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A. He at once held up before them the doctrine of God's unqualified sovereignty, who has a right to do what he will with his owr, and to give or withhold his favours as he chooses.
Q. How did the case which he mentions, of the widows in Israel, illustrate the divine sovereignty.
A. There was great famine throughout the land. Elias was sent by Jehovah to a widow of Sidon, whose whole stock of provision was reduced to a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruise. He was divinely commissioned to assure her that the meal should not waste, nor the oil fail until the day that the Lord should send rain upon the earth. And she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. J. Kings, xvii. 3—16.
Now observe that during the same famine,' there were many widows in Israel,' who needed assistance, doubtless, as much as this widow of Sidon, and who had as strong claims for this miraculous aid as she; for in truth, neither she nor they had any claim on God at all. God had power to send assistance to all ; he had a right to send it to one, or to all, or to none, just as he pleased. In his adorable sovereignty, he sent assistance to the widow of Sidon, and to none of the widows of Israel.
Q. How did the case of Naaman illustrate the divine soverignty?
A. Naaman the Syrian was a leper; he was miraculously healed; but at the same time, there were many lepers in Israel who were not healed. They needed healing as much as Naaman. 'They had as much claim on the Lord as he had. God had power to heal them all. He had a right to heal one, or all, or none, just as he saw best. In his wonderful sovereignty, he healed Naaman, and the lepers of Israel were not healed.
Q. What was the character of these people of Nazareth whom Christ addressed?
A. They were very ungodly people.
Q. Did they like the doctrine of God's absolute sovereignty, which Christ preached to them?
A. Far from it. They hated it most bitterly, and gave decided proofs of their hatred. "All they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.'
Q. Is the doctrine of God's sovereignty offensive to those whose hearts are holy?
A. Not at all. Jesus Christ, whose heart was perfectly holys when contemplating the absolute sovereignty of God, rejoiced in the following rapturous strains : “ I thank thee O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes. Even so Father, for
so it seemed good in thy sight.' Matt. xi. 25, 26. Here the Lord Jesus thanks the Father for doing that which the opposers of divine sovereignty complain of as partial and unjust.
Q. Is human nature the same now, that it was when Christ preached at Nazareth?
A. Certainly it is. Solomon tell us that 'As in water, face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.'
Q. Is it strange, that the doctrine of God's sovereignty, which was so violently opposed when Christ preached, should still be violently opposed in our sinful world?
A. Not at all. Solomon tells us that “ The thing that hath been, is that which shall be, and there is no new thing under the sun.”
And dwelt on earth a child of wue,
Of heavenly love around him glow :
The ball, the blind, compos'd his train,
Or sought liis aid in vain.
He spoke, and lo! the palsied limb,
A new, and youthful vigour feels;
His touch the deaf man's ear unseals :
Like harts the lame were taught to leap;
And grief forgat to wecp.
In heav'n the gentle Saviour reigns;
That holy flame on earth remains;
In Jesus' steps delight to tread;
The tears their Brethren shed.
But chief, when o'er the mourner's soul
The shades of doubt and anguish meet,
And guides him to the Saviour's feet :
To Christ-the Word, the Light, the Way-
That we might live for aye.
O Lord! in this cold heart of mine
Awake that bright, that sacred fire ;
My every act and word inspire !
To join the blissful choirs above;
And ev'ry thought, is love!
SERMON. Romans I, 18.–For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven
against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.
It appears to be the principal design of the Apostle in this Epistle, to unfold the scheme of salvation revealed in the gospel. And as this scheme took its rise from the guilty and perishing state of mankind, so it could not be clearly unfolded, without giving a true description of the character and condition of both Jews and Gentiles by nature. This description begins with our text, and continues to the end of this chapter, and almost to the end of the next. In the words I have read, the Apostle represents the feelings of God towards sinners, and the ground of his feelings. He says, “ The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” The sense of this passage may be comprised in this general observation:
