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education. Placed as I am here, a stranger | loved me prior to my existence; since long and a pilgrim; uncertain of sojourning another before it took place he gave his Son for me, day; every object is transitory to me, and and thereby executed the eternal purpose "all is vanity." Is not this calculated to which he purposed in Christ Jesus our repel the force of my passions, and to excite Lord ?" my desires after permanent life, and solid good? But lest this should be insufficient, the evils I experience from without, and from within, damp the ardour of my passions, suspend their career, give me time for recollec-in tion, that reason and reflection may find entrance into my mind, and incline me to "seek the Lord, if haply I might feel after him and find him, though he be not far from every one of us."
But though the means of which I have been speaking, are absolutely necessary, to remedy the evil of sin; they are nevertheless insufficient for our salvation. God has therefore in his mercy given to us the assistance of his written word, made his laws the rule of our conduct, and his redemption by Jesus Christ, the foundation of our hope. This revelation, absolutely necessary to the human race, will no doubt, one day become universal. In the mean time, since by the grace of God we are blessed with its light; let us make a proper improvement of our privilege, and not waste our time in inquiring, why so great a portion of mankind are deprived of its advantages, certain as we may be, that their merciful Creator, loves them as their eternal Father; and that he will enlighten and save them, in the time and manner, which his wisdom sees most proper. I shall therefore continue to recapitulate the blessings of Providence towards me, which every Christian reader may apply to himself upon the same foundation.
To the blessings I have received in the ordinary course of Providence, I must add those of a superior order, which I owe to that wonderful economy of grace, under which it has been my happiness to be born. Hitherto I have confined my views to the natural benefits of creation and providence; I will now consider such as are superadded to nature.
I shall rank under a third class, the blessing fredemption. Redemption is the gift which God has bestowed upon me in his Son, in order to my salvation. And here two sublime objects offer themselves to my consideration; the salvation to which I am called, and the gift of the only begotten Son of God who has brought the glad tidings of peace; and is become the captain of our salvation to lead us all to happiness.
I refer my reader for a full discussion of this subject to the preceding chapter; where it has been treated, in order to draw two proofs concerning the infinite goodness of God. I shall therefore confine myself to some detached observations on the unspeakable benefit of redemption.
In the first place, it was a gift prepared for me many ages before it took place, and preceded my birth more than seventeen centuries. May I not say that divine goodness
This gift is called redemption, because it is the price, or ransom by which deliverance and salvation were procured. What a ransom!
Son of God, only begotten and well-beloved, whom the Father was well pleased; a being perfect and excellent, "was delivered up to death, even to the death of the cross; was numbered with transgressors," and experienced the ignominy and cruelty, of a shameful and agonizing death. How astonishing, how incomprehensible is the love of God to sinners! it surpasseth knowledge: must it not then infinitely surpass the powers of expression? and can the utmost efforts of a creature to celebrate the goodness of the Lord, ever exaggerate its inconceivable magnitude?
On me, an unworthy, miserable sinner, degraded, and dishonoured by my departure from God, in a state of actual rebellion against him, whose laws I had violated, and whose image I had effaced in my soul; on me, and on a race of beings like me unworthy; was this precious gift bestowed: he considered not my demerit, but he saw my misery; and had compassion on it.
It is not for mortal man to penetrate into the depth of the divine counsels; but in the death of the Son of God, I discern two important things, of which it was necessary I should have the clearest assurance. The first of these is salvation: and the second, the way to attain it. This is the life, the immortality brought to light by the gospel; by whose assistance I am enabled to deny ungodliness and worldly lust, and to live soberly, righteously and godly, in the present world; where I must walk by faith, in those magnificent and gracious promises, which are confirmed by the death, the resurrection, and ascension of my compassionate and glorious Redeemer.
It does not become us to inquire, why no other than this sacred and holy being was sufficient to accomplish this great work. For since the adorable goodness of the Father has bestowed upon us his excellent and beloved Son; we may be assured, that no inferior nature was capable of accomplishing the important task. Was ever charity like thine, merciful Saviour! who loved us and gave thyself for us!
This work of redemption, is the utmost extent of divine love. It is thus represented by the Supreme Being himself, who makes it as it were the criterion of his willingness to confer upon us, whatever else may be needful for our happiness. If his compassion for the sinful children of men, is such, that he afflicts them only if need te; if judgment on the guilty, is his strange work; may we not rationally infer, that he would not have required such uncommon and painful sufferings, from so pure and excellent a being, had they
been necessary to the accomplishment of a righteousness, sanctification, and complete scheme of benevolence, proportioned to the grandeur of the means?
