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the earth, but to endure hell. What God did, displayed his purity; what he did not, proved his pity. The destruction of the old world, the dispersion of the Jews, and such events, were not ends, but means in the government of God. They were public warnings. They were rather the chastisements of love, than the severities of revenge: they were methods of improvement wisely adapted to the infant capacities and the infant circumstances of our race. Pity that they should ever be forgotten !
As some elevated spots on our earth are sometimes favoured with a beautiful sunshine, while the vales below are wrapt in clouds of mist and smoke; so some individuals have been raised up by God in every age, to receive and reflect the light of his love to our race ; while the great mass of men have been immersed in the depth of ignorance, error, and sin. It was Adam that brought transgression to the world : he put forth his guilty hand, and by one dreadful act extinguished our light and our life. It was Adam too that received the first beam of a new dispensation,- a dispensation of mercy and immortality. He had a promissory intimation of a Deliverer, who should vanquish the powers, save the victims, and remove the terrible effects of evil. Then Enoch, by means of his extraordinary devotion, prophetic testimony, and miraculous translation, reflected the dawnings of eternal love. After that, Noah found grace in the sight of the Lord : “ He, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his house, by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” The flood drowned the world, Dark event! However, after this fearful eclipse, the grace of God shone forth with a wider and a brighter radiance than before. All things
Noah became the father of a new world, brightened with new physical and moral glories. God had new altars ; he smelled a sweet savour; and pronounced his blessing on the renovated earth. But, alas ! men corrupted themselves again. So God established the Abrahamic economy; an economy more clear in its discoveries, more abundant in its grace, more extensive in its aspect
any precedent one. About four hundred and thirty years after that, the Mosaic covenant was formed and published ; ancient promises were confirmed ; new messages of truth were sent; and prophecy, more emphatically than ever, began to foretell the reign of justice, grace,
power under Jesus Christ. At last the fulness of time arrived. The light of the world burst on it in all its splendour, and the feeble light of the stars was lost in the brightness day. God rent the veil which hitherto had covered the face of his glory, and smiled in love on an anxious world. “Great is the mystery of
godliness. God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory."
Now we have the glory of seeing the kingdom of heaven established on the earth. Now we hear the voice of God as the voice of a Father. Now God speaks to Jews and to Gentiles—to all. Yes, now God has raised his voice to unusual pitch. The meaning is more clear and significant than before ; its tones are louder and fuller; more thrilling, earnest, and captivating. It has gone out to the end of the world ; it vibrates on all its deserts. It swells higher, and higher. It breaks the deep, awful, and monitory silence, in which the nations have been fast asleep for ages ; and calls-imperatively calls on all tribes, families, and individuals, to shake off their indolence, errors, rebellion, and fears; and to return without delay to the friendship, the image, the service of their insulted but forgiving Father. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men.
We have thus glanced at the gradual and successive manifestations which Jehovah gave of his moral character before the establishment of Christianity; and in them all we discover two things—RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND THE EXERTION OF DIVINE INFLUENCE. These two things are still more apparent in the christian economy. Indeed the gospel is preeminently marked as the ministration of righteousness, and the ministration of the Spirit. The passage which we have made the basis of these remarks, unquestionably refers to that ministration ; and refers to it also as being righteous in its nature, and triumphant only through Divine power. Let us notice these two ideas more fully.
I. THE GOSPEL IS THE DISPENSATION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.
But it will be said that the gospel is a gospel of love. So it is. Its God is love;its Saviour is the supreme gift, the brightest image, the highest minister of sovereign, boundless, unquenchable love ;its contents and credentials, its letter and spirit are love;—its design is the preservation and prevalence of love. The gospel is the most exalted emanation and evidence of Divine love in the universe. But then the love it reveals is a just love; the love it requires is a just love. It is a righteous system on two accounts : it defends the rights of man; it reveals the righteousness of God.
The gospel does justice to man: it takes nothing from him but his sin. Every man has a right over his own person. God has given him a body, and over its senses and members he has a sovereign right; and if he does not by the use, or rather by the abuse of this right, sin against the laws, order, and welfare of society, no one but
God has any authority to take it away. But, alas! man is often robbed of his original right. Indeed there are two systems in the world, which, without shame or apology, perpetuate and sanction the guilty act;-—we mean Slavery and Religious Persecution.
