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SANCTIONS OF THE GOSPEL.
Come ye blessed.-Depart ye cursed.
THE sanctions of the gospel, like the nature of the mind's attributes, are eternal. The gospel proceeded from a Being, whose attributes perfectly harmonize, and whose whole character is summed up in one word-love. God is never said to be all justice, or all power, but he is expressly said to be all love. The gospel is a system of love, of redeeming love, of restoring love.-If we wound our body, God has secreted medicated powers within us, which constantly aim at repairing defects; and the evils of one generation are lessened in each succeeding. So in the moral world, there is a tendency to heal, restore and strengthen. But is this eternal law of nature, inconsistent with its abuse, defeat and subversion? It is just that God should be merciful, and merciful that he should be just.
-Look now at those texts, which exclude the wicked from a state of inconceivable bliss. "The door was shut; outer darkness; the punishment of that period, or continued punishment; fire; death; perdition; shall not see life; and the destruction of that period, or protracted destruction, from the presence of the Lord and his glorious power."
To this we know will be added extreme mental anguish, arising from the consideration of what these victims of Divine Justice have lost, and the consideration of the trifling value of those objects for which they lost it; from the stings of conscience, and the company of only wicked and miserable beings. "There will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth."
But granting that virtue is, in its nature, eternal, and that vice being opposed to God and nature, is temporary, and that all will be restored to virtue, and finally admitted thereby to happiness, yet I say, the wicked will have lost the happiness of Christ's mediatorial kingdom; they will not only have lost this, but their future situaation-their situation both absolute and relative to all eternity, will be affected by the loss. They must be, for ever, behind those, who made a proper improvement of their first state, and who will be advancing in intellectual and moral perfection and happiness, during all that period, in which they are suffering that punishment, which was necessary to destroy-not themselves-but their sinful habits, and to prepare them for the enjoyment of consequent happiness. So that literally-without any straining of the words-their punishment will be eternal.
Of all practical considerations, this is the most important. It shows that the connexion between sin and misery is eternal, immutable, indissoluble; that really and truly, though in a sense different from that in which the words are generally understood, sin is of infinite demerit; that in its consequences-consequences which can not be avoided, but which are a part of those laws by which the moral world is governed-it affects the state for ever. This view of the punishment of the wicked implies an inferiority of happiness through all the ages of eternity.
These are the real sanctions of the gospel.-He who contrasts happiness and misery, and contrasts the blissful invitation, Come ye blessed, with the dread denunciation, Depart ye cursed, wants no other motive to make this his fixed-determined-unalterable resolution-I act for immortality.
GREAT EVENTS FROM SMALL BEGINNINGS.
Behold there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand!
He who sees the end from the beginning, orders events by that wide view of consequences, which baffles human comprehension. He makes the greatest and most permanent effects to follow from causes apparently the most insignificant and transitory.-How often has a single word, a glance of the eye, a familiar conversation or a friendly visit, laid the foundation for our future friendship and future success. How do we remember, that a single thought, suggested in a moment, as a reverie of the imagination, has led to results affecting our whole character, situation and happiness. How do our minds recall the day, the evening, and the hour, when a great decisive point was fixed in our history. The mighty river, which rolls on through empires its vastness of waters to the ocean, has its beginning in a little spring which the eye might overlook or the hands confine.
This principle may be illustrated by recurring to the history of empires; the rise of christianity; the rise too of its corruptions; the beginning of the reformation, and the growth of intellectual and moral habits.--Look at what small events have decided the destiny of empires! A single individual's mind, once excited, ruminates in secret thought follows thought, rapidly and irresistibly; it ferments; it bursts from its confinement; communicates itself to multitudes; and forms those torrents of popular opinions, whence, if they meet and clash, the shock is felt, far and wide throughout society--then rises the storm of human passions; the waves of civil discord begin to roll : the deep groan of war is heard thrones are tumbled down, and sceptres broken; temples and palaces strew the ground the peaceful citizen beholds the flame that consumes the fruits of his toil, extinguished only by the blood of his children--then follows the shout of victory, mixed with the shriek of the widow and the orphan; the choral song of triumph, and the funeral dirge; while over the face of desolated and weeping nature, the crimson banner of conquest waves.
