for this world, forget
that you are to die, neglect your souls, and never take one solemn
anxious thought about eternity; to you also I bring the invitation in my
text: “Come; for, all things are ready.”  I invite you this day, in the
name of my great Lord and Master, to Christ, to happiness, to heaven.  Ye
have been long toiling for that which is not bread, and spending your
strength for what can yield little satisfaction in life, and none at all
in the hour of death.  Still time flies with its wonted velocity; and the
king of terrors is drawing from his quiver the arrow, that shall ere long
lay you in the dust.  Satan, the world and sin, strongly unite to keep
you in their servitude; and spread ten thousand baits to allure you to
destruction.  But shall their call be obeyed? and God’s invitation
disregarded?  Shall hell be preferred to heaven? the care of your bodies
to that of your souls?  Shall time engross all your solicitude, and
eternity, dread eternity, none?  Shall the adversary of God and man call
with a more attractive voice, than he who bled for sinners? and the
biting pleasures of sensuality, be preferred before the joys that are at
God’s right hand?  God forbid!  O sirs, pause a moment!  Consider what
you are, whither you are going.  Your souls are at stake, and you must
soon stand before the living God in judgment.  Obey the call of the
gospel; and all shall yet be well: disobey it; and the call itself shall
be more than a thousand witnesses against you: and he who gives it will
be clear of your blood.  But, embrace the invitation; and my soul shall
rejoice over you, even mine; and you shall rejoice with joy unspeakable,
when the Judge comes in the clouds of heaven, and time shall be no more.
Amen.



SERMON IV.


                              THE CONTRAST.

    “_For the wages of sin is death_, _but the gift of God is eternal
    life_, _through Jesus Christ our Lord_.”

                                                           ROMANS, vi. 23.

IT appears, at first view, rather extraordinary, that there should be any
opponents of the doctrine of original sin; since, not to say, that it has
a voucher for its existence in the heart of every individual son of Adam,
and is corroborated by the testimony of melancholy matter of fact; upon
the acknowledgment of this doctrine depends every truth of revelation;
and more especially that, which relates to the redemption of sinners by
the obedience and sufferings of the Son of God.  Indeed, the entire
system of the gospel stands or falls with it.  The truth of man’s
apostacy from original righteousness forms a grand and necessary link in
the golden chain of evangelical doctrines.  Take _that_ away, and the
coherence between the rest is broken of course; and, by the fatal
disruption, the fairest hopes of a sinner are torn up by the root, and
all his bright prospects into eternity clouded and obscured.  For, it is
upon a pre-supposition of man’s depravity, helplessness, and guilt, that
a propitiatory sacrifice hath been offered up, and a foundation for peace
and pardon laid in the cross of Jesus; that a remedy hath been offered,
proportionate to the depth of our malady, and a proclamation of mercy
issued out, from the throne of God.  Blot out these inestimable benefits,
then, and what is man?—an inheritor of sorrow and sin, borne rapidly
along by time’s impetuous tide, and, like a ship without a rudder or
sails, at the mercy of every storm; liable to be shipwrecked in death,
and to sustain an irreparable, an eternal loss; without one cheerful beam
of hope to guide him through the gloom of adverse dispensations, or to
light his footsteps in the valley of the shadow of death.

A denial of the fall is an absurd effort to dispute a fact the most
incontrovertible, to subvert the foundations of Christianity, to bereave
sinners of their choicest hope, and virtually to supersede one of the
most necessary, and most glorious works of God.  For, what is redemption,
if we are not “by nature the children of wrath?”  Ephes. ii. 3.  Would it
not, in that case, be an unmeaning and superfluous undertaking?  Why did
the co-equal Son of the Most High leave the bosom of his Father, to pay a
ransom of infinite value, if there were no captives to be redeemed?  Or
why did he, in unparalleled mercy, quit his throne “to seek and save
those that were lost,” if mankind were not in that unhappy predicament?
What is it that places the love of God, and the philanthropy of the
Friend of sinners, in the most captivating and admirable point of view?
It is the helpless and guilty condition of the race of man.  This is the
foil, that sets off redemption to infinite advantage, and that reflects
such unrivalled honor on the gracious Author of it.  But deny the fall,
and redemption shines no more; and all the glory of him, who contrived
and executed the plan, is destroyed at once.  Whereas admit that
humiliating fact, and you hear all the harps of heaven tuned to the
praises of Jesus, and see him adorned with the crown of salvation; while
men and angels join their loudest and most grateful tribute of
thanksgiving to that condescending Saviour of sinners.  The most
variegated and lively teints that form the rainbow, are painted by the
reflection of the sun’s rays on the body of the darkest cloud.  So, it is
on the gloom of our apostate nature that the rays of the Sun of
Righteousness are reflected with the most conspicuous lustre; and it is
even by that dark medium that all the perfections and attributes of Deity
shine out with the greatest harmony, and the most wonderful irradiation.
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through
Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The text exhibits a surprising contrast; and the design of my improvement
upon it, is to consider separately, and oppose to each other, the
constituent parts of that contrast; to the end that we may enjoy an
opportunity of seeing, how low human nature hath been sunk by sin, and to
what a height of exaltation it hath been raised by the grace of our Lord
Jesus Christ.  The one view will help to inspire gratitude into the
breast of a saved sinner; the other will give him cause for
self-humiliation, and afford him an inexhaustible topic for praise and
wonder, through everlasting ages.  This contrasted representation, like a
happy mixture of light and shade in a well-executed piece of painting,
will place the great doctrines I am to insist upon, in such an
advantageous point of view, as to display the consistency, connexion,
wisdom, and beauty, of the whole.  From whence we shall see, of course,
that, though the text presents a dark side, in which the principal and
awful figures in the back ground are “sin and death;” yet, like the
pillar of a cloud and fire that followed the camp of Israel, it has a
bright side too, sufficiently luminous to guide the Christian pilgrim
through the wilderness of this world, and to light him to glory, with
safety and triumph.

The first thing to be considered is, that “the wages of sin is death.”
But, as death is an event so humiliating and so formidable, let us attend
a little to the nature of that great evil that produces it.—According to
the definition given by an inspired apostle, “sin is the transgression of
the law”—of that moral law, or rule of rectitude, which had been
originally written on the heart of man, and which, when the characters of
it were obliterated there, by the first act of disobedience, was
afterwards inscribed on two tables of stone.  A circumstance that wisely
suggested the propriety of placing the decalogue in the most conspicuous
part of our churches; to the end, that whenever we cast our eyes on these
two sacred tables, and reflect on the sanctions and purity of their
precepts, we might see our transgressions, and implore that mercy which
God hath revealed through that Saviour, who is the “end of the law for
righteousness to every one that believeth.”  The law is “holy” in its
precepts, “just” in its requisitions, and “good” in the end, for which it
was originally given.  It delineates, as it were, and transcribes the
moral image of the Deity.  And such is the rigor and extensiveness of its
demands, that it not only condemns every the least deviation from the
letter of its commandments, but it also takes cognizance of the thoughts
of the heart, as well, as the actions of the life.  “The law is
spiritual.”  Rom. vii. 14.  And its spirituality extends to the most
latent recesses of the mind.  Its penetrating light breaks in upon the
desires and inclinations of the heart, in their darkest retreat, and
condemns sin in embryo, as well as when it “is brought forth” into actual
commission.  Having originated in the wisdom of the supreme Legislator,
and having been appointed as a rule of life and a test of obedience, to
protect the interests of the divine government in the world, it stands as
unchangeably pure in its nature, and as unalterable in its requirements,
as the God, who gave it, is in his own immutable essence.

Behold sin, then, in this pure mirror.  How is its deformity exposed, and
its malignity enhanced by the purity of that law of which it is the
transgression!  Every sin, in a greater or less degree, aims at
destroying the very existence of the divine law; and at subverting the
dominion which Jehovah claims as his own indisputable prerogative amongst
his own creatures.  Sin implies an effort to set up another in direct
opposition to the supremacy of Heaven.  It is a direct and gross insult
upon the Majesty of God.  It pours contempt on his legislative authority
to make laws, and virtually impeaches his wisdom and justice in requiring
obedience to them.  Sin is rebellion against the Most High; and its
dreadful concomitants are anarchy and confusion.  In its hideous
deformity, it bears the impress of hell; and, like that malign spirit
that attempted to usurp the sovereignty of the skies, it carries the
features of that black apostacy, that would have pushed from his throne
the Holy One of Israel.

Such is the nature of sin.  But trace it, in its origin, its
consequences, and its effects, and you will perceive its aggravations
swell in every view.  See its fatal effects even in heaven itself.  What
disorder did it occasion among the armies of the skies!  When, after
having lifted up an innumerable company of angels with proud rebellion
against the throne of God, it plunged them, with Lucifer at their head,
from the summit of bliss and honor, down to the inextinguishable flames
and bottomless abyss of tophet.  Or, go to Eden, and mark there the sad
catastrophe of our fall.  See our first parents arrested by the hand of
justice, and, like a pair of criminals, compeers in guilt and partners in
woe, turned out of that delectable spot, where all the rich spontaneous
gifts of nature concurred with the light of God’s countenance, to make it
a representation, in miniature, of the celestial paradise.  See the angry
cherub brandishing his flaming sword, placed as a vengeful guardian of
the tree of life.  Behold shame, sorrow, disease, and death, the
melancholy attendants on the unhappy culprits! the earth under their
feet, cursed with briers and thorns! and elements around them, armed with
the thunder of their Creator’s frown!  Ask, what is the cause of this sad
reverse of their former state of rest, peace, and fertility?  The answer
is, this hath sin done.

Consult the history of mankind since the fall, especially those faithful
records given us in the inspired writings, and you will see one continued
chain of successive dispensations, loudly declarative of the evil of sin.
Why were the windows of heaven opened, and the fountains of the great
deep broken up, to form that immense inundation of waters, that covered
every part of the globe, and topped its highest hills; and, the little
family in the ark only excepted, swept away all the inhabitants of the
earth at a stroke?  It was because “God saw, that the _wickedness_ of man
was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his
heart was only evil continually.”  Gen. vi. 5.  Why was Sodom consumed by
fire from heaven, and that sink of sin converted into a lake of the most
putrid and pestilential quality?  Why did the earth open, and swallow up
Korah and his company? or a succession of plagues depopulate and deluge
with blood the Land of Egypt?  How came Israel to fall by thousands in
the wilderness? and in great numbers to be carried away into an enemy’s
country, and to wear the galling yoke of long, grievous, and reiterated
captivities?  What was the cause of their final dispersion?  It was SIN
that lay at the root of all these visitations.  And the same evil that
laid Babylon or Jerusalem in ashes, and annihilated the proudest empires
of Greece and Rome, is to this day proclaiming its existence in the
judgments that are abroad in the earth.  If the pestilence walketh in
darkness, or sickness destroyeth at noon-day; if war rages, or famine
stalks through the land; if earthquakes make whole continents tremble,
and spread devastation and death; it is SIN, that hath awakened these
awful visitants of incensed justice, which will, all at once, be let
loose upon a guilty world, in the great and terrible day of the Lord, to
complete its ruin, and give one final demonstration of the malignity of
sin, by the conflagration of heaven and earth.

We have visited the Garden of Eden, to view there the melancholy origin
and fatal effects of sin.  Let us now go to another garden, where we
shall see this great evil still more conspicuously displayed.  I mean the
garden of Gethsemane.  Behold! _who_ lies there prostrate on the ground!
drowned in tears! and bathed in blood!  What means that agony, which
tortures his immaculate soul, and makes him “sorrowful even unto death?”
What was the heavy load under which an angel is despatched from heaven to
support him?  Hark! how he entreats his Father, that, if possible, “the
bitter cup might pass from him.”  Follow him to Calvary.  See him
fainting under the load of his cross, as he ascends the hill.  Now begins
the tragical scene.  Behold him extended on the accursed tree!  Why, thou
blessed Jesus, wert thou brought so low, and covered with such foul
ignominy?  Why didst thou suffer thy sacred head to be crowned, and
lacerated with thorns? and thy hand to be disgraced with a symbol of mock
royalty, when it might have been extended to the destruction of thine
enemies?  Was thy death, with all the circumstances of horror and shame
that attended it, the just wages of any personal iniquity?  No.  Thy
nature was immaculate, and thy life unblemished.  But it was sin imputed,
that constituted the bitter ingredient in thy cup of sorrow; and our
guilt transferred, that brought thee down to the chamber of death.  They
were our transgressions that pointed the thorns, and sharpened the nails
that pierced thy bleeding head, and hands, and feet, and opened the
current that flowed from thy heart.  Thou wast “wounded for _our_
transgressions, and bruised for _our_ iniquities.”  Isa. liii. 5.  O
teach us to see the bitterness of sin in the depth of thy sufferings, and
to stand amazed at the unexampled love that shines through them all!
This will embitter sin to our hearts, and endear to us that blessed cross
from whence the remedy for it flows, with the current of thy blood.

There is but one leading point of view more, in which the evil of sin is
discoverable by the melancholy effects which it produceth; and that is,
by the consideration immediately suggested in the text; which is,

That death is the wages of sin.  This is a truth so obvious, that it
hardly requires any argument, either to illustrate, or confirm it.  The
fact is, at least, incontrovertible.  The notoriety of it hath been
established by an intermitted series of mortality, through all the
successive generations of men, from the beginning of the world to the
present day.  “The fathers, where are they? the prophets, do they live
for ever?”

But, though the event itself is indisputable, the cause of it, as well as
the nature of that cause, are subjects of sharp controversy, with those,
who, when unable to stand against the evidence of facts, transfer their
contentious disposition to the revelation of God; and so wrest the
scriptures to their destruction.  All admit, that death is the inevitable
lot of human nature, because the truth addresses our very senses.  But
some, with strange inconsistency, insinuate, and not only insinuate, but
even attempt to give it the form of an argument, that, though all must
submit to death, yet the event is not to be considered as the effect of
the first transgression; or, at least, that death is no penal evil, or
the consequence of any entail of original guilt: since, as they argue, it
would be inconsistent with the divine justice to punish a whole race for
the sin of an individual; and that, since so many good men die, death
ought rather to be accounted a blessing, than a penalty.  All this is
reason as full of fallacy, as it is of danger, and is overturned to the
very foundation, by the express authority of the word of God.  St. Paul
asserts, that “by _one_ man, _sin_ entered into the world, and _death_ by
sin; and so death hath _passed upon all men_, for that all have sinned.”
Rom. v. 12.  Death was announced as the threatened penalty to Adam before
his transgression, and it was inflicted after it, agreeably to the decree
of God.  Why should it be penal to him and not to his descendants?  The
text says, that death is the wages of _sin_.  The cause is evil, and so
must the effect produced by it.  This is penal because that is criminal;
unless it can be proved that there is no moral evil in the violation of
the divine law, and no natural evil in an event, that tears in sunder,
and reduces to dust and ashes, that frame which bears the impress of
divine workmanship, and was originally the seat of health, honor, and
immortality.  If ever death turns out a blessing, it is over-ruled to
that end by the grace and providence of God.  The cause and nature of it
are not, however, altered.  And in every instance, it is the wages of
sin, and the desert of sinners unexceptionably and universally; even of
those “who did not sin after the similitude of Adam’s transgression;”
that is, by actual sin.  For though all infants are undoubtedly saved,
who die in infancy, yet their death evinces previous transgression,
though not actually, yet originally and inherently.  It is a scripture
maxim, that “the body is dead because of sin.”  The inherency and
imputation of that great moral evil makes the body obnoxious to death.
And the seeds of both have an existence together in the nature of every
son of Adam; which, in due time, spring up in that vicious soil, and
bring forth actual transgression, and actual death.

If this doctrine, equally corroborated by scripture and facts, be not
admitted, the divine justice would stand impeachable for taking off
infants, whose death is often the instant successor of their birth, and
is accompanied with a train of diseases, and agonizing pains.  And,
though in the case of them, as of adult believers, death proves a
blessing, through the redemption that is by Christ Jesus; yet to those
who continue in the practice of sin, and die under the guilt of it, their
dissolution is the commencement of eternal woe.  For, the wages of sin is
death, eternal as well as temporal.  The eternal duration of the penalty
is, in that respect, proportioned to the infinite demerit of the offence,
as being committed against the sacred law of an infinite God, and rising
in aggravation according to the dignity and majesty of the Being
offended.  The perverse reasoning of men of corrupt minds may controvert
this awful truth, too, as unjust.  But their quarrel is with scripture.
For that declares, that the wicked shall “go into _everlasting_
punishment,” Mat., xxv. 46, and shall “suffer the vengeance of eternal
fire,” never to be extinguished through ages more numerous than the drops
of the ocean, or the countless sands upon the sea-shore.

Here imagination might paint a scene sufficient to harrow up the soul,
and make the blood of every mortal run cold; were we to dwell upon the
sufferings of those who are lost for ever; and to consummate and
perpetuate which, the wrath of God unites with the worm that never dies,
and the fire that is never quenched.  I might lead you, in order to
behold an exemplification of the truth in our text, not only to beds of
sickness, where the pallid countenance, the cold sweat, and throbbing
breast, indicate death’s near approach—to the haunts of the debauched, or
the chambers of the luxurious, where sin reigns, and death triumphs with
a long train of diseases both of body and mind, the sad recompense of a
life spent in sin and vanity—to the dungeon’s doleful cells, where
criminals drag the galling chain, and expect, with horror and remorse,
the hour that is to fix them to the gibbet, and make an ignominious death
the wages of their iniquity—to the church-yard, that repository of the
promiscuous dead, where the crumbled bodies of the rich and great are not
distinguishable from the dust of the earth; or to the charnel-house,
crowded with the dry and ghastly relics of thousands, who were once
flushed with health, and bloomed with beauty, like their present gay
survivors, who hardly ever spend a serious thought on death, and live as
if they had made a covenant with the grave—to the historic pages of the
annalist and the poet, recounting the horrors of the tented field, and
telling over the tens of thousands that have been cut off in the midst of
their sanguinary and ambitious schemes—I say, I might not only lead you
to these several scenes, as declarative of the truth before us; but I
might urge, as its most tremendous completion, the state of those, who
are now receiving the final wages of sin in that lake, which burns, and
shall to all eternity burn, with inextinguishable flames.  But I would
rather wave the description, or rather an attempt to describe, what it
hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive.  Let us throw a veil
upon this awful scene, and pass to the consideration of one that is as
bright and glorious, as the other is gloomy and terrible; which is, that

       “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

We had occasion to observe, in the outset of this discourse, that the
text places, in a contrasted view, some of the principal truths of
revealed religion; that the one might serve as a foil to the other; and
that the love of God to a sinful world might appear the more stupendous,
by a consideration of the very abject condition to which sin reduced us,
and from which no hand was able to extricate us, but that which made the
world.

In this contrasted scene, the things set in opposition to each other—are
eternal life, and eternal death—the wages of sin, and the gift of God—the
disobedience of Adam, and the righteousness of Christ—with all the
calamities springing out of sin and death, and all the rich blessings
flowing from that tree of life, whose leaves are for the healing of the
nations.  Sin is opposed to obedience; death, to life; the eternal
duration of the one, to that of the other; the malignity of sin and the
demerit of sinners, to the undeserved and gratuitous mercy of God, and
the infinite merit of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Oh, that our hearts may
overflow with gratitude, when we reflect, that we have the bright side of
our text to contemplate with rapture! when, had Jehovah entered into
judgment with us, the sad subject of our meditations for ever might have
been like the superscription on Ezekiel’s roll—mourning, lamentation, and
woe.  But now the voice of the Lord cheers the wilderness of our nature
with that reviving word, “Where sin abounded, grace hath much more
abounded.”  Which, to a burdened sinner, is like clear sun-shining after
rain, or the return of a serene and a bright morning after a dark
tempestuous night; or like a pardon, unexpectedly brought, to a criminal
under sentence of death.  This we shall see in what follows.

In Paradise, the test of man’s obedience was the commandment of God; the
reward would have been eternal life.  But he sinned, and forfeited that
reward in behalf of himself and all his descendants; and the penalty
incurred was as infinite as the recompense would have been great, in case
of perfect obedience.  To take off this forfeiture of life eternal, and
recover the inheritance that had been lost, Jesus undertook to become the
sinner’s substitute, and to take the penalty upon himself.  As sin was
the fatal cause of all the misery and disorder introduced into the world,
he suffered it to be laid upon himself, and “was made sin, that we might
be made the righteousness of God in him.”  The awful penalty of a
violated law fell upon him, in the day that he was “made a curse for us,”
Gal. iii. 13, and bled to death as a propitiatory sacrifice on the cross.
It was exacted of him, and he made full payment.  Perfect obedience to
the law, and full satisfaction to the justice of God, were the two great
branches of that righteousness, which constitutes the matter of our
justification before him.  Death was the consequence of Adam’s
transgression; but Jesus died, and by his blood drew the monster’s deadly
sting, and “destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the
devil.”  Heb. ii. 14.  And, as he was God manifest in the flesh, his
divinity communicated an infinite sufficiency to his atonement and
righteousness, to deliver from sin and hell, and to render valid and
secure the believer’s title to eternal life.

In the business of salvation, as it is God’s most glorious work, he is
studious and jealous of having all the glory of it.  Accordingly, eternal
life is held out in the text as his “gift,” free on his part, and
altogether unmerited by those to whom this blessing is communicated.  We
have no claim upon him even for the crumbs that fall from his table; much
less for the glory of his everlasting kingdom; between which, and the
obedience of the best, there is an infinite disproportion.  All in earth
or heaven, necessary to complete our happiness, is a gift.  Christ
himself, with all his unsearchable riches, is called the gift of God.
The knowledge of him by faith, and the grace that calls, justifies, and
sanctifies, come under the same denomination.  He gives grace and glory.
When the apostle takes a view of death, he calls it the _wages_ of sin.
But he wisely and designedly alters his language when he speaks of
eternal life.  He does not say that _that_ is the _wages_ of human works,
or to be earned by the merit of human obedience.  No.  It is the _gift_
of God through Jesus Christ our Lord,—through him, because he is the
medium of all Jehovah’s gifts, and the purchaser of all the blessings of
the new covenant.  His atoning blood is the great channel of conveyance
for every benefit on earth, and his righteousness the meritorious title
to life eternal.  The crown of salvation is the unrivalled claim of that
adorable Saviour; and well doth he deserve, that it should be placed on
his royal head, since

    There’s not a gift his hand bestows
             But cost his heart a groan.

Let not pride, therefore, presume to dispute the honor with Jesus, or
self-righteous sinners arrogate to themselves a meritorious title to
favors, of the least of which they are altogether undeserving.  God hath
an open hand filled with blessings for those who approach the throne of
grace as needy beggars, and supplicate mercy through Christ, as condemned
criminals.  But the proud he beholdeth afar off, and those that are rich
in supposed goodness and personal merit, he sendeth empty away.  For, he
resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.  Think not that
heaven is to be purchased by human merit, or that the eternal reward is
to be earned by human obedience.  The purchase hath been made by the
death and passion of the Son of God; and it is the merit of his blood
alone that can open the kingdom of heaven, or reverse the forfeiture
which we have incurred by original and personal transgression.  The
scripture hath concluded all under sin.  And the wages which every
transgressor hath earned, is eternal death.  This is every man’s desert,
and will be the reward of his iniquity, if he is found out of Christ.  No
future works can make an atonement to God for past transgressions; since,
if this were possible, Christ would have died in vain.  Gal. ii. 21.
Salvation is by grace, “not of works, lest any man should boast.”  Ephes.
ii. 8, 9.  And “we are justified freely (δωρεὰν without a cause on our
part) by this grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
Rom. iii. 24.

The text speaks an awful language to the gay and the dissolute, who may
be said to be earning, by a hard drudgery, the worst wages under the
worst master.  How many, in the full career of dissipation, are so
infatuated by the splendid outside of glittering trifles, the pomps and
vanities of this wicked world, and so deluded by the hope of happiness,
that phantom which flies from them as fast as it is pursued; that to the
pursuit of sensual pleasure every consideration of honor and virtue is
sacrificed.  Let those, who are running the same fruitless chase,
remember, that though their path should be strewed with rose-buds of
delight, yet there lurk under them corroding care, remorse, and shame,
and anguish, more to be dreaded than the poison of asps.  If their minds
are unawed by the threatenings of the Lord, and steeled against the
remonstrances of truth, and conscience, Oh that they would but look into
the house of mourning! and behold the sad spectacle of a youth cut off in
his prime, either by a series of debaucheries, that brought rottenness
into his bones, and infamy on his reputation, or that had been hurried to
an act of desperation, the effect, often, of frequent intoxication,
infidel principles, or of disappointed projects at the gaming table!  Or,
let them look at yonder pale corpse, that has fallen a martyr to the
etiquette of dress and all the parade of fashion; that lived such a life
of dissipation, that she hardly ever knew there was a God, till she saw
him at his tribunal.  Do not such instances, while they declare the folly
of mankind, loudly preach to you, ye sons and daughters of dissipation?
You, who flutter in gaiety, though on the brink of ruin?  O listen to the
solemn lecture!  Fly from the wages of sin.  You have sought happiness in
the world, but have been disappointed.  Pleasure’s gilded bait hath
promised you much, and looked fair; but its promises have been delusive,
and its enjoyment a shadow.  Come now, and try what the gifts of God in
Christ Jesus can do for you.  He gives a peace, which the world cannot,
and ascertains happiness, of which earth and hell are not able to
deprive.  “His ways are ways of pleasantness, and all his paths are
peace.”

Thus hath the text set before us life and death: the one, the wages and
consequence of sin; the other, the unmerited and glorious gift of God
through the Son of his love.  Ye who believe the record, and see your
ruin, bless the Lord for the gift of a Saviour—for pardon through his
blood, and acceptance before the throne through his righteousness and
intercession.  Love the Lord and trust in him at all times: by telling of
his salvation from day to day.  You owe to Jesus your life, and
happiness; your all in earth and heaven.  He has given grace, and he will
give glory, and will withhold from his people no good thing.  Since he
hath given himself, what gift can he keep back?  He that spared not his
own Son, but delivered him up for us all, will he not also with him
freely give us all things?  Whilst, therefore, ye highly-favored children
of the Most High, ye are reviewing the great, the unnumbered blessings,
that crowd in upon you from the streams that issue from the upper and the
nether springs; whilst you enjoy the gifts of Providence, and are tasting
the riches of divine grace; and, whilst gratitude springs up in your
hearts for favors as distinguishing as they are undeserved; remember him,
to whom you are indebted for them all.  And, while you are thanking God,
for life, health, food, raiment; the light of yonder sun, and the clouds
that drop fatness on the earth; for the joyful sound of the gospel, and
hearts to relish its salutary doctrines; then look up to the fountain of
all, and say, But, above all things, everlasting praise and honor be
ascribed to God for the unspeakable gift of the Lord Jesus Christ, and an
interest in his blood and righteousness.  Amen.



SERMON V.


             AN ALARMING VIEW OF GOD’S DESOLATING JUDGMENTS.

              [Preached on the Fast Day, February 21, 1781.]

         “_Come_, _behold the works of the Lord_, _what desolations_
                _he hath made in the earth_.”  PSALM xlvi. 8.

WHATEVER _the heart of the fool_ in ignorance and infidelity may suggest,
or the tongue of the bold blasphemer dare to utter, the voice of unerring
wisdom declares, _there is a God_;

                “And that there is, all _nature_ cries aloud.”

To this great primary truth, every object in creation bears its
testimony; from the first-born seraph down to the meanest reptile; and
from the great ruler of the day, down to the minutest part of that
stupendous system, of which he is, at once, the ornament and the centre.
The celestial, the terrestrial, and aquatic worlds, with all their
respective inhabitants, are pregnant with demonstration in favor of
_God’s eternal power and Godhead_.  Beings rational and irrational,
animate and inanimate, possessing either spiritual, sensitive, or
vegetative life; whether they walk the earth, swim the ocean, or fly
through the ærial expanse; are so many vouchers to the existence of a
supreme BEING.  Through the various orders of the great scale of beings,
from the lowest to the highest, we behold visible traces of divinity;
from the flower of the field up to the cedar in Lebanon, from the
minutest insect to the lion that roars in the desert, or from the
smallest fish that swims in the briny flood, to the huge leviathan that
taketh his pastime therein.  In the origin of their existence, the
formation and contexture of their frame, and the provision adapted to
their support, we behold equally the infinite wisdom and profuse
beneficence of JEHOVAH.  Yea, the very minutiæ of creation proclaim his
inimitable perfections.  Insomuch, that only a blade of grass, or the
wing of a moth, exhibits marks of infinite contrivance, which mock the
skill and baffle the comprehension of the most sagacious philosopher;
while they read him a loud lecture upon that great truth, “Canst thou, by
searching, find out God? canst thou know the Almighty to perfection?  It
is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst
thou know?  The measure thereof is longer than the earth and broader than
the sea.”  Job, xi. 7, 9; and chap. xii. 7, 8.

If, from the parts, we ascend to the great whole; or, from contemplating
some of the lower stories, we pass to a comprehensive view of the vast
fabric of the universe, what a system of wonders rises to declare the
glory and handy-work of the supreme Architect!  Who can behold an immense
multitude of lucid orbs, each of them _a world_, suspended in the vast
expanse, without any visible support; some of them fixed to their
stations, though of prodigious magnitude; while others, with a velocity
hardly credible, perform their revolutions, and move in their orbits,
with the nicest observance of the space and time allotted to them;—who, I
say, can observe this wonderful machinery, without acknowledging a
present DEITY?  What is the firmament of heaven, but a golden alphabet,
that in capital letters, which all the world may read, deciphers the
name, and displays the perfections, of the all-wise God?  Who can view
the sun, in his azure “tabernacle,” that fairest and brightest image of
his Creator, “coming forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber, and
rejoicing as a strong man to run his race,” without confessing in him,
the most glorious witness to the existence of that God who gave him to be
the cheerer of this nether world, and appointed his “circuit,” Psal. xix.
6, which he has punctually performed for thousands of years?  Or who can
contemplate the moon, the silver lamp of night, and all the stars that
glitter in her train, and not hear the silent yet emphatic eloquence with
which they publish the praises of their great Original?—

    “For ever singing as they shine,
    The hand that made us, is divine!”

But man is to himself a voucher for the truth; since he is in himself a
microcosm, a little world, or an epitome of a larger system.  “I am
fearfully and wonderfully made,” Psal. cxxxix. 14, was the acknowledgment
of an inspired philosopher, when he contemplated himself; when he looked
back to his embryo-state, and traced the footsteps of that divine art, by
which his “substance, yet imperfect, was curiously wrought,” or, as he
considered its perfect formation by the plastic hand of Jehovah, “in
whose book all his members were written, which, in continuance, were
fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.”  Psal. cxxxix. 15, 16.
And, if the sight of even a shapeless skeleton, bereft of that beauty
which adorns the human frame in its perfect state, could strike
conviction into the breast of a philosopher, {194} and save him from
Atheism; how forcible, how irresistible the evidence, when the same frame
is viewed in all the wise arrangement, symmetry, coherence, usefulness,
and elegant proportion of its parts!  If human nature, even in ruins, can
thus speak loudly for the divinity of its Maker; what an emphasis of
demonstration must it give, to view the fabric complete, and forming, by
the inhabitation of the soul, a rational and immortal being!  So that it
is as great a reflection upon the head, as upon the heart of that man,
who, amidst all the evidence that surrounds and dwells in him, continues
an unbelieving sceptic: and it would be difficult, perhaps, to determine,
whether there be more folly or blasphemy in genuine Atheism.

