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passionate Father, who “ willeth not that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance !” By him may we come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may find mercy and grace to help us in the time of need !” May the Holy Spirit "give us that due sense of all God's mercies, that we may shew forth his praise not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to his service, and by walking before him in holiness and righteousness all our days, through Jesus Christ our Lord;" remembering always, that “the grace of God, which bringeth salvation, and hath appeared unto all men (when correctly received and heartily embraced) teaches us that denying all ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
May he therefore be our wisdom, our righteousness, and our sanctification in this world ; may he also be our redemption, our life, our glory in his Father's kingdom in Heaven hereafter. Amen.
THE TRUE GOD AND ETERNAL LIFE.
JOHN xvii. 3.
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
The religion of every man, who is serious and sincere in what he professes, must depend entirely upon what he believes to be the nature and character of the Being whom he worships and serves as God. He who thinks that God exercises no providence over his creation, and is indifferent to the actions of men, will of course live as “ without God in the world," will have no regard to him in any thing, will do nothing as a religious duty, will entertain no religious feeling or sentiment towards him of reverence, love, fear, hope, or submission. This is the atheistical life of those, who in name acknowledge a God, but in fact deny him. He who pictures to himself a Deity only malevolent, cruel and oppressive, will ever tremble under an abject apprehension of his wrath, and will endeavour to appease him by bloody rites, and self-inflicted torments, and all the terrors of a gloomy superstition, as if nothing but pain and misery could give him pleasure, or procure his approbation. This is a description of the religion of a great portion both of the ancient and modern heathen world. He who has no higher notions of the Deity, than that he is of like passions with sinful man, will expect to gratify him by his very crimes and vices, and by an unchecked indulgence in all the abominable corruptions of human nature. Almost the whole civilized world was formerly polluted by such a base religion as this ; every iniquity that could be named, having its supposed patron in heaven. He who imagines his god to be of material substance and form, will make idols to represent him, and bestow his ignorant adoration upon a stock or a stone, which his own hands have fashioned. I need not remind you any further of the various pagan superstitions, to convince you of the consequences that must result from man's entertaining false conceptions concerning the divine nature. I will rather bring the matter
nearer home, by mentioning one instance of an almost equally gross, certainly no less fatal, error, that too much prevails even in the Christian world, and which renders the religion (I should have said the irreligion,) of many, worthy of comparison with the worst that has ever been exhibited in the most unenlightened ages and nations. He, who regards God only as a compassionate, forgiving being, not really requiring strict obedience to his holy laws, nor prepared to execute punishment on those who continue in their natural unconverted state, will never repent of and forsake his sins, but will indulge in all the vices to which he is inclined, with carelessness and security, encouraging himself with the vain hope that his infirmities (as he calls them,) will be overlooked, and that mercy will blot out all the account that may be against him in the records of justice. This man will live and die' in presumptuous, unrepented sin, and find too late that his erroneous opinion of God's character, has involved him in everlasting, irremediable ruin. So fatally do multitudes of nominal Christians deceive themselves by representing God according to their own imaginations, or rather according to their own wishes, instead of implicitly receiving the account of his nature and dealings, which it bas pleased him to reveal in
the Holy Scriptures, for the instruction and guidance of mankind.
You see, then, that men must of necessity
in their religion, if they have not a true knowledge of God; they can neither worship him aright, nor obey him according to his will. In charity to the heathen world, we humbly trust that the observation is true of them in all
ages, which St. Paul made when addressing the idolaters of Athens, “ the times of this ignorance God winked at.” We may be allowed to hope (in the absence of any clear and positive information on the subject) that they, who could not be expected to “believe in him, of whom they had never heard," if they conscientiously made the best use they could of the feeble light which nature and reason furnished them with on the subject of religion and virtue, and lived under the influence of the knowledge and principles thus acquired, were not excluded from the benefits purchased by the Redeemer's death. But wholly different is their condition, who have no such excuse for their ignorance; to those, whose lot has been providentially and mercifully cast in a land, from which the clouds of darkness, that once covered the nations, have been dispelled by the “day spring from on high, that has visited them,” the knowledge of God and of his will is