Page images
PDF
EPUB

principles of the purest justice: “Whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.' Herein consists one great difference, in respectively seeking the crown of our labours from the hand of man, or from the adjudication of God. In this world, men cannot remunerate us, from their inability to appreciate our conduct. A Christian may appear a coward, because he is not revengeful; proud, because he will not associate with the profligate ; avaricious, because not foolishly expensive. The evil passions of men rarely permit them to be equitable: jealousy, vanity, and self-love too often usurp the judicial bench ; and pass a sentence of condemnation upon the fairest virtues of a rival. But far different is the state of those, who labour in the vineyard of God : " whatsoever is right, that they shall receive.' All-knowing, our secret and modest virtues will not escape bim : all-holy, he is unbiassed by prejudice : all-merciful, he will indulgently appreciate our feeble efforts : allpowerful, he can fully remunerate. Shall not, then, the Christian husbandman zealously persevere? He toils not in the service of an Egyptian task-master : but whatever is right, that shall he receive.

II. 8. But is not the justice of God somewhat violated, by not dispensing to those who had been hired at day-break, a more liberal remuneration than to those, whose service commenced at the close of the day? That the first should be last, and the last first;'-how does this declaration accord with our idea of an equitable Master ? These words of Christ imply, in their literal meaning, that many of the Jews, to whom the blessings of the Gospel were first offered, would be the last to partake of them; while the more grateful Gentiles, to whom the kingdom of heaven was subsequently proposed, would be the first to enjoy it. But even if we apply the words to the more general dispensation of the divine graces ; there will be found no reason to complain, that those who seem our inferiors, should ultimately equal, if not exceed ourselves, who have now the precedence in many advantages. It is gross impiety to doubt the integrity of the divine nature. Is there,' saith St. Paul, “unrighteousness with God ?' The Apostle shudders at the very question; and immediately subjoins, • God forbid.' It is unquestionably true, that, both in bestowing or withholding, the Judge of all the earth cannot but do right. God is our absolute and unshackled sovereign : it is lawful for him to do

what he will with his own :' and to dispute his dispensations, is for the clay to strive and argue against the potter. We shall be greater gainers by throwing ourselves upon the free mercy of the Almighty, than by urging a positive claim. « Take that thine is, and go thy way,' would, indeed, be a formidable dismission, if human nature had no other support than the covenant of works, which are feeble in their effect, limited in their extent, and corrupted by iniquitous motives. Far wiser would it be on our part to convert this unshackled mercy of God into matter of salutary improvement. Then it might operate as a continual spur to our Christian diligence. Sluggishness is, for the most part, the result of security. Many are apt to faint in the middle of their course, as if they could not be overtaken, or as if they had already attained unto the goal: unlike St. Paul, who, relaxing not his efforts, "forgot those things which were behind, and reached forth unto those things which were before.' If we are first in privileges, let our improvement be proportionable : we may, otherwise, be last; and be condemned by those who were standing in a rank below us. The warning that others, called long after us, may be partakers of the same glory, naturally tends to repress all vain presumption. We shall thus be the less disposed to undervalue the labour of others, and to overvalue our own; as if our superior merit could claim a heaven for ourselves. Our fasts, our austerities, our toil in bearing the burden of the day, these and all our righteous efforts, if leavened by spiritual pride, become corrupt in the sight of God. The real state of our souls will always remain unknown to us, while we estimate it by our Pharisaical self-opinion, and by fastidious objections against the supposed unworthiness of others.

Let not, then, 'our eye be evil,? because the eye of our heavenly Father is good.' If our own vessel be full, can our happiness be impaired by contemplating the exuberance of others ? The mansions of our Father's house are many: there is room for all; the admission of others cannot operate to our own exclusion. This unequal economy of grace is good towards all, and unjust towards none: as, in the gathering of manna, he that collected much, had nothing over ; and he that gathered little, bad po lack. Let us rather exult in the lustre of others, although their taper be kindled at our flame: what is increase to them, is not diminution to us. So shall we convert the torments of a fiendish envy into the pleasures of a Christian joy: we shall emulate the holy spirits, who rejoice in beholding a repentant sinner: we shall evince ourselves to be the children of that God, who causes his sun to shine, and his rain to de. scend, not only upon the good, but also upon the reprobate.

[COMPILED BY THE EDITOR.]

SERMON XXXIII.

SEPTUAGESIMA.

