« הקודםהמשך »
say, so far
He has reconciled God to you : have you any reason to be offended ? He has procured your pardon : has he injured you by so doing ? If not, what is it any man has to complain of ? It is true you will
have no reason to complain : you are willing to be pardoned; but you cannot see that the death of Christ was a proper means to reconcile God to sinners. But do you consider who you are when you make this objection? You are the sinner, the person to be pardoned : does it belong to you, or to your offended Master, to judge what are the proper means of reconciliation ? If to him only, (and surely that is the case,) why do you debate a point in which you have no interest or concern, farther than to accept the blessing, on whatever motives it was granted ? God has assured you of his pardon, and given his word, confirmed by signs and wonders, and by raising him to life who died for you.
believe him, you may rest secure that he has not made use of improper means to effect his gracious purposes to
If the wisdom of God has ordained means for the salvation of man, of which we cannot fully comprehend the reason, I know but one just consequence that can be deduced from it; that the counsels of God are too deep to be fathomed by the short line of human reason; and surely this can be no news, no surprise to a considering man, who sees every day the same truth confirmed in an hundred instances. That you live and have a being in this world, is out of doubt: but tell me how; show the spring of life, the principle of motion and activity within you: and when you do, I may venture to undertake to explain to you the means by which you shall be brought to life hereafter. But let us leave all these curious inquiries, and be content that God should be wiser than man; especially considering, that though he has concealed from us the secrets of his wisdom, yet he has fully exposed to our view his love to mankind : his mercy shines out in the fullest lustre in every page of the gospel, and there is no cloud to obscure it.
The advantages procured for us, and the discoveries made to us by the gospel of Christ, do so correspond to the sentiments of nature within us, that it is wonderful to find the pretensions of nature set in opposition to the Christian revelation. The moral duties of the gospel are but the dictates of reason and nature carried into their just conclusions: the promises of the gospel contain the very hopes of nature confirmed and made sure to us. If the gospel has promised pardon to sinners, it is but what Nature teaches all her children to seek for: and if Nature teaches you to hope for mercy, is your case become the worse because God, through Christ, has promised it ? Natural conscience tells us we are accountable to him who made us : is it not the same declaration made in the gospel, - That God hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world ?' Is not Nature ever looking out, and with unutterable groans panting after life for evermore ? Has she any reason then to fly from him who hath brought life and immortality to light through his gospel ?
Go then and learn of Nature to value these great gifts : attend to her silent voice within you : it will speak in the language of the Apostle, and tell you, . This saying is worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.'
SUMMARY OF DISCOURSE LIII.
I THESSALONIANS, CHAP. I.–VERSES 9. 10.
In the verse before the text, the Apostle tells the Thessalonians that not only the word of the Lord had sounded out from them in Macedonia and Achaia, but their faith towards God was spread abroad in every place; so that there is no need, says he, to speak of the doctrines delivered by me, and received by you : the thing is well known, for they themselves show of us, &c. Hence it is evident what notion was entertained by the world of the Christian religion and its principal doctrines. The Apostle's business was well known to be, to turn men from idols to serve the living God, to give evidence of Christ's resurrection, and to raise certain expectations of his coming again with power and glory to judge the world : this common report was so just an account of the Apostle's doctrine, that there was no room left to enlarge or correct it : in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad ; so that we need not to speak any thing. Considering then this early account of the Christian religion, we find it to consist of two principal parts; the first relating to the service owing to the living God; the second, to our faith in Christ, and to our hope and expectation grounded on that faith. Religion, under the first head, must be natural religion, or true uncorrupted Deism : this was the original religion of mankind, of which, through abuse and corruption, hardly any sign was left at our Saviour's coming. However rightly some few might think, yet they were obliged to follow the world : few attempted, none succeeded in a reformation of the public religion; nor is there an instance of any people who served God on the principles of natural religion : this reformation was effected only by the preaching of the gospel, which revived the true ancient religion of nature, and prepared men for its reception; and has, by the additional supports of revelation, maintained it for ages, and will probably maintain it to the end of all things. These additional supports make the second great branch of Christian doctrine : they are revived on the authority of revelation, and stand on the evidence of external proofs : that we ought to turn from idols, and serve God, &c. are truths which any reasonable being may feel; but that we have been delivered from wrath by the Son of God, who is appointed to be judge of the dead and of the living, &c.; these are articles which no man's reason can suggest, and which, when suggested, reason cannot receive on any internal evidence, but on authority founded on external testimony. This distinction, constantly attended to, will go far to show us the true temper, genius, and ends of Christianity. The gospel, considered in its precepts and morality, and with respect to its new doctrines or articles of belief, supports and encourages true religion. This might be shown in the several particulars of the gospel dispensation : confined here to those specified in the text. The sense of the expression, to wait for the Son of God from heaven, is completely expressed in Phil. iii. 17. 20. 21. The expectation of Christ coming to judge the world is peculiar to Christians, and is supported by the belief of the resurrection, that main point of faith which the Apostles were to teach and establish in the church of God; whence arose the qualification necessary for an Apostle, viz. the capability of bearing witness to the resurrection: (Acts i. 21. 22.) And St. Peter, in the next chapter, vindicating to the Jews the miraculous gift of tongues bestowed on the day of Pentecost, renders a similar account of the work and ministry of the Apostleship. Several other passages of a like tendency quoted : from which, taken together, it plainly appears how much the Christian religion, considered as a dis
tinct system from natural religion, depends on the belief of the resurrection of Christ. The Apostles were ordained to be witnesses of this article; and on this they founded their doctrine, whether they preached to the Jews or to the Gentiles. When St. Paul preached this same doctrine at Athens, he was thought to be an introducer of some new deities, (Acts xvii. 18.) This doctrine of a resurrection he afterwards fully expounded to them, together with its consequents, (30. 31.) This new article was introduced to be a new evidence of a future state of rewards and punishments, and to support the sinner's hopes of pardon through the promises of Christ. We see then its use : let us consider now whether we are beholden to the gospel, and how much, for this new evidence of a life to come; what is in it, or the doctrines grounded on it, that any sober Deist or professor of natural religion can justly blame. Natural religion pretends to support itself on the expectation of future rewards and punishments: it considers God as Governor and Judge of the world. Christianity stands on the same foundation, and admits for genuine all these hopes and fears of nature.
Thus far then they differ not : the question is, which brings the best proof, and most fitted to persuade the world of these great truths? This point enlarged on; showing that the one appeals to conscience, and that the other embraces all this evidence, together with the suggestions of reason, and the express testimony and assurance of God given to mankind. But what need of this new evidence ? If the arguments from natural religion were sufficient to support the belief and expectation of a future judgment, why call men from a dependence on their reason, to rely on the evidence of men for the truth of a fact in its nature hard to be believed ? one in which we might have doubted even our own senses, much more those of others ? Whoever, in answer to this difficulty, endeavors to weaken the natural arguments for a future state, is very ill employed : they are in themselves convincing; but they require more thought than the generality of men can be