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nature. But including the grace of God, I will not say with the heathen poet;
Rari quippe boni, numero vix totidem quot
Thebarum portæ, vel divitis ostia Nili. As if he had allowed too much, in supposing there were a hundred good men in the Roman empire ; he comes to himself, and affirms there are hardly seven. Nay, surely, there were seven thousand! There were so many long ago in one small nation, where Elijah supposed there were none at all. But allowing a few exceptions, we are authorized
“ The whole world lieth in wickedness;” yea, “ in the wicked one;" as the words properly signify. “Yes, the whole heathen world.” Yea, and the Christian too; (so called ;) for where is the difference, save in a few externals! See with your own eyes! Look into that large country, Indostan. There are Christians and heathens too. Which have more justice, mercy, and truth? The Christians or the heathens ? Which are most corrupt, infernal, devilish, in their tempers and practice? The English or the Indians ? Which have desolated whole countries, and clogged the rivers with dead bodies ?
Oh sacred name of Christian ! how profaned! Oh earth, earth, earth! how dost thou groan under the villanies of thy Christian inhabitants !
34. From many of the preceding circumstances we may learn, thirdly, what is the genuine tendency of riches : what a baleful influence they have had, in all ages, upon pure and undefiled religion. Not that money is an evil of itself: it is applicable to good as well as bad purposes. But, nevertheless, it is an undoubted truth, that “the love of money is the root of all evil ;' and also, that the possession of riches naturally breeds the love of them. Accordingly, it is an old remark,
Crescit amor nummi, quantum ipsa pecunia crescit: “As money increases, so does the love of it;" and always will, without a miracle of grace. Although, therefore, other causes may concur; yet this has been, in all ages, the principal cause of the decay of true religion in every Christian community. As long as the Christians in any place were poor, they were devoted to God. While they had little of the world, they did not love the world; but the more they had of it, the more they loved it. This constrained the lover of their souls, at various times, to unchain their persecutors; who, by reducing them to their former poverty, reduced them to their former purity. But still remember, riches have, in all ages, been the bane of genuine Christianity!
35. We may learn hence, fourthly, how great watchfulness they need who desire to be real Christians; considering what a state the world is in! May not each of them well say,
" Into a world of ruffians sent,
I walk on hostile ground :
And ravening wolves surround." They are the more dangerous, because they commonly appear in sheep's clothing. Even those who do not pretend to religion, yet make fair professions of good will, of readiness to serve us; and, perhaps, of truth and honesty. But beware of taking their word! Trust not any man, until he fears God! It is a great truth,
“ He that fears no God, can love no friend :">
Therefore stand upon your guard against every one that is not earnestly seeking to save his soul. We have need to keep both our heart and mouth as “ with a bridle, while the ungodly are in our sight." Their conversation, their spirit, is infectious, and steals upon us unawares, we know not how. Happy is the man that feareth always,” in this sense also, lest he should partake of other men's sins. Oh “keep thyself pure !” “Watch and pray, that thou enter not into temptation !”
36. We may learn from hence, lastly, what thankfulness becomes those who have escaped the corruption that is in the world ; whom God hath chosen out of the world, to be holy and unblamable. “ Who is it that maketh thee to differ ?" " And what hast thou which thou hast not received ?" Is it not “God (alone) who worketh in thee both to will and to do of his good pleasure ?"" And let those give thanks whom the Lord hath redeemed and delivered from the hand of the enemy.” Let us praise him, that he hath given us to see the deplorable state of all that are round about us, to see the wickedness which overflows the earth, and yet not be borne away by the torrent! We see the general, the almost universal contagion; and yet it cannot approach to hurt us! Thanks be unto him“ who hath delivered us from so great a death, and doth still deliver !” And have we not farther ground for thankfulness, yea, and strong consolation, in the blessed hope which God hath given as, that the time is at hand, when righteousness shall be as universal as unrighteousness is now ? Allowing that “the whole creation now groaneth together" under the sin of man, our comfort is, it will not always groan : God will arise and maintain his own cause; and the whole creation shall then be delivered both from moral and natural corruption. Sin, and its consequence, pain, shall be no more : holiness and happiness will cover the earth. Then shall all the ends of the world see the salvation of our God; and the whole race of mankind shall know, and love, and serve God, and reign with him for ever and ever!
