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lect, carries its own proof with it. The argument is addressed not to our passions but our understanding; and our judgment, if not controlled by criminal prejudices, must and will approve. And if the truth asserted be of a nature surpassing the full comprehension of finite capacities, it yet claims our belief, and most rationally, on the decisive and authoritative testimony of the great God. So that it is true both of those plain doctrines and precepts, which more immediately respect our practice and a future state of rewards and punishments; and of those sublime truths which relate to the nature of God, the way of salvation by Christ, and the operations of the divine Spirit on the heart; it is true of them both that they are held up to our view in this book with such a blaze of evidence, as is abundantly convincing to a judgment emancipated from the dominion of sense and sin. · And this being the case, the word of God furnishes arguments every way sufficient to detect error, to lay open its numerous arts and subterfuges, and by reproof; or conviction as the text expresses it, to silence and overcome it. This is the grand test to which every question about God, religion, and a future world is to be brought, the dernier resort of every controversy, the bar at which every opinion is to be tried. It is treason against Heaven for any men or set of men to establish & judicature that shall share authority with the Bible, or shall dare to lord it over the consciences of their fellow-men. How profitable then the word of God in this view of it! The Bible ! The Bible! that is the religion of Protestants, of all genuine Christians. To the law, and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them a.
But this word of God has also a convincing power in it, when set home upon the heart, in regard of those truths and facts, a practical sense of which is necessary to the existence of religion in the soul of man. It is the main instrument by which the Holy Spirit, whom our Saviour hath promised, reproves the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment b. It is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged a Isa. viii. 20.
6 John xvi. 8.
sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart a. It is a ham mer to break, and a fire to dissolve the hard and flinty heart. · If there be such an evil and bitter thing as sin, if the guilt men have contracted is heinous and aggravated, if their nature is wretchedly polluted and depraved, and if in this state they stand in danger every hour of the greatest miseries; if these are facts, it is fit, it is absolutely necessary, in order to their reconciliation to God and their final happiness, that a sense of them should be impressed on their hearts. And if death, judgment, and eternity are not mere creatures of the imagination, but awful realities, and very nearly approaching, (how soon no one knows) it, I say, these matters are indisputable, and the event of them most interesting; it is fit that a conviction of their certainty should be interwoven with the practical powers of the soul. Who does not see, who will not acknowledge, the force of this reasoning ?
Well, but what are the feelings of mankind in general on these subjects ? Not to speak of those who have made up their minds to infidelity, in order to lay their consciences asleep, what multitudes are there who admit the truth of these things, and yet are not affected with them! They are perfectly easy, though their house is on fire about them. They sport on the brink of a tremendous precipice. They slumber on the top of a mast. They sing in the midst of a storm, and laugh while the forked lightnings play around them, and the hellowing thunder rolls over their heads. Is not this the fact ? Does not death, with his pale visage and his pointed arrows, present himself to their full view, and reak his malice now on one at their right hand, and then on another at their left? Does not the grave, the insatiable grave, open its mouth in their sight, and now swallow up this friend and then that? And yet they remain insensible. They tremble perhaps for a moment, but their fears quickly subside. . Sin still domineers. Vice still holds them in captivity. Sense still triumphs over
a Heb. iv. 12.
The charm is unbroken. And the wretched slave is led ignominiously as an ox to the slaughter, and as a fool to the correction of the stocks.
O how profitable then is the word of God for reproof and conviction ! Yes, the word of God, accompanied by the same divine energy which gave it existence, has often performed this salutary office. By its all-commanding voice it has spoken those fears into life, which have proved an introduction to safety, tranquillity, and happiness. It has looked the stout sinner in the face, and authoritatively said to him • Thou art the man.' It has brought up to his view his private vices as well as his public sins. It has arrested him, dragged him to the tribunal of conscience, charged him with his aggravated crimes, and obliged him to plead guilty. It has made death, judgment, and eternity pass in review before his astonished and af, frighted eye, and forced him to cry out in the anguish of his heart, What must I do to be saved? How shall I escape the wrath to come? It was this word of God that fixed conviction on their consciences who embrued their hands in the blood of the Saviour, and made them exclaim, Men, brethren, What shall we do? It was this word that made a Felis, amidst all his criminal pleasures and unrighteous gains, and even upon the seat of judgment, tremble.
