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2. The same principle is applicable to what concerns the night of futurity. It would require but feeble efforts, and would exhibit no mighty sacrifice, for a man to deny himself the delights of a present life, if the joys of the paradise of God were disclosed to his eyes.
But how great is the magnanimity of the Christian, how wonderful the fortitude of the martyr, and, in propriety of speech, all Christians are martyrs, who, resting on the promises of God alone, immolates to the desire of possessing a future and heavenly felicity, all that is dear and valuable to him upon the earth? The present, usually, makes the most powerful impression on the mind of man. An object, in proportion as it becomes exceedingly remote, in some measure loses its reality with respect to us. The impression made upon the mind by sensible things engrosses almost its whole capacity, and leaves little, if any portion, of its attention, for the contemplation of abstract truths. Farther, when abstract meditations dwell on well known objects, they possibly may fix attention, but when they turn on objects of which we have no distinct idea, they are little calculated to arrest and impress.
There is nothing capable of more agreeably flattering my ambition and self love, than to talk with authority; than to govern a whole world with despotic sway: than to rule over the nations, which look up to their sovereigns as to so many divinities; nevertheless, were a competition to be established between a throne, a crown, and the blessedness of the heavenly world, I would "esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt:" I would "choose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season," Heb. xi. 25.
There is nothing to which my nature is more reluctant, than the suffering of violent pain. The idea of the rack, of being burnt at a stake, makes me shudder. I am convulsed all over at sight of a fellow-creature exposed to torture of this kind. What would it be, were I myself called to endure them? Nevertheless, the lofty ideas I have conceived of a felicity which I am told of a "spiritual body," 1 Cor. xv. I have not seen, will elevate even me, above 44: a body glorious, incorruptible: I am told the feelings of sense and nature: I will mount of unknown faculties; of an unknown state; a scaffold; I will extend myself upon the pile of an unknown economy: I am told of "new which is to reduce me to ashes: I will surrenheavens and a new earth;" I am promised the der my body to the executioners to be mangled; society of certain spirits, with whom I have and amidst all these torments, I will still cry never enjoyed any kind of intercourse; I am out with triumph, "I reckon that the sufferings told of a place entirely different from that of this present time are not worthy to be comwhich I now inhabit: and when I would repre-pared with the glory which shall be revealed sent to myself that felicity under ideas of the in us," Rom. viii. 18, "for our light affliction, pleasures of sense, under ideas of worldly which is but for a moment, worketh for us a magnificence, I am told that this felicity has far more exceeding and eternal weight of glono resemblance to any of these things. Ne- ry," 2 Cor. iv. 17. "Blessed be the Lord, my vertheless, on the word of this God, of whom strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and I have a knowledge, so very imperfect, but my fingers to fight," Ps. cxliv. 1. whose existence and perfections are so certain, I am ready to sacrifice every thing, for a felicity of which I have a still more imperfect knowledge than I have of the God who has promised it to me.
I ask, my brethren, does not a man in such circumstances, correspond incomparably better to the idea of probation and sacrifice, than the person who should behold with his own eyes, the eternal recompense of reward which God has prepared for his children? The proposition of our blessed Lord, therefore, is verified with regard to periods still future, as with regard to periods already past. The vocation of the Christian, then, is to pierce through all those clouds, in which God has been pleased to envelop the religion of Jesus Christ: the vocation of the Christian is to pierce through the obscurity of the past, and the obscurity of the
A Christian, a man actuated by that obscure faith, whose excellency we are endeavouring to unfold, surmounts all these difficulties. I see neither the God who has given me the promises of an eternal felicity: nor that eternal felicity which he has promised me. This God conceals himself from my view. I must go from principle to principle, and from one conclusion to another, in order to attain full assurance that he is. I find still much greater difficulty in acquiring the knowledge of what he is, than in rising up to a persuasion of his existence. The very idea of an infinite Being confounds and overwhelms me. If I have only a very imperfect idea of the God who has promised me eternal felicity, I know still less wherein that felicity
tion, obey: I will depart, without delay, for the land which he shall please to show me.
Nothing can be more delightful to me, than the possession of an only and beloved son: nothing appears to me so dreadful, as separation from a person so dear to me; but, above all, there is nothing which inspires so much horror, as the thought of plunging, with my own hand, the dagger into his bowels. Nervertheless, when it shall please God to say to me, "Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, and offer him for a burnt-offering, upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of," Gen. xxii. 2, I will take that son, that object of my tenderest affection, that centre of my desires, and of my complacency; I will bind him; I will stretch him out upon the pile; I will lift up my arm to pierce his side, persuaded that the favour of God is a blessing, beyond all comparison, more precious than the possession of even that beloved portion of myself.
