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selfishness and benevolence, as there will be between the state of the righteous and wicked to all eternity. And when this difference between the motives of the righteous and wicked shall be clearly exhibited at the last day, the sentence of eternal life and eternal death will carry full conviction to all intelligent beings, that the Judge of all the earth has done right. How important is it that all men should realize the infinite difference between benevolence and selfishness, upon which their eternal interests depend! How dangerous is it for sinners to expect to be rewarded for that for which they shall be eternally punished! And how criminal is it in those who undertake to show men the way of salvation, to flatter them in the way of destruction! But sinners love to be flattered, and to flatter themselves, with groundless hopes, which must lead to endless punishment and despair.
4. If Moses acted virtuously and acceptably to God in the view of a future and eternal reward, then it is no just objection against the gospel that it proposes future rewards and punishments to men, to induce them to shun the broad road to des. truction, and walk in the strait and narrow way to eternal life. The Earl of Shaftsbury, one of the most celebrated deists in Britain, objects against the divinity of the gospel, because it promises eternal life to the obedient, and threatens eternal death to the disobedient. It cannot be denied that the gospel does promise eternal life and threaten eternal death, as motives to induce men to embrace it. Christ sent forth his ministers to preach the gospel to all the world, clothed with these solemn sanctions : “ He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." These are the most weighty and powerful motives that could be proposed to mankind, in their present guilty and perishing state, to accept the offers of the gospel. And they are as well adapted to excite benevolence, as selfish exercises, in the hearts of all men. Nor can any comply with these motives, only in the exercise of true benevolence. Moses, and the patriarchs, and the prophets, and the primitive christians, complied with the terms of the gospel, from pure, disinterested love to God and man, and to themselves. Christ often and plainly declared, that no man could follow him and become his disciple, without exercising true disinterested love. When the amiable young man in the gospel desired him to point out the way to eternal life, he directed him to renounce selfishness, and exercise and express disinterested benevolence. But he refused to do it, and went away sorrowful. Holiness and happiness are the only things which are good in their own nature; and sin and misery are the only things which are evil in their own nature. If men act at all, they must act in the view of these motives. But they can act as benevolently as selfishly, in the view of these motives. Though the gospel, therefore, exhibits these motives before the minds of men, yet it does not require them to act selfishly in the view of them, but absolutely commands them to act benevolently in the view of them. There would be weight in Shaftsbury's objection, if the gospel required men to act selfishly in the view of future rewards and punishments. The rewards of
. the gospel are such, that none but those who possess disinterested benevolence can desire them, or obtain them, or enjoy them. Those who proposed to follow Christ and embrace the gospel upon selfish motives, he immediately condemned and rejected. It is only in the exercise of pure disinterested love, that any can have a due respect to the recompense of reward, and finally obtain it.
5. If Moses, in the exercise of disinterested love, obtained the recompense of reward to which he had respect, then all real saints have great encouragement to persevere in their religious course. They are in the way, in the very way that thousands have walked, and received a crown of glory which fadeth not away. All the promises of the gospel apply to them, and assure them of a future and eternal reward. They have not greater trials, difficulties, and obstacles to surmount, than Moses, and Joshua, and Caleb, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob surmounted. They have no more reason to be discouraged, than all the patriarchs, and prophets, and apostles had. But they endured to the end, and obtained the promised reward to which their eyes and hearts had respect. The reason was, they lived in the exercise of that disinterested love which many waters cannot quench, and which the floods cannot drown. Disinterested love will have the same powerful effect now, that it ever has had. While christians keep themselves in the love of God, it will dispose them cheerfully to give up what God calls them to give up, to endure what God calls them to endure, and to do what God calls them to do. God, in the gospel, has connected duty and happiness together. And christians cannot promote their own happiness more effectually and infallibly, than by seeking the glory of God and the interests of his kingdom; for all his interests are theirs, and they shall enjoy them as far as their capacities and desires will permit.
