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Christian religion are altogether above the be coincident or revolting to his humour, his sphere of the human understanding, and which disposition, and his temporal interests.

reason would never have discovered, 3. An unregenerate man has no taste but though it had been perfectly exempted from for the pleasures of the age. But this princierror and prejudice. Such are all those that ple is incompatible with the principles of our relate to the means God has chosen for the re- religion, which is designated to purify our demption of the luman kind. God alone taste, and render us alive to pleasures more could reveal those, because none but God worthy of the excellence of the soul. could know what he had chosen. This is the 4. An unregenerate man founds his hopes doctrine of all the sacred authors; it is par- on second causes; on the favour of the great, ticularly that of St. Paul, in the second chap- on the course of the winds, on the fertility of ter of his first Epistle to the Corinthians. fields, on the prosperity of trade. But these “ The wisdom that we preach,” he says, “is principles are incompatible with the design of not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes our holy religion, which prompts us to found of this world:” (by the princes of this world I our hopes solely on the Divine favour, and elehere understand doctors of the first rank, whe- vate the soul above dependence on all created ther they were Rabbins, which in Hebrew good. means masters, or whether princes imports 5. An unregenerate man forms projects of philosophers,) “but we speak the hidden wis- terrestrial happiness. He says, as the worlddom of God in a mystery;" that is, hidden. lings in the 4th Psalm, Who will make "our Why is this the wisdom of God? Why is it a corn and wine to increase?” Who will augmystery? Because none but the God who had ment our revenues? Who will amplify our formed it could bave discovered it, and no man fortunes? Who will give us the lustre of a could reason out those things by the efforts of name, and the glare of reputation? Who will his own understanding. The apostle adds, gratify this mad ambition which absorbs the these are the things, " that eye hath not seen, soul, and prompts us to trample on our species, nor ear heard; neither have entered into the and look on men who have, in common with heart of man, the things that God hath pre- ourselves, the same Creator, the same faculties, pared for them that love him:” that is to say, the same grandeur, and the same baseness, as these are plans of God's sovereign pleasure, diminutive worms unworthy of our regards. in favour of the faithful. Now, the plans But these principles are incompatible with our which God had formed by his sovereign plea- holy religion, whose grand design is to inspire sure, the "things which had not entered into us with the sentiments of confiding in God the heart of man, God hath revealed to us by alone the care of our happiness, how difficult his Spirit; by the Spirit which searcheth the soever the road may appear in which he calls deep things of God," and most impenetrable us to walk. to man; as the mind of man is conscious of its II. We have proved from the nature of our own designs, and most impenetrable to others. holy religion that to be a Christian, we must “For what man knoweth the things of a man, be born again; let us now prove it by what is save the spirit of man which is in him; even requisite for the happiness of man; let us so, the things of God knoweth no man save prove, that God in giving us a religion which the Spirit of God.”

appeared so rigorous, has not acted as a tyrant, The design of the gospel with regard to but as a lenient legislator, and a compassionate truths of the second order has been to substi- Father, whose sole design was to provide for tute authority for reason, to substitute the de- the wants of his creatures. This appears at cisions of Jesus Christ for the natural weak- first insupportable. It seems that the love of ness of man, who is inadequate to discover | God would have shone in the gospel with quite these things. One cannot therefore be a Chris- a different lustre had it been his pleasure to extian unless one bow down lo divine authority. ercise over us a sovereignty less despotic; had By consequence, to be a Christian one must be he left us the uncontrolled disposal of our faborn again, and change our ideas; hence the culties, and had he been mindful to dispense religion of the unregenerate, and that of a with those renovations which cost so much to Christian are not only different, but incom- ihe flesh. I ain confident, however, of demonpatible.

strating to you, that had God relaxed any part What we have said on the change of ideas of this pretended rigour, he must have rewe equally affirm with regard to the other trenched it from your happiness. changes, in which we have made the nature The happiness of man demands that religion of regeneration to consist: but the limits of should effectuate a change in his ideas in the our time, and the importance of the subjects, sense already explained; the happiness of man which remain for discussion, prevent our prov- demands that Jesus Christ himself should coning it in all its extent.

