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No. 277.]

JANUARY, 1825. [No. 1. Vol. XXV.


For the Christian Observer.


exist,-from Himwhose right to command is indisputable, and extends

SCRIPTURES, AS PRESENTING A equally to all created beings, and



ANY of the ancients, renowned for their moral regulations, were pagan philosophers; and many wise and useful precepts are to be found in the stores of their learning. But, however excellent these may have been in other respects, they were in one most important particular altogether defective: they proceeded from no just or acknowledged authority. Independently of their intrinsic worth, they had nothing to recommend them to the public attention, except it were the little fame or reputation of their respective authors. Being merely the suggestions of human minds, they derived no right to command from the source in which they originated; man having no farther power over man, than what results from natural and social connexions, or from the established laws of society. They could indeed have been recommended, but not rightly or lawfully enforced. Their authors had no ground upon which to found their claim to the obedience of their fellow-creatures, nor the ability to reward the meritorious or to punish the undeserving.

In this respect no small superiority belongs to the precepts of Revelation: since these are not only in themselves perfect and complete, as shall be presently shewn, but also proceed from authority, and from the highest that can possibly CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 277.

who regards all mankind with an eye of perfect impartiality, having no respect of persons. The Scriptures assign this pre-eminence to the Almighty: they consider this authority as vested exclusively in his hands, and announce all their com mands as having emanated from this Omnipotent Being. They state also the grounds of this authority. It is founded on certain acts of the Almighty, without which there could have been no other being but himself. The great works of creation and of preservation belong exclusively to him, and, above all, the wonderful work of redemption. Being the origin and source of our existence, having" made us, and not we ourselves," he has a right to issue laws for our conduct, and to demand our obedience to them. But this right is further established by the continual exertion of his power and goodness in our preservation, in the mainter.ance and exercise of our faculties, and in our enjoyment of the comforts of life. The hand that made us is necessary for our continual support. And as our continuance in existence depends as much upon God, as our first introduction into being, he has the same claim to our service upon the score of what he does for us every moment of our life, as upon that of our creation. But this right receives still an additional strengtha strength which no system in the world but that of the Gospel. can supply, and to which the most obdurate hearts have been known


to yield, when they had long stood out against the force of every other motive-from the astonishing plan, contrived by Unsearchable Wisdom, for the recovery of fallen man; from that wonderful manifestation of love and mercy displayed in the redemption of the world through the mediation and atonement of the Son of God. The intention of this scheme is to bring the sinner to the acknowledgment of his obligations as a creature, made and supported by the Omnipotent, as well as to compel, to win, and to constrain him by its own powerful claims; to restore man to his allegiance to God, and to establish him for ever under the benign influence of the government of Him who alone can bestow permanent happiness on his subjects. Upon these grounds it is that God enforces his commands. In the first place, he asserts his right as an Almighty Sovereign, who has exercised his power in bringing us into existence; in the second, as still almighty, but at the same time full of goodness, and as carrying on the never-ceasing work of our preservation; and in the third, as a God of love, who has provided the most extraordinary means of restoration for a self-ruined world. Thus, his right is founded on a free exercise of power, on a continual exertion of goodness, and on a wonderful display of love. Without the first, we should not have had existence; without the second, we should not have been continued in existence; without the third, we should have had no happiness in it. These are the views which the Scriptures give of our connexions with the Most High; these are the considerations which they contain respecting our obligations to yield him universal obedience; and if these be not sufficient to establish a right to our obedience, the most fertile imagination may labour for ever in vain to discover any circumstances that can possibly establish such a right. But these are sufficient; and they appear fully so to all who have not

sacrificed their reason and understanding to the sophistry of a wicked heart. Every thing in and without us, the voice of nature and of conscience, the dictates of justice, of gratitude, and of love, all concur to proclaim the right of the Almighty to the unreserved obedience of all his creatures. He who denies him this obedience acts against the natural order of things, reverses the law of his being, and strives for his own ruin. He lives in God, and yet disobeys him. He moves in him, and yet walks in a direction diametrically contrary to his will. He has his being in God, yet provokes him daily, and assumes a proud independence of action, as if he were his own creator. The sinfulness of disobedience is scarcely ever considered in its full extent. Were we to see it in all its enormity, we could not fail to be struck with astonishment at the wonderful patience of the Almighty.

