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be said, that there is to be found any where an arrangement, or an object, having no beneficial use, and whose sole and ultimate end is to produce misery. Whence then has evil been derived, wherefore has it been permitted to enter? This is a mystery which the scriptures explain in the most explicit manner. 'By one man's disobedience sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death hath come upon all men in that all have sinned.'
displayed; when mortal shall put on immortality, and corruption incorruption, and death shall be swallowed up of victory; and the saints of God set free, shall rise and reign in the kingdom of the Father for ever and ever.
THE benefits of religion are incalculably great and precious. It constitutes the safety, the blessedness, and the ornament of our nature, to cherish its spirit, to taste of its joys, and to follow its counsels. Of all religious duties, 'to draw near to God' is the most sacred; and whenever it is rightly engaged in, it cannot fail to be accompanied with benefits which will enable the sincere worshipper to join in the auspicious acknowledgment of David, it is good for me to draw near to God.' It is eminently a spiritual duty; and consists in realizing with more than usual solemnity and awe the divine presence; in resting with vigorous faith and confidence in the divine word; in feeling and confessing our deep unworthiness and guilt before him who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity; in laying hold of the righteousness of Christ, and confiding in his all prevailing intercession and infinite merits; in exercising the privilege of transacting with God in prayer, and praise, and other religious duties; and in drawing from his excellencies and perfections motives for love, for hope, and for joy in God.
But the visible creation forms as it were onlyIt is good for me to draw near to God,' Ps. a platform for the exhibition of a still more glorious work, the work of redemption. In it the perfections of God as the Saviour, as well as the Creator of man, are revealed. The purest justice blends with the richest mercy; and the holiness of the lawgiver is seen in unison with the tender compassion of our Father in heaven. The gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.' At first man was made to be as it were the priest of the glorious temple of creation; and with rational soul, articulate speech, and spiritual service, the duty belonged to him of celebrating the worship and praise of the great Author and Governor of all things. But what, alas, has man become, and what does he continue to be, until washed from his sin in the blood of Jesus, and renewed in the spirit of his mind after the image of him who created him? He is an apostate from the kingdom of righteousness, an alien from God, a slave of sin and Satan, and the devoted victim of condemnation and death. And how wonderful the interposition of sovereign grace; whether we regard the state in which it finds us, or the rank and the honour to which it designs to raise us. The work of God, in reconciling a guilty world to himself, not imputing to men their When compared with any of the other pretrespasses, stands forth to every reflective mind vailing employments of life, what an enhancement who devoutly regards it under an aspect as pecu- is conferred upon that which is here commended liarly divine, as the astonishing operation by which to our adoption, whether we consider its nahe formed all things out of nothing. To educe ture or effects. There is a social principle in from a state of moral evil, such as this world pre-human nature, and rightly exercised it may be sents, those glorious results which the gospel contemplates, to convert rebels into sons; to give them the victory over sin, and Satan, and death; to advance them to the enjoyment of a glorious immortality, and to set them at his own right hand in heavenly places, manifests an infinitude of love and mercy, of unparalleled grandeur, such as no created mind could have conceived, until it was actually revealed. When the heavens and the earth were made, the morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted aloud for joy; but what higher and intenser acclamations of delight and praise shall distinguish that day, when all the glory of the work of redemption shall stand
productive of much good; but how often does man employ it to evil. What baneful lessons may be learned in the society which is most congenial to the ungodly mind; and how injurious are the effects produced by an indiscriminate mixture with the world. But wisdom, grace, and holiness, the blessing which addeth no sorrow, the joy unspeakable and full of glory, and which maketh not ashamed, form the portion of those who habituate themselves to wait upon God, and who seek his face in spirit and in truth. Like Moses on descending from the mount, who bore upon his countenance and his person the indication of that glorious presence in which he had stood, they will
carry with them unto the duties, the labours, and the trials of life, a sacred influence which will at once dignify their characters, and strengthen, and comfort their minds. For whether it be to temper the gaiety of youth with discretion, to abate the pride and presumption of a fleeting prosperity, to check the repining murmurs of a state of distress, to soothe the sorrows of bereavement and desolation, or to cheer the bed of affliction and of death; how good is it to draw near to God.
It is also good to draw near to God, as your Preserver; to celebrate his goodness every morning, and his faithfulness every night. He is the strength of our lives, and the length of our days; he compasseth our path and our lying down, and is acquainted with all our ways. The Lord reigneth, let the earth be glad, and the multitude of the isles rejoice.' What contentment, security, gratitude, and resignation, would it not inspire, to cast all our care upon God, and to acknowledge the righteousness, the faithfulness, and the mercy with which he governs all his creatures, and makes all things work together for his own glory and the best interests of those who love him.