Turn now to the cottage of the carpenter of Nazareth, and to the huts of a few fisherman of Galilee. Who could have conceived, that from such an origin, should have sprung a spiritual dominion, which not only baffled the wisdom of the wise and the power of the mighty, but the more it was persecuted and opposed, grew and flourished the more-A spark burst suddenly into a mighty flameAmidst rushing storms and whelming floods, it rose with inextinguishable and increasing brightness, and nation after nation "saw a great light" overspreading the earth.--Here, as on a magnificent funeral pile, were thrown in heaps of ruin, the temples of superstition, the idols, the pomps, the vanities, which had, for so many ages, dazzled and deluded the human mind; while the guardian spirits of our race sung "peace on earth, and good will towards men, and glory to God in the highest."-Thus rises, unperceived by human sight, the small dim vapour of the sky; which, continually increasing, as it sails along, at length involves the whole face of heaven; and descends in large abundance on the parched earth; refreshing the soil and blessing the inhabitants
"shedding herbs and fruits and flowers On Nature's ample lap
WE MUST FORSAKE ALL TO FOLLOW CHRIST.
Peter said,-Behold we have forsaken all and followed thee.
THE Command to leave all our earthly interests and connexions in order to follow Christ, means that he is to be so supreme in our affections, that earthly ties shall not wean us from our devotedness. It shows us, that the religious principle, which ought to be the foundation of our conduct, is worth little, unless it pervades the whole soul and regulates the whole life. God in successive ages discovered to man so much of his will as suited man's condition and improvement. These several dispensations having produced their effects, he saw the world ready for the last discoveries of his mind. He accordingly selected his beloved Son, to whom he gave his spirit without measure, that he might guide men anew in the path of life and happiness. The religion which this Son disclosed, claims our faith, our confidence, and our love. It is no temporary or partial obligation, but is designed for all generations throughout the world. In giving ourselves up to this, we devote our souls to Christ. Christianity on her first appearance may be considered as addressing mankind thus-"Hitherto you have been virtuous, whenever you have been so, because your natural propensities inclined you rather to good than to evil; or because your reason was strong enough to controul the violence of your passions; or in obedience to the laws of your country; or from a prudent regard not only to the public, but to your private welfare but few of you have pursued the same conduct upon the same principle, and none upon the only principle which is sound and permanent. You have done no murder; the laws of society perhaps sheathed your sword: you have borne no false witness against your neighbour; a sense of honour, a decent regard to your own character, withheld you from the commission of so base a crime. You have shared your abundance with the poor and needy; thanks be to the education, or perhaps to the native feelings, which rendered you compassionate. It is not the design of the revelation which is now given to you to take one tittle from the utility or splendour of your virtues : cherish them all, but from a better motive; not from self love, not from the love of man, but from the love of God, in obedience to his will, and for the promotion of his glory."
It was reasonably to be expected that such a law as this, derived from such a source and promulgated by such a minister, would not be enforced by weak or ordinary exhortations to obedience. Our Saviour claims of his followers a zealous fidelity, a heartfelt loyalty, which no other governours or legislators would have dared to ask. It was not a common doctrine, nor was it one of those conjectural theories which the wisdom of philosophers had been so diligent in framing, that our Lord delivered to us, but the word of truth; it was the Father unveiling himself to mankind the ministration of his Son: "Do thus, for it is my will." This was a sanction to moral conduct, which fixed it forever upon its proper basis; and a terrour to the ungodly beyond the severest apprehensions which human authority, when armed with its utmost power, had ever been
able to excite.
What shall I do to be saved? Jesus answered the young rich man-"Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me.
GRATITUDE TO PUBLIC BENEFACTORS.
Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth.
THIS day brings the anniversary of Washington's death. He died as he had lived, honoured and beloved. His death was timely, for the imbecilities of age had thrown no dimness over the lustre of his actions. In his mind, judgment predominated over every other power. Novelties, with him, had nothing to do with discussions for practice; and experiment was so mingled with the results of past years, as not to be distinguished. He had a clear knowledge of character in the individual state, and an unrivalled judgment to collect, sift, separate and use for the most valuable purposes, the information and counsels, of others. He was a firm defender of religious liberty, and a sincere patron of christianity.-He was rewarded for his labours, sacrifices and dangers, in the highest honours of our land, and what is far better, in the gratitude of a free people.I have mentioned him to rouse your mind to like industry, faithfulness and charity; and to present a striking instance of virtue honoured and perseverance rewarded.-There are few who have opportunities of being so extensively useful as he was. But are they therefore the less worthy of remuneration?