The fourth and last class of benefits, which I have received from the infinite goodness of God are those of revelation, which with relation to me, are the supernatural means by which God in his word enlightens my understanding and fortifies my faith. Revelation, contains all that which "God at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets," together with what he has "in these last days spoken by his Son." How gracious is that providence which has preserved and handed down these valuable oracles which are addressed to me, in consequence of my being born and educated in the church of Christ. When I compare my privileges, I who from a child have known the holy scriptures, with those of a poor savage, who has no hope, and is without God in the world; how greatly ought I to estimate them!
Revelation, by the light of faith, illuminates Let me conclude the enumeration of the my reason, it gives me the knowledge of manifold benefits of Divine Grace, with the God, my Creator and Father, and of eternal recollection of the succours and means of insalvation to which I am called. What obstruction and improvement it affords, and jects for thy contemplation, O my soul! in a which surround me under various forms. And being perfectly excellent, and an immortality first his word, his sacraments, and public orperfectly blessed! without these hopes, what dinances. In his word I possess "all that is were life? and with it, what are its greatest profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and instruction in righteousness." Let me never cease thankfully to acknowledge the goodness of Providence, who has preserved this valuable treasure, and transmitted it to me, through so many ages.
Nor ought I to be unmindful of those authentic monuments, which the great Mediator of the new covenant established in his church, for the confirmation and edification of his followers. In baptism, I see represented that purification from the uncleanness of sin, which is the end of the evangelical covenant. In the Lord's supper I behold the mean of this purification held forth, in the death of the Son of God.
How great also is the privilege I enjoy in the appointment of ministers and pastors to celebrate divine service and preach and explain the word of God. How solemn and edifying is public worship, where with one heart, and one voice, an assembled multitude join to present their adorations, praises, and thanksgivings; their humiliations, prayers and supplications; to their merciful Creator, and universal Father; who in wisdom and goodness set apart one day in seven for the suspension of worldly cares, and the prosecution of the more important concerns of our immortal souls.
Such are the general succours of divine grace, established in the church of Christ.
What shall I say of those which are particular, and which are constantly at hand, were I disposed to improve them. Every valuable production of human understanding, every book capable of enlightening, and leading me to good, I owe in some measure to the light of the gospel; which like that of the natural
I can now "look to Jesus, as the author and finisher of my faith;" in him I behold "God manifested in the flesh;" he not only announces to me eternal life, by his promises; but as my forerunner he enters into it, by his death and resurrection, and calls upon me, to follow him. Thus is he become "the way, the truth, and the life;" and if I possess faith in him, I may with St. Paul, "determine not to know any thing, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified; counting all things but loss, for the excellency of his knowledge."
By faith, I become united to my Saviour, from whom I derive continual light. His spirit dwells in me; and with it, all necessary assistance to work out my salvation. As a master he commands me what I am to perform; and will hereafter judge me concerning my obedience. As a physician he adminis ters relief to the maladies of my soul. He is that sun of righteousness which has arisen upon me, with healing on his wings. He is an example, a model for my imitation, a conductor and guide, who will never forsake me in life, or in death: and to the praise and glory of his grace I can affirm, "that without him I can do nothing." Let us therefore be full of thankfulness to God for the knowledge he has given us in this life, of the benefits reserved for us hereafter, and conveyed by that word, full of grace and truth, which was made flesh and dwelt among us, of whose fulness we have received grace for grace.
But here it may be inquired, whether faith alone is sufficient for my salvation and sanctification, which is a gift of divine grace, not absolutely necessary? since "without holiness, no one shall see the Lord." To this I reply, that faith in the only begotten Son of God" is sufficient, since we are assured that "whosoever believeth in him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life;" because sanctification is a necessary effect of this 'faith, which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen;" and an entire persuasion of their reality, will necessarily sanctify, transform, and renew our hearts. Can I know the extent of divine goodness, and not love God with my whole heart, and my neighbour as myself? Can I perceive the benefit of eternal salvation, and not joyfully relinquish every thing in this world that may stand opposed to it? Thus does faith in Christ Jesus, comprehend all those virtues and graces, by which sin and the world are to be subdued, and tny sanctification and salvation completed; for Christ is made unto such as believe, "wisdom,
un, spreads its penetrating rays far and wide; | life eternal; and will be the dispenser of eterna. nlightening even those who neither perceive, or own its influence.
glory, of immortality. Secure of this promise, what is to me the instability of earthly things? What the frailty of my body, or the short span of human life? for when arrived at immortality; death with respect to me will be swallowed up in victory.
