« הקודםהמשך »
greater impartiality, let us at present en- healeth all thy diseases, who hath redeem. deavor to forget, if possible, our personal ed thy life from destruction, and crowned concern in the question ; and having sup- thee with loving kindness, and with tenposed that we had received information der mercies." « Return unto thy rest, O of other creatures in a state of apostasy my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifrom God, who were favored with a reve- fully with thee." lation of the same important truths which
But here likewise I must ask, Do you we have found to be contained in the gos- not think that this joy of theirs would be pel of Christ, let each of us inquire at his of a nature so pure and delicate, as to dis. own heart, what effects the firm belief of dain any alliance with carnal mirth and these truths might be expected to produce levity ? Would it not be that kind of joy in their temper and practice ?
which a condemned criminal
supWould we not conclude, without hesita- posed to feel upon receiving the gracious tion, that a discovery of the awful forfeit- pardon of his sovereign ; who, while he ure they had incurred would afflict their tastes all the sweetness of his prince's clesouls in the most sensible manner; and mency, and exults in the assurance of preso possess them with grief, and shame, and sent safety, yet cannot help shuddering the fearful apprehensions of deserved pun- when he looks back to the dungeon where ishment, that all the enjoyments of a he lay imprisoned, and recollects the danshort precarious life would lose their re- ger he hath happily escaped ? lish, till they certainly knew that there Surely all who have obtained mercy will was a possibility at least of obtaining the perceive and acknowledge the propriety of pardon of their sins, and of regaining the that advice, “Serve the Lord with fear, friendship of their offended Sovereign ? and rejoice with trembling." None indeed Would it not occur to us as a probable, have such rational grounds of joy; and or rather a necessary consequence, of this they give an unfair representation of the inward distress, that, upon hearing the re- privileges that belong to the sons of God, motest intimation of a scheme for their who walk in heaviness, and wear a dejectrecovery, they would anxiously inquire ed, melancholy aspect. But still the cheerinto the foundation of such report; and fulness of those who have passed from when they discovered the truth of it, that death to life, will, and ought to have an they would welcome the offered mercy air of composure and solemnity, that will with humble gratitude, and throw them- easily distinguish it from the loose, inselves at the feet of that generous friend temperate mirth of the sensualist, which who had interposed for their relief; re- springs from no higher source than the signing themselves, without reserve, to his gratification of those appetites he hath in disposal and government, in that very common with the beasts that perish, or the manner which is described and enjoined increase of his corn, and wine, and oil. by the gospel of Christ?
Besides, the prospect of a future judgAgain, let me ask, What do you think ment, which I mentioned as one of the would be the natural effects of pardon ob- great objects of belief, could not fail to tained, and peace restored to their trou- overawe their minds, and to keep them in bled minds, upon that cordial acceptance a sober and serious frame, rendering them of the remedy provided for them which I no less attentive to their thoughts than to have just now supposed ? Could any of their words and actions; and constantly us doubt that their hearts would be filled disposing them to "walk circumspectly, with the sincerest joy, and that out of the not as fools, but as wise;" to shun the abundance of their hearts their lips would doubtful as well as the forbidden ground, show forth the praises of their Deliverer,“ abstaining even from the appearance of and utter the voice of gratitude and love evil.” While, at the same time, the aniin such language as this : “Bless the mating hope of a glorious immortality Lord, O my soul, and all that is within would render them cool and indifferent me bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, to all the enjoyments of a present world; O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, support them under every thing that is who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who painful and afflicting; and powerfully incite them to run with patience the race set with reverence, love, and joy ? especially before them, till in due time they should if one great end of its institution was to obtain the end of their faith, even the confirm their faith of the divine friend. complete and everlasting salvation of their ship, by putting into their hands an ausouls.
thentic seal of that well-ordered covenant, Such, we might well conclude, would which conveys to every sincere believer be the influence of Christian faith upon an irrevocable title to all the unsearchable the habitual frame and temper of their riches of Christ? This appears so becomhearts
ing, and withal so conducive to their perBut as my text speaks of a conversation sonal comfort and interest, that one should becoming the gospel of Christ, let us in- think a bare permission to attend upon quire more particularly into those visible such an ordinance might suffice, and that effects which the truths I formerly men- there scarcely needed the authority of a tioned might naturally be supposed to dying command to enforce the observaproduce in the conduct of those who sin- tion of it. cerely believed them; first, with respect Once more; might it not be hoped, to God; and, secondly, with regard to that creatures who believed and confessed their fellow-men.
