« AnteriorContinuar »
and peevish as they advance in years: and manifest their vexation by reviling this or the other class of men. As if the fault lay in their rank or profession, and were not common to the human species, however restrained, disguised, or modified; except as true religion produces an effectual change of disposition.
At the same time, it is evident, that all our comforts are entwined with cares and disquietudes; every enjoyment, after a while, palls and grows insipid; all our possessions are precarious, and may either be torn from us, or become the causes of the most exquisite anguish. Pain and sickness are entailed upon us: death is certain, and who knows how near? Its approach is dreadful, its stroke inevitable, and its visible effects intolerably mortifying. A dark gloom overshaclows the rest: who but he that believes the sure testimony of God, can say, what is beyond the grave? Yet there are forebodings of future retribution, which most men experience to their additional alarm: so that numbers seem to suffer many deaths in fearing one. To escape such distressing reflections, they who are not 'confined by daily business, have recourse to dissipation. These at first yield a childish delight; but soon become irksome, unless novelty be superadded by unceasing variety. This is the real secret of publick and private diversions; and of the liberality with which immense sums are expended, in encouraging new species of amusement, however frivolous and absurd. These enable men, for a moment, to escape from the tediousness of life, or the anguish of solitude and reflection; and tend to promote forgetfulness of God, of death, and of a judgment to come.
We appeal to every man's feelings and observation whether this description does not accord with facts? and whether it have any dependence on any set of religious opinions. Let us then enquire what light the scriptures throw upon the subject. There we learn, that “ God made man in his own image,” and created the world“ very good:” but that the first parents of our race ungratefully rebelled against their bountiful Creator, and disobeyed his express and easy com
, mand. Thus“ by one man sin entered into the world, “ and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, 66 in that all have sinned.” The holy image of God was also effaced, and from that time man was natural. ly incapable of spiritual felicity, dead in sin, and
prone to every kind of evil.
When the root of our race thus fell, all the branches fell with him, and became mortal and sinful; from the heart of fallen men evil thoughts, words, and works, continually proceed: and the natural effect of their crimes unites with the righteous indignation of God, in rendering this life a scene of labour and sorrow: and as, “ it is appointed to all men once to die, and after “ death the judgment;” still more terrible miseries may justly be dreaded in a future world. A criminal
a may. suffer many things previous to his trial and condemnation; but his principal punishment follows afterwards. And as the human soul is subject to sinful passions, corresponding to the diseases of the body: we not only must inevitably be exposed to condem, nation at the tribunal of God; but we also carry in cur lapsed nature the seeds of misery and destruction.
We have, however, another view given us, in the sacred oracles, of our actual condition, still more suited" to stop every mouth, and to bring in all the world guilty before God.”_We are doubtless, as reasonable creatures, accountable to our supreme Governor and Judge, for every part of our conduct; and his holy law is the rule, by which every disposition, word, and action must be tried. Now, who does not feel, that he hath in many instances violated the reasonable and righteous commandments of God? Who hath not heard that “ cursed is every one, that continueth not “ in all things written in the book of the law to do " them?
Thus “ the scripture hath concluded all under sin:” and it was not without cause, I hope not without meaning, that we this morning added, after each of the commandments, Lord, have mercy upon us, and * incline our hearts to keep this law.'
The man, who carefully compares his past and present conduct with this most strict and spiritual standard, will soon find his own conscience bring in a verdict against him: “And if our hearts condemn us, “God is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all
things.” No repentance or amendment can compensate for past offences; because we cannot in any instance exceed our present duty; and our debt increases in proportion as we still fall short of perfect obedience. Nor can we estimate the intrinsick evil of our sins against the infinite majesty of heaven, or the punishment we deserve for our ungrateful rebellion.
When we attempt to frame our conduct by the holy law of God, we feel a surprizing reluctance and back
wardness to this most reasonable service, and a strong propensity to disobedience. Evil dispositions, though common to all, are in some exceedingly strengthened by habit, and rendered ungovernable by peculiar temptations. Such men, therefore, as have serious thoughts and form good purposes, commonly find their resolutions enervated, and their endeavours baffled: and after some fruitless efforts, they return to their former course of life; unless relieved by the gospel of Christ.
When these things are seriously considered, the condition of mankind appears truly deplorable. Re. lated to God and an eternal world; exposed to death and a future judgment; already guilty of many heinous crimes, and propense to increase the number; liable to final condemnation, and " vessels of wrath fitted " to destruction;" what can any one do, to rescue or ransom himself or his brother from the awful sentence already published by the Judge, “Depart, ye cursed, “ into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his “ angels?” It is in vain to reason and dispute against facts, and the sure testimony of scripture: “Who art “ thou that repliest against God? Shall not the Judge " of all the earth do right? Shall mortal man be more
just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his + Maker?"*
Let us rather submit to his righteousness, and seek that relief which his gospel proposes to us. The Lord, against whom we have rebelled, hath revealed himself
to us, as“ merciful and gracious, forgiving iniquity,
transgression, and sin;" and hath made way for the exercise of his boundless mercy, in harmony with infinite justice and holiness, in the person, redemption, and mediation of his beloved Son. And the divine Saviour, having made a complete atonement for sin, brought in everlasting righteousness, and triumphed over all our enemies, now reigneth Lord of all worlds, and is able to save to the uttermost all them that “come to God by him; seeing he ever liveth to make, "intercession for them."
The proposal of mercy and grace, “ without mo“ ney and without price,” to the chief of sinners: the pressing invitations, and persuasions, with which God doth by his ministers beseech us to be reconciled to him; the actual pardon and complete justification of every true believer; the gift of the Holy Spirit to renew and sanctify our souls; the exceeding great and precious promises, privileges, and engagements of the new covenant; and the present comfort and future inheritance of the Lord's adopted children, might be particularly insisted on, in discussing the subject. These are in all respects good news, glad tidings, most needful for us, suited to our case, sufficient for our happiness, springing from love unspeakable, and terminating in the everlasting salvation and glory of all, who obtain an interest in them. This is the
gospel of Christ; the most rejoicing report, that ever reached the ears of mortal man. Little indeed has been said on such a subject: yet that little may serve to in, troduce an attempt,