« הקודםהמשך »
ity, Aow more naturally from the principles they reject. These leave ample room for love and fear, in the benevolence and justice of the Deity; for gratitude and affection to our Lord, in his descent from heaven for the redemption of all mankind; for the profoundest humiliation, in a sense of our personal sins; and for tenderness, sympathy and esteem for our brethren, in a persuasion of their frailties, sufferings, and amiable qualities. All these feelings may be indulged with enthusiasm, in the good sense of that word, without being shocked with cruel and unrelenting decrees, an unjust and tyrannical sacrifice, the ruin of human nature, and the eternal torments of mankind, without regard to principle or conduct. These spread a gloom over the character of our heavenly Father, and his beautiful and bountiful creation, which they represent as full of misery and disorder, and a dungeon of malignant spirits; over the fate of his passive and unoffending creatures; and over the minds of those who dwell on such horrid pictures. That any who take delight in studying, or even viewing, the objects of natural history and philosophy, can relish such representations of the creation, is a humiliating instance of the perversion of the understanding and taste. SERMON XIV.
ON RECONCILIATION THROUGH CHRIST.
2 COR. V.-18.
“ All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself
by Jesus Christ, and hath given unto us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now, then, are we ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead; be you reconciled unto God."
IT has always been a subject of deep regret to the friends of pure religion, that the doctrines of the Gospel have been so grossly perverted by the ignorance and uncharitableness of mankind. That any of its principles should be misrepresented must inspire its advocates with concern; and more especially, those tenets, which are calculated to impress the mind with the most elevated and amiable conceptions of the Supreme Being. Yet it has too often happened, that such points have
RECONCILIATION THROUGH CHRIST.
not only been misapprehended, but even perverted to purposes, diametrically opposite to those, which they were intended to serve; to encourage the neglect instead of the practice of moral duties, and to degrade instead of dignifying the Divine character, in the estimation of mankind. These errors are truly deplorable, even while they produce no other effect than diminishing the efficacy of revelation on the minds of its votaries: but they become yet more pernicious at periods, distinguished by the progress of infidelity. At a season, when even the most futile cavils against the evidence of Christianity, are by many attended to with partiality, it is a melancholy circumstance, that the internal testimony to its truth, which it derives from the purity and sublimity of its doctrines, should be counteracted by the perverseness of believers themselves. Ata-season, when men are little disposed to receive any opinions, which are not consonant to their daily experience, and the plainest principles of reason, we cannot but lament, that Scripture should be interpreted in a manner, contradictory to every principle of common sense and the light of nature. At such a period, it becomes every person to dispel those mists, which obscure the light of divine truth; to vindicate the morality of the Gospel, and to shew, that it gives views of religious subjects, which, though never discovered by human intellect, are nevertheless perfectly agreeable to
reason, when revealed. This I shall attempt to perform by giving a brief explanation of that important passage of Scripture, which I have read.
It is well known to be a favourite opinion with many of those Christians, who assume the title of orthodox, that in consequence of the original sin of Adam, and the corruption of his posterity, which was its involuntary and unavoidable consequence, the Father of mercies was so exasperated against mankind, that his wrath could be extinguished only by the blood of some Divine person, whose merits and sufferings might counterpoise the infinite accumulation of sins, which he was to expiate; that, therefore, a portion of his own essence descended to this earth, animated the body of the man Jesus, and atoned for the of. fences of mankind by sacrificing himself on the cross: and, that in consequence of this sin-offering, all the elect, persons pre-ordained for this purpose from eternity, are entitled, by virtue of the sufferings of Christ, to a place in the favour of the Almighty, independently of any thing done or believed on their part; while the rest of the world are left in that state of reprobation, to which they were consigned by the Divine decrees. There cannot surely be any doctrine better adapted than this, to undermine the foundations of moral obligation, to vilify the Divine character, to shock and disgust every unprejudiced mind, or to inspire an invincible prejudice against the religion, by which it is supposed to be taught. As this doctrine, however, has lately been the subject of a separate discourse, it is unnecessary to undertake a refutation of it at present. It will be more satisfactory and edifying to explain that amiable account of the same subject, plainly delivered in my text.
The Apostle, having announced the spiritual regeneration, which should be the consequence of the mission of Christ; having declared, that every disciple of Jesus must become a new creature; that “old things are passed away, and behold, all things are become new,” assures us, that the whole of this dispensation, and the appointment of this new order of things, were the gracious acts of God himself; "all things are of God.” He then explains the object and nature of the process, by which this change was to be effected. He does not represent the Almighty, as inspired with implacable resentment against his creatures for sins committed four thousand years before they were born; nor does he say, that our Father had from all eternity, doomed the great majority of his children to everlasting torments. Very different from this is the representation given by St. Paul.
Instead of the Creator's being estranged from his creatures, and requiring full satisfaction for every transgression, of which they had been guilty, he describes the world as estranged and alienated