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known, that while the ashes of the dead were mingled with the dust, their spirits had ascended to heaven. If any who are prepared to sing the new song, can be delighted with the exhibitions of the stage, it is, at least, quite questionable, whether among so many, there were not some, who were found with dark lamps, and destitute of oil, when the midnight cry was made, Behold the Bridegroom cometh! go ye out to meet him.
If heaven were the certain home of all, death would be welcome at any time, and in any shape, but the scriptures teach us, that there is a hell, as well as a heaven; and, that the carnal mind, or the natural man, being enmity against God, will not be subject to the law of God, and of course, cannot have a place in heaven, where all bow the knee, and cast their crowns before the feet of him who sits upon the throne.
Many stanch advocates we find for virtue, who by the term, mean nothing more than honesty; or generosity; or thrift; or cleanliness; or a compound of these ingredients. But may there not be one, or all, of these where there is a repugnancy to God's government, a hatred to his nature; and of course, a want of qualification for that state of blessedness, which is constituted by the love of God? Should any one ask me, Is not grass good; and is not grain? I would answer, Both are good in their place; but neither is good, as a material for the construction of ships; nor for the purpose of clothing. So the moral virtues should not be undervalued. The state of society would be still more deplorable than it now is, if left wholly without them; but if they do not amount to reconciliation with God, they come short of the one thing needful to man. By the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God.
What salvation consists in, together with the way of obtaining it, must now in the last place be briefly stated. Heaven is not held by right of possession, as men sometimes get a farm; nor can we seize upon the inheritance, in consequence of having killed the heir. The pardon of our sins, and the sanctification of our nature, if not salvation itself, are indispensible prerequisites to it. He who is the
Savior is also called the salvation; and if we be not reprobates, Christ is in us the hope of glory. Jesus is a name denoting, that he to whom it belongs, saves his people from their sins. If that mind be in us which was also in Jesus, if we have his spirit, then are we his disciples; then have we that salvation which he purchased with his blood.
This salvation is, undoubtedly, a great affair, but how is it to be obtained? Should any one inquire what must I do to be saved; the only proper answer would be, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. There is nothing more to be done, and nothing less. But the inquirer may be like the blind man restored to sight, who wanted farther information, and said, Who is the Lord, that I might believe on him? This question as much deserves an answer as any previous one; and the words in which Christ replied should never be forgotten. Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee: Christ is no longer in our world; but his word is here; and when we refer an inquirer to his Word, it is as if we pointed to his person. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Exceptions to a general rule, are not to be substituted for the rule itself.
Though Christ has been found of those who sought him not, it would be wrong to tell a person, that the way to find him, must be, not to seek him. To the ignorant Jews the Savior thus addressed himself: Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me. The scriptures are a sealed book, it * is true, to the natural man; but behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
We learn from high authority, that men; as well others as christians, ought always, to pray, and not to faint. St. James, addressing the twelve tribes, which undoubtedly, included many destitute of religion, said, If any of you lack wisdom; let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith. Here is the duty enjoined; and a caution given not to rest in the duty. Since God only can teach us, and since in his Word is to be found what we have to learn, we are as in a school, with our book in our hand, and
our preceptor by our side, waiting to assist us, and expect? ing, that we will call upon him for whatever help we need.
My brethren, our work is great; and our time is short. Let us be valiant for the truth. Though more frequently discouraged perhaps, than any of you, I am sensible, that discouragements come from no good quarter. To each of God's faithful ministers, and to each of his private servants, this cheering address is appropriate. Fear thou not for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea I will help thee, yea I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. What is such a person like? I borrow a simile from Dr. Goldsmith, who, whatever he was himself, has well described a faithful minister of Jesus Christ. What is he like?
Like some tall cliff, that lifts its awful form;
Swells from the vale; and midway leaves the storm:
Let him know, that he which converteth a sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
THESE words are addressed to all christians; but more especially do they apply to the ministers of the Gospel. Let him know, are words emphatical. Each minister ought eagerly to catch the sound; and deeply to feel the force of the words. Shall it be our business, at this time, to dissect this passage of the Apostle, that we may recollect what is our main concern, as men, and as ministers?
If the scripture now brought into view is not misapprehended by the present preacher, it teaches us, that the sinner is in an error; that he must be converted; that humàn instruments may be employed in the work of conversion; and, that those who are instrumental in converting others, shall have the blessedness of saving souls from death, and of hiding the multitude of sins which have been committed by their converts.
First. The sinner, under whatever more definite name he may rank, is in an error. The error is not physical, but moral; and not partial, but total. So the scriptures teach, and so the case appears upon examination.
In the discussion of this particular, should things be * touched upon which never can be found together, it will be recollected, that error cannot be formed into a system.
The double minded man is unstable in all his ways. Now he thinks thus; and then so,
Let us begin with the error of the sinner, as God is respected. There are times, when fool indeed, he says in his heart, there is no God. This is so gross an error, that it commonly shames him who entertains it. Deny the being of a God, and causes and effects are terms, to you, without a meaning. Deny the being of a God, and you cannot, with any consistency, say who built your house; nor who made your coat? As true as it is, that every house was builded by some man, so true it is, that he who built all things, is God. God made the country, and man made The two parts of this statement hang in equiThe atheistical
poise, like the two parts of the balance. sinner is therefore, in an error.
But the sinner, we will suppose, acknowledges a God. Still not being acquainted with God, his conceptions of him are all erroneous. When the sinner believes the service of God to be hard, can he see it in the true light? God requires all our time; the exercise of all our faculties, the use of all our means; and the diligent improvement of all our opportunities. Still is his service called reasonable; and to serve him, and to be free, are represented as the same thing.
Let us look at the law to see what it requires. Love is the one great principle inculcated. Those who never exercised love in any way, may discover in themselves, that the opposite of it is productive of much evil. All men have much more satisfaction, if it be proper to say, that all men have any satisfaction, in those for whom they have a regard, and affection, than they have in any other persons. multiply the objects of affection is therefore, to increase the satisfaction of life. If it does me good to love one, it will do me more good to love all, in proportion. The sinner supposes, that the pleasure which he takes with his friends, arises from their friendship to him. But this is a mistake. We do not always enjoy the company, and conversation of those who wish, and labor to promote our best interest. It is from our own regard to our friends, and not from their regard to us, that the sweets of friendly intercourse arise.