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isfying portion, and the only portion which can fully satisfy the soul, we ought to choose him as our portion, and in sincerity adopt the language of the Psalmist, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee. God is my portion forever." Ps. LXXIII. 25, 26. We ought to desire and to prize his favour above every thing else; for "in his favour is life," Ps. xxx. 5. And his "loving kindness is better than life," Ps. LXIII. 3. As he is almighty in power, we ought to fear him above all other beings, and be afraid of sin which provokes his wrath; and rather suffer any thing from men than sin against God. As he searcheth the heart and trieth the reins, we ought to have a holy frame of mind, and guard against sinful thoughts and desires as well as actions. As he is every where present, we ought to act always as under his all-seeing eye, and in such a way as we are conscious he will approve. As he is a God of truth, we ought to believe all that he has spoken; and when we have evidence that any thing is his word, give an implicit credit to it. "Without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of such as diligently seek him," Heb. xi. 6. And here I would remark that the great gospel duty of faith in Jesus Christ is required in the first commandment, inasmuch as, that Jesus Christ is the Saviour of sinners belongs to the truth of God which the first commandment requires us to believe. Again, as God is a being of infinite wisdom, and therefore knows what is best for us, as he loves his people with a tender love, and as he is faithful to his word, and will perform what he has promised, it is our duty to put our trust in him, and place a firm reliance on his promises. As he is a holy God, it becomes us to hate sin, to repent of our sins, to turn from them with unfeigned sorrow, and to endeavour to be holy in heart and life as God is holy. As we are dependent on him for every blessing, and as he is a prayer hearing God, it becomes us to make our requests unto him, and ask him for such things as we need. As we derive every good gift from him, and as he dealeth bountifully with us, it becometh us to feel gratitude for his goodness, and render unto him thanksgiving and praise. When we reflect on his greatness and holiness, we ought to be filled with a sense of our comparative littleness, 12
vileness and unworthiness; and to feel and walk humbly before him. And when we consider his sovereignty and right of dominion over us, we ought to devote ourselves to his service, study his law, and render obedience thereunto. The disposition, thoughts, and desires, of our souls, the words that proceed from our lips, and all the actions of our lives ought to be in conformity to his law. We ought in heart word and deed to do those things which he requires, and carefully avoid whatever is displeasing to him.
From comparing our character and lives, with the illustration which has now been given of the duties required in the first commandment, we must all be convinced, that we have come short of our duty, and times without number have transgressed this commandment. How little do we know of the character of God, in comparison of what we might have known, from the privileges and opportunities with which we have been favoured? Those of us who have made the greatest improvement in divine knowledge, probably have reason to be ashamed, and are to blame. What then must be the criminality in this respect, of many, who scarcely know any of the first principles of the oracles of God? Is it our duty to acknowledge God to be our God, by giving our hearts to him and publicly professing our attachment to him? Then they are living in the neglect of their duty who have never done this. And we have many among us who have never yet, professedly avouched the Lord to be their God; and we have reason to fear more who have never really given their hearts to him, and taken him for their God. Šuch are condemned by this commandment. And is it our duty to worship and glorify him accordingly? Then we have all come short of our duty. Even those of the people of God, who are living most to his glory, do not worship and glorify him as they ought to do, or according to their knowledge of his character or their engagements to him. What then must we say of those who have never yet in any degree sincerely worshipped and glorified him? This commandment must condemn them.
My brethren, in view of our duty as taught in the first commandment, we must all acknowledge that we are sinners, and have reason to put up the prayer of the publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner." Let the law,
while by it we obtain the knowledge of sin, be a schoolmaster to drive us to Christ. While in the glass of the law, we behold our failures and transgressions, let this teach us our need of a Saviour; and lead us all to put our trust in his merits, that we may find pardon and acceptance in the sight of God.