descend to exercise a sovereign control over 2. An unregenerate man follows his own our reason, and himself decide whatever we will, and admits no rule of conduct, but that ought to believe on the subject of religion. of his passions. He becomes attached to vir- To the proof of this we now proceed. tue, when it may happen to be in unison with One of the most dangerous, and at the same his humour, with his disposition, with his time the most cruel, dispositions of the mind, worldly interests. But these principles are is to revoke in doubt the fundamental truths wholly incompatible with those of a Christian, of religion. Assuredly this is one of the most who has vowed, on embracing Christianity, to dangerous, for that doubt plunges us into one renounce his own will, and to acknowledge no abyss after another. The speculative truths rule of conduct but the laws of Christ; and to of religion are the basis on which the practical become attached to holiness, whether it may are supported. The basis of this practical


truth, that we must detest injustice, is a belief undertaking it, and reduces me to an incapathat there is a God who detests it. If you (bility of discharging it. hesitate with regard to the speculative truth, In this state Jesus Christ extends to me his that there is a God who detests injustice, you hand. I find a religion which demonstrates will hesitate with regard to the practical truth, its divine authority by proofs so adapted to my that we ought to detest injustice. The founda- capacity, that a serious attention, aided by a tion of this practical truth, that we ought not moderate capacity, sutlices to perceive its force. to love the world, devolves on the speculative I find a religion which guides me to eternal truth, that the friendship of this world draws life. I understand this truth which decides on down the enmity of God. If then you should all the propositions, on whose account I had hesitate with regard to the speculative truth, doubts so cruel and dangerous:' this truth subthat the friendship of this world attracts the stitutes, if one may so speak, the Spirit of enmity of God, you would hesitate with re- God for the knowledge of man; it requires that gard to the practical truth that we ought not truths so important, which have so great an into love the world, Jam. iv. 4.

fluence on my happiness, shall not be decided But it is equally cruel as dangerous, to che- by the wisdom of man, but by the spirit and rish doubts with regard to the fundamental wisdom of God. Let us acknowledge it, my doctrines of religion. You do not feel the brethren, let us acknowledge that there is nocruelty of this disposition, now that you have thing more assortable to the wants of man a little health, a little strength, and a share of than a religion formed on this plan; there is noprosperity; you consider the game of life which thing we can more desire than the like tribunal; you play, as the most important subject that and there is nothing more advantageous than can occupy your mind: but when you shall an entire submission to its decisions. enter into yourselves; when you shall extend But if the happiness of man demand that your views beyond your senses, and the con- religion should require a change of his ideas in fined circle of surrounding objects; ah! when the sense we have explained, it equally requires you shall arrive at the period in which the that he should change the objects of his purworld shall present nothing but a scene about suits. What men could wish, as most advanto vanish away; Oh! my God! how cruel will tageous, is, that Jesus Christ should condescend those doubts then appear! when you shall be to leave to themselves the sole care of their unable to satisfy your mind on those most im- happiness. Two considerations withhold our portant inquiries. Am I only a material sub assent to this notion. The first is, that we are stance, or is this material substance united to a not sufficiently aware of our ignorance when spiritual substance? Will this spiritual sub- we form imaginary schemes of happiness; the stance to which my body is united be involved second is, that we have no idea of the manner in its dissolution, or will it rise above its ruins in which the Saviour loves, nor in what reIs the religion to which I have adhered, the re- spects he really loves mankind. Jigion of Jesus Christ, or is it the religion of 1. Let us acknowledge our ignorance with anti-christ

regard to the schemes of happiness. Do we But is it possible for one to avoid a disposi- really know in what true happiness consists tion so dangerous and cruel when one has no we who do not know ourselves, we who do other guide in the theory of religion than one's not know to what extent the faculties of the own ideas? I know that all men have propen- soul may be improved; we who know not of sities to religion on coming into the world; 1 what operations an intelligent being is capable know that "the gentiles who have not the law, who has ideas but of two or three substances, are a law unto themselves.” But after having and who wants information to know, whether seriously meditated on the confined limits of there are ten thousand substances besides those my understanding, on the force of my preju- , we know; we who have had but perception of dices, on the rashness of my decisions, and on so a few sensations, and who could not form any many other truths which inducc me to distrust sort of notions of an infinity of others; of myself