It is good to draw near to God as your Redeemer; to supplicate the aids of his grace, to treasure up the promises and consolations of his faithfulness and loving-kindness, to meditate upon all the excellence of his character, all the riches of his grace, and all the glory of his kingdom.
But farther, as a sacred duty, how appropriate and just is the acknowledgment, here made, in regard to drawing near to God. There is a conscious enjoyment in following the dictates of truth and righteousness; and in acting in unison with the principles of an enlightened conscience; whilst, on the other hand, there is a sense of bitterness and self-reproach attendant on the neglect of known duties, and the violation of sacred and acknowledged obligations. We cannot, and we ought not, indeed, to draw near to God, to minister to a selfrighteous and self-complacent spirit. We need forgiveness, even for our best duties; and our devotional services, no less than our ordinary actions, can only find acceptance with an infinitely holy God through the merits of the Saviour. At the same time, 'to draw near to God' with a sincere and humble desire to serve him acceptably, through Jesus Christ, cannot fail to be accompanied with comfort and joy; for it shows to the extent that we are enabled to do so, that our hearts are impressed by divine grace, that we are alive to a sense of our spiritual duty, and that we have become reconciled to God through the blood of the cross. A knowledge of this should dictate the earnest and habitual prayer that God would quicken us by the Holy Spirit to love and serve him; that he would draw us, by the cords of love, into a state of closer and more spiritual communion, and that he would increase in us that faith without which it is impossible to please God. All scripture is given by inspiration of God,' 2
It is good to draw near to God as your Creator; to realize your dependence upon him, to reverence his high and glorious perfections, and to stir up your minds to gratitude, adoration, and thanksgiving, towards him, as the supreme source of all being, and of all blessing. How delightful to be able to see God in all his works, and to find incentives to praise him in the glory of the heavens, and in all the fullness of the world.' The inspired psalmist exhibits, in many interesting passages, how the pious mind may hold converse with God, through the medium of his works, and offer up the tribute of an intelligent praise in behalf of universal nature, to its Creator and its King.
In fine, it is good to draw near to God as your Judge; to examine yourselves by his holy word, to implore, in the spirit of unfeigned penitence, the forgiveness of sin, and an interest in his grace; to beseech the sacred guidance of his wisdom and the powerful efficacy of his Spirit amidst the snares and temptations of life; and to devote yourselves, both soul, and body, and spirit, to his holy and blessed service. Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.'
Tim. iii. 16.
How endlessly diversified, and even opposite, have
which is necessary to make us wise unto salva
before us, in the sacred oracles, the knowledge | loftiness of pride disdains to learn from the source of revelation, as something altogether abject and useless; the presumptuous complacency of a selfrighteous spirit scorns to admit its humbling truths, and rejects it as a libel on the character of human nature; the boldness of impenitence and infidelity calls in question the justice and truth of its representations, concerning the guilt and penalty of sin, and affects to compliment the mercy of God at the expence of his truth; the love of the world spurns the sacred principles which it inculcates as visionary and enthusiastic, whilst the lawless violence of vice and licentiousness blasphemes its authority as a tyranny subversive of the natural liberty and happiness which are the prerogative of man.