According to the Gospe! representations, the Divine Being may be considered in effect to address every individual somewhat in this manner:-" It was my hand that formed thee; thou art mine, obey my commands. It is my hand that supports thee every moment of thy life; thou art mine, let thy life be spent in my service. It was my Son who came to redeem thee from the ruin which thou hadst brought on thyself; accept him as thy Saviour, take his yoke upon thee, for it is easy; love me, because I have first loved thee; keep my commandments, and thou shalt for ever enjoy my favour and participate in my happiness." Who but the Most High can use such language as this? And where can we find his will thus revealed but in the sacred Scriptures? Where else does he condescend to speak to man?

But this particular excellency of the Gospel is one only of the many excellencies which belong to it. Its precepts are the best for promoting, and exclusively those which can effectually promote, the individual

and universal happiness of mankind. They extend to all ranks; they comprehend within their scope the highest as well as the lowest, the wisest as well as the most simple; and they shew partiality to none. The first and the chief principle which they inculcate equally on all is cordial love and obedience to God; which, in its extent, is another peculiarity not to be found in the codes of pagan philosophers. God being the highest, the first and the last, the beginning and the end, the centre of power, of wisdom, of goodness, of love, and of every thing great and excellent, it is but right that he should have the priority, that his will and glory should be the first object of consideration in all the actions of his creatures. Nor let it be impiously thought, that there is any thing sordid or selfish in this requirement. The very nature of things cannot allow it to be otherwise; and it is nothing more than what justice demands. If God be the author of our being, and of every blessing we enjoy, it is but justice that he should be recognized as such; and if all that we have is his, entirely his, it is but right that we should devote our all to his service. Those who would wish the Almighty to require less than he does, would have him in fact reverse the order of his creation, violate the laws of eternal justice, and relinquish the peculiar properties of his own existence.

But besides the inherent propriety and justice of this demand on the part of God, it tends most essentially to produce unanimity and concord among mankind. The great source of dissensions is the pursuit of different or contrary interests. All the plans and proceedings of those who know not God, invariably in some way or other centre in themselves. Honour ing, enriching, or sensually gratifying self, is the paramount object, for the attainment of which every other consideration is relinquished. What but discord can be the consequence of such a state of things? There is no co-operation, no tend

ing to one point, no gravitation to the same centre, no fellow-feeling, but the very reverse; a cross marching, an advancing towards opposite directions, a motion to as many points as there are individuals, and often a reciprocal alienation of heart. To avoid these evils is impossible, unless there be established a moral system; and unless that system, like the natural one, have a grand point of attraction, around which all its subjects, in their different spheres, may move with order and regularity. Some great object must be found out, on which the attention of all may be fixed; an object sufficiently magnificent and interesting fully to employ the mind and engage the heart, the pursuit of which should convey present, increasing, and everlasting happiness and enjoyment. But what is this object? Where is it to be found? Is it that which the mere political patriot pursues, who devotes his all to the temporal good of his country? His, no doubt, is a noble object; yet it cannot be deemed worthy of this supreme distinction. Though it be great, yet it is not sufficiently so it proposes the benefit of but one small portion of our race; and this is often attained with loss and injury to others; and even were the whole world included within its compass, it would yet be inadequate to the purpose under consideration. It could not even then secure happiness to its advocates. That measure of satisfaction which is to be derived from good intentions would no doubt accompany it; but the pleasure which results from success might often be denied; a thousand mortifications might be incurred, and the best patriot, even the patriot or the philanthropist of the universe, may die under the regrets and remorses of innumerable disappointments.

We must then search forward as our ultimate aim to some object of greater magnitude than any thing merely earthly, and which may be pursued with more certainty of success. Let us ascend higher than things seen; let us rise above mere

nature, and proceed in those steps which will lead us to its Divine Author; to that Being, whose we are, and for whom we were made; whose will brought us into existence, and whose will could reduce us again to nothing. His glory is the only object that can fully answer our expectations. The magnitude of this object is sufficient to engage the attention of the whole world, or of ten thousand worlds: its attraction and magnificence may well engross the love and admiration of all intelligent beings; its influence is so benign and powerful as to be capable of conveying pleasure and felicity, unceasing and infinite, to the utmost extent of rational existence; and the interest which it excites is so varied and extensive as to afford sufficient scope for the exertions of all created minds without collision or interference; for in pursuing it, far froni impeding, they mutually promote the welfare and happiness of each other. It is an object which comprehends in it every other that is good and lawful. Its promotion consists in doing the Divine will; and as this refers to our entire conduct, to our duty to all with whom we are connected, and even to the whole world, we are promoting it while engaged in the performance of every branch of that duty. The glory of the Most High is advanced by every act of obedience: even a cup of cold water, given from a principle of duty and love to God, shall not lose its reward. There are no circumstances under which this object may not be pursued and attained; no changes nor chances, no events however untoward and distressing, no accidents however unexpected and alarming, can possibly hinder its furtherance. If our plans and endeavours to benefit our fellow-creatures be unsuccessful, if the evil machinations of Satan or the world frustrate our expectations, yet we shall still succeed in the main object, in glorifying God by doing his will; and we shall attain this, notwithstanding all possible dis

