Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

and goodness. In this view, and certain of this, the language of the pious, benevolent heart is, “ Thy will be done,” without making any exception or condition. Whatever evil takes place respecting himself or others, he is ready to espouse the language of pious Eli: " It is the Lord ; let hiin do what seemeth good unto him.” He with pleasure exerciseth an uureserved submission and resignation to the all-wise and infinitely good Being

5. Repentance towards God, and humbling ourselves in his sight for our sins, is included in the exercise of Christian piety. This consists in a sense and acknowledgment of the evil of sin, of its ill desert, feeling ourselves wholly blamable and . answerable for it, abhorring it, and condemning ourselves for it, renouncing it, and turning from it; in which the sinner justifies God, and approves of his law, and condemns and takes shame to himself. This always takes place and is exercised in the view of those truths which are at least implied in the doctrine which we are considering; and it is impossible the heart should repent while it opposes this doctrine and those truths which are contained in it. This can be done only by an impenitent, selfish, proud heart, which does always oppose and hate this doctrine, though the understanding and judgment may be convinced that it is true.

The doctrine of the decrees of God, foreordaining whatso. ever comes to pass for his own glory and the greatest general good, necessarily includes his hatred of sin and the evil and criminal nature of it, as it opposes the glory of God and the general good; and the sinner, who is guilty of it, does herein express his enmity against God and the good which is the object of his decrees; and were the natural tendency and con. sequence of sin to take place, without being counteracted and overruled to answer an end which sin and the sinner oppose, God's end in his decrees would be frustrated, he would be dis. honored, and good be destroyed by unlimited evil.

The sinner is as blamable and criminal as if his sin was not overruled for good, for the nature of it is just as bad and unreasonable as if no good came of it, and sin is as great a crime as it would be were there no divine decrees, and in some respects greater, for the sinner acts as freely as he could were there no decrees; he has all the freedom that is, in the nature of things, possible; he acts voluntarily, and he opposes the wise, holy, and benevolent decress of God, and that infinitely wise, beautiful, and benevolent plan which he has laid and is executing, even in that very sin and rebellion by which be is accomplishing it. When the sinner's eyes are opened to see all this, he sees the evil of sin, as it is opposed to this infinitely

great and glorious God, to all his wise and benevolent purposes and decrees, and to that wise, glorious, and all-comprehending plan of his operations. He sees this, and adores, and his heart breaks and melts in contrition and self-condemnation, humbling himself in the sight of this God. But the impenitent sinner is irreconcilable, and at enmity with such a God, and, in the pride and impiety of his heart, “ replies against God," and says, “ Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will ?”

6. Religious joy in God and his government and kingdom is a branch of true piety. This is inculcated abundantly in the Holy Scripture, and Christians are commanded to " rejoice always in the Lord.” And we have many examples of the religious joy of pious persons. The fruit of the Spirit is joy. Believers rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, and this joy no man can take from them. This is the joy of the benevolent heart, in the exercise of that love to God which has been described above, beholding him infinitely great and most blessed forever, having an uncontrollable dominion over all, decreeing and fixing from eternity every thing, and all events, in the wisest and best manner, to promote and effect the most desirable and important end, and the greatest possible good of the whole. With this the benevolent mind is supported and pleased, in all the darkness, sin, and evil which take place in this world, and in the view of what will exist forever in the world to come, knowing that God has ordered it all for the sake of the good which he will bring out of it; that the wrath of man shall praise him, and the remainder of wrath, which would not answer this or any good end, he will effectually restrain and prevent. In this view he has solid, lasting support, comfort, and joy, and says, " The Lord reigneth let the earth rejoice. Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous."

And as this truth, taken in the full latitude of it, is suited to support, comfort, and rejoice the heart of the pious friends of God, in whatever situation they may be, and whatever may be the appearance of things around them, so it is the only truth which can support them. If they give up or let go their hold of this strong foundation and prop, they must sink into gloom, sorrow, and despair. If they have no certainty that God cannot be disappointed in his counsel and designs, and that he has fixed the best plan, including all events, which cannot be altered for the better, if they know not but things may take place which are not, on the whole, best, but God might have been more glorified, and his people more happy, had they not come to pass, — and did they believe this to be the case, they must sink into darkness, grief, and sorrow, which

no consideration could remove, but must abide on their minds forever.

