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course be deemed a more requisite qualification in the publick teachers of religion; and ignorant pretenders, and designing impostors, will be more easily discerned, and more effectually discountenanced. As the light of truth beams on mankind, superstition and enthusiasm will retire to their primeval darkness; and rational, substantial religion will stand forth confessed in all its divine beauties. The truth will bear the strictest inquiry. And though, in an inquisitive age, some novel opinions may be started and pursued for a while, yet truth will eventually be more extensively known, and more firmly believed.
The changes, which we have seen, probably will never answer all the purposes, which worldly wisdom has contemplated; but they will answer the greater and better purposes of divine wisdom. They have already contributed much, and doubtless will contribute more to the advancement of useful knowledge, liberality of sentiment, and the intercourse of nations: And as these are advanced, there will be more room for religion to have free course and be glorified.
We are apt to contemplate events on the partial scale of self interest. The Deity views them on the extended scale of benevolence. Our selfish expectations are usually disappointed. The purposes of divine goodness will be accomplished. If we regard events only in reference to our private inter. est, we shall never find them agreeable to our wishes. But if we believe that the divine government is good, and will extend to all nations and ages, looks forward to the most distant connexions of things, and moves the whole chain of events, then we may acquiesce in its dispensations, however unfavourable to our private views. Benevolence will rejoice in the belief of God's general goodness, when selfishness murmurs at the disappointment of its own grovelling designs.
Farther-The gospel, which is given to a particular people, is given them for the benefit of other nations-not merely for their own.
The Apostle observes, that the preaching and reception of it in Thessalonica, proved the means of its general diffusion; for from thence sounded out the word of God, through Macedonia and Achaia; yea, in every place the faith of the Thessalonians was spread abroad. He says to the Ephesians,
God, who is rich in mercy, hath quickened us together with Christ, that in the ages to come, he might shew forth the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness to us by Jesus Christ." "He hath made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to the good pleasure which he purposed in himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of times, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are in earth." To the Romans, he says, "The fall of the Jews," who rejected the Saviour, "was the riches of the Gentiles." The persecutions which the Apostles suffered from the Jews, drove them to other nations, and thus proved the occasion of the general spread of the gospel. "But, How much more their fullness ?" The final conversion of the Jews shall conduce to the ingathering of the fullness of the Gentiles. "As in time past the Gentiles have not believed God, but now have obtained mercy through the unbelief of the Jews," which has occasioned the diffusion of knowledge among them, "even so also have these not believed, that they, through God's mercy to the Gentiles, may finally obtain mercy." The gospel, which, through the infidelity of the Jews, is come to the Gentiles, will be preserved in the world, and one day be communicated from the Gentiles to the Jews. "Behold, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" But,
3. We may raise still higher in our contemplation of this wonderful connexion of God's works.
As favours to particular persons may be publick blessings; and national blessings may extend their influence to mankind in general; so God's mercies to the human race may operate to the benefit of other intelligences; as the sun beams, which enlighten the earth, are reflected back to the skies.
When God sent his Son from heaven to redeem us from guilt and ruin, it was not for our sakes only, but for his name's sake, that the glory of his wisdom, grace and holiness might be displayed throughout the whole intellectual world. The angels in heaven praise God for the wonders of his redeeming love to mankind. They give glory to him, that there is on earth peace, good will to men. They desire to look into this astonishing scheme, which, by the publication of the gospel is opened to their view, as well as ours. preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches Paul was sent to of Christ, not only to make men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which had been hidden from ages; but also to the intent, that now unto principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God. Angels now join with saints in the new song to him who was slain, and has redeemed us by his blood: And every intellectual and virtuous being, through the creation of God, ascribes, and will ascribe, riches and blessing, and glory and honour, to him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb forever and ever.
1. Our subject teaches us, that God's moral government is a scheme of most astonishing benevolence.
The calamities, which he sends among men, are designed to promote that virtue and righteousness, on which the happiness of rational beings depends. His mercies to particular persons terminate not with the immediate receivers; but in their operation, run on and spread around, beyond the reach of im agination. Yea, blessings bestowed on the human. race, contribute to the improvement and joy of an gels.
Under such a government, Who shall complain? In obedience to it, Who can but be happy? The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice, and the multitude of the isles be glad. This is the united voice. of the myriads which surround his throne; "Praise our God, all ye his servants; and ye who fear him. both small and great. Give praise, for the Lord God omnipotent reigns. Be glad and rejoice and give honour to him.
2. We learn that benevolence is an essential part of true religion. If the blessings which God be stows on us, are not for our sakes only, but for the sake of others, then we should apply them to the To the na benefit of others, as well as our own, ture and intention of God's government we no far ther conform, than we act with a regard to his name, in imitation of his goodness, and with a view to the. happiness of our fellow creatures, in conjunction with our own. All injustice, avarice, ambition, cruelty, fraud and selfishness, are contrary to the design of God's government, and to the nature of pure religion. The kingdom of God is righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost; and he who in these things serveth Christ, is accepted of God, and approved of men.
3. We learn farther, that under all the adversities of life, we have reason to confide in God's care, and submit to his will.
There is in the works of God, an extensive connexion, which we cannot comprehend, but which his wisdom perfectly understands. Events, which appear to us adverse, may, in their operation and design be blessings. Dispensations, which seem to be against us, may be intended for us. No good thing will God withhold from them, who walk uprightly. All things are working together for their good. To know God's will, and stand approved in his sight should be our only solicitude. Secure of his favour, we have nothing to fear. Let us trust in him and do good, and no evil will happen He careth for us; we may cast our cares him. He is a faithful Creator, unto him we may commit ourselves in well doing.
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4. We learn from our subject the folly and impiety of envy and discontent.
Do you envy the man who possesses a larger portion of earthly good, than youself? Remember, it is given him, not for his own sake, but for a more general purpose. If he has a larger portion, he has also a greater trust committed to him, and a more difficult part to act. There is more required of him, and he will have a greater account to render. Is this an enviable situation? You wish for his honour, or his wealth. Do you wish too for his obligations to discharge, his duties to perform, his accounts to settle, when he shall close his stewardship? No: But still you desire his worldly condition. You desire then to have riches and honours for your own sake-to have them without an obligation to do good with them, or render an account for them. What is this, but to desire the scheme of God's government were changed, or you were made independent of it? Do you wish that others were free from their obligations to mankind, or their accountableness to God?-If not, Why should you covet such a situation for yourself?-What ad