appointments. And when it happens that the humble Christian is persecuted, oppressed, imprisoned, degraded, or even put to death in the service of his Master, the glory of God is still promoted: when he falls, he falls only to advance the great object of his desire; and as to himself, to rise to a more exalted eminence, and to a larger participation of heavenly enjoyments. And is not this a truly glorious object; an object so elevated as to be above all the pursuits of time; so comprehensive as to include every other that is good; so peculiarly excellent that it may be prosecuted and attained under all possible circumstances; so beneficial as to convey happiness to all who aim at its promotion; and so permanent as to be pursued through eternity by men and angels with unceasing pleasure,. admiration, and delight? Oh! that the world could be persuaded to relinquish their own mean, selfish, and sinful aims, and to choose this great object, and pursue it with the same ardour and diligence with which they now pursue the trifles of the present life! What union, what peace, what happiness, would be then enjoyed even here; and how abundant would these be, were all moving, as it were, around the same centre, enlightened and influenced by the great Luminary of the moral system, and aiming at the promotion of the same interest, the furtherance of the same great cause!

The necessity of this first and grand principle of moral duty for the promotion of universal peace and happiness, is incontrovertible: no one who allows what every rational being must allow, the existence of a Supreme Being, can on any fair ground dispute it. If we take away this first and great commandment, we leave no centre of union; we remove the main spring of the moral machine, which cannot be supplied by any human invention; we rob the system of that which sets it in motion, which influences all its parts, which pre

serves it in order, which produces regularity and consistence in all its movements. We may as well expect the luminous and stupendous bodies in the planetary system to display their wonted splendour, and to carry on their unvaried motions without the glorious luminary of nature, as that human or rational beings should act and move with consistency and order in their different spheres of life, without living under the government, without feeling the influence, of their Creator. All the confusions and disorders, the conflicts and devastations, the bloodshed and massacres, ever witnessed in the world, are to be mainly attributed to the exclusion of this first principle of duty either from the creed or from the hearts of mankind; and the very intention of the Gospel is to restore it, to plant, to engraft it in the inward parts, and to make it grow for the fructification of the earth. Its primary object is to lead the creature back to God in Christ, that he may obtain his favour, and live under his influence and to his glory; and its secondary object, to capacitate him to desire and to promote the good of others, to love his neighbour as himself. The means devised and prescribed for these purposes are of a very extraordinary kind, and are wonderfully efficacious for the accomplish ment of their object, as numerous instances in every age of the world have proved.

Respecting the operations of this main principle, but few words are necessary, the subject being very obvious. When man is brought under the controul of Him who made him, the whole character of the Divine Being exerts an influence over his mind, and fixes its own holy and glorious impression upon all his feelings and actions. As a submissive and devoted subject, he will regard the Almighty as his rightful and exalted Sovereign, as one in whose favour is his greatest happiness, in whose power and pro

tection is his entire confidence, in whose services is his delight, and at the attainment of whose likeness he aims as the highest excellence, as perfection itself. The majesty of God will inspire him with reverence, his justice with an abhorrence of what is wrong, his holiness with a detestation of sin, his goodness with a desire to promote the comforts of others, his mercy with compassion on objects of pity, his long-suffering with a patient endurance of evils, and his sovereignty with contentment in that station of life in which he may be placed.

These are the natural productions of the first principle of the Divine law when "put into the mind, and written in the heart;" and they are visible in a greater or less degree in all those in whom this principle exists, though they are often checked and blasted by thecorruption and infirmities of even the best of men in this imperfect and probationary state. In these impressions or communicated virtues is to be found every thing necessary for qualifying us to be useful members of society. We find in them the spirit of regard and submission towards those in authority; a sense of justice, to prevent oppression and wrong; a holy disposition to abstain from and abhor sin; a philanthrophic mind, to advance the happiness of others; a feeling heart, to commiserate the distressed; a patient temper, to bear with indignities; and a contented spirit, the great promoter of internal peace and comfort. What more can be required for the purpose of introducing an age of universal happiness? This "knowledge of the Lord filling the earth" would be the only, and an amply sufficient, means for the attainment of that exalted end.

Descending from this first element in the precepts of revealed truth, we shall now notice some of their other properties, and point out in what manner they bear on the welfare and peace of society.

Respecting the regulation of our

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