: when after having been profoundly en- whose attainment our souls are susceptible? gaged in these reflections, I find myself called Do we really know in what happiness consists upon to determine by my own light on the We, who resemble those clowns who have grand question of religion; when I transport never gone beyond their village or hamlet, and myself into the midst of all those systems to who affect to judge of politeness, of high life, which the imagination of men has given birth; of courtly airs, of polished manners, of real when I find myself called upon to dissipate all grandeur, conformably to the ideas formed of those chaoses, to develope all those sophisms, them in those hamlets and villages? Do we and take a decided part among so many con- know in what true happiness consists? We, who troversies, and learned characters; when I find have never gone from the little spot of the unimyself, as before stated, left to determine by verse where the Creator placed, but not conmy own efforts whether the soul be immortal, fined us; we, who have never joined the choirs whether there be a Providence; and especially of angels, of archangels, of cherubim, of sewhen I say to myself, that on the manner in raphim. We, who have never been in the heawhich I shall determine these questions my venly city of God, in the Jerusalem from everlasting happiness or misery depends, that above, where the Divinity discovers the most to deceive myself is to destroy myself, and glorious marks of his presence, receives the that there can scarcely be a mistake on these adorations of the myriads who serve him, and grand points which may not be fatal; I frankly are continually in his presence?-Do we know avow that I fall under the weight, and that the in what true happiness consists? We, whose terror only excited by the magnitude of the taste is spoiled by intercourse with corruptible task imposed, deprives me of the courage of beings, with the avaricious, who think to be happy by making their heaps of gold and silver; / ferred upon us the pleasures of eternity reservwith the impure, who think that happiness con- ed for virtue, could he not in this case have sists in impudence, and in violating the bound- made a better provision for the happiness of aries of modesty; with the vain and haughty, man? That is to say, that because you have who think that to be happy one must be able obstinately adhered to your sins, you would to trace a pedigree with kings and princes in have God cease to be just; that is to say, bethe line of our ancestors; and that a connexion cause you have refused to be holy, you would with worms of earth, with dust, with those have the Holy One become an accomplice in phantoms of grandeur, can make us truly your crimes; to say all in a word, because you great:-Do we know in what true happiness would not change your corrupt nature, you consists? No, Lord, if thou should this day would have him cease to be holy, who is all place my destiny in my own choice; if thou pure, all holy; I would say, purity and holishould bid me form for myself whatever kind ness itself. For I do contend, that when the of happiness I should please; if thou should degree of indulgence which God has extended place before me the whole scale of grandeur to sinners in the gospel, is fully viewed, he and glory, leaving me at full liberty to take could not have extended it farther, without laywhatever portion I might please, I would en- ing aside his perfections. This is what was treat thee still to let me retain those bonds with understood when we indicated the necessity of which I willingly fettered myself on embracing regeneration for our third head, as founded on religion; I would address to thee the most ar- the attributes of God. This part demands our dent prayers, not to leave my felicity in hands serious attention. I will therefore proceed to so bad as mine, and that thou alone should be considerations of another kind, provided those the dispenser of my happiness.

among you who have formed the habit of 2. But we should especially feel how saluta- thought and reflection, will deign to follow me ry it is, that Jesus Christ should require us to in this short meditation. renounce ourselves with regard to schemes of III. The finest idea that we can form of the happiness, if we knew the greatness of his love Divinity; and at the same time, that which is to men. Yes, my brethren, if we fully knew the foundation of the confidence we place in this love, we should leave all to its decision. his word, and the assurance with which we Venture, O my soul, on this ocean of love rely on his promises, is that of a uniform Bethat thy Saviour expands in the gospel; lose ing, whose attributes have the exactest harthyself in the immensity of the love of God; mony, and who is always in perfect accordance make vigorous efforts to attain "to its length with himself