There is nothing more delightful to me, than to live in the bosom of my country and kindred: my native air has in it something congenial to my constitution; nevertheless, were God to call me as he did Abraham: were he to say to me in the words which he addressed to that patriarch; "Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house," Gen. xii. 1. I will, without hesita
future; it is to make study to supply the want | of experience, and hope the want of vision. The felicity of the Christian depends on the manner in which he corresponds to his high vocation: "Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." This was the point to be demonstrated.
It highly concerns us, my brethren, to fulfil this twofold engagement, and thus to attain at length, supreme felicity, in the way which it nas pleased God to trace for us. Let us,
1. Pierce through the obscurity of the past. Let us learn to make study supply the want of experience. Let us diligently apply ourselves to acquire the knowledge of our religion, by seeking after assurance of the truth of those facts, on which it is established. Of these, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the chief: for "if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain, ye are yet in your sins," 1 Cor. xv. 14. 17. But thanks be to God, this fact, of such capital importance, is supported by proofs which it is impossible for any reasonable man to resist.
But it requires a considerable degree of attention, of serious recollection, to study these with advantage. To this study there must, of necessity, be sacrificed some worldly employment, some party of pleasure: a man must sometimes retire into his closet, and get the better of that languor which deep thought, and close reading naturally produce. But, O how nobly is he rewarded for all his labour, by the copious harvest which it yields! What delight in discovering that God has proportioned the weight of the proofs by which his religion is supported, to the importance of each of its parts! What consolation to see that this truth, "Jesus Christ is risen," this truth which gives us the assurance that God has accepted the sacrifice of his Son, that the work of our salvation is accomplished, that access to the throne of grace is opened to us, that the disorders introduced by sin are repaired! What consolation to see that a truth of such high importance is so completely ascertained, and that so many presumptions, so many proofs, so many demonstrations concur in establishing it!
How blessed shall we be, my beloved brethren, in thus penetrating through the obscurity of the past! "Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed."
2. But let us likewise penetrate through the darkness of futurity. Let hope supply to us the want of possession. How shall it, henceforward, be possible for us to entertain suspicion against the faithfulness of God's promises? Behold on that table what God is capable of doing in our behalf. Behold by what miracles of love-O miracles of the love of God, we want language to express thee, as we want ideas to conceive thee! but behold on that table, behold by what miracles of love he has prevailed to make us the rich present of his own Son, to expose him, for our sakes, to all that series of suffering which has been the subject of our meditation during the weeks which commemorate the passion.
Is it possible for us to believe that a God so gracious and so compassionate could have created us to render us for ever miserable? Is it possible to believe that a God so great, and so munificent should limit his bounty towards us, to the good things granted us here below, to that air which we breathe, to the light which illuminates this world, to the aliments which sustain these bodies? Nay, is it possible for us to believe that he should permit us to remain long in this world, exposed to so many public and private calamities; to war, to famine, to mortality, to the pestilence, to sickness, to death? Away with suspicions so injurious to the goodness of our God. "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" Rom. viii. 32. Let us indulge ourselves in feasting on the deliciousness of this hope: let us not destroy the relish of it, by wallowing in the pleasures of sense: let us habituate ourselves to pursue happiness in a conviction of the felicity prepared for us in another world.
What satisfaction is it, thus to transport our selves, in thought, into the apostolic ages, there to contemplate the wonders of redemption! For this is the effect which study produces, of those exquisitely conclusive and irresistible proofs which demonstrate the truth of this great event: it transports us into the apostolic ages; it enables us to behold with the mind's eye what we cannot behold with the eyes of the body. After having thus torn up incredulity by the roots, with what an ecstacy of holy delight may the Christian approach the table of the Lord, with full conviction of soul, and say to him with Thomas: My Lord and my God." The heart-affecting persuasion I have of what thy love has done for me, elevates, penetrates, overwhelms me. It will render easy to me the most painful proofs which it may please thee to prescribe to my gratitude. "My Lord and my God, my Lord and my God, I regret all the time I have devoted to us look for it with submissive impatience: the world and its pleasures: henceforward I" Having a desire to depart, and to be with will think of thee, and thee only: I will live to Christ, which is far better," Phil. i. 23, than
This hope, it is true, replenished as it is with such unspeakable sweetness, is not without a mixture of bitterness. It is a hard thing to be enabled to form such transporting ideas of a felicity placed still so far beyond our reach. "Hope deferred maketh the heart sick," Prov. xiii. 12. But we shall not be suffered to languish long. "For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry," Heb. x. 37. Yet a few short moments more, and our great deliverer, Death, will come to our relief. Let us not stand aghast at his approach. It is not becoming in Christians, who cannot attain the perfection of happiness till after death, to be still afraid of dying. Let us, on the contrary, anticipate the hour of death, by the exercise of a holy ardour and zeal. Let
any thing we can possibly enjoy in this valley
wish you attentively to listen to the declaration made by the apostle, in the words of my text. They stand in connexion with the last verses of the preceding chapter. St. Paul had advanced, not only that God bestows on every believer, the same privileges in substance, which he had vouchsafed to saints of the first order, but that he actually works in them the same wonders which he operated in Jesus Christ when he restored to him that life which he had laid down for the salvation of mankind, and when, amidst the acclamations of the church triumphant, he received him into paradise.