6. If Moses and other good men were governed by disinterested love in seeking and obtaining a future and eternal reward, then none have any reason to expect to obtain a crown of righteousness, without exercising true disinterested love. You may now call the distinction between selfishness and disinterested benevolence, a mere metaphysical and trifling distinction. But you will find it is a scriptural distinction, which will determine your eternal destiny. And unless you turn from selfishness to benevolence, you will be rejected at the last day, and be separated from the benevolent, denied their reward, and doomed to suffer the due reward of your selfish and sinful conduct to all eternity.
7. This subject now asks of all, whether they are walking in the strait and narrow way to heaven. Have you that respect to recompense that Moses had ? His life, his death, and his present state are recorded. He has arrived at heaven safe. Look at his character and conduct, and compare your own with his. If you find a resemblance, take the comfort of it. But if not, you have reason to fear that you will lose the promise of rest, and never sit down with the blessed in the kingdom of glory.
CONSTANT JOY IN GOD THE DUTY OF CHRISTIANS.
REJOICE in the Lord alway; and again I say. Rejoice. — FHILIPPIANS, 19. 4.
The apostles took peculiar care of the churches which they planted, and ernployed many means to confirm them in their faith, preserve them from error, and promote their peace, consolation and growth in grace. They either visited them personally, or wrote to them frequently, and directed them to read the epistles they severally received, to each other, that they might all derive edification and comfort from them. Paul wrote most of his epistles on some particular occasions, in order to rectify some particular error, or to guard against some particular danger, or to reprove some unchristian practice. But he seems to have written this epistle to enforce a particular duty, which all christians were too apt to neglect; and that is, the duty of rejoicing in God. He bad said, in the first verse of the third chapter in this epistle, “ Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.” And recollecting what he had said before, he still thought it proper to repeat again and again the same injunction, in the fourth verse of this fourth chapter. “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice." These repetitions plainly indicate that christians in general are very backward to perform the duty enjoined in the text; and that their duty of rejoicing in the Lord is not only very important, but needs to be repeatedly and forcibly inculcated upon them. Accordingly it is proposed, in this discourse,
1. To consider what is implied in the duty of christians' rejoicing in God always; VOL. VI.
II. To consider the propriety of their being required to perform this duty always; and,
III. To consider some peculiar reasons, why they should rejoice in the Lord always.
I. Let us consider what is implied in the duty of christians' rejoicing in the Lord always. And,
1. This implies that they are pleased that God does really exist. All mankind are naturally unwilling that there should be a God. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Every man, in a state of nature, dreads the thought of the divine existence. And though he cannot resist the weighty evidence of an eternal and self existent Being, yet his belief of God, instead of giving him the least pleasure, fills his mind with the same kind of fear and trembling, which apostate spirits feel. All men naturally wish to be independent, and therefore cannot bear the thoughi that there is a being above them, who can control and dispose of them according to his pleasure. But christians, whose enmity to God has been slain, are willing that he should exist. It is impossible that men should rejoice in a Being whose existence they disbelieve and dislike. If christians, therefore, did not believe and like the existence of God, they could not rejoice in him. So that their rejoicing in God implies that they rejoice that he now exists, and always will exist, without the least variableness, or shadow of turning.
2. The duty enjoined upon christians in the text, implies their rejoicing, not only that God exists, but that he exists possessed of all divine excellences and perfections. God is infinitely superior to any other and all other beings in the universe. His power, his knowledge, his wisdom, and his goodness, are unlimited and incomprehensible. It is the duty of christians to rejoice that God is the first, the greatest, the wisest, and best of all beings, without the possibility of change, or becoming in the least degree mutable in the essential attributes of his nature. They ought to rejoice that he always has been, and always will be without the least imperfection in power, knowledge, wisdom, or goodness. For they could not rejoice in him, if it were possible that he should either intentionally, or unintentionally, make any mistake, or use any deception. But they know that he cannot deceive and cannot err, because he is immutable in his natural and moral attributes; and there is as solid ground to rejoice in them, as to rejoice in his necessary existence. They are pleased, therefore, that he is altogether such a being as he is.
3. Their duty enjoined in the text, requires them to rejoice that he formed the most wise, and just, and benevolent designs from eternity. They would have no reason to rejoice either in