. The want of harmony is chaand breadth, its height and depth, which pass- racteristic of the greatest imperfection in a eth knowledge.” O think of what thy Re- finite intelligence; that when one of his attrideemer has done for thee. Think, that in the butes is opposed to another, or even at varibosom of the Father, enjoying infinity of de- ance with itself; when his wisdom fails to selights, he lizought of thee. Think, that he cond, or rather to support his power, in such has come to thee, that he lias clothed himself sort, that though he has means to collect mawith thy infirmities; that he has placed him- terials for building a town, yet he may want selt' in the breach before the tribunal of his the talent of arrangernent; or, though he may Father; that he has covered thee with his per- have the wisdom of arrangement, yet he may son that the arrow's shot by celestial anger be destitute of power to collect the materials. might not reach thee, but stick fast in himself It is the same in all like cases. This characalone; think that when enduring those tor- ter of imperfection, inseparable from all creatments which men and demons caused him to ed intelligences, is the cause of all our disapsuffer, he sustained himself by the thought pointments whenever we have placed our conthat his sufferings and death would render a fidence in an arm of flesh.

Put not your creature happy who to him was unspeakably trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in dear; think, that from the height of glory to whom there is no help. His breath goeth which he was exalted aster having finished the forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very work the Father had given himn to do, he cast day his thoughts perish. Cursed be the man his eyes on thee, makes thy salvation his grand that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his concern, and tastes redoubled delights of' teli- arm.” Ps. cxlvi. 3, 4; Jer. xvii. 5. Why so? city by the thought, that thou must become a Because we cannot safely trust a being unless joint-heir with liin. Luse thyself in this most he has the harmony of the perfections of which delightful, this ravishing thought, and see, see we have spoken, and because this harmony is now whether there be any thing hard, any never found in man. His power may be fathing difficult, any thing which ought not to vourable to you; but his wisdom failing in the transport thee with joy in the conditions which support of his power, he may make you misethy Saviour imposes, of sacrificing to him thy rable by the very means he employs to make imaginary schemes of happiness, and leaving you happy. His power also may not act in thy condition wholly to his love.

unison with his wisdom. Though he may toIs it then, speaking absolutely, beyond the day be adequate to your wants, he may not be Divine omnipotence to harmonize our happi- so to-morrow. This man, this first of men, ness with our concupiscence? If God had testi- who lives to-day, may die to-morrow; the fied a greater lenity towards our defects than breath which animates him, may be gone; he what he has revealed in the gospel; if he had may return to earth, and all his flattering dedeigned to receive us into favour with our signs to promote your happiness shall vanish errors, prejudices, our passions, our caprices; away. But this harmony of attributes, which and if after we have indulged during life in cannot be found in the creatures, may be found the pleasures of the age, he would have con- I in the Creator.

This principle being established, I discover, / without setting one of his perfections against my brethren, in the perfections of God a new another, and even the same perfection against source of reasons for the doctrines already ad- itself. And if the same perfection of God be vanced; and I ask, which of the two religions at variance with itself, if one perfection be in best represents the Divinity as a Being, whose opposition to another, if God must renounce attributes are exactly harmonized, and ever in himself, if the perfect nature of the Divinity perfect unison with himself? Is it the religion be liable to change, as is supposed by the sysof the regenerate, or that of the unregenerate? tem I now attack, how can we in future repose

When is it that the power of God is in per- confidence in his word? How can we venture fect accordance with the wisdom of God?" It on his promises? Let a God imperfect and is when his wisdom destines to a certain end, contradictory be once supposed, (and such he the things proper for that end, which his is in your system,) let it once be supposed, power has produced. This is the idea of the that he has said you may enter heaven withDivinity every where found in the religion of out regeneration, and all faith in his word, and the regenerate. God has provided in the gos-reliance on his promises must for ever cease. pel whatever is requisite to make us holy; Thus, what we pledged ourselves to prove, light, motives, examples, aids. These are the we have endeavoured to execute; that to be a effects of his power. The things which his Christian, we must be born again. But we power has afforded, so proper to make us holy, fear lest a remark we made in our first dishe has connected with their destination. God course, and which was repeated at the begin

equires that we should be holy; these are the ning of this, should frustrate our expectation. effects of his wisdom. Here is the harinony The proposition of our Saviour “

ye must be of his wisdom with his power; while, on the born again,” we said, ought to be restricted; contrary, in the religion of the unregenerate that the term ought not to be applied indifferthere exists not the smallest trace of harmony ently to all; that it regarded those only whose between his wisdom and his power. God con- sins separate them from his table; that one fers upon us in the gospel every requisite to must not confound the change Jesus Christ remake us saints: here is an effect of his power: quires of a man who is not a Christian, but but if he should dispense with our being made would embrace religion, with that which he holy, what would become of his wisdom? requires of a weak Christian who recovers

