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UPON NEGLECTING THE GREAT
HEBREWS ii. 3.
How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?
Among all the questions which we ask, is there one more important than this? All are interested in the consideration of it; and yet no question perhaps, engages less attention. There be many that say, Who will shew us any good, while the number is small of those who understand what good consists in, and who seek it in the proper way, by saying, Lord lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us! We look out for consequences in common matters; and hope, or fear, in some measure according to the magnitude of the object which we regard. But so sensual, and stupid, has sin made us, that we suppose our whole business to lie in this world, and expect neither good nor evil, except from such objects as we can see.
Dávid inquires, Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God? He answers the question himself by observing, He hath said in his heart, Thou will not require it. This is the reason assigned for the contempt of the wicked; and it is a good one, because it explains it.
Is the conclusion of the wicked however, well founded, that God will not require an account of their conduct? We acknowledge ourselves to be accountable one to another, according to the relations which we sustain in society. Laws are made to point out our duty, and men are chosen
to enforce the observance of them. Now if there is a God, we are his creatures; and if we were brought into existance by him; and depend upon him for our support; can we, consistently, think, that we are under no obligation to him, and shall have no account to render to him of our conduct? It would be difficult to determine what constitutes accountability, if we are not accountable to God. What makes us accountable one to another? Is it the laws; or is it that state of things from which the laws originated?
This matter would be sufficiently clear, had we only the dictates of reason to govern us in our judgment.
But we have the testimony of God himself. It is plainly to be seen, and it is solemnly communicated upon the pages of his Word. He hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. If then it is certain, that God will judge the world in righteousness, and, that he has appointed a day to attend to the business, the question in our text is of the most solemn import; and ought never to be out of our minds.
The greatness of this salvation is first to be considered; and it appears in various particulars. The Author of this salvation is great. God was manifest in the flesh, manifest in the man Christ Jesus. Though many content themselves with the answer which the Jews gave to Christ's questions, when they told him, that he was the son of David; they appear not to be satisfied, from any thorough investigation; for there are difficulties in their way, too many, and too great, for them to remove. What did Christ come into the world to accomplish? Was not his business to make an atonement for sin; and consequently, was it not necessary, that his labors, and sufferings, should be meritorious, and in degree, equal to the demerit of those in whose behalf he undertook? If when we say that any thing is meritorious, we mean that he to whom it belongs is deserving of a reward on account of it, it is certain, that nothing, belonging to man, or any other creature, can be meritorious; for all creatures are entirely the property of God; and far more absolutely at his disposal, than a servant can be at the disposal of his master.
The first, and great, commandment for man is, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This commandment can be explained in no other way than by supposing, that it requires us to manifest our love to God by the diligent exercise of every power and faculty which we possess. If all men are under such an obligation, it is evident, that merit is out of the question; for no one can do more than every one is bound in duty to do. Little as we know of other orders of beings, there can be no hazard in saying, that they are all subject to a law which is suited to their condition, and that their service is to be measured by their capacity to serve. It follows therefore, that no created being can make an atonement for the sins of others; because all created beings are charged to the full amount of their ability, and however faithful, cannot exceed what is required of them.
The spirit that spake to Eliphaz may speak to us upon this subject, and inform us how God regards his various intelligent creatures. Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly. How much less in them who dwell in houses of clay; whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth. Nothing could more clearly show the entire incompetency of men, and of angels, than this representation.
But by some it is maintained, that God, to whom all things are possible, might supply the deficiencies of any creature; and thus make an angel, or even a man, equal to the performance of the greatest task; equal to the accomplishment of the work of salvation. With whatever qualifications however, God might endue a creature, would he, by so doing make him any thing more than a creature, of a higher rank, with an increase of responsibility resting upon him equal to the increase of his powers? For aught we can determine, he who appears now as an idiot in this world, may in his progress through eternal ages, appear with more expanded intellect, than Gabriel has at present, and occupy a higher seat in heaven. Such a transformation would be astonishingly great, but would it be any thing
more than the transformation of a creature, from a low and bestial state, to one the most exalted, and illustrious?
One question will settle this business: can God make a creature independant? If he can, he can make a creature free from all obligation, and of course, capable of rendering service for others, which he is not bound to render on his own account.
This case involves such absurdity, that no one will so far sacrifice his understanding as to admit that it is possible. If the world is in such a situation as to make an atonement necessary for its salvation, from necessity, we ascribe the work to God. The Savior of sinners was made in the likeness of man, and appeared in the form of a servant, but he was as truly God as man. Is there consistency in applying to any creature the following remarkable words in the ninth chapter of Isaiah? For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father; the Prince of peace. From the first part of the passage we learn that Christ is the object of the prophecy, for the language confines us to this interpretation; and from the latter part we learn that there is no greater being in the universe; for there can be no greater than the mighty God. Is it proper to call him the mighty God, who is only a mighty creature of God? St. John in the beginning of his gospel, furnishes us with a passage equally decisive with this. He was directed to call Christ the Word; and baving thus designated him he declares him to be God; and says, that all things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. If Christ is to be considered as a creature, then he was made, and if he was made, either this representation is not to be depended on; or he made himself. The inspired writer repeats, and varies his affirmation, so as to guard against any misconception which the reader might form of his meaning. If we wish for farther evidence, that Christ is God we may derive it from those scriptures which ascribe all power, all knowledge, and all holiness, to him and which clothe him with authority to forgive sins, and to sit in judgment upon