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There must be a discovery of the infinite glory of God.
IN the second place, As there must be a discovery of
the real nature, so also of the infinite glory of God. He must not only be seen to be just such a being as he really is, but there must be a sense of the infinite worth, beauty, and perfection of his character. These two things, though intiniately connected, are yet so diftinct from one another, as to deserve to be separately considered. The first is neceflary, but it is not. sufficient alone, or by itself. There can be no true religion, unless there be a discovery of the real nature of God. But though there be a knowledge of what God is, unless there be also a discovery of the excellence and glory of this nature, he can never be the object of esteem and love. It is one thing to know, and another to approve : and, whilst this last is not the case, whatever we may know or affirın, or be persuaded of, with relation to the Supreme Being, we do not know him to be God, nor can possibly glorify him as God. This inomentous truth we may surely comprehend, by what is analogous to it in our experience, between created natures. Speculative knowledge and love are by no means inseparable. Men may truly know many things which they fincerely hate; they may hate them even because they know them : and when this is the case, the more they know them they will hate them with the greater vi. rulence and rancor. This not only may, but always must take place, when natures are opposite one to another, the one sinful, for example, and the other holy. The more they are known, the more is their mutual hatred stirred up, and their perfect opposition to each other becomes, if not more violent, at least more sensible.
We have little reason to doubt, that the fallen angels, those apostate spirits, have a great degree of speculative knowledge. I would not, indeed, take upon me to affirm that they are free from error and mistake of every kind, yet it seems highly probable that they have a clear, though, at the same time, a terrible apprehension of “ what God
is; for they have not the same opportunities, or the same means of deceiving themselves, that we have in the prefent state. But do they love him, or see his excellence and glory? Very far from it. They believe and trem. ble; they know God, and blafpheme. The more they know of him, the more they hate him ; that is to say, their inward, native, habitual hatred is the more strongly ex. cited, and the more sensibly felt.
The cafe is much the same with some finners, when first awakened, and it continues to be the same fo long as they are kept in bondage and terror. They have an aw. ful view of the holiness of God's nature, of the strictness of his law, and the greatness of his power. This is directly levelled against their own corrupt inclinations, and carries nothing with it but a sentence of condemnation against them: “Cursed is every one that continueth not " in all things which are written in the book of the law, “ to do them.”* This brings forth their enmity, which
before perhaps lay hid. It is remarkable that some per*. fons of loose and disorderly lives, will sometimes main
tain, at stated seasons, a profession of piety. So long as they can keep their consciences still and quiet by general indistinct notions of God, as very easy and gentle, no way inclined to punish, they think of him without aversion, nay, will go through some outward forms with apparent fatisfaction and delight. Their notion of divine mercy is not a readiness to pardon the greatest finner on repentance, but a difpofition to indulge the finner, and wink at his continuance in transgreflion. No fooner are such persons brought to a discovery of the real character of a holy God, than their thoughts of him are entirely changed. They have gloomy views of his nature, and harsh thoughts of his providence; they fret at the strictness of his law, and, as far as they dare, complain of the tyranny of his government. Their sentiments are the fame with those expressed by the men of Bethshemesh: • Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God, and to " whom shall he go up from us.”+
· I cannot help observing, that here we are, if I may speak fo, at the very fountain-head of error. What is it else that makes many frame to themselves new and flattering schemes of religion, that makes them imagine a God fo extremely different from that holy Being he is represented in his own word ? When men will not conform their practice to the principles of pure and undefiled religion, they scarce ever fail to endeavor to accommodate religion to their own practice. Are there not many who cannot endure the representation of God as holy and jealous, which is given us in scripture? With what vio. lence do they oppose themselves to it by carnal reasonings, and give it the most odious and abominable names? The reason is plain. Such a view of God fets the opposition of their own hearts to him in the strongest light. Two things opposite in their nature cannot be approved at once, and, therefore, the consequence is, God or themselves must be held in abhorrence. But we have reason to bless God, that their resistance to the truth is only a new evi: dence and illustration of it, shewing that “the carnal mind " is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law " of God, neither indeed can be."* And as this enmity to God discovers itself in opposition to his truth on earth, it will become much more violent, when further resistance is impossible. When an unregenerate finner enters upon a world of spirits, where he has a niuch clearer fight and greater sense of what God is, his inherent enmity works to perfection, and he blafphemes like those devils with whom he must forever dwell.