The subjects about which scripture is concerned, though the farthest from the reach of mere human investigation, are of the highest practical moment and of the most enduring personal interest to every member of our race. The being, the perfections, and the counsels of God; the nature, the authority, and the sanctions of the divine law; the demerit of sin; the method of restoration to the favour of God through a Redeemer; the regenerating and sanctifying agency of the Holy Spirit; the covenant relation in which God stands to his people; the unalterable love which he bears to them, and the ineffable blessedness to which he shall exalt them, constitute an outline of the The doctrine, that all scripture is given by ingrand themes presented to our knowledge in the spiration of God, impresses a peculiar value upon divine testimonies. Every great and solemn every portion of the sacred volume, and should question which we can desire to have solved in secure the conviction that a design, worthy of relation to our duty, our interests, and our pro- infinite wisdom and righteousness, pervades all spects, as accountable beings, is satisfactorily settled it contains. Let us aspire to possess an eminently in the scriptures, and it is no slight demonstration sanctifying and comforting experience of the of their excellence that whilst they shed a copious majesty, the power, the purity, the wisdom, and light upon every subject truly interesting or the excellence which distinguish the sacred oraimportant, in a religious and moral point of view, cles. They are more precious than gold; yea, they utterly abstain from gratifying the idle in- than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey quiries of a mere fruitless curiosity. To derive or the honey comb.' The main design of the benefit from the holy scriptures, we must read them Spirit of inspiration, in both the Old and the with reverence, humility, faith, penitence, and an New Testament, is to reveal Christ; to make earnest and prayerful spirit, that we may find them known his character, his offices, and his work to be to our souls a savour of life unto life. Re- as a Saviour; to invite sinners to come to him, linquishing the proud spirit of self-sufficiency, and believe on him, that he may be made unto which is so natural to the human mind in its them of God, wisdom, righteousness, sanctifiunregenerate state, we should sit with the teach-cation, and complete redemption.' How solemn ableness of little children at the feet of inspira- are the warnings against despising the divine tion, and the sacred testimony, 'thus saith the testimonies, and rejecting Christ. Whosoever Lord,' should be decisive upon every subject, and shall fall on this stone, shall be broken, but on command the profoundest homage of our under- whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind them to standings and of our hearts. Whatever appar-powder.' ent difficulties we may find in any part of scripture, we should reflect, that it ought to be expected that the only wise God' should have discoveries to place before us beyond our capacity fully to conceive, and works to reveal past finding out. A consciousness of our spiritual blindness and liability to err on all subjects relative to salvation, should dictate a spirit of fervent and habitual supplication to the great Father of lights, from whom cometh down every good and perfect gift. To how many does the power of indwelling corruption render the volume of in-But the Comforter, who is the Holy Ghost, whom
spiration a scaled book, because they neglect the duty to which they are called in this respect; 'If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not.' The
"Within this awful volume lies
The mystery of mysteries.
the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things,' John xiv. 26.
IT is the privilege of the redeemed to be exalted to the most distinguished rank, and to the most
glorious prospects. Not only are they delivered | assert that they are insufficient of themselves, exfrom a state of condemnation, but they are advanced to the dignity of the sons of God, and 'receive the spirit of adoption, whereby they cry, Abba, Father.' And although the world knows them not, as it knew not their divine Master, that renders not the communications with heaven, which they are privileged to enjoy, or the blessings from on high with which they are visited, the less real or the less precious. The Holy Ghost, the third person in the adorable Godhead, is equally concerned as the Father and the Son in promoting the work of human redemption; and it constitutes his special province to form the medium of communication through whom Christ and the blessings of salvation are sealed and applied to believers. A knowledge of his person, and of his work, accompanied with an earnest desire to enjoy the benefits which he conveys, is essential to salvation; and, accordingly, the Saviour concluded not his personal ministry, nor left the earth, until he had first instructed his disciples, that they were henceforth to look upon themselves as placed more immediately under the guidance, protection, and consolation of the divine Spirit, whom, at his intercession, the Father should send down upon them. The agency of the Spirit is distinguished by the most consummate wisdom and grace, and he adapts his communications and blessings with admirable suitableness to the various circumstances of the church, to the diversified exigencies of believers, and to the peculiar openings of providence, and to the state of the world at different periods. On the day of pentecost, and during the age of miraculous interposition, he manifested his presence by affixing the seal of heaven, by signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds, to the doctrines which the apostles delivered. At all times his operation is necessary to render the ordinances of the gospel efficacious, that sinners may be convinced and converted; saints edified and comforted; and the church built up in faith and holiness to eternal life.
clusive of the power of the Holy Spirit, to make men wise unto salvation. They claim for themselves no higher honour than that of being the sword of the Spirit,' the instrument which he wields for penetrating and subduing the soul of the sinner. The divine Author of Christianity teaches us that it is the Spirit who quickeneth, the word profiteth little. And one of the greatest apostles and ministers of the New Testament has placed it upon record, that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.' The constant misapprehension of our Saviour's own immediate disciples, it has been well observed, of which we read so much in the gospel, was certainly due as much to their being blind, as to their being in the dark; to their defect in the power of seeing, as to any defect in the visibility of what was actually set before them.
