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astray, for he is wisdom itself; if we take the will of God for our armour, as that is Almighty, so shall we be unconquerable and irresistible.
If you have not hitherto performed, as well as you might have done, the conditions of your new birth-right, whereby alone peace through Christ is promised, let me earnestly press you to a more close consideration of these conditions, as the leading rules of life, whereby you ought to act here, and must be judged hereafter.
Hath the Son of God relinquished the glories of heaven, and descended into a stable and a manger to save you? And will you not go thither in the like spirit of humility to receive him? Is this too low a condescension for you, polluted as you are with worse than beastly filth, which was not too low for God himself. You cannot meet him, but with the same spirit in which he came. He became ‘a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,' from that day, when he took on him the burthen of your flesh and sins. And are you, who committed those sins, to be a man of pleasure? He emptied himself of his majesty and glory for you; and are not you to be emptied of that pride which goeth before your own destruction,' and those filthy affections, which represent you in the eyes of God as a piteous, if not an odious wretch? Are not you to feel the weight of your own sins, as well as Christ? What stable, what manger, is too vile for you, who have so long lain in filth, and fed with swine, and yet have been foolish enough to take it all for grandeur and pleasure? If you still persist in this mind, you must be told that, though Christ had baptized you with his own hands, yet to you no promise is made, no performance due, no Saviour born.
Unto you only,' who have put off the old man, and are born again by water and the Spirit ;' unto you, who feel in yourself, on the baptismal call of Christ, the answer of a good conscience;' unto you, who walk not in your own ways, but in newness of life, not after the flesh, but the Spirit;' unto you, who stand fast in the faith, confessing that Jesus is the Son of God,' and that throngh him only you have salvation; unto you, who observe all things, whatsoever Christ hath commanded you, who being delivered out of the hands of your enemies, serve God, without
fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of your lives;' unto you only is born this day a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."
Lay fast hold, therefore, by a lively faith on this Saviour, and by taking good heed to the articles of your peace with God, endeavour to make your election and adoption sure,' lest, by departing from them, you be found among those, 'who have trodden under foot the Son of God, and have counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith they had been sanctified, an unholy thing, and have done despight unto the Spirit of grace.'
Here now, my brethren, are light and darkness, glory and infamy, life and death, set before you. God give you understanding in all things, but more especially to make a right choice between these opposites; and grant that your hearts may warmly second your reason, and your works, the warmth of your hearts, through Christ Jesus our Saviour, to whom, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be all might, majesty, and dominion, now and for evermore. Amen.
[PREACHED ON GOOD-FRIDAY.]
THE NECESSITY AND EFFICACY OF THE GREAT
ACTS XVII. 3.
Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead. THE ' rising again from the dead' shews, that the suffering, here mentioned, was that of death. St. Paul, as we are told in this passage, proved to the Jews, from the prophecies of the Old Testament, that the Messiah, or Christ, 'must of necessity have been put to death, and raised again to life.' That he could not have fulfilled those prophecies, nor proved himself to be the Christ, without thus suffering, may be
clearly seen in the twenty-second Psalm, and the fify-third chapter of Isaiah, as well as in a great variety of other places, Christ himself, before his crucifixion, assured his disciples, that he should suffer many things of the elders, and the chief priests, and scribes, and should be killed.' He foretold the same thing to a mixed multitude, most of them as yet unconverted, in these words, Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the prince of this world be cast out; and I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die.' After his resurrection, he reproved his disciples, who had doubted, whether the Messiah should die or not; O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things? And beginning at Moses, and all the prophets, he expounded unto them, in all the Scriptures, the things concerning himself.'
Although there is nothing, at first sight, more mysterious, than that he, who was without sin should, by the express appointment' of eternal justice, suffer 'the wages of sin;' that 'the just should be put to death for the unjust;' or that the Son of God himself should die; yet, this most extraordinary, and indeed amazing, piece of history, if duly weighed, and closely considered, will appear to be no less rational, than it is astonishing. But there is no reconciling it to the reason of infidel opposers, without passing through a train of thinking, to the full as surprizing, as either the fact of our Saviour's death, or the end proposed by it.