But while we trust entirely to his righteousness for pardon and acceptance before God, let us remember that obedience to the divine law is our duty, and essentially necessary to the christian character. Let us therefore be exhorted to do our duty, as taught in this commandment.-Let us improve the privileges and opportunities we enjoy to become acquainted with the character of God. Let us acknowledge him to be our God, by first giving our hearts to him, and then openly professing our devotedness to his service-and let us worship and glorify him according to his character, and our profession of owning him as our God. Let us supremely esteem and love him. Let us take him as our portion. Let us fear, believe, and trust him. Let us pray unto him, be thankful for his mercies, and walk humbly before him. And let us devote ourselves to his service, and live in obedience to all his commandments. May he by his grace enable us thus to keep this commandments. AMEN.
EPHESIANS ii. 12. LAST CLAUSE.
"And without God in the world."
In this chapter the apostle contrasts the character and state of the Ephesian christians, as they then were, with what they had once been. They were then, when he wrote this epistle to them, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, brought nigh unto God, and reconciled to him by the blood of Christ, fellow citizens with the saints
and of the household of God and were builded upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. But once they were dead in trespasses and sins; walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience; had their conversation in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were children of wrath, Gentiles in the flesh, called uncircumcision, without Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. Such were the character and state of these Ephesians before conversion. One trait of this character, we have contained in our text, "And without God in the world.”
By this is meant, that they were destitute of a knowledge of the true God; for they were idolaters; and although they believed in the existence of a God or gods, they did not believe in the one only living and true God; and also, that they lived without him, or denied him by their wicked works.
Being without God in the world is a sin against the first commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me"-Ex. xx. 3.
The sins forbidden by this commandment are stated in our Catechism in the answer to the 47th questionWhat is forbidden in the first commandment.
The first commandment forbiddeth the denying, or not worshipping and glorifying the true God, as God and our God, and the giving that worship and glory to any other which is due to
According to this answer, the sins against the first commandment may be comprized under the general heads of atheism and idolatry.
The object of the ensuing discourse is to treat of atheism. Atheism may be subdivided into speculative and practical. By speculative atheism is meant, denying the being of God; and by practical atheism, living as though there were no God.
I. Speculative atheism. This may again be subdivided, into a professed denial of the being of a God of any kind, and a denial of the being of the true God, or that he is uch a being as he is.
There are few, if any of the former kind of speculative atheists, who professedly deny the being of a God of any kind, and believe what they profess. On this kind of atheism we shall not here dwell, as its absurdity and wickedness have been already shown in the discourse on the being of a God. But of the latter kind of speculative atheists, or of those who while they profess to believe in the being of a God, nevertheless professedly deny the being of the true God, we have reason to believe there are many in our world, and this too under the light of revelation.
In this sense idolatry is atheism. For idolaters, though they believe in the existence of a God, or gods, nevertheless deny the true God; for their gods are no gods; and therefore they are chargeable with atheism as well as idolatry.
In this sense also, are those chargeable with atheism, who have low and improper thoughts of God, and look upon him to be such an one as themselves; for the god in whom they profess to believe, is merely a creature of their own imaginations, and they do not believe in the true God.-Such were those spoken of Ps. L. 21. “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself."
Again, they who deny the providence of God, are chargeable with atheism. Activity is essential to God. Therefore to suppose him to be an indolent, and inactive being, who neither cares for, nor regards the affairs of creation, is to rob God of an essential perfection and by consequence of his being. For take away what is essential to the nature of God, and he ceases to be God. Besides he has, both in his works, and his word, taught his providence, or that he upholds and governs his works. They therefore who deny his povidence, deny him to be such a being as he has revealed himself to be, and therefore deny the true God. Hence the Epicureans who among the ancient Heathen, denied the providence of God, were chargeable with atheism; and this charge was fixed upon them by their fellow Pagans. Of this kind of atheism were those also guilty, spoken of, Ps. x. 11. "He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: he hideth his face; he will never see it." And those also spoken of Ezek. viii. 12. "They say, the Lord seeth us not; the Lord hath forsaken the earth."