And when they behold the sin and universal apostasy of mankind, and the infinitely dreadful evils that are the attendants and consequence of this, and know that this was not accidental, or aside from the divine plan, but has been ordered and determined by God, that the way might be opened for redemption by the Son of God, - the most glorious work of God, by which he is glorified, the Redeemer exalted and honored, forever, and the redeemed made most happy in the eternal kingdom of God, in which they hope also to share, and behold and love, and serve and praise, this God without end, - their benevolent joy rises still higher. And the more they contemplate this divine contrivance and plan, with all its appendages, and discern the manifold wisdom and boundless goodness of it, the more does their joy increase, and they are ready to exclaim, with St. Paul, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him are all things; to whom be glory forever. Amen."

The selfish man may have a great degree of religious joy, but it is entirely of a different nature and kind from the joy of the truly pious and benevolent; and there is no true piety in it, because there is no true respect to God in it, no disinterested regard to his glory, and the public, general good, or the good of others. It is the joy of the hypocrite, of the falsehearted man, who regards and seeks himself only, bis own supposed private, personal good. If he thinks God loves him and intends to make him happy forever, this gives him great joy, while his mind is contracted down to his little self, and he has no disinterested pleasure and joy in beholding God, in his glorious character and unlimited dominion, and infinite, independent felicity, doing whatsoever he pleases, ordering all events for his own glory and the general good; nor is he willing to be so dependent on God, and so wholly indebted to him for all good, as is implied in his foreordaining whatsoever comes to pass. “ A brutish man knoweth not, neither doth a fool understand this.” (Ps. xcii. 4–6.) But the language of the pious friend of God is, “ Thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands. O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep. The counsel of the Lord standeth forever, and the thoughts of his heart to all generations.” (Ps. xxxiii. 11.) “ My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. O, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.” (Ps. xxxiv. 2, 3.)

7. Devotion, which consists in the worship of God, in adoration, confession, profession, self-dedication, petition, thanksgiving and praise, is a great and important branch of piety. I shall consider each of these parts of devotion now mentioned, and show that the doctrine which has been deduced from our text, and explained, is so far from being inconsistent with these, that it is suited to excite and promote them, and the only proper foundation of them.

Adoration consists in recollecting and attending to, and with profound awe and religious fear revering, the infinitely excellent and glorious perfections and character of the most high God, manifested in his wonderful works, and most wise and universal government, in a solemn address to him.

Now, no arguments are needed to prove that a Being of infinite greatness, power, rectitude, wisdom, and goodness, who is above all control, doing what he pleases, and ordering and directing every thing by his counsel and decree, with irresistible energy, to answer the best end, - that such a Being is the only proper object of this adoration, and that the more clear conviction and greater impression and sense any one has of such a Being and character, the stronger and more fervent will the exercises of his heart be in humble adoration; and this is the only object that is suited to continue and increase it forever. And the thought that God might be changeable in his designs, and had not decreed whatsoever comes to pass, but that many things do take place contrary to his will, and so as to render his plan of operation less perfect than otherwise it would have been, must tend greatly to damp, if not wholly destroy, the most devout and rational adoration, and is inconsistent with the complete enjoyment and happiness of the devout mind.

Confession of sin, unworthiness, wretchedness, absolute dependence on God and his sovereign grace, etc., is essential to the devotion of a sinner; a conviction and feeling sense of all this is implied in all his pious exercises, and intermixed with them.

All this is implied in repentance, which has been considered; and it has been shown that the truth under consideration is suited to promote this. The more clear view the sinner has of the excellency of the divine character, of the absolute, independent supremacy of God, of his infinite wisdom, rectitude, and goodness, and his entire dependence on the power and operation of God, the greater sense he must have of his obligation to love and obey him, and consequently of his own guilt, vileness, and ill desert as a sinner and rebel against this God, and feel himself utterly lost and undone; and, therefore, the more freely and fully will be confess all this. Profession, self-dedication to God, thanksgiving and praise, in which the devout worshipper of God expresses before him his love to him, and all the friendly, pious feelings of his heart; devotes himself to God, willing to serve him, to be, do, and suffer whatever God pleases and requires, and to be used by him to answer his wise purposes; acknowledging the goodness of God, admiring and praising him for what he is, and for what he does, - all this is grounded on the infinite perfection and glory of the Deity, who is "over all, God blessed forever,” supreme, independent, “wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working;" whose energy guides every motion and event in the universe, according to the counsel of his own will. A being who is not supreme, not so powerful, wise, and good as necessarily to foreordain whatsoever comes to pass, could not be the proper object of these devout exercises of the pious heart.

« PredošláPokračovať »