SERMON LXVII.-The End of Christ's Coming. - For this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil,” 1 John iii, 8.
Many eminent writers, heathen as well as Christian, both in earlier and later ages, have employed their utmost labour and art in painting the beauty of virtue. And the same pains they have taken to describe, in the liveliest colours, the deformity of vice; both of vice in general, and of those particular vices which were most prevalent in their respective ages and countries. With equal care they have placed in a strong light the happiness that attends virtue, and the misery which usually accompanies vice, and always follows it. And it may be acknowledged, that treatises of this kind are not wholly without their use. Probably, hereby, some, on the one hand, have been stirred up to desire and fol low after virtue; and some, on the other hand, checked in their career of vice,-perhaps reclaimed from it, at least for a season. But the change effected in men by these means is seldom either deep or universal: much less is it durable ; in' a little space it vanishes away as the morning cloud. Such motives are far too feeble to overcome the numberless temptations that surround us. All that can be said of the beauty and advantage of virtue, and the deformity and ill effects of vice, cannot resist, and much less overcome and heal, one irregular appetite or passion.
“ All these fences, and their whole array,
One cunning bosom sin sweeps quite away." 2. There is, therefore, an absolute necessity, if ever we would conquer vice, or steadily persevere in the practice of virtue, to have arms of a better kind than these ; otherwise we may see what is right, but we cannot attain it. Many of the men of reflection among the very heathens were deeply sensible of this. The language of their heart was that of Medea :
Video meliora, proboque ;
Deteriora sequor : How exactly agreeing with the words of the apostle : (personating a man convinced of sin, but not yet conquering it :)“ The good that I would, I do not; but the evil I would not, that I do.” The impotence of the human mind, even the Roman philosopher could discover:“There is in every man,” says he, “this weakness;" (he might have said this sore disease ;)“ Gloriæ sitis : thirst for glory. Nature points out the disease; but nature shows us no remedy."
3. Nor is it strange, that though they sought for a remedy, yet they found none. For they sought it, where it never was and never will be found, namely, in themselves; in reason, and in philosophy: broken reeds, bubbles, smoke! They did not seek it in God, in whom alone it is possible to find it. In God ! No; they totally disclaim this; and that in the strongest terms. For although Cicero, one of their oracles, once stumbled upon that strange truth:
unquam vir magnus sine afflatu divino fuit;"(there never was any great man who was not divinelý inspired ;) yet in the very same tract he contradicts himself, and totally overthrows his own assertion, by asking;“ Quis pro virtute aut sapientiâ gratias dedit Deis unquam ? “Who ever returned thanks to God for his virtue or wisdom ?" The Roman poet, is, if possible, more express still ; who, after mentioning several outward blessings, honestly adds,
Hæc satis est orare Jovem, quæ donat et aufert:
Life, wealth; but virtuous I myself will make.
But what are the works of the devil," here mentioned ? How was “the Son of God manifested,” to destroy them? And how, in what manner, and by what steps, does he actually "destroy" them? These three very important points we may consider in their order.
1. And first, What these works of the devil are, we learn from the words preceding and following the text: “We know that he was maniSested to take away our sins,'' verse 5. “Whosoever abideth in him,
sinneth not: whosoever sinneth, seeth him not, neither knoweth him, verse 6. “ He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil,” verse 8. “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin," verse 9. From the whole of this it appears, that“ the works of the devil,” here spoken of, are sin, and the fruits of sin.
2. But since the wisdom of God has now dissipated the clouds which so long covered the earth, and put an end to the childish conjectures of men concerning these things, it may be of use to take a more distinct view of these “ works of the devil,” so far as the oracles of God instruct us. It is true, the design of the Holy Spirit was to assist our faith, not gratify our curiosity; and therefore the account he has given, in the first chapters of Genesis, is exceeding short. Nevertheless, it is so clear, that we may learn therefrom whatsoever it concerns us to know.
3. To take the matter from the beginning :." The Lord God [literally, Jehovah, the Gods; that is, One and Three) created man in his own image;"—in his own natural image, as to his better part; that is, a spirit, as God is a spirit; endued with understanding; which, if not the essence, seems to be the most essential property of a spirit. And probably the human spirit, like the angelical, then discerned truth by intuition. , Hence he named every creature, as soon as he saw it, according to its inmost nature. Yet his knowledge was limited, as he was a creature: ignorance, therefore, was inseparable from him ; but error was not; it does not appear that he was mistaken in any thing. But he was capable of mistaking, of being deceived, although not necessitated to it.