But, while all creation echoes the voice, and implicitly demonstrates the
existence of God, so as to “leave without excuse those, who worshipped
and served the creature more than (μαλλον ’η _rather than_, or _and not_)
the Creator;” Rom. i. 25; yet it is to Revelation we are indebted for
that information respecting the nature, works, and dispensations of
Jehovah, which the most refined systems of human wisdom have never been
able to give us.  In the sacred volume, we receive more instruction from
a single page, and often from one short sentence, than from whole volumes
of antiquity; and more truth too, than all the elaborate systems of
philosophers and speculatists have been able to investigate for thousands
of years.  What they groped after by the dim light of reason, is here
revealed to the full satisfaction of the most illiterate inquirer.  And
what their schemes attempted to elucidate, and, in elucidating, only made
more obscure and absurd, is here unfolded in a manner, that exhibits
indubitable marks of divine authenticity, and affords an opportunity to
“the wayfaring man, though a fool,” to surpass in genuine knowledge the
most renowned philosopher, who either had not, or would not have, the
“oracles of God,” for his counsellor and guide.  Here we are informed not
only that God is, but also, “that he is the rewarder of them that
diligently seek him;” Heb. xi. 6;—that “the worlds were framed by the
word of God;” verse 3;—that they did not exist from eternity, as some of
the philosophers whimsically maintained, but that “_in the beginning_,
God created the heavens and the earth;” Gen. i. 1;—that the frame of the
universe was not formed from pre-existing materials, for that “the things
which are seen, were not made of things which do appear;” Heb. xi.
3;—that, contrary, to the atheistical and stupid hypothesis of the
Epicureans, who ascribed the creation of all things to chance, or a
fortuitous concourse of atoms; the world and all its inhabitants were the
production of an eternal, infinitely intelligent, spiritual, wise, and
powerful Being, whom the scriptures call God;—that he, whose almighty
_fiat_ from darkness educed light, and from the confusion of chaos
brought harmony and order, was the very person, who afterwards disrobed
himself of his divine splendor, and “was manifest in the flesh, took upon
him the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death, even the death
of the cross.”  Phil. ii. 7, 8.  For, by him, “in whom we have redemption
through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins, and who is the” express
“image of the invisible God, were all things created, that are in heaven,
and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or
dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created _by_
him,” as the Agent, “and _for_ him,” as the _End_.  Col. ii. 14, 15;—that
all the calamities which prevail in the natural and moral world originate
in that act of disobedience recorded in Gen. iii. 6,—and that the great
remedy provided by infinite Mercy and Wisdom for sin and its bitter
effects, is Jesus, the adorable Prince of Peace, who “gave himself for
us, an _offering_ and a _sacrifice_ to God, for a sweet-smelling savor.”
Ephes. v. 2.

While the sacred writings open to guilty mortals a prospect of life and
immortality, through the revelation of a system of truth, peculiar to
themselves; they throw light upon the dispensations of Providence, by
assuring us, that all things great and minute, are under the control and
superintendence of an omniscient Being, who numbers the very hairs of our
head, and suffers not even “a sparrow to fall to the ground” without his
sovereign permission; that, although the grounds of the divine
dispensations are often inscrutable to human penetration, and form a
great deep, which finite intelligences cannot fathom; yet that infinite
wisdom presides in them all, and will render them subservient to his own
glory, and his people’s good; and that, whatever happens, respecting the
fate of empires and states, and all other grand revolutions upon the
globe, that display either the goodness or the severity of God, fall out
according to the positive design of HIM, who “doeth what seemeth him meet
among the armies of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth; of whom, and
_through_ whom, and _to_ whom, are all things.”  Rom. xi. 36.

With the volume of inspiration in our hands, and the concurrence of
innumerable facts confirming the evidence which it adduceth to the
certainty of the preceding truths; let us, upon the present solemn
occasion, First, take a view of some of those tremendous works of
Jehovah, which, while they speak his existence and interposition,
proclaim his wrath; and then, secondly, consider, in what light, and with
what temper, we should contemplate such portentous dealings.  “Come,
behold the works of the Lord; what desolations he hath made in the
earth.”

I.  There are some works of Jehovah, which proclaim his benignity and
tender mercy.  All his dispensations are big with a display of these most
attractive and endearing attributes.  They crown his providence, and
shine forth with brightest lustre in the boundless riches of grace.
Every land is witness to his patience, and equally so to the vast
profusion of his all-bounteous munificence.  The earth is full of the
goodness of the Lord; and all nature smiles under the tender mercies of
our God.  And, were this the proper place, or would the reference of our
text admit of the digression, we might take a view of that beautiful
scene, painted by an inspired hand, and in the most sublime imagery, in
Psal. lxv. 8–13.  We might meditate, with rapture and with profit, on
those works of paternal goodness, which “the outgoings of the morning and
the evening rejoice” to publish; when the Father of Mercies makes his
“paths to drop fatness on the pastures of the wilderness,” and “crowneth”
the opening and closing “year with his goodness;” when pastures clothed
with flocks, and valleys covered over with corn, “make the little hills
rejoice on every side,” give an universal festivity and gaiety to the
face of nature, and “shout for joy” in praise of nature’s God.  Or we may
pass to a contemplation of a still more enrapturing scene, which the
former but faintly pictures; I mean that of the human heart emerging from
darkness and from barrenness under the propitious rays of the “Sun of
Righteousness,” softened by the dew of divine grace, watered by the
divine Spirit, that “river of God which is full of water,” clothed with
that _best robe_, the Redeemer’s righteousness, and transformed from a
wilderness into a little Eden, flourishing like the garden of God.  Or,
we might fix our meditations on that most gracious and most stupendous
work of infinite mercy, the redemption of sinners through JESUS CHRIST.
A work this, which is the great labor of the skies, and the grandest work
of God; on which the believer employs his sweetest meditations, and from
which he derives his brightest hopes.

But the subject of the text, as well as the solemnity of the day, calls
us, for the present, to consider _other_ works, in which, not the
olive-branch of peace, but the rod of vindictive justice, is held forth;
where not the goodness, but the severity of God, is the chief object; in
which the desolation of the earth is his awful purpose; and by which he
speaks, not in the still small voice of mercy and benignity, but in
accents more awful than the noise of conflicting elements, and more
tremendous than the sound of ten thousand thunders.  “For, behold the
Lord cometh out of his place to _punish_ the inhabitants of the earth for
their _iniquity_; therefore let all the earth keep silence before him.”
Isa. xxvi. 21.  Hab. ii. 20.

Whether we consider the desolating _works_ themselves, or the
_instruments_, by which they have been accomplished, we shall have
abundant cause, in either view, to acknowledge the finger of God, and to
confess, that “he ruleth in the kingdoms of the earth, and is very
greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints;” that he is “glorious
in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders.”

1.  As to the works themselves, they reach as far as the utmost extent of
the terraqueous globe, and are as numerous as the several countries,
kingdoms, or insular districts, into which it is divided by intervening
mountains, or intersected by the currents of the ocean.  There is not a
spot of any considerable extent upon the earth, that has not, in some
period or other, experienced the desolating hand of Jehovah; nor can the
history of any nation be produced, whose annals do not record some awful
visitation, through which he hath “answered” its inhabitants “by TERRIBLE
THINGS in righteousness;” Psal. lxv. 5, and forced even pagan nations
“that dwell in the uttermost parts of the earth to be afraid at the
TOKENS” of his existence and indignation.  Indeed, what is the earth, but
one vast theatre, on which have been exhibited the successive scenes of
mercy and of judgment? bearing, under its various revolutions, visible
inscriptions of a divine hand, and visible traces of divine power? and in
such phenomena, as might make even an atheist to cry out, “Thou, even
thou, art to be feared; and who may stand in thy sight when thou art
angry?”  Psal. lxxvi. 7.

But, if we consult the sacred writings, those infallible records of God’s
works and ways; in them we shall meet with the most numerous and
prominent testimonies to the truth before us.  There we read of that
great work of desolation, produced by an universal deluge; when the earth
suffered the most dreadful disruption of its parts; when “the fountains
of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened;”
Gen. vii. 11; when descending cataracts from the clouds meeting with
ascending torrents from the great abyss, formed that vast congregation of
waters, which overspread the earth, and covered the summits of its
loftiest hills; when sin received an indelible mark of its abominable
nature, the inhabitants of the earth met with the just desert of their
accumulated iniquities, and the earth itself was reduced to such a state
of desolation, as can only be exceeded by the terrors of that day, when a
different element shall be employed to consummate its final and total
wreck; when a flood of fire shall finish, what a deluge of water began,
and intermediate desolations have been carrying on for thousands of
years; and when God shall accomplish all his works of judgment and of
mercy, to the eternal ruin of the wicked, and the complete redemption of
his own people.

Although Jehovah hath set his _bow_ in the clouds, as the significant
symbol of that covenant, which he made with Noah, for the security of the
earth from another general inundation, and of a better covenant
established through Christ, whereby the salvation of his people from a
deluge of divine wrath is ascertained; yet, if we examine the subsequent
dispensations of Jehovah, they will evince, that post-diluvian wickedness
has received marks of divine displeasure, in a constant succession of
desolating judgments.  Of this let the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah be
a standing proof; whose inhabitants, for their unnatural lust, were
visited with a judgment which served as a prelude and a pledge of that
“vengeance of eternal fire,” Jude 7, which they were to “suffer” as the
reward of their crimes; while all the cities of the plain, converted into
a fetid lake, or _dead sea_, whose foul exhalations spread barrenness and
death all around it, exhibit, as long as the earth itself lasteth, an
awful memorandum of the effects of sin, and the judgments of a
sin-avenging God.

Or, if the truth require further illustration, let us visit Egypt, and
see what “signs Jehovah wrought there, and what wonders in the field of
Zoan,” Psal. lxxviii. where he “smote all their first-born and the chief
of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham;” where a succession of
plagues, desolating their country, and depopulating its inhabitants,
terminated at last in the destruction of Pharaoh and his host in the Red
Sea.  What a scene must that land exhibit, wherein the nutritive parts of
creation were impregnated with poison and death! the most innocent
creatures became a dreadful annoyance! the most useful animals were
visited with sickness! the very dust of the ground converted into
loathsome insects! the light of heaven changed into “darkness that might
be felt!” the first-born of man and beast cut off in a night! the
survivors trembling for themselves, and shrieking for the dead! while
every element was armed with vengeance, and conspired to complete the
desolation.  Yet such was the scene, when God sent tokens and wonders
into thee, O thou land of Egypt!

But the time would fail me to tell of Moab, and of Babylon; of populous
Nineveh, or of imperial Rome; and of Jerusalem, the city of the great
King; of the various nations, tribes, and people, to which these mighty
cities gave names of pomp and distinction,—of the various revolutions
which they have severally undergone, in the course of providence;—of the
captivities of some, the conquests of others, and the desolation of all.
The history of Israel from their Exodus out of Egypt, to their settlement
in Canaan, with their journeyings through the wilderness inclusive,
principally contains a narrative of their sins and of God’s judgments;
nor does the history of the Jews, through their several captivities, and
defections from the Lord, diminish, but rather swell, the dreadful
account; as we view them, from the revolt and dispersion of ten tribes,
down to the final subjection of the residue to the Roman yoke; an event,
which, by a judicial chain of providence, rapidly brought on the
melancholy catastrophe, which ended in the ruin of their city and temple,
and marked that awful æra, in which they ceased to be a people.  “How
unsearchable are God’s judgments, and his ways past finding out!”  Rom.
xi. 33.

Admitting that there is a God, who created and now governeth the
universal frame of nature, a truth, as we have seen, founded upon the
most incontestable evidence both of his word and works—it follows of
course, that He can never be at a loss for expedients to assert his
sovereignty, and vindicate his injured laws.  As the heavens and the
earth are his property, he can, with as much equity as ease, summon
either or both to act in his controversy with a guilty world.  His own
creation will, at all times, furnish him with ample materials for
conducting his judicial dispensations; insomuch, that every creature
might be armed against us, and every element be made the vehicle of
destruction; or the divine appointment might make the very food we eat,
or the air we breathe, the channels to convey instantaneous death.  But
our business is not now to consider these ordinary incidents, by which
“the King of terrors” is continually peopling the regions of the dead,
and to which the constitution of our frame is subject; but rather those
awful instruments of divine visitation, which are scourges of the
Almighty to a guilty world.  And one of the most fatal of these, is

1.  WAR.  This, howsoever necessary and inevitable it may often be, is
always to be esteemed a great evil; if we advert, either to its
origination or its effects; and nothing can justify its exertions, but
the laws of self-preservation.  The sin of man first gave it an
existence; and the same bitter cause continues it to this day.  “From
whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even from
your lusts?”  James, iv. 1.  Tyrannical passions predominating in the
mind, give birth to those sanguinary schemes, which, when pursued,
produce every species of confusion and death.  If we examine carefully,
from whence all those scenes of devastation have arisen, that have
deluged the world with blood, we shall find, that, in general, they have
sprung from unbounded ambition, avarice, pride, or resentment.  And
multitudes of tyrants, as well as factious confederates in usurpation and
rebellion, have never been able, in thousands of cases, to assign any
other reason for their enterprises in blood and slaughter, but this; that
the one could not bear an equal, nor the other a superior; or those had
too little, and these not enough.  While, to foment the dreadful quarrel,
the lust of revenge and rebellion operates like oil poured on the flame.
Thus nations begin and carry on war, until they are tired of worrying and
killing one another; and when the consequences of this horrid work are
weighed in the balance of humanity and reason, many a conqueror may sit
down and weep over his victories, when he reflects that they have been
purchased at the expense of the blood of thousands of his
fellow-creatures.  And he who could contemplate such victories with pride
or pleasure, unmixed with remorse and compassion for the sorrow, the
ruin, the desolation they have caused, is a desperate character, that,
one would hope, can meet with a parallel, only in

                     “Macedonia’s madman and the Swede.”

What desolations have been made in the earth by war, the history of
former and latter ages informs us; and, God knoweth, _we_ need no comment
on the awful truth.  What we want principally, is to be humbled under the
visitation; to “hear the rod, and Him that appointed it.”  For, we are
sure the matter is not fortuitous.  If the sword be drawn, it is because
God hath said, “Sword go through this land.”  Or, if it continue
unsheathed, it is because he hath said also, “O thou _sword of the Lord_,
how long will it be ere thou be quiet? put up thyself into thy scabbard,
rest, and be still.  How can it be quiet, seeing the Lord _hath given it
a charge_?”  Jer. xlvii. 6, 7.  Or, if wide-extended destruction mark its
progress, it is because, “Thus saith the Lord, A sword, a sword is
sharpened, and also furbished; it is sharpened to make a sore slaughter;
should we then make mirth?  The sword is sharpened, to give it into the
_hand of the slayer_.  _I_ Jehovah have set the point of the sword
against all their gates, that their hearts may faint, and their _ruins be
multiplied_.”  Ezek. xxi. 9–11, 15.

These awful passages intimate, that it is an act of justice in God, to
appoint that evil, into which men’s inordinate passions precipitate them:
and it may turn out an act of mercy too, if they see their sin in their
punishment, and get sick of both.  Otherwise additional expedients may be
adopted, and increasing judgments be sent.  For, the Lord hath at his
command the

2.  PESTILENCE.  When David, for his sin in numbering the people of
Israel, had proposed to him his choice of three modes of punishment, and
he preferred falling into the hand of the Lord, for very great were his
mercies, and not into the hand of man, whose tender mercies, often, are
cruel; “the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel, and there fell of Israel
seventy thousand men.”  1 Chron. xxi. 12–14.  This sore visitation, which
sin brought upon David and his people, was often repeated among the other
judgments which desolated Israel.  See Lev. xxvi. 25.  Psal. lxxviii. 50.
Jer. xliv. 13.  It is mentioned as one of the ominous antecedents of the
day of judgment, that “there shall be _pestilence_ in divers places.”
Mat. xxiv. 7.  And in that inimitable piece of sublime description in
Habak. iii. where all nature is represented as convulsed and shrinking to
nothing, under impressions of the indignation and grandeur of God,
“before him,” it is said, “went the _pestilence_:” verse 5.  Because of
the secret manner in which this fearful visitant performs his work, the
Psalmist saith, “the pestilence walketh in darkness.”  Psal. xci. 6.  He
enters silently and secretly as the thief, and imperceptibly yet rapidly
executes his commission.  There is often no security against its
approach, since the air we breathe wafts the deadly contagion to all the
senses, which, in a moment, convey them to, and, in conveying,
contaminate the whole mass of blood.  Thousands imbibe the poison, and
fall in agonies under the stroke.  The bolted door is no barrier against
its intrusion; the power of medicine no antidote to the noisome malady.
Thousands and tens of thousands fall on the right hand and on the left;
and it has been known that this sweeping scourge has often swelled the
bills of mortality more in a few weeks, than the whole train of common
diseases have in as many years.  Never do death’s arrows fly so thick or
so envenomed, as when he fills his quiver with the plague; and never is
the grave so crowded with dead, as when the pestilence waiteth at its
gates.  Though the land before it should resemble the garden of Eden, yet
behind it the scene will be like a desolate wilderness.  And were it not
for that hand, which guides its progress, and limits its commission,
nothing but rapid desolation and destruction would ensue; especially if
we consider, that there follows close at his heels,

3.  FAMINE.  As bread is the staff of life, if the prop be removed, the
constitution must necessarily fall.  The vitals deprived of their wonted
nutriment, must languish and die, under one of the most painful and
insatiate sensations of nature.  As famine is an evil in effect, the
causes which produce it may be various.  The spread of war, the want, or
excess of rain, parching or vitiating the fruits of the earth, great
inundations, blasting and mildew, long sieges, intense heat, a long frost
or multitudes of devouring insects, locusts in particular, called by one
of the prophets, “God’s army,” may, and often have, in their turns,
introduced the plague of famine.  But who can describe, or bear a
description of such scenes as those which mark the effects of this pale
visitant! when, as in Samaria’s siege, those things which the stomach
would nauseate the very mention of, in a time of plenty, are coveted as
food, when the unhappy sufferers have been driven to the horrid necessity
of turning cannibals, and casting lots for each others’ persons, till at
last a want of every resource brings death, and closes the ghastly scene.
A visitation this, one would think, sufficient to alarm and reform a
careless people; and yet it is recorded, as an astonishing instance of
stupidity and hardness of heart in Israel, that when God “gave them
_cleanness of teeth_ in all their cities, and want of bread in all their
places, they returned not” unto him that smote them.  Amos, iv. 6.  So
that divine justice was obliged to repeat the stroke, by that, which is
of all others the most tremendous visitation of Jehovah, the

4.  EARTHQUAKE.  Of all judicial dispensations, that which appoints the
earthquake, is the most terribly vindictive; when the earth, thrown into
dreadful concussions, cracks and opens like the gaping grave, or heaves
and swells like the agitated ocean.  Even the sword, the pestilence, and
the famine, are mild in their effects, and slow in their progress, when
compared with the earthquake.  It often gives no warning, but overwhelms
in a moment.  Its subterraneous motions tear the bowels of the earth, and
make its solid pillars bend, like a reed shaken with the wind; while the
sound of thunder from beneath, and the crash of falling structures from
above, are often heard at the same instant.  A few minutes put a period
to the works of ages; to wisdom’s archives; to all the boasted monuments
of conquest and of fame; to all the pageantry of the great, and all the
hoarded riches of the wealthy; to all the illicit pleasures of the
licentious, and all the busy schemes of the proud or factious contending
for sway.  The loftiest towers, the strongest rocks, afford no
hiding-place from its fury, but often increase the ruin.  Nor is there
any security in flight; since in the open field or spacious plain, a
yawning gulf may open and devour multitudes in an instant, or jam them
between the closing earth.

    “Tremendous issue! to the sable deep,
    Thousands descend in business, or asleep.”

To the desolations which this messenger of Almighty vengeance has spread
through the earth, let Lima, Callao, Catania, Jamaica, Lisbon, bear
witness.  In the last place, soon after the dreadful visitation which, in
1755, disturbed the procession of the cursed _Auto de fe_, and shook the
foundations of that bloody tribunal, which Popish barbarity and
superstition had set up; the king of Portugal represented his distresses
to the king of Spain in a letter, in which was the following affecting
passage:—“I am without a house, living in a tent; without subjects,
without servants, without money, and without bread.”  How humiliating the
stroke, which reduces royalty to the dust, or brings all the dignity of
crowned heads to a level with the common beggar!  Such, but accompanied
with circumstances infinitely more terrible and abasing, will that final
catastrophe be, when “the Lord shall arise to shake terribly the earth;
when it shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like
a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it, and it
shall fall and not rise again;” Isa. xxiv. 20; when “the loftiness of man
shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low, and
they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the
earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty.”  Isa. ii.
17, 19.

The quiver of Jehovah is not yet exhausted, though we take into our
account the ravages of war, the desolation of famine, the fatal effects
of the noisome pestilence, or the overwhelming fury of the earthquake.
When he “opens his armoury, he can bring forth” innumerable “weapons of
his indignation.”  Jer. l. 25.  He can execute his tremendous purposes by
“fire and hail, snow and vapor.”  Psal. cxlviii. 8, or “fulfil his word”
of threatening and promise, by

5.  STORMS and TEMPESTS.  These are nothing more than the violent and
unnatural agitation of that circumambient air, in which we live and
breathe; and which might at any time be excited to such a degree of
fearful perturbation, as to discharge some of the most dreadful artillery
of heaven.  What secret laws produce these phenomena are only known to
that God, whose “way is in the whirlwind and in the storm, who maketh the
clouds the dust of his feet, and holdeth the winds in the hollow of his
hand.”  For their dreadful effects we have no occasion to look very far
back.  The close of the last year exhibited a scene of desolation in the
western islands, which their inhabitants can never forget; and in
reviewing which, we ought to be actuated with sentiments of the tenderest
commiseration and benevolence towards the unhappy sufferers, as well as
with impressions full of reverential awe of that God, who sends his
judgments through the earth, that the inhabitants thereof might learn
righteousness.  A few outlines of the devastation occasioned by the late
hurricanes, will, it is presumed, convince us of this.—After the storm
began, which had been preceded by weather remarkably calm, but by a sky
surprisingly red and fiery; the wind was so impetuous as to bear down
every object that stood in its way, with a sudden breaking in of the sea,
in some places, which swept every thing away with it, so as not to leave
the smallest vestige of man, beast, or house, behind; {215a} and all this
scene of horror and desolation heightened by repeated shocks of an
earthquake.  In one island, {215b} we have been informed, that not ten
houses survived the fury of the storm.  Whole families were buried in the
ruins of their habitations; and many, in attempting to escape, were
maimed, and disabled.  A general convulsion of nature seemed to take
place, and universal destruction ensued.  On the one hand, might be seen
the ground covered with mangled bodies; and on the other, reputable
families wandering through the ruins, seeking for food and shelter.
Every building and plantation was levelled with the ground; trees were
torn up by the roots, or stripped of their branches; and the most
luxuriant spring was changed, in one night, to the dreariest winter.  In
vain was it to look for shelter, when all was a general wreck before the
sweeping tempest.  Many fell victims to the violence of the winds; and
great numbers were driven into the sea and there perished, to the amount
of _some thousands_.  Alarming consequences were dreaded from the
multitudes of dead bodies which lay uninterred: while, to complete the
dismal scene, inevitable famine seemed to stare the miserable survivors
in the face.  This description includes the calamities of a single
island; and, when to these we add, what other islands belonging to us and
our enemies suffered by a similar visitation, how accumulated must the
loss be of property and of lives!  And who can help, in a reflection upon
such events, crying out, “Who in the heaven can be compared unto the
Lord! who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto Jehovah!  Thou
hast a mighty arm: strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand;
justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne.”  Psal. lxxxix. 6,
13, 14.

I presume not to decide on the particular designs or intentions of
Providence, in selecting some parts of the earth for a manifestation of
his power, while others remain untouched; much less do the scriptures
warrant us to conclude, that exemplary sufferers are necessarily “sinners
_above_” the rest of the world.  A hasty conclusion of this nature would
reflect highly on our candor and humility, and involve in it too, a bold
usurpation of the prerogative of God, to explore and distinguish the
grounds of his own dispensations.  And, indeed, the late visitation was
so indiscriminate, as to leave us no room to draw inferences, either
flattering to ourselves, or insulting to our enemies.  And, perhaps, the
impartiality and severity, which have marked these recent calamities, in
their application, might serve to prove, that powers exhausting blood and
treasure in a contest for the empty names of power and sway, are both
wrong; when JEHOVAH seems to take up the controversy, and to punish both.
One thing we cannot help seeing; which is, that if the Most High God were
to exercise his power, as he is able, or, as we deserve, the necessity of
waging or carrying on war would be very soon superseded; for there would
exist no belligerent powers to do either the one or the other.  We talk
of our fleets and armies, and record with triumph the mighty achievements
of our heroes; but, behold! the Almighty accomplishes in a few hours,
what the armies of the earth are not able to effect in numerous
campaigns!

We may, however, safely conclude in general, that if “there be evil in a
city, the Lord hath done it,” as the scriptures peremptorily affirm.
That is, if any part of the earth is visited with evils or calamities,
the agency of God, either permissive or decretive, is to be acknowledged
in them.  We may with equal safety infer, too, that all the judgments
originate from, and imply the existence of, _sin_; since it would be an
impeachment of his justice, to suppose, that he would suffer the elements
to conspire to man’s ruin, if there were nothing in human nature to
provoke his wrath.  But this leads me to consider

II.  In what light, and with what temper, we ought to contemplate such
portentous dealings.

If we consider the works themselves, they should teach us the great evil
of sin; if we reflect on the great author of them, they should impress us
with a reverential awe of his tremendous majesty, and a dread of his
wrath; or, if we have any just idea of our own character as sinners and
mortals, they should preach to our hearts the necessity of seeking the
great means of conciliating the divine favor, that we may be prepared for
those contingencies, which render our existence upon earth so very
precarious, and proclaim the folly of those who seek terrestrial good to
the fatal injury of their everlasting interests.  If we are Christians,
we should contemplate the works of Jehovah, with confidence and joy; and,
standing at a distance equally from presumption and unbelief, should
rejoice with trembling that the great Ruler of the Universe is our Father
and our God; while we feel ourselves encompassed with the most forcible
motives to love his name and obey his will.  But if, instead of living as
Christians, any of us should be sunk in ignorance, dissipated by
pleasure, supine in carelessness, and immersed in sin; we should awake
from the fatal lethargy, and fly from the wrath to come, ere death
overtake us, and judgment fix our miserable and eternal doom.

1.  The desolating works of God are intended to display the heinous
nature of _sin_.  All the evils which overspread the natural and moral
world spring from this source.  Sin is the great parent-evil, to which,
as to a bitter and common fountain, may be traced every corruption that
has depraved the heart, every malady that has invaded the human frame,
and every judgment that has rent the earth.  All the disorder of jarring
elements, all the commotions in contending nations, all the convulsions
that shake the globe, and all the dispensations that sweep away its
inhabitants, imply its existence, and publish its malignity.  The sin of
man “is written as with a pen of iron, and the point of a diamond, on the
tables of the heart,” and stands engraven, in capital characters, upon
his words and actions; while all the dispensations of God, directed to
the great end of obliterating the writing, shew how enormous that evil
must be, which requires the exertions of omnipotence either to punish or
reform.  Come, ye, who think or speak lightly of sin, and see what
desolations it hath occasioned in the earth.  Look at the ruins of mighty
cities, the depopulation of flourishing states, and the fall of great
empires, and then say, whether it be a small thing to sin against God.
View the first rebellious pair expelled their earthly Paradise; their
sinful progeny swept away with a flood; the earth cursed for the sin of
man; and all the generations that are past buried in the promiscuous ruin
of the grave; and entertain, if you can, low thoughts of the evil, that
has produced these dire effects.  Or, if this complex scene of misery and
desolation does not sufficiently display sin’s enormity; examine death’s
quiver, review the envenomed shafts that fill it; count over the
formidable names of war, pestilence, earthquake, famine, tempest, fire,
with the numerous train of bodily and mental disorders; and then if you
ask, what has given such strength to the arm of the King of terrors, and
such execution to the deadly arrows upon the string of this insatiate
archer? an apostle informs you, that “the sting of death is SIN, and the
strength of sin is the law; 1 Cor. xv. 56; that by one man SIN entered
into the world, and DEATH _by_ sin, and so death passeth upon all men,
for that ALL HAVE SINNED.”  Rom. v. 12.  But, should this representation
not answer the end of convincing some of you, that sin is an abomination
of such enormity, give me leave to ask, “Wherefore hell hath enlarged
herself and opened her mouth without measure?”  Isa. v. 4.  What kindled
the flames of Tophet? what awakened the wrath of God? or what exposed his
Son to the bitter agonies of the cross?  In each dreadful view, _sin_ is
the instrumental cause.  The sufferings of Jesus, the torments of the
damned, proclaim its God-provoking nature.  Go then, sinner, and after
you have in thought traversed the globe, and seen its desolations; after
you have dropped a tear over the monuments of the dead, and looked with
horror into the chambers of the grave; go, and visit Calvary.  See who
hangs there in agonies and shame.  What means this affecting scene?
Wherefore is the sun darkened, and why are the rocks rent?  Why does the
immaculate Jesus thus suffer and die, while nature feels the shock, and
sympathizes with strong convulsions?  _Sin_, _thy_ sin is at the bottom
of this tragic scene.  This was the bitter ingredient in the Redeemer’s
cup, the dregs of which he drank off in our stead.  This was the
intolerable burden which he bore for us; and which in the bearing sunk
him to the grave.  Say then, must not that be a great evil, which is the
cause of such calamities to man, and of such incomprehensible sufferings
to the “Son of man?”

But do we see this? and are we affected at the sight?  We are assembled
together for the purpose of humbling ourselves before Almighty God, on
account of “our manifold _sins_ and _provocations_.”  Do the feelings of
our hearts correspond with the profession of our lips?  Do we _mean_ what
we say?  Is it not to be feared, that many content themselves with a
repetition of a devotional form, adapted to the present occasion, without
ever entering into the spirit of it? and hereby add to that immense load
of inconsistency and guilt, which similar conduct has been increasing for
numbers of years?  And does not melancholy matter of fact demonstrate,
that we are guilty of no breach of truth or charity, when we assert, that
multitudes mock Jehovah to his face, by loving and living in the secret
practice of those very sins, which, on this day, they condemn with their
lips?  We profess to regret the continuance of war, and to lament the
expense of blood and treasure incurred by it.  But, if our eyes are shut
to the real cause of the evil, the visitation may be lengthened out,
until we are at last forced to read our sin in our punishment.  For,
whatever some may think, war is a grievous scourge of the Almighty,
permitted as a chastisement for crying sins, and a loud call to the
nations of the earth to repent and turn to God.  Hear what the Lord saith
by the prophets.  “Thy way and thy doings have procured these things unto
thee; this is thy wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reacheth
unto thine heart: therefore destruction upon destruction is cried.”  Jer.
iv. 18, 20.  “_Because_ they have cast away the _law_ of the Lord of
Hosts, and despised the _word_ of the Holy One of Israel; therefore the
anger of the Lord is kindled against his people, and he hath stretched
forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them: and the hills did
tremble, and their carcasses were torn in the midst of the streets.  For
all this his anger is not turned away, but his HAND IS STRETCHED OUT
STILL.”  Isa. v. 25.  And, in that long list of threatenings recorded in
Lev. xxvi. among other denunciations, is the following:—“If ye will not
be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me, then
will I also walk contrary to you, and will punish you yet _seven_ _times_
for your sins; and I will bring _a sword_ upon you, that shall avenge the
quarrel of my covenant.”  Verse 23, 25.

Would to God there were no occasion to apply the following charge to
ourselves!  “Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou
hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction; they
have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return.”
Jer. v. 3.  Whether this scripture is not fulfilled in this day, let
facts declare.  We have been for some years involved in all the horrors
of war.  The desolations of it are continually upon the increase.  Our
enemies are multiplied; and with them our dangers too.  Four great powers
are uniting their force against us; and we have not one single ally in
Europe, that we can call our own.  The conjuncture of our affairs is more
and more critical; especially if we consider, that an intestine faction
still secretly works in the bosom of the state, and labors hard to kindle
and keep alive the expiring flame of discord and rebellion.  Add to this,
that, through the last year, the metropolis of the kingdom was just upon
the point of destruction; and with it the wealth and power of the nation.
These are loud calls; alarming visitations.  The rod hath spoken again
and again; yet how few hear its voice, or fear him that appointed it!
The rich and poor amongst us go on as usual.  Iniquity stalks with brazen
front through our streets; and error, in ten thousand forms, vents its
unsoftened blasphemies against God and his Messiah.  Places of amusement
are crowded; and the whirl of dissipation goes on, as if there were
nothing to solemnize us, or make us think.  Multitudes of our gentry are
laughing, at the play-house, or pursuing a more childish farce at the
masquerade, while their poor countrymen are groaning in the field of
battle, and, at the expense of their blood and lives, are fighting for
that which is to keep others in ease and idleness.  Thus, while the
deepest tragedy is exhibited beyond the Atlantic, on this side the water
we are carrying on the grossest farce.  Youth are educated in ignorance,
or trained up in fashionable vice; by which they fall an easy prey to the
first bold invader of their morals and their virtue.  Dress, visiting,
and various species of dissipation, leave no time for the serious calls
of religion; and a knowledge of the truths of revelation forms, in the
system of many, no part of modern education.  Frothy and lascivious
novels occupy the place of God’s word; and there is no book so little
read or understood, as the _Book of books_.  The aged lead the way in
folly and vanity; and endeavour to initiate their tender offspring, as
early as possible, in those “pomps and vanities of a wicked world,” which
both promised to renounce.  Thus grey hairs give a sanction to evils,
which youth want a curb in the pursuit of.  And thus many a child has to
curse its parent for an initiation into the pride of life and lusts of
the flesh, by which his disgrace and ruin have been led on by a sort of
necessary gradation.  An introduction to the world, that is, to its
nonsense, vanity, and dissipation—is deemed, with many, an essential in
good-breeding.  And, with many, to keep _good_ company, is not to
associate with those who fear God, but with those, who are distinguished
by no other excellence but the possession of a title or a fortune.  These
accidental acquisitions are often complimented with the appellation of
_good_; though all beside should be nothing but a compound of
wretchedness and vice.  Thus no distinction is made between men and their
accidents; and adulation frequently offered at the shrine of debauchery
and pride.  And thus men confound the names of good and evil; put
darkness for light, and light for darkness.

