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kindling their flames in the heavens. With no less astonishment, we see man rising under the forming hand of the Creator ; and shewing by his aspect, that he is animated with the breath of life, and “inspired by the Almighty with understanding.” Last of all, we hear the voice of infinite wisdom pronouncing the vast work to be “ very good ;” and listen to “ the songs of the morning stars, and to the sons of God shouting for joy," while cele brating that glorious sabbath, which concluded the divine work, and became the first type of the everlasting sabbath in the heavens.
In the same manner do we become witnesses of the destruction of this sinful world by the Deluge ; the terrible devastation of the cities of the plain by a tempest of fire and brimstone ; and the overthrow of Egypt by signs and wonders, successively advancing at the call of Moses. We accompany the Israelites in their march through the Red Sea ; station ourselves at the foot of Sinai ; behold the mountain compassed with a flame of devouring fire; and tremble, with the people in the camp, while, amid the thunders and lightnings, God promulges with his own voice the Law, which controls all the concerns of the great family of Adam.
With the same guide, we enter the stable, in which the Son of God was born; and see him, “who is head over all things unto the Church,” wrapped in swaddling clothes, and cradled in a manger. Surrounded by the shepherds of Bethlehem, we behold “ a light from heaven shining suddenly round about them;" and hear a voice from that happy world, proclaiming, “ Fear pot. Behold I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be unto all people! For unto you is born, this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, who is Christ, the Lord !" We listen to " a multitude of the Heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest ; and on earth peace : good will towards men.” We accompany this Divine Person through his private life, and public ministry ; are witnesses of his baptism and miracles, his glorious wisdom and unspotted holiness; behold in silent amazement his agony in the garden ; surround him, while he ascends
the cross; and follow him to the tomb.
“ But it is not possible, that he should be holden of death." An angel descends, " and rolls away the stone from the sepulchre.” He rises triumphant, from the grave; ascends through the visible heavens, and finally vanishes from our sight.
On the wings of Prophecy, we adventure, in the same realizing manner, into the immeasurable regions of futurity; and there listen to the sound of the last trumpet, and the voice of the archangel, summoning the dead to life. The graves open: the earth, and the ocean, return the innumerable myriads, slumbering in their recesses: the Redeemer descends: and the universe of angels and of men is doomed to its final retribution. The last flames are kindled by the breath of the Almighty: we behold" the earth and the visible heavens flee away; and no place is found for them any more.” With a trembling eye we cast a glance towards the melancholy regions of darkness and sorrow, destined to receive and embosom the impenitent workers of iniquity : and rise with ecstacy, to see the “everlasting gates” of life and immortality “ lift up their heads, that the King of glory may enter in,” together with a “multitude” of his happy followers, “ which no man can number, of all nations, kindreds, and tongues.” We behold them surround the throne of the majesty in the heavens ; and hear them unite their harps and voices in the eternal song ;
Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto our God, who sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb, forever, and ever. Amen."
Thus the Gospel brings the earth with all its mighty dispensations, hell with its amazing terrors, and heaven with its endless glories, before our eyes. Thus it presents God to us in all the awful, and all the endearing, displays of bis character. It is the history of the actions of Jehovah. Without it, these actions would in a sense be nothing to us. Too distant to be realized, too obscure to be discerned with clearness or certainty ; they would be unheeded and unknown. This divine book spreads the knowledge of Jehovah through the world. It is the temple, in which He delights to dwell; the mercy-seat, from which He gives VOL. II.
oracles of peace to enquiring mankind. The race of Adam are the congregation, gathered before it, to ask counsel of God: and the answers are given, not to a single, solitary tribe, but to the universe of man.
II. The Gospel contains the will of God concerning our duty and salvation.
Here, and here alone, we find the immutable and eternal Law, by which intelligent beings are governed. It is comprised in these two great commands : “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thine understanding: and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” These wonderful precepts bear on their very face the stamp of divinity. They are so short and so plain, as to be easily understood, remembered, and applied to his own circumstances, by every intelligent creature; and so comprehensive, as to include within their grasp all rational beings, and all the endless variety of their thoughts, words, and actions, and to control alike the child and the seraph. Every duty is required by them: every sin is forbidden.