that they were redeemed from death by First, with respect to God. We should an act of pure grace, would judge it their hardly be able to doubt, that creatures indispensable duty to live unto him by redeemed from misery, dignified with such whose mercy it was that they lived at honors, and enriched with such privileges, all ? that they would feel in their hearts, would be fond of expressing their grati- and practically acknowledge the constraintude in the most public and significant ing force of such exhortations as these : manner, and embrace every opportunity “ Ye are not your own, ye are bought with of celebrating the praises of their great a price; therefore glorify your Redeemer Deliverer. We should certainly take it in your bodies and in your spirits which for granted, that if any day was set apart are his :" “ Ye were some time darkness, for his more immediate worship and ser- but now are ye light in the Lord; walk as vice, they would long for the return of children of the light : " and, "If ye call that precious season, and “wait for it on the Father, who, without respect of more than they that watch for the morn- persons, judgeth according to every man's ing.” We should not be able to suppose, work, pass the time of your sojourning that they would reckon it a burdensome here in fear; forasmuch as ye know that institution, and say, “What a weariness ye were not redeemed with corruptible
? “when will the Sabbath be things, as silver and gold, but with the over?" far less that they would waste precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb it in idleness, profane it by gaming, in- without blemish and without spot ? :) temperance, and lewdness; or even de- Would you think it creditable, or even base it by those employments which are possible, that with such great and interlawful on other days. Such presumptu-esting objects in their eye, they could deous ingratitude would appear so shock- liberately and wilfully trample upon his ing, that we should not dare to suspect, authority, by breaking his laws; or arand least of all should we believe, without raign the wisdom and justice of his ocular proof, that creatures endued with government by fretting and murmuring reason would be guilty of it.
against any of his dispensations? Doth Again, if any ordinance was appointed it not seem far more likely, that they for the express purpose of commemorat- would habitually be disposed to say, ing redeeming love, and showing forth the "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? death of that compassionate Saviour, who“ that my ways were directed to keep
“wounded for their transgressions, thy statutes !" Or if at any time they and bruised for their sins, that by his should be exercised with trials and sufstripes they might be healed," could we ferings, that the language of their lips doubt, that they would regard it as a dis- and hearts would be, "Here am I, let tinguishing privilege, and attend upon it the Lord do unto me as seémeth good
unto him: " « The Lord gave, and the sented with the morning and evening Lord hath taken away, blessed be the sacrifices of humble adoration, of fervent name of the Lord ? '
prayer, and of thankful praise ? These conclusions appear so reasonable, How would they behave, do you think, and indeed so moderate, that, were it pos- to such of their brethren, if any such sible for us to forget that we ourselves there were, who neglected the great salare parties to the cause in question, Ivation, and still remained in their natural am verily persuaded this whole audience state of distance and alienation from God? would readily acquiesce in them without Would they regard them with supercilious one dissenting voice. Let us then pro- contempt, or treat them with harsh severceed to inquire, in the
ity ? would they lay aside all concern for Second place, What influence the faith their recovery, and leave them to perish of the gospel might be expected to have in their folly? or rather, would they upon the conduct of such creatures in not look upon them with an eye of the their social intercourse one with another ? tenderest pity; and, regarding them as
It might suffice to observe in general, criminals, who, though at present under that the supreme love to their God and Sa- an awful sentence of condemnation, may viour, which the true faith of his rich and nevertheless obtain mercy, even as they unmerited grace could not fail to inspire, themselves have obtained mercy? would would naturally, and even necessarily, they not take hold of every favorable oplead them to listen with becoming atten- portunity, nay, may we not conclude, that tion and reverence to all the intimations they would even seek out opportunities of his will, and habitually dispose them of awakening them to a sense of their guilt to perform, with alacrity and zeal, what and danger, that they might feel themduties soever he should be pleased to en-selves constrained to implore the protecjoin. Upon this obvious principle, then, tion of that good Shepherd who laid down nothing more would be needful for the il. his life for the sheep, and came from lustration of this head, than to collect heaven to earth to seek and to save that from the sacred records the several laws which was lost? concerning truth, justice, mercy, benefi- View them once more in their intercence, and any other precepts that re course with those who have obtained the garded them in their social state; as we same grace, and are become coheirs of the should not be able to entertain a doubt, same incorruptible inheritance. Would that, so far as the imperfection of their you not take it for granted, that they nature permitted, these would be the