And can it be said that God’s desolations have taught us the evil of sin?
No.  While vice maintains its wonted vigor, pleasure attracts its
votaries as usual, and profaneness rears its triumphant crest without
control or shame, it can never be said, that we are advancing in
reformation.  Rather, as our visitations have increased, the stupefaction
of sinners has increased with them.  The storms, which should rouse, have
eventually rocked them to rest.  Even the _deaf adder_ is quick of
hearing, when compared with numbers, who neglect or refuse to hear that
“Charmer,” whose voice, in his _promises_, is sweeter and more harmonious
than all the choristers of heaven; and, in his _threatenings_, more
tremendous than the roaring of the seas, and all the artillery of
conflicting elements.  Which leads me to observe, that,

2.  GOD’S desolations in the earth should impress us with a reverential
awe of his majesty and a dread of his wrath; should make us see his hand
and acknowledge his interposition in every event.

As it is the part of bad divinity to make as little as possible of the
Lord Jesus Christ, so it is the province of bad philosophy to leave God
out of its favorite systems.  In the latter case recourse is had to the
doctrine of second causes, and to what are called the laws of nature.
Upon this principle, vain man would attempt to _account_ for every thing,
and to exclude all mystery from the natural and spiritual world;
although, in both respects, the phenomena exhibited evince the vanity and
danger of the effort, and prove that, “as the heavens are higher than the
earth, so are God’s ways above our ways, and his thoughts above our
thoughts.”  But, still proud man cannot bear that his reason should be
confounded, or his understanding limited; and sooner than confess his
ignorance, will explore depths, which angels cannot fathom, and soar so
high into the regions of speculation, as to drop into materialism, and
lose sight of his God.  Thus it appears, that from pride springs every
atheistical hypothesis, that produces a contempt of God and a denial of
his sovereign interposition; but that the very first step in that
heavenly science, which revelation styles “the wisdom from above,” is
humility, which makes a man submit to be taught by his Maker, and not
dispute away the existence of what he cannot comprehend.

The system of nature, it is allowed, is a chain of second causes,
concatenated in such a manner, as to make one link depend upon another by
a necessary coherence.  But second causes must have a first, and laws
must originate in some law-giver.  So that, admitting that nature is
regulated by certain laws interwoven with its existence and constitution,
still the contrivance and execution of the wondrous plan force us to
acknowledge, that an infinite mind must have tied together at first every
link in the golden chain; and that what heathenism called the _anima
mundi_, is in reality the all-pervading, all-supporting, and
all-comprehending presence and power of Deity.  But what shall we say,
when the laws of nature suffer a temporary infringement?  When the
regularity of her course is diverted, and broken in upon?  Do the
convulsions of the earth, and the rage of elements, form any part of her
laws, or any link in the concatenation of her parts?  Was it by any
inherent law, that the ocean once burst its barriers and overspread the
earth? that the ground opened and swallowed Korah and his sacrilegious
associates? that Sinai’s base shook, while its summit was enveloped with
“blackness, and darkness, and tempest?” that the sun was eclipsed without
any intervening sphere, and the rocks were rent, when Jesus expired on
the cross?  Or upon what principle will philosophy account for that final
conflagration, which shall, in the destined period, burn up the earth and
the works that are therein? when

    “The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
    The solemn temples, the great Globe itself
    Shall dissolve; and, like the baseless fabric
    Of a vision, leave not a wreck behind!”

Are these nature’s _laws_?  No; they are the disruption of them—the
rending, not the order of the system.  Who breaks in upon this harmony?
The God of nature.  The Creator is the dissolver of the world.  He who
spoke it from chaos into light and arrangement, speaks it into ruin.  And
those who insinuate, that “all things continue as they were from the
beginning of the world,” an inspired apostle calls, “_scoffers_, who walk
after their own lusts.  For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by
the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of
the water and in the water; whereby the world that then was, being
overflowed with water, perished.  But, the heavens and earth which are
now, by the same word, kept in store, are reserved unto fire against the
day of judgment.”  2 Pet. iii. 4, 7.

As, therefore, there is a Supreme Being, that made and now supporteth the
world, so there is a God that _judgeth_ the earth.  And as the world
could not have existed in the beginning without his _fiat_, so neither
can the course of nature be disturbed without his interposition.  And
they who are so ready upon every occasion to ascribe to second causes
merely, what must be the effect of the great FIRST CAUSE, indirectly
strike at the existence of _sin_, and the being of God.  Leaving,
therefore, the vain philosopher and cavilling sceptic to speculate about
the natural causes of earthquakes, tempests, pestilences, famine, sword;
come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations HE hath made in the
earth.  For thus saith Jehovah, “I form light, and create darkness: I
make peace, and create evil.  I the LORD do _all these things_.”  Isa.
xlv. 7.  If the earth be convulsed, Jehovah shakes it.  If the sword
rages, _He_ “gives it its charge.”  If the tempest lours, and the heavens
are clothed with black, _He_ guides the storm, and rides upon the wings
of the wind.  If the artillery of the skies send out their voice, and
shoot their arrows, it is _He_, who maketh the thunder and darts the
lightening.  If Jerusalem is to be buried in ruins, it is because _He_
saith, “This is the city to be visited.”  Jer. vi. 6.

Let all the earth stand in awe of Him, and all its inhabitants revere his
majesty and dread his indignation.  “He measured the waters in the hollow
of his hand; he meted out heaven with a span, and comprehended the dust
of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the
hills in a balance.  Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and
are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold he taketh up the
isles as a very little thing.  All nations before him are as nothing; and
they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.”  Isa. xl. 12, 15,
17.  “Behold the name of the Lord cometh from far, burning with his
anger, and the burden thereof is heavy; his lips are full of indignation,
and his tongue as a devouring fire.”  Isa. xxx. 27.  “If he whet his
glittering sword, and his hand take hold on judgment, he will render
vengeance to his enemies, and will reward them that hate him.”  Deut.
xxxii. 41.  “Fear ye not ME? saith the Lord.  Will ye not tremble at my
presence?”  Jer. v. 22.  “Who can stand before his indignation? and who
can abide in the fierceness of his anger?  His fury is poured out like
fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.  The mountains quake at him,
and the hills melt and the earth is burned at his presence, yea the
world, and all that dwell therein.”  Nah. i. 5, 6.

    “He frowns, and darkness veils the moon,
    The fainting sun grows dim at noon;
    The pillars of heav’n’s starry roof
    Tremble and start at his reproof!”

These sublime passages taken from the inspired writings, and descriptive
of the wisdom, majesty, grandeur, and indignation of GOD, are written,
that we might form a due estimate of the littleness and impotence of that
reptile man, when contending with Omnipotence? and learn from the
desolations of the earth, to tremble at his presence.  But where are the
people that have learned this lesson?  If a veneration for the
institutions of Heaven, a delight in the ways of God, a reverent mention
of his sacred name, a conscientious observation of the Sabbath, and a
hatred of sin, be characteristics of God’s peculiar people, I fear the
number will be found very small, when compared with the bulk of the
profane.  And here I cannot paint in stronger colors the prevalence of
immorality in the present day, than by adopting the words of good Bishop
Sherlock, in his description of the predominant wickedness of his own
times.  In a sermon delivered at Salisbury, the good bishop says, “Surely
the Gospel of Jesus Christ was never treated with greater malice and
contempt by _Jews_ or _Heathens_, than it has been in this Christian
country.—Is not Sunday become a day of diversion to great ones, and a day
of idleness to little ones?  And has not this been followed by a great
increase of great wickedness among the lower sort of people?”  And, when
speaking of the licentiousness of that period, which succeeded the
Restoration, and opened flood-gates of iniquity, which have continued
through similar channels ever since; he says, “The sense of religion
decayed, and the very appearances of it were suspected as a remnant of
hypocrisy.  And, if we may judge by the _performances of the stage_,
which are formed to the _taste_ of the people, there never was a time
when _lewdness_, _irreligion_, and _profaneness_, were heard with more
patience.”  No wonder that, from a contempt of the gospel, and a love of
dissipation, should spring what the good Bishop asserts in his Pastoral
Letter, p. 7, “Blasphemy and horrid imprecations domineer in our streets;
and poor wretches are every hour wantonly and wickedly calling for
damnation on themselves and others, which may be, it is to be feared, too
near them already.  Add to this, the lewdness and debauchery that prevail
among the lowest people; which keep them idle, poor, and miserable, and
the number of _lewd houses_ which trade in their vices, and must be paid
for making sin convenient to them; and it will account for villanies of
other kinds.  For where is the wonder, that persons so abandoned should
be ready to commit all sorts of outrage and violence.  A CITY WITHOUT
RELIGION CAN NEVER BE A SAFE PLACE TO DWELL IN.” {234}

Thus the excellent prelate, like a faithful watchman, lifted up his voice
like a trumpet, and dared to _speak out_.  And should not the ministers
of the present day copy the example?  The lion hath roared, who will not
fear?  The Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy?  O ye ambassadors
of Christ, “cry aloud and spare not,” that sinners may take the alarm,
and fly from impending judgments and imminent destruction, to that way of
salvation revealed in the gospel.  And this suggestion points to another
improvement to be derived from a view of God’s desolating dispensations;
namely,

3.  The necessity and importance of an interest in the blessed JESUS, as
the great antidote against every calamity, and the glorious security
against sin and its consequences.

Of all the symptoms of false security, which mark the complexion of the
present day, there is none more truly alarming, than the supine
indifference about truth, and the sovereign contempt of the gospel, which
prevail amongst us.  Our times are distinguished by much free thinking;
and I wish there was no cause to add, by much free blaspheming too.  I
mean not here to insinuate any thing derogatory from that liberty which
every rational being indisputably claims of thinking, and judging for
himself, in the investigation of truth; provided always that he make the
scriptures the ground and guide of his researches.  Freedom of inquiry
has ever proved friendly to the cause of truth, and inimical to that of
ignorance and superstition.  But, when this liberty is abused, as penal
shackles are taken off, it looks as if men only wanted an easy
opportunity of setting up for system-makers, to draw after them a gaping
multitude, and make them stare at these prodigies in theology, who
profess to suit their tenets to the taste of all.  Hence, some make
liturgies, and omit all divine homage to Him, whom the scriptures command
us “to honor even as we honor the Father.”  This appears a bright
discovery to others, who immediately take the hint, and frame a manual
upon a broader plan; in which the name of Jesus Christ is not so much as
_mentioned_.  A compliment this to the Deists, who are very much enraged
at the idea of making a crucified man the centre of any system, or the
object of any divine honors.  But a third, still more hugely catholic,
steps forward, and proposes a more enlarged plan, in which Jews, Turks,
and the worshippers of Jupiter Ammon, may be blended together in one
common brotherhood with believers in Jesus Christ; and a way to happiness
be secured for Julian the Apostate, as well as Paul the Apostle.  This is
free-thinking with a witness.  But, would such persons think as closely
and calmly, as they think freely, the desolating judgments of God might
teach them, that the Jewish nation could not practise idolatry without
suffering severely for it; and that rejection of the Messiah, and
contempt of his gospel, were the aggravated sins that reduced their city
and temple to ashes, and themselves to the abject state of vagabonds on
the earth.

If there be any one truth, which appears more prominent than all the rest
in the sacred scriptures, it is, that “other foundation can no man lay
than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ;”—that he is our “wisdom,
righteousness, sanctification, and redemption;”—that “there is none other
name under heaven whereby we can be saved;”—that he is “set forth as a
propitiation through faith in his blood;”—that he “offered himself a
_sacrifice_ to God, and died to _put away sin_ by the sacrifice of
himself;”—that not our works, but his work, is to be the ground of our
acceptance, since “we are accepted _in_ the beloved;” and that, to stamp
sufficiency on his glorious salvation, “in him dwelt all the fulness of
the Godhead bodily.”  And yet how little do these truths enter into
popular systems!  Is there any question that would appear more difficult
to many professors of Christianity to be solved, than, “What think ye of
Christ?”  But while the infidel sports with truth, and the careless
contemn its admonitions, O let us give diligence to make our calling and
election sure.  Let us fly to him, to whom all the nations of the earth
are commanded to look and be saved.  Would we be secure from the guilt of
sin, or armed against the sting of death, let us betake ourselves to him,
who bore the one and conquered the other, by dying himself.  Would we be
prepared for whatever afflictions may befall us as individuals, or
judgments overtake us as a nation; let us but build our hope upon the
rock of ages, and then all shall work for good.  If Christ be ours, then
whether wrath is revealed or judgments impend, we shall have a secure
shelter in his blood and righteousness.  The earth may be removed, and
the mountains cast into the midst of the sea; yet, in the midst of
nature’s wreck, we shall sing, “The Lord of Hosts is with us, the God of
Jacob is our refuge.”

4.  We should view even the desolations of the earth as an accessory
ground of joy and confidence in God.  When Martin Luther and his
associates in reformation were in any trouble, he used often to say,
“Come let us sing the 46th Psalm.”  With the words of this sweet
composition in his mouth, and the energetic power of it in his heart, he
animated himself and his companions in tribulation.  When any storms
arose within, the subject of the psalm dispelled them, and, like the
melody of David’s harp, soothing to rest the turbulent spirit of Saul,
calmed their fears, and enabled them to sing their troubles away.  We
should imitate the heroic spirit of these champions in the cause of
truth; for we have the same reason to rejoice that they had.  If the Lord
be our God, we should trust in him and not be afraid.  He never gives up
that tender relation towards his people, amidst any troubles that may
arise.  Though he desolate the earth with the most fearful judgments, yet
he is the Father of his chosen still.  And when this globe shall be in
flames, Jesus will collect his jewels, and preserve them from ruin.
Therefore, in the words of Habakkuk, “Although the fig-tree shall not
blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive
shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut
off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet let us
rejoice in the Lord, let us joy in the God of our salvation.”  Hab. iii.
17, 18.



SERMON VI.


         THE NATURE AND DISTINGUISHING MARKS OF TRUE CONVERSION.

               [Preached at Nantwich, December 8th, 1782.]

    “_Except ye be converted_, _and become as little children_, _ye shall
    not enter into the kingdom of heaven_.”

                                                        MATTHEW, xviii. 3.

OUR blessed Saviour uttered these words upon the following memorable
occasion:—The disciples came unto Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in
the kingdom of heaven?” verse 1.  Upon comparing this with the parallel
place in Mark, ix. 34, it appears, that “they had been disputing among
themselves, who should be the greatest.”  A dispute this, extremely
unprofitable, and highly unbecoming the disciples of that meek and lowly
Jesus, who, though he thought it no robbery to be equal with God, yet
took upon him the form of a servant, and came not to be ministered unto,
but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.  Phil. ii. 6, 7.
Mat. xx. 28.  But see how deeply the love of power, and a fondness for
pre-eminence, are rooted in human nature!  One would have thought, that
with such an illustrious example of humility and condescension before
their eyes as their divine Master, _they_ should have been the last men
in the world to commence a contest about greatness; especially if they at
all reflected, that the uniform obscurity of their origin and education
placed them all upon a level.  But when we behold pride creeping into the
little college of our Lord’s own disciples, and see a company of
illiterate fishermen urging a controversy about superiority in office, we
may from hence infer, that “to be as gods,” Gen. iii. 5, is a desire as
predominant in the nature of man as it proved fatal to our first parents;
that every man is born a Diotrephes,—would have the pre-eminence in all
things; and that the same arrogant spirit, which lifts up a Roman pontiff
with pride and blasphemy, is congenial to human nature; and that there is
that in every man’s heart, which would incline him to be a little pope in
pre-eminence, how low soever his pretensions may be, or contracted his
sphere of action.

What led to the dispute among the disciples, was, probably, the mistaken
notion they had conceived respecting the nature of the Messiah’s kingdom.
Fancying that it was to be a secular establishment, and having their
heads full of ideas of their own future greatness, it should seem that
they anticipated the period of their exaltation; and, concluding, that
they should be raised to the highest posts of civil and ecclesiastical
preferment, it remained only for them to determine, who among them should
be chief.  For genuine pride can never brook a superior; and is never
perfectly gratified, until every competitor is vanquished, and its own
sovereign mandates acquire a sanction from a pre-eminence of office and
power.  The source this, of all the fierce contentions, that have often
for centuries rent the church, and are at this day ravaging the world.
The unsanctified disputes of ecclesiastical rulers, or the bloody
contests among the tyrannical governors of states and empires, when
narrowly examined, appear to originate, for the most part, in this
question, “Who shall be greatest?”

In order to strike at the root of this imperious disposition in his
disciples, their wise Master gave such an answer to their question, as
would best tend to mortify their vanity, and disappoint their affectation
of false greatness.  To give an emphasis to his observations on this
important question, he took a child, and placed him in the midst of them,
and then pronounced the great and interesting truth of the text.  As if
our Lord should say, “Imagine not that my kingdom, as to its origin and
establishment, is of this world.  It is entirely spiritual; is not to be
founded on secular dominion, or to be conducted agreeably to the
principles and temper of earthly potentates.  And whereas, among men,
human greatness is estimated by worldly exaltation; and they are
generally deemed the chief, who rise to the highest post of honor, though
avarice, pride, and ambition, are the mischievous tempers that lead to
their exaltation, and are fed by the enjoyment of it; yet it shall not be
so in the kingdom which I am about to establish in the hearts of the
children of men.  There, ambition is to have for its object, not earth,
but heaven; not temporal, but eternal concerns: and the laws by which the
subjects of that kingdom are to be governed, will require, not the temper
of the proud and the ambitious, that is so successful in the schemes of
the men of the world, but the disposition of a child, humble, teachable,
dead to the world, and dependant upon me for every provision.  And except
ye be inwardly changed, and become transformed into this amiable and
heavenly characteristic of the subjects of my kingdom, ye cannot be
partakers of my glory.”

From the words, thus opened, I shall take occasion to consider; _First_,
The nature of conversion; _Secondly_, The temper that distinguishes this
great change; _Thirdly_, I shall endeavour to shew, how much every
individual among us is concerned in the subject, since our Lord declares,
that, without conversion, we shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

I.  As to the nature of conversion, it essentially consists in an inward
and universal change of heart, wrought by the gracious operation of the
Spirit of God; by which new principles are established in the mind, new
inclinations are imparted, and new objects pursued.  The word conversion
signifies the being turned away from an object of former attachment, in
order to contemplate and enjoy one, that had been previously disregarded
and despised.  In the work, which this word is adapted to describe, there
occurs this twofold change.  The heart is turned away from the love of
sin, the love of self, and the love of the world, and becomes captivated
with the love of God, and turns to him as its chief good.  Sin loses its
dominion, the world appears in its true colors, stript of all that false
beauty, in which a depraved heart is apt to paint it.  Pleasure, that
fatal enchantress, can allure no longer.  She spreads all her nets, and
gilds all her baits, in vain.  The converted sinner perceives no melody
in her syren voice, and feels no attraction from all her studied
blandishments.  Conversion removes the scales from his eyes, and rends
the veil from his heart, that prevented him from seeing through the false
disguise that covered all her lying vanities.  And he turns away with
disgust and disappointment from that cup, of which he once drank so
freely.  He nauseates what he once imbibed so eagerly; and in that
draught, from which he once hoped to derive such happiness, he now sees
poison and death concealed.  The love of God having vanquished the love
of the world in his heart, he now heartily coincides with that wise man,
whose experience taught him, that “all is vanity and vexation of spirit.”
Eccles. i. 14.

As it is a very common case for one, who has been a profligate, to
commence Pharisee, or to turn from sin to self, which is but a refined
species of wickedness; it is necessary to observe, that in the great
change of which the Holy Spirit is the author, it is the principal office
of that divine Agent, to convince of sin, and to drive the sinner from
the false refuge of self-dependance, to the glorious righteousness of the
Lord Jesus Christ.  Without this, a sinner would take down one idol only
to set up a worse in its stead.  And, as there is none so injurious to
the honor of the Redeemer, or so deeply prejudicial to a sinner’s
immortal interests, as self-righteousness; this idol, as the leader of
all the rest, must be dethroned, that Christ might have in all things the
pre-eminence.  “In _him_ shall all the seed of Israel be justified.”
Isa. xlv. 25.  When a man, therefore, is truly converted, the Holy Spirit
never teaches him to turn in upon himself, and contemplate with proud
self-complacency his own worthiness, or to admire his own performances;
while, like the Pharisee in the gospel, he looks down with conscious
superiority upon a poor publican at the footstool of mercy.  No.  With
Job, he abhors himself, and repents as in dust and ashes.  Job, xiii. 6.
With Isaiah, he cries, “Woe is me! for I am undone.”  Isa. vi. 5.  And,
with St. Paul, he desires to “be found in Christ, not having on his own
righteousness, which is of the law, but the righteousness of God by
faith.”  Phil. iii. 9.  So that, as naturalists say, it is the
peculiarity of the heliotrope or sun-flower to expand its beauties to the
rays of the sun, and always to keep its face turned towards that bright
luminary; in like manner, the converted soul spontaneously turns to the
Sun of Righteousness, by the light of whose countenance it is cheered and
attracted, and to whose merits it is indebted for all its prospects in
time and eternity.  The love of Jesus is the load-stone that draws, and
his perfect righteousness the object which the happy sinner contemplates
with delight and admiration.  To that exhaustless spring of all the hopes
and comforts of God’s people he turns, and from him he looks for wisdom,
righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.  1 Cor. i. 30.

Where conversion is genuine, it may be discovered by the universality of
its influence, and the depth of its operation.  It begins at the heart,
and extends its salutary effects to all the sublime faculties of the
mind, and the whole tenor of the outward conversation.  The understanding
is renewed in knowledge.  Col. iii. 10.  The contrariety of the will is
broken, and is changed into a passive acquiescence in the sovereign will
of God.  “The carnal mind, which is enmity against God,” Rom. viii. 7, is
subdued by the superior influence of divine grace.  All offences at the
gospel-plan of salvation cease; for, when the veil of unbelief that
covers the heart is rent, it then “turns to the Lord.”  2 Cor. iii. 15.
The languid affections are quickened, and are set on things above.  Col.
iii. 1.  The desires are turned into a right channel, and directed to
proper objects.  The eye of the understanding being illuminated to
“behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord Jesus,” 2 Cor. iii. 18; the
heart, enraptured with a view of his matchless excellency, cries out,
“Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth, that I
desire besides thee.”  Psal. lxxiii. 25.  The desire of the soul is to
him, and to the remembrance of his great name and glorious salvation.
Isa. xxvi. 8.  The thoughts, that formerly wandered upon subjects of the
most trivial, or the most pernicious nature, are now turned to the
interesting concerns of eternity, and are often employed in meditating
upon that sweetest, most sublime, and most copious of all topics, the
stupendous love of God manifested in the unspeakable gift of the Lord
Jesus Christ.  The strain of conversation becomes very materially
altered, from froth and levity, or, what is worse, from perhaps indecency
and gross profaneness, to seriousness, purity, and spirituality.  The
aversion to engage in religious converse ceases; and no company appears
so honorable or so delightful, as that which is composed of persons, who
love to talk of the great things that belong to their peace.  Prayer is
deemed an exalted privilege, as well as a duty; and praise is considered
as the employ of heaven.  The hands are lifted up, and the knee is bent
in supplication before the divine throne; and the tongue, which is the
glory of man, awakes to vindicate the honor of truth, to recommend the
Friend of sinners, or to publish the preciousness of his salvation.  The
feet, turned away from crooked and perverse ways, are swift to bear the
converted sinner to the house of God; where, as he sits rejoicing in the
name of Jesus, and happy in the sound of that blessed gospel, that charms
his ear, and captivates his heart, he joins issue with the sweet Psalmist
of Israel, and says, “How amiable are thy dwellings, thou Lord of Hosts!
One day in thy courts is better than a thousand.”  Psal. lxxxiv. l, 10.

It has been suggested in the beginning of this head of the discourse,
that to turn the heart of a sinner is the work of God.  And most
certainly, whatever conversion is, the scriptures authorize us to
believe, that it is not the work of man; and indeed cannot be, since the
extreme depravity and helplessness of his nature render him altogether
insufficient to any good word or work.  If conversion consisted in
nothing more than the breaking off some outwardly vicious courses, or the
mere adopting a line of regular attendance on the external forms of
devotion; if it implied no more than decency of manners, and an exemption
from gross indulgencies, or the relinquishing of former excesses; in
those cases, perhaps, man might exert his power with considerable
success, and, in part at least, claim the honor of being instrumental to
his own salvation.  But as conversion hath, for its subject, the immortal
soul, with all its strong propensities, intemperate desires, irregular
passions, impetuous appetites, and depraved principles; as it comprehends
a work that gets at the very root of sin, and cleanses the fountain of
corruption, that renovates the very constituent faculties of the human
mind, and forms a radical cure in the very centre and seat of the malady;
it is evident, that the change necessary to produce this effect must be
the result of a divine agency; or, in plainer terms, that HE who made the
heart, and HE alone, can change it.  A truth this, confirmed by the
express authority of the word of God.  “Without me,” says Christ, “ye can
do nothing.”  John, xv. 5.  And he says again, “No man _can_ come unto
me, except the Father which hath sent me, _draw_ him.”  John, vi. 44.  In
that solemn prayer uttered by the church in her distress, and recorded in
the lamentations of Jeremiah, she acknowledges the same truth, when she
cries, “Turn THOU us unto thee O Lord, and we _shall_ be turned.”  Lam.
v. 21.  And this is the language of Ephraim bemoaning himself in Jer.
xxxi. 18.  Where, after having bewailed the refractoriness of his heart,
that made him feel, under the discipline of Jehovah’s rod, like “a
bullock unaccustomed to the yoke,” he cries out, “Turn THOU me and I
shall be turned.”  And when the great change was effected, in retrospect,
as before in prospect, he attributes the accomplishment of it to the
power of God, saying, “Surely, after that I WAS TURNED, I repented,” &c.
verse 19.  And, indeed, the passive form of the words of the text fully
implies the truth I am contending for, especially when compared with
similar language in Acts, iii. 19.  Psal. li. 13.  As for those passages
of scripture, which seem to make the power of turning to be the sinner’s
sole act, or to rest in the efforts of the ministers of the gospel, as
Ezek. xiv. 6. and Mal. iv. 6. Acts, xxvi. 18. they are to be interpreted,
in consistency with the general maxim already laid down, as only
declarative in one case, of the _instrumentality_, which divine wisdom
useth in the accomplishment of its purposes; and, in the other, of the
derived influence, which the sinner himself is enabled to exert, but by a
power, originally not his own.  Thus, ministers are said to turn others
from darkness to light, and sinners to turn themselves, only in
consequence of the blessing and power of God, which enable them to do the
one and the other respectively.  For, when the great Apostle of the
Gentiles reviewed the success of his ministrations, or when he
contemplated the evidences of his conversion, he resolves both into the
agency and sovereignty of divine grace, saying, “Not I, but the grace of
God which was with me.—By the grace of God I am what I am.”  1 Cor. xv.
10.

I cannot prevail upon myself to dismiss this branch of the subject,
without observing further, in confirmation of what hath been already
urged, that the change effected in the conversion of a sinner, is
compared, in scripture, to some of those operations in nature, to
accomplish which nothing short of an Almighty agency is requisite.  It
is, for instance, called “a new _creation_,” 2 Cor. v. 17;—a new _birth_,
John, iii. 3;—a _resurrection_ from the dead, Col. iii. 1;—a quickening
from a death in trespasses and sins, Ephes. ii. 1;—the communication of
light to the soul, by the same powerful voice that said in the beginning,
“Let there be light.”  2 Cor. iv. 6;—a translation from the kingdom of
Satan into the kingdom of God’s dear Son.  Col. i. 13.  And the
renovation which it produceth, is said to make believers “the habitation
of God by his spirit,” Ephes. ii. 22;—“his workmanship, created in Christ
Jesus unto good works,” Ephes. ii. 10;—branches, taken from a barren
stock, and engrafted into the “true vine” by the operation of the Spirit,
John, xv. 5;—sons of God by adoption, Gal. iv. 6;—and joint-heirs with
Christ to an everlasting inheritance, purchased at the price of his
blood.

Now, from such bold and striking metaphors, as make the power that
created the universe, that arranged the elements when in a state of
chaos, that formed the light, and that raised the dead, to be
representative of that influence exerted in conversion, what are we to
infer? but that, as an omnipotent agency is displayed in the works of
nature, it is equally requisite in the operations of grace; and, in fact,
that none but HE who made the world, can convert a sinner.  A truth this,
to which the experience of every true believer bears an additional
testimony.  Reviewing himself as a brand plucked from the burnings, he
cannot but stand astonished at the mighty power of that grace, which
saved him from eternal perdition, when he was just upon its very brink.
“How infinitely indebted,” he will often say, “do I consider myself to
that gracious Saviour, whose mercy vanquished such a rebel! and whose
blood was sufficient to expiate the guilt of such deep-dyed
transgressions!  When I reflect, with what impetuosity I was running in
the road to ruin; with what obduracy of heart I defied Omnipotence, while
I was trampling his law under my feet, and lived regardless either of his
threatenings or his promises; what a contumacious resistance I made to
all the overtures of divine mercy in the gospel, and with what blindness,
unbelief, and hardness of heart, I quarrelled with the way of salvation
through a crucified Saviour; in what a false security I was wrapt up,
even when my headstrong corruptions were precipitating me to destruction;
and how determined I was never to relinquish the fond but fatal
prepossessions that only fed the pride of my heart, and kept it in a
state of servile conformity to a world lying in wickedness;—when I
revolve all these considerations in my mind, I rejoice with trembling, to
think, how narrowly I escaped; and am constrained to attribute all to the
sovereign and unsought interposition of divine grace.  Surely nothing but
a supernatural power could have softened a heart so hard as mine; and
none but God himself could have saved a sinner so rebellious.  Therefore,
while life, and breath, and being, last, to HIM I will offer up the
glowing effusions of love and gratitude, and record through eternity what
he hath done for my soul.”

A work of this nature, in which the hand of God is so conspicuous, must
be productive of the most salutary effects to the highly favored sinner,
who is the subject of it.  For, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new
creature (η’ καινη κτισις a new creation): old things are passed away;
behold all things are become new.”  2 Cor. v. 17.  The renovation,
intimated in this passage, having introduced new light into the
understanding, and new desires into the heart and affections, it must
consequently have a proportionable effect upon the temper; not wholly to
eradicate the constitutional peculiarity of it, but to sanctify, and
render it subservient to the glory of God and the good of society.  Nor
does this great change go merely to correct, regulate, and sanctify the
natural temper, whatever in different constitutions it may happen to be,
but it likewise establishes in the heart tempers, to which it was before
an utter stranger; which I now proceed to consider under the second head;
and that is,

II.  The distinguishing mark of true conversion, that, of “becoming as
little children.”

Although, in numerous instances, the work of conversion is attended with
circumstances so striking as not only to obviate all doubt respecting the
reality of it, but also to enable many to fix, with the utmost precision,
the date of its origin, and to recollect perfectly the time and manner in
which the light of conviction first dawned; yet, as in others, the work
has been wrought at an early period of life, has been less perceptible in
its first impressions, and has been carried on by degrees slow and
progressive, like “seed cast into the ground, which springeth and groweth
up, a man _knoweth not how_;” Mark, iv. 27.  I prefer the consideration
of what is essential to conversion, and _common_ to all the subjects of
it, to what is _peculiar_ to some, and comparatively of little
consequence.  For the point of real moment with every sinner is, not so
much to inquire how, when, and by what instrument he was converted, as to
ascertain, that the work has really been wrought.  And, indeed, as it is
extremely possible for a man, busy in the former inquiry, and partial in
his inferences respecting the safety of his state, to rest the great
affair on circumstances rather uncertain in their nature, and at no time
decisive, while he fatally overlooks what is essential to the work
itself; in order to set us right in a matter of such vast concern, the
text, and the whole tenor of sacred scripture, lead us to examine,
whether we are “become as little children;” because this is the safest
and most certain criterion of our being the children of God: and thus, in
particular, St. Peter argues with the professors of Christianity in his
day, saying, “If these things, (faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance,
patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, charity,) be in you, and abound,
they make you, that ye shall be neither barren nor unfruitful in the
knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But he that lacketh these things, is
blind, and cannot see afar off.”  2 Pet. i. 8, 9.

