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Thus it appears, that those affections which the law of God > requires of us towards our fellow men, instead of being prejudicial, are intimately interwoven with our pleasure; and consequently, with our profit.
If then, we find our advantage in exercising love towards man, who is so unworthy an object, what incalculable satisfaction must there be in loving God! Added to every consideration of duty, is the powerful attraction of that being, who centers in himself all excellency, and amiableness! We attend the sick man's bed, and watch his every motion, with a view of being serviceable to him; but we look on mountains, and cataracts; fixed by their tremendous grandeur; we trace the bending of the yellow harvest because there is beauty in it; and we survey the green mantle with which Spring adorns the earth, because it is pleasing to the eye, and to the mind. If natural beauties which are fading, and perishable, excite our notice in so high a degree, and delight us so greatly, the perfections, of God, fastening in the mind, must have an infinitely superior effect.
The practice which the law of God points out for us, is no less calculated for our advantage, than the principle. Integrity, and humanity of conduct, towards all men; and the public, and private worship of God; together with the frequent, and diligent reading of the scriptures, bring their own benefit with them. Indeed are we commanded to do any thing, in any department of life, which has any tendeney to our detriment? If so, let the husband; or the wife; let the parent, or the child; let the master, or the servant; let the ruler, or the subject; let the minister, or the hearer, say what it is. If all are silent when thus called upon, it is taken for granted, that nothing can be found.
The sinner often errs in his calculations upon the mercy of God. He does not, for he cannot, overrate it; but still he does that which amounts to the same, for he expects more from it, than can be realized; or rather he expects benefits in a way, in which merey cannot bestow them. God will do in the exercise of mercy, whatever he can do in the exercise of justice. That hope only, is rationally entertained, which respects these two equal, and harmonious, attributes.
If I have a cause to be tried before a human tribunal, knowing that the laws must decide, I can expect nothing from the clemency of the court. Mercy, and justice, met, and had their full display in the person of man's substitute; and they must be seen again together, in the decisions of the great day. If it be ascertained that a person cannot consistently with strict justice, be saved; it will need no arguments to prove, that even infinite mercy will avail him nothing. All calculations upon mercy therefore, which leave justice out of the account, must be founded in error.
The sinner is likewise, in an error in what he thinks about himself. We will suppose him so sensual, as to be unconscious of a soul within him. That this is no uncommon case, the conversation, especially the conduct, of mankind, makes evident. But how much soever it may be denied; is there no soul? Is man but a piece of clock work; << a machine, kept in motion by the force of steam; clay animated; a form quickened by means of nerves, and organs? Man has not the sagacity of the hound; he has not the cunning of the fox; he has not the strength of the lion; he soars not on the pinions of the eagle; nor does he see with the penetrating eye of the hawk; but he is lord of all. Born unable to help himself; constituted with powers, which require time for their maturity; and frail in his full strength: the reason within him; the soul with which God has endued him; stands forth his prominent advantage; and gives him the only superiority of which he is possessed.
That every thing in this world was intended to be subservient to man's use, is so evident, that time would be lost in proving it. Are the purposes of man however, this life only considered, of sufficient consequence to pay the expense of such an apparatus? We should suppose, that man, the lord of the creation, would be designed for enjoyments of the first rank, as well as for the highest seat of dominion, But can the cattle upon a thousand hills make that man, who is the owner of them, so happy, as they are themselves? Man's uneasiness is a proof of his immortal existence. Loweth the ox over his fodder? All the hopes, and all the fears, which possess us, with respect to a state beyond our present being, show, that such a state awaits us.
Does the unbeliever derive any argument to countenance him in this matter, from the death, and interment of the body? Then may the husbandman conclude that he has lost his grain, because he has thrown it into the furrows of his field. Then may we despair of seeing any more vegetation, when winter freezes the ground; when the trees present their leafless branches; and the fields look pale with death. Then may we say the serpents race is extinct, for each individual is frozen like a stick. If we need revelation to settle our minds with respect to the soul, and its immortality, the world of nature cries out of the possibility and probability, of the doctrine.
