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honors and emoluments of an earthly kingdom. Ignorant of God's righteousness, they went about to establish their own; and the character of their own righteousness appears in this, that they devoured widows houses, and for a pretence made long prayers.
To us as well as to the Jews, these words of our Savior are applicable, and infinitely important. Search the scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me. If we do not search the scriptures; and if Christ be not our great object in searching them, we are chargeable with neglecting this great salvation.
As we cannot read to any purpose, if we omit the duty of prayer, so we evidently neglect salvation, if we neglect to pray to God to teach us what it is. The following words of Christ are words of weight, and let them be so weighty upon us, as to divest us of all our self-sufficiency. At that time Jesus answered, and said, I thank thee O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto babes! Those who are wise, and prudent, in their own estimation, could they even repeat the whole of the Bible, from the first chapter to the last, would only repeat a lesson of prodigious length, in an unknown tongue, having no understanding of its real meaning. Those who are not taught of God, are not taught effectually; and can any be effectually taught, and yet live a prayerless life! The injunction to pray, in secret, is so plain, and positive, and the advantage is so great, and obvious, that it cannot be a matter of uncertainty whether we neglect salvation, if we do not keep up a secret intercourse with God. What shall we say respecting family worship? Do we call for a positive precept, when we feel the urgency of our case, and have that anxiety which the jailor had; or that devotion which Cornelius had? In seasons when religion excites the attention of a people, do we not find attentive heads of families, laying aside their excuses, and availing themselves of the privileges of their own family altars? Whether every christian, at the head of his family does lead his family in the acts of devotion or not, there can be no doubt, that sal
vation is, at least in a great degree, neglected where this is not the case.
When God rested from his work of creation, the sabbath was appointed, and it will not be dispensed with, until day and night, shall be no more. As long as there shall be such a day, there will be an obligation upon those who are acquainted with its appointment, not only to spend it in religious duties, but to form themselves into public and solemn assemblies for this purpose. All who stay away from public worship, pleading, that with their means, they can be better edified at home, would do well to take into consideration what God said to Israel upon this subject. Take heed to thyself, that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest. But in the place which the Lord shall choose, in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee.
Though we should be together upon the sabbath, in some place where God has recorded his name, we may be together, and yet be very far from the duty which we are required to perform. Many, as if they considered the rest of the sabbath to be the rest of the body, habitually indulge themselves in sleep; and what they hear, is like the confusion of a dream, of which they can give no regular account, and of which they themselves can have no clear and profitable conception. Many have as many objects of attention as there are persons within their sight; or as there are articles of dress to be seen upon those persons. That in such cases the eye is more occupied than the ear, no one can doubt, who credits the report which such persons make of what they have witnessed upon the sabbath. Some attend upon public worship as they attend upon the theatre, to look at the actor, and to criticise his performance; and that to them, is a good sermon which they judge to be a good composition; and that, to them, is a good preacher, who in their estimation, is a good speaker. Jacob has expressed the feelings which every one ought to have upon the sabbath, and in the place of God's worship. How dreadful is this place; this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven! In proportion as we fail to have sim
ilar impressions upon our own minds, upon the sabbath, we profane the sabbath, and of course we live in the neglilect of salvation. One thing farther is to be mentioned under this head of the discourse.
We neglect this great salvation, whatever we may do, if we be not possessed of repentance towards God, and of faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. We neglect this salvation if we do not secure it to ourselves; and we cannot secure it, except by being joined to the Lord by a new creation of our souls. Our Saviour, in what he said to Nicodemus, is abundantly explicit with respect to this matter. Though there are constitutional differences among men; and though there are degrees in holiness, and degrees in sin; the whole human race is made up of but two classes, for that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.