This word is profitable too, not only to convict notorious sinners of their guilt, but to reprove those of their secret sins and of the wretched depravity of their nature, who have valued themselves on their external decency and sobriety, and a long while remained insensible of their true state and character. It has torn aside the veil of self-deception, and shewn men the plague of their hearts. It has brought forward to their recollection their vain thoughts, proud reasonings, malevolent dispositions, bitter prejudices against religion, airy dreams, groundless hopes of happiness, and deceitful vows and promises. It has described the leading features of their character, and led them into the inmost recesses of their souls. It has developed all their fine spun reasonings, spoiled them of all their glorying, driven them from every false refuge of hope, cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and brought into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ a.
And while the word of God has done this, it has fixed on their minds a deep sense of the infinite value of their immortal souls; of the vast and indispensable importance of an interest in Christ, and the great blessings of the gospel; and of their need of a superior and almighty influence to renew their hearts, to assist them in their duties, to steel them against temptation, and to bring them at length to heaven.--So we are led to a further use of God's holy word, which is that,
3. Of comforting the heart.
Here a pleasing scene opens to our view-pleasing did I say! I had almost said enchanting. It is impossible for me to do justice to the subject. I cannot describe it in all its parts. I cannot point out all its beauties. I cannot place it in its infinitely diversified views. This book enlightens to entertain, and reproves to amend. It gives pain, that it may give pleasure; wounds, that it may heal; brings low, that it may raise up; strips us of all our fancied wealth, that it may possess us of durable riches and righteousness; and makes us for a few moments unhappy, that we may know, feel, and enjoy real, substantial, everlasting felicity.
To the dejected penitent sinner it speaks words of strong consolation b. It tells him how merciful God is, how gracious the Lord Jesus Christ, how rich the blood he shed upon the cross, how perfect his righteousness, and how prevalent his intercession. It tells him, there is forgiveness with God that he may be feared c; that with him there is plenteous redemption d, pardon for crimes of the deepest dye, and salvation to the utterinost e. It assures him that Christ will cast out none that come to him f ; that he will embrace them in the arms of the tenderest love; smile on them as his friends, his brethren, his children; and do infinitely more for them than they can ask or think; that he will give them his Holy Spirit g; and that having given himself for them, he will with that gift freer ly give them all things a. It preaches good tidings to the meek, it binds up the broken hearted, it proclaims liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound—it gives to them that mourn in Zion beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness b'
a 2 Cor. x. 5. d Ver. 7.
Luke xi. 13.
6 Heb. vi. 18.
c Psal. cxxx, 4
Yonder I see a poor sin-sick soul, stung to the very quick by the evenomed serpent, and just breathing out his last. And what says the good word of God to him? Look to the serpent of brass, cast up thy dying eyes to the crucified Saviour, look and live 6.—There I see a miserable captive, groaning in silence and darkness, panting for light and liberty, And what says the word of God ?--Be thy fetters unloosed, cast thy mantle around thee, follow me, as the angel said to Peter, and I will lead thee through the iron gates of oppression, and set thy feet in a large and open place. There again I see an immortal soul in the depths of poverty and wretched ness, stript of all its boasted wealth, wounded, helpless, and half dead. And what says the word of God to him? It speaks the language of the good Samaritan, it pours oil and wine into his wounds, and commits him to the care of a gentle host.
In short, the word of God abounds with expressions of tenderness and love to the afflicted, in the first stage of religion-expressions adapted to the several figurative descriptions it gives of their character and condition. . It assures them that the blessed God will not despise the day of small things d—that though heaven is his throne, yet in the heart of the contriţe he will dwell e—that he forgetteth not the cry of the humble fo—that no weapon formed against them shall prosper gthat, like a shepherd, he will carry the lambs in his arms, and gently lead them that are with young h'—that 'a bruised reed he will not break, and smoking flax he will not quench, until he send forth judgment unto victory i—that the good work he has begun in them he will
a Rom. viii. 32.
6 Isa. Ixi. 1, 3.
c Isa. xlv. 22. f Psal. ix. 12. i Matt. xii. 20.