From all this it will evidently appear, that there must be a discovery of the glory and beauty of the divine nature, an entire approbation of every thing in God, as perfectly right and absolutely faultless. It is self-evident, that without this, there cannot be a supreme love to God, in which true religion properly consists ; no man can love that which doth not appear to be lovely. But I further add, that this is absolutely necessary to the very beginning of the change, or the foundation on which it is built. It is necessary, in order to any genuine, falutary convictions of fin. What is it else but a discovery of the spotless holiness, the perfect excellence, and infinite amiableness of the divine nature, that humbles a finner under a sense of his breaches of the divine law? Without this, there may be a sense of weakness and subjection, but never a sense of duty and obligation. Without this there may be a fear of wrath, but there cannot be a hatred of sin.
* Rom. viii. 7.
This seems directly to lead to the next great step in a saving change, viz. a conviction of fin and misery. But before we proceed to point out the progress of conviction, it will not be improper to take notice of a few truths which result from what hath been already said. This is the more necessary, that erroneous or defective views of religion are commonly occasioned by some mistake in the foundation.
1. The necessity of regeneration itself appears with pe. culiar force, from what hath been said on this part of the subject. There must be a real inward change of heart, before there can be any true religion. If the moral excellence of the divine nature must be discovered, if God must be seen as glorious in his holiness, the heart and temper must be changed as well as the life. Nothing is more plain from the holy scriptures, than that “the natu. “ ral man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God;"! and it is equally plain from experience and the nature of the thing. While men continue in the love of sin, it is impossible that they should see the beauty of infinite holi. : ness. So long as they love fin, they must hate holiness, which is its opposite, and not less contrary to it than light is to darkness. Therefore, all restraint upon our outward conversation, all zeal and diligence in expensive rites and ceremonies; all duties of whatever kind that arise froin fear, or other external motives, are of no consequence, till the temper and inclination of the heart is entirely renewed.
2. From what hath been said, we may plainly per. ceive, that regeneration from first to last must be ascribed to the agency of the Holy Ghost. It must be the effect of divine grace, and the work of sovereign power. Let not
any creature be unwilling to stand indebted for his new creation to the Author of his first being; “ for of him, and “through him, and to him, are all things.”* While man is in his natural state, he is an enemy to God in his mind by wicked works. The discoveries that are made to him of the real nature of God in his works and in his word, while he continues in this difpofition, are not amia. ble but hateful. Nay, he is so far from loving him as his father, that he fears him as his enemy. This fear will discover itself one of these two ways. Sometimes it will make the finner fly from God, cast instruction behind his back, and increase unto more ungodliness, till natural conscience is feared and insensible. How many there are of this kind, whom one crime only precipitates into ano. ther, experience is a melancholy proof. It is worth while at the same time to observe what intimations are given us in fcripture, that this is the first and natural effect of sin upon all, to drive them at a further distance from God. Two instances of this have been given above. Our first parents no sooner finned, than they fled and hid them. selves when they heard God's voice in the garden, as impatient of his approach. A similar reflection we see in the apostle Peter, on being witness to an extraordinary cffect of his Saviour's divine power: “And when Simon “ Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, De. “ part from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”+ See another instance of the same kind. “And the whole “ multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about, “ befought him to depart from them, for they were taken “ with great fear.”I
Another common effect of this natural fear, in fonie respects contrary to the former, is to dispose men to perform some constrained and hypocritical services, in order to avoid punishment. This is described in the temper and conduct of the children of Israel, as represented by the Pfalmist; “When he flew them, then they fought him ; " they returned, and enquired early after God. And " they remembered that God was their rock, and the high
* Rom. xi. 36.
Luke v. 8.
Luke viii. 37.