« FöregåendeFortsätt »
by the wisdom which cannot err, and the love which cannot injure; that they are necessary and desirable parts of a perfect system of good ; that no other being could so well fill the station which he occupies; and that he could not so well fill any other station. In a word, he will see, that, had the whole arrangement of providence been left to his own choice, he should have chosen exactly what God has chosen for him. All his wishes therefore, all his views, will be satisfied.
Thus, wherever the mind roves through the immense regions of Heaven, it will find among all its innumerable millions, not an enemy, not a stranger, not an indifferent heart; not a reserved bosom. Disguise, here, and even concealment, will be unknown. The soul will have no interests to conceal, no thoughts to disguise. A win. dow will be opened in every breast; and show to every passing eye the rich and beautiful furniture within.
In this world of depravity, where the man who knew it better than any other, speaking with the voice of inspiration, could say, , and say with obvious propriety, A faithful man who can find ? A few friends, nay, even one, is regarded as an invaluable treasure. In that world, all will be friends; and the soul will, like the happy regions in which it dwells, contain ample room for the admission of all.
At the same time, this friendship will endure for ever. No degeneracy will awaken alarm and distrust; no alienation chill the heart; no treachery pierce the soul with anguish. No parent will mourn over an apostate child; and no child over a profligate parent. No brothers, nor sisters, will be wrung with agony by the defection, and corruption, of those, who, inexpressibly endeared to them in this world by the tender ties of nature, and the superior attachments of the Gospel, have here walked with them side by side in the path of life, and have at length become their happy companions in the world of Glory. Husbands and wives, also, here mutually and singularly beloved, will there be united, not indeed in their former earthly relation, but in a friendship far more delightful, and, wafted onward by the stream of ages without a sigh, without a fear, will become, in each other's eyes, more and more excellent, amiable, and endeared, for ever. That the Re. deemed, who have been known to cach other in the present world, will be mutually known in Heaven, I have shown in a former discourse. That this knowledge will prove the means of mutual happiness, cannot be doubted. At the same time it is to be remembered, that their characters, universally excellent, their stations, universally honourable, and their employments, universally useful, will be endlessly diversified; so as to present to every eye, worth, beauty, and glory, in forms always peculiar, and with loveliness always new.
of the several ingredients which constitute this happiness of the Redeemed, and which have been mentioned in these discourses.
it is to be universally observed, that they will be continualiy progressive towards higher and higher perfection. Concerning Him, whose name is called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Father of the everlasting age, and the Prince of peace, it is declared, that of the increase of his Government, and of his peace, there shall be no end. The word government, here denotes the administration itself, and the displays which it involves of the greatness, wisdom, and goodness, of the Ruler. Peace often denotes in the Scriptures prosperity; and here intends the whole happiness of his subjects. Their residence, their bodies, their minds, their knowledge, their virtue, their stations, their employments, and their enjoyments, will form a system of glory, and of good, refining, brightening, and ascending for ever. Their possessions will be rapturous, their prospects will be ecstatic.
To the eye of man, the sun appears a pure light; a mass of unmingled glory. Were we to ascend with a continual flight to.wards this luminary, and could, like the eagle, gaze directly on its lustre; we should in our progress behold its greatness continually enlarge, and its splendour become every moment more intense. As we lose through the heavens, we should see a little orb changing, gradually, into a great world; and, as we advanced nearer and nearer, should behold it expanding every way, until all that was before us became an universe of excessive and immeasurable glory. Thus the Heavenly inhabitant will, at the commencement of his happy existence, see the Divine system filled with magnificence and splendour, and arrayed in glory and beauty; and, as he advances onward through the successive periods of duration, will pehold all things more and more luminous, transporting, and surr like, for ever.
PROVERBS viii. 6.—Hear! for I will speak of excellent things ; and the opening of
my lips shall be right things.
IN a long series of discourses I have now gone through a System of Theology. I have considered the Existence, Character, Decrees, and Works, of God; the Creation, and Primitive state of Man; his Apostacy, and Condemnation; the state of Human De. pravity, and the Impossibility of Justification by our own Righteousness. I have inquired at length into the Character of Christ; the Ofices which he sustains as Mediator; the Justification which we obtain by his Righteousness, and the Faith, by means of which we are justified; the Character of the Holy Spirit; his Agency in our Regeneration, the Nature and Necessity of that work, its Antecedents, Allendunts, Consequents, and Evidences; the Law of God, the principal Precepts into which it is distributed, and the principal Duties which they require; the Nature of our Inability to obey the Law, and the Manner of our Restoration to Obedience. I have also discussed the Means of Grace; and exhibited a view of the Church, its Office, cers, and Duties. Finally, I have.examined the Naiure of Death, and its Consequences; particularly the Resurrection, the Judgment, and the Retributions of the Righteous and the Wicked.
Thus have I brought my original design to a termination. As a natural and proper close of the whole, I propose to make some general remarks on this great subject in the following discourse.
