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SERMON XXV.

ÈVIL OF STRIVING AGAINST GOD.

ISATAH, XLV: 9.

« Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!"

Our religious opposers often accuse us of selecting those passages which speak of the divine goodness, of the extensiveness of salvation, and of its ultimate success in bringing all men to the enjoyment of holiness and happiness ; while with equal caution we avoid speaking of such portions of the divine testimony as contain expressions of wrath against the wicked, of the woes which await transgressors, and the final condemnation of the impenitent. For doing thus we are not only blamed, but solemnly admonished.

Although it is natural for the accused to endeavour to justify themselves, we are not entirely confident that no degree of blame attaches to our manner of preaching, relative to the subject of the before-mentioned accusation. It is not very unlikely that we are in default, in not enforcing the divine threatenings, so much as their truly awful importance demands. Yet, if our accusers will be candid, we think our wrong is, at least, partly extenuated by a fault of their own, which has been the cause of it. We certainly have never evaded the enforcement of the divine threatenings, with more caution, than they have observed in neglecting the gracious and precious promises of God's favour to sinners of our race. It is, moreover, a fact, which merits attention, that

their long established habit, of selecting every threatening, which they could find in the scriptures, and every passage, which they could explain into a threatening, as a foundation on which they have raised that tremendous edifice, which they call damnation, was long since the approximate cause that induced us to search the scriptures, that we might ascertain whether they did not contain something more honourable to our Creator, and more consoling to man, than had been usually held forth to the people. Compelled as we were by such means to search for the great and precious promises of divine favour, who can wonder that their multiplicity and abundant riches should absorb our minds, and prompt us to bestow that labour in setting them forth to the people, which had been carefully and studiously withheld, by those whose labours had so long been devoted to explain and enforce scripture threatenings infinitely beyond not only the utmost reach of their own proper meaning, but even beyond the reach of the divine goodness ?

Hoping that the foregoing remarks will be accepted as some apology for our not sufficiently attending to the woes and threatenings recorded in the faithful word, we shall proceed, faithfully to portray the woe pronounced in our text, and to cause its desired influence to be exerted in a salutary and profitable manner. But before we can advance to a correct and clear view of the nature and extent of this woe, we must attempt a survey of the goodness of God towards his creatures, which is the first general subject, that our text suggests to the observing mind.

If the question be asked, how our text brings this momentous subject into view ? we answer : If the designs and economy of our Creator were inimical to us, if they were not directed for our benefit, the only way by which we could serve our own interest, and promote our happiness, would be to oppose our Creator's designs and means.

This subject may be illustrated by the following suppositions. The parent of a family of children, having no regard for the welfare of his offspring, arranges his whole economy in respect to them, in such a manner as to deprive them of all enjoyment, and to subject them to the most severe slavery and even sufferings, for the purpose of indulging himself in voluptuousness. In such a case, should those unhappy children fully acquiesce in the designs and schemes of their cruel parent, they would thereby promote their own wretchedness, and give success to the means which were employed to render them miserable. Under such circumstances, the only way by which they could be beneficial to themselves, would conflict with the unmerciful purposes of their heartless father. And if they

And if they could succeed in circumventing his schemes, they might thereby subserve their own interest ; and in place of bringing on them a woe, might avert it.

But let us reverse our supposition. A kind and loving father, having no designs, respecting his children, but such as embrace their best interests and happiness, imposes no duties, no services, no restraints but such as he knows are indispensable for the purpose of promoting their felicity, and of rendering them as blest as possible. In this case, should any or all of these children be so blind as not to understand that their happiness was the end of their father's law, and the sure result of obedience to his requirements; should they erroneously believe, that disobedience would procure their enjoyment; and, in consequence of this mistake, should proceed to strive with their kind and provident father, how evident it is that this strife would bring them woe!

By the light reflected from the foregoing suppositions 'we clearly discern the goodness of our Creator set forth in our text. And it appears to be evident, that in order to have a full and correct view of the woe, which striving with our Maker

brings upon us, we must, at the same time, have a clear and open view of the divine goodness, against which our strife has been preposterously directed.

By referring to the divine requirements, we not only confirm what we have already advanced, but we bring our leading and major subject more clearly into view. “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” . Let us carefully inquire what the command to love God with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the mind implies, respecting the divine goodness? 1st. It implies that there is no quality or attribute in God that is not lovely in its nature. For it would be unreasonable to require us to love that which is not lovely, 2d. It implies that, in relation to us, God is as good, in all respects, as we could possibly desire him to be, on a full discovery of his character. For if by a true knowledge of the divine attributes it should appear that anything is wanting in our Creator, which could in the least advance our rational enjoyments, it would be impossible for us to love him to the extent of the requirement. Il we should discover any want of wisdom to contrive and plan for our best good, or any want of will to do so, or any want of power to carry into effect such a will, there would exist in us a corresponding defect of the love required. And it would be equally as impossible for us to supply such defect in our love, as it would be unreasonable and arbitrary to require us to do it. 3d. The requirement, under consideration, implies that our Creator loves us with all his heart and mind. For he could not, with the least propriety, require us to love him without any reservation, if a reservation existed in his love toward us. Nothing but

love can require love, nor can it ask for more than it gives. Any one may test the soundness of this reasoning by the exercises of his own affections. If you dislike your neighbour, and harbour enmity in your heart against him, you have no desire that the neighbour you hate should love you, and seek to do you good. Should he do so, and succeed in convincing you of the fact, you would find all your inimical designs frustrated, your enmity removed, and your hard heart dissolved into contrition.

By again recurring to the divine commands, we shall be further confirmed in our arguments, in favour of the fulness of our Maker's goodness. If what our Creator required of us were irksome to perform; if it gave us distress and pain to yield obedience ; if the yoke were ponderous, and the burden heavy, we might rightly infer, that our happiness was not the design of the requirement. But we find, on the most careful examination, that if the Creator had no other end to accomplish than to raise our felicity to the highest possible point, no means would be better suited to such a purpose than obedience to the two commandments, on which hang all the law and the prophets.

If we keep the goodness of our Creator in constant view, as that goodness is manifested in his requirements, we shall at once understand what it is which constitutes a strife with our Maker: and likewise the nature and extent of the woe which such strife is likely to bring upon us.

To strive with our Maker is to strive against goodness itself; it is to strive against our own happiness ; it is to hate that which is infinitely lovely; it is to oppose the means which are designed to make us blest. In short, it is to hate God and our fellow creatures. As our highest happiness consists in loving God with all our hearts, and our neighbours as ourselves; so our happiness must always correspond with our short coming of this duty; and the severity of the woe,

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