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One or two brief observations will finish what I have more to add upon the subject..
If what has now been delivered has in any degree contributed to vindicate the methods of the divine government made known to us by the gospel of our Saviour Christ, it may be of further use in bringing us to a just submission to, and admiration of, the unsearchable ways of God, and an implicit resignation to him in those darker parts, the reasons whereof we cannot see. For, in the lofty language of his prophets, "his way is in the great waters, and his footsteps are not known." 2d. Again: If the objections made to some parts of the gospel-history, and to some transactions of Christ, may be easily removed by attending to his proper character, and to the language and customs of the times and circumstances of the history, it should incline us to make use of these helps and lights, which are to be gotten by our own inquiries, or from the learned labours of others, that we may be freed from error ourselves, and have it in our power to throw light in the way of others, and to maintain the cause of God's truth.
For the chief part of their reasonings who reject the gospel in our days, and oppose it from the press, is founded on ignorance and misrepresentation of facts. This is notorious throughout the writings of a late celebrated author, Voltaire, who seems to have had no regard to truth or decency in what he uttered, so that he could but pour ridicule and contempt on the sacred writings.
3d. Lastly: In those acts of a miraculous power by which our Lord was distinguished, and proved his mission from God, or in what he said or did when under an immediate divine influence, he is no copy for us to imitate. But in the motives of his conduct, and the principles by which he was actuated, he is our example whom we are to follow.
Besides his ardent love for his brethren of mankind, and his earnest desires and unremitted labours to save the whole human race, then, and in all ages, from vice and wretchedness, and to bring them to virtue and happiness; with what zeal for his country and nation does he show himself animated here, near the close of his life, on the prospect of the ruin which their wickedness and neglect of the divine admonitions would bring upon them!
We should endeavour that a pure love of truth may dwell in us, and a desire to bring all men to the acknowledgement and under the influence of it; but, particularly, that we ourselves may be purified thereby from every stain of evil. For, without this, all our efforts for others will be in danger of becoming unblest and ineffectual.
And then shall we be zealous, and have the highest satisfaction in labouring thus to serve others, and particularly in endeavours to put a stop to that tide of avowed unprincipled dissoluteness, luxury, and profaneness, which has overflowed our land like a torrent, descending from the higher and wealthier orders, and extending to and committing the greatest ravage among the very lowest; which, in the natural course of things which is of God's appointment, must end fatally for the public here as well as for the individual hereafter, if no timely change for the better be made.
Unto God, &c.
O eternal, ever blessed Lord God, who only hast immortality! dwelling in the light which
none can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see, or comprehend!
But who hast discovered thyself to us thy creatures of the human race, in such degree as we are capable of and is good for us, in thy works of nature around us, and in thy holy word delivered by thy prophets, and last of all, by Jesus Christ! by whom, especially, thou hast revealed thy kind everlasting designs of goodness for us:
We desire to express our deepest thankfulness for thy gracious communications to us, unworthy, earnestly imploring thine aid, that they may not be lost upon us; but that we may daily learn to know thee more and more, and serve thee more diligently.
Make us to delight in the ways of virtue and goodness, and in teaching them to others, above all riches and false transitory pleasures; because it is by these that thou, most adorable Being, art best and principally known unto and such dispositions wrought in us by thy blessing shall remain when the world, and all the things that mistaken man dotes upon in it, shall be no more.
Enable us, we pray thee, O Father of lights,
from a diligent search into thy truth, and a rational full conviction of it, to see and to be satisfied of the vanity of that wisdom which would arraign thy designs and condemn thy methods of bringing a dark sinful world to virtue and their true happiness; that, on all needful occasions, we may stand up and maintain the reality and importance of the revelation of thy will by Jesus Christ, as our greatest consolation, and the grand foundation of all our 'future hopes, and vindicate thy ways to others.
Finally, O heavenly Father, as, of thine unmerited benignity, we of these nations have been indulged with a clearer knowledge of thee and many advantages above others, we entreat thine ever needful help, that our inprovement of them, and proficiency in thy holy ways, may be in some proportion, such as thou justly requirest of us, lest we be rejected of thee, as were thy chosen people of old, and be debarred and cut off from thy favourable regards in this and in thy future world;-a loss which nothing can repair.
Now unto Thee, O Father, &c.