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souls were immortal, and that they should descend into Elysium, a place where they should meet their old friends and relations; but all their reasoning could never give them the least encouragement to hope for so great a reward as the gospel propounds; because the services the best of men can perform are not adequate to so great a reward.
Phythagoras, Plato, and their disciples, talked much about a state of future happiness: but consider what a small number there was of these men, when compared with those who believed nothing at all of the matter. And what strength did their arguments carry with them? They were too weak, and very insufficient to reclaim a world grown old in vice and wickedness.
Go further, and look into the state of mankind under the dispensation of Moses, does it appear much more perfect ? Very little : for though the Jews had several valuable precepts, yet they were enforced by no express promises of eternal life, nor threatenings of eternal misery; nor did they know any thing of a life to come, but by the obscure intimations or traditions of their inspired men. And that this was really the case, is evident from the sect of Saduces, which was very numerous among the Jews, who denied that there was either resurrection, angel, or spirit: and the question which they put to our Saviour touching the resurrection, plainly confirms it. But, blessed be God, the matter is now put beyond all doubt, by the appearance of our Redeemer, who hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. :
All this considered, have we not the greatest encouragement imaginable, to live as becomes the gospel of Christ, in all soberness and honesty? What shall we say for ourselves if we neglect so great salvation? Is eternal punishment then too much for us? Too much for a sinner who will seek his own destruction in spite of all the warnings of the gospel ? No, if he perish, it is no more than his desert. And he will be more inexcuseable than a Jew, or a Turk, if he continues in his sins, after all these glorious discoveries of the gospel.
If he is not bettered by these means of grace, what can he expect but a fearful looking for of judgment and tiery indignation? He has nothing to plead in his excuse, because his duty is plain. There are set before him life and immortality, as the reward of virtue; and death and hell, as the consequence of vice. His will is free, · so that it is in his power to chuse which he thinks niost desirable ; and though the devil is his powerful enemy, yet his Redeemer's grace is sufficient for him; therefore if he fail of everlasting happiness, the fault is in himself.
Again ; Rules of practice are always the most excellent, when delivered in a style the most plain and simple. By this means they will be universally understood, and become a public benefit. No writings, chen, are so worthy of that character as the holy scriptures, wherein every precept is suitable to the capacity of the most ignorant.
In human writings, even the most correct of them, you will find a great deal of vain and
unprofitable argumentation, which, when compared with the scriptures, is like holding a candle to the sun.
But in this divine book of knowledge, every page glows with purity and excellence; every chapter, every verse, produces son:cthing pleasing and instructive to a pious mind!
It may be objected, that there are many passages in the Bible hard to be understood, and not within the compass of an ordinary capacity. To this I say, that though there are passages in scripture obscure, and not quite so intelligible to some, yet they are such as no way disturb. the truth; but are historical, or relate only to some rules of practice peculiar to the times in which they were transacted.. But the practical parts of our duty, as delivered in these sacred records, are very clear to the lowest understanding.
The terms of salvation are too clear to any man to form an excuse for the neglect of his duty, either to God, his neighbour, or himself. He can easily understand the meaning of such scriptures as these. “ This is a true saying, and worthy to be received, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Without faith it is impossible to please God. · Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.” These are so self-evident, that nothing but wilful and downright obstinacy can hinder him from knowing what they mean. And they are such as these which make up the whole substance of the gospel. We may therefore conclude with St. Paul, “ If our gospel be hid, it is hid to those that are lost, in whom the God of this world hath blinded the eyes of them
that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto them.
Again, we find every truth in the gospel enforced with the greatest authority and affection; with a just mixture of severity and condescension, so as the more effectually to work upon the mind of a reasonable creature.
A vicious man, that hardens himself in wickedness, is there threatened with eternal punishment in a lake of fire and brimstone, which burns for ever and ever: « For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness, and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” Rom. i, 18. “Who shall be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: where their worm dieth not, and the
fire is not quenched.” Mark ix. 45---6. . But a man that is good, who does justly, loyes mercy, and walks humbly with his God, is comforted by the glorious promises of living with God, and just men made perfect, to endless ages. “Those that are alive," says the apostle, ," and remain, shall be caught up together with them into the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air : and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
Again, what tenderness and compassion are in these words : " Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy ladlen : take my yoke upon you and Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thee as « hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but-thou wouldest noti!" And, “Oh that thou hadst known the things which belong to thy peace !” Such tender and majestic expressions at once softly move the passions, and strike conviction into the soul.
From what has been said, we may rest assured that the gospel is not after man, for St. Paul neither received it of man, neither was he taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
The inferences that I shall draw from this discourse are, that since the gospel evidently appears to be the inspired word of God, and as the terms of salvation and happiness are there revealed, it highly becomes those who value their greatest interest to regulate their lives and actions according to its précepts.
Let no man then say his faith only shall save him. He must not think a bare belief of the truths of the gospel, without practical holiness, will bring him to heaven; for, however he may deceive himself, “ God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap." His faith, without it be lively and operative, will profit him nothing. It he will credit scripture, he will find that St Peter tells him, that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only, implying, that it is such a faith as makes a man fruitful in good works, in his life and conversation, and not a bare leaning upon Christ for salvation, whether we are wicked or virtuous.
A man may talk plausibly about religion, and tell you he believes that Christ will save him, and, at the same time, be a wicked pharisee. But his life and manners must be answerable to his faith, or else his nice arguings and subtle reasonings about religion will profit him nothing.