CREATION OF MAN. Gen. i. 26.- -And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our 1 likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

[Text taken from the first Morning Lesson.] If curiosity prompts us to enquire into the records of the family to which we belong, our curiosity must be still more intense to be acquainted with the circumstances, relative to the history of our common progenitor, the root of that tree, whose branches have overspread the earth. Nor can such investigation be deemed matter of curiosity only. To form proper ideas of man, we must know in what state he was originally placed by his Creator, and whether any alteration in his state may have subjected him to new obligations. With this information we are furnished by the writings of Moses; who relates, under the inspiration of God, the particulars concerning the formation of man: 1. The time of his production; 2. The resolution taken upon the occasion ; 8. The materials of which he was composed ; 4. The divine image in which God created him; and 5. The dominion with which he was invested over the creatures. Let us consider each of these particulars, in its order.

1. With regard to the time of man's formation, we may observe of the divine procedure what is true of every human plan concerted with wisdom and foresight,--that which was first in intention, was last in execution. Man, for whom all things were made, was himself made last of all.' We are taught to follow the heavenly artist, step by step, first in the production VOL. I.

Q

of the inanimate elements ; next, of vegetable; and then of animal life; till we come to the masterpiece of creation, man, endued with reason and intellect. The house being built, its inhabitant appeared : the feast being set forth, the guest was introduced; the theatre being decorated and illuminated, the spectator was admitted to behold the splendid and magnificent scenery in the heavens above, and the earth beneath; to view the bodies around him, moving in perfect harmony, and every creature performing the part allotted it in the universal drama; that seeing, he might understand, -and understanding, adore, its supreme author and director. ,

2. The other parts of this system were produced by the word of the Creator : He spake, and it was done. The elements were his servants: he said to one, "go,' and it went; to another, come, and it came; to a third, do this,' and the commission was instantly executed. But to the formation of man (with reverential awe, and after the language of men, be it spoken) he seemed more immediately to have addressed his power

and wisdom. Let us make man ;' all things are now ready. Let the work of creation be completed and crowned by the production of its possessor and Lord, who is to use, to enjoy, and to rule over it; “Let us make man.'

This phraseology of a plural form, thus used by the Deity, is an undoubted argument, that, in the unity of the divine essence, there is a plurality of persons, coequal and coeternal ; who might say with truth and propriety, Let us make man ;' and, man is become like one of us.' Of such a personality, revelation informs us: it is that upon which the economy of man's redemption is founded; his creation, as well as that of the world, is, in different passages, attributed to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:-what more natural, therefore, than that, at his production, this form of speech should be used by the divine persons ? what more rational than to suppose, that a doctrine, so important to the human race, was communicated from the beginning, that men might know whom they worshipped, and how they ought to worship ? What other good and sufficient reason can be given, why the name of God, in use among believers from the first, should likewise be in the plural number, connected with verbs and pronouns in the singular? It is true, we Christians, with the New Testament in our hands, may not want these arguments to prove the doctrine: but why should we overlook such valuable evidence of its having been revealed and received in the Church of God, from the foundation of the world ? It is a satisfaction to reflect, that, in this momentous article of our faith, we have patriarchs and prophets for our fathers; that they lived, and that they died, in the belief of it; that the God of Adam, of Noah, and of Abraham, is likewise our God; and that when we adore Him in three persons, and give glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, -we do, as it was done in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.

3. Let us consider the materials, of which man was composed. The Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground. The human body was not made of the celestial ele ments, light and air, but of the more gross terrestrial matter, as being designed to receive and communicate notices of terrestrial objects, by organs of a nature similar to them. In this instance, as in another, since God seemeth to have chosen the base things of the world to confound things honourable and mighty ;' when of the dust of the ground he composed a frame superior in rank and dignity, to the heavens and all their host. They whose profession leads them to examine the structure of this astonishing piece of mechanism, these men see the work of the Lord, and his wonders in the formation of the human body. While the world shall last, genius and diligence will be producing fresh proofs, that we are fearfully and wonderfully made; that marvellous are the works, and, above all, this capital work of the Almighty ; and that the hand which made it, must needs be divine.

In the body of man, thus constructed, God breathed the breath of life, and man became a living soul.' The question here is, whether these words are intended to denote the rational and immortal soul, or the sensitive and animal life?-Now, when we consider, that man, as other Scriptures do testify, has within him a rational soul, an immortal spirit, which, on the dissolution of the body, returns to God who gave it; that, in this original description of his formation, we may reasonably expect to find both parts of his composition mentioned; and that a personal act of the Deity, that of inspiring the breath of life, is recorded with regard to him, which is not said of the other creatures; we can hardly do otherwise than conclude, that the words were intended to denote, not the animal life only,

« PreviousContinue »