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one should rise from the dead." Such as despise the revelation of God-the glorious gospel of his Son-would continue impenitent, though spirits were sent to them from the other world; and probably would continue impenitent still, though they were sent among spirits to the other world.
What arguments could prophets, or apostles, or even angels in the heavenly world, use with sinners, superior to those which have been used with them on earth, and which still the gospel uses. If the apostles now in heaven were commissioned to undertake the conversion of ungodly spirits in hell; what could they do more, than repeat over and over the old arguments, which these impious beings had heard on earth an hundred times before. Sinners, who here spurn these arguments, would not be persuaded, though one were sent to them from the dead, or though they were sent to the dead.
You think, perhaps, that if there is really a future punishment, and wicked men had some experience of it, they would be reclaimed. But this is by no means certain. Habit has great power in this world. If it be carried to the other world, it may be as powerful there. Why is not the drunkard, the thief, or the gambler, reclaimed by his experience? He suffers a thousand miseries, which the honest and virtuous man escapes. But "though the fool is brayed in a mortar, with a pestle, among wheat, yet his foolishness departs not from him." Will not habit be as obstinate in another world? "He who is filthy, will be filthy still."
There are some, it is probable, who, in the neglect of their present probation, comfort themselves with the hopes of another. Now admitting that they should have another, what hinders, but that they may neglect this, and still comfort themselves with the hopes of one probation more? May they not ex
pect a third probation after they have abused the second, with as much reason as they now expect a second to follow their abuse of the first?
The scripture gives them no intimation of a second: They expect it only because they think it hard to suffer for their sins. But this ground of hope, such as it is, will always remain. They will always think it hard to suffer. Improve then your present probation. Let the goodness of God lead you to repentance.
This thought introduces the other branch of our subject, which was,
II. To shew, that the goodness of God is a reason why we should desire and pray to be taught his commandments. "Thou art good-teach me thy
David here prays, not merely for the communication of doctrinal knowledge, but especially for the efficacy and influence of this knowledge on his heart and life. This is the teaching which is the burden of his petitions throughout this psalm. "Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes, and I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments, for therein do I delight. Incline my heart to thy testimonies, and not unto covetous
The goodness of God is a reason, why we should pray for this spiritual teaching.
As God is good, we may conclude that his commandments are good.. None but such can proceed from him. Whether we can see all the reasons, in which his commands are founded or not; yet, if we know they are his, we know they are goodperfective of our nature, and conducive to our happiness. David says, "I esteem thy precepts con
cerning all things to be right; therefore I hate every false way." On this ground we may receive and obey all positive institutions, as well as moral injunctions; for as they come from a wise and good Being, they must have a benevolent and useful tendency, and be designed and adapted to make us virtuous and happy. If we believe, that the sabbath, public worship, the preaching of the word, baptism, and the holy supper, are ordinances of God, we may, at once, determine, that they are good and useful; for no ordinances but such would be appointed of God.
As God is good, we should desire to be taught his statutes, for these, being divinely impressed upon, and wrought into our hearts, will make us good. God's commands are agreeable to his nature. we know and love them, observe and obey them, we are then conformed to the divine character, and partakers of the divine nature. To be like God, is to be good and to do good. "Love your enemies," says our Lord, "do good and lend, and ye shall be the children of the highest, for he is good to the evil and unthankful. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful."
As God is good, our disobedience is highly aggravated, involving in it the guilt of stubbornness and ingratitude. His mercies should persuade us to present ourselves living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to him, which is our reasonable service; for if, under them, we indulge a hard and impenitent heart, we treasure up to ourselves wrath against the day of wrath.
As God is good, we may be assured of his gracious attention, when we pray for the teachings of his spirit. From the known goodness of earthly parents, to which God's goodness is infinitely superior, our Lord teaches us to conclude, that our heav
enly Father will give good things; yea, even his HOLY SPIRIT to them who ask him.
As he is good, he must love and approve goodness in men. Doubtless then he will favor and encourage it; and will graciously regard their humble prayers, when they seek his teachings. Thus Da"Teach me to do thy will, for thou art my God. Thy spirit is good; lead me in the land of uprightness."
You see now, in what a favorable situation you are placed with respect to your future happiness.That God is good you have abundant evidence from the continual exercises of his goodness which you see and feel;-especially from the provision made for your eternal salvation-from the means which he uses to awaken in you a sense of its importance from his patience toward you in waiting for your repentance-and from the many instances of his mercy to sinners in ages past, which were recorded for an example unto ages to come. Even the threatenings of his word are instances of his goodness; for they are intended, not to bring misery upon you, but to turn you from that course, in which you are bringing misery on yourselves.
If God is good, then learn and choose his commands, and pray for the teachings of his spirit, that you may learn them experimentally, and choose them practically-may see their excellency, feel their power and taste their sweetness-may be conformed to them in your hearts, and governed by them in your lives.
Then will you not be ashamed, when you have respect to all God's statutes. Great peace have they who love his law, and nothing shall offend them. The commandment is a lamp, and the law is light, and the reproofs of instruction are the way of life. VOL. IV.
O Thou that art named the house of Jacob, is the Spirit of the Lord Straitened? Are these his doings? Do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?
THE Jews, in a time of great degenera
cy, are threatened by the prophet with desolating judgments. Under their calamities, the prophet foretells that they would complain with doleful lamentations, as if all their miseries were the effects of God's severity. To silence their complaints he reminds them of their character and distinction as God's peculiar people, who had enjoyed the highest privileges, and lived under the security of singular promises. And he expostulates with them, "Is God's spirit straitened?" Is his hand shortened that it cannot save you? "Are these" calamities "his doings?" Are they the genuine effects of his government? Are they not rather the fruits of your own iniquities? Attend to, and comply with the warnings of his prophets and the instructions of his messengers, and you will be in no danger; for