« PreviousContinue »
ings of the faithful and true witness,” the parental affections are among the distinguishing glories of the Almighty. When thou prayest, say, Our Father, who art in heaven ; Hallowed he thy name. Call no man on earth Father, for one is your Father in heaven, and all ye are brethren." These luminous testimonies afford a clear exposition of the nature and character of the great God with whom we have to do. They are truly like “ apples of gold in pictures of silver.” Their truth is indubitable, and will when known by all satiate the desire of all nations, and the individual myria:Is of the human race. This is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the beneficent object of worship presented by genuine christianity. This is the God, brethren, to the honor of whose venerable name, your piety and liberality have reared this splen lid temple of prayer and praise ; in which you and your children, and we trust your children's children through generations yei unborn, will prostrate yourselves before hiin, and offer the united libations of willing and delightful homage. Drawn by the cords of boundless love, you will here enjoy antepasts of the upper world. The pure and lovely object of your devotions will enkindle celestial sentiments and transports in your hearts. He is an Almighty Father. He is an infinite Benefactor. He is an immutable and immortal Friend.
2. Mankind have not only a desire to be acquainted with the being and perfections of God, but they have a pressing anxiety to know what services he requires of them. This is another desire common to all nations. It is fairly deducible from the rites and solemnities of all religions. Patience has been wearied, and ingenuity exhausted, in the multiplication of inventions to placate and gratify objects of religious worship. Whenever a ceremony or rite is settled in the mind of a devotee, as grateful to his God, however puerile or revolting to reason and humanity it may be, he moves to its observance with a resolution, which bids defiance to personal pleasure or pain, interest or honour,
“Gods that are cruel, partial, false, unjust,
Whose attributes are rage, revenge and lusi," have never been wanting in the number of votaries, to pay them a brutal and cringing homage. To gratify ideal divinities, immense treasures have been squandered; the holy endearments of domestic, and the tender sympathies of social life have been chilled and frozen ; rivers of blood have flowed ; and human victims without number have smoked upon the sanguinary altars of superstition. These chilling horrors present human nature to our view in a state of deplorable debasement; but they are notwithstanding decisive evidence of the point of doctrine under consideration. They never could have been witnessed, had the human heart been neutral with respect to the will and injunctions of God. They prove beyond the power of contradiction, that mankind possess an instinctive inclination to know the duties, to be acquainted with the services, which the great Divinity requires of his intelligent creatures. This information “ drops like the rain, and distils as the dew” in the doctrine of "the lowly Jesus.” The information, which this doctrine affords on this article, is replete with satisfaction. It calms the conflicting passions of the sou). It hushes the frantic agitations and struggles of the mind. It delivers the victim of superstition ; sweetens the sour temper of the bigot ; plucks the shrieking babe from the arms of Moloch ; and binds up and soothes the yearning heart of the tender mother. No rites at which humanity revolts, no bleeding victims, no consuming sacrifices are required in the gospel of the Lord Jesus. “ His commandments are not grievous but joyous. Those who worship God must worship him in spirit and in truth.” In the spirit of love which “worketh no ill to its neighbor," and of 6 truth which maketh free indeed." “Ye pay tithe of mint, and aninse, and cummin, said Jesus to the Scribes and Pharisees, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgınent, mercy and faith ; these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone."
When asked by a cavilling expounder of the law, which was the great requirement, he replied, “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and the great commandment.” What could be more descriptive of mildness than the following injunctions and declarations of the heavenly Father. 66 Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Such are the religious services required of man in the gospel of everlasting life and peace. These are the elements of christian piety. This is the homage, rendered by the humble follower of the Lamb, to his “ God and Father, and our God and Father.” He offers no fear that hath torment, no doubt that damns.” His are “the sacrifices of a humble and contrite spirit, which are,” in the sight of his God and Redeemer, " of more value than thousands of rams or ten thousand rivers of oil.” From the altar of his heart daily and delightfully ascend the hallowed oblations of faith and hope, of love and obedience, of prayer and praise.
3. Among all nations, ancient and modern, a perfect system of morality has been a subject of anxious inquiry. They have a common desire to know what services and duties man owes to his fellow man. In the hurry of human life, and the bustle of conflicting interests, motives and pursuits of a personal and partial nature, too generally, we admit, occupy the thoughts and the efforts of the multitude. In the eager chase of wealth and ambition, of honor and pleasures; and especially in the outrages of anger and resentment, men are prone to forget the dignity of their nature; too often overlook the sacred tie that binds and blesses the social state ; too frequently trample under foot the noblest sentiments and the holiest sympathies of the human heart. But when the storm of selfish passions subsides, and the mind enjoys a calm of sober reflection, the sacred principles of social and brotherly love will awake from their slumbers. They will prompt a critical inquiry into the duties and services due to kindred nature. Injustice, and fraud, and violence are never approved in a moment of dispassionate deliberation. 'Truth, righteousness, and benevolence are the native elements of the human heart. Till the universality of these is practically established, inquietude and dissatisfaction will embitter the intercourse of nations and individuals.
But the powers of human wisdom have labored in vain to form a perfect system of morals. If we turn over the pages of an ient philosophers and moralists, we shall find their maxims extremely deficient. Their systems are marked with the characteristic imperfections of their authors. Their details are too minute and intricate to be useful in the transactions of man with his fellow man. Many of their rules are the vagaries of a bewildered imagination, rather than the deductions of enlightened reason; some are untenable in civilized society ; others are subversive of the public safety and peace; and not a few deplorably humiliating to the real dignity of the human character. In every system antecedent to the introduction of christianity, a relentless and retaliating spirit was indulged. No one therefore, could meet the desire, and answer the interests of all nations. But a different system was exhibited in the scheme of grace through the anointed of God. The gospel of Jesus develops a system of morals, which is in every respect perfect. It teaches clearly and decisively the reciprocal and appropriate duties between man and man, rulers and subjects, ministers and people, masters and servants, husbands and wives, parents and children. In this admirable system, the discharge of one duty, in no instance interferes with faithfulness in respect to any other. All its requirements may be
performed at the same time, and the utmost harmony and happiness prevail.
'The occasion, however, will not allow us to dwell with particularity on the different branches of christian morality. It will be sufficient to exhibit with clearness and precision its general nature and character. It is founded upon the common brotherhood of mankind. “ Call no man your father upon the earth, for one is your Father in heaven, and all ye are brethren. This Jesus spake to the multitude and to his disciples." They were “all brethren.” Resting upon this broad foundation, christian morality begins and terminates in love without partiality. Assuring us that “God has made of one blood, all nations of men to dwell in all the earth," it requires us to “love as brethren, to be kind, courteous, and pitiful” to all. Mutual forgiveness is an important branch of it. To the interrogation, “ How oft shall I forgive my brother ?” our holy Master replied, “ Not till seven times only, but till seventy times seven.” This is a distinguishing trait in the general character of morals, as taught by the Redeemer. Forgiveness flourishes on the soil of cordial love, and it was therefore a principal object in the instructions of Christ, to cultivate and expand this celestial sentiment in the human breast. “ Ye have heard that it bath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy: But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you. And again, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” The apostle says, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor ;” and, " the whole law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” But I might have avoided this circumlocution. The divine teacher has comprised the whole of moral and social virtue in a single sentence: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do you even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets.” These are the maxims of christian morality. This is the system of social virtue recommended and enforced in the