Now the gospel detects, condemns, and in proportion to its progress destroys, these dark and direful systems. It will certainly abolish slavery. Let the degraded, sensual, and blind slave, understand and feel Christianity; and he will instantly rise in worth in his own eyes, aspire after the glories of a man, cultivate fellowship with higher natures, love and practise spiritual excellence; glory in the renewed image of God in his soul; and love freedom as the means of receiving and doing good. Let the patron of slavery understand and feel Christianity; and he will seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness; he will dislike the spirit and form of oppression; he will do to others as he would that they should do to him; he will “ do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with his God." Let monarchs and senators understand and feel Christianity; and they will perceive that whatsoever is morally wrong cannot be politically right, and that the officers, of peace “ must be exactors of righteousness.” The rise of Christianity is the fall of slavery: history proves it. Blessed be God, slavery and persecution darken not our country! The gospel long ago planted the tree of righteous liberty in our land : under its shade we repose ; on its fruits we feed. May Christians be ever faithful to guard it against the ravages of beasts, and the corruption of worms! May Heaven preserve it from blasting tempests, refresh it with dews and sunshine, cause it to extend its branches to the very limits of the globe, and continue it to be the boast and the beauty of unborn generations !
Man has a right over his property. The gospel, by prohibiting fraud, theft, robbery, and every form of dishonesty, defends this right. Its maxims on this matter are numerous, striking, and universally applicable. It teaches men to be righteous in the acquisition, the enjoyment, and the disposal of wealth. Any principles of political economy not derived from, or accordant with Christianity, are absurd injurious, ungodly. The antichristian principles on which private and public commerces are often carried on, are inimical to the state, and disgraceful to the church.
Man has a right over his mind. And it is the mind, after all, that gives value to man. It is an exalted creature ! It is
and grander symbol of God, than any thing else we know; it shews more of his nature than a thousand suns; and would shine as brightly, though they were at once and for ever extinguished. But oh! it is injured, it is enslaved, by ignorance, by error, and by the world.
For there is a slavery darker and deeper than that which tortures the flesh; there are fetters more terrible than those of iron. A mind in chains is the greatest injustice and the greatest distress in the universe. The human mind has sunk awfully! Instead of wearing that crown of glory and honour for which it was born; and reigning over the bodily senses, outward circumstances, and the material creation, it is become their wretched and sorrowful slave. Ambition, covetousness, sensuality, malice, and atheism, degrade the soul of man; they quench its lights; rob it of its sensibility, rectitude, peace, and independence-its brightest ornaments; and make it to agonize under its own rebukes, and the wrath of heaven. Now this is the distressing state of man's soul. But what can improve its character, and restore its rights? Can earthly knowledge? No. It can do much, but not this! It may improve the face of nature, and leave the soul as untamed and as unproductive as the wildest desert; it may enlarge and brighten the sphere of the body, and leave the mind and the heart in their former obscurity ; it may pierce the earth for hidden treasures, and not bring to light and to use the wealth of intellect; it may refine the outward man, and leave the spiritual nature a savage and a slave; it may make provision for what is mortal, and furnish neither matter nor motive for the soul's ascent toward infinite perfection.
It is painful to think how little real advantage the souls of men have derived from civilization, and its attendant blessings. Indeed there is nothing on earth that can give purity, freedom, righteousness, and comfort to the soul, except the truth and spirit of Christ. “ If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you
“ Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”—“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek ; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” “ For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.-Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men." “ But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption : that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
But the gospel not only defends the rights of man over his body,
his property, and his mind; rights which belong to him as an intelligent, accountable, and immortal man; but also reveals a righteousness which God has provided for him as a guilty and lost sinner. It shews that God can save transgressors without transgressing himself against the eternal laws and the general interests of his government. To shew this is its peculiar use. The glory of God is his moral character: and the glory of the gospel is the exhibition of that character. “But we all, with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” It is the moral attributes and actions of God, and not his essence, we are called to think of. We know, indeed, little or nothing of his essence at present. We cannot define the nature of a flower; and what presumption to attempt, or pretend to define the Infinite Nature ! “Such knowledge is too wonderful for us; it is high, we cannot attain unto it.” Greatness appears glorious and lovely only when it is good. What, in the estimation of a just thinker, constitutes the excellence of an earthly monarch ? Not the assumption of pompous titles—not the extent of his empire—not the prowess of his armies—not the elevation or security of his throne. No: but the nobleness of his mind, the purity of his principles, and the equity and benevolence of his administrations. So God's highest praise is his relative character—a character all justice and love. This is his glory–He is infinite in power, yet he can do no wrong; He is inconceivably high, still he makes man his care and companion ; He is independent, the source of his own excellence, and the author of his own heaven,-he nevertheless so communicates himself to his creatures as to make their minds his temple, their happiness his crown; His enmity to sin is implacable ; at the same time, his love to sinners is without bounds, and eternal.
The chief object of the gospel is not to prove that there is love in God, but to shew the nature and extent of that love. Natural religion preaches the benevolence of God; revealed religion preaches the justice of his benevolence. The creation proves the existence of God's perfections ; the cross of Christ harmonizes them. Christ, by his obedience and death for man, paid the highest homage to the law which man had broken, and so brought in a righteousness to save him. “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law : for sin is the transgression of the law: and ye know that he (Christ) was manifested to take away our sins.” “ Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." “ Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures." “ For he hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."