But if the sinner do not dispute the existence of a soul, he is still in an error relative to the state of it, relative to his own moral character. His iniquities are bound up; his sin is hidden. His justification of himself may be set down for condemnation. Should he say, that he is no liar; he might be told that a denial of Jesus as the Christ constitutes a man a liar of the first stamp. Should he plead that he is no thief; he might be asked whether he has not robbed God? Should he contend, that he is no murderer; it might be replied, that he is, if he hates any brother in Adam's family. Should he boast, that he is not an adulterer, he might be inquired of, whether he has made a covenant with his eyes? Should he plead, in a word, a general conformity to the law; its spirituality might be shown bim; and he might be notified, that the first commandment requires all the heart to be given to God; and, that the second is like it, requiring us to love others as we love ourselves.
Can any one bring the state of society under observation, and account for its disorders, without admitting sin to be the great operating evil? Can any one look at his own heart, and say, that God made man such as he now finds himself? As well might the traveller, peeping through the openings in the lava, that covers Herculaneum; maintain, that the city was always covered with its present crust! Moral ruins are more widely spread through the world than those which are natural. Every country exhibits them; every town; every family; every person; every day; every ac
tion; every thought. No language was ever yet employed too strong to describe sin.
The sinner is farther in an error, with regard to his idea of faith. Instead of the first place, it has the last place, or rather no place in his estimation. To believe is the whole work which we have to do, if we can depend upon him, from whom we received the law of heaven. The way to know the worth of faith, is to watch its motions, and trace its work. The faith that does not move, that does not work cannot be undervalued; but the faith of that is genuine, is of more worth than can be told. If the assent of the understanding, be faith, surely there are better things than faith. But if faith brings God into view, and eternity; shews man how much he has to hope, and to fear; if it regulates the heart, governs the tongue, and orders the life, then is it to the heart what the lungs are to the body.
The sinner is in an error, in not giving credit to the scriptures, as divine communications. Their history is the candle of the Lord; and the only light that shines on antiquity. Their doctrines are such as eclipse all that was ever taught in the schools of human wisdom. The prophecies which they contain, are many of them, astonishingly clear, and particular. The law which runs through the whole is holy; and just, and good. The miracles are well attested, and must have been wrought by power infinite. Time would fail even to name the evidences, upon which the claim of the scriptures to a divine origin is founded.
It ought never to be forgotten, that the scriptures have produced wonderful alterations in persons, of different grades; characters; and tempers. By their influence David was brought out of the obscurity where he had handled the crook, and the pipe of the shepherd, and qualified to sit upon a throne; and to tune the harp in praise of Israel's God. By their influence Saul of Tarsus was divested of his furious passions; stripped of the pride which much learning had rendered excessive; and his lofty looks were humbled at the sight of the cross. By their influence fishermen of Galilee became deeply versed in divine things; and could communicate their ideas in languages which they never studied. By their influence on the mind worldly
treasures have, in numberless instances, lost their value; and have been accounted vile as dross, and dung. How erroneous must he be who denies that divine power by which such mighty effects have been produced! But the error of the sinner cannot be traced through all its windings and variations.
Secondly, The sinner must be converted. If the picture now drawn is, so far as it goes, in any measure just; this is as certain as any unavoidable inference from premises laid down. At any rate, the doctrine of conversion runs as the life blood of the scriptures. It is not said, except you leave off lying; swearing; cheating; stealing; but except you be converted, and become as little children; you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. External reformation, though essentially necessary, is not sufficient of itself; nor of any consequence in the business of salvation, without conversion.
Who can think, that the person needs not to be converted, whose every sentiment is erroneous? The understanding must be set right. Those objects which present themselves under false colors, must be brought up in their true light. The disorder of the heart however, being the cause of the misconceptions of the mind, the heart must experience a thorough change. When a person believes, it is with the heart. When the heart goes after God, there is no want of evidence relative to his being, and perfections. Man's immortal existence is clearly proved, when the heart says let it be so; and every doctrine is made plain, where the heart has ceased its opposition.
The conversion of the sinner is the work of that God who is the maker of us all. He who hung the sun in the firmament, to give light to the natural, world, must bring man out of his native darkness, or he will have no light. If any man be in Christ he is a new creature. To create is the prerogative of God.
It has been thought that science would so meliorate the heart, as to answer man's purposes. But facts refute this theory. The Greeks and Romans tried this polish. Yet they were a rough and barbarous people; voracious as wolves, and cruel as the fell tiger. Who but a savage can