The necessity for divine teaching arises from the corruption and moral blindness, together with the alienation of heart from God, characteristic of human nature in its fallen state. It is not enough to have the objective knowledge of divine things set before the mind in the volume of inspiration, if the mind itself is incapable of rendering due attention to them, by an aversion which repels the subject altogether, or by sinful prejudices which
warp its vision, and prevent the truth from being fairly and distinctly felt. We do not depreciate the value of the divine testimonies when we
It is the province of the Holy Spirit to open the heart, as in the case of Lydia, to attend to the things that are revealed in the gospel, and spoken by the ministers of Christ; to impress convictions of sin, as took place on the day of pentecost, with the three thousand who were converted under the preaching of Peter; to impart faith, and to enable the sinner effectually to flee to Christ for salvation, as happened with the Ethiopian eunuch, the Philippian jailor, and others; and to produce a growing experience of the power and efficacy of divine grace upon the soul, and a persevering devotedness in the Christian life under all its duties, and under all its trials, as was exemplified by the faithful disciples of the apostolic and of every subsequent age. When Paul would express his confidence, that the Thessalonians had received the gospel, when it was first preached to them, in a saving manner, he does so by ascribing their reception of it to the agency of the Holy Spirit. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.' All vital godliness, all genuine and permanent religious principles, must then be implanted in the soul by the Spirit in every instance; and his agency, and his blessing, must also continue to attend the work, throughout all its progress, onwards to its final consummation in glory. The gift of the Holy Spirit, and of his precious influences, was the purchase of the Redeemer's blood; and it was in virtue of the efficacy of his atoning sacrifice, that when he ascended up into heaven, he obtained his interposition to
guide, and comfort, and sanctify his disciples. To most elevated and spiritual conceptions with repray for the Spirit, to cherish his indwelling gard to the unity, perfection, and the majesty of in their souls, and to walk in communion with Jehovah. And although this people were not him, constitutes the privilege and the duty distinguished for superiority in learning, or in of all who receive the gospel. But how much science, but the reverse, yet has science, in the is this privilege undervalued, and how exten- fullest manner, adopted and accredited their faith; sively is this duty neglected! The self-righte- and from the loftiest star to which she has winged ous tendencies of the heart are so strong, that we her flight, or the deepest laboratory of nature are habitually in danger of leaning to our own into whose recesses she has ever penetrated, has understandings, confiding in our own sufficiency, she brought back accumulated demonstrations to and resting satisfied with our actual state, how- the doctrine that there is but one God. Every ever characterized by backsliding, lukewarmness where she finds herself within an empire which and spiritual degeneracy. If we felt aright our by the uniformity of its laws, the identity of its sinfulness on the one hand, or if we knew the institutions, and the symmetry and consistency grace of God on the other, and understood what of its administration, proves this great truth. The we would become by walking in the Spirit, and same force which causes a stone to fall, or a stream bringing forth the fruits of the Spirit, how should to flow, at the earth's surface, is found to incline we long and thirst for the influences of the Spirit and bend to the sun the largest and the most remote as our chief good! O let the solemn impression planet in our system; and to guide the course of these words be felt by every individual. To of the erratic and far revolving comet, as it purbe carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually sues its mysterious flight, crossing over worlds minded is life and peace.' Heaven is brought through the interminable fields of one unexplored down to every soul in which the Spirit has his immensity, unto the equally profound and inacresidence; and to the degree that his enlighten- cessible recesses of another. It is the same God ing, sanctifying, and comforting operations are en- who forms the dry land, and who holds the joyed, the joy of heaven is experienced, and its waters of the deep in the hollow of his hand; character and dispositions are formed. Ho, who weighs the mountains in scales, and the hills every one that thirsteth, come unto the waters in a balance; who kindles into brightness the and drink, and he that hath no money; yea, host of heaven by the breath of his mouth; and come buy wine and milk without money, who has filled the whole universe with the harand without price. Wherefore will ye give monious indications of his all-creative and adoryour money for that which is not bread? and able your labours for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.'
The degradation connected with the idolatrous worship of the heathen world, constituted a decisive and melancholy evidence of the power of Satan over a fallen and blinded race. It was at once the effect and the punishment of that spirit of enmity and alienation which caused them that they did not like to retain God in their knowledge. Professing themselves to be wise they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.' If the religious feelings and
‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord,' dispositions of the human mind be not exercised
Deut. vi. 4.
ALTHOUGH the Jews were not distinguished for scientific eminence, like many other ancient commonwealths, yet they infinitely excelled them all in the knowledge of a sublime and pure theology. While Egypt, Greece, Persia, and the whole ancient world, was spell-bound by idolatrous delusion, how remarkable the contrast among the posterity of Abraham; who had a law which not only prohibited the least approximation to the sin in question, but inculcated the
on their proper objects, and consecrated to the worship and service of the true God, they will be perverted to the most injurious and degraded ends; and from being the glory become the disgrace, and the bane of human nature. Hence an undue love of the creature, an extravagant desire for the pleasures and possessions of the world, and the vain hope that a satisfying enjoyment can be obtained in the multiplication of those objects which please and flatter the natural feelings and sentiments of the mind. The scriptures