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benevolent, the most merciful. He gave the best instructions concerning the attributes which compose the perfections of the Divine Being; not only of his infinite and unbounded goodness, but his impartiality in distributing rewards and punishments where they properly belonged. In teaching such principles as these, the He told Jews did not escape the rebukes of Christ. them plainly of their faults, and the consequences which would attend them. But this doctrine was unpopular ; it was not crying to them, "Peace, peace;" they must therefore endeavor to overthrow it, and maintain one which would justify themselves.
Some of the instances in which the Jews endeavored to tempt Christ, and thereby overthrow his doctrine of impartiality, will be briefly noticed. "Then went the Pharisees, and took council how they might entangle him in his talk. And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man; for thou regardest not the person of man. Tell us, therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cesar, or not ?”
It must be confessed that there is some art and ingenuity contrived in this question. In the first place, one of the greatest and best principles is attributed to Christ; truth, and a teacher of truth; and a noble degree of independence, "neither carest thou for any man." What a noble spirit this! He did not care for the applause of men. Is it not worthy to follow? For it is feared that there are some who do care for man, who are afraid to be on the side of truth, for fear of the force of opposition; afraid of being unpopular, afraid to stem the tide of frowns, rebukes and hard speeches of an unfeeling world. If this be the case with any, let such remember the example of Christ, even confessed here by his opposers.
The force of this question which the Pharisees here used, is seen by noticing the situation of the Jews; they were paying tribute to Cesar; and perhaps they were not so much dissatisfied with this bondage as they were with Christ. And no doubt they thought their question would be effectual in answering their purpose, as they probably had concluded, that this question would be answered, either in the affirmative or in the negative; and in either case, they would triumph. For if Jesus had answered them in the affirmative, they might accuse him as an enemy to their nation, friendly to their state of bondage. And, determined to find fault, if he had answered them in the negative, they might still accuse him as an opposer to the government of Cesar. But Jesus, who knew their hearts, did not fall into their snare; still he answers their question in the most perfect manner. "Then saith he unto them, Render therefore, unto Cesar the things which are Cesar's; and unto God the things which are God's."
The Sadducees next try their skill, by asking a question which they no doubt believed to be very powerful. Respecting the glorious doctrine of the resurrection they were unbelievers; and they thought to confound the doctrine, by comparing such a state with this. And certainly, if such a state was to be as imperfect as this, their question, to confound it, would be considered very good. What must we say then of the doctrines, which teach such great imperfections in a future state? Must we not say, that they are as effectual to confound a future state altogether, as the argument of the Sadducees? This question, which they placed so much confidence in, was, to know, in the resurrection, whose wife the woman should be, who had had seven husbands. This question in their minds afforded sufficient proof against the doctrine of the resurrection. And Christ had only to show
them the falsity of their reasoning, in order to detect the error, and entirely overthrow their system.
The question of the lawyer was not any more successful; altho one of the best, and most proper, that could be asked. "What shall I do to inherit eternal life ?" This is a question which has agitated the christian world for a long time. It has been a perplexing subject to inquiring minds; a theme of controversy to every denomination. It is certainly a very important subject, but if we go to the world for the solution of the question, the answers will be as varied as the different classes of christians. One respectable class will tell us, that eternal life is a blessing to be conferred upon a certain elect number, who were chosen from the foundation of the world, without any works of their own, either good or bad. Another will tell us, that eternal life is a blessing freely offered to all mankind, and if any miss of the blessing, it will be their own fault. Others will be earnestly engaged to point out the best way to obtain the blessing. Every one will contend for their own denomination, for their own church, and for their own faith; such and such tenets of doctrines, creeds and articles of faith to sign. How perplexing is this labyrinth of inextricable difficulty! Certainly if the world was as much divided in opinion in the days of Christ, as it is now, what question could the lawyer ask, that would be more likely to perplex, than the one which he did ask? What question would be more likely to draw from him the approbation of some, and the disapprobation of others? But Jesus compels the lawyer to answer his own question, by asking him one; "What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neigh
bor as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right; this do, and thou shalt live."
As much has been said in the world about eternal life, and the best way to obtain it, the way is here made plain. It is not for Christians to differ among themselves about creeds and articles of faith: it is not to dispute about which shall be greatest in the kingdom of heaven; but it is, Love to God and love to neighbors. The subject now before us will be considered in the following order,
I. Love to God,
II. Love to mankind.
It will be recollected, that the fulfilling of this command written in the law, is the way to obtain the blessing, eternal life; for love is the fulfilling of the law; and Jesus did not come to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfil them. And as "God is love," this law commands obedience in order to transform the subject into the image of God. This is the great contention among Christians,-Is eternal life the reward of works, or is it not? Is it bestowed upon man in consequence of some merit, or is it an unmerited gift? Partial salvation may say, it is an unmerited gift without doubt, but bestowed upon the creature in consequence of good works. This is allowing all the partiality, that partialists have ever desired; for after all that can be said upon this plan of salvation, it is the reward of works at last, and gives man the liberty to boast. This does not agree with the Apostle's writings, "For by grace ye are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast."
If eternal salvation was the reward of works, it would be allowing the creature more merit than the scriptures allow. But as man cannot obtain an eternal blessing by his works, neither has he power to lose such a blessing.
This is a very important statement; it involves the sum and substance of all contention among Christians. Many have for ages past contended that man has the power to destroy himself forever, by neglecting to improve the blessings in time. No man will dispute about the importance of improving the blessings in time, to a limited degree. No man feels more sensible of this truth, than the speaker; but still he cannot think, that the All-wise Creator, the Father of our race, should place such an amazing blessing, as eternal life, into the hands of his dependent children, so liable by them to be squandered away, without knowing or realizing its worth. Such conduct would not be justifiable in the character of an earthly parent; but it is very easy to see how far such a parent might act agreeable to such a character towards such a child. For instance, the parent might permit the child to run into some temporary evil, for the child's future good; it might be permitted to burn its finger in the blaze of a candle, so that in future, it might learn to avoid the danger of fire. But if the parent should suffer the child to run into the fire and thereby lose its life, would the parent act consistently with such a character? It is reasonable to conclude, that the Divine Being has not given to man any more power than he knew would be for his good. But this would not be for his good, if he had the power to destroy himself forever.
The prodigal son returned to his father's house, when he had become sensible of his situation; but if his father had no more favors to bestow upon his son, it would have been useless for the son to have returned. He might as well starve to death in a strange land, as to return home and starve to death in his father's house; but the father was more wise and more merciful than this. He gave his son enough for him to learn wisdom