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its practical injunctions; but that, the vilest of sinners may find "acceptance in the Beloved," and that "all who put their trust in him may be quiet from the fear of evil”—The declaration of God himself is, "There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus"-]
2. They, on the contrary, who have despised the offers of mercy, will perish
["Whatsoever men sow, that shall they also reap:" and though God's vengeance may be long delayed, yet it shall come at last-There was no appearance of a deluge when Noah warned the old world; nor were the fire and brimstone visible, when Lot intreated his sons in law to escape with him from Sodom; yet the predictions relative to these events were exactly fulfilled; he who built the ark, and he who fled from the devoted city, were preserved; while they who took not warning, were destroyed-So also shall it be in the last day: "the unbelief of men shall not make the faith of God of none effect"—"Their covenant with death shall be disannulled, and their agreement with hell made void: when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, they shall be beaten down by it" Nor shall the excuses, which they now urge with so much confidence, avail them-It is probable that many of the Egyptians might expose themselves to danger in consequence of urgent business, or from what they judged, a necessary obedience to the commands of their masters; but they perished notwithstanding-So shall that word be verified in spite of all excuses, "Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroved; but he that feareth the commandment, shall be rewarded"—] ADDRESS
1. Those that disregard the word of the Lord
[There are, alas! too many who "stumble at the word, being disobedient:" their language is, "As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee:"-If they do not openly deny the scriptures, they shew by their conduct that they consider its doctrines as fanatical, its precepts as harsh, its promises as illusory, and its threatenings as vain-But, while "they thus reject the word of the Lord, what wisdan is in them?"-Doubtless if they who were in the midst of the storm saw any of their neighbours housed, they would cast a wishful look at them: and will not their lot be envied in the last day, who shall have taken refuge in Christ, and found protection from the wrath of God?-Let then the remembrance of them operate powerfully on our hearts-Let us "search the scriptures, and make
Isaiah xxviii. 18. d Prov. xiii. 13. e Jer. xliv. 16.
them our meditation day and night"-Let us take them “as a light to our feet and a lantern to our paths"-Let us 66 treasure them up in our hearts," and labour to follow the directions which they give us-Let us "receive the word with meekness, "not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God"-Let us beg of God that it may be "quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to our inmost souls, and discovering to us the very thoughts and intents of our hearts"-So will God look upon us with favourable acceptance, and acknowledge us as "his in the day that he shall make up his jewels"]
2. Those who fear the word of the Lord
[Some there are we trust, who having once, like good Josiah, wept on account of the denunciations of God's wrath, now find his word sweeter to them "than honey and the honey-comb," and, like Job, "esteem it more than their necessary food"-There is not a threatening in it which they dare to despise, or a promise which they do not desire to enjoy, or a precept which they do not labour to obey. They desire nothing so much as to be "cast into the mould of the gospel," and to be "sanctified by means of it in body, soul, and spirit" Happy then are ye; for if ye" tremble at the word" of God, ye have no reason to tremble at any thing else-Ye may look at death with complacency, and at hell itself without terror, since ye are screened under the shadow of your Redeemer's wings-Envy not then the liberty, and the thoughtlessness of sinners, neither let their revilings deter you from your purpose
The time is quickly coming when your God will appear to their shame and to your joy-Then the wisdom of your conduct will be seen in its true colours: and you shall understand the full import of that question, "Doth not my word do good to him that walketh uprightly""_]
g Isaiah lxv. 2. Mal. iii. 16. i Isaiah Ixv. 5.
k Mic. ii. 7.
CCCLII. THE SINFULNESS OF CONFOUNDING
Isaiah v. 20. Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.
THAT man in his present state is a corrupt and sinful creature, is too plain to be denied: the whole tenor of his conduct proves it beyond a doubt. But the generality give themselves credit for meaning well at the very
time that they are doing ill. In this, however, they are mistaken. There is in all a far greater consciousness of the evil of their conduct than they are willing to allow. But they wish to quiet their own minds, and to approve themselves to the world: and therefore they change the names of things, "calling good, evil, and evil good, putting darkness for light, and light for darkness, bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter." By these means they succeed in allaying their own fears, and in commending themselves to each other; but their guilt before God is increased: for our Lord says, "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil." There is in their hearts a rooted aversion to what is good, and a consequent determination to decry it: there is also an inveterate love of evil, and a consequent desire to justify it. Hence arises that conduct which is so justly reprobated in the text; the prevalence and evil of which we shall proceed to lay before you.
