« ПредишнаНапред »
virtue; but “ he that is in Jesus, he that would be a true Christian, must be righteous as he is righteous, must walk as he walked."--Do men say, that “God beholds the heart, and is satisfied with good intentions ?"-Yet the Scripture assures us, that he likewise observes our ways, our temper, and carriage, that we must glorify him with our body and with our spirit, and that he will reward us “according to our works.”
RELIGION AND VIRTUE--continued.
See'st thou yon sunny spot of rising ground,
GROVE. He who is under the full influence of Religion and Virtue, enjoys the pleasures of innocence, and of a conscience void of offence towards God and man. A sense of truth, order, and harmony reigns in his mind :
What nothing earthly gives, or can destroy,
With him is also the pleasure of self-satisfaction; and,
One self-approving hour whole years outweighs
Than Cæsar with a senate at his heels. The religious and virtuous man experiences the most sublime pleasure from his meditations on God; from divine worship; and from love to God and man. To him futurity, neither as it respects this world or the next, has any terrors. He has no anxiety concerning the events that await him in the present or in the future life. They are all in the disposal of his Father in heaven, with whom he sees nothing but what is good, and from whom he may constantly expect the best. As certainly as virtue is not an empty name, as certainly as she is a daughter of beaven, and is well-pleasing to Him who dwelleth in heaven; so certainly are her ways the road to happiness in every condition of man, in every period of his life, and at every stage of his existence.
Advanced as Christians are in the knowledge and progression of God's kingdom, they behold an ampler manifestation of divine love than was vouchsafed to the preceding ag?s of the world. The glorious gospel assures us, that tuere is one Lord over all, who is rich unto all who call upon him; that this great Being is reconciling the world by Christ to himself, not imputing iniquity to those who sincerely repent. Though all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God, yet are all justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is by Christ Jesus. Far, very far, is the gospel from proposing those humiliating terms of acceptance, or those arbitrary tests of conversion, which are too often held forth to frighten the humble penitent. Our benevolent Creator delights not to behold the consciences of his offspring torn with remorse, or their minds appalled with the apprehensions of future misery. He guards not the tree of life with a flaming sword, nor surrounds with horrors the footstool of his throne of mercy. Far is the
Author of all compassion from being inexorable to the cries of his children. He hears the softest sigh of the penitent heart. He perceives the first wishful glance towards Him and Virtue. He proposes no terms but our relinquishment of vice, and that we love and practise holiness; these are the tests he proposes to such as are candidates for his favour, and to such he promises all the blessings of the gospel
As soon as the prodigal said in his heart, “ I will arise and go to my Father, and say, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee;" though afar off, the Father beheld him, had compassion, and fell on his neck and kissed him. He suffered him not to finish his penitential speech, but gave orders that he should be adorned and entertained as his son. It is a gross mistake, derogatory to the goodness of God and the glory of the gospel, to suppose that before we are allowed to walk in the light of the Divine countenance, our feelings are to be overwhelmed with unutterable anguish. The doctrine of the gospel is indeed the doctrine of free grace; its language is, Let whoever will, take of the water of life freely. Under the gospel dispensation, there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek, the Barbarian and the Scythian, the bond-man and the free-man. Its blessings are not restricted to any peculiar favourites of Heaven, selected by an arbitrary decree from the general mass of mankind; but in every nation, he that feareth God and worketh righteousness, shall be accepted of him. They are universally diffusive, without respect of persons, families, or kingdoms. The gracious God has, by the gospel, diffused new light through the human mind, given new strength and support to virtue, clearer and more perfect rules of duty, a fuller assurance of the divine government and providence, and a more distinct prospect of the future state.
So great is the divine goodness, as manifested in the gospel, that, though conscious of guilt, while we have ability to repent, we have no room to despair. Ignorant as we are, and beset with infirmities, we have the love of God to cheer us in the discharge of our duty; a return is promised to our prayers, and pardon assured to our penitence. God is manifested as a merciful Father, proclaiming pardon and peace; his providence attends us in every step. His attributes are so many pledges given, or assurances made, to our faith, of assistance in what we have to do, of support in what we have to suffer, of strength in our weakness, of direction in our doubts, and of light and comfort in darkness and the hour of death. Amidst the afflictions, uncertainties, and calamities of life, we have a refuge and an asylum in the prospect of a blessed immortality.
This gives a new direction to our aims, opens a new prospect to our views, dispels our doubts, elevates and establishes our hopes, raises, ennobles, and enlarges our joys, and gives a security, peace, and comfort to the whole man. What darkness, what maladies, what misery, is there in human nature, to which the light, the truth, the promises, and comforts of the gospel are not equal ? Fears dispelled, and the clouds of ignorance dispersed'; sin pardoned, and peace proclaimed ; death conquered, glory promised, immortal life assured, all the gift of God through Jesus Christ,) display so much of love and mercy, as fills the whole soul, and satisfies all the wants of man. They who, by a true faith and sincere repentance, have become partakers of the salvation of the gospel, have the firmest foundation for the most unbounded confidence in the divine goodness, amidst all the vicissitudes of life. They may meet with troubles, they may be tried with disappointments, but their lot is ordered by consummate wisdom and boundless benevolence. They may rest assured that every dispensation of providence will turn to their advantage, that it will tend to purify their hearts, to refine their motives, and thus to prepare them for eternal felicity. Mercy is the sovereign attribute of heaven: and could men or angels ascribe any thing to themselves, or challenge any thing as their own, they would be independent of God. The cherubim and seraphin have no more of intrinsic or independent honour, excellence, or glory, than the meanest worm or poorest reptile of the earth; nor contributed more to their own creation, existence, and heavenly faculties. The whole universe, comprehending every order and species of being, animate and inanimate, sensitive, rational, and spiritual, a combined and connected chain of essence and excellence, advanced from matter to motion, to life, to reason, to grace, to glory and immortality, is from the free gift, and by the influence, of an Almighty Father. For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things; to whom be glory for ever and ever!
If such then be the Divine goodness, praise him, all ye angels of his; praise him, all his host; praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all ye stars of light; praise him, all ye deeps, fire and hail, snow and vapours, winds and storms, fulfilling his word; mountains and all hills, fruitful trees and all cedars, beasts and all cattle, worms and feathered fowls: praise him, ye kings of the earth, princes, and all judges of the world ; praise him, all ye people, young men and maidens, old men and children. Let the whole creation join in chorus. Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord.
Where Religion and Virtue do not preside, do real joy can dwell:
Vain is alike all joy we seek,
And vain what we possess,
The passions into peace,
Is happiness confin'd;
CARTER, Religion is the daughter of Heaven, the parent of all our
virtues, and the guardian of all our pleasures; it is she who alone gives peace and contentment, diyests the heart of care, and the life of trouble, bursts on the mind a flood of joy, and sheds unmingled and perpetual sunshine in the virtuous breast. By her the spirits of darkness are banished the earth, and