« AnteriorContinuar »
ried out to the ftipreme love of God, and delight in him, or, in other words, brought to the fupreme love of, and delight in, perfect goodnefs and immaculate holinefs. When this is the cafe, the finner is renewed, he again bears the image of God which he had loft, he is again fitted for the prefence of God, from which he had been expelled. But if he has wrong notions of God, if he takes him to be eflentially different from what he really is, he ferves not the true God at all, he bears not his image, he delights not in his fellowfhip, he is unfit for his prefence. If religion confifts in a divine nature, fuch a perfon does not poffefs it, unlefs there are more Gods than one. There may, indeed, bean alteration in him, he may have transferred his allegiance, and changed his mafter, for idols are many, but he is not brought unto God; and, fo long as God is immutable, his happinefs is impoffible.
I can recollect nothing that is worth notice as an objection againft this, but that our knowledge of God, at any rate, is extremely imperfect and defective. It is fo to be Aire, while we are in this world; nay, probably, it will be fo to all eternity: for " who can by fearching find "out God? Who can find out the Almighty unto perfec"tion? It is high as heaven, what can we do? deeper "than hell, what can we know? The meafure thereof is "longer than the earth, and broader than the fea."* But there is a great difference between the imperfection of our knowledge of God, and forming conceptions of him that are fundamentally wrong. There is a great difference between having weak and inadequate ideas of the truth, and believing or acting upon the oppoute falfhood. Unlefs this is admitted, we fhall never fee the unfpeakable advantage which the Jews enjoyed over the Gentiles, "becaufe to them were committed the oracles of God;" nor indeed fhall we fee the worth and beauty of the ancient difpenfation in general. It was one uniform difplay of this great and important truth, which is delivered with fo much majefty by God himfelf: " I am the Lord, that is "my name, and my glory will I not give to another, nei
* Job xi. 7, 8, 8.
"ther my praife to graven images." Neither is thiss* all relaxed under the New Teftament. The importance of" holding the truth as it is in Jefus"—of" holding fall "the form of found words"—and " keeping the truth," is often declared, as well as that '* no lie is of the truth." And no wonder that in this mire and fpiritual conftitution, it fhould be neceflary to have clear and diflinct views of him who is " the Father of fpirits."
Thus I hope it appears, that, in order to a faving change, there muft be a dilcovery of the real nature of the one only, the living and true God. Before we proceed further, let me obferve that hence may be feen, in the Cleareft light, the danger both of ignorance, and error.
1. Of ignorance. It is plain that thofe who are grofsly ignorant muft be unrenewed. Thofe who do not know God, cannot poffibly love him. Do you not now fee the meaning and weight of the ftrong language of fcripture, where we are told the heathen nations were " fitting in "darknefs, and in the region and fhadow of death?" What force fhould this give to the prayers fo often offered up, both in public and in private, that the " name" of God may be " hallowed" and his kingdom come? How much fhould it add to the zeal and diligence, efpecially of thofe who are appointed to watch for the fouls of others? What concern fhould it give them, lell any under their immediate infpeition " fliould perifh for lack of knowledge." It is indeed furprifing to think, what grofs ignorance prevails at prefent among many, notwithstanding the excellent opportunities of inltruction which they have in their offer. Nay, evenamong thofe who areinftructedinfeveral branches of human fcience, it is aftonifhing to think what ignorance there is of every thing that relates to religion.
If accident or curiofity has brought this difcourfe into the hands of any fuch, let me intreat their attention for a little. I befeech you to think upon, and tremble at your ftate. You may have fome fort of a nominal belief of an unfeen, unintelligible being, called God, while you know neither " what you fpeak, nor whereof you affirm." You may perhaps have heard, or rather in our happy native country you cannot but have heard of Chrift Jefus, the Son
filled often the Saviour of finners; but you " know er the Father nor the Son." You know not God ireator, nor, by confequence, your obligations and duty rokim, or jour apoftacy and departure from both. You kf»wvot what fin is, and therefore, you cannot know a Saviour. ff ever you come to true religion at all, light will bre.ik in upon you in your darknefs, you will no more be able to forget God, he will follow you into your fecret diambers, he will come home upon you, and aflault you, a(y^were, with the reality of his prefence, with the fanctipurity of his nature, and the terrible majefty of wer. O how great is the efledf of a real diicovery e divine glory, whether in the word, or by the providence of God; to a faint or to a finner. Hear how Job exprefles himfelf, " I have heard of thee by the hearing ",of the ear, but now mine eye feeth thee, wherefore I abuhor myfelf, and repent in duft and afh.es."* We have the fame thing well defcribed by the prophet Ifaiah, as the effeft of divine power in defolating judgments. "Enter "into the rock, and hide thee in the duft, for the fear of "the Lord, and for the glory of his majefty. The lofty "looks of man fhall be humbled, and the haughtinefs of "men fhall be bowed down, and the Lord alone fhall be "exalted in that day.—And they fhall go into the holes "of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of "the Lord, and for the glory of his majefty, when he ari"feth to fhake terribly the earth. In that day a man fhall "call his idols of filver, and his idols of gold, which they "made each one for himfelf to worfhip, to the moles and "to the bats, to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the "tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the "glory of his majefty, when he arifeth to fhake terribly "the earth."f So foon as it pleafes God to open your eyes upon himfelf, with whom you have to do, it will humble you in the duft, it will difcover your danger, it will make redemption precious to you, and the name of a Saviour unfpeakably dear.
* Job xlit 5, 6. t Ifaiah ii. 10, 11, 19, 20, 21, Vol. I. B.b