That God has manifested his displeasure at the criminality of sinners. I shall,
I. Shew in what the criminality of sinners essentially consists. And,
II. Shew how God has manifested his displeasure against it.
1. Let us consider in what the criminality of sinners essentially consists. According to the representation in the text, all their criminality is comprehended in their ungodliness and unright
By ungodliness, we are to understand all their evil exercises and conduct towards God; and by their unrighteousness, all their evil exercises and conduct towards men. But the question before us, is, in what consists the criminality of ungodliness, unrighteousness, or anything else in sinners? The last clause of the text leads us to the only proper answer to this question: “Who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” The wrath of God is pointed against sinners, because they hold the truth in unrighteousness.That is, because they oppose the truth, or feel and act contrary to the light, which they have in their own minds. As all duty consists in feeling and acting agreeably to light, so all sin must consist in feeling and acting against light. When any moral agent freely and voluntarily acts up to all the light he has, he does his duty; but when any moral agent freely and voluntarily acts contrary to the light be has, he resists the light, and commits a sin. All sin, or criminality, consists essentially in opposing light. Upon this ground, the Apostle proves the criminality of both Jews and Gentiles. He first proves the Gentiles to be criminal, by shewing that they had freely and voluntarily opposed the light, wbich God had afforded them. or these he is speaking in the text; and goes on to prove, that they held the truth in unrighteousness; · Because that which may be known of God was manifest in them; for God had shewed it unto them.' “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are 'made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. Because that when they kner God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their image inations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” After painting the multitude of their transgressions, he shews their aggravated guilt, by observing that they opposed light. “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they who commit such things, are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in those that do them.” This, he says their own consciences condemned. “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law, as a law unto themselves; which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.” Thus the Apostle shews, that the Gentiles were criminal for opposing the light of nature. And he next shews that the Jews were guilty for opposing the light of divine revelation. “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” It appears from these passages, that the criminality of both Jews and Gentiles essentially consists in opposing light. And the Apostle lays it down as a maxim, that all sin consists in opposition of heart to light. « To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” Our Saviour also abundantly taught the same doctrine. He says, “ This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light.” Again he says concerning the Jews, “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.” This he proceeds to explain. “If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father." Christ here decides the point, that all criminality in mankind essentially consists in opposing light. Their ungodliness eonsists in opposing the light they have concerning God. They are no farther ungodly, than they know God and hate him, and
E refuse to obey his will. They are no farther unrighteous, than they
know what is right towards their fellow-men, and refuse to do it. So that all their sins against God and man, consist in a voluntary opposition to the knowledge of duty, or holding the truth in unrighteousness. It is impossible for men to sin beyond their knowledge. Their knowledge is always the measure of their guilt. The more truths they hold in unrighteousness, or the more light they oppose, the greater is their criminality. God is always displeased
with them for opposing light; and this displeasure towards them is È always in proportion to the light they oppose. It is highly displeas
ing to God, to see sinners freely and voluntarily act against the light with which he has favoured them. I now proceed,
II. To shew how God has manifested his displeasure against the criminality of sinners. The text asserts that he has done it. “ The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness." Here I would observe,
1. That God has manifested his displeasure against the criminality of sinners, by every law which he has given to mankınd. Every law of God has a precept and penalty. The precept always expresses God's approbation of obedience, and the penalty expresses his disapprobation of disobedience; or his displeasure towards the transgressor. There are two capital laws in particular, which God has given to men, whose penalties clearly manifest his displeasure
at sin. The law given to Adam had an awful penalty: “In the E day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” This death was
eternal death, or that everlasting punishment, which is the proper wages of sin. And by this threatening, God revealed from heaven his everlasting wrath against every violation of his holy and right
eous commands. The law, likewise, given at Mount Sinai, had an e equally solemn sanction: Cursed be he that confirmeth not all
the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, amen.” We may learn the import of this curse from the execution of it, at the la:t day: “ Then shall the king say to them on his left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” These laws are a revelation from heaven, and clearly manisest God's everlasting wrath against impenitent sinners.
2. God has revealed his wrath against the angodly, by the preaching of Christ. He abundantly taught sinners, that God was displeased with them. He told them “that they were serpents, a generation of vipers; and could not escape the damnation of hell," if they continued impenitent. He said, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” He said, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believe