« PreviousContinue »
then to allow, that God is love; that his mercy and goodness are infinite; that his bounty is inexhaustible; that the gift of his Son to be our Redeemer proves, beyond contradiction, his thoughts of mercy to be as far above our thoughts as the heavens are above the earth; that he is continually doing is good, using his infinite power only for that purpose; that, in a word, he is in the highest sense of the expression our Father;— what then ought to be your thoughts and conduct towards him?
1. In the first place, you ought to entertain the highest reverence for his laws. The commands of a Father should justly be esteemed sacred; because they are given by him, and because they can only be dictated by love to his children. If you were to see a parent most kind and benevolent in his nature, and peculiarly affectionate towards his son, would you suppose it possible that in the precepts he gave to him he could have any end in view but his welfare? Would not every exhortation bear the stamp and character of kindness and love? Such is the system of laws given to you by God. Whenever you open the Bible consider it in this light: My heavenly Father, ever wise and attentive to my good, has given me this book, as a token of his care and tenderness, to point out to me the paths of peace and eternal happiness. There is not a single precept in this volume which does not flow from the purest kindness and the deepest affection, directed by the clearest wisdom. How shall I then receive it? Shall I not value it as my counsellor and guide? Shall I not cheerfully and readily make every sacrifice which it requires? Shall I not read it constantly as containing the will of my heavenly Father? Such, it is evident, must be the disposition and views of those who consider God as their Parent and their Friend.
2. This view of the character of God as our Father should teach us to form a just idea of the true nature of religion! Religion! with what terror has it been beheld! How has it been considered as a system of restraint and gloom; of penances and mortifications, enjoining the most irksome labours, and threating dreadful punishments if its conditions were not fulfilled. Allow me, from the preceeding considerations, to suggest a juster view of its nature.
Religion is the homage which you pay to your heavenly Father, by offering to him the worship of the heart and asking of him the most valuable blessings. It is the regulation of your lives by his holy word. li is the enjoyment of the innumerable benefits offered to mankind through his beloved Son. Religion must bear the stamp and character of its Author. Look at Jesus Christ was any other character equally amiable ever exhibited to the world? Was he not always engaged in going about doing good? Were not pity and compassion, kindness and love, the governing principles of his nature? Can that be a gloomy or unreasonable service which has Christ for its author, and heaven for its end?
True; but religion requires holiness, and holiness is irksome to the corrupt nature of man.
God forbid that I should induce any of my hearers to suppose that what the Gospel requires of us is less arduous than in reality it is, or that I should omit to represent to you the obligations of religion as well as its pleasantness, the justice as well as the compassion and love of God. But still, when our view is directed to these awful considerations our Father's tenderness is yet more clearly discernible. For is God so holy and so high? Then how truly paternal was it in him not to spare his only begotten Son, but to give him up as a sacrifice for our sins! And is holiness so essentially requisite? Behold in religion the provision made for the attainment of it. The Gospel is glad tidings of great joy. It proclaims pardon to the penitent, through Jesus Christ. It bids us draw near to God as reconciled through bim. It speaks peace, and inspires hope to the desponding and self-condemned. It assures us of
a Father's aid, in the gift of the Holy Spirit, to them that seek for it. Religion is the restoration of our fallen and corrupt nature, through Divine grace, to a better state and to an eternal inheritance. It is intended and devised to bring fallen sinners to heaven, and thus manifests the tenderness and mercy which belongs to the character of its Author.
Would to God, that I could prevail with those who have hitherto spurned at his laws, and sought for happiness in the ways of sin, to consider the true character of him by whom those laws were given, and the true nature of that religion of which they form a part. Why will they reject a Father's authority? Why will they despise his offered blessing? Can he enjoin any thing inconsistent with their real happiness? Was religion devised for the sake of God, or for the good of men? Is there so much as one precept in the whole law of God which is not evidently intended for our benefit? Can there be a more decisive proof that it is adapted to our good?
3. Is God our Father? Then we ought to maintain an intercourse with him by frequent prayer, and to praise him daily for his innumerable mercies. To whom should a son apply for the supply of all his wants but to bis Father? Where should he look for counsel but from his Father's wisdom? Where for comfort but to his Father's love? But are we to have no intercourse with our heavenly Father? Have we nothing to solicit from him? No wants to be supplied? Does God wish his creatures to be so estranged from him? Can a Father desire to have no intercourse with his children? No: God is our Father; and we ought to pray to him daily; not in coldness and formality, but with the dispositions and affections of children. And while we live every day upon the rich stores of his bounty, let us offer up to him continual thanks and praises. When he looks round upon all his children, supported by his bounty, let him not see us wanting amidst those who acknowledge that they owe every thing to him.
4. Is God our Father? Let us then place a generous confidence in him. A son would be thought ill to requite the goodness of a tender and generous parent, if he kept at a distance from him, placing no reliance on his kindness, and trusting in distress to others rather than to him.
Now, as God is our Father, and as we have innumerable proofs of his paternal goodness, it becomes our duty, as children, to place our whole trust and confidence in him. Believe that he is able and willing to give all things needful for you. Believe that he will be your friend. Call, then, upon him in trouble; and be persuaded that he will either deliver you from your trials, or, if it is his purpose by them to sanctify and bless you, will support you under them. Be satisfied with whatever your heavenly Father appoints for you: know that there is not an affliction which befals you which is not appointed by him for your good. Receive every mercy as from his hands, and trust that he will still, in answer to your prayers, continue according to your wants to bless and succour you. This, this, my brethren, is our great joy and consolation in a world so full of trials and afflictions, that we have a Father to whose watchful care we may trust. In how forlorn and comfortless a state are those, who look upon the events of life as guided by chance, or who have no resource in their troubles, but in their own prudence to avert, or in their own fortitude to bear them. We have a Father to whom we may apply, and on whom we may depend; and this is our great, our only, solid ground of confidence amidst the changes and chances of life. “My heavenly Father,” a Christian will say, “will order and appoint every thing for me. I leave to him my future lot in life. Let him direct what shall be my state: whether I am to be rich or poor: whether I am to be prosperous or in calamity: whether I shall live long or die soon, I cheerfully leave
to the disposal of Him who is my Father. His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Lastly, Is God our Father? Let us be careful that he is really such to us in the highest sense. take heed that we are his children, by adoption and grace as well as by nature. And to this purpose let us first draw near to him in his own appointed way, as penitent sinners, owning our sins, and seeking for pardon, through Christ Jesus. Let our whole hope and dependence be placed on our Redeemer; and let his atonement be the only plea we offer to God. Let us lay hold on the hope set before us; and then we shall be emboldened to draw near to God with wellplaced confidence. This is the great end and aim of all religion, to convince us of our depraved state by nature-to deliver us from it by faith in Cbrist-and to communicate to us peace, and a lively hope of pardon, and a firm trust and confidence in our heavenly Father. God grant that we may all be partakers of this hope, and enjoy this confidence, through Jesus Christ our Lord!