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St James iv, 8..



WHAT a glorious promise is that, from the first sainted Bishop of Jerusalem. If we, weak, imperfect children of the earth draw nigh to the most high and holy Father in the Heaven of Heavens, he will draw nigh to us. Wonderful and humbling, yet animating condescension!

In the ensuing sermon, I propose to exhibit the duty and utility of that Belief in Revelation, that drawing nigh to God, which induces Obedience; and the impiety and detriment of that Unbelief, that withdrawing from God, which induces Disobedience; primarily, as it regards the character and situation of man in this world; and ultimately, as it regards his hopes and happiness in a future world.


'If our supreme affection terminate on ourselves, and no being, created or uncreated, be regarded but for our own sakes, it is manifest there can be no union beyond the sphere in which other beings become voluntarily subservient to our wishes. The Supreme Being, if our plan do not comport with his, will be continually thwarting us; and so we shall be always at variance with him. And as to created beings, those individuals whom we desire to be subservient to our wishes, having the same right, and the same inclination to require that we should be subservient

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to theirs, will also be continually thwarting us; and so we shall always be at variance with them. In short, nothing but an endless succession of discord and confusion can be the consequence.' Thus, there can be no union, without a common object of regard.



1. The benevolence of God is strictly infinite; is ever in action; and pervades his entire moral character. The original and main design of each particular thing seems evidently to be benevolent; although all the blessings experienced by mankind are bestowed on sinful beings. We are prone to diminish both the number, and the greatness, of our blessings, because they are so common.

Our health, food and raiment, are means of enjoyment to us daily, throughout our lives. Our friends and connexions also continually, and extensively contribute to our happiness. The pleasantness of seasons; the beauty and grandeur of the earth and heavens; the various kinds of agreeable sounds ever fluctuating on our ears; the immensely various and delightful uses of language; the interchanges of thought and affection; the peace and safety afforded by the institution of governments; the power and agreeableness of motion and activity; the benefit and comfort afforded by the arts and sciences, particularly by those of writing, printing, and numbering; and the continual gratification found in employment; are all, in a sense, daily and hourly sources of good to man; all furnished, either directly or indirectly, by the hand of God.'

2. Even for the evils, which men suffer in the present world, God has furnished many alleviations, and many remedies. Besides, the evils which men are called to endure, are no doubt less than they deserve for their sins. Even the best men stand in need of afflictions. Before 1 was afflicted, says the Psalmist, I went astray; but now have I kept thy word. The vanities of this world, riches, and pleasures, and honours, are apt to allure and engross the heart. Trials and bereavements show us their unsubstantial, unsatisfying nature; 'pluck us by the arm in our downward course, and conduct us back to safety and

peace.' God doth not willingly afflict, nor grieve the children of men.

3. What has not God done to enjoin and procure the veneration, love, and obedience of sinful man, in sending them a Divine Revelation? Behold the succession of prophets, the grandeur of miracles, the humiliation, the enduring life and agonizing death, the breaking from the grave, rising on high, and constant intercession, of the Saviour. Behold the sweet influences of the Spirit of Grace. And behold the strong foundation, and beautiful superstructure of his Church, which is gradually rising from the earth to the heavens. Surely, therefore, the Creator should be our supreme Object of Regard.


III. It is not only our duty to reverence and love our Creator, but it will be for our interest thus to do, in both worlds.



1. It will be for our interest in this world. Not only does belief produce virtue, and unbelief vice; but also, virtue produces belief, and vice unbelief. This sentiment is forcibly exemplified by Dr Andrew Fuller. How is it,' he asks, that in countries where Christianity has made progress, men have almost universally agreed in reckoning a true Christian, and an amiable, open, modest, chaste, conscientious, and benevolent character, as the same thing? How is it also, that to say of a man, he rejects the Bible, is nearly the same thing, in the account of people in general, as to say, he is a man of a dissolute life? If there were not a general connexion between these things, public opinion would not so generally associate them. Individuals, and even parties, may be governed by prejudice; but public opinion of character is seldom far from the truth. Besides, the prejudices of merely nominal Christians, so far as my observation extends, are equally strong, if not stronger, against those Christians, who are distinguished by their devout and serious regard to the Scriptures, than against professed infidels. How is it then to be accounted for, that although they will call them fanatics, enthusiasts, and other unpleasant names, yet it is very rare that they reckon them immoral? If, as is sometimes the case, they accuse them