In the text, our apostle expresses in detail, what he had before proposed in more general terms. He says, that as Jesus Christ, when dead, was restored to life, and raised from the tomb; in like manner we, who "were dead in trespasses and sins," have been "quickened," and "raised up," together with him: and that as Jesus Christ, when raised up from the dead, was received into heaven, and "seated on his Father's right hand," in like manner we, after our spiritual resurrection, are admitted to a participation of the same glory. Let us view these two texts in their connexion, in order to comprehend the full extent of the apostle's idea: God, as we read in the conclusion of the preceding chapter, the "God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, has displayed what is the greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power; which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
and put all things under his feet." And in the words of the text, "God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved,) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus," Eph. ii. 4-6.
ON studying the history of the lives of those eminent saints of God, whose memory Scripture has transmitted to us, we can with difficulty refrain from deploring the extreme difference which God has been pleased to make between their privileges and ours. Nay, we are sometimes disposed to flatter ourselves, This proposition, I acknowledge, seems to that if these privileges had been equal, our at- present something hyperbolical, which it is not tainments in virtue might have made a nearer easy to reconcile to the strictness of truth: but approach to those which have rendered them the difficulties which prevent our comprehendso respectable in the church. Who would not ing it, do not so much affect the derstanding surmount the difficulties of the most painful as the heart. It would be much more intellicareer, if he were to enjoy, like Moses, inti-gible, were the love of the creature less premate communications with Deity; if his eyes dominant in us, and did it less encroach upon were strengthened to behold that awful ma- the feelings necessary to our perception of a jesty which God displayed on mount Sinai? truth, which is almost altogether a truth of Who could retain the slightest shadow of in- feeling. We should accordingly, have been credulity, and who would not be animated to cautious how we ventured to treat such a subcarry the gospel of Christ to the uttermost ject, at our ordinary seasons of devotion; but, boundaries of the globe, had he, like Thomas, on this day, we believe all things possible to seen the Lord Jesus after his resurrection; had your pious affections. We believe that there Jesus Christ said to him, as he said to that can be nothing too tender, nothing too highly apostle: "Reach hither thy finger, and be- superior to sense, on a solemnity, when it is hold my hands: and reach hither thy hand, and to be presumed, that, with the apostles, you thrust it into my side: and be not faithless but are "looking steadfastly towards heaven," afbelieving," John xx. 27. Who could remain ter an ascending Saviour, that you are followstill swallowed up of the world, had he seen, ing him with heart and mind, and saying, with the three disciples, Jesus Christ transfi- "Draw us, Lord, we will run after thee." gured on the holy mount; or had he been, with St. Paul, "caught up into the third heaven, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter?" 2 Cor. xii. 2. 4
I have no intention, my brethren, to inquire how far this conception may be illusory, and how far it may be founded in truth: but I
THE BELIEVER EXALTED TOGETHER
EPHESIANS ii. 4-6.
God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved,) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
Before we enter farther into our subject, there are a few advices which we would beg leave to suggest, which may predispose you more clearly to comprehend it.
1. Learn to distinguish the degrees of that
* Ascension Day.
disposition of mind, which our apostle is de- | smooth the difficulties which we encounter in scribing. He represents the Christian as a man this work, by the pleasure derived from a conon whose heart divine grace has made impres-sciousness of having surmounted them in part, sions so lively, that he is already "quickened," and by the assurance which we have of at already "raised up," already "made to sit in length surmounting them altogether. heavenly places in Christ Jesus." This disposition, in whatever it may consist, (which we shall endeavour presently to explain with greater precision,) this disposition admits of degrees; I mean to say, that it is possible to be a Christian not only in name, and by profession, but a Christian in truth and reality, without having as yet attained it in the most eminent degree. It was necessary to make this observation, by way of prevention of a mental malady, as commonly to be met with in these provinces as any where else.