When our Lord makes the principal characteristic of true conversion to
consist in a temper resembling that of little children, the comparison is
not designed to consider them, as they are by nature, but as they happen
to be by constitution, by the texture of their tender frame, and their
accidental inability to exercise those faculties of the mind, or those
organs of the body, which, when age and strength co-operate, man very
soon uses as instruments of unrighteousness.  It is in this light, and
this alone, that we can interpret the force of the resemblance in the
text, consistently either with scripture or matter of fact.  The former
assures us, that “man is born as the wild ass’s colt.”  Job, xi. 12.  And
experience soon demonstrates the truth of this striking comparison, when
that “folly which is bound up in the heart of a child,” Prov. xxii. 15,
shooteth forth into those branches of iniquity, and fruits of
unrighteousness, which, like the flower in the seed, or the fruit wrapt
up in the germ, only wanted time and strength to bring them to maturity.
Yet, as long as corruption is checked by infantile weakness, and nature
has not power, in that first stage of the life of man, to put forth its
innate propensities, infants and little children become eventual teachers
to adults; and many with hoary heads need not be ashamed to go and learn
wisdom from the weakest and youngest of their own species; especially if
they attend to the several points of view, in which scripture places
little children, as objects worthy of our imitation.

1.  In the first place, as they are no sooner ushered into life, than
they cry for that nutriment, which the God of nature hath so wisely
adapted to their weak condition; in like manner, must we evidence the
reality of our regeneration, by an insatiate thirst for that spring of
salvation opened in the scriptures of truth.  Thus the Apostle Peter
says, “As new-born babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may
grow thereby.”  1 Pet. ii. 2.  And St. Paul uses the same idea, when
writing to the Corinthian Church, he says, “I have fed you with milk and
not with strong meat.”  1 Cor. ii. 2.  See also Heb. v. 13, 14.  As the
new-born babe, by instinct of nature, cries for the breast, so the
new-born soul first evidences its introduction into divine life, by its
love to the scriptures.  For this spiritual food, other things are thrown
aside; and what constituted the soul’s repast, when dead in sin, is,
after its regeneration, esteemed as chaff, or dreaded even as poison.
The midnight lamp, that had been often exhausted in the perusal of
publications of the most frothy or the most pernicious tendency, is now
extinguished, that the soul might indulge in sweet meditation on the word
of God.  In the streams, which flow from this fountain, there are no
dregs of latent error or poison of lurking impurity.  And, while they
communicate life and health by their salubrious influence, they convey
also the most refined enjoyment to the renewed mind.  The sacred pages,
like the fragrant _name_, which gives them all their preciousness, are as
“ointment poured forth.”  Solomon’s Song, i. 3.  They emit an odor that
regales the senses and ravishes the heart.  The promises are those
“breasts of consolation,” from whence the new-born soul derives all its
nourishment; and while it “hears them, reads, marks, learns, and inwardly
digests them,” {259} its life is fed, and its happiness enlarged.  This
made the Royal Psalmist say, “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea,
sweeter than honey to my mouth.”  Psal. cxix. 103.  So that they who can
delight more in frothy novels, and the pernicious productions of the
stage, than in a perusal of the word of God; or who can make any other
book whatever take the lead of the Bible, have no more pretensions to
refinement of taste, than they have to true religion.  And such persons
need not go far to find out whether they be converted or not; their
disrelish to the scriptures is as decisive a mark against them as
possible.  And till their vitious taste is refined, and their depraved
nature renewed, they cannot resemble little children, according to the
idea suggested in the text, and must, therefore, be far from the kingdom
of heaven.

2.  Another sense, in which we should become as little children, is in
the imitation of their humility.  This is the temper more immediately
recommended in the context, because it is the direct reverse of that
which led the disciples to dispute about pre-eminence, and to ask their
Lord an unimportant and vain question.  Whatever seeds of pride lurk in
the nature of infants, yet such is their imbecility of constitution,
that, for want of power to exert themselves, they are rather patterns of
humility; but more especially, if such little children as our Lord
referred to, are partakers of the grace of God.  Pride shews itself in
forms of various nature.  Elation of heart, when the sun of worldly
prosperity shines, and proportionable depression and pusillanimity, when
the scene shifts to the gloom of adversity—envy at another man’s good
fortune, and repining at our own—impatience of reproof, and a quick and
acrimonious resentment of injuries—an overweening desire to grasp at
worldly things, only to feed and pamper a worldly mind—a violent
promptitude to boast of personal endowments, to the depreciating of
others, and the aggrandizing of SELF, that darling idol of an unhumbled
heart—are all pride, that hydra with many heads, shewing itself in these
and various other ways impossible to be enumerated.  But, to be humble,
look at the infant lulled to rest in his mother’s arms, or the child
taken up with the objects of his puerile amusement, dead to the broils of
the contentious, and to all the ambitious pursuits of the proud: the
former, anxious only for that nutriment, which, when received, operates
as a pleasing opiate to its senses; the latter extending his solicitude
and ambition only to some little matter, which it costs no care or
expense to possess, leaving sceptres, titles, riches, and honors, to
those who exert all their subtlety and all their pride to procure them.
To be thus easy, like a little child, about worldly pre-eminence, and to
be solicitous only, or primarily, about the honor that cometh from God,
is the privilege of a Christian, and a mark of conversion.  And why
should infatuated mortals indulge a contrary temper, when, “before honor
is humility;” but especially when it is considered that the loftiest head
must be laid low in the grave, and that “dust to dust” will conclude the
noblest song of earth.  If you disdain to learn humility from a little
child, yet take as your pattern that illustrious example of
condescension, the holy child Jesus, who for us men and for our salvation
exchanged the glory of the heaven of heavens for a manger and a cross.

3.  We must become _teachable_ as little children.  This amiable
disposition is one principal branch of true humility, and essentially
consists in submitting our reason to the authority of revelation.  A
point this, not so easy to be accomplished, when we reflect on the pride
of the human heart, and see multitudes propagating such tenets, as if
they meant to teach the scriptures, and not that the scriptures should
teach them.  This more especially happens, when the pride of reason and
the parade of learning unite their influence to puff men up with a fond
conceit of the superiority of their wisdom.  But how mortifying to the
vanity of these sons of science to hear the following declaration from
the mouth of the Son of God!  “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and
earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and
hast revealed them unto _babes_.”  Mat. xi. 25.  Were a man possessed of
all the learning of Greece and Rome, he may, notwithstanding, be a fool
in God’s account; and, until he is so, in his own estimation, his
profound wisdom is nothing but foolishness, and, instead of aiding him in
the investigation of truth, often proves a dreadful bar in his way.  “If
any man among you seem to be wise in this world,” says St. Paul, “let him
become a fool, that he may be wise.”  1 Cor. iii. 18.  And the reason
which the apostle urges for this extraordinary requisition, is, that “the
wisdom of the world is foolishness with God.”  Verse 19.  Conceive human
nature at the very summit of secular wisdom, and you see it elevated to
the very pinnacle of pride; from whence men find it very difficult to
descend into the valley of self-abasement.  And yet descend they must, if
ever they would know themselves or Christ Jesus the Lord; and instead of
going to the throne of divine grace with philosophic pride and conscious
wisdom, they must approach it as children, and as fools.

The language of this humble temper is, “That which I see not, teach thou
me.”  Job, xxxiv. 32.—“Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous
things out of thy law.”  Psal. cxix. 18.  And he who has been enabled to
adopt it, like a child under tutors and governors, submitting to their
instruction, and acquiescing in their discipline, sits at the feet of
JESUS, to learn the mysteries of his kingdom, and receive the fulfilment
of that promise, “It is written in the prophets, _And they shall be all
taught of God_.”  John, vi. 45.

4.  As true religion is the most efficacious bond of society, by
inspiring such tempers as promote benevolence and peace among men, St.
Paul recommends the following maxim to the church of Corinth, “In malice
_be ye children_, but in understanding be men.”  1 Cor. xiv. 20.  Malice
is a deeply-rooted ill-will, accompanied with rancorous hatred, and a
thirst of revenge; a temper that rages in the hearts of natural men, but
cannot be harboured or indulged in a regenerate breast.  Here again we
are to learn of little children.  If a momentary passion ruffles their
temper, or awakens their feeble resentment; yet how soon is the cause of
their indignation forgot! and in how few instances does the sun ever go
down upon their wrath!  In the bounds which nature hath fixed to their
short-lived anger, they become examples highly worthy our imitation, that
we should be “slow to wrath;” James, i. 19; “be angry and sin not;”
Ephes. iv. 26; and that we should “put on, as the elect of God, holy and
beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness,
long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another; if any
man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave us, so also should
we.”  Col. iii. 12, 13.  But, where the contrary tempers of studied
revenge and inveterate malice predominate, and are secretly indulged,
they are as certain evidences of the reigning dominion of sin, and of an
unconverted state of heart, as habitual drunkenness and debauchery.

5.  As _children_ look up to their parents for their entire provision;
are indebted to them, under God, for their being; and receive their
education and their fortune from their hands; so, to demonstrate our
conversion, we must live a life of dependance upon the Supreme Being for
every thing contributory to our comfort here, and our salvation
hereafter.  That we all live, move, and have our being in God, is a truth
admitted by all.  But yet, multitudes who subscribe to the doctrine,
nevertheless “live as without God (_ἀθεοι atheists_) in the world;”
possessing atheistical hearts with orthodox heads; “professing that they
know God; but in works denying him, being abominable and disobedient, and
unto every good work reprobate;” Tit. i. 16; never heartily imploring his
blessing upon the bounties of his providence, or thanking him for the
continuance of favors, which, by their ingratitude, they are daily
forfeiting, together with the lives that his mercy so eminently spares.
To instil the opposite temper, of dependance, gratitude, and confidence,
our Lord sends us not only to little children, but also to the fowls of
the air, and the flowers of the field; that, from the growth of a lily,
or the provision made by the great Father of the universe, for the young
ravens that call upon him, we may learn to live upon his all-beneficent
hand; to acknowledge his parental care; and to trust that all-surrounding
and all-protecting Providence, which makes the hairs of our head, as well
as the whole world itself, the objects of his preserving and merciful
superintendence.

But how much more should we learn to look up to the great Author of
redemption for our spiritual provision!  Whatever is necessary to the
delight, the refreshment, the guidance, the establishment, the salvation
of sinners, is all laid up in the rich fulness of the Son of God.  If
they want spiritual repast, he is the “bread of life.”  If they want
consolation, he is the fountain of living waters, and the God of all
comfort.  If they want wisdom, all the treasures of it centre in him, and
he is Wonderful, Counsellor.  If they want a righteousness to justify
before the great Jehovah, his name is The Lord our Righteousness.  Jer.
xxiii. 6.  If they want a friend to speak for them to God, to plead their
cause, and render their services acceptable, he is their Advocate with
the Father; and, for the unchangeableness of his affection, hath in all
ages proved himself a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.  If
they want one, whose wisdom and power are sufficient to baffle all the
stratagems of hell, and to vanquish the most formidable enemies, Jesus is
the Captain of salvation, and his strength is the arm of the Lord God
omnipotent.  If they want a foundation, whose stability is adequate to
the immense weight that rests upon it, Lo! Jesus is a sure foundation and
the rock of ages.  Upon the covenant and promises sealed with his blood
they may securely rest their peace and happiness, all their vast
interests for time and eternity.

That the mind may be formed into a susceptibility of these great truths,
the temper of a little child must first be implanted in it.  For, while
its natural pride and enmity remain, there is nothing to which a sinner
is so averse, as to that of renouncing self, and being dependant for his
whole salvation upon the Lord Jesus Christ.  From hence arose the
unwillingness of the Jews to “submit themselves unto the righteousness of
God;” Rom. x. 3; and from the same bitter root sprung self-righteous
Saul’s “confidence in the flesh.”  Phil. iii. 4.  But, as soon as the
power of God brought that once-elated Pharisee to the dust, and
effectually broke his heart, he who thought that he ought to do many
things contrary to the name of Jesus, is made to cry out to that very
person, whom he once blasphemed, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”
From that moment, the lofty self-justiciary became a little child, and
ever after gloried only in the cross.  He learned to “count all things
but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord;”
Phil. iii. 8; esteemed himself nothing, and Jesus all; and “the life
which he lived in the flesh, was by the faith of the Son of God.”  Gal.
ii. 20.  The idol of self-righteousness in his heart was pulled down,
that Christ, and Christ alone, might ever after possess, in all things,
the pre-eminence; as he must, in ours also, if ever we would enjoy a
well-grounded hope of entering the kingdom of heaven.  Which leads me to
consider,

III.  How much every individual is concerned in the subject, since our
Lord declares, that, without conversion, in the scriptural light in which
it has been represented, none can be partaker of his glory.

This awful declaration rests upon the veracity and power of God, and upon
the nature of that work of the Spirit, “which makes us _meet_ to be
partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”  Col. i. 12.

1.  Unconverted sinners can not enter the kingdom of heaven, because the
God of truth hath declared they _shall not_.  His word is more than ten
thousand barriers in the way.  And his veracity is so engaged to defend
and fulfil every threatening, as well as every promise, that sinners
might as well expect that God should change his nature, as change his
word.  Therefore if he hath said “the wicked shall be cast into hell;”
Psal. ix. 17;—“he that believeth not shall be damned;” Mark, xvi. 16;—and
that, “neither fornicators, nor isolators, nor adulterers, nor
effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor
covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit
the kingdom of God;” 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10; we may be fully persuaded, that
Jehovah will as certainly fulfil these most tremendous threatenings, as
if we saw the accomplishment of them, this instant, with our eyes.
Heaven and earth shall pass away; but one jot or tittle shall in no wise
pass from the scriptures, until all be fulfilled.  If Satan suggest “you
shall not surely die,” remember “he was a liar from the beginning;” and
that the fatal consequence of crediting that original falsity, was a
confirmation of this unalterable truth, “that the wages of sin is death,”
and that “what a man soweth that shall he also reap.”

2.  When God makes a promise or denounceth a threatening, his _power_ as
well as his faithfulness is exerted equally to the accomplishment of the
one and the other.  No intervention of second causes shall stay his hand,
or obstruct, or even retard his designs; because himself the great FIRST
CAUSE makes them all subservient to his sovereign will.  So that he must
fulfil every promise to his people, because his ability is equal to his
veracity, and both spring from his eternal willingness to do so.  And he
will execute every denunciation of his wrath, because he can.  Could the
potsherds of the earth contend successfully with their Maker, they might
then entertain some distant hope at least of evading his threatenings,
and eluding his wrath: but, before they can expect to accomplish either,
they must first cope with Omnipotence, and take heaven itself by storm:
for, sooner shall the great Jehovah be dethroned, and his dominion in the
heavens be subverted, than sinners unconverted be suffered to dwell
there.  The hand of God himself shall shut the gates of the celestial
city against them; and all the power of the Lord God Almighty shall be
exerted, together with his truth and justice, to keep them out, for ever.
In vain shall the sons of Belial attempt to enter; in vain shall they
knock, and importunately cry, saying, “Open unto us.”  Their exclusion
will be announced and confirmed by those cutting words of the Judge,
“Depart from me, for I know you not.”

3.  But the admission of unchanged sinners to the kingdom of God is an
utter impossibility, because they want that conformity of heart to the
exercise of heaven, which is necessary to make them willing to stay
there, even if they were admitted.  And it was upon this ground, that our
Lord told Nicodemus, that “except a man be born again, he could not see
the kingdom of God.”  John, iii. 3.  By regeneration, the aversion of the
heart to spiritual exercises is taken away, and a delight in them
substituted in its stead.  But in a carnal mind this aversion is deeply
rooted.  And could a sinner, under the influence of it, be suffered to
enter the kingdom of heaven, all the bliss of paradise would be no heaven
to him.  Carrying with him an indisposedness of heart to the employ of
heaven, and having his eyes previously blinded by carnal lusts, he would
not see any beauty in the palace of the great King, or enjoy any
satisfaction in the beatific presence of the King himself.  Having been
accustomed on earth to frequent the company of the dissolute and the gay,
he would feel awkward and unhappy in the society of saints and angels.
All the harps of heaven would communicate no melody to his ears; and the
exercise of praise and adoration would appear, as it did on earth, an
intolerable burden.  He would derive no enjoyment even from that river of
the water of life, that floweth in a pure and perennial stream of
happiness from the throne of God, and of the Lamb: for, having left the
world with his heart full of carnal delights, the recollected pleasures
of the sensuality and dissipation below, would crowd in upon his mind to
mar all the felicity of heaven, and to make him prefer a Mahometan
paradise to the exalted fruition of the blessed God, and all the refined
pleasures which they taste, who contemplate his perfections, and bask in
the beams of his love.

Besides the want of a disposition to the employ of heaven, there is in
the hearts of the unregenerate a positive enmity against God, and the
laws of his kingdom, which makes them rebels and enemies.  And it cannot
be supposed that such could find a place in that harmonious society,
where perfect love to God is the bond of eternal concord and happiness
among the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem.  As soon might the devil and
his angels expect to be translated to glory, as sinners, with hearts
fraught with enmity against God, hope for a place in his kingdom.  Rev.
xxii. 11, 15.

From what has been said, it is evident,

1.  That, as conversion is the work of God, to prescribe “rules” for the
sinner’s own accomplishment of it, as some legal authors have done, is
palpably as absurd as to furnish a man with a set of rules for making a
world.  For the old and the new creation have one and the same agent; and
he is the Almighty Creator of the universe.  Isa. xlv. 17, 18.

2.  That conversion doth not consist in those things, which the blindness
of some, the pride of others, and the pharisaical zeal of not a few,
would substitute in its stead.  For instance; baptism is not conversion.
It is only the outward sign of it.  And, to mistake the sign for the
thing itself, is as absurd as to make a shadow equal to the substance.
The thing signified in baptism is, “a death unto sin, and a new birth
unto righteousness:” and this is conversion.  But how many content
themselves with having partaken of the outward ordinance, who do not
understand the significancy of the institution, and know nothing of the
blessings symbolically represented in it!  “He is not a Jew, who is one
outwardly,” (nor is he a Christian who is one no farther); “but he is a
Jew,” (and a Christian,) “who is one inwardly: and circumcision,” (or
baptism) “is that of _the heart_, in the spirit, and not in the letter;
whose praise is not of men, but of God.”  Rom. ii. 28, 29.—Neither does
the great change consist in a transient effect on the passions.  These
may often be mechanically wrought upon, and violent emotions excited in
them, without the least concomitant influence from the Spirit of God.
One man may be affected under a sermon, and another weep at a tragedy,
and both be in the same predicament as to their state of heart towards
God.  When the passions are moved, because the affections are engaged,
and the understanding enlightened in the subject, then the work is
produced, not by the pathos of eloquence, or the violent mechanism of
bawling and unmeaning vociferation, but by the finger of God.  A change
of the latter kind will be permanent and abiding.  But conversions, such
as spring from a transient gust of passion, will always evaporate, “like
the morning cloud or the early dew, that passeth away.”  Hos. vi. 4.—It
would be equally absurd and dangerous to place true religion in an
outward and partial reformation, often accompanied with a shew of zeal,
which, at the bottom, is nothing but emptiness and ostentation.  When a
man all of a sudden cuts off some superfluities of naughtiness in dress
and outward indulgence; when he prunes off some excrescences, while the
root of corruption remains untouched; when to-day he acts the part of a
novice, and to-morrow, like a fungus that shoots up in a night, he raises
his head as a Reformer, without wisdom or materials for beginning or
conducting a reformation; in such cases, the conversion is often from bad
to worse; it is as if a harmless statue should be transformed into a
venomous reptile; or folly, stealing the venerable garb of truth, should
commence tyrant, and like Solomon’s madman, with the hand of outrageous
zeal, scatter about arrows, fire-brands, and death.  Prov. xxvi. 19.
From such conversions, and such converts as these, may the Lord at all
times defend and save his church!—To change a denomination, or to adhere
to that in which one may happen to have been born and educated, is not
conversion.  A man may turn protestant, then turn calvinist, then turn
arminian, then turn methodist, then turn quaker or quietist, (an usual
transition,) then turn dissenter, and last of all turn churchman, and
yet, through all these revolutions, which have been more than once
exemplified in a single character, he may not once have thought seriously
of turning CHRISTIAN—a name infinitely more honorable than all the empty
titles that men assume to themselves to distract the minds of their
brethren, and to rear their own consequence, often, upon the ruins of
peace and union.  Some are, no doubt, very sincere, and highly to be
commended, for changing a denomination, when the interests of truth and
the prosperity of their souls, or the dictates of conscience, are the
objects in view.  But there is not a greater delusion under the heavens,
than for a man to infer the safety of his state, merely from an idea of
the purity of the communion to which accident or bigotry may have induced
him to join himself.  To turn to a party, and to turn to God, are as
different as light and darkness.—As for those, who plead for their
continuance in the old beaten track of formality, because, as they say,
“they will not change their religion,” a discourse upon the nature of
true conversion is intended to convince _such_, that _they have_, in
fact, _no religion to change_.  And as for those, under the influence of
a more refined delusion, who place religion in the espousal of orthodox
opinions, which have no renovating influence on their hearts and lives,
and often take a false refuge in doctrines, of which, alas! they never
experienced the power; it is necessary to tell these, and their partners
in self-deception, that religion is principally A TEMPER; and that to be
really changed, is to have “the mind that was in Christ Jesus,” to be
governed by that love, which St. Paul describes in 1 Cor. xiii.; and to
be influenced by the humble temper of a little child.  Without this,
party is an insignificant badge, doctrines but chaff, zeal but wild-fire,
and conversion but a name.

To conclude.  Whatever denomination we adhere to, or whatever principles
we espouse, let us remember, that, without the power of vital godliness,
such badges of distinction must appear to him, who searcheth the heart,
only as a “sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”  And as I have labored
to urge this as a leading sentiment through the whole discourse, every
candid hearer must see, that the ambition of my heart, like that of every
disinterested servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, is, to be instrumental,
not in turning you to a particular name or favorite persuasion, but in
converting you to God.  Whether, then, you have erected your hopes, and
built your system on the broad but rotten base of infidelity; whether you
have commenced a free liver in consequence of being a free thinker—for
they are characters closely allied—or, with some right notions in your
head, betray a heart immersed in the world and dead in sin; whether you
are dissipated with the gay, dissolute with the abandoned, or formal with
the self-righteous; whatever accidental superiority, by birth, education,
or fortune, you may possess above others; or howsoever applauded you may
be for decency of manners or regularity of outward devotion; yet, in
whatever light, either infidelity, libertinism, formality, or morality,
can place a character, the unalterable truth of the text stands to cut
off the fallacious pretensions of each.  Conversion implies infinitely
more than any moralist upon earth can attain to: and it differs as much
from mere orthodoxy, as the genial and vivid light of the sun doth from
the faint beams of the pale orb, that borrows light, but derives no heat,
from his luminous body.  As for formality in religion, it is not even the
shadow of that, of which it claims the essence.  And as for the profane
and the licentious, _continuing_ such, the text stands as a barrier
against the impiety of their principles, and the presumptuousness of
their hope.  For, except they, and the characters already alluded to, be
converted, and become as little children, they cannot enter into the
kingdom of heaven.



SERMON VII.


         THE RIGHT KNOWLEDGE OF DOCTRINE THE FRUIT OF OBEDIENCE.

    “_If any man will do his will_, _he shall know of the doctrine
    whether it be of God_.”  John, vii. 17.

THE malevolent and unremitted opposition, which the truths of revelation
have met with from infidels in all ages, hath made it necessary to urge
every argument, derived from the external and internal evidences of
Christianity, in order to demonstrate that its origin is from God.  This
business of demonstrating would have been altogether superfluous, were
the heart of man naturally accessible to truth and righteousness.  But it
is deplorably sunk in prejudices against both, in consequence of an
apostacy from the Fountain of Wisdom.  Hence, men quarrel with
revelation, because they have first rebelled against the divine Author of
it.  An innate aversion to the genius of true Christianity is generally
productive of controversies about the proofs of its divine authenticity.
Corruption in the heart of an infidel prompts him to wish that some of
the doctrines of the gospel may not be true; because they hurt his pride,
or propose a bridle to his lusts.  And what men earnestly wish, they at
last bring themselves obstinately to believe.  From this unhappy mixture
of credulity and obstinacy in an infidel spring all his objections to the
dictates of reason, and the evidences of sacred truth.  But the cause of
Christianity is supported on all sides by pillars of such strength, that
the efforts of its adversaries to overturn the fabric, only serve to shew
its firmness, and to expose their weakness.  Its plan originated in the
mind of Jehovah, and its foundation rests on eternal truth.  The same
wisdom that arranged the universe modelled the gospel system; and the
creation of the world and the revelation of truth in the Bible have but
one and the same Almighty Agent.  This will appear, if we consider, as
proposed, the several arguments, that evince

1.  The divine origin of the doctrines of the gospel.  But these are so
numerous, and would require such a compass of reasoning to discuss them
fully, that I must content myself with only giving you the outlines of
them.  The principal of these, as far as the external evidences of
Christianity are concerned, are _prophecies_ and _miracles_.  When events
have been predicted thousands of years before they happen, the
correspondence between the fact and the prophecy must be the effect of
divine interposition.  Yet such a correspondence, the most punctual, even
in the minutiæ of time and circumstances, is visible from the very face
of scripture prophecy.  Miracles are justly considered as an additional
evidence of the divine origin of any doctrine, and of the divine mission
of him who preaches it.  And having been performed before a number of
credible witnesses, under circumstances of public notoriety, with marks
of preternatural operation, and with a tendency the most beneficial to
mankind, they become so many indubitable vouchers to the cause of truth.
Much accessional strength to this sacred cause might be derived from a
consideration of the character of the first preachers of the gospel; who
went forth to spread its truths, under the expectation, not of ease and
honor, but of contempt, and poverty, and death itself; and, without any
aid, save what they derived from the presence and blessing of the Lord,
amidst universal opposition, erected the standard of truth in divers
countries, and planted truth in the most distant regions of darkness and
error.

But the internal excellences of the doctrine are among the other proofs
of its divine original.  Here you meet with none of the monstrous
absurdities of paganism or superstition, that have often made virtues of
the most abominable passions, and deified vice itself, by consecrating
temples to lust and cruelty; or that have dethroned both reason and
religion, and established the most egregious fooleries, as maxims of
truth, and modes of worship.  Here every virtue is rescued from the false
glosses that had been imposed upon it by the craft, or ignorance, or
wickedness of men; and every moral precept is placed in its true light of
purity and extensive obligation; shewing, that what is so pure in its
tendency must have for its author the Holy One of Israel.

What other system, but that of the gospel, produces such a harmony
between the divine perfections!  Here, notwithstanding the opposite
claims of mercy and truth, justice and peace, each is respectively
honored, yet all mutually harmonize.  They meet at the cross of Jesus,
and, from his great propitiatory satisfaction, derive a power to unite
with perfect concord in the salvation of sinners.  While Jesus bleeds,
justice is satisfied, truth is fulfilled, mercy erects her throne, and
peace extends an olive branch to a guilty world.

Where is the system that carries such marks of divinity, as the gospel
does? even from the suitableness of its provision to the peculiar
necessities of lost sinners?  If any are oppressed with fears, or
burdened with a load of guilt; here they are pointed to the fountain of a
crucified Saviour’s blood, which is of infinite efficacy to heal the
broken hearted, and make the foulest clean.  If the world is a scene of
misery and sin; here life and immortality are brought to light, and the
horrors of death changed into the portals of bliss.  The king of terrors
appears bereft of his sting, and he that had the power of death, that is
the devil, receives his deadly bruise.  The weak and ignorant, the poor
and wretched, are invited to the feast, where all is of God’s providing;
and all is offered without money and without price.  Happy they who obey
the invitation, and taste of the rich provision!  Their own experience is
then the best comment on the truth of the text.  They have an internal
evidence of the truth of the doctrine, because they have felt the power
of it: which leads me to consider,

2.  Wherein consisteth the privilege of knowing that the gospel is of
God.

As the gospel is a system calculated equally to illuminate the
understanding and to renovate the heart; the blessedness of knowing that
it is from God, must be in proportion to the greatness of the privileges
which it communicates.  And these are, a deliverance from perplexing
doubt and endless speculation—a discernment of the way of truth—and such
an established persuasion respecting the believer’s personal interest in
the Lord Jesus Christ, as quickens his affections, and engages both heart
and life in devotedness to the Lord his God.

I.  As the fall of man hath plunged his intellectual faculties in great
darkness; in the investigation of truth and the contemplation of
spiritual objects, he thinks and judges as absurdly as a man born blind
would do, in an attempt to expatiate on the nature and distinctions of
colors.  “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God,
for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, because they
are spiritually discerned.”  1 Cor. ii. 14.  And as long as this veil of
natural obscurity covers his understanding, the very same reason, which,
on natural and scientific subjects, exerts itself with such vigor and
success, leaves him the subject of doubt and uncertainty on the great
concerns of eternity—the humiliating and unhappy situation of every man
by nature, from the grossly ignorant up to the acute and learned
blasphemer.  What a blessing to be extricated from all this scepticism
and the darkness which occasions it!  To have the mind no longer
distracted with doubts and disquietude on what it is concerned to know!
This is the privilege of him who knows the gospel to be of God.  He is no
longer tossed about with every wind of doctrine, or agitated by the
clashing opinions of men, who are often more earnest to oppose one
another than to investigate truth.  The spirit of God hath rent the veil
of darkness, and dissipated the mists that rendered his path doubtful and
perplexed.  Retiring from the din of controversy, and the niceties of the
schools, he hath seated himself down at the feet of Jesus, to learn, as
an humble pupil, the truth from his mouth.  There he listens to that
word, which, while it drops refreshing as the dew on the tender herb,
pours on his mind a divine light, that puts an end to former cavils at
the authority of revelation, and to former doubts about the doctrines
contained in it.

2.  A discernment of the way of truth and salvation is one essential
branch of that knowledge, recommended in the text.  “He that is spiritual
judgeth (διακρινει discerneth) all things.”  1 Cor. ii. 15.

This branch of knowledge is essentially necessary to constitute the being
of faith, and the comforts of a Christian.  It is by “the knowledge of
Christ that he justifies many.”  Isa. liii. 11.  But that knowledge
implies the manifestative light and apprehensive power of faith, by which
an interior eye is opened in the soul to behold the glory of Christ, and
to cleave to his righteousness for justification.  Hence, St. Paul was so
anxious to “know Christ,” that he “counted all things loss for the
excellency of that knowledge.” {287}  Phil. iii. 8.  2 Cor. iii. 18.

And could we suppose a Christian destitute of that light necessary to
discern the way of salvation, we must suppose him to be the subject of
very painful disquietude.  Because, when conviction of sin hath taught a
man the knowledge of himself, and made him weary and heavy laden with the
burden of his guilt, a discernment of the way of salvation must be
imparted, in order to buoy up the mind, and to support it under a load,
which would otherwise be insupportable.  Therefore the Holy Spirit
operates as a Divine Agent, and the gospel as a powerful instrument, in
manifesting the glorious sufficiency of Jesus Christ to the sinner, and
in drawing out his soul in hope and dependance upon him.  And to shew
that a supernatural illumination is requisite to this end, an inspired
apostle compares the power that effects it to that which commanded the
light to shine out of darkness at the creation.  2 Cor. iv. 6.  So that,
if men pretend to any saving knowledge, and yet appear to be ignorant
altogether of the gospel salvation, if their knowledge does not centre in
him, and, by the Spirit’s teaching, lead to him, in whom God’s people
have their all; it is evident, that the light in them is darkness. 1 Cor.
xii. 3.  John, xvii. 3.