of unworthy motives, and insinuate that in secret they are as wicked as others, either such insinuations are not seriously believed, or if they be, the party is considered as insincere in his profession. No man thinks that genuine christianity consists with a wicked life, open or seBut the ideas of infidelity and immorality are associated in the public mind; and the association is clear and strong; so much so, as to become a ground of action. Whom do men ordinarily choose for umpires, trustees, guardians, and the like? Doubtless they endeavour to select persons of intelligence; but if to this be added Christian principle, is it not of weight in these cases? It is seldom known, I believe, but that a serious intelligent Christian, whose situation in the world renders him conversant with its concerns, will have his hands full of employment. Ask bankers, merchants, tradesmen, and others who are frequently looking out for persons of probity, whom they may place in situations of trust, in whose hands they would choose to confide their property? They might object, and with good reason, to persons whose religion rendered them pert, conceited, and idle; but would they not prefer one who really makes the Bible the rule of his life, to one who professedly rejects it? The common practice in these cases affords a sufficient answer.' Thus does it appear, that a believer and a good man, and an unbeliever and a bad man, are synonymous terms; and that God draws nigh to believers in this world.


But this belief must be, not merely speculative, but operative. It is a distinguishing property of the Bible, that all its precepts aim directly at the heart. It never goes about to form the mere exterior of man. To merely external duties it is a stranger. It forms the lives of men no otherwise than by forming their dispositions. It never addresses itself to their vanity, selfishness, or any other corrupt propensity. You are not pressed to consider what men will think of you, or how it will affect your temporal interest; but what is right, and what is necessary to your eternal well-being. If you comply with its precepts, you must be, and not merely seem to be. It is the heart that is required; and all the different prescrib

ed forms of worship and obedience are but so many modifications, or varied expressions of it.'

3. It will be not merely for our interest, to draw nigh to God in such a manner as that God may draw nigh to us, but it will be for our happiness. External interest and internal happiness are very far from meaning the same thing. 'But if nothing deserve the name of happiness, which does not include peace of mind, all criminal pleasure is at once excluded. Could a life of unchastity, intrigue, dishonour, and disappointed pride, like that of Rousseau, be a happy life? No; amidst the brilliancy of his talents, remorse, shame, conscious meanness, and the dread of an hereafter, must corrode his heart, and render him a stranger to peace. Contrast with the life of this man that of Howard. Pious, temperate, just, and benevolent, he lived for the good of mankind. His happiness consisted in serving his generation by the will of God. If all men were like Rousseau, the world would be much more miserable than it is: if all were like Howard, it would be much more happy. Rousseau, governed by the love of fame, is fretful and peevish, and never satisfied with the treatment he receives: Howard, governed by the love of mercy, shrinks from applause, with this modest and just reflection: Alas, our best performances have such a mixture of sin and folly, that praise is vanity, and presumption, and pain to a thinking mind.' Rousseau, after a life of debauchery and shame, confesses it to the world, and makes a merit of his confession, and even presumptuously supposes that it will avail him before the Judge of all. Howard, after a life of singular devotedness to God, and benevolence to men, accounted himself an unprofitable servant, leaving this for his motto, his last testimony, Christ is my hope. Can there be any doubt, which of the two was the happiest man?' Thus, if we look into the heart of man, we shall see the happiness of virtue, and the unhappiness of vice, even in this life.

4. As to the benefits of believing and obeying the Gospel, as it regards a future world, I shall now say nothing; taking it for granted that, in a community so well instructed, the sentiment admits not of a doubt,

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