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SERMON XCV.

THE LAW OF GOD.-THE FIRST AND GREAT COMMANDMENT.

RESIGNATION,

LUKE xxii. 41, 42.-And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneela

ed down and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.

THE next exercise of love to God in our progress is Resignation.

Of this excellence the text contains the most perfect example, which has been recorded or witnessed in the Universe. Our Saviour while in the Garden of Gethsemane having withdrawn from his disciples about a stone's cast, kneeled down, and prayed, under an agonizing sense of the evils, which he was about to suffer. His prayer in the midst of this agony was, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me : nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done! The situation of Christ was much more trying than we can conceive. Yet in this situation he bows his will entirely to the will of God; and prays him to remove the cup, only on the condition that he is willing; and that not his own will, but the will of the Fa. ther, may be done. The occasion was wonderful : the Resignation was complete. He yielded himself entirely into the hands of his Father; and earnestly desired, that his will, whatever it should cost himself, might be done. Nothing can be more edifying, than this example: nor can any thing be more instructive. By it we are taught,

1st. That Religious Resignation is a quiet yielding of ourselves to the disposal of God, and not to the mere sufferance of evil.

Christ prayed earnestly, and repeatedly, that, if it were possible, the evil

, or the cup, might pass from him. That this was perfect rectitude on his part will not be questioned. What he, with perfect rectitude, desired to escape, we may, with entire rectitude also, desire to escape. As he was not willing to suffer evil ; it was perfectly right, that he should not be willing. It is entirely right, therefore, that we should be equally unwilling:

But Christ was entirely willing to do, and to suffer, whatever God willed him to do, or to suffer. He was, however, disposed ,

, thus to do, and suffer, merely because it was the will of God; and because that will requires nothing, but what is perfectly wise and good, and perfectly desirable. As, therefore, the perfect Resignation of our Saviour was a yielding of himself to the will of God, and not at all to mere suffering; so it is clear, beyond a debate, that Religious Resignation is, in every case, gf this nature only. VOL. III.

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2dly. That it is our duty to resign ourselves to the will of God entirely; and that, in all situations of life.

The situation, in which Christ expressed the Resignation in the text, was certainly much more trying, than any which men experience in the present world. At the same time, he had not merited this distress by any fault, or defect, of his own. and perfect mind was free, alike, from error and from sin. Accordingly, in that memorable prayer, contained in the 17th chapter of John, and uttered just before his agony in the garden, he could say with perfect confidence, as well as with exact truth and propriety, I have glorified thee on the earth : I have finished the work, which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father! glorify thou me, with thine own self, with the glory, which I had with thee before the world was. Yet in this situation of peculiar distress, he gave up, entirely, every wish of his own: choosing rather to suffer these wonderful afflictions, if it was the will of God that he should suffer them, than to escape them, if it was not. Whatever afflictions befal us, we are ever to remember, that we have deserved them; and that they are always inferior in intenseness to those, which were suffered by Christ. Our reasons for resigning ourselves entirely to the disposal of God, therefore, are, in some respects, greater than his. ' In all situations, it of course becomes us to be still, and know, that he who aflicts us is God.

To render our Resignation entire, it is indispensable, that it should be unmingled with murmuring, impatience, distrust of the goodness of God, or any dissatisfaction with his Providence. We may lawfully wish, not to suffer evil, considered by itself; but we cannot lawfully wish, that the will of God should not be done.Nor can we lawfully complain, at any time, of that which is done by his will. He, who complains, has not, if he is resigned at all, arrived at the due degree of Resignation. Jeremiah, with irresistible force, asks, Shall a living man complain ; a man for the punishment of his sins ?

3dly. Religious Resignation is perfectly consistent with the clear. est, and strongest, sense of the evils, which we suffer; and with the deepest distress, while we suffer.

Christ, as I have observed, was perfectly resigned. Yet Christ felt, in the deepest manner, the whole extent of the evils which he suffered. This we know, both because he prayed to be delivered from them, if it were possible ; and because his agonies forced the sweat to descend upon him in the form of great drops of blood. What Christ did, in this respect, it is lawful for us to do. Christ felt these evils to their full extent; and yet was perfectly resigned. We, therefore, may in the same manner feel the evils, which we experience; and yet be the subjects, in this very conduct, of true Evangelical Resignation.

4thly. Christian Resignation is perfectly consistent with the most ferveni supplications to God for deliverance from the evils which we soffor.

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The evidence of this is complete in the example of Christ. Christ thus prayed, while yet he was perfectly resigned: we, of course, may thus pray, without lessening at all the degree, or affecting the genuineness, of our Resignation.

The obligations, which we are under to exercise this spirit, are founded both in the command of God, and the nature of things. The command of God carries with it, in all cases, an authority and obligation, which are without limits. With this authority he requires us to be resigned to his whole will; asserting it, with the most perfect propriety, to be His prerogative alone to prescribe, and our duty entirely to obey. We are his creatures; and are, therefore, under all possible obligation to do his pleasure. At the same time, his will is perfectly right; and ought exactly to be obey. ed, even if there were no authority to bind, and no reward to retribute, our obedience. Our own supreme good is entirely promoted by our obedience only; both as the obedience itself is delightful; and as it is followed by a glorious and divine reward.

Resignation is not merely a single act, but a general course of obedience; a general preparation of the heart to yield itself to God's known will, and his promised dispensations. I here include, and have all along included, what is commonly called Submission. Submission differs from Resignation in nothing but this : Submission is yielding the heart to the divine will, in that which has already taken place, or is now taking place; and Resignation, yielding the heart to that, which, it is foreseen, may, or will, hereafter take place. The spirit is exactly the same, as to its nature, in all instances ; and the difference is found only in regarding the past, present, or future, accomplishment of the divine will. This distinction is so nearly a nominal one only, that both names are used indiscrimin. ately; and of so little importance, as to preclude any necessary regard to it in this discourse.

