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“ may receive the things done in his body, “according to that he hath done, whether “ it be good or bad. Knowing, therefore, " the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”
It is alledged, indeed, that our Saviour promised the thief upon the cross, that he should be with him in paradise; but nothing can be inferred from a case so very obscure as this is; for we know nothing of the pre
vious character of this man, we can guess · but very imperfectly at what is meant by
his request, nor do we know precisely the full import of what our Lord did promise him. Besides, this story is only found in one of the evangelists, viz. Luke, who appears, by many circumstances, to have been the least informed of any of them; and Matthew, who was upon the spot, says, that both the thieves reviled Christ, without adding one word in favour of either of them. As, therefore, there is no other fact in the history of the Old or New Testament, that gives any countenance to expectations of mercy in a proper death-bed repentance, and all the general rules and precepts of the
scripture absolutely exclude all hope in this case, it must be very dangerous to rely upon it; though it is to be feared that many persons continue to live in a manner which their conscience disapproves, in consequence of deluding themselves with this miserable fallacy.
I shall conclude this account of the morality of the scriptures, with observing, that it is not delivered systematically, and at large, either in the Old or New Testament; but that it is not on this account the less, but, in fact, the more valuable, because it is delivered in a manner that is both more intelligible, and more forcible. For, being delivered as particular occasions suggest, it has neceffarily the advantage of a peculiar emphasis and energy. What precept, for instance, against pride or hypocrisy, in a general system of morals, would have had the force of our Lord's vehement reflections upon the Scribes and Pharisees, and of his affectionate admonitions to his own disciples on those subjects; or what other manner of instruction would have recommended a great variety of amiable virtues so much as our Lord's method of inculcating them by example and pertinent parables.
Besides, what men really want, is not so much to know what is their duty, as proper views and motives to induce them to practise it. It is, therefore, in general, very properly taken for granted, in the scriptures, that men know what it is that God requires of them; and almost all the admonitions to virtue go upon that suppofition, enforcing the practice of what is acknowledged to be right, by motives adapted to peculiar situations and circumstances.
Of pfitive institutions.
DESIDE the duties of strictly moral
U obligation, on the observance of which our moral character, and happiness, chiefly depend: we find, in revelation, that the divine being has been pleased to enjoin several observances, which are not in themselves of a moral nature, but which ultimately tend to promote good morals, and that just state of niind, which makes the practice of our duty in other respects easy to us. These are the observance of one day in seven for the purpose of rest from labour, which is obligatory on all mankind; the observance of a large ritual of ceremonies by the Jews, and of baptism and the Lord's supper by the christians. Of each of these, in the order of which I have now mentioned them, I Thall give a general account, with a view to explain the nature and use of them.
$1. Of the observance of the fabbath.
W E are expressly told, in the books of
Mofes, that the observance of the Jabbath, or of rest from labour every seventh day, was appointed in commemoration of the day on which God rested from the creation of the heavens and the earth, which was completed in six days. This injunction being laid upon Adam, neceffarily affects all his posterity. Gen. ii. 2. “And on the “ seventh day God ended his work which “ he had made: and he rested on the ses venth day from all his work which he “ had made. And God blessed the seventh “ day, and fanctified it: because that in it “ he had rested from all his work which “ God created and made.” But we have a more particular account of the rest to be observed on this day, in the fourth commandment, Ex. xx. 8. “ Remember the fab“ bath-day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt ç thou labour, and do all thy work. But