In pursuit of this, we must take a little compass.
It is evident from the superiority of his nature to that of any other animal, that man was intended by his Maker to be, and still is, the Lord of this world, which he inhabits. By the power derived to him from his reason, he makes the agility and strength of other animals, and the properties of the very elements his own; he sends the dove and the dog on his errands; he subdues the lion; he bestrides the horse; he makes the ocean his highway, and is carried round the world by the winds; the earth and the sun wait on him with his food, and even the thunder is put into his hand. He is made only a little lower than the angels.'
Surely then he must be endued with wisdom and good
ness equal to the high station he is placed in; and the exercise of these two endowments, in so large an empire, must make him happy in proportion to the full extent of his capacity. This is a most natural conclusion from that knowledge which informs us, that man and this world, are the works of infinite wisdom and goodness.
Yet nothing can be more contrary to experience. Instead of governing a world, this lord, so highly stationed, is utterly unable to govern himself. He hath but a small share of that power, his natural abilities entitle him to, and what he hath, he abuses so foolishly, and suffers for it so miserably, that his station and power are become his curse; and yet an unbounded advancement of both is the most violent of all his desires. Nay, instead of a sovereign, he is a slave. His body is enslaved to hunger, thirst, cold, heat, labour, pain, sickness, unhappy accidents; and to death, which he cannot think of without the utmost terror, which he cannot possibly escape. His mind is still worse enslaved. How is he torn with desires, which, if successful, he knows would undo him! How is he blown up with idle hopes! How thrown down by unexpected disappointments! How unmanned by vain fears! How terrified with such as are but too well founded, perhaps foreboding miseries without end! How racked with pride! How distracted with anger! How gnawn with envy! How every thing within him, and about him, tyrannizes over him in its turn, and forces him to betray himself, to abuse his own nature, and to insult his God!
At the same time that he acts so inconsistently with himself and the station he is placed in, and by both is made so very unhappy; all the creatures of lower rank and importance pursue the ends of their being steadily; and those of them that are endued with life, enjoy as much, and suffer as little, as their several natures can admit of.
Whence now this strange conjunction of dominion and slavery, of wisdom and folly, of dignity and meanness? Why are the little things of the world so well fitted to answer the ends of their creation; while the great, for whom all of them are made, betray so much weakness, and suffer so much misery? How does this comport with the infinite
wisdom, goodness, and power of the Creator, who undoubtedly could have made us otherwise, if he had pleased so to do?
And nothing is more certain, than that he did. He made us upright, but we sought out many inventions.' We could not possibly have come forth from the hands of an infinitely good and Almighty Maker, such abominable, such wicked, such unhappy creatures as we are. To believe, that we did, is more irrational and impious, than atheism itself.
How we came to fall into this state of corruption and misery by the transgression of a covenant, made between God and our first parent or representative, is plainly set forth in the Mosaic history, where the origin of moral evil or sin, and of the universal disposition in all men to sin, that mystery so unaccountable to unassisted reason, is cleared up, and charged on our freedom, that is, on the highest perfection of our nature. If then we were, and still are, free to do good or evil, though more inclinable to evil, does not sin, if we commit it, lie at the door?'
But since it is as plain from the universal prevalence of corruption and sin, that we did originally fall, as it is from daily experience, that we do continuslly fall; in what light, from the beginning, must we have stood before our Maker? In that, no doubt, of offending children. As offenders, divine justice must have looked on us with an eye of infinite indignation, and resolved to punish us proportionably to our guilt. But on the other hand, as children, the divine goodness must have beheld us with equal tenderness and pity, and resolved to shew us mercy.
How then could God determine. Must his justice, or his mercy, take place? Must he give way to his indignation, and inflict that punishment, which the violated majesty of his being, and his laws demanded? If he does, where is his mercy? Or must he suffer his justice to be swallowed up in his compassion, and give a full and free pardon? If he does, where is his justice? Is there a middle way? Can God set bounds to his attributes, either of justice or pity? Can he be less than infinite in either? Or is there a possibility of infinitely satisfying both? Of exacting the rigour of justice from the whole human race, and yet fully forgiving all men?