« PreviousContinue »
and, as to this matter, the difference between the good and bad is merely this, that whilst the one have cheerfully acquiesced in the work, the o ther have opposed it with all their might. The character of the good angel was clearly exhibited in John, who joyfully said, He must increase, but I must decrease. For a season, however, John exercised an authority conformable to the angel state, which it behoved all to obey. The good an gels, though willingly subject to Christ, do yet exercise an authority in their own proper style, and they will continue to do this until the seventh angel shall sound his trumpet, when they will give up their kingdoms to the Lord, and he will take to himself his great power, and exercise it in his own style' as the Son of God; and the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever ........ And for a certain period of time we must be subject, as to the outward man, to the powers that be, whether they be good or bad; for they are mixed together, and are only distinguished by their voice, both wear the same cloth. It is apparent that such a state of things must give, necessarily, to the rulers of the darkness of this world, a mighty advantage against the children of light. We must yet“ wres“ tle against principalities, against powers, a
gainst the rulers of the darkness of this world, ** against spiritual wickedness in high places."
O, what an illustrious crown of honor will remain to the holy angels to all eternity, that when the call to worship the Son of Man was so apparently derogative to the dignity and glory of their natures, they being the first born, and inorning stars, from a spirit of love and obedience to God, they so cheerfully bowed themselves, cast down their crowns, and went forward at all hazards, to aid a work so sovereign and mysterious, and which, as we may say, was directly against themselves!
Section III..... Moral Obligation, as contained in
the Decalogue, distinguished from the Law of Works.
THE obligation which lies upon all intelligent beings, to feel and conduct suitably in regard to themselves and to all others; to do to others as we would have them do to us, is the saine in every condition in which we may be placed........ This obligation, arising out of the nature and reason of our relations and conditions, has been so improved as to become a wonderful source of darkness, in respect both to the law and the gospel. Corrupters have availed themselves of this ground of moral obligation, to confound together things the most widely different, and the most important to be distinguished. They observe that the law requires love to God with all our hearts, and love to our neighbors as ourselves, and that the gospel requires the same...... This is true, and, to the moral eye, where is the weighty difference ?
I have heard hundreds of sermons upon the law and the gospel, in which both have been so ingeniously worked into the subject of moral obligation, that the most attentive hearer could not have guessed which was the one, or which was the other, had not the preachers been kind enough, as they passed along, to give to their discourses, or to particular parts of them, these different titles. It is indeed often said, in order to distinguish the natures of these institutions, that the law condemns, and the gospel pardons; but. this distinction, in the moral view, does not exist between them; for, on the one hand, the law set life and blessing before the man who was inspired with love, and on the other, the gospel equally with the law, and far beyond it, curses the man who is destitute of it. if any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema, Maranatha.
Obligation of the moral nature, which pervades all intelligent worlds, in itself considered, is not a law; it does not lay a ground for any ministration; something must always be supposed to pre-exist, which forms those certain conditions and relations, out of which our moral obligations arise, and in regard to which they take all their bearings. The constitution of the creation formed a certain ground, out of which a system of moral obligations necessarily arose; the constitution, called the law, formed another ground, with certain different relations, according to the peculiar condition in which it placed its subjects, out of which arose a distinct sphere of moral duties; and the gospel constitution forms a new ground, with relations entirely different, according to the new condition of its subjects as being the children of the kingdom, and, of course, the moral obligation attaches to the Gospel state in the highest possible style, and can admit of nothing less in its subjects than that they walk worthy of the vocaiion wherewith they are called.
It appears, therefore, that the law and gospel must be kept distinct from the subject of moral obligation; as also they must be separated from each other, and that the distinct conditions and relations of their several subjects must be clearly brought into view; for otherwise our consciousness of moral obligation cannot be just, as our feelings can never be brought to their true bearings. Hence it is, that moral preachers of every description are not Boanerges; whether, with the Arminians, they regard mostly the external relations, or, with the new and greatly improved sect, they dwell chiefly upon the morality of the mind and heart; they are not pungent men. I have no wish, however, to detract in the least from the merit of moral preachers, they deserve much from society, and there is no reason why they should lose their reward. It is uncontrovertible that their disciples make excellent men for the world. The constitutions of the law and the gospel, which form the different conditions and relations of men, out of which their moral obligations grow, are the mighty powers which produce the deep effects both of conviciion and grace: these are the arrows of the most mighty, which are sharp in the heart of the king's enemies, whereby the people fall under him. But these moral preachers very carefully keep the sword of the Spirit within the scabbard; and if, at any time, they touch the law or the gospel, they will have by their side a bundle of morality for coverings, and they are as handy at the business of doubling and folding, as merchants counter boys; so they wrap it up.
The law which came by Moses, we conceive to be the explicit declaration of the will of God, or the transcript, or copy, of the whole work of redemption, which was given to Jesus Christ to perform; and which is stated, summarily, to be the commandment he received of his Father, to lay down his life, and to take it again. But to establish this, we have to confront a world of doctrines, which have been long jangling and reproaching each other's inconsistencies, and, in the end, must be reproached of the truth itself.
The decalogue, or ten commandments, as being of a moral nature, or as being fulfilled in one word, viz. love, perfect love to the glory of God,
or to the manifestation of the divine will; this, I say, has a relation to the law, the same that it has to the gospel. Moral obligation attaches to every condition in which intelligent beings are placed; but this requirement of love, though exceeding broad, brings us merely to the threshold of our subject. Hereby, indeed, we are bro't to the foot of the mount of God; but, with the inost perfect good will, we might stand before the steep ascent, and look up, and ask the interesting question, unanswerable by any being in the universe, in his own name, but the King of Glory: Who shall aseend into the hill of the Lord ? and who shall stand in his holy place? Who shall
gate of righteousness; or, who shall do that work
which shall declare the righteousness of God?
The deplorable error which lies at the foundation of the self-righteous schemes of men, every where so prevalent, is their mistaking the requirement to shew love to the work manifesting the glory of God, for the requirement to perform the work itself; which mistake, with all the light afforded men respecting the law of God, argues such stupidity of the human mind, as offers the greatest discouragement to an attempt to take up the false foundation. But that the obligation of love to God, &c. which lies upon mere creatures in their own personal capacities, and which they have natural abilities to perform, is far from comprising the matter of duty contained in the law, Jet the following things be carefully considered.
1. It is expressly said, that the law was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Does not this import, that the weight of the law rested on that hand, and that it was not, as ordained of heaven, thrown upon the hands of the people! But, though it is manifest that the work required in the law was of a nature that would admit of a