Page images
PDF
EPUB

XIII.

Did men

a

The first is, the clear evidence which SERMON the preceding observations afford, of a Divine government now exercised over mankind. This most important and awful 'of all truths, cannot be too often presented to our view, or too strongly impressed on our mind. To the imperfect conviction of it, which obtains in the world, must be ascribed, in a great measure, the prevalence of sin. firmly believe that the Almighty Being, who formed

formed them, is carrying on system of administration which will not leave guilt unpunished, it is impossible that they could remain so inattentive, as we often behold them, to their moral conduct. But the bulk of mankind are giddy and thoughtless, Struck by the superficial appearances of pleasure, which accompany licentiousness, they inquire no farther; and deliver themselves up to their senses, and their passions. Whereas, were they to reflect, but for a moment, upon that view which has

now been given of human nature, they might soon be satisfied, that the moral government of God is no matter of doubtful disVOL. I.

B b

cussion,

XIII.

SERMON cussion. It is a fact, no less obvious and incontestible, than the

than the government exercised by those earthly rulers whom we behold with the ensigns of their office before our eyes.

To govern, is to require a certain course of action, or to prescribe a law; and to enforce that law, by a suitable distribution of rewards and punishments. Now, God has not only invested conscience, as we have seen, with authority to promulgate, but endowed it also with power to enforce, his law.

By placing inward approbation and peace on the side of virtue, he gave it the sanction of reward. But this was not enough. Pain is a more powerful principle than pleasure, To escape misery, is a stronger motive for action, than to obtain good. God, therefore, so framed human nature, that the painful sense of ill-desert should attend the commission of, crimes; that this sense of ill-desert should necessarily produce the dread of punishment; and that this dread should so operate on the mind, in the time of distress, as to make the sinner conceive Providence to be en

gaged

2

XIII.

gaged against him, and to be concerned SERMON in inflicting the punishment which he suffers. All these impressions he hath stamped upon the heart with his own hand. He hath made them constituent parts of our frame ; on purpose that, by the union of so many strong and pungent sentiments, he might enforce repentance and reformation, and publish to the human race his detestation of sin. Were he to speak to us from the clouds, his voice could not be more decisive.

What we discern to be interwoven with the contexture of human nature, and to pervade the whole course of human affairs, carries an evidence not to be resisted. We might, with as much reason, doubt whether the sun was intended to enlighten the earth, or the rain to fertilize it; as whether he who has framed the human mind, intended to announce righteousness to mankind, as his law.

The second inference which I make from the foregoing discourse, respects the intimate connexion, which those operations of conscience have, with the peculiar B b 2

and

XIII,

an

SERMON and distinguishing doctrines of the Gospel

of Christ. They will be found to accord with them so remarkably, as to furnish

answer to some of those objections, which superficial reasoners are apt to raise against the Christian revelation. In particular, they coincide with that awful view which the Gospel gives us, of the future consequences of guilt. If the sinner is now constrained by conscience, to view the Almighty as pursuing him with evil for long-forgotten crimes, how naturally must he conclude, that, in a subsequent period of existence, the Divine administration will proceed upon the same plan, and complete what has been left imperfect here? If, during this life, which is only the time of trial, the displeasure of Providence at sin is, displayed by tokens so manifest, what may be apprehended to follow, when justice, which at present only begins to be executed, shall be carried to its consummation? What conscience forebodes, revelation verifies; assuring us that a day is appointed when God will render to every man according to his works; to them, who, by pa

XIII.

tient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, -SERMON honour, and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious; and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness ; indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile. For there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without the law, shall also perish without the law; and as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law *.

While the threatenings of conscience thus strengthen the evidence of the scripture doctrine concerning future punishments, they likewise

pave
the
way

for the belief of what is revealed concerning the method of our deliverance by Christ. They suggest to the sinner, some deep and dark malignity contained in guilt, which has drawn upon his head such high displeasure from Heaven. They call forth his most anxious efforts, to avert the effects of that displeasure ; and to propitiate his offended Judge. Some atonement, he is conscious, must be made ; and the voice

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »