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spiritual and eternal punishments which are threatened will be inflicted after death on all those who live and die with their hearts in a state of enmity against God? Oh, yes! to be so credulous as to believe our own notions, and the devil's temptations, instead of believing the Bible, which contains the revealed will of God, is the same sort of foolish and wicked proceeding that at first brought death into the world, and all our wo.
And what does God require of his creatures? In answer to this it must be declared from the Holy Scriptures, that God is good and merciful, as well as holy and just. His law did not require that which man, whom he made, was not able to perform. The law of God consists of two parts-our duty to our Maker, and our duty to our fellowcreatures. It is thus expressed by divine authority, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and love thy neighbour as thyself." To love God means to reverence him and fear him, as a good child does a kind parent; to desire to know his will and to obey it; to be grateful to him for all his goodness and mercy, and to avoid whatever he forbids; or, in one word, to be religious. To love our neighbour means not only that we should not injure any man, woman, or child, either in their property or person; or minds, by teaching them what is wicked, or seducing them to vice; but also means that we should try to do them good, in all these respects, which may be called being moral. So that, according to the divine law, religion and morality must always go together. To seem to be very religious and to make long prayers, whilst we are immoral, is to deceive ourselves; and whilst we hate religion, and never pray, to pretend that we are honest and good-hearted, is also to deceive ourselves.
The truth is, that no unconverted man loves God and religion; nor does he love his neighbour, and seek his neighbour's good. Heaven knows it: he dislikes or hates God and religion, and he loves inordinately himself, and seeks excessively his own interest; and if he does not do positive injury to his neighbour he is careless about him.
True piety to God and true benevolence to man go together, as heaven's law has joined them. If one be wanting you may be sure the other does not exist.
But are all irreligious and immoral men God's enemies? Yes; that is the point to which we have come, and which is fully proved, both by the declarations of Holy Scripture, and by the history of divine Providence, and by every man's own experience, if he would look into his own heart. How else can you account for a man's neglecting prayer and thanksgiving, for neglecting the Bible and religious books, for never thinking reverently and affectionately of God and religion; but instead thereof, sometimes cursing and swearing, and blaspheming God's holy name, and ridiculing religion, and shunning and despising religious people; and making a jest of vice, and taking pleasure in the company of wicked and immoral people; not only disobeying the Almighty, and being wicked himself, but taking pleasure in those that run into the same excesses, and indulge the same vices as himself. Do not all these things shew that the heart is disaffected to our Maker; has a dislike to, and is at enmity with God?
Now to remain at enmity with God, on whom we depend every moment for life itself, and without whose favour happiness is utterly unattainable;—who can, moreover, justly and easily inflict everlasting punishment upon us, evinces desperate wickedness and consummate fool-hardiness. Oh, man! canst thou rush upon the thick studs of the Almighty's buckler! Can feeble man, whose life is in the breath of his nostrils, dare and defy the eternal God! It is absurd! What then can man do? How shall he be reconciled? Our text furnishes the true answer-"God" is in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them."
But how can this be? Rebellion against the divine law must be punished; a spirit of enmity against the Supreme Being, the Sovereign of the universe, cannot be allowed to pass with impunity. The "discipline" of the world does not permit it; and man's trespasses, if imputed to him, will occasion his everlasting ruin. Here is the difficulty. Must
Heaven's threatenings all go for nothing. No! It pleased God the Father to appoint Christ Jesus, the Son of God, to be man's Surety, man's Saviour. He was early promised; his coming was often foretold by ancient prophets; all good nien hoped and believed that he would come; and when the time that Heaven thought right did arrive, Christ our Lord and Saviour actually came down from heaven, lived in our world as a poor man, obeyed the law in our stead, taught men more perfectly the will of God the Father, set an example of perfect virtue, died as a sacrifice to atone for man's sins, rose again from the dead, and ascended to heaven to make intercession for all his followers on earth, to confer the Holy Spirit, to sanctify and guide them, and to prepare habitations of bliss for them when they die. To be told that God has done all these things for man's reconciliation, is the Gospel, the good news, the happy tidings. That Jesus, whom the Jews crucified, was God manifested in a human body; and he burst the bonds of death, rose from the dead, and was exalted a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins. He is the way, the truth, and the life; none can be reconciled to the Father but by him, and by him all that will, may be reconciled. The least sinful, and those who have shewn least enmity, must yet submit to come by the appointed way of reconciliation; and the most sinful, he who has shewn the bitterest enmity to God, who has been most irreligious and most immoral, may be reconciled and brought to obedience through Christ. For God is in Christ reconciling the world to himself; all ranks and conditions of men are included; the Gospel is the news of a general pardon for all who desire to submit to the rightful government of the Almighty, and to be at peace with him. And heaven is so high, and earth so low; God is so great, and man so little, that all human distinctions are lost in this divine proclamation of mercy. There is only one way of being reconciled to God for the king and for the beggar, for the rich and for the poor, for the learned and for the unlearned. St. Paul says, "The unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God-neither fornicators, nor
idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners-that is, whilst they continue such; but that even such wicked persons may be reconciled to God, appears from what he immediately adds, (1 Cor. vi. 9-11.) "Such were some of you, but ye are washed; but ye are sanctified; but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."
Some people may think that there was no occasion for Christ Jesus the Mediator to make an atonement, to bring about a reconciliation between God and man; but Heaven knows best what was necessary to reconcile man to God, and Heaven has the best right to decide on that subject. It ill becomes sinful man to tell his offended Maker what is necessary or right. The proud spirit must be brought to submit to Divine Wisdom; every lofty and self-exalting imagination must be humbled; if not, man is still persisting in his opposition and enmity to the divine will. The tempter said at the beginning to our first parents, "If " If you do disobey Heaven, it is by no means sure that you will die;" and so he says still, to deceive men, "If you do not submit to the Saviour, and only try to be good yourselves without him, you are not likely to be condemned." But in the first instance, man knows by sad experience that what Satan suggested was a lie; and what reason is there to suppose that the suggestions of Satan and of our own foolish hearts shall prove true, in opposition to the inspired declarations of God's Holy Spirit in the Bible!
Now submission to Christ, that man may be reconciled to God, is what is required of all; and this submission implies repentance, and faith, and obedience; a sincere desire and endeavour from henceforward to perform all our duties to God and to man, so far as we know them; and constant prayer in our hearts to God to enable us to know our duty better, and always to perform it. And all this is quite practicable, without scholarship, or learning, or riches; so that no man need make an excuse. All must try to perform their duty according to their stations; kings
and subjects, and magistrates and people, and parents and children, and masters and servants, and teachers and scholars, and poor and rich, and old and young. For all are God's creatures; and if we fear God, and love and serve him, we shall never desire to ill use or harm any of his creatures. When men are reconciled to God, they become reconciled to each other. The love of God shed abroad in the heart does away with national hatred, family feuds, and personal animosities.
Finally, The man who would make his peace with God must submit to the Saviour Jesus Christ, for out of Christ Heaven has not appointed any way of reconciliation; but in Christ God is reconciling the world to himself. And oh, how condescending and how kind is the language of Heaven! The Apostle Paul says, for himself and the other Apostles, "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." Oh, wonderful! God beseeching, and Christ entreating man to be reconciled. On Heaven's part, then, there is nothing to hinder reconciliation and friendship-" Wherefore," O men, "let my counsel be acceptable to you. Break off your sins by righteousness," and be at "peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." Only say not to yourselves," Peace! peace! when there is no peace;" for "there is no peace, saith the Lord, to the wicked;" that is, to him who still goeth on in his trespasses; but he that confesseth and forsaketh them shall find mercy.