4. He was endued also with a will, with various affections ; (which are only the will exerting itself various ways ;) that he might love, desire, and delight in that which is good : otherwise his understanding had been to no purpose. He was likewise endued with liberty; a power of choosing what was good, and refusing what was not so. Without this, both the will and the understanding would have been utterly useless. Indeed, without liberty, man had been so far from being a free agent, that he could have been no agent at all. For every unfree being is purely passive; not active in any degree. Have you a sword in your hand ? Does a man, stronger than you, seize your hand, and force you to wound a third person? In this you are no agent, any more than the sword: the hand is as passive as the steel. So in every possible case. He that is not free, is not an agent, but a patient.
5. It seems, therefore, that every spirit in the universe, as such, is endued with understanding, and, in consequence, with a will, and with a measure of liberty; and that these three are inseparably united in every intelligent nature. And observe: liberty necessitated, or overruled, is really no liberty at all. It is a contradiction in terms. It is the same as unfree freedom ; that is, downright nonsense.
6. It may be farther observed, (and it is an important observation,) that where there is no liberty, there can be no moral good or evil; no virtue or vice. The fire warms us; yet it is not capable of virtue : it burns us ; yet this is no vice. There is no virtue, but where an intelligent being knows, loves, and chooses what is good ; nor is there any vice, but where such a being knows, loves, and chooses what is evil.
7. And God created man, not only in his natural, but likewise in his own moral image. He created him not only “in knowledge,” but also in righteousness and true holiness. As his understanding was without blemish, perfect in its kind; so were all his affections. They were all set right, and duly exercised on their proper objects. And as a free agent, he steadily chose whatever was good, according to the direction of his understanding. In so doing, he was unspeakably happy; dwelling in God, and God in him ; having an uninterrupted fellowship with the Father and the Son, through the eternal Spirit, and the continual testimony of his conscience, that all his ways were good and acceptable to God.
8. Yet his liberty (as was observed before) necessarily included a power of choosing or refusing either good or evil. Indeed it has been doubted, whether man could then choose evil, knowing it to be such. But it cannot be doubted, he might mistake evil for good. He was not infallible; therefore, not impeccable. And this unravels the whole difficulty of the grand question, “Unde malum ?” “How came evil into the world ?" It came from “ Lucifer, son of the morning.” It was the work of the devil. “For the devil," saith the apostle, “ sinneth from the beginning;” that is, was the first sinner in the universe, the author of sin, the first being who, by the abuse of his liberty, introduced evil into the creation. He,
"Of the first,
If not the first archangel," was self-tempted to think too highly of himself. He freely yielded to the temptation; and gave way, first to pride, then to self will. He said, “I will sit upon the sides of the north : I will be like the Most High.' He did not fall alone, but soon drew after him a third part of the stars of heaven ; in consequence of which they lost their glory and happiness, and were driven from their former habitation.
9. “Having great wrath," and perhaps envy at the happiness of the creatures whom God had newly created, it is not strange that he should desire and endeavour to deprive them of it. In order to this, he concealed himself in the serpent, who was the most subtle, or intelligent, of all the brute creatures; and, on that account, the least liable to raise suspicion. Indeed some have (not improbably) supposed, that the serpent was then endued with reason and speech. Had not Eve known he was so, would she have admitted any parley with him ? Would she not have been frightened rather than deceived ? (as the apostle observes she was.). To deceive her, Satan mingled truth with falsehood ;“ Hath God said, Ye may not eat of every tree of the garden ?”'-and soon after persuaded her to disbelieve God, to suppose his threatening should not be fulfilled. She then lay open to the whole temptation : to “the desire of the flesh;" for the tree was “good for food :” to “ the desire of the eyes ;" for it was pleasant to the eyes :" and to “ the pride of life;" for it was “to be desired to make one wise," and consequently honoured. So unbelief begot pride. She thought herself wiser than God; capable of finding a better way to happiness than God had taught her. It begot self will : she was determined to do her own will, not the will of Him that made her. It begot foolish desires; and completed all by outward sin: “She took of the fruit, and did eat."