In the Text, Mankind are commanded to listen to the things, spoken by the Wisdom of God, because they are right and excel. lent things. So far as the present purpose is concerned, it is of no consequence whether we suppose these things to be spoken by the Wisdom of God, literally understood; or by Christ, elsewhere called the Iisdom of God, and generally, and in my view justly, considered as speaking throughout this chapter. The things, here referred to, are the things, contained in the Scriptures. All these were spoken by the Wisdom of God. All, also, were spoken by the Spirit of Christ, who inspired alike the Writers of the Old and the New Testament. Hence the Old Testament is called the Word; and the New, the Gospel, of Christ. (See Col. iji. 16 ; and 2 Cor. iv. 4.)
These things are in the text said to be right and excellent. An attempt has been made, in the progress of these discourses, to exhibit the most important of these things in a regular scheme to the view of this audience. It has been my design to exhibit them as they are actually contained in the Scriptures; and to let the sacred volume speak its own language. This design I have watchfully pursued; and, I hope, faithfully. There was a period in my life, at which I regarded human systems of Theology with more reverence, than I can now justify; and much more than I am willing should be rendered io my own. Let God be true, but every man, who wilfully contradicts his declarations, a Tiar. · In studying the Scriptures, to which, as a Theological employment, those, who hear me, know I have for a long time been in a great degree necessarily confined by the peculiar state of my eyes, I have found no small difficulty in permitting them to speak for themselves. I have found texts in them, in various instances thwarting opinions which I had entertained, with little or no suspicion, that they could be erroneous. Such opinions, by an authority which I durst not oppose, I have been compelled to give up. Whether I have adopted better in their place is yet to be determined. One consideration furnishes me with a satisfactory hope, that what I have taught, is, substantially at least, the Truth of God. It is this : the system, contained in these discourses, is in substance the same with that which is found in almost every Protestant Creed, and Confession of Faith; and with the scheme, adopted in every age by that part of the Christian Church, which has gained every where the appropriate name of Orthodox.
There is another consideration, from which I derive a similar hope. It is the system, under the preaching of which, almost exclusively, the religion of the heart, whose genuineness is proved by its Evangelical fruits, has revived, prevailed, and prospered. I will, therefore, for the present occasion only, assume it as granted, that it is, in substance, the system of the Scriptures; and is, therefore, formed of the right and excellent things, mentioned in the text. Regarded in this manner, it furnishes a just foundation for the following
REMARKS. I. How superior is the system of Divine Truth, contained in the Scriptures, as exhibited in this manner to the moral schemes of Philosophy.
The ancient Philosophers, with scarcely an exception, and in my view without one, were Polytheists, Sceptics, or Atheists. · When they speak of God in the singular number, they either intend the Gods universally, or the chief of them; not the one living and true God, made known in the Scriptures, and now acknowl. edged without a question by the Christian world. The miserable
consequences of both Atheism and Polytheism have heretofore been summarily stated in these discourses; and have been so amply presented to us by the page of History, as to satisfy the doubts of all incredulity which does not proceed from choice. These Gods of Philosophy were all finite beings, universally limited in their attributes and operations. · All of them, also, were deeply tinctured with the folly, and vice, of men. Not a virtuous being was found among them : not one of a connexion with whom, a Christian, nay, even a sober man, would not have been ashamed. At the same time, they were engaged in continued hostilities against each other. They were indeed immortal; but were universally born as men are; were governed by the same selfish views; pursued similar employments; and derived their happiness from similar sources. The Gods of Epicurus found their en- , joyment in quiet, apathy, nectar, and ambrosia.
Some of these Philosophers, when they spoke of God in the singular number, taught, that his substance was fire ; some, that He was a compound of the four elements, fire, air, earth, and water; some, that the Sun was God; others, that God was the Soul of the world, animating it as the human soul the human body; some, that the so tav, or the universe, was God, and that all things are only parts, or branches, of this Universal Being : every thing, which we see, being supposed by them to partake alike of the Divine nature, and to be literally a. part of God. This as you know, was afterwards the doctrine of Spinosa. Zeno declared Ether to be God; and Chrysippus, Heaven. Marcus Antoninus addresses a prayer to the World. Seneca declares men to be follows, or companions, and members, of God. Epictetus, also, advises persons, when they are feeding, or exercising, to consider that it is a God, whom they feed, and whom they exercise. Many sects of them, also, held ihat there were two principal Gods; the one good, the other evil. .
Concerning the Origin of the World they seem universally to have held the doctrine, that Matter was the Eternal. Some of them supposed, that the beings in it were made by a Divine power, which they denoted by the name Amuseeyos. Epicurus, and his followers, taught, that all things owed their present state of existence to the casual aggregation of atoms. Others supposed them to have existed in an eternal series. Others, still, attributed iheir existence to destiny, fate, or necessity. None of them, so far as I have ob. served, considered the Universe as created by the power of God.
Of Providence their apprehensions were equally various and imperfect. Some of them, as the Epicureans and others, absolute. ly denied, that God governed the world at all. Others supposed, that an imperfect and limited providence, parted into shares among all the Gods, was exercised, within their respective limits, by them all; but more extensively by the being, whom they considered as supreme, than by the rest. In this superintendence of earthly ob