in- could not be long together, without talkvariable rules of their conduct. But asing of those matters that most nearly the laws of the gospel are afterwards to concerned them ? Surely none could susbe considered apart by themselves, I shall pect, that in a company of such persons, it at present confine our inquiry to the in. would ever be reckoned a breach of good fluence which a serious relief of the great manners to introduce any thing that redoctrines of Christianity might be sup- lated to their Father in heaven; to his posed to have upon those kinds of inter- house with many mansions, where they course which more immediately pertained all hoped to dwell; or to that precious to their common salvation. Say, then, Redeemer, who hath gone before to predoth it not appear highly probable, that pare a place for them. Might it not they who relished the joyful tidings, while rather be expected, that besides occathey made them the subject of their own sional converse upon subjects of so interdelightful meditation, would likewise take esting a nature, they would choose to set pleasure in imparting them to others, apart some portions of time for the sole especially to those with whom they were purpose of “comforting themselves tomost intimately connected ? that parents gether, and edifying one another,” accordin particular would rehearse and com- ing to the early practice of the Christians mend them to their children; and that at Thessalonica, which our apostle so in every family, the God of all grace, and highly commends, 1 Thess. v. 11. ? the Saviour of a lost world, would be pre- Thus have I given you my cool, deliberate sentiments upon the practical influence of the great doctrines of the gospel,
SERMON XXXI. and that kind of conversation towards God and man which is best suited to the be
THE CHRISTIAN'S CONVERSATION. lief of them. Should any indeed be so perverse as to resist the influence of these PHILIPPIANS I. 27.-"Only let your conversation doctrines, and counteract their native and be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.” most obvious tendency, while at the same time they acknowledged the evidence of We have already considered the most estheir truth, it would not at all surprise sential doctrines contained in the gospel of me, to see them crowding, from day to Christ, and the influence that the cordial day the public theatres, that the regularity belief of such interesting truths might be and decorum of a fictitious representation expected to have upon our temper and might draw their attention away from that practice. real and ill-conducted medley in which I am not sensible that any of the conthey themselves acted their disgraceful clusions I drew were strained, or even parts. I should not wonder to behold obscure. To me they appeared, and, after them flying with eagerness to cards and the most serious and impartial examinadice, and seeking aid from every engine tion, still do appear, so reasonable and of dissipation and noise, to conceal the obvious, and withal so moderate, that I lapse of time, and to bear down the cla- cannot think they are liable to any just mors of an accusing conscience. It objection. would not even surprise me to see them At the same time, as they present to rushing headlong into the haunts of riot and our view a state of things so widely differdebauch, that the intoxicating cup might ent from that which daily passeth before either stupefy or madden their reason; our eyes, I shall now proceed to consider which, if left to its sober exercise, would the Laws or precepts of our holy religion; anticipate the evil day, and torment them that, from the review of these, we may before the time. Such things as these I discover, with still greater certainty, what should expect to see; but for none of them the conversation is that may be said to could I find any place at all in the natu- become the gospel of Christ. ral and orderly state of reasonable crea- But before I descend to particulars tures, whose temper and conduct, as I upon this extensive subject, I must beg have all along supposed, were formed and your attention to a few remarks I have to regulated by the doctrines of the gospel. make upon the precepts or laws of the
How far my reasoning upon this branch gospel in general. of the subject hath been just will more With regard to their authority, there fully appear afterwards. It no doubt ex- can be no doubt. He who enacted hibits to our view a state of things widely them hath an unquestionable right to our different from what we at present behold; most perfect obedience : “In the beginwhich, I am aware, may furnish us all ning was the Word, and the Word was with matter of humbling and painful re- with God: and the Word was God: all flection. This, however, shall not dis- things were made by him, and without courage me from proceeding in my inquiry; him was not any thing made that was as I well know, that if,“ by the sadness made.” We are therefore his property in of the countenance the heart be made the most absolute and unlimited sense of better,” we shall in the issue be infinite that expression. He called us into being gainers, and obtain from him, whoʻis “the when as yet we were not, and every mocomforter of those that are cast down,"ment he sustains that existence which he “the oil of joy for mourning, and the gar- gave us; for “ in him we live and move.” ments of praise for the spirit of heavi. Nay, all that we possess is so necessarily
dependent upon him, that with regard to May God dispose and enable us all to soul, and body, and outward estate, we "judge righteous judgment." Amen. have nothing but what we daily receive
from his liberal hand. Besides this orig.