3.  The privilege of knowing that the gospel is of God, implies such an
established persuasion of the believer’s personal interest in Christ, as
quickens his affections, humbles his heart, and engages body and soul in
the consecration of all their faculties to the honor and service of God.

This, it must be acknowledged, is not immediately the privilege of many,
who nevertheless know the things that belong to their peace.  Nor is it,
in numerous instances, vouchsafed, until, after a long series of various
trials, by which the soul is greatly exercised, but acquires deep and
genuine experience.  Some valuable Christians, who know the gospel
savingly, and adorn it greatly, are so bowed down with a discouraging
view of themselves, that unbelief robs them of that comfort, which they
are warranted to take from the promises, made to those, who come to
Christ by faith; and it is a considerable time, often, before they arrive
at any well-grounded evidence of their title to heaven; though the
inheritance is secure to them, and their title to it as valid, as the
purchase of Christ and the immutability of the covenant could make it.
It is, however, their privilege to overcome their doubts, to have a clear
view of their interest in the Son of God, to rejoice in hope of future
glory, and to know that, “when the earthly house of this tabernacle is
dissolved, they have a building of God, a house not made with hands,
eternal in the heavens.”  2 Cor. v. 1.  These invaluable blessings are
called by the Apostle, “the riches of the full assurance πληροφορια of
understanding;” Col. ii. 2; and are the result of that establishment in
the knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God, which “fathers in
Christ” enjoy, when they become rooted and grounded in the truth as it is
in Jesus.  Let not the weak and self-diffident, then, be discouraged.  He
who maketh “the path of the just to resemble the shining light that
shineth more and more unto the perfect day,” Prov. iv. 8, will, in his
own time, dispel the clouds that hang over their minds, and make the
day-star arise in their hearts with assurance and consolation.  “Then
shall they know, if they follow on to know, the Lord: his going forth is
prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto them as the rain, as the
latter and former rain unto the earth.”  Hos. vi. 3.

If any think that this established persuasion, or appropriating knowledge
of Christ, is apt to beget pride and presumption in the heart; let it be
remembered, that the objection, plausible as it may appear at first view,
is entirely overthrown by this single consideration, that the kind of
knowledge, which the gospel conveys to the heart, is always clothed with
humility, and productive of holiness.  Did it imply a fond opinion of a
man’s superior claim to the divine favor above his fellow-sinners, in
consequence of supposed superior merit; or, did it allow of indulged
self-confidence of heart, and licentiousness of manners; then, indeed,
the assurance I plead for, would be presumption of the most pernicious
and the most dangerous sort, and the knowledge it springs from would be
worse than the most profound ignorance.  But this is far from being the
case.  Self-knowledge attends every step of the believer’s progress in
the knowledge of Christ; and an abiding sense of his dependance upon the
Redeemer for every thing, must of course check the risings of vanity, and
keep him, where a sinner ought to be, in the vale of self-abasement.  In
that humble frame, he sees himself nothing; and while he reviews the
unspeakable obligations, which the undeserved grace of God hath laid him
under, and reflects upon the innumerable benefits, which Jesus hath
bought for him with his precious blood; his heart overflows with
gratitude to the kind Donor of his mercies; and the language of it is,
“What shall I render unto the Lord?”  Words are weak and inexpressive to
speak the sentiments of his mind, either when he views himself, or
contemplates the unsearchable riches of Christ.  And the predominant
desire of his soul is to grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of
Christ.  His advancement herein keeping pace with the knowledge of
himself, a poor dependant sinner all his life; from hence flows a desire,
and, through grace, a determination, to evidence the humility and
gratitude of his heart, by giving the glory of his salvation wholly to
Jesus, and by dedicating himself in righteousness and true holiness to
the honor and service of his divine LORD and MASTER.

And it will appear, upon calm consideration, that the knowledge, which
the text recommends, and the fruits which always attend it, are perfectly
correspondent with the genius of the gospel, and the end for which it has
been sent to the children of men.  Its great design is to abase the
sinner, exalt the Saviour, and promote holiness.  And the kind of
knowledge I wish to inculcate, is specifically of that nature; by which
all possible honor is given to Christ, and the heart penetrated with an
habitual conviction of the necessity of glorifying him in body and
spirit, which are his.  How can he be elated, who knows that he has
nothing to glory in but the cross of Christ?  How can he be presumptuous,
whose assurance rests upon the promise and him that made it?  Or can he
possibly want motives to obedience, or a principle of gratitude, whose
eyes are opened to behold the salvation that rescued him from sin and
hell, and whose heart is filled with love to the gracious Author of
salvation?  No.  If the enemies of truth are disposed to seek for
objections against our experience and our principles, let them find some
more plausible than that of a charge, which might with great ease and
greater justice be retorted upon themselves.  A proud presumptuous
spirit, inflated with vanity, filled with speculation, puffed up with
self-conceit, and void of humility, we disclaim, because we think it the
very bane of all religion.  And the amiable idea, which a Christian would
wish to give of religion, is that of a man, who, the more he knows, the
more he sinks into self-abnegation; whose head is filled with light, and
his heart with love; and who would rather feel a little genuine poverty
of spirit and contrition of heart, than possess the most shining
endowments.  And, that this apology for the principles and temper of a
true Christian is a just one, will still farther be made evident, if we
consider,

III.  What is necessary to the attainment of that knowledge which the
text promiseth.

If the general plan of redemption, or the several constituent parts of
that plan, be accurately surveyed, it will appear throughout to have been
a very leading design of its great Author to pour contempt on those
things, which are highly esteemed among men; and to adopt a procedure in
all his dispensations directly subversive of those principles, which are
most commonly received.  Had he acted in conformity to the maxims and
pretensions of the world, men of wisdom, of prowess, and of nobility,
should have been his sole favorites.  But that the very reverse is the
case, is evident from St. Paul’s testimony in 1 Cor. i. 26; who asserts,
that “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the
wise; and weak things of the world, to confound the things which are
mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, yea
and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are; that no
flesh should glory in his presence.”

In no respect does this truth appear to be more remarkably verified, than
in the kind of pre-requisite, which infinite wisdom hath thought proper
to fix upon as necessary to the attainment of divine knowledge; which is,
not what human policy would have recommended, profound learning, an
acquaintance with sciences, languages, or philosophy; but a willingness
εαν τις λελη to do the will of God; a temper of mind that is humble and
docile, and that has been brought into subjection to the will of God, as
revealed in the scriptures.  What that will is, the following
considerations will determine: 1. That it is the will of the Father, that
the objects of salvation should honor the Son by looking to him as their
propitiation.  For, the work, will, and commandment of God, is, that we
should believe in Christ to that end.  1 John, iii. 23.  2. That they
should be set apart for the glory of God, by the dedication of soul and
body to his service.  “This is the will of God, even your
sanctification.”  1 Thes. iv. 3.  3. That they should renounce conformity
to the world, and all friendship with those who inordinately love the
things that are in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye,
and the pride of life.  Rom. xii. 2. 1 John, ii. 15, 16.  4. They should
take up the cross, and tread in the footsteps of the blessed Jesus;
following his illustrious example in doing and suffering the will of
heaven with patience and resignation; in a crucifixion to the world, and
an ambition for the honor and favor that cometh from God.  This is called
“doing the will of God from the heart,” Ephes. vi. 6, and is opposed to
the doing of it, partially, insincerely, or by constraint.

As true Christianity is of practical tendency, _doing_ the will of God is
contra-distinguished from a mere knowledge of it.  “Not every one that
saith Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that
doeth the will of the Father.”  Mat. vii. 12.  For, though a man cannot
_do_ the divine will, without having previously _known_ it; yet a
knowledge of it is often entirely destitute of any sincere inclination to
perform it.; and in every such case, “he that knoweth his Master’s will
and doth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes.”  Luke, xii. 47.  So
that, while, the word of God abounds with severe reproofs and awful
denunciations against those, who are under the power of that self
deception, which makes them content with being hearers of the word, and
not doers of it, and leaves them satisfied with some head-knowledge,
though accompanied with carnality and hypocrisy of heart; the same sacred
word gives all imaginable encouragement even to those, who are _willing_
to conform to the will of God, though between their wishes and their
practice there should be a considerable disparity, and the weakness of
their faith should throw many impediments in their way.  “The Lord will
not despise the day of small things.  He will not break the bruised reed
nor quench the smoking flax.  To that man will he look, that is poor and
of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at his word.”  Zech. iv. 10.  Isa.
xlii. 3.  Isa. lxvi. 2.  These, and promises of similar import, confirm
the truth of the text, and embolden every true follower of Christ to look
for a fulfilment of them in his experience; while with child-like
simplicity of heart, and an earnest desire to be taught of God, he
diligently useth the means of instruction, and waits for that blessing,
requisite to render them effectual.  Such persons the Lord will take by
the hand, and guide into the way of truth, and peace.  He will open to
them the mysteries of his kingdom; and unfold the riches of his grace.
The secret of the Lord is with them; and he will shew them his covenant.
He will manifest himself to them, as he doth not to the world; and shine
upon their ways with a progressive and cheering light.  They shall become
conversant in the deep things of God, and acknowledge those very
doctrines to be of divine original, which at first they trembled to
receive.  They shall see their consistency, and know them to be of God,
from their effects; since the doctrines of distinguishing, efficacious,
and victorious grace, and these alone, have a tendency to make the heart
humble, holy, and happy, and to keep it so; to support the believer in an
hour of temptation, and to help him to trust in the everlasting covenant
when he walketh in darkness and hath no light.  And, when multitudes of
the presumptuous and self-confident, who soar on the wings of a towering
profession, shall faint and grow weary, and utterly fall into error and
sin; they shall hold on their way, and wax stronger and stronger, they
shall mount up on wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they
shall walk and not faint.  Fed by the sincere milk of the word, their
souls shall grow and thrive; and experiencing the preciousness of the
promises, they shall anticipate with joy their fulfilment in glory.  Safe
in the everlasting arms of Divine protection, they shall be kept from
every fatal snare.  And happy in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they
shall enjoy the influence of that Divine Comforter, until all the clouds
of sin and error being passed away, a flood of divine light and ineffable
glory shall break in upon their souls, and they shall sin, sorrow, and
complain no more for ever.

Having shewn, that the doctrine of the gospel is of divine original—from
the prophecies and miracles that attest its divinity—from the purity of
its system, equally remote from the monstrous absurdities of paganism and
superstition—from the harmony it produces between the divine
attributes—from its utility and suitableness to the condition of fallen
man; having considered the privilege of knowing that this doctrine is of
God; and having shewn what is necessary to the attainment of that
knowledge, I shall conclude with observing,

In the first place, that a rejection of the gospel argues a want of that
temper necessary to investigate truth; and that pride, or an attachment
to some beloved lust, is at the bottom, whereby the judgment is corrupted
and the heart depraved.  Hence be assured, that evangelical truth and
moral righteousness are inseparably connected; and that ignorance of, or
opposition to, the truth, is the road direct to every immoral and
dangerous path.

Secondly, since a willingness to do the will of God is the pre-requisite
towards attaining the knowledge recommended in the text; let us confine
ourselves to this simple criterion of heavenly wisdom and of a gracious
heart, and not look for marks of it in the parade of learning and pomp of
profession, among those, who, upon these superficial grounds alone, boast
of superior knowledge.

Thirdly; since to know the gospel, is the privilege of a renewed mind;
and to practise its precepts, the result of a divine power; how should we
importune the Father of lights to give us the spirit of wisdom and
revelation in the knowledge of his Son; without which, we must grope in
the dark and fall into error!  Mat. xi. 27.

Lastly; encouraged by the salutary promise in the text, let the timid and
unestablished plead it in faith before the throne of grace.  God is
faithful to fulfil what he hath spoken; and the experience of his people
hath borne testimony to his veracity and his compassion in all ages.
Plead the promise in the all-meritorious name of Jesus, in whom all the
promises are yea and amen.  Urge the covenant engagements of the Father
to him, whereby he hath promised that all his children shall be taught of
God.  Expect no favor upon your own account; but look for every thing
from him, in whom all fulness dwelleth, and in whom the Father is well
pleased.  Let not some difficulties, or a little suspense, discourage
you.  Continue instant in prayer.  Wait in faith, in hope, in patience.
And the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by
CHRIST JESUS, after that ye have suffered awhile, make you perfect,
stablish, strengthen, settle you!  To him be glory and dominion for ever
and ever!  Amen.



SERMON VIII.


            BELSHAZZAR’S DOOM; OR, SINNERS, WHETHER PRINCELY,
                  PATRICIAN, OR PLEBEIAN, WEIGHED IN THE
                       BALANCE, AND FOUND WANTING.

    “_TEKEL_, _Thou art weighed in the balances and art found wanting_.”
    DAN. v. 27.

THE history, to which the words of the text refer, is extremely
memorable.  During the captivity of the Jews, a variety of singular
events concurred to prove that the sins, which brought desolation upon
their country, and subjected them, for a period of seventy years, to the
Babylonish yoke, had not, nevertheless, wholly alienated the affections
of Jehovah from them, or dissolved that covenant relation which he had
originally adopted towards them, as the “God of Abraham,” and that any
act of indignity perpetrated against an afflicted people, or any insult
cast upon the service of their temple, would be recognized as the highest
affront to the Majesty of Heaven, and not be suffered to pass with
impunity, though the perpetrators were the princes and potentates of the
earth.

Of this, Belshazzar is a remarkable instance.  He was grandson to
Nebuchadnezzar, and had an opportunity of seeing, in the divine
dispensations towards his royal ancestor, how hateful pride is, even in
royalty itself; how instantly God can blast the most blooming dignity of
the brightest crown, and reduce him that wears it to a condition level
with the beasts that perish; how quickly, when the divine decree goeth
forth, a haughty rational can be converted into a brute, and a
Nebuchadnezzar, in all the pomp of majesty upon his throne, be driven
from human converse, and become a fit associate only for oxen that graze
the field, and are wet with the dew of heaven; and how much, therefore,
the prosperity of kings, and the stability of their thrones, depend upon
acknowledging, that “the MOST HIGH ruleth in the kingdom of men, and
giveth it to whomsoever he will—that all the inhabitants of the earth are
reputed as nothing; that he doeth according to his will in the army of
heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his
hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?—that his works are truth, and his
ways judgment; and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.”  Dan.
iv. 25, 35, 37.

But this instruction, though conveyed through a dispensation, calculated
to write it upon his heart as indelibly as with a pen of iron, or the
point of a diamond, seems to have been all lost on Belshazzar.  In a
depraved and debauched mind, the most striking memorials of divine
interposition are soon buried in oblivion; and all the impressions, which
the most tremendous judgments of God generally make in such a case, only
resemble characters made in the sand, which the first flux of the tide
totally obliterates.  Belshazzar had undoubtedly often heard the
memorable history of his royal grandfather, and could not avoid seeing in
it the great outlines of that divine system of truth, which inculcates
the evil of sin, and recommends the fear of the Lord as the supreme
wisdom.  The very sight of those fields, where Nebuchadnezzar once
roamed, or of the animals with which he herded, when deposed from his
throne, and deprived of his understanding, must have brought to his
recollection the singular event, that so strongly marked God’s
displeasure at all sin; especially that kind of it, which lifts up the
heart with atheistic pride, and prompts arrogant worms of the earth to
affect independence of Him, “in whom they live, and move, and have their
being.”  But Belshazzar, like libertines in all ages, buried the
remembrance of these things in his cups, and company; or sought relief
from any disquieting apprehensions, in the fulsome flattery of the civil
and ecclesiastical sycophants, that herded round his throne, and
constituted his levee.  Thus soothed into a false security by court
adulation or pulpit-daubing, he became a beast in sensuality, and
indulged in every sordid gratification, that could make him hateful to
God, and contemptible to man; in which we may suppose him to have been
immersed the more deeply, for want of some faithful monitor near his
person, to tell him the truth, like honest Micaiah, without dread of
royal resentment.  There was one man in Belshazzar’s kingdom, who was
especially qualified for this important office; but he had not the
opportunity, being a Jew, and a captive, till a singular event brought
him out of his obscurity, and displayed the superiority of his wisdom
above all the pretenders to it in Belshazzar’s court.

Upon a particular day, Belshazzar made a feast, to which were invited “a
thousand of his lords.”  Dan. v. 1.  Being a lewd polygamist, like all
the heathen princes of the East, “his wives and his concubines” formed a
part of his guests; for, to an abandoned prince a palace hath no beauty
unless it be a receptacle for prostitutes; the whole apparatus of a court
appears incomplete without a seraglio; and in the esteem of the drunken
king of Babylon, or the grand Turk with Mahomed’s Koran in his hand,
there are no blessings comparable with the blessings of
polygamy.—Belshazzar, thus environed with his concubines and his lords,
pushes about his intoxicating goblet, and poured out libations, or
toasted the memory of their “gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of
iron, of wood, and of stone.”  Verse 4.  Proper deities, it must be
acknowledged, to preside in _such_ assemblies, in which the songs of the
drunkard, and the conversation of the lascivious, render the scene
perfectly worthy of all that indecency and excess, which idolatry ever
promoted among its votaries.  The king of Babylon, not content with
blending idolatry and voluptuousness together, at his luxurious feast,
where lords and whores unite to strengthen him in his wickedness, adds
sacrilege to his other sins.  “He commanded to bring the golden and
silver vessels, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which
was in Jerusalem; that the king and his princes, his wives and his
concubines, _might drink therein_.”  Verse 2.  Thus this impious prince
insulted the God of heaven by sacrilegiously profaning those vessels that
had been consecrated to the service of his temple; as if his wine would
be doubly sweet, when drank out of God’s sacred chalice, or the vessels
of his holy sanctuary were only fit to be prostituted to the purposes of
riot and excess.  In the desecration of these vessels, the temple-worship
was profaned, a captive people insulted, and an atrocious act of
indignity committed against the Holy One of Israel.

While Belshazzar was thus employed in filling the vessels of the temple
with intoxicating liquor, God was filling for him the phials of his
indignation.  He bent his bow and made it ready; and the moment was
approaching in which the barbed arrow of swift destruction was to be
directed by an unerring hand against Belshazzar and his kingdom.  A most
awful presage of this event is given, when least expected.  In the midst
of the entertainment, while the king and his guests are absorbed in
pleasure; behold! a strange phenomenon arrests the solemn attention of
the gay circle, and suddenly damps all their mirth.  Every face turns
pale, and every heart is filled with a horrible dread.  Their festivity
and carousings are changed into confusion and despair.  The sumptuous
entertainment entertains no longer; and the wine, sparkling in the glass,
or mantling in the goblet, can yield no antidote against the chilling
fears that seize the hearts of the disturbed guests.  The mirth and
gaiety of this festive assembly are changed into silence, solemnity, and
distraction.  But what occasioned so instantaneous a perturbation?  Was
it the appearance of some angry cherub, like him whom God appointed as
the flaming guardian of the tree of life? or, was it the discovery of
some instrument of death suspended from the ceiling over the king’s head,
like that sword, which hanging by a hair over Damocles, the base
flatterer of a Sicilian tyrant, disturbed his peace in the midst of a
banquet?  No; it was nothing more than “the fingers of a man’s hand,
writing over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the
king’s palace,” verse 5, “and the king saw the part of the hand that
wrote.”  He saw, and trembled.  But what ailed thee, O Belshazzar! that
thy peace should be broken at the sight of an object, that carried
nothing hostile in its outward appearance?  Ah! it is not the first time
that a sinner has been made to tremble at hand-writing, when the hand of
God appears to hold the pen.  Belshazzar’s conscience instantly commented
upon the mysterious characters.  The hand of God wrote his doom, and his
own guilty fears anticipated it.  “His countenance was changed, and his
thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and
his knees smote one against another.”  Verse 6.  To what an abject and
pusillanimous condition, a consciousness of guilt, and a dread of
punishment, reduce often the most stout hearted!  Nay, “the wicked
fleeth, when no man pursueth, while the righteous is bold as a lion.”
Prov. xxiii. 1.

Belshazzar, distracted and amazed, cries aloud to bring in the
astrologers and soothsayers.  A considerable reward is offered to those,
who should read and interpret the writing.  They try, but in vain.  The
queen advises to consult Daniel.  He is brought before the king.  The
honest Hebrew tells him of his pride, idolatry, and sacrilege.  He reads
the writing, and gives the interpretation; which was, that “God had
numbered his kingdom and finished it; that he was weighed in the balances
and found wanting; and that his kingdom was divided and given to the
Medes and Persians.”  Verse 26–28.  The interval between the writing of
this awful prediction, and the accomplishment of it, was very short.  For
“in that night” was Belshazzar surprised by an army headed by Cyrus, “and
slain,” and the kingdom of the Chaldeans transferred by conquest to that
of the Medes and Persians.  Thus judgments tread close upon the heels of
guilt, and are sometimes as swift in their progress, as they are sure in
their arrival; the commission of sin, and the infliction of punishment,
happening, not seldom, at the same instant.

Let us now, first, make some practical observations on the history
referred to in the text; and, secondly, accommodate the images in it to
the purpose of forming a scrutiny into the hearts and lives, the
principles and pretensions, of sinners.

I. 1.  The profanation of things sacred is highly affrontive to the
Divine Majesty; incurs great guilt, and exposes to danger in proportion;
because God himself is virtually dishonored in the abuse or contempt of
what relates to his service.  The men of Bethshemesh only look into the
ark, and Uzzah only touches it, and God instantly punishes the
presumption of the one, and the profane curiosity of the other, with
judicial chastisement.  And it is not so much the act as the intention of
the agent, that God regards in such a case.  Under circumstances of
peculiar necessity, David “eats the shewbread, which it was not lawful
for any to eat but the priests.”  And yet this infringement of a positive
ceremony passes with impunity, because God considered the nature of the
case, and saw the purity of David’s intention.  But when the king of
Babylon sent for the vessels of the temple, it was evident, that he meant
studiously to affront the God of the Jews, and to make the people and
their religion objects of malicious triumph, and “cruet mockery.”  By
thus blending the cup of the Lord with the cup of devils, Belshazzar
filled up the measure of his iniquity, and provoked Jehovah to make his
punishment as conspicuous as his impiety was public.  As sacrilege is a
sin of very comprehensive application, let us beware how we rob the Most
High of the honor due to his _truths_, his _ordinances_, his _name_, and
his own _day_.  And particularly, let us see to it, that we profane not
that sacred institution, which is commemorative of the death and passion
of our Lord Jesus Christ; when we reflect, what judgments this species of
profanation brought upon the Corinthian Church.  And, as public feasts
are too often scenes of voluptuousness and intoxication, where the sons
of riot sometimes amuse themselves with ridiculing religion and its
advocates; and instead of partaking of _such_ mirth, which is perhaps
made up of the obscene jest, or the horrid oaths and imprecations, of the
indecent and profane; let us fly from the place, as from the very
confines of hell.  And, be assured, that “only fools make a mock at sin;”
and that, though God in general is patient, though provoked every day,
yet he sometimes strikes offenders dead upon the spot, and calls them to
his bar, just as the lie or the blasphemy was issuing from their mouth.
{311}

2.  Sensuality and security in sin, are the certain presages of impending
ruin.  When the wicked say in their hearts, “Tush, God careth not;” or
the worldling counting his riches, and wrapping himself in false
tranquillity, breaks out into that sordid soliloquy, “Soul take thine
ease, thou hast much goods laid up in store; eat, drink, and be merry;”
then the storm is at the blackest, and the angry cloud ready to burst.
Transgressors take occasion to sin, because “vengeance against an evil
act is not speedily executed;” and the people of the world often draw
flattering inferences respecting one another from outward prosperity or
inward gaiety; measuring their interest in the divine favor by the extent
of their rent-roll; or, the degree of their happiness, by the height of
their levity.  But, alas! they consider not that the ox is fattened to
the slaughter, and that “the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.”
The world, like a true Delilah, makes a soft lap for her votaries to
sleep on; but it is only to render them a more easy prey to the enemies
that lie in wait, and consign them over to drudgery more servile than
that of Sampson deprived of his sight, shorn of his locks, and grinding
in a mill at Gaza.  Besides, it is not considered, that God’s judgments,
though long protracted, are sure; and are the more tremendous, for being
delayed.  They are often conducted, and operate, like the mine, which is
sprung in the dark, and which never discovers its subterranean progress,
until it involves all around it in darkness, uproar, and ruin.  A
sensualist is never nearer the verge of destruction than when he speaks
peace to himself; and a “foolish virgin,” assuming the appearance of
happiness, while a life of perpetual thoughtlessness and dissipation
destroys time, and unfits for death and judgment, is only like the moth
that is at last consumed in the flame that attracted it.

3.  See how easily the carnal repose of the wicked may be disturbed, in
the height of their voluptuousness and festivity!  This may be effected
at any time by a variety of incidents or instruments.  God need only drop
a slight sensation of wrath upon the conscience; suffer that faithful
vicegerent to assume the office of severe remonstrance; or let loose
Satan with his train of accusations upon the sinner, and immediately all
is tumult and disquietude within.  For, “when he giveth quietness, who
then can make trouble? and when he hideth his face, who then can behold
him? whether it be done against a nation, or against a man only?”  Job,
xxxiv. 29.  Let God but give a reverse of fortune, and touch that
mountain of prosperity on which the proud and opulent elevate their hopes
so high; and down fall all their imaginary peace and bliss in a moment.
How low they build, who build beneath the skies! when the fabric and the
builders of it may be crushed together before the moth.

O ye dissipated and profane, consider, before it be too late, that he,
who surprised the king of Babylon at his feast, and called him,
unprepared, from his cups to a tribunal; will one day come suddenly as
the thief in the night, and put an end to your mirth, by the summons of
the archangel’s voice, and the trump of God.

I might here call your attention to the singular contrivances of divine
wisdom displayed, in the case of Daniel, with a view to exalt debased and
injured excellence; or, consider, how incumbent it is upon Christ’s
ministers, when called upon, to do it, in imitation of the illustrious
Hebrew, with faithfulness and impartiality, even before kings.  But
waving any enlargement upon these points, I shall proceed to state, as
the last practical observation upon the history before us,

4.  How unsafe and fallacious it is, to infer any man’s happiness or
infelicity, merely from outward appearances, be they ever so specious, or
afflicted.

Behold Belshazzar upon his throne!  Contemplate the magnificence of his
palace, and the extent of his empire.  He looks around upon Babylon, the
superb residence of his court, and calling “the glory of the Chaldees
excellency” his own, thinks himself the happiest and most august monarch
of the East.  Thousands do him homage, and tens of thousands bow at his
footstool.  The earth and seas are ransacked to supply his table with
delicacies; and he needs only ask, to have every luxury that the most
unbounded appetite could desire.  Multitudes live upon his smile, and
princes triumph in the honor of being in the train of his dependants.
His word is a law, and confers dignities or death at pleasure.  And the
grand emulation among courtiers, domestics, and subjects, is, who shall
be first in obedience to the tyrant’s edicts.—Such is Belshazzar on his
throne.  But could we only have followed him to his secret retirements,
or looked into his breast, we should have seen all this semblance of
splendor and felicity tarnished by some corroding care, that banished
repose even from his bed of down; or some vicious passion, that preyed
continually upon his heart.  A dreadful rival in power, a sullen
contemner of his false dignity, like another Mordecai, refusing to bow to
impious Haman, or a single disappointment in the pursuit of dominion and
conquest, were sufficient to make his diadem tremble on his brow, and to
plant such sharp thorns in the crown that adorned it, that a man upon the
rack could not be more miserable than the haughty monarch of Babylon
seated on his imperial throne.  Who, therefore, would not have preferred
the situation of a peasant in his cottage, or that of the poorest captive
Jew within the walls of Babylon, before the grandeur of a palace, in
which wretchedness and sin took up their abode?

But, follow Belshazzar to his banquet.  See him seated at the head of his
convivial assembly.  The sumptuous feast is prepared; and his lords sit
down to share in the entertainment.  The charms of beauty, and the
harmony of music, are called in, to heighten the repast.  Every face
shines with mirth, and every heart overflows with joy.  The richest juice
of the vine contributes, in abundance, to the festivity of the scene.
And, to the heart of an epicure, or in the eye of a bacchanalian, there
never was a more pleasing object than Belshazzar, at the head of his
lords and concubines, laughing at religion, toasting his favorite gods,
drinking destruction (as it is probable he did) to the poor captive Jews,
and getting drunk out of the hallowed cups that once adorned their
temple.  But, should any really think this jovial assembly a happy one,
let them remember the _text_, and the _hand_ that wrote it.  Look from
the festive board to the _lettered wall_.  What is written there?  Then
turn to Belshazzar.  See, he looks aghast, and trembles!  Whither is his
mirth fled?  Why are his lords astonished?  What will his riches and the
glory of his kingdom do for him now?  See him falling under the sword of
a victorious adversary; and, after death, falling into the hands of the
living God; and then say, who would have been in his case, for his crown
and empire? or, for a thousand worlds?

From hence it is manifest, that, in order to judge aright of happiness,
we must look deeper than the surface, and farther than the passing
moment.  The completest misery is, often, permitted to assume a smiling
countenance; and it is only the event of things that is to throw light on
the mysteries that veil present dispensations.  A fallacious outside
deceives and deludes the world in general.  And were our judgment to be
guided by the opinions, or our practice modelled by the lives of many, we
should conclude, that the rich man “clothed in purple and fine linen, and
faring sumptuously every day,” had the best pretensions to happiness, and
Lazarus at his gate, full of sores, was misery itself; till we heard,
that the one was translated to Abraham’s bosom, and that the other was
lifting up his eyes in the torments of hell.  With a view, therefore, to
detect the fallacy and danger of such conclusions, and to brush the
vermilion from the cheek of painted misery or gilded error, I go on, as
proposed, to

II.  Accommodate the images in our text to the purpose of forming a
scrutiny into the hearts and lives, the principles and pretensions, of
sinners of various complexions.

The principal image in the text is taken from a custom, which hath
prevailed amongst all nations, of regulating commercial intercourse, by
the test of the balance, or of determining the value or deficiency of any
commodity, by certain standard weights.  In allusion to this mode, the
adjustment of which formed a part of that sacred code of juridical
ceremonies, which God gave to the Jewish legislator; the king of Babylon
is represented as put into the balance.  His kingdom, and the glory
thereof, his crown and sceptre, his wealth, dominion, and titles, are put
in with him.  These would be thought objects of prodigious appreciation
in the eyes of the world, and would weigh immensely heavy in the false
balance of human estimation; as they probably did, in the opinion of
Belshazzar and his abandoned court.  But it is not a human hand that
holds the balance, or the eye of a superficial mortal that is to watch
its preponderation.  No; the beam is suspended from God’s hand, and the
balance is to be regulated by ONE, in whose sight “a false balance is an
abomination.”  Prov. xi. 1.  Belshazzar is weighed by Him, who can
neither err nor be deceived.  And the result of the scrutiny is, that he
is found wanting.  His moral character is defective, weighs nothing.  The
glory of an _empire_ cannot make up for what is wanting in the _man_.  In
God’s account, an act of truth or mercy outweighs a kingdom; and, without
holiness, earthly dignities are as the small dust of the balance, and all
sublunary excellence lighter than vanity itself.  Belshazzar’s whole
empire is no counter-balance against Belshazzar’s iniquities.  And, while
a court or pulpit-flatterer pronounces bliss and glory in the _king_, God
makes no other account of his royalty, than to damn it in the _sinner_
with the greater emphasis.

Let us borrow the striking imagery in the text, and apply it to
ourselves.  Let each individual fancy himself represented, as a mortal
and a sinner, in the person of the king of Babylon, before his doom was
fixed, and his life hung in suspense.  Let him suppose himself,—his
principles and pretensions,—his heart and life,—put into the balance.
The scriptures of the Old and New Testament, in perfect coincidence with
each other, are the two sacred even-balanced _scales_, by which his whole
self is to be weighed.  As the decalogue is the great standard of moral
rectitude, and the gospel is the test of evangelical principles; I hope
it will not be any straining of the metaphor, to consider the _two tables
of the law_, and the _requisitions of the gospel_, as the just _weights_,
by which the pretensions of the pharisee and the soaring professor are to
be examined; since we are commanded to bring every thing to the test of
“the law and the testimony.”  This is the more requisite, because the
_essential truth_ of God is the _beam_, from whence the two scales of
scripture are suspended, and by which they are made to connect in perfect
harmony.  Let us consider the hand of infinite _justice_ as holding the
balance, weighing its contents, and determining the value.  And let every
sinner under heaven fancy himself thus subjected to the examination of
the Most High God, and his state to be determined by his just and
unalterable judgment; while the fate of his never-dying soul is to be
fixed for ever by the issue.  It is in vain to attempt either to
supersede or elude this scrutiny.  For, it is carrying on, every moment,
though by an invisible process; death is now hovering round the head of
every one of us, and only waits for the divine commission to take out of
the scale what God hath weighed in it, and to turn over the sinner to
that tribunal, which retributive justice shall one day erect.