I. We will endeavour to point out the prevalence of this conduct.
The more we examine the principles and actions of men, the more shall we find that this system obtains among them both in theory and practice..
Inspect their views of religion; and it will appear that they consider it as a superficial thing, consisting in a bare assent to certain notions, and a formal observance of cer tain rites. If they have been baptized in their infancy: if they have some general views of Christianity together with a persuasion of its divine authority; if they attend regularly on public worship, and occasionally communicate at the Lord's supper; and finally, if they are not guilty of any gross and scandalous violations of their duty, they think they have all the religion that they need.
But they substitute the shadow for the substance. Religion is widely different from this: it is a conversion of the soul to God: it is a resurrection from the dead: it is a new creation. Religion as it exists in the soul, is a heaven-born principle, that pervades all its powers, and operates in all its faculties. It is to the soul what the soul is to the body. It limits, our passions, corrects cur .VOL. IV. F
appetites purifies our affections. It enters into all our motives, and subjects every thing to itself. It will endure no rival: it will make a truce with no enemy: it will reign absolute over the whole man. Its avowed object is to bring man to God as a redeemed sinner, and to restore him to a meetness for that inheritance which he has forfeited by his transgressions: in order to accomplish this, it casts down every high and towering imagination, brings its votary to the foot of the cross, constrains him to walk in. the steps of his divine Master, and progressively transforms him into the image of his God.
Compare this with the slight and worthless thing which men in general call religion, and it will appear that they use the term without any just apprehension of its true import.
Again; as religion is esteemed a superficial thing, so it is also deemed a melancholy thing. When true religion is described, the generality of men are ready to exclaim against it as incompatible with social happiness. "If we must repent of our past sins, and enter on a course of mortification and self-denial; if we must renounce the pleasures of sin, and the society of the ungodly; if we must converse familiarly with death and judgment, and spend our lives in preparation for eternity; what remains for us in this world but gloom and melancholy?" So they think.
But is this the light in which the scriptures speak of religion? or are these notions justified by experience? We allow the premises to be correct; but is the conclusion just? Suppose for a moment that the whole life of a person who appeared religious, were a scene of melancholy: must that melancholy be imputed to religion? 'Must it not rather be imputed to his former wickedness, and to his present want of more religion? If pain arise to the body during the cure of an inveterate disorder, is that pain to be imputed to the medicine, or the disease? to the disease, no doubt: to that therefore must be ascribed all the pain of sorrow and contrition, even supposing it to be ever so great, and ever so long continued. As for religion itself, we need only ascertain what it is, and we shall immediately see the absurdity of calling it a source of misery. What! is it melancholy to walk with God, to
enjoy God, to glorify God? Was our Lord melanchol Were his apostles melancholy? Are the angels in heaven. melancholy? Then shall we be melancholy in proportion as we resemble them. But if "the ways of religion be ways of pleasantness and peace," and they who believe in Christ be privileged to rejoice with joy unspeakable and glorified," then are they perverse who deem religion melancholy," they call evil good, and good evil, they put darkness for light, and light for darkness, they put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter."
To complete their perverseness, men go farther still, and actually represent religion as contemptible. What is there under the sun more despised than this? With what opprobrium has it not been stigmatized? We appeal to all, whether terms of reproach are not universally assigned to religious characters, and whether the name given them do not universally convey the idea of a weak, contemptible enthusiast? Is not their very profession considered as a just bar to their preferment? Yea, are they not so odious in the eyes of the world, that none but those infected with their mania will venture to associate with them, or to acknowledge them as their friends? The drunkard, the whoremonger, the sabbath-breaker, the infidel, shall find a more favourable reception than they; and solely on account of their religion.
But does religion deserve this character? What is there in it that is so contemptible? What is there in it that to an impartial judge would not appear lovely, great, and venerable? Is the subjugation of the passions a contemptible attainment? Is a superiority to all the pleasures of sense, and the interests of the world, a worthless acquisition? Is there any thing mean in love to God, and benevolence to man? Is the aspiring after heaven a low and pitiful ambition? Viewing at a distance the conduct of the apostles, we call it magnanimity: but when we see it exhibited before our eyes, we call it preciseness, enthusiasm, hypocrisy. Ah! when will men "cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord," and to brand that with infamy, which he prescribes and approves?