« AnteriorContinuar »
importance is it, then, that we should possess such a faith ; and of course, that we should diligently employ those means which are suited to promote it.
Here let me say, that the principal means of promoting a strong, lively faith, is the exercise of it. It results from the constitution of the mind, that all our affections and habits are strengthened by exercise. Every time, therefore, that we view eternal things in the light of revelation ; every time we look at them with a full persuasion of their certainty, and a suitable sense of their importance; we do something towards promoting a strong, steady faith. This salutary influence of exercising faith is not however in all cases equal in degree, but will be very much according to circumstances; and particularly will it be in proportion to the difficulty which attends such an exercise. A single instance of faith, in circumstances like those in which Abraham confidently believed the promise of God, will go farther towards establishing a living principle of faith in the mind, than many acts of faith, where no difficulty is encountered. In such a case as that of Abraham, there is a struggle, a contest. Obstacles are met and removed ; enemies are subdued ; and the power of faith is established. Take care, then, brethren, when difficulties multiply; when dark clouds are spread over you ; when sense and reason are nonplussed, and you have nothing in heaven or earth to rest upon, but the simple word of God; in such cases, take care to have faith, strong faith. Go forth at the divine word, leaving all, and not knowing whither you go. Hesitate not to encounter difficulties, or to make sacrifices; and while you are in the way of obedience to God, never doubt thắt his grace will be sufficient for you.
I have only one more rernark; namely; that clear views and deep impressions of divine things, and powerful movings of affection towards them, or, which is the same thing, strong, animated exercises of faith, will do vastly more towards a habit of faith, than other exercises which are comparatively feeble and lifeless. You may exercise a weak, unanimated faith many years, and not do so much towards giving the mind the character of steady, unyielding faith, as may be done in an hour, or a minute, in which eternal things come with clearness to the soul, waking up all its powers, and exciting acts of vigorous, undivided, unwavering faith. Such acts of faith have an abiding influence. They produce a permanent character : something as our being transported into the third heaven, and seeing and hearing what Paul saw and heard, would produce an impression on our minds that would remain through life, and show its effects through eternity.
Let us then be sensible how vastly important it is, that divine, eternal things should take deep hold on our minds; should excite strong emotions ; should rouse all our powers to action ; should fill our capacities, and exhaust the energies of our souls. And let us seize every occasion, and apply ourselves to every means, favorable to such a state of mind. By retirement; by watchful care not to be engrossed with earthly pursuits ; by devoutly reading the Scriptures ; by heavenly contemplation ; by mortifying all sinful affection ; by spiritual converse with divine and eternal objects, and by ardent, incessant de sires and prayers after them, let us endeavour to get away from the delusion of sensible things; to rise above the present world, and to bring our understandings and hearts under the influence of divine truth ; deeming ourselves happy, when favored with a few moments of clear, spiritual knowledge, and strong faith ; and then advancing from moments to hours, and from hours to days, till we come to look with an undiverted eye at things not seen and eternal, and from morning to night, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, have our feelings and actions all swayed by faith in God. Oh! blessed attainment! When shall we rise to any thing like this ? LORD, increase our faith.
PUBLISHED BY THE
AMERICAN DOCTRINAL TRACT SOCIETY.
PERKINS & MARVIN, AGENTS,
THE PLEA OF SINNERS
Ever since the first apostacy of mankind, they have been disposed to contend with God, respecting his character, his laws, and government. They have called in question his sovereignty, his justice, and even his good ness. They have complained of the precepts and penalties of his holy and righteous laws. They have arraigned the justice and equity of his government, and said, that the ways of the Lord are not equal. But God has always been willing to meet their complaints and settle the controversy between them, upon the most just and solid grounds. By Micah, he challenges them to the contest. « Hear ye now what the Lord saith; arise, contend before the mountains, and let the hills hear thy voice. Hear ye, O mountains, the Lord's controversy, and ye strong foundations of the earth: for the Lord hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel. O my people, what have I done unto thee ? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me.” In Isaiah xli. 24, he calls upon them to reason the case with him fairly. “ Produce your cause, saith the Lord ; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob.” God seems to take it for granted, that those who call in question the excellence of his character, and the rectitude of his laws and government, suppose that they have reasons, and even strong reasons for their erroneous feelings and opinions. It is true that some who iinbibe false and dangerous opinions in religion, choose to conceal them for a time at least ; but those who avow their errors, profess to have, and presume to offer, what they deem strong reasons for their religious errors. Skeptics, atheists, and deists, profess to have what they deem strong reasons for their various opinions, and often produce them. Though Universalists formerly chose to confine their peculiar sentiments in their own breasts ; yet lately, they are very free to write, to preach, and to publish their errors, and bring forth their strong reasons in support of them.
It is, therefore, my present design, to meet this class of errorists, and examine the force of their strong reasons, and see whether they are sufficient to support the peculiar doctrine, which they build upon them. I propose to examine the five following principles, apon which they argue in favor of their peculiar doctrine.
1. The universal goodness of God.
These, I presuine, they will all allow, are the strongest reasons they have, in support of the doctrine of universal salvation, and those upon which they most confidently rely.
i. Let us inquire whether it can be fairly inferred from the universal goodness of God, that he will finally save all men. It is readily granted, that the goodness of God extends to all intelligent creatures, and even to all creatures that possess the least sensibility or capacity of enjoying happiness, or suffering pain. He is good unto all, and his tender mercies are over all his works. His goodness consists in the love of benevolence, and in the love of complacence. His love of benevolence is universal, and extends to all creatures, without any respect to their moral characters. He values the happiness of every individual according to its worth, whether he has a good moral character, or a bad moral character, or no moral character at all. He values the happiness of angels according to its worth, the happiness of mankind according to its worth, the happiness of the spirits in prison according to its worth, and the happiness of all percipient creatures according to its worth. His universal benevolence, therefore, is impartial. He values the happiness of angels more than the happiness of men, the happiness of men more than the happiness of the inferior creation ;
because angels are more capable of enjoying happiness than men, and men are more capable of enjoying happiness than animals and insects. His universal goodness is also disinterested. He loves all his creatures, with benevolence, because he loves happiness simply considered, whether it tends to promote his own felicity, or not. And since his benevolence is universal, impartial, and disinterested, he must love the good of all his creatures, more than the good of any individual, or any individuals; and consequently must be disposed to give up the good of any individual or individuals, for the sake of promoting the greatest good of the universe. It is the natural tendency of impartial love to treat every object according to its worth. If a rich man sees his house on fire, and values every article in it according to its worth, but cannot save them all, which will he give up to save the rest ? There is no doubt in this case, but he will give up the lumber and least valuable articles, and pass through one apartment after another, and seize his desk, which contains his silver and gold, and most valuable papers, while he suffers all the other articles to be consumed in the flames. Or if his dearest friends and connections are to be preserved, will he not seek to save these, rather than his property ? His impartial benevolence, in this situation, would be guided and governed by his wisdom. Apply this to the universal, impartial, and disinterested benevolence of the kind Parent of the universe. Must not his universal, impartial and disinterested love to the happiness of all his creatures lead him to seek the greatest happiness of all, and if necessary for that purpose, to sacrifice the happiness of individuals to the happiness of the whole ? And now who will dare to say, but that God, in his universal goodness, guided by his perfect wisdom, did see best to decree before the foundation of the world, that part of the angels should be forever holy and happy, and part of the angels should be forever unholy and miserable, and part of mankind should be forever holy and happy, and part forever unholy and miserable ? And if God did see it to be wiscst and best to elect some angels and some men to eternal life, and reprobate some angels and some men to endless death, who will dare to say, that it was inconsistent with his