It is worthy of observation on this subject, that scripture never expresses its magnificent promises by the terms happiness or felicity; never assures us of eternal happiness, but simply of eternal life, of immortality. The reason of this singularity may arise from these promises being addressed to poor mortals, whose transitory existence here is liable to so many miseries, which accompany them to the grave. To beings thus circumstanced, a promise which contains an exemption from these afflictions, and from death, is in effect an assurance of perfect happiness; for it is easy to conceive, that beatitude must be inseparable from an eternal life, in the presence of God. Here, I am "alienated from the life of God;" but hereafter, I shall be united to him, shall live by his life, and be happy in his happiness: what a reason is this for love!
With relation to the nature of celestial happiness, we can know but little here. It is therefore easier to describe it negatively, by
the infinite goodness of God, and which ex-excluding all the evils with which we are actite in me a love of gratitude; I come now to quainted; than positively, by a detail of its consider in the second place the promise of enjoyments. We know however that they future and eternal happiness, which produces will be of an intellectual nature, that our in me an interested love. Let not any imagine minds will derive satisfaction from external the term interest to be misplaced here; for a objects, and from their internal feelings; that erdid interest, an ill directed attachment to the glory of the divine presence will manifest the perishable things of this world, is alone itself to us, that our society will be composed reprehensible. It was this carnal self interest of holy and happy spirits, and that where our with which our Lord reproached the multi- Saviour is, there we shall be also. ades that followed him: "verily, verily I ay unto you, ye seek me, not because ye saw e miracles, but because ye did eat of the aves and were filled." But we do not perive that Simon Peter met with any reproof when he said, "Lord to whom should we go? bou hast the words of eternal life." Let us herefore not fear to own that our love to God founded on interest; "but by a patient ntinuance in well doing, seek for glory, aoar, immortality," and God will bestow pon us, "eternal life."
When I next consider the Divine Being in himself, and behold all his attributes and qualities consistent with, or founded upon perfect goodness; it produces, thirdly, a love of attachment. But as I have been led in the course of this work to an ample detail on this subject, I shall avoid repeating what has already been said. It is sufficient to observe, that the highest conceptions we can form, fall infinitely short of the excellence of the Divine Nature. If our tranquillity and happiness in this world, increase in proportion to our knowledge and love of him; what must be the felicity of a state where we shall see him as he is, and where he will be all in all.
To conclude. My love to God is founded on gratitude for benefits received; it is founded on interest, because connected with life and immortality; it is founded on attachment, because it relates to a being infinitely excellent and amiable; consequently infinite goodness is the only solid foundation of love.
If it were possible that in the Deity, any thing inconsistent with goodness, could exist; were he implacable and cruel; power might make him a just object of terror to his weak dependent creatures; but he could never be the object of their love. It is goodness alone can produce this sentiment, even in creatures comparatively evil.
I must not omit one observation more, efore I terminate this long list of gospel benefits; viz. That every dispensation in the Ordinary course of Providence, borrows a paricular and salutary efficacy from this econony. Suppose, by way of illustration, some alamitous event, adapted to convince me of he vanity of the world; this, were I a pagan, r what is yet worse, a Christian without relition, whose hopes are all centred in the world, would fill me with desolation and despair; but assisted by the light of the gosel this event contributes to detach me more ind more from the world; and to give vigour and solidity to my future hopes. Would to God I had constantly availed myself of the unltiplied assistance which Divine Grace has afforded me! how many sins should I have avoided, how many errors in conduct should I have escaped! How many good works should I have performed, which alas! I have neglected; and how much greater would have been my progress in sanctification and happiness.
Having thus concluded the review of those benefits which I have hitherto received from
Eternal life! this is the benefit yet reserved me! and it contains all those blessings, which the goodness of my Creator will show er down upon me for ever and ever.
The first character which distinguishes the Messings of heaven, and which gives them so perior a value, is, their eternal duration. We are told that "the things which are seen are temporal, but that the things which are not seen are eternal :" And this is alone suffient to give us the highest idea of their inmparable value. Happiness, however exited, or durable, cannot be perfect if it is not verlasting; as it is constantly verging to ards its end, and therefore will become to he possessor, but like a vain dream, which st forever vanish. Not such is the perfect it of God. He is the origin of life, and of
I come now to shew that this love to God, comprehends every pious and devout sentiment, and predominates over every inferior affection. It disengages us from the world, it produces an entire submission to God, and confidence in him; it creates in us an ardent desire to obtain his approbation and favour; whence proceeds a salutary fear of offend ing on each of these I must make a few observations.
