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The Infinite Mind is the Infinite Benefactor of the Universe. As the Source and Centre of all existence; as the great Benefactor of all beings; as the Subject of divine blessedness, and excellence; God would be regarded by such a disposition with supreme benevolence and complacency. Piety is nothing but this disposition, directed to this great and glorious Being. The love, which is the fulfilling of the second command of the moral Law, is also perfect obedience to the first, which is like unto the second. Without love, fear becomes a base and pernicious passion, totally destitute of amiableness, and excellency; united with love, or in a mind where love reigns, it is changed into the sublime character of Reverence ; the o: and filial regard to God from his children. Dependence without love, is nothing. Without love, Confidence cannot exist. Hope and Joy equally spring from it. Gratitude is but one manner, in which it is exercised. He, who loves his neighbour, on any account, with the benevolence of the Gospel, will, and must, of course, love his Creator. If he exercises evangelical confidence at all; he cannot but exercise it supremely in God. If he be grateful to a human benefactor; he must be beyond measure, more grateful to the divine Benefactor. If he love moral excellence at all ; he must, more than in all other excellence, delight in that, which glows with unceasing glory in the Eternal Mind. In God, therefore, this desirable disposition would find the highest object of all its attachments, the supreme end of all its conduct. To him the devotion of such a spirit would be complete, unceasing, and endless. To please, obey, and glorify him would be the instinctive, and the commanding, aim of the man, in whom it was found; and, in the case supposed, in all men. All men would be changed into children of God. The earth would become one universal temple, from which prayer, and praise, and faith, and love, would ascend before the throne of God and the Lamb, every morning and every evening. Time, hitherto a period of sense and sin, of impiety, ...} rebellion, would be converted into an universal sabbath of peace and worship. Holiness to the Lord would be written on all the pursuits and employments of mankind. Zion, the city of our God, would extend its walls from the risin to the setting sun; and comprehend all the great family of Adam within its circuit; while on its gates would be inscribed in immortal characters, Jehov AH IS HERE. Let me now ask, whether the Love of the Gospel, the spirit of doing good, is not in the view of all, who hear me, a disposition more desirable, than the present disposition of Man? Think what the world now is ; and what, since the apostacy, it ever has been. Call to mind the private wretchedness, guilt, and debasement, which, within and without you, deform the human character, and destroy human happiness. Call to mind the public sins, which have à. the world from the beginning; and the public miseries, which have rung with groans, and shrieks, throughout the whole reign of time, and from one end of heaven to the other. What a vast proportion of these evils has man created for himself, and his fellow-creatures! How small a portion has God created : and how mild and proper a punishment has this been for the authors of the rest! Of this complication of guilt and wo, every man is, in some degree, the subject, and the author. All men are daily employed in complaining of others; and none, almost, in reforming themselves. Were each individual to begin the task of withdrawing from the common mass the evils which he occasions, the work would be easily done. Those, produced by men, would be annihilated, and those, occasioned by God, would cease; because, where there were no transgressions, God would not exercise his strange work of punishment. How mighty would be the change Benevolence would take place of malignity, friendship of contention, peace of war, truth of falsehood, and happiness of misery. This dreary world would become a Paradise. The brutal, deformed character of man, would give place to the holiness and dignity of angels, and all the perplexed, melancholy, and distressing scene of time would assume the order, beauty, and glory, of the celestial system. With the nature and effects of the present human character, the selfishness of man, so fondly, proudly, and obstinately cherished by every human breast, you are all, at least in some degree, acquainted. It is scarcely necessary, that I should recall to your minds the universal corruption of the antediluvian world; and the violence and pollution, which rendered this earth too impure, and deformed, to be any longer seen by the perfect eye of Jehovah. It is scarcely necessary to remind you of the premature apostacy, which followed the deluge; the brutal idolatry, which, like a cloud from the bottomless pit, darkened this great globe to the four ends of heaven; the o infection, which j Sodom and Gomorrah ; the rank and rotten growth of sin, which poisoned and destroyed the nations of Canaan; the deplorable defections of Israel and Judah; the bloody oppressions of Assyria, Babylon, and Persia; the monstrous ambition, and wild ravages, of Alexander; the base treacheries, and deformed cruelties, of his followers ; the iron-handed plunder, butchery, and devastation of Rome; the terrible ravages of Mohammed and his disciples; or the fearful waste of man by Alaric, 4ttila, and their barbarous companions in slaughter. As little necessity is there to detail the wars, and ruins, of modern EURope ; the massacres of the Romish Hierarchy, the tortures of the Inquisition, the absolutions and indulgencies issued from the Vatican, to pardon sin, and to sanction rebellion ". God. Your minds must be familiarized to the lamentable degradation, the amazing miseries, the death-like slavery of the nations, which fill the continent of Africa. You cannot be unacquainted with the swinish brutism of the Chinese ; the more brutal deformi
ty, the tiger-like thirst for blood. of the Hindoos and of the strangers, who have successively invaded Hindostan ; the fell and fiendlike cruelty that has made modern Persia a desert; the stupid, but furious superstition, and the tainted impurity of Turkey. To these monstrous corruptions, these wonderful sins of nations claiming, generally, the name of civilized, add the crimes of the savage world; and fasten your eyes for a moment on the wolfish rage, which reigns, and riots, in the human animals, prowling, o > for blood and havoc around the deserts of America and Asia : and you will be presented with an imperfect, but for my purpose a sufficient, exemplification of the spirit, which rules the heart of man, and actuates the vast family of Adam.
