Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

all their duty, and regulates all their moral conduct. Man, who is of the number of these moral creatures, is placed under this law; and justly required by his Maker to love him with all the heart, and to love his neighbour as himself.' In the progress of these discourses it has, unless I am deceived, been clearly shown, that man has utterly failed of performing this duty ; that he is therefore condemned by the law to the sufferance of its penalty; that the law knows no condition of pardon, escape, or return ; that man cannot expiate bis sins ; and that, if left to bimself, he must therefore perish.

In this situation as bas been heretofore explained, Christ interposed on the behalf of our ruined race; and made an atonement for our sins, with which the Father is well pleased. This atonement, the Scriptures have assured us God has accepted ; and, having thus provided a method in which he can be just, and yet justify those who were sinners, is ready to extend the blessing of pardon and salvation to this apostate world.

Accordingly, Christ has announced himself to sinful men as their Saviour ; and proffered to them deliverance, both from their sin, and their condemnation. The conditions on which this proffer has been made, are repentance towards God, and faith towards himself, as the Lord and Saviour of mankind. In order to understand, so far as we are able, the propriety and necessity of these conditions of our restoration, it will be useful to attend to the following considerations :

1. Sincere, exalled, and enduring happiness cannot be enjoyed by any beings, except those who are virtuous.

This great and fundamental truth in that philosophy which explains the nature and interests of moral beings, has, it is believed, been completely evinced in this series of discourses. It has been shown, that a sinful mind is at war with itself, its fellow-creatures, and its God; that it must, of course, be subject to reproaches of conscience, to perpetual disquiet, to consciousạess of the Divine anger, and to the loathing and contempt of all good beings. It has been shown, that such a mind must be a prey to tumultuous passions, vehement desires, which are not and cannot be gratified, and endless disappointments in the pursuit of a selfish interest, which can never be promoted, without sacrificing the glory of the Creator, and the happiness of his creatures.

It has been proved, that its chosen enjoyments are in their nature vain, transient, delusive, little, base, and contemptible; inconsistent with real excellence, dignity, and self-approbation; and incompatible with the well-being of others, whose interests are singly of equal importance, and united are immeasurably deserving of higher regard.

From these considerations it is unanswerably evident, that a sinful mind cannot be happy; for with such affections, and their consequences, happiness is plainly inconsistent. The mind, which is not at ease within, cannot derive happiness from without. A wounded spirit who can bear?' especially when wounded by the arrows of an angry conscience. If then God is pleased to communicate happiness to him who is a sinner, it is indispensably necessary that he should first remove the sinful disposition, whence all these evils immutably flow.

2. The only possible method of removing sin from a moral being, is to make him the subject of evangelical repentance.

So long as the soul loves sin, it must be the subject of that vile and guilty character, which we denominate moral turpitude, depravity, and corruption; together with all its consequences. For the love of sin is pre-eminently this character. While this love continues, he in whom it exists will perpetrate, of course, all those which we customarily call sins, or sinful actions. He will also love sin continually, inore and more; and perpetrate it with more and more eagerness, and hostility to God. From all the knowledge which we possess of mora? character, it seems plainly to be its nature, whether virtuous or vicious, to become more and more fixed in its babits, and intense in its desires. So long therefore as the love of sin prevails in the mind, the situation of the sinner must be hopeless, with regard to his assumption of a spirit of obedience, and his attainment of consequent happiness.

The repentance of the Gospel is formed of the hatred of sin, sorrow for it, a disposition to confess it to God, and resolutions to renounce it. From this definition it is manifest, that evangelical repentance is the direct removal of sin from the soul of the sinner. By the hatred of sin, which it includes as a first principle, the soul is withdrawn from the practice of it. By the sorrow, it is warned of the danger and evil of returning to it again. By the confession of it to God, the soul

is brought into near, full, and most endeariug views of the glorious goodness of its heavenly Father, in forgiving its iniquities; and most happily prepared to watch, and strive, and

pray that it may offend him no more. By its resolutions to forsake it,'the penitent is fortified against future indulgences, and prepared to assume a life of filial obedience. In all these things we cannot, I think, avoid perceiving, that evangelical repentance is the direct and the only means of removing sin originally from the heart, and consequentially from the life, of a moral being; and that thus it is absolutely necessary to prepare men for obedience to the law of God, and a general conformity to his character and pleasure. To such beings as we are, it is therefore indispensable, if we are ever to become the subjects of real and enduring happiness.