When is it that the goodness of God ac- from his defects. cords with his justice? It is when the rights This remark, then, so requisite to illustrate of his justice are not invaded by the effects of the nature of regeneration, does it not enhis goodness. This is the idea of the Divinity feeble, in some of our minds, the necessity of which is given by the religion of the regene- the change we proposed to establish? The rate. God saves sinners; here is the effect of evasions of the heart are innumerable, and his goodness: but it is on condition of their re- when the multitude of those Christians is connouncing sin; here is the right of his justice. sidered to whom “our gospel is hid, because See now the harmony of justice and goodness. the god of this world hath blinded their On the contrary, in the religion of the unre- mind,” I fear lest many nominal Christians generate there exists no harmony between should reason in this way: at least, so far as goodness and justice. God saves sinners; here to say, that what we enforce concerning the is the effect of his goodness: but should he dis necessity of regeneration does not concern pense with their being saved from sin, what them. I belong to a Christian congregation, would become of his justice?

and though some farther reformation must yet When does the justice of God appear to ac- be effectuated in my conduct, it is only such cord with his goodness? It is when testifying as Jesus Christ requires of the weak and wanhis love of order on one occasion, he evinces dering Christian; I am not the character which no indifference for order on another occasion. he requires to be born again. My brethren, if This is the idea of the religion of the regene. I have opened a breach, I must endeavour to rate! His love of order has appeared in the heal it; if I have given occasion to false infermost striking manner in the satisfaction he has ences, I must endeavour to correct them; if I required of the Redeemer. This love is de- have preached the necessity of regeneration in monstrated by the conditions under which he general, I must now preach it in particular, and proposes to rescue the fruits of his passion. as applicable to Nicodemus, to whom Jesus On the contrary, in the religion of the unre- Christ spake; and in drawing the character of generate, there is not the slightest harmony many of my hearers, and say to them as the between his justice and his goodness. He re- Saviour said to Nicodemus, "marvel not that quires of the Redeemer a perfect satisfaction. I said unto thee, ye must be born again; Verily, Here is the effect of his love of order. If he verily, I say unto thee, that except a man be put the redeemed in possession of the fruit of born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of his passion, however rebellious their passions, God." however execrable their purposes, however no- What was the character of Nicodemus? Nitorious their ingratitude, where would be his codemus was one of those men who temporize love of order? where would be the harmony of between Christ and the world; whose minds his goodness with his justice?

are sufficiently enlightened to know the truth, Let us therefore conclude, that unless God but who have not à sufficiency of courage to should renounce his perfections, unless he honour it, except it can be done without danshould set one attribute at variance with an- ger; who would indeed be saved, but who canother, and sometimes the same attribute at not find resolution to make all the sacrifices variance with itself, he cannot save hardened which salvation requires; who come to Christ, sinners, without changing his own nature; but they come by night; who are Christians in

judgment, but they dare not avow it to the passion we cannot eradicate, and which forbid Jews.

the refusal of the appellation of brethren; but What was the idea which Jesus Christ which a supineness of many years continuance, formed of the real state of this ruler in Israel does not allow us to regard you as Christians. What duties did he impose upon him? On These incessant evasions; those procrastinations what conditions did he receive him for a dis- of making an open profession of religion; these ciple Did he regard him as already a Chris- complicated pretexts; these frivolous excuses; tian? Did he require merely the change which this obstinate resistance of the voice which subsists in a weak and wavering Christian, or cries, “ Come out of Babylon, my people;" all the change indispensable in one who is yet in these dispositions which give you so striking a a carnal state? Did he prescribe the merely resemblance to Nicodemus, and which give superficial change, or require the transforma- you so just a title to be called . Nicodemites, do tion of a new birth? It is not you, my bre- but too much justify the proposition addressed thren, but the gospel, which gives the answers to the Rabbi, your hero, and your model, to these inquiries. Jesus Christ said to this “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man doctor, to this man, who was a teacher from be born again, he cannot enter the kingdom God, to this man whose mind was enlightened of God.” Verily I say unto you, if you do to know the truth, to this man who wished to not abjure so monstrous a system of religion be saved, who came to him, and who was a on which you form your conduct, if you conChristian in judgment; Jesus Christ said, “Ex- tinue to confound the communion of light with cept a man be born again he cannot enter the darkness, and Christ with Belial; if you perkingdom of God. Marvel not that I said un- sist in the wish to drink the cup of Christ, and to thee, ye must be born again.”

