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they are, went with them. This is only to say, he believes what he preaches, and is animated with the zeal of a faithful messenger.
Sermons are generally disregarded, as a dry insipid sort of performances, and accordingly read by few, and heard rather with patience than pleasure. This, no doubt, is owing chiefly to a prevailing disrelish of religion, and of every thing that relates to religion. However, it must at the same time be confessed, that it is, in some measure, owing to the cool and lifeless manner in which they are, for the most part, both penned and preached. If the nature of the subjects on which they are written, and the infinitely interesting ends pursued in them, are considered; it is evident, no sort of composition opens a fairer field for genius to shew itself in the author, or for entertainment to engage the hearer and peruser. Why the graver species of wit, arising from a fine imagination, and conducted by a sound judgment; or why the talent of ridicule, so well fitted, under a proper management, to expose the silly side of vice, should be excluded from this sort of performance, is not easy to conceive. The sacredness of the subjects hath furnished the only plausible argument for this exclusion. But as it is an argument that strikes at the Scriptures, in which both the species of wit, and the use of ridicule, here intimated, are frequently applied to their proper purposes; it ought to be given up, as well in practice as speculation. The Author before you hath sometimes endeavoured to enliven his Discourses, as occasion offered, with strokes in both kinds; and would have done it much oftener, had he not been withheld by a diffidence in his own talents, and a deference to the judgment of better preachers than himself.
But, be these matters as they will, it is humbly hoped, you will please to accept the Discourses thus dedicated to you, if not as performances worthy of your attention, yet as the testimony of a grateful heart, and of all imaginable respect, from,
Your most obedient,
And most devoted, humble Servant,
THE COVENANT OF PEACE WITH GOD IN CHRIST JESUS OUR MEDIATOR.
COLOSS. 1. 21.
You that were sometimes alienated, and enemies in your mind, by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled.
THE apostle here says to the Colossians, what he had said in other words to the Ephesians, Ye who sometimes were afar off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ; for he is our peace;' and in both tells them, and us all, that we are, by our present sinful nature, alienated from our duty, and made enemies to God; so that we are cast off, and placed at a great distance from his favour, who without the highest displeasure. able comfort as Christians, he tells us, we are now reconciled to God, and brought near to him again, by the blood of Christ, who is our peace, who hath abolished in his flesh the enmity, so making peace for us, and reconciling us unto God by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby; through whom we have an access by one Spirit unto the Father.'
cannot look on iniquity,' But then, to our unspeak
Can any thing be so affecting as these two opposite lights, wherein we are set? Such fears and hopes! Such terrors and comforts! The world is made for man, and man for God!
But man rebels, and, becoming an enemy to his almighty Maker, is given up to misery, to death, and to eternal torment. The only-begotten Son of God, finding us in this dreadful condition, takes our nature on him, dies on the cross to pay the wages of our sins, and restores peace between his offended Father and our souls. Thus we are made the objects of mercy, justice having been satisfied for our sins; and, if we sincerely believe, and truly repent, shall again be taken into favour, and taste the happy effects of that favour, in joy, in glory, in life eternal.
If this had not been our own case, and we had been only
told it of those beings who inhabit some other planet or world, how should we have been astonished and affected! A race of rational creatures at war with their Maker, and reconciled to him by the death of his Son! Which of the two must have struck us with the greater amazement? Their rebellion, or his compassion?
But this, dearly beloved in Christ Jesus, is not the account of a distant world, nor of a foreign people; nor is it a theatrical fable, contrived to work on our affections by mere imaginary fears and hopes. No, it is the true story of ourselves, of our rebellion and misery, of our redemption and glory; and God himself is the historian. Is it possible then we can hear it without the utmost emotion? Is there an affection, a passion, or any single spring of thought within us, that does nor stir with all its force at the awakening relation? If we are not lost to reason, and destitute of all sense and feeling, this must rouse us to reflections infinitely more deep and keen, than any thing else we can possibly think of. And if we are roused or moved, in any proportion to the important dignity of the subject, we are then in a proper frame of mind to consider the danger and misery we are exposed to by nature, the happiness we are called to by the gospel, and the conditions, on which this happiness is proposed to us by our Saviour.
In the first place, if we consider the divine nature and our own, as we now find it, we must conclude, there is enmity between them, and that our natural state is a state of war with God. As God is holy and good himself, he cannot but hate sin, and those who commit sin. Now, our lives, through the corruption of our nature, are so stained with sins of all sorts, that as sure as God is good, so surely must we be objects of his displeasure. On the other hand, such is the purity of his laws, and such the wickedness and perverseness of our wills, that we are naturally as averse to his injunctions, as he is to our actions. Thus while God resents our vices, and we resist his will, the enmity becomes mutual.
Notwithstanding all that education and correction can do for us when we are young, and all the power that religion, and the laws of our country, have over us, when we are grown up, they of mankind who keep within tolerable bounds,
are but few, in comparison of such as lead very disorderly and sinful lives; and even the best of men are so very often, and sometimes so extremely wanting to their duty, that experience sufficiently proves the universal corruption of our nature, and consequently the natural enmity between God and us. Now this is far worse than simple enmity, because as God is our maker, our preserver, and governor, we cannot thus resist his will, without foul ingratitude, and horrible rebellion.
What experience tells us in this matter, the word of God strongly confirms. It will be sufficient to quote two or three passages, out of an infinite number, to prove a point so clear in itself, as God's hatred to sin. David, speaking of Christ, says, Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness.' "The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,' saith Solomon. The prophet Habakkuk tells us, 'God is of purer eyes than to behold evil; and that he cannot look upon iniquity.' And, as sin itself is said to be 'enmity against God,' so those who are guilty of it, are called his enemies. 'Whosoever,' saith St. James, will be a friend to the world, is an enemy of God;' and, by 'world,' he means the unlawful desire, or enjoyment of worldly things.
St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Colossians, says, that 'the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience, on account of fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.' 'Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish,' are denounced in the Epistle to the Romans, 'on every soul that doth evil.' 'The face of the Lord,' saith David, 'is against them that do evil.' There is no peace, saith the Lord, to the wicked.'
Thus it appears, that sin is enmity, and they who commit sin, enemies to God. Now, if it shall appear as plainly, that all men do by nature live in a state of sin, it will follow, that all men are by nature in a state of enmity, or war with God; but of this there is abundant proof. 'God saw,' saith Moses, that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.' 'All we,' saith Isaiah, 'like sheep, have gone astray.' 'Behold,' saith the Psalmist, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin hath my mother