In the first place, where the love of God is founded on a conviction of his infinite goodness, it swallows up every inferior attachment, and disengages us from the world; whose love is incompatible with it. St. John observes that "if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." We may reverse this proposition and say, if any man love God, the love of the world is not in him; because in one or other of these, and not in both, is happiness to be sought: and sure I need not remind any one how imperfect, how unsatisfactory, how transient is the happiness of this world, "at its best estate it is altogether vanity." But when the love of our Creator prevails, temporal things are estimated according to their real value; and "our hearts are set on the things that are above," where our hidden treasure is. We may indeed with cheerfulness enjoy the blessings of life, as a wise traveller benefits by every comfort he meets with on the road; but we shall not suffer our journey to be impeded by them, or our souls to be cast down or disquieted by their privation. We shall learn with the great apostle, "in whatever state we are, therewith to be content; how to be abased and how to abound, to be full and to he hungry, to abound and to suffer need." This is the temper by which alone we can enjoy any comfort even in this world; and which will enable us to say at our departure out of it, "that though we walk through the dark valley of the shadow of death we fear no evil, for the Lord is with us, his rod and staff, they comfort us."
Secondly, if we love God for his infinite goodness, we must delight in his will; whence arises perfect submission. Convinced that his laws, and all his dispensations are wise and good; can we have any wish but to render him the most faithful and cordial obedience; the most sincere acquiescence and humble resignation, of which our imperfect natures are capable?
Thirdly, it is not difficult to perceive that from a love like this, confidence in God must necessarily flow. Convinced that our happiness is in the hands of a being, who has the will, and the power to effect it; we may repose an unlimited and unshaken trust in him; and though the waves of trouble should roll over us; though distresses of every kind should assault us, our courage will never fail; and despair, that worst of enemies, will never approach us, even in the most discouraging circumstances; "against hope, we shall believe in hope;" because we know that our
confidence, is in the rock of ages, who can never abandon us. How superior is this trust to any we should dare repose in ourselves; for where is the mortal who should presume to assert that he can never forsake his Maker? The fatal and frequent experience we have had of our own weakness, should create in us a proper diffidence, and a constant vigilance, but it must not rob us of our confidence in God, who "will do exceedingly more for us than we can ask or think."
Fourthly and lastly. Where the love of God prevails, a desire of pleasing him, must prevail also, and thence a filial fear of offending. Sentiments of gratitude for past benefits will make us look with detestation and horror, on every act that might incur his displeasure. And if we are convinced that our own happiness is promoted, or injured, in proportion as we obey, or violate his commands; we shall not dare to prefer our will to his. Beholding him as a being infinitely amiable, we shall desire to be imitators of him as dear children;" and thence must naturally proceed a fear of becoming odious and hateful in his sight, by any opposition to "his perfect and acceptable will." Thus do gratitude, interest, and pleasure, conspire to penetrate the heart with a godly fear of offending, and to raise in us a desire of approaching and resembling him, on whom our happiness ever has, and ever must depend; and who is the most amiable and most excellent of beings. But if ever we should deviate from the right way, and our love should wax cold; should we thence become habitual and hardened sinners; then, as I have already shewn when treating the subject of Divine Justice, may we justly apprehend that formidable branch of perfect goodness; which being exempt from all weakness, will not relent, but pour down upon us "indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish;" from which no power in the universe shall be able to screen us. Where then is the security, where the pretence which can authorize any one wilfully to offend his Maker.
These various sentiments of piety, which I have regarded as so many branches of love to God; such as detachment from the world, submission, confidence, and filial fear; these constitute a state at once the most perfect and happy, which is attainable on earth, and even a foretaste of celestial happiness; because they produce a state of union with God; a union similar in nature, though inferior in degree, with that for which our Saviour prayed to "his Father, and our Father," in those remarkable words preceding his death; where he supplicates, not only for his disciples, but for all who should believe through their word; "that they all may be one, even as the Father was in him and he in the Father, that so also they might be one in them." Justly may our hearts be animated by so sublime a privilege, to disregard the perishable and childish toys of life, and to glory that "we are not of the world," even as our Saviour
"was not of the world," but aspire at being made perfect in one, together with our forerunner, and now exalted Lord.