In detecting the fallacious hopes and specious principles by which
mankind are deceived and destroyed, it is necessary that we weigh in the
balance of the sanctuary, all _human righteousness_, all the _possessions
of earth_, and all the _pleasures of sense_.  These are the three
principal sources, from whence men, in general, are labouring to derive
happiness.  And if I can only convince them that every one of these
springs is dry, and that happiness floweth in a pure and perennial stream
from a different fountain; much may be done towards bringing them to the
enjoyment of what they have hitherto pursued, with fruitless search, in
objects calculated rather to ensure misery, than procure happiness.

1.  When it is proposed to put to the test all human righteousness, I
mean by that term, every kind and degree of moral obedience, which a
sinner in his natural state can perform, and upon which he builds his
hopes of heaven.  As the scriptures positively declare, that “there is
none righteous, no, not one;” it is plain, at first view, that the terms
_human righteousness_ are intended to describe only what is so called,
not what really exists.  For, since that degree of moral rectitude, which
implies perfection of obedience to the law of God, is no longer the claim
of fallen sinners; the word righteousness is used, as the language of the
self-justiciary, not as the concession of truth.  So that, when I adopt
these terms, I do it, in order to prove, that the language of many, on
theological subjects, is as improper as their pretensions are
ill-founded.

Now, that you may be convinced that all human righteousness, as a ground
of acceptance before God, is absolutely ideal, and forms no part whatever
of that moving cause, which prompted Jehovah to confer upon us the
blessings of his kingdom, please to recollect that it is written, “_Not_
by works of righteousness which we had done, but according to his _mercy_
he saved us.”  Tit. iii. 5.  Mercy presupposes guilt and wretchedness.
And to say that sinners, who possess no previous works of righteousness,
but require to be dealt with as objects of divine compassion, are
notwithstanding righteous, and must be saved by the merit of their works,
is one of the grossest solecisms in divinity, that the church of Rome
itself could ever have established in her erroneous creed.  Besides, when
revelation points us to the Mediator of the new covenant, as to one who
sustains the office of a _Saviour_, how can any man, that pays the least
deference to divine authority, suppose, without violating the dictates of
even common sense, that he can save himself, and at the same time give
the glory of salvation to the Lord Jesus Christ?  Upon the plan of the
erroneous hypothesis I am combating, the truth of man’s depravity must be
denied, and the glorious redemption of the Son of God altogether vacated.
So that, before a sinner can arrogantly plead his own righteousness, as
the meritorious cause of his salvation, he must first reason himself out
of common sense, and, in the face of allowed truths and indisputable
facts, endeavour to demonstrate that he is not a sinner, nor Christ a
Saviour.

But, let us examine the bold pretensions of human righteousness by the
moral law.  This is the standard of equity and the touchstone of truth.
Before it gives the denomination of _righteous_ to any act, or of
_righteousness_ to any agent, the law requires perfect, pure, universal,
and uninterrupted obedience.  A single failure even in thought, makes a
man virtually a transgressor of the whole law, and brings him instantly
under its curse.  For, “if a man keep the whole law, and yet offend in
one point, he is guilty of all.”  James, ii. 10.  The law requires too,
that not merely some, but all its precepts should be observed not only in
the letter, but also in the spirit of them; and not only for a certain
space of the life of man, but also from the commencement to the close,
with every moment inclusive.  For, it is written again, “Cursed is every
one that _continueth_ not in _all_ things written in the book of the law
to do them.”  Gal. iii. 10.  The Apostle Paul contemplating the sanctions
of the moral law, and its requirement of universal and incessant
conformity, when compared with the corruption of human nature, and the
utmost efforts of all human works, draws this inference from the
humiliating comparison, “If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is
dead in vain.  Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the
law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ; for, by the works of the law shall
no flesh be justified.”  Gal. ii. 16, 21.

Let every person, now, who fondly supposes his soul is safe, because he
is outwardly moral, or that his works will merit heaven, put all the very
best performances he can glean up in the balance of truth.  Put your
works of charity, of benevolence, of devotion, your sincerity, your
prayers, and your alms, in one scale.  In order to render it as heavy as
possible, you are welcome to throw in every thought, word, and action, by
which you suppose you have honored God, benefited your neighbour, or
profited yourself.  Now, only lay in the opposite scale, the two tables
of God’s righteous law, inscribed with its holy sanctions, rigorous
precepts, and extensive requirements.  While we are watching the turn of
the beam, give me leave to ask, Have you kept the _whole_ law?  Did you
ever violate it in a single point?  Has there been any interruption in
your obedience?  Has your heart been _always_ pure from every sinful
thought, and your life from every immoral act?  The law requires this,
without admitting the smallest abatement in its demands.  Now view the
balance.  See how it preponderates on the side of the law.  Your scale,
containing all your works, flies up, and kicks the beam.  Your
righteousness, compared with that of the law, is only as a bubble to the
globe.  God writes _Tekel_, where you have written _Merit_.  Thou art
weighed in the balance and art found wanting.  You may perhaps urge, “All
these things have I kept from my youth up.”  So the young formalist in
the gospel thought, to whom Christ said, “_One_ thing thou _lackest_.”
But as you cannot produce perfection of obedience, all your charity,
formality, morality, will avail nothing.  You want a justifying
righteousness, but you have it not in yourself, nor can you get it from
the law.  As a “ministration of death,” 2 Cor. iii. 7, it condemns you
and denounceth a curse; while justice, like the angel armed with a
flaming sword, stands ready to inflict the merited blow, should you
pertinaciously dare to touch the tree of life with the hand of merit.

But, should you ask, what is to be done, while the balance is suspended
in the hand of impartial justice?  I answer, Cry for mercy, as an
offender, and look to JESUS as a complete SAVIOUR.  But take care of
blending his merit with your own, or of making a convenience of his
righteousness to supply the defects of yours.  This would be to
aggrandize yourself at the expense of his honor.  You must not presume to
put Christ’s excellency in the balance with your works, in order to give
them the required weight.  No.  You must, with a self-renouncing hand,
first take out all your own works, leaving not one behind in the scale,
and then with the hand of faith put in Christ’s work.  This will weigh
heavy.  His atoning blood and perfect obedience will counterbalance the
requisitions of law and justice; will give your conscience peace; save
you from hell; and introduce you without spot into the presence of the
Holy One of Israel.  Thus the apostle of the Gentiles was enabled to act,
after he saw the ruin of his nature, and the spirituality of the moral
law.  His own words are a perfect comment on the truth I have just now
endeavoured to establish.  “Yea doubtless,” says he, “and I count all
things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my
Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them
but dung (σκυβαλα offal) that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not
having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is
through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”
Phil. iii. 8, 9.

2.  Let us examine the weight of earthly possessions, comprehending under
that head the greatest accumulation of wealth, and the most unlimited
extent of empire, accompanied with the most distinguished titles of
dignity and honor.  Now, the very height of these saith, “Happiness is
not in me.”  Having a tendency to deprave the appetite, and sensualize
the affections, the things of earth, in ten thousand instances, have so
much of the alloy of misery mixed with them, that it is with great reason
God in his word saith, “This is not thy rest, for it is polluted.”
Terrestrial good is of too gross a nature to satisfy the vast desires of
an immortal spirit; and every portion of it is held by a most precarious
tenure.  Vexation in the pursuit, and disappointment in the fruition,
attend those, who seek for a heaven in earth.  All the acquisitions of
the world cannot fill the vacuity in a mind, destitute of the “true
riches.”  Put, therefore, the whole globe in one scale, with all the pomp
and opulence of which it boasts; and only lay in the other, the interests
of a never-dying soul, and the vast concerns of an awful eternity; then
say, what is the world, but a dream; and its enjoyments, but vanity?

Ye that dote on earth, and are building tabernacles in this wilderness,
consider ye not, that the place of your residence will ere long know you
no more for ever; and that this terrestrial ball, were you possessors of
all the riches that are buried in it, could not make you truly rich or
happy, without the knowledge of Jesus Christ.  You have had experience of
its insufficiency in these respects; and yet continue the fruitless chase
in the very same track, where disappointment and vexation have often
strewed briers and thorns before.  Your mind is still upon the wing; your
hopes, still big with expectation.  The world has teased you with
solicitations, flattered you with promises, and deceived you in the
moment of anticipation.  Yet you trust the flatterer, and live still upon
her smiles.  Though you have smarted under her rod, yet you continue
still a drudge to her maxims; sometimes determined to throw off her yoke,
and yet anon enamored with her service, in hope of better days.  She has
given you riches, perhaps, or worldly prosperity, but has denied you
peace.  All this time, death is hastening on apace.  Sickness visits as
his forerunner.  “Grey hairs are here and there upon you, and you know it
not.”  You and the world are weighed together in the balance, and are
found wanting.  The world cannot make you happy; and you want discernment
to see it.  You want, perhaps, neither assiduity nor wisdom in the
management of temporal things; but in those which are spiritual and
invisible, all your ingenuity deserts you.  You are deficient in great
matters; in little and unimportant ones, you are sedulous, to excess.
You want to know, what you are least of all anxious to learn; and that
is, _that to know Jesus Christ_, _and him crucified_, _is the very centre
of happiness and the summit of wisdom_.  Without this knowledge, all
human science is imperfect; and all earthly opulence abject penury.  You
have few wants, or none, perhaps, for your body; but, while opulence
pours her favors around you with a luxurious hand, you may be an utter
stranger to the more substantial blessings of the grace of God.  O sirs,
consider this seriously before it be too late.  Though your lives should
glide along with ever so smooth and placid a stream, yet remember, the
boundless ocean of eternity is just before you; and you may find _that_,
a more turbid sea than you expect.  And I am certain you will, if the
love of the world be not previously expelled your hearts, to make room
for the love of Jesus.  After you have passed the limits of time and the
confines of death, it will be too late to say, the world is a cheat, I
thought so once, but now I know it.  Experience then will be hell.

3.  But may not the votary of pleasure put in his claim to happiness,
without having his principles examined, or his dissipation interrupted by
rigid inquiries?  No.  “She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she
liveth.”  It is an act of charity to arrest levity in a career that
deprives of all seriousness, and unfits for another world; and though a
solemn admonition may be unwelcome at first, it may be admitted as a
salutary visitant in the end.

I will suppose you then possessed of every advantage, which youth,
health, and fortune, can give; while, perhaps, your education and natural
temper render you an object of envy to all around you.  Your time flies
imperceptibly along in the gay world; and diversified scenes of
amusement, in concurrence with constitutional vivacity, give you the
appearance of felicity in the very abstract.  Happiness is the object of
your pursuit, and pleasure the way, which you think must lead to it.  But
are you what you seem?  Or have you attained what you have been seeking?
Is there not an emptiness in your enjoyments, which you are made
sometimes deeply to feel?  Nay, do they not often leave a sting in the
heart, which the constant succession of them, so far from extracting,
only makes more impoisoned?  Is there no solemn moment, wherein
conscience doth loudly cry, “You are not happy?”  And can all your
dissipation keep you from low spirits, when death stares you in the face,
and secret misgivings make you dread his approach?  You want something
still, and that cruel something unpossessed, mars all your gaiety.  You
want Christ.  You lack the knowledge and love of that divine personage;
and in wanting him, you want every thing—wisdom, righteousness, holiness,
heaven.  You must be born from above by the spirit of God.  Your heart
must be renewed, and the corruptions of pride and discontent, of
formality and self-righteousness, which are lodged in it, must be
conquered by the grace of God.  And, until that great change takes place,
you must and would be miserable upon a throne, and discontented even in
an Eden.

And now, men and brethren, suffer the word of exhortation.—Yet a little
while, and this present scene of things shall come to an awful close;
when rolling years shall cease to move, and the great Angel shall lift
his hand to heaven, and swear by him that liveth for ever and ever, that
_time shall be no more_.  Then the veil that hath parted the visible and
invisible world shall be thrown back; and all the mysteries of eternity
shall burst upon our astonished view.  Methinks I see the Judge
enthroned, the judgment set, and the books opened.  Imagination
anticipates the circumstances of that decisive period, while faith almost
realizes the appearance of Messiah.  The trumpet sounds, and he is
coming.  Go ye forth to meet him.  Are you ready?  Are your lamps
burning?  See eternal justice once more lifts her balance, and weighs in
her impartial scale, the world and its inhabitants.  Methinks I hear the
JUDGE pronounce the awful words, “Thou art weighed in the balance and art
found wanting;” and reiterate them, as often as souls, unwashed in the
blood of the Lamb, and unrenewed by his spirit, pass from his tribunal.
O sirs, take care how you slight the way of salvation, lest your ears
should be forced to hear that tremendous sentence.  Mercy’s door is now
open.  Enter by it, and live for ever.  Neglect it, and you will find the
judgment-day will shut it to eternity.  Beware how you trifle with the
gospel, that directs you to JESUS.  It is God’s message of mercy and
peace to a lost world.  It requires credit and demands obedience.  It is
_our_ message, because the Head of the church hath committed to our trust
this word of reconciliation.  I have this day endeavoured to be faithful
in the delivery of it.  See that you contemn it not.  If you do,
remember, you must answer for it at the judgment-seat of Christ.  O fly,
fly to the throne of his grace, before you are summoned to his bar!
To-day, while it is called to-day, harden not your hearts.  To-morrow you
may be in eternity!



SERMON IX.


            THE PREPARATION REQUISITE FOR THE DAY OF JUDGMENT.

    “_Prepare to meet thy GOD_, _O Israel_.”  AMOS, iv. 12.

THIS concise but comprehensive address contains one of the most solemn
warnings, that can possibly sound in the ears of sinful mortals.
_Prepare to meet thy God_!  Awful sentence!  Every word in it is fraught
with meaning, is big with importance; and rings an alarm, louder than the
voice of ten thousand thunders.  Who can read it with inattention?  Who
can hear it with irreverence?  Who can preach upon it, without deeply
feeling, himself, the weighty truths he enforceth?  And yet the most
nervous language must be inexpressive, and the warmest sentiment flat,
when compared with a subject, which, for majesty and importance, rises
infinitely above all the powers of description or the utmost stretch of
conception itself.  To whose heart is it not sufficient to carry, at
least, a transient impression of seriousness?  Methinks when the solemn
sentence, _Prepare to meet thy God_, is repeated, the votary of pleasure,
even in the giddy whirl of dissipation, is made to think, and levity
itself, for a moment, looks solid; an irresistible awe seizes the mind of
the licentiate, that imbitters his gratifications, and disturbs his
sensual repose; that extorts a sigh from the unrelenting breast of
impenitence, draws a tear from the eye of the prodigal, and forces a
blush into the hardened cheek of immodesty itself:—even the daring
_infidel_ himself cannot stand the shock of the solemn warning; he
starts—turns pale—looks aghast—and all the guilt of his conscience, all
the misgivings of his heart, and all the horrors of his mind, fly into
his pallid countenance, as so many witnesses against his atheistical
principles, as so many vouchers for the truth of revelation; so that,
methinks, even infidelity itself for a moment believes, and trembles.

In the context, (i.e. the passage immediately connected with the text,)
we shall behold an additional evidence to the solemnity and importance of
the warning before us.  There the prophet is reciting the various
judgments with which God had visited Israel; the end he had in these
severe visitations; and the strange incorrigibleness of the people under
them, and after their removal.  The judgments were, famine, drought,
blasting, and mildew, the pestilence, the sword, and an overthrow of some
of their cities, judicial and final, like that of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Dreadful and numerous as those public, those national calamities were;
yet Israel was not humbled, did not repent.  _Yet have not ye returned
unto me_, _saith the Lord_, is the complaint of God himself, as annexed
by the prophet to every verse, that recites their visitations.  Jehovah
spoke to them repeatedly, and awfully, by the _rod_; but they would not
hear it, nor did they regard HIM who had appointed it.  He _met_ them in
his judgments.  All of them were his _messengers_; each had a _voice_,
that spake loudly for God and vehemently against sin; and all, in accents
thundering through their land, solicited the dutiful attention of the
inhabitants.  But in vain.  Though they were obliged to give those
dreadful visitants the meeting, yet they would not give them an humble
audience.  They were too busy to hear; too proud to submit; too stubborn
to obey.  Well, since the embassadors are despised, the king will resent
the affront: since they would not regard the harbingers, all the MAJESTY
of God shall summon them to an interview.  One meeting more is therefore
determined upon; in which the holy and eternal God himself shall be one
of the parties, and an incorrigible and rebellious people, the other.
_Prepare to meet thy God_.

From the words thus stated, I propose, with a view to our personal
improvement, considering,

I.  That there will be a certain, an awful, a swiftly-approaching, and an
inevitable _interview_ between God and sinners.

II.  What kind of _preparation_ it is incumbent upon sinners to make in
the prospect of that interview.

III.  After which, I shall, in an applicatory way, consider, _to whom_
the warning is directed.

I.  The interview;—1. at death; 2. in the day of judgment.

1.  _It is appointed unto all men once to die_, agreeably to the original
sentence delivered to our first parents, _Dust thou art_, _and unto dust
shall thou return_.  _For_, _as by one man sin entered into the world_,
_and death by sin_; _so death passed upon all men_, _for that all have
sinned_.  Rom. v. 12.  _The wages of sin is death_.  Rom. vi. 23.  That
we might be impressed with a due sense of the _cause_ of that awful
change which passeth upon man at his dissolution; the scriptures
uniformly ascribe it to the first man’s disobedience, in which was
involved the sin of his posterity, and death, as one portion of the
entailed penalty.  The scriptural account of the origin of death, as very
precisely and satisfactorily traced in the 5th chapter of the epistle to
the Romans, is, that Adam sinned; that _in him_, as a public person, ἐφ’
ᾦ, _all_ sinned; and that, because all _sinned in_ him as their
representative, therefore all die through him, or are obnoxious to death,
the very moment they are born, and are _by nature the children of wrath_.
Ephes. ii. 3.

After the scriptures of truth have instructed us in the origin of sin,
they then proceed to a description of that calamity of universal
influence—death, with which are connected innumerable woes.  This is
done, with a view to impress man with a solemn truth, which every trifle
tends to obliterate from his mind, viz. _that he must die_; to humble him
under a sense of that guilt, from whence his mortality originated, and to
solemnize and prepare him for an event as inevitable, as uncertain, in
the time of its arrival.

Hence death is represented as a king of mighty power, extensive dominion,
and universal sway; before whose unconquerable arm, even conquering kings
themselves fall; and to whom, as to a superior potentate, they must
resign those very trophies that marked their own conquests, together with
all the glittering regalia of sceptres, diadems, and thrones, which lie
as spoils at death’s footstool.—As a king of _terrors_; whose train is
composed of the terrific attendants of the pestilence, the famine, the
sword, the earthquake; and all the numerous maladies which attack the
body, or torture the mind; by which, as by a great army, death invades
this _microcosm_ man, and converts the globe into an _aceldama_ or field
of blood, filled with promiscuous heaps of slain.  As a monster, armed
with a _sting_, 1 Cor. xv. 56, so _pointed_ as to strike through the
liver of the stoutest transgressor; so impoisoned, as to communicate a
venom, which mocks all the powers of medicine; and so _deadly_, as, by
its baneful influence, to blast health in its highest vigor, and youth in
perfect prime; and to reduce the outward fabric of man to a state, humble
as the dust, and vile as the crawling reptile.

This king of terrors, this deadly monster, all must meet.  He is a
messenger of the Almighty.  He bears a warrant signed in the court of
heaven.  He has executed his commission already upon millions; and
millions more shall fall before his invincible arm.  Even now he is
knocking at the door of thousands of our fellow-mortals, and God only
knows, who next may be accosted by this awful visitant.  In the midst of
fancied security, and boasted health, this invisible foe may be this very
moment whetting his scythe, and meditating a blow at the healthy and the
strong; while the pampered miser, who says to his soul, _Soul take thine
ease_, _thou hast much goods laid up in store_, _eat_, _drink_, _and be
merry_, may be instantly the first to be surprised with the unexpected
call, _Thou fool_, _this night shall thy soul be required of thee_.

If death call, we must hear.  If he summon, we must obey.  If he enter
our doors, we must give him the meeting.  Who can stay his hand?  Who can
reverse or even retard the execution of his summons?  Is he to be bribed
by _wealth_?  Is he to be repelled by _force_?  Can _titles_ or _honors_
demand his partiality?  Will he compliment the dignified, or the opulent?
Can entreaties move him?  Or,

    “Can _flatt’ry_ sooth the dull, cold ear of death?”

No.  He is as impartial, as he is relentless and inexorable.  He pays no
respect to age, sex, rank, or fortune.  He visits equally the palace and
the cottage.  The king and peasant are alike indiscriminate objects of
his summons.  Crowns and sceptres are no more in his estimation, weigh no
more in death’s balance, than rags or pebbles.  The prince and the
subject, the wise and the foolish, the healthy and invalid, the beautiful
and deformed, _shall lie down alike in the grave_, _and the worms shall
cover them_.  Job, xxi. 26.  _The small and the great are there_; Job,
iii. 19; _in that land of darkness_, _as darkness itself_, _and of the
shadow of death_, _without any order_, _where the light is as darkness_.
Job, x. 22.

Sin makes man meet death; and death brings him to a meeting with God.
Those, who would not meet him, in his ordinances, by _prayer_ or through
_faith_, in a Mediator, shall be _forced_ to an interview with the holy
and eternal Jehovah at his tribunal, to _give an account for all the
deeds done in the body_.  To those, who _have washed their robes and made
them white in the blood of the Lamb_, Rev. vii. 14, this meeting will be
the commencement of perfect, perpetual, and uninterrupted bliss: but to
the unrighteous it will be, beyond description, horrible.  To _these_,
death comes as an executioner; lays his axe to the root of the trees; and
gives the fatal blow.  If rotten and fruitless, down they fall, and so
they lie as fuel fit for _everlasting burnings_.  Isa. xxxiii. 14.  Then
the wicked launch into eternity; are consigned over to the bar of God;
and receive their eternal doom.  The instant life’s silken cord is
broken, and the soul dislodged from the body, the sinner is either
transported on the wings of cherubs to Abraham’s bosom, or lifts up his
eyes with _that rich man_, in endless torments: if he meet God in his
sins, unpardoned and unconverted; God meets him as a _consuming fire_,
Heb. xii. 29, clad in all his vengeance and terrors.

O sirs, it is this consideration, that strips death of all that
unimportance, with which, from the frequency of its arrival, it is
viewed, in general, by a thoughtless world.  _To die_, sounds common, and
appears trivial; but not so, _to die and be damned_, _or to die and be
saved_.  When we consider, that either eternal damnation, or eternal
salvation, is the instant and inseparable consequence of death; how
wicked, how diabolically absurd, are the jests of the infidel and the
wit, when affecting to smile at that solemn event!  However, with all the
affected gaiety of the proud and the profane, when they come to lie on a
death-bed, their mirth will forsake them, and all the boasted heroism of
infidelity sink in a dreadful succession of horror and dismay.  And no
wonder; since

    “’Tis not _the dying_, but ’tis _this_ they fear,
    To be—they know not _what_, they know not _where_!”

The prospect of meeting the Lord God Almighty, constitutes the bitterest
drug in the cup of the wicked, and is the most tormenting thought, in the
view of their dissolution, that racks them on the verge of eternity.  How
would they court death, and solicit his arrival; were it not, that _after
death is the judgment_!  How gladly would they meet and embrace the
messenger, could they but be excused from meeting that God; the light of
whose countenance makes heaven, but in whose frown, is hell!  From a
reluctance to do this, arise dismal apprehensions, dreadful impatience,
torturing doubts, and a tormenting anxiety to live.  All which conflict
of raging and tumultuous passions, in a soul, at the article of
dissolution, and upon the point of meeting God, is most beautifully
described in the following striking imagery of the poet:

    “In that dread moment, how the frantic soul
    Raves round the walls of her clay tenement!
    Runs to each avenue; and shrieks for help!
    But shrieks in vain!  How wishfully she looks
    On all she’s leaving, now no longer her’s!
    A little longer, yet a little longer,
    O might she stay, to wash away her crimes,
    And fit her for her passage!  Mournful sight!
    Her very eyes weep blood; and every groan
    She heaves, is big with horror!  But the Foe,
    Like a staunch murd’rer, steady to his purpose,
    Pursues her close through ev’ry lane of life,
    Nor misses once the track; but presses on;
    Till forced at last to the tremendous verge,
    At once she sinks,”—sinks into the bottomless and gloomy gulf of
    everlasting darkness and death!

Awful plunge!  Dreadful exit!  What heart can conceive, or tongue
describe, the state of an immortal soul, trembling on the brink of fate;
arrested by death; the prisoner of guilt and fear; reluctant to depart,
yet viewing dissolution inevitable; looking forward to eternity with
painful dread, and backward, upon the world, with sorrow and regret;
unwilling to go, yet unable to stay; soliciting a reprieve for a year,
another month only, or even a week, but denied one moment’s delay;
putting off in imagination or in wish, what is present to sense; quitting
the world, and bidding an everlasting farewell to all its enjoyments,
with nothing in prospect to compensate for the loss; at length, forced to
launch, though sure of shipwreck; and nothing in view, but a black abyss,
a forfeited heaven, and an angry God!  This is the end that awaits the
wicked.  This is the fate of those who die without Christ!  Oh that the
consideration might awaken the fears of the careless, and prompt the
people of God, _to give diligence to make their calling and election
sure_!  2 Pet. i. 10.  And yet this is not all.  For,

2.  We must meet God at the judgment-day; when _he will judge the world
in righteousness by __that man_, _whom he hath appointed_.  _Our God
shall come_, _and shall not keep silence_: _a fire shall devour before
him_, _and it shall be very tempestuous round about him_.  _He shall call
to the heavens from above_, _and to the earth that he may judge the
people_.  Psal. l. 3, 4.  _The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven_,
_with his mighty angels in flaming fire_, _taking vengeance on them that
know not God_, _and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ_.
2 Thes. i. 7, 8.  _I beheld_, says Daniel, _till the thrones were cast
down_, _and the Ancient of days did sit_, _whose garment was white as
snow_, _and the hair of his head like the pure wool_: _his throne was
like the fiery flame_, _and his wheels as burning fire_.  _A fiery stream
issued_, _and came forth from before him_: _thousand thousands ministered
unto him_, _and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him_: _the
judgment was set_, _and the books were opened_.  Dan. vii. 9, 10.

These are some of those sublime descriptions, which the inspired writers
give us of that period, in which every circumstance that is grand,
terrible, and august, shall conspire to render it _the great and terrible
day of the Lord_, Joel, ii. 31, _the great day of his wrath_, Rev. vi.
17, the general assize.  If we contemplate the dignity of the Judge, the
splendor and multitude of his retinue, the majesty of his throne, the
process and issue of the judgment, together with all the circumstances
that shall precede, attend, and follow, his glorious appearing;—if we
take into consideration either the goodness or the severity, the wrath or
the mercy, the destruction or the redemption, the felicity or the woes,
which shall be respectively dispensed in this important period, have we
not reason to cry out, _who shall be able to stand before this Holy Lord
God_?

Consider, what a _Judge_ we have to meet!—one of infinite dignity; for he
is the _King of glory_, Psal. xxiv. 7; _the great God our Saviour_, Tit.
ii. 13; _the mighty God the everlasting Father_, Isa. ix. 6; _King of
kings and Lord of lords_, Rev. xix. 16; _the Lord of hosts himself_, Isa.
viii. 13, 14; compared with 1 Pet. ii. 8.  _The true God_.  1 John, v.
20.—A Judge as much transcending in dignity all earthly judges, as the
heavens surpass in glory the earth, or the sun in the firmament, the
twinkling stars, which all disappear, when he riseth.—A Judge, at whose
footstool the kings of the earth shall prostrate themselves in either
cheerful or compelled adoration; and, before whose tribunal, judges
themselves shall stand, and be judged.  A Judge, whose eye is so keen, as
with one glance to survey the universe; to pervade the thickest darkness;
to penetrate the depths of hell; and to search the heart; whose arm is
irresistible; and whose power neither men nor devils can control.  He
shall be seated on a _great white throne_; _white_ in unspotted,
unbribed, uncorrupted administration of justice, from whence nothing can
issue but purity, equity, wisdom, and truth; and _great_, as being reared
on the ruins of all earthly thrones, and as forming the magnificent seat
of him, who is _the Most High God_, _possessor_ and arbiter _of heaven
and earth_.  Gen. xiv. 19.  _Thy throne_, _O God_! _is for ever and
ever_.  Heb. i. 8.

What _attendants_ shall grace his advent!  Countless myriads, a
multitude, which no man can number, of saints and angels bearing the
_harps of God_, and decorated with crowns of gold; all ambitious to be of
his train; all vying with sacred emulation, who shall tune their harps to
the sweetest notes, and exert their voices in loudest harmony, to the
praise of Emmanuel; and all joining, without a single discordant string,
in one grand and unanimous hallelujah, _To him that loved us and washed
us from our sins in his own blood_, _and hath made us kings and priests
unto God_, _to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever_, Amen.  Rev.
i. 5, 6.  _Worthy is the Lamb that was slain_, _to receive power_, _and
riches_, _and wisdom_, _and strength_, _and honor_, _and glory_, _and
blessing_.  Rev. v. xii.

What _signs_ shall announce his arrival!  On earth distress of nations,
with perplexity; men’s hearts failing them for fear—wars and rumours of
wars—earthquakes in divers countries—pestilence and famine—all nature
thrown into universal convulsions, dreadful pangs that presage her
approaching dissolution—the earth shaken to its centre, and sea horribly
agitated—the heavens wrapped together like a parchment scroll, and
passing away with a great noise—the elements melting with fervent heat;
while the heavens and the earth are in one general flame—the sun turned
into darkness, being utterly eclipsed by the overpowering lustre of the
Sun of Righteousness; and the moon into blood—the stars falling, as when
the untimely fruit of a fig-tree are thrown down by the wind—the
tremendous blast of the trump of God, so loud as to pierce the caverns of
the earth and the depths of the sea, to sound an alarm in the abyss of
hell, and carry an awakening summons through the regions of the dead—the
grave and _hades_ resigning their respective charge—gaping tombs, and
parting seas giving up their dead—bodies that slept for thousands of
years in a bed of dust, roused at the Archangel’s voice, to sleep no
more; and re-united to immortal souls, their ancient mates, all thronging
to the tribunal of GOD.

See the JUDGE himself enthroned! a mixture of majesty and mercy, of
vengeance and love, seated on his brow;—the clouds his chariot, and the
heavens his canopy; while rocks and mountains flee before his face!

    “His lightnings flash, his thunders roll,
    How welcome to the faithful soul!”

Millions attend his bar.  Men, angels, devils, all receive the summons,
to await his decisive sentence.  Adam and his numerous posterity, Lucifer
and his apostate train, and all the angels who kept not their first
estate, compose the awful levee.  The righteous fly swifter than the wind
or the rapid lightning, to meet their Lord in the air; devils and the
wicked, like criminals in chains dragged from their cells, are compelled,
though reluctant, to appear at his tribunal.  _Small and great stand
before God_; _the books are opened_; Rev. xx. 12; the judgment begins;
the grand transaction that is to decide the fate of the world goes on,
till at last sentence is passed, _Come ye blessed_, or _Depart ye
cursed_; and then, upon the one hand, are heard doleful cries, tumultuous
lamentations, bitter weepings, that bespeak guilt and despair; but upon
the other, the triumphant songs of elect angels and redeemed sinners,
rending the heavens with applausive shouts and acclamations in honor of
the Judge; and with a voice, louder than the noise of many waters, and
more harmonious, than that which celebrated the creation of all things,
shouting SALVATION _to our_ GOD _who sitteth upon the throne_, _and unto
the LAMB_!