But this spirit is unnecessary to man. The disposition, which I have described, might just as easily inform the mind, and control the conduct. We might as easily be benevolent, as selfish; virtuous as sinful. No new faculties are necessary; and no change is required, but of the disposition. How superior is the disposition, here illustrated, to that, whose effects have been so uniformly dreadful! Hitherto I have used the language of supposition only; and have declared, that, if such were the character of our race, such also would be the state of this unhappy world. Now I inform you, that such, one day, will be the true character and state of man. o
The period will one day arrive: the period is now on the wing: the day will certainly dawn: the morning-star is, perhaps, even now ascending in the east, of that day, in which Christ ...i return, and reign on the earth. I neither intend, nor believe, that he will appear in person, until the great and final day, which the Scriptures emphatically call his second coming; for the heavens must receive him until the times of the restitution of all things. But he will appear in his Providence, and by his Spirit, to renew the face of the earth. A new heart and a right spirit will he create within them. His law he will write in their hearts; and his fear will he put in their minds; and their sins, and their iniquities, will he remember no more. This new heart, this right spirit, will be no other than the disposition, which has been here considered; the very obedience of the Law, which will be thus written; the new creation, which is thus promised.
By the implantation of this holy character in the soul, a change will be accomplished, which is exhibited in the Scriptures in terms of hyperbolical and singular sublimity. In their present state of Apostacy, mankind are considered in this sacred volume, as being oft buried in a death-like sleep. From this benumbing lethargy, hopeless and endless, unless removed by Almighty power, they are represented as roused anew to consciousness, to feeling, and to action, by the awakening voice of God. In the present state, they are declared to be madmen; groping in the gloom, wantoning in the excesses, and venting the rage, of Bedlam. In the new one,
they are exhibited as restored to reason, to sobriety, to intellectual dignity and usefulness, and as introduced again to the society, converse, and esteem, of rational beings. #. inally, they are prisoners to sin and Satan, the victims of turpitude, and the sport of fiends: , yet they are prisoners of hope. In their renovation they have heard liberty proclaimed to the captive, and the opening of the prison doors to them that are bound; and, at the sound of these glad tidings, they have shaken off their chains, and escaped from their dungeon into the glorious liberty of the Sons of God. In their present state; they are pronounced to be dead, and fallen together in one great valley of the shadow of death; the P. ed and immense receptacle of departed men; where their bones are dispersed over the waste; dried, whitened, and returning to their original dust. A voice from heaven, resounding through the regions of this immense catacomb, commands the scattered fragments to assemble from the four corners of heaven; to re-unite in their proper places; and to constitute anew the forms of men. A noise, a shaking, a rustling, is heard over the vast Golgotha; a eneral commotion begins; and, moved by an instinctive power, É. seeks its kindred bone; the sinews and flesh spontaneously arise, and cover the naked form; and the Spirit of life breathes with one divine and universal energy on the unnumbered multitude. Inspired thus with breath, and life, the great host of mankind instinctively rise, and stand on their feet, and live again with immortal life. #. great world of death is filled with animated beings; and throughout its amazing regions, those who were dead are alive again, and those who were lost to the creation are found. This resurrection is no other, than a resurrection to spiritual life; no other, than an assumption of this new and heavenly character. This character, this disposition, will constitute the sum, and the glory, of the Millennial state, and the foundation of all its blessings. When the heavens shall drop down dew from above, the skies pour down righteousness, and the earth open, and bring forth salvation; all the external good, all the splendour and distinction, of that happy period, will follow as things of course; as consequences, which, in the divine system, Virtue draws in its train. The Lord of hosts will, therefore, make for all nations, a feast offat things, a feast of wines on the lees well refined. The Lord of hosts will swallow up death, in victory; and will wipe away the tears from all faces; and will take away the roproach of his people from all the earth. He will lay the stones of Zion with fair colours, and her foundations with o: will make her windows of agates, her gates of carbuncles, and all her borders ofpleasant stones. ..And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness; and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
THE LAW OF GOD.—THE SECOND GREAT COMMANDMENT.-UTILITY THE FOUNDATION OF W IRTUE.
Acts xx. 35.-1 have shewed you all things, how that so labouring, ye ought to support the weak; and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give, than to receive.
IN my two last discourses, I endeavoured to show by a variet of arguments, that a disposition voluntarily employed in doing good, is productive of more Personal and Public happiness, than any other can be. In those discourses, and in several preceding ones, it has, if I mistake not, been sufficiently proved, that the same disposition in the Creator and his intelligent creatures is the source not only of more happiness to the Creation at large, than any other, i. of all the o which has existed or will ever eX1St.
Virtue, or Moral Excellence, is an object of such high import, as to have engaged, in every enlightened country, and period, the deepest attention of mankind. It has, of course, been the subject of the most laborious investigations, and of very numerous discussions. Inquisitive men have asked with no small anxiety, “What is Virtue !” “What is its nature ?” “What is its excellence 2’” And, “What is the foundation, on which this excellence rests o' To these questions, widely different and directly opposite answers have been given. In modern times, and in this as well as other countries, much debate has existed concerning the Foundation of Virtue. It has been said to be founded in the Nature of things; in the Reason of things ; in the Fitness of things ; in the Will of God; and in Utility. My intention in this discourse is to examine the nature of this subject.
The phrase, the foundation of Virtue, has been very differently understood by different writers. Indeed, the word, foundation, in this case seems to be a defective one; as being ambiguous; and, therefore, exposed to different interpretations. When Virtue is said to be founded in the Will of God, or in Utility, some writers appear to intend '', this phraseology, that the Will of God, or Utilily, is the Rule, Measure, or Directory, of virtuous conduct. Others evidently intend, that one, or the other, of these things, is what constitutes it virtue; makes it valuable, ercellent, lovely, praiseworthy, and rewardable. . It is, therefore, absolutely necessary for me to observe, antecedently to entering on this discussion, that I use the