This inestimable privilege belongs only to Christians; it is the gospel alone which thus unites us to God here, by the mediation of a Saviour. This is confirmed by the discourse of our Lord with his disciples, in the eleventh of Matthew, where he says, "verily I say unto you, that among them that are born of a woman, there hath not risen a greater (prophet) than John the Baptist; notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven (in my church) is greater than he." Let us therefore rejoice in the grandeur of our vocation, as members of the Church of Christ; let us not rest contented with those external marks of union, which can only draw upon our heads accumulated mischief, if they do not produce a spiritual and vital union with God; which being began here, will go on increasing to perfection for ever and ever.
Let us now examine the sixth consequence, which flows from the infinite goodness of God, which is a disposition to love our neighbour as ourselves; in furnishing us with the most powerful motives to this sincere and universal charity.
What then is implied in loving all men as we do ourselves? It is to be interested in their happiness, as sincerely as we are in our own, and for this perfect charity the love of God furnishes us with the most powerful motives. It is worthy of being remarked that this perfect, this universal charity, from which not even our enemies are excluded; was never equally insisted upon, till the goodness and infinite love of God to all men, was manifested in the gospel; where it is given as a new commandment.
It is true however, that in this love an essential and necessary difference must remain between God and man. An indigent and de
Though every sincere Christian finds reason to lament, that the gospel does not prodace as much good in the world as might naturally follow from its excellent institutes; nevertheless it has so far enlarged the minds of men, since it has been disengaged from the dreadful errors and superstitions that disfigured it before the reformation; and none I believe will need now to be told who is their neigh-pendent creature, cannot love with the disbour; they acknowledge, however their ac- interestedness of a perfect and self-sufficient tions may deny, that their fellow creatures, Creator. But though a sense of his wants, beings of the same common nature, are their and a necessity of supplying them may somebrethren: and this is true without distinction times deprive him of leisure, or of means to of good or bad; friends or enemies; believers shew his benevolence, by actual benefits; or unbelievers; countrymen or strangers; all yet unless blinded and led astray by some are our neighbours. disorderly passion, it will not prevent his resembling his Maker, by sentiments of universal good-will; and so far will his own wants be from stifling his benevolence, that they will excite in him a more lively and active compassion for the relief of his fellow creatures. I conclude then that man is naturally inclined to goodness and benevolence, because he is the child of God, whose image he bears.
I do not say however of charity, as I did of joy, and of love to God, that his infinite goodness is their only foundation; because it is in the nature of man, to love his fellow beings; whence it is evident on the one hand that man is by his nature amiable; and on the other, that he is by his nature good, and formed for social love: these important truths I shall endeavour to set in the clearest light.
In the first place I assert, that the nature of man is amiable, and worthy of being loved. I need not, in order to prove this, enter into a
detail of all the noble faculties with which he is endowed; but shall confine myself to that capacity of knowing, loving, and resembling his Creator, which constitutes at once his excellence, his dignity, and his felicity. For though we often see this capacity for holiness and perfection, giving way to criminal and odious sentiments, and a being amiable by his nature, become the perpetrator of atrocious crimes; nevertheless we cannot help perceiving that this depravity is contrary to nature; consequently accidental and transitory; and must sooner or later he destroyed by the complete development of his excellent faculties.
But I have said in the second place, that man is by his nature good, and formed for social love. Many are the evidences I could bring forward in support of this truth, but from amongst them I shall select only the most simple and apparent.
If man made after the Divine image; his nature must be good, and formed to love his neighbour as himself, for God is love; therefore without goodness he can never resemble a Being perfectly good. He may by his intellectual powers, bear some resemblance to his Maker, but these are only given to render him capable of distinguishing and of loving whatever is by its nature amiable and excellent: he must therefore resemble his heavenly Father, in his sincere and universal love of his brethren.
The nature of happiness, furnishes us with a second proof of this truth. If man is formed for happiness, he is formed for charity. Happiness consists in the full exercise and development of our faculties. Now among those the most active, the most lively, and the most delightful in its exercise, is the faculty of loving. The heart, is the seat of this faculty and formed for love, as the eye is for sight, and the ear for hearing. Those cold, insensible, and unnatural hearts, whose love is centred in themselves, must be wretched; happiness will fly before them, and elude their eager grasp. This is the situation of all such as seek their happiness in the world, and r. in God. Wealth, honours, and power, the