the cup of devils; if you rally not under the But why did the Saviour address the ruler banners of the reformation, and seek places in so decided a manner? Because the ruler where you may profess Christianity, verily I was a Christian in judgment, and would not say unto you, that you cannot enter the kingbe one in conduct; because this man came to dom of God; and that so far as you shall rehim by night, and would not come by day; be- semble Nicodemus, so far will the declaration cause this man wished to be saved, and would of Christ affect you as Nicodemus. not make the sacrifices which salvation requir- But what is it I say, that you are like Nicoed; because this man was sufficiently enlight- demus? Ah! your state is incomparably worse. ened to know the truth, and had not courage What do I say, that the words of Christ reto avow the truth; and to say all in one word, gard you as they regarded Nicodemus. They because this man was a servant of God by regard you in a more serious manner. Nicoprofession, and at the same time a servant of demus feared the Jews, but you have nothing the world; because such a man, according to to fear from them. Where are the barriers, the morality of Jesus Christ, cannot be a where are the guards, where are the obstacles Christian; I would say, he cannot, conformably which hinder you from emigrating to a land to the new covenant, be a member of the of liberty? Where are the galleys? Where Christian church. “Verily, verily, I say unto are the dungeons. Where are the fagots rethee, except a man be born again he cannot served for those only who bid defiance to them? enter the kingdom of God. Marvel not that Nicodemus neither built houses, nor formed I said unto thee, ye must be born again. Art establishments, nor married his children, in a thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these country which his conscience pressed him to things."

abandon: these are modes of conduct which

seem reserved to you. Nicodemus had not APPLICATION.

promised, had not sworn on the august symConclude then, my brethren; preach, and bols of the body and blood of Christ, that he make yourselves the application of this dis- would decide for the true religion; but many course: see then to what end you pervert our of you have taken this solemn oath, and after doctrine, that one must not confound the having unworthily violated it, you sleep secure change Jesus Christ requires in a man who in carnal enjoyments. Nicodemus had not has not yet embraced Christianity, with that been exhorted for ten, for twenty, for thirty he requires of a weak and inconstant believer! years, to come to a decision; but we have anBut ah! we must not abandon so important a nounced to you for ten, twenty, or thirty years, conclusion to the caprice of man; it belongs to in the name of God, that " without are the us to enforce it; it belongs to us to make its fearful.” “ Whosoever shall deny me before whole evidence, its whole propriety felt as inen, him will I also deny before my Father much as is in our power; it belongs to us to which is in heaven.--Whosoever shall be unite our whole mind, and strength, and voice, ashamed of me, and of my words, before this to dissipate, if possible, so many evasions which adulterous and sinful generation, of him shall the most part of us cease not to oppose to the the Son of Man be ashamed, when he cometh decisions of eternal truth.

in the glory of his Father, and with his holy First, the whole of what we have said on angels. If any man shall worship the beast the necessity of regeneration, has a direct and his image, or receive his mark in his bearing on you, the true disciples of Nicode- forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink mus; who, finding yourselves in similar cir- of the wine of the wrath of God; he shall be cumstances, adopt a similar conduct; and un- tormented with fire and brimstone; and the able to come to Jesus Christ by day without smoke of their torment shall ascend for ever danger, venture to approach by night: you, and ever,” Matt. X. 33; Mark viii. 38; Rev. whom we know not for the future how to de- xiv. 9-Il. terminate, because of certain feelings of com- Perhaps you will say, that we dwell too

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