This disposition is the only becoming temper in suffering creatures, są far as their sufferings are concerned. The sufferings of mankind, in the present world, are all expressions of the will of God. There are but three dispositions, with which they can be regarded; impatience, indifference, or acquiescence. It cannot be necessary for me to show, that the last of these is the only spirit with which we can receive either profitably, or becomingly, the chastisements, inflicted by the hand of God.

To acquiesce in the divine pleasure under sufferings is a strong, an eminently excellent exercise of Love and Reverence to God. It is not easy to conceive how we can give a higher, or more decisive testimony of our delight in the divine character, or our approbation of the divine government, than by quietly yielding to that government in circumstances of suffering and sorrow; by testifying with the heart, that we have such a sense of the wisdom and good ness of God, as to be satisfied to undergo whatever afflictions

he is pleased to send upon us; and to give up our own wishes and com

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forts, that the pleasure of God may be done, and his glory promoted. This is an exercise of love to our Maker, which proves itself to be genuine, and excellent, by the willing self-denial, which it encounters; and by the victory, which it gains over interest and pleasure powerfully present.

It is also to be remembered, that the Christian, notwithstanding he is a Christian, is still a sinful being. Afictions are punishments of his sins, incomparably less, than he has deserved. Resignation to them is a candid, equitable, dutiful acknowledgment of the justice of God in sending them, and a humble confession of the sins, by which they have been deserved.

By this spirit the general selfishness of the mind is gradually wasted away; the strength of passion and appetite continually weakened ; its impiety prevented; its ingratitude destroyed; and its rebellion broken down. The rebel is converted into a child. A serenity and quietness of disposition take possession of the soul ; allay the bitterness of its distresses; sooth all its tumults into peace; mingle comfort in the cup of sorrow; and happily blend with all its sufferings the inherent delight of Resignation ; a supporting sense of the approbation and favour of God.

REMARKS. From this passage of Scripture, thus considered, it is evident,

1st. That willingness to suffer Perdition is no part of Christian Resignation.

It is well known to my audience, that the contrary doctrine to that which I have here asserted, has been taught by men of distinguished reputation for learning and piety: and it is equally well known, that no human learning and piety will furnish a sufficient security from error. All human opinions, therefore, may be war. rantably questioned ; and none are to be received without evidence, upon the mere reputation of their authors. While, therefore, I would treat the authors with becoming respect; I shall take the liberty freely to question their opinions.

That Christian Resignation does not at all involve a willingness to suffer perdition is, in my view, unanswerably clear from the text. To the arguments derived from this source, I shall, howéver, add a few, out of many, suggested by the nature of the subject.

In the first place, Christian Resignation is Resignation to nothing but the will of God. This position has, if I mistake not, been proved beyond debate, in the body of the discourse. The will of God, by which we are to be governed, is plainly that which is, or can be, known to us. The proof of this, both from reason and Scripture, is complete. Reason teaches us, or rather we know by intuition, that it is impossible for us to be governed by a rule, which we cannot know. Revelation informs us, that secret things belong to God; and that only the things which are revealed belong to us,

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and to our children for ever; that we may do all the words of his law. That, then, which is not known to us, cannot belong to us, in

any sense, as a rule, or part, of our duty.

But it is not known, and without a new and direct revelation it cannot be known, to any man living, to be the will of God, that he should suffer perdition. The Scriptures reveal to us, that the impenitent and unbelieving will indeed suffer this terrible punishment. But they do not reveal to any man, that he himself will be impenitent and unbelieving, when he leaves the world, or that he will finally be condemned. It is impossible, therefore, for any man to know in this world, that the will of God will require him to suffer perdition. If, then, he resigns himself to this dreadful allotment, as being a part of the will of God; he himself presumptuously establishes by his own contrivance, and conjecture, something as the will of God, which God has not declared to be such; which the man himself cannot know to be such, while in the present world; and which he cannot lawfully presume to be such. Instead, therefore, of resigning himself to the divine will, he resigns himself to a will, which his own imagination creates for God; and is guilty of intruding into the province and assuming the prerogatives of his Creator.

2dly. Every sincere Professor of Religion either knows or believes himself to be a Christian.

If he knows himself to be a Christian, then he knows it to be contrary to the will of God, that he should be finally condemned, or that he should suffer the miseries of perdition. To be willing, in this case, to suffer these miseries, is to be willing to suffer that which is known by him to be contrary to the will of God. It is a consent to prevent Christ of one trophy of his Cross, one glorious fruit of his sufferings, and to take a gem from his crown of glory.

If the Professor believes himself to be a Christian; then, in being willing to suffer perdition, he is willing to suffer, in direct contradiction to what he believes to be the will of God. His belief here ought to have exactly the same influence on his disposition and conduct, as his knowledge in the former case. Wherever we have not, and, at the time when we are to act, cannot have, certainty, we are under absolute obligation to be governed by the highest probability. In this case, therefore, the duty of the Professor is exactly the same as in the former.

When we remember, that the sufferer becomes, of course, the eternal enemy of God and of all good, and that the Professor, in thus consenting to suffer, consents, in the same act, to be the eternal enemy of God and of all good; and when this consent is yielded in direct contradiction to what he either knows, or believes, to be the will of God; it will, I think, be difficult to find a reason which will evince this conduct to be a part of the Christian's

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