inal and unalienable right to govern us, and in every situation. They utter their there is another title, which, as Christians, voice with such precision and perspicuity, we profess to acknowledge, and ought al- that none can be at a loss to discover their ways to do it with the warmest and most meaning. They do not bend to the humors humble gratitude; I mean, the right he of men, nor accommodate themselves to hath obtained by redemption and pur- those flexible maxims and customs which chase. As his natural subjects, we are by turns prevail in this or the other age bound to serve him to the utmost extent and country; far less do they grow obsoof the powers he hath given us; and this lete, as human statutes do, which by long original obligation, instead of being relax- disuse lose their force, and become void : ed or impaired, is rather confirmed and like their great Master, what they were strengthened by the mercy he hath shown yesterday they are the same to-day: and us as the objects of his grace: “We are in every succeeding period their efficacy not our own, we are bought with a price; "will continue till time itself shall be no and are therefore bound, by the united ties more. And, therefore, when I repeat the of gratitude and justice, "to glorify our Re- words of this sacred book, you are to condeemer, both with our bodies and spirits, sider them as spoken to yourselves in parwhich are his."
ticular; and no less binding upon you in But what I would chiefly lead your at- their most simple and obvious meaning, tention to, is the nature and properties of than they formerly were upon those to those laws to which our subjection and whom they were primarily addressed. obedience are required.
One thing further I would recommend They are all holy, just, and good,” re- to your notice, viz., that the laws I am sulting from the very frame our Creator speaking of are the laws of Him “who hath given us, and from the relation we bear loved us, and gave himself for us, an ofto himself, and to other beings with whom fering and sacrifice to God of a sweethis Providence hath connected us. Hence smelling savor;" and therefore we may it follows, that they are equally incapable rest assured, that they are kind as well of repeal or abatement. The laws of men as righteous, and suited with perfct wisare local, temporary, changeable, and al- dom to be the means of promoting our ways partake of the imperfection of their truest interest. They are laws which he authors. Some of them are so obscure, himself hath magnified and made honorthat they need another law to explain able; not only by answering all their dethem; and it often happens that the com- mands, so far as his high character would mentary is darker than the text. The permit, or bis peculiar circumstances afbest of them take their aim from some forded occasion ; but likewise expiating temporal evil that is either presently felt, the guilt incurred by the transgression of or foreseen in its cause; and the highest them, and bearing in his own person the end they propose, is to restrain from in- punishment that was due to the offending juries of the grosser kind: they do not creature. even pretend to be a rule of moral con- This last consideration sets the obediduct; they prohibit and denounce ven- ence required of us in a most endearing geance against theft, robbery, murder, and point of light. It is not the servile task the like; but lay no restraint upon heart- of a hireling who labors for his wages, hatred, covetousness, and envy. They but the ingenuous and grateful service of a tell us in what instances injustice or cruel- loving child. Christ hath purchased the ty become excessive and intolerable ; but glorious inheritance; and to all who be. where do we find it written in any body of lieve on him, eternal life is the free gift of human laws, “Thou shalt love thy neigh- God through the merit of his blood : so bor as thyself ;” and, “ All things what. that nothing is required of them, but what soever ye would that men should do unto tends to purify and perfect their natures, you, do ye even so unto them?” Where that, by a growing resemblance to the Faas the laws of the gospel extend to the ther of their spirits in this state of disciheart as well as to the life, and speak to pline, they may be rendered meet for the all men without exception, at all times, full and everlasting enjoyment of him,