3. For this great end it is also necessary, that we should be united to God.

The relations between the Creator and his intelligent creatures are not only pear and important, but indispensable also to the happiness of such creatures. Out of them arises a great part of all the thoughts, affections, duties, and enjoyments of which they are capable. These are also the foundations on which all other valuable thoughts, affections, duties, and enjoyments rest; and are necessary to their existence, as well as their worth. In the relation of children only do we, or can we, apprehend the endearing and glorious character of Jehovah, as the common, most affectionate, and most venerable Parent of the virtuous universe ; feel towards him the various filial affections; and perform the various filial duties which are included under the general name of piety. In the same relation only can we enjoy the peculiar and pre-eminent bappiness of loving and glorifying him as our Father who is in heaven.' In this relation only do we also receive and feel the unnumbered proofs of his parental tenderness, and unlimited mercy.

As children of God, and by means of the filial views and affections which in this character we entertain, we begin first to understand and to feel that we are brethren. This character is the true inlet to all the fraternal regards of virtuous beings, and to the endless train of spiritual sympathies and social endearments which spring up in sanctified minds, and which with new strength, purity, and delight, will for ever grow and flourish in the heavens above.

But without union to God, no relation, whether natural or moral, can be of any use to ourselves. Without this union, the blessings flowing from these relations cannot begiu. When minds do not coincide with him in their views, and are not united to him in their affections and character, he cannot with propriety give, nor they possibly enjoy these blessings. The nearest relation to God, if unperceived, unfelt, and unacknowledged, is in the apprehension of the soul which sustains it, nothing. It is the cordial, grateful sense of such a relation, the welcome, delightful recognition of it, which makes it the foundation of all this good. With such a sense, with such a recognition, the soul draws nigh to God with affections harmonizing with his pleasure, and with views coinciding with all his revealed designs. Separated from God, the soul can entertain no such views, and can feel no such affections towards him. Nor can it perform any duties, nor realize any rational or lasting enjoyment. In such a state of separation, it is a plant on which the beams of the Sun of Righteousness cease to shine; and is of course chilled, shrunk, and destroyed.

4. Faith in Jesus Christ is the only possible union between man and his Maker.

God in the covenant of Redemption has promised to receive, justify, and save for ever all who are Christ's at his appearing : that is, all who become his by a voluntary surrender of themselves to him. But the only method in wbich man ever does or can surrender himself voluntarily to Christ, is the exercise of faith, or confidence, in him as the Saviour of the world. This is the only method of becoming bis, which is proposed to us by Christ himself. 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,' is the sole language of the scriptures concerning this subject. On this, however, I need not insist; because I have heretofore, if I mistake not, satisfactorily proved the doctrine at large. Still it may be useful to consider the nature of the subject with some degree of attention and particularity, as being capable, at least in my view, of illustrating the doctrine in an impressive and edifying manner.

Christ offers to save sinners who are condemped and perishing, and who are therefore utterly unable to save themselves. In this offer he declares himself able, willing, and faithful, to “save to the uttermost all that will come unto God by him.' Now it is impossible for us to come to him, or to God by him, unless we confide in this as his true character, and in the declarations by which he makes this character known to us. It is impossible for us to receive his instructions, as the means of knowledge and guidance to us in the path of duty and salvation; his precepts, as the rules of our obedience; or his ordinances, as the directory of our worship ; unless we confide in the character of him who has taught them, as a wise and faithful teacher. It is indispensable, that we confide in him as a teacher, who knows, and who has told us, that which is true, right, and safe for us, in these immensely important concerns. It is indispensable, that we believe in him, and trust in him, as vested with all the authority necessary to this character of a Divine instructor ; and regard him, as certainly and fully disclosing the will of God concerning our duty and salvation. Unless we can confide in these things, we can never receive his instructions as rules either of our faith, or of our practice. Without these things they would all dwindle at once into mere philosophy, mere advice, mere opinions, to obey which no person would or could feel the least obligation.

His atonement, in the same manner, would be nothing to us, unless we could cordially believe it to be efficacious, sufficient, and acceptable in the sight of God. It is only because we regard it as the atonement of so glorious, sufficient, and acceptable a person, that it possesses in any sense the character of an atonement. Accordingly, the Socinians, who consider Christ as a mere man, generally do, and, if they would be consistent with themselves, must believe that he made no atonement, but was merely a martyr, or witness to the truth.

Christ also requires us to commit our souls to his care, and keeping; or, in other words, to become his by voluntarily surrendering ourselves into his hands, and looking for safety and happiness to his protection, mercy, and truth. This we cannot do in any other manner, nor by any

other meads,

beside the exercise of confidence in him. Who would commit his everlasting well-being to a person in whose kindness and truth, in whose power and wisdom, he did not confide? No man ever did or could commit himself, or his interests, even in this

« ПредишнаНапред »