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If so, how would St. Paul justify himself? He was speaking before the court of Athens, and appealing to the testimony of the Grecian poets, and said,"for we are also his offspring." It is not supposable that the Grecian poets had any reference to the regenerated state of man, but to his natural state; and St. Paul had no other meaning in giving this answer; because, if he had another meaning, he ought not to have used their language. The same answer to the question under consideration is given by Jeremiah: Turn O blacksliding children, saith the Lord, for I married unto you." This is the language of a father. "Turn O backsliding children." They are called 'children' by God, who commands them to turn to him. Here are two relations the most important in all society, of which he predicates his argument and expostulation. He calls them in the first place his children.' How reasonable, therefore, is it that they should return. He then brings up the relation of marriage: "for I am married unto you." He does not say, "I will be married unto you," but claims absolutely this sacred relation as the foundation of a command that they should return.
My hearers, does not our blessed Saviour, the great Teacher sent from God, establish this doctrine likewise? Does he not direct us, when we pray, to call God "Our Father, who art in heaven." Whose duty is it to pray? It is the duty of all. Is it not a correct practice to teach this prayer to our little children? Would you teach them to pray to their Father who is in heaven, if they have no Father there? Would you teach them to address God as their Father, and then systematically teach them that God is not their Father? He is the Father of all the moral creation. He is the Father of every individ
ual of the human family. He is declared to be the Father of our spirits. If so, then we are his offspring emphatically; and being the offspring of God, he is mindful of us, and he has visited us.
Having answered the question stated in the text, I shall pursue the subject by noticing the visits God has made the children of men.
Keep the idea constantly in your minds, that whatever notice God has taken of man-whatever visits he has made us, are on account of what man is-on account of his care of man-on account of his love to his offspring. Contemplate then, for a moment, the innumerable blessings of the providence of God! Reflect, my friendly hearers, on the favors you have received at his hand, as you have passed through the several stages of life. Contemplate the fatherly kindness he showed towards you before you knew that there was such a Being! Contemplate the tender providence of the Almighty when you knew not that time passed awaywhen you knew not your own dependence-when you knew not what was necessary for your own life! In that condition-in that tender, feeble condition, how were you surrounded by the tender mercies of God! and know, this was all on account of the mindfulness of God towards you.
As you advanced in days and years, you advanced in wisdom and knowledge, until you came to know the supreme Creator and ruler of all things. The sentiment which teaches that it is necessary for man to know God in order that God may be good to him, is not correct. If it were correct, then the parent should not take care of the child, until the child has a knowledge of the parent. If this doctrine were reduced to practice, no child would ever come to the knowledge of its parent. It is a
long time that the child is nurtured by the pa rent, before it comes to the knowledge of that parent; and innumerable blessings do we receive from God, before we know there is a God, much less know his moral qualities. But all the time, he is taking care of us, providing for our welfare, and acting upon the principles which are requisite to our well-being.
We may now take into consideration the visit which God has made man in the gospel of his dear Son, and contemplate this precious gift of God to the world. Hear the language. "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth on him might not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world, to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved."
Thus you see the gift of Jesus was on account of God's love to the world, a love which existed before this gift was bestowed. This was not a gift made to induce our Father to love us. Such a conclusion would be a very strange perversion. A Father does not make a present to a child to make him love the child, but because he does love the child. The love is antecedent, and the gift is designed to favor the object of affection, and to let this object of affection know the love which exists in the parent's bosom.
This is the great theme of the gospel of Jesus; and the gospel indeed goes farther and says, "God commendeth his love towards us, in that while we were enemies, Christ died for us." Thus every gospel promise, every gospel privilege, every gospel favor is the production of the mindfulness of God concerning his offspring. All that our Saviour did, was a visit of God to us. It was the visit of our
heavenly Father-It was the visit of our heavenly Father's mercy to his offspring here below. Every dispensation of grace which is manifested to his children, is a manifestation of God's mindfulness of his offspring; and, my hearers, the grand result of the gospel dispensation shows what God has designed for his children; and what he has designed for his children, is just what a parent in the winding up of his earthly affairs, designs for his offspring he gives him an estate; he puts his property into his hands-So testifies the Spirit; "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ." Thus "God hath given us eternal life; and this life is in his Son." Why did God give us eternal life? Because he is himself eternal life, and a father can never give less than himself. God has given us himself. All that he is, he has given to the children of men. We are the heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.
In the result of our reasoning we have this pleasing reflection, this sublime, this instructive lesson, viz: the wisdom which constituted the vast frame of the universe, and organized all nature-the power that raised this glorious superstructure upon its basis, has ever been directed, and ever will be directed, towards the good and benefit of mankind. And there can be no such thing as partiality, or any thing like cruelty in all the system of God, as the moral governor of the world, is as plain a proposition as can possibly be stated. There is not in the bosom of the rational father, any principle but goodness to his children. There is not in the bosom of our heavenly Father, nor can there be, any thing like cruelty or partiality; but his eternal wisdom is ever working for the
benefit of his creatures. Thus is the question answered, "What is man that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him ?”
Consider, then, my hearers, that we are all the work of God's hand; we are intellectual beings, 'capable of being improved; we are the offspring of God. He visits us on account of what we are, and, from this doctrine the result is natural. We feel our dependence, and to the utmost of our moral abilities, we ought therefore, to endeavor to improve ourselves as far it is possible; remembering that it is as much our duty to honor God, as it is the duty of the child to honor the parent. It is the duty of man to honor his parent God, and to obey his commandments, and that from the purest principle of love; and to walk in obedience to his will, that we may act like rational creatures. Keep this sentiment always in your minds; let it ever direct your hearts; love God constantly, and abundant will be your peace-abundant your joyabundant your satisfaction and delight. And instead of tending as our opposers sometimes assert, to licentiousness, to a corruption of morals, and an indulgence of unbridled passions, it will always tend to lead us to conduct ourselves with the utmost propriety in relation to our heavenly Fatherin relation to all mankind as brethren, and in relation to ourselves. As it is of the highest importance that the child should know the dignity and character of his parent, in order that he may act according to that dignity, so it is important that we should know God, in order that we may not degrade ourselves by a low estimation of our moral nature; but contemplate, that God has made us rational beings.