Page images
PDF
EPUB

“ If the single point insisted on in the first sermon, namely, the deep guilt of an apostate independent will, was duly attended to, it might be a means of checking many of the careless, giddy tribe, in their mad career of selfism and sensual pleasure ; and perhaps awaken some startling thoughts concerning natural corruption, in the breast of the more cool objector to revelation in general.

“ A rational creature, made to be happy by knowing and loving God, and steady conformity to his will, and yet turned from him in the bent of its will and affections, and seeking happiness in opposition to him, is a monster in nature. Do but allow the fact, which is sufficiently confirmed by the experience of all ages, and the confession of the best men that ever lived, and we need to look nowhere else than to this poisoned fountain of a selfish, corrupt will, for the vanity and wretchedness of our state. It may justly be questioned, whether there can possibly be two kinds of happiness in nature, and whether God can conceive or produce a happiness different from, and much less opposite to, his own. If then the happiness of God springs from, and is one with the perfect rectitude of his own will, and there can possibly be no happiness in any part of creation but according to his idea and standard of it, the necessary consequence of a rebellious departure from the sovereign will, which made and governs the universe, must be perpetual error and certain misery. And though God in mercy may instruct, admonish, bear with, and use all suitable methods to reclaim his perverted creatures from their foolish wanderings, and bring them back again into the one sole road of order and happiness, yet he has not the power, if he could have the will, to make them happy out of it.

“The disputer of this world thinks it too great a stoop of majesty, for God to become man that he might accomplish the work of our redemption; and cries out, not with pious admiration, but in the selfsufficiency of his reason, What is man that thou shouldst so regard him ?' and the willing slaves of sin, as well as those who are engaged in a continual round of what is called innocent pleasure, or worldly business, and abandon themselves with full relish to the comforts of the animal life, without understanding and seeking after God, take refuge in mercy, and make it the first, if not the only article of their creed; meaning by that, a power or will in the Most High to dispense with truth and justice, in order to suit their case, and sneering at the horrid word, damnation. But the answer to both is, that the recovery of self-conscious, intelligent beings from a state of enmity and rebellion against their Maker, and their eternal happiness or misery, is no trifle with God, though it is with man ;-that if help were wanted, it would be offered ; and when it was, we might well suppose it would be in a way far exceeding our natural thoughts and apprehensions ;—that the greatness and mysteriousness of the deliverance, show dreadfully the greatness of our danger, and the infinite malignity of that disposition in man which required it ;—that it comes to us in a way of cure, and as restoration of health to the soul;—that our great spiritual disorder, terrible corruption, and absolute incapacity for happiness, is the aversion of our wills from God, and opposition to him in self ;—and that if we reject our remedy, by refusing to return to an union of will with him, there is no such resource of mercy in his nature as we dream of; we have the essence of misery in ourselves, and by our own obstinate choice of it, put an eternal bar to God's goodness.

“I suppose Christ has given us sufficient intimation of the state we are in ; and he carries us to the root of our distemper when he teaches us to pray, 'that God's will may be done on earth as it is in heaven;' and charges us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him, whose meat and drink it was to do the will of Him that sent him ; nay, and he tells us, that whosoever he be that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be his disciple.' Does this seem a grievous, hard saying to thee? Art thou unwilling to cross thy desires, and give up all thy worldly views of profit or pleasure, for the will of God ? Deceive thyself no longer; trust not to an outward civility, nor any kind of life, whether in religion or in the world; thy sin is found out for thee. Thou mayest see in this glass wherein thou comest short of the glory of God, of glorifying God by a profound submission to his will, which is his glory in and from man; and what is the true cause of every other sinful exorbitance in thee?

guilt incurred, punishment due, and infinite justice demanding it-what shall ward off the blow ? Repentance and return to God ;—so unbelieving man says; making a merit of it; supposing he has the power to repent and return, in and of himself; and that whenever he does, God must receive him to favour. But these are dangerous suppositions to trust to for eternity; and utterly insufficient to release the conscience, labouring under a sense of guilt, and looking out every way for some better ground of hope. I will venture to say, that it is hardly possible for the convinced, awakened soul to trust to them; and I fear those who do have another secret supposition in reserve, which is, that sin is not of so deadly a nature, nor so odious to God, as it must be on the Christian scheme. A real belief of the guilt and danger of it will necessarily be attended with alarming apprehensions of the defectiveness of repentance, of its insufficiency at the best for satisfaction, and of our impotence to good in the future course of our lives. And this sense will dispose, if not force us to receive the much-wanted friendly aid of Revelation ; and to form our conduct upon the notion of a scripture God, instead of one of our own making. For notwithstanding the boasted perfection of human reason, and our conceited, arrogant pretences to supernatural knowledge, God will always be unknown, as to his counsels, ways, and actings, if he does not reveal himself. The description given of him, (Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7,) as “forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, and yet by no means clearing the guilty,” exceeds all the understanding of the natural man; and would ever have been a mystery if Christ had not explained it, by bearing our sins in his own body, reconciling us to God by his death, bringing in a perfect righteousness for us, enabling us by his Spirit to subdue the power of sin in ourselves, and completing our redemption by making us new creatures, fit for heaven.

“ These points are clearly opened, and pathetically enforced in the following discourses.

“ If the author should be liable to the charge of hurting the cause he would serve, let him be entitled to no apology, if he has gone beyond the rule of scripture, which prescribes an amazing height of purity for such a weak and sinful creature as man; but is nevertheless necessary to be proposed to him in its full extent, to convince him of sin, bring him to Christ, direct him in his aims, prove his sincerity, and quicken his endeavours. And to speak only of an absolute submission to the will of God, who will presume to affirm that less is required of us? It would be an ill office in a Christian divine, to tell men exactly where they may stop without hazard; and he would have but little thanks for his pains, from zealous persons, endued from above with a spiritual taste, whose state is progressive, and their hearts bent upon continual advancement in holi. ness, which is what his description of the new creature implies; and not that none can be saved who come short of it, provided they are going on to perfection, and trust not in themselves but in the Lord Jesus Christ.

“ One thing more is humbly submitted to the reader's consideration, namely, whether the points of man's guilt and sin, restoration by grace, acceptance through Christ, and the necessity of spiritual renovation, are not fairly reasoned; and whether, though not discoverable by human wisdom, yet,

« PreviousContinue »