This holy and perfect Law we violated; and thus apostatized from our duty to God, and lost every hope of his favour. To man in this situation the Gospel publishes the will of God con cerning our Restoration to that favour; prescribing the duties to be performed, and the means to be employed, for this all important purpose. This will, in both cases, is alike the will of JehoVAH; invested with infinite authority, and excluding all interference on the part of men or angels. Every addition to it, every variation from it, “is strange fire, which the Lord hath not commanded.” The authors of it are the progeny of Nadab and Abihu: and neither their sacrifice, when burnt with this fire, nor their persons, when employed in kindling it, can be accepted of GOD.
III. The Gospel proposes as its great object the most valuable of all Ends to man; the salvation of the soul.
The soul of man is an Intelligent and Moral Existence, made capable of knowing, loving, and serving his Creator. In its own
nature it is immortal. It will, therefore, survive the ruins of the world, and the ravages of time; and will flourish with indestructible vigour, when “the heavens shall be no more.” In this world both its enjoyments and sufferings are mingled, and partial. Beyond the grave, it will be only miserable, or only happy; and both the happiness and misery will continue forever.
But its happiness will not be merely eternal. As its knowledge increases, its virtue will become more exalted, and its enjoyment more intense, throughout the boundless ages of its existence. There is no limit, which it will not ultimately reach : there is no finite elevation, to which it will not ultimately ascend. Think, to what a mass of guilt, and woe, endless sin and endless misery will amount. Think what an accumulation of happiness, what splendour of virtue, will adorn the ever-growing progress of a sanctified mind. How plainly will the former exceed all that has been suffered by this sinning world? How soon will the latter leave out of sight the whole assemblage of virtues, the whole combined enjoyment found beneath the sun. From these premises it is irresistibly concluded, that the worth of the soul is literally boundless. Accordingly, He, " who is the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person, who of old laid the foundations of the earth, and garnished the heavens," yet to save the soul “ from going down to the pit,” voluntarily “ emptied himself" of his external glory; “ took upon him the form of a servant ; and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, he became obedient unto death; even the death of the cross." The end of his divine mission, he has declared, was to “seek and save, that which was lost.” Nay, he has expressly taught us, that "there is joy in heaven over the repentance" and recovery of one lost soul, “more than over ninety and nine just persons, who need no repentance."
For the same divine purpose, the Spirit of Grace has descended to this world, to renew and sanctify the soul of man, and thus complete its title to endless life. In this manner, the Father of all mercies, who “ gave his Son to die,” that we might live, and sent his Spirit, to renew us, that we might become ob
jects of his complacency, and heirs of his eternal kingdom ; has set his seal upon the worth of the soul; and declared it to possess a value, which no numbers can estimate.
But all the worth of the soul is involved in its salvation. In this is the Father pre-eminently glorified. In this is the object of the mediation of Christ, and of the mission of the Divine Spirit, illustriously accomplished. When, therefore the Gospel makes the salvation of man its end; it exhibits itself as of inestimable worth, and incomprehensible excellence; as a favourite work of Wisdom and goodness, literally divine.
IV. The Gospel is the Means of accomplishing this end.
Of this the proof is complete. Wherever the Gospel has been published, and embraced, religion has existed, and prospered. Wherever the Gospel has been unknown, religion has also been unknown. The Gospel is the rain and sun shine of heaven upon the moral world. Wherever its beams are shed, and its showers fall, “the wilderness blossoms as the rose ; and the desert as the garden of God:” while the world beside is an Arabian waste, where no fountains flow, and no verdure springs; and where life itself fades, languishes, and expires. The Gospel is all these means. “ His divine power,” saith St. Peter, “ has freely given us all things, which pertain,” or are necessary, “ to life and godliness.” The work is complete. It is such a work, as God himself thought best adapted to the accomplishment of the glorious end. Accordingly, man, though busily employed for this purpose, has not, throughout the long period, which has succeeded the publication of the Gospel, been able to add any thing either to its doctrines, or its precepts. It may be asserted, without hesitation, or hazard, that no doctrine, nor precept, of human philosophy has ever been subsidiary to this purpose, or contributed in a single instance, or in the least degree, to the salvation of man. The philosophy of the ancient heathen was totally destitute even of the semblance of piety; the first and great ingre. dient of virtue, and the basis of all other virtue. It was, therefore, radically lame, and fatally defective. Accordingly, in the opinion of Cicero himself, the best judge of this subject, perhaps,