Certain circumstances peculiar to yourselves, have constrained your preachers frequently to inculcate the doctrine of the efficacy of divine grace, and of the sentiment which it impresses on the heart. This doctrine has sometimes been misunderstood. Some have considered certain rapturous emotions, excited in the souls of a few highly favoured Christians, by the power of the Holy Spirit, as the essential character of Christianity. It has been erroneously supposed, that to be destitute of these was to be abandoned of God. Hence have arisen those gloomy and desponding ideas which weak minds form respecting their own state, especially at those seasons when the Lord's Supper is administered. The books generally read, as a preparation for participating in this solemn service, tell us, that it is at the table of the Lord, in a particular manner, the communicant experiences those communications of the fulness of joy, Ps. xvi. 11, "that joy unspeakable and full of glory," 1 Pet. i. 8, that "peace of God which passeth all understanding," Phil. iv. 7, that "white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it," Rev. ii. 17, that anticipated surrection, that heaven upon earth.
2. The second advice which I presume to suggest is this, be on your guard against the love of the marvellous. It is far from being impossible that a man should confound the effects of an imagination heated by its own visionary workings, with those which the Holy Spirit produces in a soul of which he has taken entire possession. A person animated by the spirit of God, can easily distinguish his state from that of an enthusiast: but the enthusiast cannot always distinguish his state from that of one animated by the Spirit of God. In general, the road of discussion is incomparably more sure and direct to reach the conscience, and to form a right judgment of it, than the road of feeling. I know that there are certain feelings superior to discussion. I know that the Holy Spirit sometimes diffuses his influence through the soul, in such abundance, with so much fervour, with so much activity, that it is not possible the persons thus highly favoured should be ignorant that they are the objects of his tenderest and most particular care. But in order to our being warranted to promise ourselves such communications, the practice of piety must have been carried farther, beyond all comparison, than is commonly the case with most of those who flatter themselves that they have been favoured with singular communications of the Spirit. And, once more, the method of discussion is by much the surer, to arrive at a true judgment of the real dispositions of the conscience, than the test of feeling; in which the temperament, or the imagination have frequently a larger share than real illumination.
What has been written on this subject is liable to misconception on the part of the reader, as it may have been expressed with too much precision by the composers of such manuals of devotion. Hence it comes to pass, that real Christians, who, notwithstanding the imperfection which cleaves to their best services, have most sincerely devoted the remainder of life to God, are haunted with the apprehension of having communicated unworthily, because they are not conscious of having felt, at the Lord's table, all those effects of the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Weigh in the balance the proofs on which the ideas you have formed of yourselves are re-founded. Compare your thoughts, your words, your actions, with the august rules and decisions which God has laid down in his holy word. Regulate your hopes and your fears, according to the characters which you may have discovered in yourselves, after you have studied the subject in this manner. So much for the second advice, which I thought it of importance to suggest.
3. Permit me to subjoin a third. Under pretence of guarding against the reveries of the enthusiast, and against the love of the marvellous, presume not to call in question certain extraordinary operations of the Holy Spirit, and neglect not the means of obtaining them. To Christians of this description it is, that I Dispute not with saints of a superior order what address my first advice, that they distinguish they know by experience to be real. Presume the degrees of that disposition of mind of not to establish that measure of grace which which our apostle speaks in the text. A man you may have received, as the standard for demay be quickened, may be raised up, may be termining that which God is pleased to grant made to sit together with Christ Jesus in hea- to persons more devoted than you are to his venly places, without having all the joy which service. Form not your judgment from the results from this blessed state. The most in-pleasure which you may at present derive from fallible mark of our being made partakers in religion, of that which you may hereafter enthe exaltation of the Lord Jesus, is our striving joy, when religion shall have acquired a more in good earnest, to fulfil the conditions under powerful influence over your heart. Be not which that participation is promised us. Let discouraged by the dryness and discomfort us fortify ourselves in this disposition of mind, which you may now find in the practice of virand wait patiently till it shall please God to tue; in time you will experience it to be a pe
Having premised these necessary precautions, let us attempt to justify the idea which is here given us of the Christian. Let us place in contrast, the condition in which he was, previous to his being converted to Christianity, and that which he has attained in virtue of his having become a Christian. Before he embraced the religion of Jesus Christ, he was "dead in trespasses and sins." This is a figurative expression, denoting, that sinners are as incapable of themselves, to shake off the dominion of sin, and the misery inseparable from it, as a dead person to defend himself against corruption, and to restore his own life. But by becoming a Christian, the believer is, through the mercy of God, not only set free from the dominion of sin, but is put in possession of the highest recompense of reward that justice ever bestowed on the most perfect virtue which ever existed, namely, that of Jesus Christ.
If "never man spake like this man," John vii. 46, never man lived and acted like this man. Accordingly, never was there a man exalted to such a height of felicity and glory. Now to this very height of felicity and glory the grace of God exalts the Christian. How? In more ways than we are able to indicate, in the time now left us. I satisfy myself with pointing out three of these. The believer is "quickened, he is raised up, he is made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus."
I. By the proofs which assure him of the exaltation of Jesus Christ.
II. By the means supplied to satisfy him that he is fulfilling the conditions under which he may promise himself, that he shall become a partaker of that exaltation.
III. By the foretaste which he now enjoys of it on the earth.
I. By the proofs which assure him of the exaltation of Jesus Christ. It is not necessary here to detail them in their full extent. This has been already done on former occasions.* We have shown you, that, in support of the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ (and the same reasonings apply, with nearly the same force, to all the particulars of his exaltation,) we have presumptions, proofs, demonstrations. But, as I have just said, it is not necessary here to make a minute recapitula
But I would wish to unfold under this head, the true causes which prevent those proofs, irresistible as they are, from producing, on the mind of the greater part of Christians, that lively impression which would justify the hyperbolical language employed by our apostle, that Christians have a conviction as complete of the truth of the exaltation of Jesus Christ, as if they had been "quickened," as if they had been "raised up," as if they were "made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." The following are the principal causes
of this sore evil.
I. The proofs of the exaltation of Jesus Christ, do not produce impressions so lively as they ought, from the abuse of a distinction
*Consult the Sermon on Christ's Resurrection, of Mr.
between mathematical evidence, and moral evidence. A scruple in point of precision, has given rise to this distinction. We call that mathematical evidence, which is founded on the clear idea of a subject. I have a clear idea of two even numbers. This proposition, from the addition of two even numbers, there results an even number, is founded upon an evidence which arises from the clear idea of that number. That is called moral evidence, which is founded on testimony worthy of credit. I have, naturally, no idea of the city of Constantinople. I can decide the question of its existence, only upon testimony of a certain kind. This distinction is undoubtedly a real one. But it is making a strange abuse of it to pretend, that what is founded on the evidence denominated moral is not so certain as that which is founded on what is denominated mathematical evidence. Two reasons persuade me of this, which I submit to your consideration.
1. It involves no less contradiction, that a complex concurrence of circumstances should unite with respect to a false testimony, than that there should be falsehood in a consequence deduced immediately from the nature of a subject. It involves no less contradiction to affirm, that all the witnesses, who assure me there is a city called Constantinople, have agreed to impose upon me, that it involves a contradiction to allege, that this proposition is illusory, from the addition of two even numbers there results an even number.
2. The second reason is still more forcible. It is taken from the nature of God himself. We have mathematical evidence for this, that God cannot take pleasure in leading men into error. But God would take pleasure in leading men into error, if after having made the truth of their religion to rest on the existence of certain facts, which are susceptible only of proofs of fact, he had bestowed on imaginary facts, the same characters of truth which he has impressed on such as are real. The truth of our religion is founded on these facts: Jesus Christ is risen, and has ascended into heaven: but this exaltation is supported by all the evidence of which facts are susceptible. If the exaltation of Jesus Christ is merely imaginary, God has permitted imaginary facts to assume all the evidence of real facts. God, therefore, betrays him into error. But we have mathematical evidence that it is impossible for God to betray men into error. It is clear, therefore, as I think, that moral evidence, when carried to a certain degree, ought to be ranked in the same class with mathematical evidence. The truth of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, therefore, will not produce the lively impres sions which we have mentioned, so long as men abuse, which is the case with certain philosophers, the distinction between moral evidence, and mathematical evidence.
2. The proofs of the exaltation of Jesus Christ produce not impressions so lively as they ought, because the mind is under the influence of a prejudice, unworthy of a real philosopher, namely, that moral evidence changes its nature, according to the nature of the things to which it is applied. What is demonstration of a fact, which is in the sphere of natural things, seems to cease to be such respecting