Having taken into consideration this great salvation, and what it is to neglect it, we now come to the question. How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation? This is a subject, generally, but little thought of, but as there are many devices in a man's heart, every sinner, perhaps, has some method of escape, upon which he places his dependance. Some undervalue that salvation which is by grace, and expect the happiness of heaven as the reward of their good works. But how can any one be satisfied with such a scheme as this, unless he can prove that the gospel is a forgery; and that Christ did not die for the ungodly. Before we can rest safely upon works as a foundation, we must be satisfied, that works are the foundation which God himself has laid. As an irresistible Sovereign it must be expected that he will govern the affairs of his own kingdom in his own way.
Those whose hope is their works ought to inquire farther, how many precepts they allow the law to contain; and which will exceed upon a comparison, their acts of obedience or their transgressions? In the settlement of an account, though we should find much credited, there might be so much more charged against us; as to require a surrendry of all our possessions, and even of our persons,
Would any creditor think himself in equity bound to discharge a debtor, because he had made payment in part? Tell me ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? Admitting the common principle by which men govern their intercourse one with another, the demands of the law must be satisfied. But it is not stating the worst of the case to say, that the transgressions of every man outnumber his acts of obedience. To this it must be added that every one who supposes he has obeyed the law perfectly, or sufficiently to answer the purpose, will find in the end, thạt he has not obeyed it all, and, that he has ever been ignorant of its broad extent, and of its spiritual character. As he would be wretchedly disappointed, who in attempting to cancel an obligation, should discover all his means to consist of counterfeit coin; so the sinner will be silenced, and covered with shame, and confusion, when in the light of eternity, he shall see, his works of righteousness, upon which his whole dependance is placed, to be but dead works; his very virtues vices. This will assuredly be, the case for God is a spirit, and lays his claim so directly on the heart of man, that he allows nothing to be service rendered to him, which does not originate in the heart.
Some quiet themselves, or attempt to, with the expectation, that the mercy of God will be exercised in so unqualified a manner, that all will be saved; and of course that they shall. To maintain such an opinion it is necessary however, to make a sacrifice of large portions of the scriptures; for nothing is asserted in language more positive, and solemn than the eternal torments of the wicked. If the righteous have any thing to found their hope upon, that they shall never perish; the wicked have the same to found their fear upon, that they shall never see life, for exactly the same terms are used to express the duration of happines, and of misery.
It is a question too of no small importance to be decided whether the justice of God will admit of the salvation of all men, for nothing can take place under his government, which is unjust, any more than any thing can, which is unmerciful. This must be alike obvious to persons of all religious persuasions. But what favorable conclusion can we draw up
respecting the future happiness of all mankind, from the appearance of things in the present world? In what condition is this world? Is not the devil represented as the god of it, and does not the conduct of men prove that the representation is a just one? Why can not men be satisfied to butcher those animals that were designed for their use,
without butchering one another likewise? Why are laws necessary to regulate society; and why are prisons, dungeons, and gibbets, necessary to give a sanction to laws, and to enforce the observance of them? Why is strife so common, and why does corrupt nature show itself so frequently, and so dreadfully, in the feuds, and bickerings, even of those who profess to love the Lord supremely; and to love one another with a pure heart fervently.
If any mass of population were to be removed from one extreme of this land, or of this world, to the opposite extreme, would the change of place produce such an internal change, that those persons who had been apart, would come together, as kindred drops, by mutual attraction unite, and form one body of water? If such a thing never did take place, and never was expected, upon what principles, of reason, and analogy, do we conclude, that those animosities which hinder the peace of this world, would not hinder the peace of any other world; and that those will live hereafter as brethren, who live here as enemies? If we will lay aside railing, and content ourselves with reasoning, we must admit, that what Christ told Nicodemus to be necessary, is actually necessary to every one who enters into the kingdom of heaven.
Now if it can be proved, that a change will take place in the wicked after death, equivalent to a new creation of their nature, it may be proved, that they will be happy, for this is all that is essential to make them happy. But who is there sufficiently inconsistent to undertake the proof of such a case as this, or even to avow his belief of its possibility? If more is brought about, without means, in another world, than is affected, by the use of means, in this world, then why are not ans worse than useless here, and why is not all the expense lost, and all the labor, of sending the gospel to the destitute?