And must we _meet_ this glorious, this tremendous Judge of heaven and
earth?  We must.  _Every eye shall see him_; every knee shall bow to him;
every ear shall be witness to his decisive sentence; and every tongue
confess, either with cheerful and voluntary acknowledgment, or with
forced and irresistible conviction, that he is God.  The people of his
grace shall see him, and kindle into rapture at the sight; shall meet
him, and find their heaven of heavens in the interview.  _They_ shall
meet him, to grace his triumphs, and adorn his mediatorial crown, as
jewels, of an immense purchase, of infinite value, of unfading lustre.
The day of Messiah’s second appearing will be his grand coronation day;
whereon, in the presence of admiring and applauding millions, the _crown
of salvation_, that crown of crowns, shall be unanimously, publicly, and
solemnly placed on the head of King JESUS; and every voice shall shout,
_Worthy is the Lamb_.  Oh! that each of _us_ may bear some humble part in
that immortal song! some humble office in that great solemnity!

But _who_, among the wicked, _may abide the day of his coming_; _and who
shall stand_, _when he __appeareth_?  Mal. iii. 2.  _For behold the day
cometh_, _that shall burn as an oven_; and all the PROUD, yea, and _all
that_ DO WICKEDLY, _shall be stubble_, _and the day that cometh shall
burn them up_, _saith the lord of Hosts_, _that it shall leave them
neither root nor branch_.  Mal. iv. 1.  O what a meeting will take place
between the Judge, and those, who once refused to acknowledge him as
their Saviour and their King!  He _will meet them as a bear bereaved of
her whelps_, _and devour them as a lion_; Hos. xiii. 8; and they shall
meet him, as the briers and thorns, the flame that consumeth them.  _It
is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living GOD_.  In the
character of the _Lion of the tribe of Judah_, his advent will be
tremendous: but it is _the wrath of the_ LAMB, of the once-wounded,
rejected, persecuted, blasphemed, and injured LAMB, that will be most
insufferably dreadful; and it is from _that_, they will earnestly solicit
_mountains and rocks to hide them_, as a shelter from his indignation.
Rev. vi. 16.  But, rocks and mountains will be no veil from his
all-seeing eye; no covert from his Almighty arm; no obstruction to the
shafts of his vengeance.  He will find them out though they make their
bed in hell; will pursue and overtake them, though they take the wings of
the morning, and flee to the uttermost parts of the earth or sea; and
bring them down, though they make their nest in the stars.  And who can
conceive how fearful that meeting must be, when the parties are,
rebellious mortals and a holy God;—potsherds of the earth, and the
Creator of all worlds! worms, and Omnipotence!

Since, then, there will be a certain and swiftly approaching interview
between God and sinners, at the solemn hour of death; and a more awful
and decisive one, at the general assize: O how deeply incumbent it is
upon all, to prepare for both!  But, are you ready?  Should death call,
or God-Messiah descend to judgment; would you be found in circumstances
of security and preparation?  Ask your _hearts_.  Are there no guilty
misgivings there?  Ask your _lives_.  Are they such as correspond with
the temper of persons, looking out for, and hastening unto, the coming of
the day of God?  Ask _conscience_.  Sprinkled from the evil of guilt by
the blood of Christ, does it witness to your salvation? or loaded with
sin, and fraught with pollution, does it proclaim you the subject of
misery, and the heir of hell, and bear a loud testimony to your
condemnation?  Ask the _word of God_.  Will your hearts and lives bear to
be tried by that touchstone of truth?  If you profess Christianity; are
you _Bible_ Christians?  If you think you are sound in the truth; will
you bear to be probed?  If you shrink from this examination; is there not
cause to fear, that there is some latent sore you wish to conceal? some
morbid part, you are unwilling to be touched even with a gentle hand,
though it is festering deep, and spreading wide, and threatens death
everlasting?  You may _think_ you _are prepared_, when you _are not_.
The thought, in such a case, arises from a spiritual mortification, that
deadens the conscience, and deprives it of feeling.  And a supposition of
safety, where there is no scriptural ground to warrant it, is only the
reverie of a sick man, or the chimera of one that dreameth.  That you may
not be deceived, or flattered, in a point of such vast moment; let us now
consider,

2.  What kind of _preparation_ it is incumbent upon sinners to make, in
the prospect of an interview with God at death, and in the day of
judgment.

I.  A _gracious_ preparation; or, a preparation through the inherent
efficacy, and transforming influence of _divine grace_.  The nature of
man is so depraved, and all the faculties of the soul are so alienated
from the life of God, that a divine and supernatural power is absolutely
requisite to the restoration of that image, which sin effaced; to the
recovery of that happiness, which man, as a transgressor, has forfeited;
to the implantation of those fruits of righteousness, which were
eradicated by the fall; and to the possession of _that_ divine and
gracious “_thing_, _which BY NATURE man_ CANNOT HAVE.” {353}  For, “the
condition of man, after the fall of _Adam_, is such, that he cannot turn
and prepare himself by his _own natural strength_ and good works, to
faith, and calling upon God: wherefore we have _no power_ to do good
works pleasant and _acceptable_ to God, without the GRACE of God by
Christ _preventing_ us, _that we may have_ a good will, and _working
with_ us, _when_ we have that good will.”  Thus speaks Article X.  “Of
free will.”  And the XIIIth is equally strong and express.  “Works done
_before_ the grace of Christ, and the inspiration of his Spirit, are not
pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of faith.”

It may be urged, that “these are the words of fallible men.”  A poor
evasive plea this.  For though the _words_ be the composition of fallible
men, yet the sentiments are the truths of the infallible God: for the
scriptures declare that _the preparation of the heart in man is_ OF THE
LORD; Prov. xvi. 1.  See also I Chron. xxix. 18; that we _must be born
again_, John, iii. 7; that being _dead in trespasses and sins_, we must
be _quickened by God_, Ephes. ii. 1; that _no man can come unto Christ_,
_except the Father_ DRAW _him_, John, vi. 44; that, _if any man hath not
the Spirit of Christ he is none of his_, Rom. viii. 9; _that it is God
who worketh in us_, _to will and to do of his good pleasure_, Phil. xxii.
13; and that, _without_ (or χωρις severed from) _Christ we can do
nothing_, but sin, and err.  John, xv. 5.  The nature of man, since the
fall, is _depraved_: nothing but grace can rectify and renew it.  It is
_disordered_: grace alone provides a remedy.  It is _polluted_: its
innate defilement is cleansed by grace.  It is _unholy_: _the grace of
God_, _which bringeth_ present _salvation_, _teacheth us to deny
ungodliness and worldly lusts_.  Titus, iii. 12.  It is _debased_ by sin:
nothing can ennoble or exalt it, but all-sufficient grace.  It is _weak_
and _impotent_: grace alone can strengthen and fortify it against
temptation.  It is _rebellious_: grace controls and captivates its most
stubborn opposition, and makes its powers passive, and flexible.  Human
nature is _barren_: and nothing but all-conquering grace can subdue its
sterility.  It is grace that _breaks up the fallow ground_; softens the
soil; sows the seed; cherishes it, when sown; makes it spring; brings it
to maturity; blesses it with sunshines and showers; defends it from
nipping frosts and scorching heat; and crowns the once-barren and
stubborn soil with a rich harvest of fruit.  It is grace that makes that
wonderful change, so beautifully described in Isa. xxxv. 1–9.  _The
wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them_: _and the
desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose_: _it shall blossom
abundantly and rejoice even with joy and singing_.—_For in the wilderness
shall waters break out_, _and streams in the desert_.  _And the parched
ground shall become a pool_, _and the thirsty land_, _springs of water_:
in the _habitation of dragons_ (_fierce_, untamed, impoisoning lusts,
that make a carnal mind to resemble the haunt of venomous beasts) _where
each lay_, _shall be grass with reeds and rushes_.  _And an highway shall
be there_, _and a way_, _and it shall be called the way of Holiness_.

Such is that gracious work which renews the soul, and makes it meet for a
meeting with God; which makes all _old things pass away and every thing
become new_; 2 Cor. v. 7; and without which, man is indisposed to the
ways of righteousness, and unfit to perform any thing acceptable to God.
O that you may be enabled to determine whether or not this work has been
wrought in you!  Trust not to poor, naked morality; that meagre,
superficial thing, which unsanctified immoral Pharisees make their all.
Morality only skins over the wound; but grace effects a radical cure.
Morality strikes at outward branches; but grace alone can lay the axe to
the root of corruption.  Morality may give a specious white-washing to a
sepulchre, or a gilded varnish to a statue; but grace alone can cleanse
from inward foulness, turn rottenness and death into life and purity, and
convert dead men’s bones into living members of Christ.  Morality
confines its attention only to the cleansing of the _streams_: but grace,
like _Elisha’s_ wonder-working _cruse of salt_, goes up to the _springs
of water_, and pours its primary, its salutary, influence _there_.  2
Kings, ii. 20, 21.  Morality gives the _appearance_ only of that, of
which grace makes the reality.  Morality assumes the name of religion;
but grace forms its nature.  Morality may make an useful member of
society, but grace alone can make a faithful member of Christ.  Human
power can accomplish a doctrinal speculatist, or constitute a pharisaical
formalist; but God that made the world, must make a _Christian_.

2.  The preparation requisite, is such, as demands the solemn and
unreserved dedication of the heart and life to the service and honor of
God; or such a devotion of all we have and are, to his glory, as bespeaks
the purity of the principles by which we are to be governed; the power
and sincerity of the motives, by which we are to be actuated; and the
great importance of the _end_ we are to have in view.

God has an indisputable right to all we possess; because all we have is
the effect of his power, and the result of his unmerited bounty.  The
_heart_ is more especially his claim; because he first made it himself,
and, when fallen, redeemed it with the blood of his Son.  _My Son give me
thy heart_, Prov. xxiii. 26, is therefore his most reasonable and
gracious demand.  To give it to any thing else, save to its original
Proprietor and Redeemer, is black ingratitude, is palpable idolatry: and
to pretend devotion, when the heart is withheld, is hypocrisy and
dissimulation.  Give God any thing, and keep back the heart, and you
virtually give him nothing, or present him with an abomination.  _He is a
Spirit_, _and they who worship him_, _must worship him in spirit and in
truth_.  John, iv. 24.  The most tedious round of duties, the most
punctual and ceremonious attendance upon forms, are but so many elaborate
modes of affronting Jehovah, if _the heart be not right with God_; and so
many delusive methods to conceal a latent malady, which is open to the
eye of omniscience, as the foulest insincerity, and the rankest pride.
They who honor the Lord with lip-service, or draw nigh to him in mere
formality, are they who _trust in lying words_ and espouse a delusion;
especially when crying out, _The temple of the Lord_, _the temple of the
Lord_, _are these_.  Jer. vii. 4.

But how few consider this with becoming seriousness and attention!
Hurried on in the circle of dissipation, and driven impetuously forward
by the torrent of popular example, multitudes possess neither leisure nor
inclination, to examine the grounds of their profession, or to compare
their hearts and lives with the word of God.  As if religion had nothing
to do with the _heart_, they only profess with their lips, what, alas! is
strongly reprobated by the current of their affections and the tenor of
their lives.  The lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride
of life, are their favorite idols: and to sacrifice to these, not to the
Lord of Hosts, is the wish, the desire, the ultimate resolution of their
hearts.  To such, an inspired Apostle says, _Ye adulterers and
adulteresses_, _know ye not_, _that the friendship of the world is enmity
with God_.  James, iv. 4.  They attend public worship; but while they are
visible in their pews to the eye of man, their real selves, their hearts,
appear to omniscience to be pursuing their vanities, and wandering
immeasurably far from God, when they should be approaching him in the
most solemn and intimate communion: so that in the very act of pretending
to worship him, they mock him most.  Their “week’s preparation” is
hurried over with the rapidity of a school-boy repeating his task; only
with not so much attention, nor with equal fear; and, while they feel
religion to be perfect bondage, and go through it as a drudgery, they
nevertheless depend upon their lame performances for acceptance, and so
make their very sin and abomination their Saviour.

And is this the preparation the scriptures require?  Is this giving the
heart to God?  Are such persons consistent worshippers of that God, who
is a _Spirit_?  Can these be said to be preparing to meet the Lord?  Are
they at all ready to go forth at the coming of the bridegroom?  No.  A
spiritual infirmity, deeper than that lameness, which prevented
_Mephibosheth_ from going out to meet King David, incapacitates, and
indisposes them totally for the advent of the King of kings.  Their
preparation, like the ceremony of a funeral, is nothing but the pageantry
of _the dead_; and the decorations of a breathless corpse carried in
pompous procession to be food for worms in the grave, exhibit too
striking a representation of that unanimated and lifeless formality,
which, with all its gaudy trappings, is but the _corpse_ of religion, and
leads to the chambers of everlasting death.

3.  An habitual _watchfulness_ of spirit, that implies diligence,
solicitude, fidelity, prayer, holiness, is absolutely required of those,
who would wish to meet God with joy.  This watchfulness, in scripture, is
contrasted to sloth, inaction, unfaithfulness, inordinate care,
worldly-mindedness, and carnal security.  It is compared to that
circumspection and fidelity which should mark the conduct of a servant,
entrusted with the care of a household, and obliged by the nature of his
office, as well as the injunctions of his master, to manage every thing
in his absence with wisdom, and to prepare for his return; and to that
wakeful diligence, by which a house is guarded against the depredations
of nightly robbers.  _Let your loins be girded about_, _and your lights
burning_, _and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord_,
_when he will return from the wedding_.  _Blessed are those servants_,
_whom the Lord_, _when he cometh_, _shall find watching_.  _And this
know_, _that if the good man of the house had known what hour the thief
would come_, _he would have watched_, _and not have suffered his house to
be broken through_.  Luke, xii. 35–39.  The contrary temper of
unwatchfulness is described in the character of an unfaithful,
quarrelsome, disobedient, and drunken servant, who takes occasion to riot
and revel, from the delay of his master’s returning home.  _But_, _and if
that servant say in his heart_, _my Lord delayeth his coming_, _and shall
begin to beat the men-servants and maidens_, _and to eat and drink_, _and
to be drunken_, _the Lord of that servant will come in a day when he
looketh not for him_, _and at an hour when he is not aware_, _and will
cut him in sunder_, _and will appoint him his portion with the
unbelievers_.  Luke, xii. 45, 46.  And in all those instances, the
principal argument to urge the necessity of watching, is founded on the
uncertainty of the time of our Lord’s arrival.  _Be ye therefore ready_,
_for the Son of man cometh at an hour_, _when ye think not_.  Luke, xii.
40.  _The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night_.  2 Pet.
iii. 10.

The watchfulness, therefore, recommended by our Lord, and implied in the
text, comprehends an habitual spirit of prayer; hence the exhortation,
_Watch and pray—habitual sobriety_; _Watch and be sober_; Thes. v.
6;—holiness in conversation; _Set a watch before my mouth_; Psal. cxli.
3;—a patient, yet ardent expectation of the Lord’s arrival; and a
cautious avoidance of every care, of every pleasure, and of every
entanglement, which might ensnare the heart, captivate the senses, and
immerse the affections in sloth and self-indulgence.  All which is
enjoined in that concise but most solemn and comprehensive exhortation of
the Son of God, _What I say unto you_, _I say unto all_.  WATCH!  Mark,
xiii. 37.



SERMON X.


                        ON THE DEATH OF MR. I. A.

    “_He shall enter into peace_.”  ISAIAH, lvii. 2.

THE great and irreversible decree of Heaven, respecting the whole human
race, is, “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.”  This
sentence, originally pronounced upon the transgression of the first man,
evidently included also his whole posterity to the end of time.  It has
already received its solemn execution upon the generations that are past:
we see with our eyes, its effects in the multitudes, that are daily
passing from time to eternity: nor shall its influence cease, until the
wide-extended dominion of death be destroyed, and mortality swallowed up
of life.

The divine appointment, through which the grave becomes the common
receptacle of all men, is not more awful, than it is _just_: for, “the
_wages_ of sin is _death_.”  Man _deserves_ to die, because he hath
_sinned_.  Hence, there ariseth a necessary and inevitable connexion
between our origin and our end.  So that, if we wish to trace the
innumerable calamities attendant upon death, to their source; we shall
soon find, that they all originate from SIN.  “As by one man SIN entered
into the world, and _death_ by sin, and so death passed upon _all_ men,
for that all have _sinned_.”  Rom. v. 12.  It is sin that hath brought
universal disorder into the natural and spiritual world.  It hath sown
the seeds of mortality in the human frame; hath filled the heart with
alienation from God; and rendered body and soul obnoxious to the sentence
of everlasting separation from the kingdom of heaven.  Sin hath given
death his sting; and furnished that king of terrors with his formidable
message and tremendous appearance.  It hath opened the horrors of the
tomb, and expanded wide the mouth of hell.  It hath armed the law with a
curse, more to be dreaded than death; hath given the sword of justice its
sharpest edge; and hath awakened the indignation of that God, who is as a
consuming fire.  It is the great bar of separation between the creature
and the Creator; and is that moral evil, which, when finished, brings
forth death, temporal and eternal.  It brought a flood of waters upon the
old world; was the cause of Sodom’s destruction; and will, at last, bring
a deluge of fire upon the world that now is.

In a review of those innumerable evils, of which, even death is not the
greatest, it will be incumbent upon us, therefore, to keep our eye fixed
on the origin of them all, SIN.  Hereby we shall be able to vindicate the
righteous procedure of God, even when we behold him sending death to pull
down the beautiful fabric, which his own hands had made; and opening the
grave, as the sad and silent repository of his own curious workmanship.
When we reflect, that it is _sin_, that hath produced this melancholy
change, and that this evil is found upon us; the reflection will help to
restrain the extravagance of grief, and to suppress that predominancy of
discontented repining, which often makes sinners fly in the face of God,
and charge him foolishly.  For, if death be not duly considered and
acknowledged as the desert and wages of sin, I can easily conceive that,
for want of such humble consideration, sinners may be led to arraign the
dispensations of the Most High; to charge unerring wisdom with
foolishness; infinite justice with unrighteousness; and mercy itself with
cruelty.  But, when once sin is viewed, in its _damning nature_, its
_dreadful_ _effects_, and _just deserts_; the discovery will produce
submission to the divine will, under the most severe dispensations.  It
will make us “put our mouths in the dust,” in silent acquiescence in the
wise and sovereign disposals of Heaven.  Or, if we open them, it will
only be to confess, that “the Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy
in all his works.”  By attentively considering the nature of sin and the
manner of its introduction, in order to account for the origin of all the
evils that prevail in the natural and spiritual world, and to vindicate
eternal Providence, and justify the ways of God with men; we shall hereby
also possess the consequent advantage of beholding, in its most glorious
point of view, the inestimable REMEDY for sin, by the death and
resurrection of the LORD JESUS CHRIST.  And, if the former considerations
may be deemed sufficient to work in the heart patient submission, and
unrepining acquiescence in the dispensations of Jehovah; _this_ will
inspire it with a hope blooming, and full of immortality.  If reflections
on the demerit of sin can stop the mouth in silence in the dust; _this_
will open it in bursts of praise, and glowing effusions of gratitude and
admiration.  _Sin_ is redemption’s advantageous _foil_.  And as the
variegated colors of the rainbow shine with greatest beauty on the
blackest cloud: so, the malignity of sin, and the gloom of death, tend
proportionably to set off the glory of the Saviour, and to give
additional lustre to that bright manifestation of life and immortality,
which are brought to light by the gospel.

This chain of thought, if pursued, will necessarily lead us, not only to
behold the riches of divine grace and the out beaming of all the divine
attributes, rendered eventually more glorious even by the intrusion of
the most horrid evil; but also to consider death itself as the portal to
eternal life.  This consideration will immediately fix the heart in
delightful meditation on the great work of HIM, who came “to put away sin
by the sacrifice of himself, and through death to destroy him that had
the power of death, that is, the Devil.”  Heb. ii. 14.  And here such a
bright scene will present itself to the eye of contemplative faith, as
shall dispel the horrors of the tomb; gild with joy and triumph the
shadow of death; and enable us to derive wisdom and consolation, even
from the solemn apparatus of a funeral.  Here we shall be led to meditate
on the great and glorious end of the Redeemer’s incarnation, and the
wonderful effects of his mediatorial undertaking.  We shall behold him
triumphing over sin in his cross, and leading captivity captive by his
glorious resurrection.  Bereaving death of its sting, and embalming the
regions of the dead by his own burial;—shutting the mouth of Tophet, and
opening to his people the gates of everlasting bliss; and still going
forth conquering and to conquer, till sin, Satan, the world, and death,
are made his footstool.

These contemplations will suggest the grand preservative against
immoderate grief; and administer that healing balm for woe, which the
heavy calamities of this mortal life require; and without which, the
pressure of them would be insupportable.  Whoever is acquainted with the
great doctrines of the gospel, and the saving influence of them upon the
heart, is the only person duly prepared for the arrival of those alarming
incidents, which often give such a vehement shock to the feelings of
human nature.  And, as no event whatever more sensibly touches the heart,
than that which bereaves us of our earthly friends; consequently nothing
can bear up the mind under such losses, but that which administers a
ground of consolation, adequate to the cause of our sorrow.  This, divine
revelation can do.  It assures us, that “blessed are the dead which die
in the Lord:” that, though “one event happeneth to the righteous and the
wicked,” yet that the souls of the former are “taken away from the evils”
of time, and made possessors of the glories of eternity: that, therefore,
“we should not sorrow” immoderately, as others which have no hope, but,
“if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which
sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.”  1 Thes. iv. 14.

Truths these, which brighten the prospect of even a dread eternity, and
strip death of every thing really terrifying.  Under a firm persuasion of
their credibility, we may give up our friends, without any reluctance,
into the icy arms of death: and when depositing their precious remains in
the cold and gloomy recess of the tomb, may rejoice in lively hope of
that happy resurrection-morn, when the sound of the last trumpet shall
awaken them from their slumber in the dust, and call them from their long
confinement into life and glorious immortality.  So that, while a
disconsolate parent is bedewing the corpse of a beloved child with his
tears, or one friend is bemoaning the loss of another, crying, “Ah, my
brother!” it is sufficient at any time to repress the impetuous current
of grief, and admit the soothing remonstrances of _hope_ and
_resignation_, to reflect, that deceased friends are not lost, but gone
before; and, that if they have died in the Lord, our loss is their
everlasting gain.  But here let us

I.  Examine the character of those, who shall be thus favored: and

II.  Consider the nature and extent of their happiness implied in the
terms _entering into peace_.—After I have gone through these two heads, I
shall, then,

III.  Endeavour to suggest some serious reflections, particularly adapted
to the consideration of young persons, and not unworthy the solemn
attention of the aged.

I.  We are to examine the character of those who shall be so favored, as,
after death, to be translated to glory.

They are described, in the very first verse of the chapter, from whence I
have selected the text, under the general character of “the righteous.”
A denomination this, which comprehends their manner of acceptance before
God, and the nature of their walk before men.  But, as mistakes
respecting these two points are not more frequent, than they are fatal,
permit me to state this part of the subject, under the following
scriptural observations.

1.  We can only determine what is righteous or unrighteous by the test of
God’s holy law.  Every thing that is repugnant to this perfect rule, is
unrighteousness; and that which is commensurate with its sacred
requisitions, is righteousness.  In the former branch of the definition,
there is implied every _kind_ and every _degree_ of contrariety to the
law: as the latter comprehends universality and perfection of obedience.
From hence it must, at first view, appear, that although there is,
allowedly, a deeper _malignity_ in some sins than in others, yet that
_every_ transgression of the law is sin, and merits death: and that,
therefore, no _medium_ can be found between righteousness and
unrighteousness: for the scripture asserts, that “_all_ unrighteousness
is sin:” so that, before the popish distinction between sins _venial_ and
sins _mortal_ can be admitted, it must first be demonstrated that there
is a middle something between righteousness and unrighteousness, which
neither keeps the law nor breaks it; that there are some sins, which in
their nature are not damning; and are pardonable, _merely_ because they
are _little_ in point of aggravation.  But, that absurdities of this
nature are as contrary to sound divinity, as they are repugnant to right
reason, it is evident, because, “the _wages_ of _sin_,” of every sin, “is
death;” and the holy law of God, without leaving vain man to judge for
himself in a matter of so great importance, stamps a _curse_ upon every
failure in obedience, whether great or small; saying, “_Cursed_ is every
one that continueth not in ALL things written in the book of the law to
do them.”

2.  As every transgression of the law is sin, consequently, that can only
be denominated _righteousness_, which implies a full conformity to all
its precepts.  Under this term, therefore, are comprehended _purity of
principle_, _perfection_, _universality_, _and spirituality_ of
obedience.  1. That any single act of an external nature can possess no
claim to righteousness, unless the _principle_ be intrinsically good, is
evident; because, St. Paul supposes it possible to “give one’s goods to
feed the poor,” and to suffer martyrdom, and yet to do both from a false
principle.  The nature of fruits is determinable, not by their
_appearance_, but by the state of the tree: and fruits of righteousness
can only grow upon a righteous stock.  As the _heart_ is the seat of
principle, _that_ must consequently possess “truth in the inward parts,”
in order to communicate purity to its desires, purposes, and aims.  If
the streams are pure, they must issue from a pure fountain.  So that
there must be spotless purity of heart to give existence to a righteous
act.  2. There is included in the term _righteousness_, not only
immaculate purity in principle, but likewise perfection and
_universality_ in the act.  As every branch of the law is equally holy,
just, and good; therefore every precept of it hath an equal demand of
obedience, “For, he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not
kill.  Now, if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become
a transgressor of the law.”  James, ii. 11.  Man is not left to pick and
choose, according to his own option, which of the commandments he may
think proper to keep, but is required, on pain of death, to observe the
_whole_ law: for, if any _one_ precept could be dispensed with, so of
course might all.  But “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet
offend in ONE point, he is guilty of ALL.”  James, ii. 10.  3. The
righteousness which the law demands, must not only respect the _letter_,
but also the _spirit_ of it; for “the law is _spiritual_.”  Rom. vii. 14.
By the spirituality of the law, the _thoughts_ of the _heart_ come as
much under its strict cognizance, as the outward actions of the _life_.
Thus the same precept, which prohibits the act of adultery, equally
condemns the _lustful thought_ and _lascivious glance_, as violations of
the seventh commandment.  “Whosoever _looketh_ on a woman to lust after
her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”  Mat. v. 28.
And the same prohibition which, in its letter, condemns the worshipping
of images; gives, by its spirituality, the name of _idolatry_ to the
inordinate love of any thing that robs God of his right.  Thus
_covetousness_ in the heart, or the inordinate love of pleasure, will as
effectually constitute _idolatry_, in the eye of the law, as the most
formal prostration to graven images.  So that the _righteousness_, which
the law requires, includes a conformity to its sanctions, as fully, in
the _spirit_, as in the _letter_ of them; and as much to the _whole_, as
to a _single precept_.

3.  From the foregoing considerations, it is plain, that as righteousness
consists in a fulfilment of the whole law, according to the perfection,
purity, and deep spirituality of its commands; consequently he alone can
be denominated a _righteous_ man, whose conduct is a literal transcript
of the above definition of righteousness.  Or, in other words, he is
righteous _legally_, whose thoughts, words and actions, can bear the
rigorous examination of God’s law; whose heart is perfectly free from
every wrong principle, and every corrupt inclination; whose life
exemplifies the whole obedience of the law in its fullest extent; and who
can therefore challenge either the law or the law-giver to find _any sin_
in him.  And, there is one ingredient more indispensably requisite in the
character of a man righteous, according to the _law_; which is,
_incessancy_ of obedience.  In order to be justified by it, man must not
only obey, but _persevere_ in obeying.  Perfect obedience will not be
sufficient unless it be continued, and that to the end of life.  The
righteousness of the law saith, “The man that doeth those things shall
live by them.”  Rom. x. 5.  And its penal sanction crieth, “Cursed is
every one that _continueth_ not in all things,” &c.

4.  And now, where is such a righteous character to be found?  The heart
and life of Adam, indeed, previous to his fall, literally exemplified it
in its greatest perfection.  But since that melancholy event, there is an
end of all human righteousness.  For “the scripture concluding all under
sin,” declareth that “there is none _righteous_, _no not one_.”  Rom.
iii. 10.  A declaration, which equally affects Gentiles as well as Jews,
and places the fallen children of Adam upon an equal footing, in point of
justifying righteousness.  “Every mouth must now be stopped, and ALL THE
WORLD become GUILTY before God.”  Rom. iii. 19.  Man cannot justify
_himself_: for an attempt to do so would only “prove him perverse,” and
be an additional manifestation of his unrighteousness.  The _law_ cannot
justify him, because “it is weak through the _flesh_,” or the inherent
corruption of human nature.  “By the deeds of the law there shall no
flesh be justified.”  Rom. iii. 20.  For, “if righteousness come by the
law”—if a sinner could be justified by his obedience to it—“then Christ
is dead in vain.”  Gal. ii. 21.  This inability to justify, is not the
effect of any absolute weakness in the law itself, but is eventually
occasioned through the dreadful degeneracy of human nature, styled in
scripture, “the flesh.”  The law still retains as intrinsic a power in
itself to constitute righteous, as it ever did; and if any man could be
found capable of fulfilling its condition of perfect obedience, it would
not only justify him, but also entitle him to glory, independent of the
Son of God: for its condition and promise are connected, when it says on
this wise, “_Do_ this, and _live_.”  But man’s original guilt and
practical disobedience, incurring a double forfeiture of the promised
reward, the law possesseth an eventual incapacity of _making righteous_:
and this is, what the apostle says, “the law could not do,” Rom. viii. 3,
or το αδυνατον του νομου is, the _impossibility of the law_.  So that,
whoever seeks justification by it, seeks an _impossibility_; and by
having recourse to its obligation of perfect obedience, and failing
notwithstanding in a fulfilment of that obligation, he lays himself open
to the full force of its condemning sentence, its penal sanctions, and
tremendous curse.  “As many as are of the works of the law, are under the
CURSE.”  Gal. iii., 10.

5.  But, since, according to numerous testimonies of scripture; agreeably
to the purity, spirituality, and indispensable requirements of the law;
and consistently with the universal depravity of human nature; man
cannot, without the highest arrogance, and even blasphemy, lay any claim
to personal merit: how then is he to become _righteous_?  This is an
inquiry of infinite importance; since it is declared, that “the
_unrighteous_ shall not inherit the kingdom of God;” and since, without
an exemption from guilt and an interest in a positive righteousness, man
can have no scriptural ground to hope for a deliverance from death or a
title to life; to expect the favor of God here, or to claim his kingdom
hereafter.  In illustrating this point, it will be necessary to consider,
how a man’s person may be righteous towards God, and how his works may so
justify his religious profession before the world, as to vindicate his
character from the imputation of hypocrisy, and demonstrate the
genuineness of his faith.

6.  As to the manner, in which a sinner is to be made righteous before
God; since it has already been demonstrated, by irrefragable proof from
the scriptures of truth, as well as by arguments deduced from the
corruption of human nature, and the sanctions and sentence of the law,
that all obedience of the sinner is insufficient towards his
justification before the majesty of heaven; nothing farther in a negative
way need be added, to corroborate, what is, indeed, in itself, so
evident, and incontrovertible.  It may, however, be necessary to quote a
few scriptures, in which two of the most illustrious saints, in language
of the deepest self-renunciation, disclaim any the least pretensions to
justification before the most High and Holy God, howsoever they might
esteem their conduct justifiable before fallible creatures, like
themselves.  “BEHOLD I AM VILE!” says he, who was a mirror of patience,
“what shall I answer thee?”  Job, xl. 4.  “How can man be JUSTIFIED WITH
GOD?” says the same person, “or how can he be clean that is born of a
woman?  Behold even to the moon and it shineth not: yea the stars are not
pure in his sight; how much less man that is a worm!”  Job, xxv. 4, 5.
Hear how the man after God’s own heart trembleth at the thought of
Jehovah’s entering into judgment with him, or any other creature.  “If
thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities; O Lord, who shall stand?”  Psal.
cxxx. 3.  “Enter not into judgment with thy servant: for, in THY sight
shall no man living be justified.”  Psal. cxliii. 2.—Passages these,
which are but few out of the multitudes that might be produced, to
demonstrate the impossibility of being justified in ourselves before a
heart-searching God, as well as the dreadful peril of abiding the
sentence and scrutiny of his righteous law.

7.  But how, then, can man stand before this holy Lord God, and be
constituted righteous in his sight?  This question cannot better be
answered than in the words of the XIth article of the Church of England.
“We are accounted righteous before God _only_ for the merit of our Lord
and Saviour Jesus Christ, and _not_ for our _own_ works or deservings.”
I quote this excellent article of our church, not with any design of
establishing its authority as infallible and decisive, but merely because
it affords a plain and scriptural definition of the point in question, as
well as exhibits a striking proof, that our sentiments, on the mode of a
sinner’s justification before God, are supported by the venerable
sanction of the Church of England: and I believe it will satisfactorily
appear, that it is not without scriptural ground, that she requires of
all her ministers, an unequivocal and solemn subscription to this, as
well as every other article in the _thirty-nine_.

