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SERMON of Nature has, in every age, loudly de
manded suffering, as the proper atonement for guilt. Hence mankind have constantly fled for refuge to such substitutions as they could devise, to place in the room of the offender; and, as by general consent, victims have every where been slain, and expiatory sacrifices have been offered up on innumerable altars. Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the most high God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, and calves of a year old ? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Or, shall I give my first-born for my transgression ; the fruit of my body, for the sin of my soul * ? These perplexities and agitations of a guilty conscience, may be termed preludes, in some measure, to the Gospel of Christ. They are the pointings of unenlightened nature, towards that method of relief, which the grace of God has provided. Nature felt its inability to extricate itself from the consequences of guilt: The Gospel reveals the plan of Divine interposition and aid. Nature confessed some * Micah, vi. 6, 7.
atonement to be necessary: The Gospel SERMON
XIII. discovers, that the necessary atonement is made. The remedy is no sooner presented, than its suitableness to the disease appears; and the great mystery of redemption, though it reaches, in its full extent, beyond our comprehension, yet, as far as it is revealed, holds a visible congruity with the sentiments of Conscience, and of Nature,
Natural and revealed religion proceed from the same Author ; and of course, are analogous and consistent. They are part of the same plan of Providence. They are connected measures of the same system of government. The serious belief of the one, is the best preparation for the reception of the other. Both concur in impressing our mind with a deep sense of one most important truth, which is the result of this whole discourse, That as we sow now we must reap; that under the government of God, no one shall be permitted, with impunity, to gratify his criminal passions, and to make light of the great duties of life. .
Psalm, ii. 11.
SERMON TOY and Fear are two great springs of
human action. The mixed condition of this world gives scope for both; and, according as the one or the other predominates, it influences the general tenour of our conduct. Each of them possesses a proper place in religion. To serve the Lord with gladness, is the exhortation of the Psalmist David *. To serve bim with reverence and godly fear, is the admonition of the apostle Paul f. But under the present imperfection of human nature, each of these principles may be carried to a dange
* Psalm, c. 2. + Heb. xii. 28.
rous extreme. When the whole of religion SERMON is placed in joy, it is in hazard of rising into unwarrantable rapture. When it rests altogether on fear, it degenerates into superstitious servility. The Text enjoins a due mixture of both; and inculcates this important maxim, That joy tempered with fear, is the proper disposition of a good man. In discoursing of this subject, I shall endeavour to shew, first, That joy is essential to religion ; and next, That, for various reasons, this joy ought to be mixed with fear; whence we shall be able to ascertain the nature of that steady and composed spirit, which is most suitable to our present condition, and most acceptable to God.
I. Joy is essential to religion, in two. respects; as religion inspires joy, and as it requires it. In other words : To rejoice is both the privilege, and the duty, of good men,
In the first place, Religion inspires joy, It affords just ground of gladness to all who firmly believe its doctrines, and sincerely study to obey its laws. For it confers on
SERMON them the two most material requisites of
joy; a favourable situation of things without, and a proper disposition of mind within, to relish that favourable situation.
When they examine their situation without, they behold themselves placed in a world which is full of the influence of a gracious Providence; where beauty and good are every-where predominant; where various comforts are bestowed ; and where, if any be with-held, they have reason to believe that they are with-held by parental wisdom. Among the crowd that encompass them, they may be at a loss to discern who are their friends, and who their enemies. But it is sufficient to know, that they are under the protection of an invisible Guardian, whose power can keep them from every evil. All the steps of his conduct, they may be unable to trace. Events may befal them, of which they can give no account. But as long as they are satisfied that the system of Divine government is founded on mercy, no present occurrences are able to destroy their peace. For be who spared not his own Son, but delivered bim up for them, how shall be not with him freely