« PreviousContinue »
crets, which I dare not even hint, and of some barefaced crimes, that are committed in the sight of the sun : Would the venerable man, think you, gratify your taste for preaching ? Would he submit to the laws, that your profound wisdom tyrannically imposeth on your preachers ? Would he gratify your curiosity, think you, with nice discussions? Do you believe, he would spend all his time and pains in conjuring you not to despair? Would he content himself, think you, with coolly informing you, in a vague and superficial manner, that you must be virtuous ? Would he finish his sermon with a pathetic exhortation to you not to entertain the least doubt about your salvation ?
Ah! my brethren, methinks, I hear the holy man; methinks, I hear the preacher animated with the same spirit, that made him boldly tell the murderers of Jesus Christ ; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you, by miracles and wonders, and signs, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain. Methinks, I see St. Peter, the man who was so extremely affected with the sinful state of his auditors; the preacher, who exhibited the objects, that he exposed in his sermon, in that point of view, which was most likely to discover to his auditors the enormity of their actions :: methinks, I see him tearing the miserable veils, with which men conceal the turpitude of their crimes, after they have committed them. Methinks, I hear him enumerating the various excesses of this nation, and saying! You ! you are void of all sensibility, when we tell you of the miseries of the church, when we describe those bloody scenes, that are made up of dungeons and gallies, apostates and martyrs. You! you have silently stood by, and suffered religion to be attacked ; and have favored the publication of those execrable books, which plead for a system of impiety and atheism, and which are professedly written to render virtue contemptible, and the perfections of God doubtful. You ! you have spent twenty, thirty, forty years in a criminal neglect of religion, without once examining whether the doctrines of God, of heaven, and of hell, be fables or facts. Methinks, I hear him exhort each of you to save himself from this untoward generation, Acts i. 40. SERMON X.
Let us throw ourselves at the feet of the apostle, or, rather, let us prostrate ourselves at the foot of the throne of that Jesus, whom we have insulted, and who, in spite of all the insults, that we have offered him, still calleth, and still inviteth us to repent. Let each of us say to him, as the convinced Saul said to him on the road to Damascus, Lord ! what wilt thou have me to do? chap. ix. 6. O!
may emotions of heart as rapid as words, and holy actions as rapid as emotions of heart, may
all we are, and all we have, may all form one grand Now of repentence; and may the day of salvation, the day of the gladness of the heart, succeed that great and notable day of the Lord, Isa. Ixix. 8. Cant. iii. 2. the distant prospect of which terrifieth us, and the coming of which will involve the impenitent in hopeless destruction. May God himself form these dispositions within us ! To him be honor and glory for ever.
THE SUFFICIENCY OF REVELATION.
Luke xvi. 27, 28, 29, 30, 31.
The rich man said, I pray thee, father Abraham ! that thou wouldest
send Lazarus to my father's house ; for I have five brethren ; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets ; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham ; but if one went unto them from the deud, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.
tempted of God: för God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. Thus speaks St. James in the first chapter of his general epistle, ver. 13. The apostle proposeth in general to humble his readers under a sense of their sins, and in particular to oppose that monstrous error, which taxeth God with injustice by making him the author of sin. This seems at first view quite needless, at least in regard to us. God the author of sin ! Odious supposition ! So contrary to our surest ideas of the supreme Being, so opposite to his law, so incompatible with the purity of those eyes which cannot look on iniquity, Hab. i. 13. that it seems impossible it should enter the mind of man, or if there were any in the
time of St. James who entertained such an opinion, they must have been monsters, who were stifled in their birth, and who have no followers in these latter ages.
Alas! my brethren, let us learn to know ourselves. Although this notion seems repugnant to our reason at first, yet it is but too true, we secretly adopt it; we revolve it in our minds; and we even avail ourselves of it to excuse our corruption and ignorance. As the study of truth requires leisure and labor, man, naturally indolent in matters of religion, usually avoids both, and being at the same time inclined to evade a charge of guilt, and to justify his conduct, seeks the cause of his disorder in heaven, taxeth God himself, and accuseth him of having thrown such an impenetrable veil over truth, that it cannot be discovered and of having placed virtue on the top of an eminence, so lofty and so craggy, that it cannot be attained. It is therefore necessary to oppose that doctrine against modern infidels, which the apostles opposed against ancient heretics, to publish and to establish, in our auditors the maxim of St. James, Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.
To this important end we intend to direct our meditations to day, and to this the Saviour of the world directed the parable, the conclusion of which we have just now read to you. Our Saviour describes a man in misery, who by soliciting Abraham to employ a new mean for the conversion of his brethren, tacitly exculpates himself, and seems to tax providence with having formerly used only imperfect and improper means for his conversion. Abraham reprimands his audacity, and attests the sufficieney of the ordinary means of grace. Thus