8.  According to our church, therefore, and the word of God, with which,
on this head, she perfectly accords, our justifying righteousness is the
meritorious work of Christ; which consisteth in a perfect obedience to
the law, and a full satisfaction to divine justice; the one including
what he _did_, the other what he _suffered_; and both, in inseparable
connexion, constituting that glorious and “everlasting righteousness,”
which the Mediator hath brought in, by his entire obedience to the death
of the cross.  This is called by our church, “the _merit_” of Christ,
because when the dignity of his person is taken into consideration, it
appears that an infinite sufficiency is thereby communicated to his
obedience, and every part thereof; and that he possesseth an inherent
power of meriting for others, or of _constituting_ others righteous, as
well as being righteous himself.  This he can only do, as being “God over
all, blessed for evermore.”  For, if he had been a mere creature, though
his righteousness might be sufficient to justify himself, yet it could
never have transferred a power of justifying others: because, it is
repugnant both to reason and scripture, that _any created_ being, even
the first-born seraph round the throne of God, should not only merit for
himself, but also possess a redundancy of merits transferable to others.
But that the Redeemer is possessed of such a power, is evident from the
words of the apostle, “By the obedience of one shall many _be made
righteous_.”  Rom. v. 19.  This argument proves, therefore, that Christ
is _very God_, as well as very man: that there is a translation of merit
infinitely sufficient in a sinner’s justification: and that the active
and passive obedience of the Mediator, is, through the infinite dignity
of his person, a _divine_ righteousness.  Hence it is written, “This is
his name whereby he shall be called, JEHOVAH OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”  Jer.
xxiii. 6.  And again, “We are made _the righteousness of God_ in him.”  1
Cor. v. 21.

9.  “We are accounted righteous before God ONLY for the merit of Christ,”
says our church: and so saith the scripture.  “There is _none other_ name
under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved,” Acts, iv. 12.  “I
will make mention of thy righteousness,” says David, “even of thine
ONLY.”  Psal. lxxi. 17.  To suppose, that any thing but the righteousness
of Christ can justify us before God, is a supposition big with pride,
blasphemy, and absurdity:—with _pride_; because it inclines a man to
esteem himself a sort of coadjutor in the work of salvation with
Christ:—with _blasphemy_; because, by implying an insufficiency in the
Redeemer’s righteousness _fully_ to justify, without the co-operation of
human merit, it detracts from his personal and mediatorial honor, and
gives a share of glory where none is due:—with _absurdity_; because it
implies, that Christ came only to be a _half_ Saviour; and attempts to
establish a coalition between human _works_ and divine _grace_, by making
eternal salvation depend partly upon the one, and partly upon the other;
a heterogeneous mixture this, which the scriptures disavow in most
explicit terms.  “If by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise
grace is no more grace.  But if it be of works, then is it no more of
grace: otherwise work is no more work.”  Rom. xi. 6.

10.  The righteousness, by which we are justified, is made over to us by
an act of gracious and sovereign _imputation_.  Thus “David describeth
the blessedness of the man, to whom God _imputeth_ righteousness without
works, saying, blessed are they, &c.”  Rom. iv. 7.  And, because _faith_
is the instrument in receiving and cleaving to this righteousness;
therefore this grace is said in a secondary and subordinate sense, to
operate in our justification.  So “Abraham _believed_ God, and it was
accounted ελογισθη _imputed_ to him for righteousness.  But, that faith
itself cannot constitute a justifying righteousness, properly so called,
is evident, because it is opposed to _working_, to him that _worketh not_
but _believeth_,” &c.  Rom. iv. 5; and because, if it justified in the
proper sense of the word, as an act, our justification being in that case
by _works_, we should then claim heaven as a reward due to personal
merit.  For, “to him that worketh, is the reward not reckoned of _grace_
but of _debt_.”  Rom. iv. 4.  But, that faith cannot found any such
claim, is abundantly demonstrable, from the distinction which the
scriptures observe between faith and its object; making use so frequently
of the terms, “the righteousness which is _by_ and _through_ faith,”
Phil. iii. 9, and “faith _in_ the righteousness of Christ.”  2 Pet. i. 1.
So that, when our church says “we are justified by _faith_ only” in
opposition to works, it means that we are justified _instrumentally_ by
faith, but that the object which it apprehends, viz. the righteousness of
Christ, is the primary and meritorious cause of our justification.

11.  The grace of faith, by which we are justified, is also the great
instrument in the inward work of _sanctification_; because it “receives
from Christ’s fulness,” grace to “purify the heart” and “work by love.”
It cleanseth the conscience from dead works to serve the living GOD; and
lays the axe to the root of corruption, by destroying the love, and
mortifying the power of sin.  An increase of faith produceth a
proportionable increase of sanctification: for, as the first production
of the fruits of righteousness originates from this life-giving grace, so
the subsequent abounding of them derives its prosperity from its
fructifying influence.  And, as “works done before the grace of Christ
and the inspiration of his spirit are not pleasing to God, because they
do not spring from faith;” (see the article); consequently, those which
follow after justification, derive their acceptableness from that faith,
which offers them upon the golden altar of the Redeemer’s sacrifice,
which sanctifieth the gift.  Hence we see how a sinner is made inherently
holy, as well as personally righteous; viz. by one and the same faith,
apprehending Christ as our sanctification, as well as our righteousness
in justification.  And, from hence it is apparent, 1. that no good works
can go before justification; or that, until a sinner is made partaker of
divine faith, he can perform nothing acceptable in the sight of God;
because, “whatsoever is not of faith, is sin:” 2. and therefore, that he
cannot bring forth the fruits of righteousness in his heart and life
before men, until the person is accepted before God, through the
infinitely meritorious work of the Mediator.

12.  This inward work of the spirit is absolutely necessary to the
sinner’s _meetness_ for heaven; and the external fruits of it justify his
religious character before the world.  Thus Abraham was justified by
_works_ before men, and by _faith_ before God.  The intentional offering
up of his son was the illustrious instance of the strength and
genuineness of his faith, and constituted his declarative justification
before the world: but his “believing in the promised Messiah, which was
accounted to him for righteousness,” was the ground of his justification
before God, and preceded his justification by works.  So that the father
of the faithful himself, “if he were justified by works, hath whereof to
glory, but NOT BEFORE GOD.”  Rom. iv. 2.  And thus the scripture, without
incurring the charge of self contradiction, was eminently fulfilled, when
it saith, “Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for
righteousness:” and, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works?”
James, ii. 21, 23.

13.  By this scriptural distinction, every thing is kept in its proper
place.  Justification and sanctification are not confounded; and their
respective offices are so ascribed to faith and works, as that the honor
of the one is not vacated, nor the declarative evidence of the other
superseded; but both are established in their proper stations;—_that_ to
justify before God;—_these_ to justify before men.  By this distinction,
the word of God is easily reconciled with itself; and while one branch of
it furnishes an antidote to the insolent claims of self-righteousness,
the other equally secures obedience to the law, against the presumptuous
hope of the antinomian hypocrite.  “Do we make void the law through
faith?  God forbid: yea we establish the law.”  Rom. iii. 31.—“By _grace_
ye are saved through faith: _not of works_, lest any man should boast.”
Ephes. ii. 8, 9.

From all, which I have urged on this head, with studied copiousness
because of its importance, it is manifest that a _righteous man_ is one,
who renouncing his own, betaketh himself to the righteousness of Christ;
who, through the infinite merit of the Saviour’s blood, and the
perfection of his obedience to the law, is delivered from curse and
condemnation, and is possessed of a legal title to heaven; who receiving
this method of justification by faith, believeth to the saving of the
soul; in whose heart the fruits of righteousness are implanted; and in
whose life there is a complete portraiture of a consistent professor of
the gospel.  Such a man is now blessed in the possession of present good;
but he has secured to him still greater happiness in reversion.  Standing
in Christ, he has nothing to fear from sin, Satan, the law, or justice.
And having his loins girded and his lamp burning, he is ready at all
times to arise and meet the bridegroom.  To him to live is Christ, to die
is gain.—But this brings me

II.  To consider the nature and extent of his happiness implied in the
terms _entering into peace_.

As _peace_ necessarily pre-supposes trouble or warfare, it consequently
leads back our ideas to the state of the righteous in this howling
wilderness, previous to their arrival at the heavenly Canaan.  Here, as
pilgrims and sojourners, in a strange land, they undergo a great variety
of fatigue and hardship before they accomplish the important journey they
are taking; and one can never contemplate the _rest_ they enter upon in a
glorious hereafter, without tracing in idea the _wearisome steps_ that
lead to it.

Afflictions and trials are the lot of the righteous in this world; and
they are not more remarkable for their number, than for the peculiarity
of their nature, and the end of their appointment.  Though they are
sharers in those common and general afflictions, to which human nature,
since the fall, is subjected, and to which man is born as the sparks fly
upward; yet they have a superadded portion of trials distinct from those,
which are inseparably connected with their character, as Christians, and
with their life, as believers; and for bearing of which they require a
proportionable degree of grace and consolation from on high.  Indeed,
those trials, peculiar to God’s people, are not only the inevitable
consequence of their gospel profession, but also the result of divine
appointment.  So the Apostle Paul expressly declares in his epistle to
the suffering professors of the church of Christ at Thessalonica; when,
after exhorting them “not to be moved by their afflictions,” he
immediately adds, “For yourselves know that ye are _appointed_
thereunto.”  1 Thes. iii. 3.  As the great Head of the church is
glorified by the patience and fortitude of his suffering witnesses on
earth; his infinite wisdom appoints the nature, and fixes the weight,
number, and measure of their trials, in order that he may have an
opportunity of illustrating the power of his grace in their support.  And
there is a no less manifestation of mercy and love, than of _wisdom_, in
the various trials which God hath appointed as the lot of his church
militant.  Hereby, he possesses innumerable occasions of demonstrating,
that he _loves_ his people under their afflictions, and that the severest
chastisements of his rod are suggested by the most tender parental
affection.  By making the darkest dispensations work together for their
good, he shews them the determinations of his _love_, and the
wonderworking operations of his over-ruling _power_: he points out to
them what he _can_ do, and what he _will_ do for them.  So that their
sufferings illustrate his goodness, and furnish the most ample display of
that wisdom, mercy, faithfulness, and power, which so illustriously shine
forth in all the gracious and providential dispensations of Jehovah
towards his church and people.

Besides; affliction constitutes a distinguishing _mark_ in the character
of the righteous.  “Many are the troubles of the righteous,” says David.
“In the world you shall have _tribulation_,” said David’s LORD to his
disciples.  And, as a proof that neither persecution, nor any other
species of affliction, was confined to the days of the apostles, St. Paul
assures Timothy, that “ALL who _will_ live godly in Christ Jesus shall
suffer persecution.”  2 Tim, iii. 12.  The world and the “god of the
world” will ever unite in opposition to those, who have deserted the
maxims of the one, and have solemnly renounced the service of the other;
and because the righteous are engaged in a cause diametrically opposite
to the interests of both, therefore the world and Satan hate them with a
perfect hatred, and pursue them with intentions of the most infernal
nature.  And is this to be wondered at, when it is considered, that the
most spotless character that ever appeared upon earth, was loaded with
the heaviest reproaches?  If, therefore, affliction be the path, which
the blessed Jesus himself trod; and if they called the Master of the
house _Beelzebub_; can they of the household hope for an exemption from
similar calumnies?

As long as the righteous are in a state of nature, so long the world
loves them.  But, the moment a saved sinner enters into the peace of the
gospel, in that very moment the world and the devil enter the lists
against him.  As long as the strong man armed is permitted to keep his
palace undisturbed, all is peace; but when a stronger than he comes to
dispossess him, then Satan begins to rage.  While a sinner fights under
his banner he gives him no disturbance; but as soon as he is delivered
from the captivity under this infernal tyrant, instantly Apollyon draws
the sword, and never puts it up during the Christian soldier’s abode in
the wilderness.  Then he prepares all his snares; sets all his engines to
work, and has recourse to every stratagem; in order, if possible, to
recover him, whom he looks upon as a deserter from his camp.  He brings
forth his loaded quiver; puts his most envenomed arrows upon the string;
and shoots many a _fiery dart_, at least to distress, where he cannot
destroy.  But the believer having put on the whole armour of God,
receives coolly all the accusations, terrors, blasphemous suggestions,
and discouraging fears, of the enemy of his salvation, and snaps them to
pieces on his adamantine shield of faith.  And yet renewed assaults and
renewed disappointments of the enemy never discourage him from repeating
the attack; in a renewal of which, the world heartily joins him.  While
he lived according to the course of this world, blind, careless, and at
enmity with God, so long no encomium was too high for him; and not only
the most fulsome panegyrics were poured upon his virtues, but blind
partiality threw a veil over his very _vices_, and would not allow that
“so mighty good a man could be wrong;” although at the same time,
perhaps, his principles and practice were equally corrupt.  But let this
same person, late the _darling_ of the world, and the object of its
warmest commendations, only be awakened to a feeling sense of his lost
state, take but a few steps out of Babylon; and immediately the note of
the men of the world is changed: their blessings are converted into
curses; their praises, into reproach and calumny; and the most
ridiculous, depreciating, illiberal, and even abominable epithets, are
not bad enough for him, who has avowed non-conformity to the world, and
is determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified.  So
that, if to these trials from Satan and the world, be added a
consideration of the still keener ones from the remainder of corruption;
with how great propriety do the scriptures represent the life of a
Christian, as a _warfare_, a _race_, a _difficult journey_, an _agony_?

But is there no release at all for the Christian soldier from this severe
struggle with sin, Satan, and the world?  Yes, the same hand that
appoints the scene of battle, will sign a discharge from it also.  The
day is fixed, when, after his exit from the field, he is to “enter into
_peace_:” not like a coward who flies from battle, but as a magnanimous
veteran, worn out in the services of the Captain of his salvation; to
whom “to live was Christ, and to die is gain.”  Then shall he put off
that “_harness_” in death, which he put on, when he enlisted as a
volunteer under the Messiah; and shall lay down the weapons of his
warfare and his earthly tabernacle together.  His ears shall then no
longer be stunned with the din of war, nor his heart be made so
frequently the seat of terror and agitation, under apprehensions of
losing the day after all; but, relieved from all his fears, and released
from all his conflicts, he shall enter into that land of consummate
peace, in his march towards which he had been obliged to fight every step
of the way, with his sword in hand.  There he shall receive, as the
gratuitous donation of divine grace, and as the _gracious_ reward of his
faithfulness unto death, an immortal crown of glory; which, when his
divine Captain places it on his head, he shall, with the hand of
self-renunciation, take off, and in deepest humility lay at Immanuel’s
feet.  There he shall be placed at an infinite distance from the seat of
war in this troublesome world; and, beyond the reach of all his enemies,
shall enjoy peace that shall never be interrupted, and bliss that shall
never have an end.

View the righteous man under the representation of a _traveller_.  A
sinful world is the place, from whence he sets out: heaven, the country
to which he is bound.  Satan and sin are the great enemies that oppose
him in his journey; and many a wearisome step he takes, before he gains
the point in view.  Temptations from his own heart’s corruptions, as well
as from the world and Satan, are the storms he meets with in the way; but
Christ is his sun and shield, to illuminate and defend.  After having,
perhaps, borne the burden and heat of the day, death at last arrives, a
welcome messenger, to relieve him from his toil, and usher him into his
heavenly Father’s kingdom.  “The rest of a laboring man,” says Solomon,
“is sweet.”  How much more delectable must rest in the placid bosom of
the tomb be to him, whose labors have been great in proportion to the
greatness of the cause in which he embarked! and all the powers of whose
body and soul were exerted in the arduous toil!  But after the fatigue of
the day, how sweet the approach of the season of repose!  Even in the
prospect of it, the believer anticipates a degree of heaven; and an
assurance that his light afflictions will, as it were in a moment, come
to a period, alleviates every present cross, and enables him, in the view
of future trials, to take no anxious thought for to-morrow.  When death
actually comes, he finds him prepared for his arrival.  Clad with the
whole armour of God, and washed from every defilement in the Mediator’s
blood, he shouts, “O death where is thy sting?  O grave where is thy
victory?”  With intrepidity of soul, he touches the _sting_ of death, and
feels it not only blunted, but also free from poison.  He then examines
the whole strength of the _quiver_ of death, and finds there is not one
shaft in it that can penetrate his shield of faith and wound his soul;
and then he shouts again, “Thanks be to God, who giveth me the victory
through my Lord Jesus Christ!”  And as soon as death executes his
commission; that fatal blow of the King of terrors, which, by a judicial
sentence, cuts down the wicked as cumberers of the ground, and is only a
prelude to the transplantation of the righteous from this desert to the
celestial Eden; his body then drops into its original dust, and is
consigned to the silent grave; where “it lieth down and riseth not, till
the heavens be no more.”  Job, xiv. 12.  There the wicked cease from
“troubling, and there the weary are at rest.”  Chapter iii. 17.  Then his
mortal part “enters into peace,” being exempt from every thing that could
give pain, or cause trouble.  There

    “The corpse is affected no more
       With trouble, or shaken with pain,
    The war in the members is o’er,
       And never shall vex him again.
    The languishing _head_ is at rest;
       Its _thinking_ and _aching_ are o’er:
    The quiet immovable _breast_
       Is heav’d by affliction no more.
    The _heart_ is no longer the seat
       Of trouble and torturing pain:
    It ceases to flutter and beat;
       It never shall flutter again.”

But what tongue can describe, or heart conceive, the nature of that
peace, which the disembodied spirit enters upon!  The instant the thread
of life is cut, and the soul is disengaged from the cumbrous clod of
earth in which it was imprisoned, it flies to regions above, and towers
away on the wings of cherubim, to that celestial city, whither it had
often fled before on the wings of _faith_, and _hope_, and strong
_desire_.  A convoy of angels attended till the happy spirit was released
from its prison; after which the heavenly escort conducts it to the
promised rest.  The gates of the New Jerusalem are thrown open wide to
admit the blessed stranger; whom Immanuel waits to introduce to his
kingdom, and clasp to his heart.  Then the righteous _enters_, amidst the
congratulatory salutations of kindred spirits:—_enters_! through the
infinite merit of the blood of atonement:—_enters_! like the weary
traveller arriving joyful, though fatigued, at his journey’s
end:—_enters_! like an exile, returning from a long captivity, to his
native home:—_enters_! triumphant, as a victor loaded with spoils, and
crowned with conquest, after a severe campaign:—_enters_! like some
richly-laden vessel, with all its sails crowded to the wind; escaping the
horrors of the deep, and making for the destined haven, where it would
be.—Thus the righteous enters, while, we may suppose every golden harp is
new-strung, to shout him welcome to the celestial city; and every voice
is exerted in singing, “Open ye the gates, that the righteous which
keepeth the truth may enter in.”  Isa. xxvi. 2.

He enters into _peace_.  This blessing was in a degree the privilege of
the believer upon earth, when, “being justified by faith,” and “having
access into this grace wherein we stand,” Rom. v. 1, 2, he entered into
peace passing all understanding.  But, as that peace was constantly
assaulted, and frequently interrupted upon earth, it is necessary that he
be for ever delivered from such interruption and all the causes of it.
Such “a rest remaineth for the people of God:” where Satan shall never be
able to annoy, the world cannot obtrude its temptations; and sin shall no
more extort that groan, “Wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me
from the body of this death!”  Rom. vii. 24.  “Where the righteous shall
hunger no more, neither thirst any more: for the Lamb which is in the
midst of the throne shall feed them, and lead them to fountains of living
waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes!”  Rev. vii.
16, 17.

What a glorious exchange?—of sickness and pain, for everlasting rest and
peace!—of a ruinous tabernacle; for a house, not made with hands, eternal
in the heavens!—of a howling wilderness; for the heavenly Canaan, the
palace of angels, the city of God!—of the groanings of corruption and
sin; for the songs of the redeemed round the throne!—of the chamber of
sickness; for the regions of unfading health, “where the inhabitant shall
never say, _I am sick_!”—of the cross; for a crown of glory,
incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away!—and of earth, with
all its distractions, vanities, vicissitudes, and woes; for the
beatitudes of heaven, and the rapturous enjoyment of the vision of God!

    “—Happy day! that breaks our chain!
    That manumits; that calls, from exile, home:
    That leads to nature’s great metropolis:
    And readmits us, thro’ the guardian hand
    Of elder brothers, to our _Father’s_ throne!”

But it is time I should now proceed to consider the last thing proposed,
which was,

III.  To suggest some serious reflections, more particularly adapted to
the consideration of young persons; and not unworthy, I hope, the solemn
attention of the aged.

1.  You have heard the character, and the blessedness of _the righteous_,
described: Do you wish to be followers of such?  Follow them to the
_grave_ you certainly must; and it is impossible to tell, how soon that
may be the case.  While your passions are moved under a subject, that is
in itself deeply affecting, perhaps you are adopting the wish of
_Balaam_, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let _my_ last end
be like his!”  But do you wish, not only to follow the righteous to the
_glory_ that awaits him, but also to tread that _path_ which leads to it?
If not, your wishes are insincere, and delusory.  The _life_ and _death_
of the righteous will always be of a piece: if _that_ be not holy, _this_
will not be blessed.

2.  But, perhaps, subjects of this nature, and the scene to which they
refer, are too solemn for the gaiety of your temper.  But, O remember,
that scene (I mean that of death) in all its solemnity, will very soon be
exemplified in yourself, as it constantly is, in the departure of
multitudes, that drop beside you on the right hand and on the left.  You
are _young_.  But youth, in its utmost vigor, is accessible to disease;
and the most healthful constitution possesses no infallible antidote
against the shafts of death; which make equal havock in the bodies of the
youthful and robust, as in those of the aged and infirm:—Surely the sable
ornaments of the pulpit, in which I stand, afford a most striking
memorandum of this truth.—Death’s cold hand often seizes, and effectually
chills the most blooming flower; and either nips it in the bud, or blasts
all its full-blown beauties, just as they arrived at maturity.  How many
go off the stage of life, “in their full strength,” as the book of Job
says!  How soon might the _consumption_, that ravager of youth, if
commissioned by the sovereign arbiter of life, lay thy blooming
constitution in ruins! and reduce thee to such a state of languor and
debility, that “the grasshopper should be a burden!”  Yea, cannot death
find access to thy frame, by innumerable avenues?  Are not the seeds of
mortality sown in the very substance of our bodies, and mingled with the
minutest particles of their contexture?  So that, “in the midst of life
we are in death?”  Are not our _end_, and our _origin_, DUST?

If, therefore, health be so fading a flower, and the young are no less
liable to disease and death, than the aged: is it wise, is it _safe_, to
squander away your precious, your _precarious_ moments in vice and
dissipation?  Can you imagine that your business in this world, is
nothing more than “to eat and drink and rise up to play?”  Remember what
was the dreadful fate of those who thought so, in the days of Noah.  Is
our time so _long_, that you can _spare_ such a considerable portion of
it to vanity?  Is it so much _at our disposal_, that we can even promise
ourselves _to-morrow_?  Or, is it of so _little value_, that we should
throw it away upon pernicious lusts?

    “—Throw _time_ away?—
    Throw _empires_, and be blameless.  Moments seize:
    _Heav’n’s_ on their wing.  A _moment_ we may wish,
    When _worlds_ want wealth to buy!—” {400}

Perhaps you suppose, that youth is the season for gaiety and dissipation,
and mature years, the proper time for seriousness and devotion; and,
therefore, that you are to seek the salvation of your soul, only in some
distant period of life.  But this supposition is not more dangerous, than
it is erroneous.  How do you know, that the time will ever come which you
allot for that great work, which is not so much as _begun_?  Have you
made a covenant with death?  And if you should even arrive at old age; it
is ten thousand to one, that your soul’s concerns will occupy your
thoughts, in the least, after a long series of previous dissipation,
deadness, and delay.  Does not the want of certainty, therefore, in this
case, furnish a most awful argument against the daring presumption of
your conduct?  Besides, why should the prime of life be devoted to sin,
and only the enfeebled close of it consecrated to religion?  Is there any
reason, (rather, is there not the most infernal absurdity?) in supposing,
that God may be put off with the services of infirm old-age, while the
Devil is to be complimented with the blooming honors of health and
strength?  Dreadful preposterousness!

5.  If, therefore, the great uncertainty of _life_, under all the
advantages which youth and health can give it:—if the importance of
_time_, which surpasseth, in _value_, the _gold of Ophir_; and in
_swiftness_, the flight of the eagle or the arrow:—if the great danger of
postponing matters of infinite moment, to some future period, which may
never arrive:—if the awful absurdity of dedicating youth to pleasure,
from a supposition, that only the close of life is to be appropriated to
religion:—and, if the probability of being suddenly cut off by the stroke
of death, amidst all these vain imaginations; and of being summoned into
the presence of God, before a single resolution has been adopted,
respecting the securing of future bliss, or the avoiding of future
misery:—if solemn considerations, like these, can have any weight with
you; let me beseech you, to admit their force, and to obey their powerful
suggestions.  If you do not; the time will come, when each of them will
penetrate your heart, keen as so many daggers; and when it will be out of
your power, _for ever_, to recall the opportunities, talents, and
privileges, which you are now so grossly abusing.

6.  _Young_ as you may be, you are old enough, it seems, to rebel against
God: and why not old enough to begin seriously to seek an interest in
JESUS?  Would you wish to postpone your _happiness_?  True felicity
consists in a solemn dedication of the heart to God.  The sooner this is
done, the sooner you will be happy: the longer it is delayed, the longer
you will be estranged from true bliss.  Why then should not your
happiness commence as _early_ as possible?  I know, the blessed
attainment will cost you the loss of your lusts, or your
self-righteousness.  But, who ever esteemed it a _loss_, to exchange
fleeting and unsubstantial _trifles_ for glorious and eternal
_realities_?—to give up the _world_ and gain CHRIST?—to part with _sin_,
and secure _heaven_?  Your loss, here, will be your everlasting gain; and
so you will esteem it, when life is made to appear in its genuine colors
of vanity and nothingness; when “the chief among ten thousand” is
manifested to your heart, in all his matchless beauties; and when death
draws the curtain, that hides the invisible world from your view.

7.  But what is it, which the world has to bestow, that will admit of any
comparison with the unsearchable riches of Christ?  “The things that are
in the world,” says St. John, “are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the
eyes, and the pride of life.”  These are the great all of which the world
can boast: these the sum total of its admired gratifications.  And, when
you weigh the entire aggregate of all its accumulated good in the balance
of truth, it amounts to no more than “vanity of vanities.  All is
vanity!”  But, _supposing_, that the gratifications of sense and all the
pride of life _could_ furnish a degree of felicity: yet how extremely
_short_ is their duration!  “The world _passeth away_ and the fashion
thereof.”  Ere long, every fleeting object shall be torn from your
embraces.  “The lusts of the flesh” will expire in corruption: the “eye”
be closed in darkness: and all “the pride of life” evaporate in smoke,
and vanish like a dream of the night.  But, the existence of sublunary
bliss is not more fleeting, than the inordinate enjoyment of it is
pernicious.  The positive declaration of God’s word is, “If ye live after
the flesh, ye shall die,” eternally.  Will you, then, erect your
happiness on so precarious a basis; when misery and ruin must be the
certain consequences?  Will you, dare you, run the awful risk of losing
an eternity of bliss, for the enjoyment of a little transient pleasure in
time?  Had you rather endure the gnawings of “the worm that never dies,”
than deny the cravings of some headstrong lust?  Is it a matter of
greater moment to flutter away in all the emptiness and parade of dress
and dissipation, than to “redeem the time” and prepare for eternity?

8.  If you wish to be in earnest about the salvation of your souls, let
me entreat you; 1. to avoid the company of those, who, as a color for
their profligacy and licentiousness, laugh at all religion, as
_priest-craft_.  Shun the conversation of such, as you would the
_plague_.  Their principles are supported by _infidelity_; their practice
founded upon _wickedness_ itself; and their steps lead to _hell_.  2. Be
not intimidated by those titles of reproach and epithets of calumny, by
which, such as dare to be singular, are now distinguished.  It is a fact
as lamentable, as it is notorious, that the power of religion is by
multitudes decried and discountenanced, under the application of
hackneyed stigmas, that have no more _sense_ in them, than _seriousness_.
But this has been always the case.  When people want _arguments_, they
call _names_; and because they have no religion _themselves_, therefore
they abuse _those who have_.  Sitting in “the seat of the scornful,” they
contemptuously arraign the conduct of the humble followers of the Son of
God, because it is such a contrast to their own, and reproves their
_ignorance_, _carelessness_, and _vanity_.  But “whether it be right in
the sight of God, to hearken unto such men rather than unto God; judge
ye.”  Acts, iv. 19.  3. Beware of despising in your heart or lightly
esteeming that _gospel_, which “is the power of God to salvation to every
one that believeth.”  Rom. i. 16.  Rather, “give the more earnest heed to
the things which you have heard;” Heb. ii. 1; because, a reflection in an
awful hereafter, that the salvation of the gospel has been offered, but
rejected, will constitute the most torturing aggravation in the miseries
of a sinner finally lost.  Read Heb. x. 28, 29.  4. Be not satisfied with
a little external decency of behaviour, without a real inward change of
_heart_.  If you would enter into heaven, you must be _converted_: and
conversion is a work of the spirit of God, which corrects irregular
propensities, in their very _rise_: it lays the axe to the _root_ of sin;
so that where this inward eradication takes place, outward branches fall
with it.  You may be _civilized_ and _orderly_, as the Pharisees of old
were, and yet, like them, be equally _unchanged_ and _unpurified_ in
heart.  But, if it please God, to “renew you in the spirit of your mind;”
you will then be furnished with an antidote against the force of
temptation: you will he prepared for death and judgment: and “whether you
live or die, you will be the Lord’s.”

                                * * * * *

                                  FINIS.

                                * * * * *



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FOOTNOTES.


{i}  The actual book doesn’t have a title page: this one has been created
by the transcriber.—DP.

{vi}  See an excellent little piece, just published, entitled, “Remarks
on the Present State of the Established Church, and the Increase of
Protestant Dissenters.”

{ix}  Except in the introductory Essay, to which a few sentences have
been added to finish the contrast drawn between the righteous and the
wicked, which evidently wanted a conclusion.  Intimation of this is given
in its proper place.

{50}  Had the life of the worthy Author been spared a few years longer,
he would have seen that happy event realized which he enjoyed only in
anticipation; and would have rejoiced at the removal of those dreadful
evils, which he has here described in such glowing colors.  That shameful
traffic, which has added such an awful weight to our national sins, is
now brought to a conclusion.

Long had the condition of the oppressed and injured African interested
the feelings of the British nation, and called forth the energies of many
of the members of the British parliament; often had their cause been
pleaded in the senate, without success: but, at length, “their cries have
reached the ears of the Lord of Sabbath,” the oppressed negro is
released, and slavery is no more.  The name of WILBERFORCE will vibrate
on the ears of the sable sons of Africa till the end of time; Britons
will long remember, by whose patient exertions, (amidst opposition and
reproach,) a disgraceful stain has been removed from our national
character; and posterity will learn the important lesson, that
“_Exertions in the cause of truth and justice cannot finally prove
unsuccessful_.”  Present Editor.  April 2d, 1810.

{55}  The reader is desired to take notice, that the following sentences
have been subjoined by the Editor of the first edition.

{138}  The Greek word γαμους, in Mat. xxii. 2, signifies a nuptial
_banquet_, and is used in that sense by other writers.

{151}  Socinus’s _Italian_ name.

{194}  Galen.

{215a}  Savannah-la-mar.

{215b}  Barbadoes.

{234}  See Whiston’s Memoirs, pages 94–96.

{259}  Service of the Church of England.

{287}  Το υπερεχον της γνωσεως.

{311}  A most awful instance of this sort was recorded in the _Evening
Post_, for June 1781, in the following words:—“Last week two soldiers at
Chatham laid a trifling wager which could swear most oaths.  After one of
them had uttered many shocking ones, he hesitated a short time, and said,
‘_He could think but of one more_, _which should be his last_;’ but was
instantly struck speechless, and so remained for about three hours, when
he expired.  His body was, by order of his officers, made a public
spectacle to the populace and soldiers, as a warning.”

{353}  Office of baptism in the book of common prayer.

{400}  Young’s Night Thoughts.





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