Take the chief civil officer of a town, who has through a long series of years, spared no time or toil in advancing the interest and happiness of its inhabitants. Can it comport with the dignity or pride, with the justice or humanity of christian citizens, to treat such a man with disrespect, especially if old age has deprived him of some of his energies? The town which by cold neglect or carefully prepared vexations, renders the last days of such a faithful servant unhappy and destitute, deserves the execration of society.
How many melancholy instances of ingratitude towards public benefactors do we see in the course of our lives. Among the most afflictive is the unkindness shown to aged ministers. Your minister is ripe in years; he came among you on one errand and with one motive, the errand of love and the motive of usefulness. Year after year he has toiled for you, receiving in return, just enough to support his family in that respectability which you and the public required. On his bended knees day after day, has he implored Heaven to prosper your labours, to preserve your health, to defend your innocence and sanctify your souls. In sickness he has come an angel of relief; in trouble a messenger of consolation, and in anxiety the bearer of hope. In public he has strove to win you and your friends to Christ, and to gather you into the great Shepherd's fold. He has spoken the word which has stayed the step of vice in your relations, and family; he has guarded your children and made many what they now are, the ornaments and benefactors of society. Are not all these peculiarly tender, endearing and permanent good labours, enough to secure his comfortable support and your unhesitating respect in his old age? He has been a father to you, and will you cast him off in the time of his old age, and forsake him -only because his strength has failed? What if his power of utterance is imperfect, or his indiscretion apparent; is he to be less pitied? I know men's propensity to worship the rising sun, but how base the ingratitude to forget at its setting, the light and heat it has afforded us through the day!
THE GOODNESS OF THE DEITY.
The Lord is good to all; and his tender mercies are over all his works.
THE proof of the divine goodness rests upon two propositions, each, as we contend, capable of being made out by observations drawn from the appearances of nature.-The first is, "that, in a vast plurality of instances in which contrivance is perceived, the design of the contrivance is beneficial."-The second, "that the Deity has superadded pleasure to animal sensations, beyond what was necessary for any other purpose, or when the purpose, so far as it was necessary, might have been effected by the operation of pain.
When God created the human species, either he wished their happiness, or he wished their misery, or he was indifferent and unconcerned about either.-If he had wished our misery, he might have made sure of his purpose, by forming our senses to be so many sores and pains to us, as they are now instruments of gratification and enjoyment; or by placing us amidst objects, so ill suited to our perceptions as to have continually offended us, instead of ministering to our refreshment and delight. He might have made, for example, every thing we tasted, bitter every thing we saw, loathsome ; every thing we touched, a sting; every smell, a stench; and every sound, a discord. If he had been indifferent about our happiness or misery, we must impute to our good fortune (as all design by this supposition is excluded) both the capacity of our senses to receive pleasure, and the supply of external objects fitted to produce it.
But either of these, and still more both of them, being too much to be attributed to accident, nothing remains but the first supposition, that God, when he created the human species, wished their happiness; made for them the provision which he has made, with that view, and for that purpose.
The same argument may be proposed in different terms, thus: Contrivance proves design; and the predominant tendency of the contrivance indicates the disposition of the designer. The world abounds with contrivances; and all the contrivances which we are acquainted with, are directed to beneficial purposes. Evil, no doubt, exists; but it is never, that we can perceive, the object of contrivance. Teeth are made to eat, not to ache; their aching now and then is incidental to the contrivance, perhaps inseparable from it or even, if you will, let it be called a defect in the contrivance; but it is not the object of it. This is a distinction which well deserves to be attended to. In describing implements of husbandry, you would hardly say of the sickle, that it is made to cut the reaper's hand, though this mischief often follows. But if you had occasion to describe instruments of torture or execution, this engine, you would say, is to extend the sinews; this to dislocate the joints. Here, pain and misery are the very objects of the contrivance. Now nothing of this sort is to be found in the works of nature. We never discover a train of contrivances to bring about an evil purpose. No anatomist ever discovered a system of organization, calculated to produce pain and disease; or, in explaining the parts of the human body, ever said, this is to irritate; this to inflame; this duct is to convey the gravel to the kidneys; this gland is to secrete the humour which forms the gout if by chance he come at a part of which he knows not the use, the most he can say is, that it is useless; no one ever suspects that it is put there to incommode, to annoy, or to torment.