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would want words to express your abhorrence of his cruelty. And yet in this very light do many Christian divines represent the conduct of that God “whose tender mercies are over all his works,” and who has solemnly declared, “that he hath no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather that he would turn from his way and live;" (Ezek. xxxiii. 11.) yea, “who would have all men to be saved." 1 Tim.ii..
The conduct of our merciful God and Father is certainly far different from this, and more agreeable to reason and equity. If he designed us to be accountable creatures, and treats us as such, we must have talents given us, which we may either improve or misimprove. If we be the subjects of his moral government, we must be in a condition either to observe or to break his laws. to do the one necessarily supposes a power to do the other; and without this power we should not be the proper subjects of religion; as, in that case, it would be vain lo propose to us either rewards for obedience, or punishments for disobedience.
Nor is the supposition of a power in man to do the will of God, any foundation for pride. For we must still say, with the apostle, “What have we that we have not received ? and how then can we glory, as if we had not received it? Every good and every perfect gift comes from God;" and, knowing this, the more we receive of his bounty, A 5
the more thankful, and the more humble, we should be. I shall, certanly, be more solicitous to exert myself in doing the will of God, when I believe that I have a talent to improve, than if I believe that I have no talent intrusted with me at all; so that I cannot do even so much as the “ wicked and, slothful servant, who hid his talent in a napkin.”
Some of those persons who believe that all mankind are absolutely incapable of doing any good, are sometimes heard to invite sinners of all kinds to come to Christ, as they are, and to say, that the viler they are, the more welcome they will be to him; as if he was, after this, to cleanse them by some 'miraculous power. But, my brethren, the invitation of the Gospel runs in very different terms. It is, “ Repent, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance,” Matt. iji. 8. Repent, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out,” Acts iji. 19. And none are invited" to come to Christ," but those who "labourand are heavy laden;" nor can they “ find rest for their souls” till they have “ actually learned of him to be meek and lowly in heart," Matt. xi. 28.
What can be more contrary to the maxims above mentioned, than the whole tenor of that serious expostulation with the children of Israel in the prophet Isaiah, part of which I quoted above? “Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes. Cease to
do evil, learn to do well. Seek judgement, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now and not before) and let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isa. i. 16, &c.
Others, who entertain the same opinion of the utter inability of man to do the will of God, act more consistently with those sentiments, but far more inconsistently with the Scriptures, in never preaching to sinners at all; though to " call sinners to repentance" was the chief end of Christ's coming into the world. Matt. ix. 13.
Whatever represents a state of acceptance with God, as a thing that may be brought about without any efforts of our own, and especially if it may be done in a moment, or in a very short space of time, is sure to be a popular doctrine. Mankind in general care not how little is expected of them, or how little they themselves have to do, in order to get to heaven. But true religion, that alone which affords solid ground of hope towards God, consists in a change of heart, affections, and habits; which can only be brought about by serious resolution, and a vigorous and constant exertion of our powers. Nay, unless a course of virtue be begun, and good habits formed early in life, there is very great danges that the thorns, briars, or bad
soil, will prevent the good seed from ever coming to maturity.
To believe, as the same persons do, that faith and repentance are nothing that we ourselves are capable of, but altogether the miraculous operation of the Spirit of God in us and upon us, supposes that this great and sudden change may as well take place at the last hour of life as at any other ; which certainly encourages the most unwarrantable and most dangerous presumption, and is far from having any countenance in the Scriptures. The word of God always represents a safe and happy death as the consequence of nothing but a good and well spent life. Some, indeed, are said to have been called at the eleventh hour, but none at the twelfth, when the time for labouring in the vineyard was quite over; and not one of the foolish virgins, who had neglected to provide themselves with oil, was admitted to the marriage-supper.
OF ORIGINÁL SIN.
As a foundation for this strange doctrine, of the utter inability of men to do what God requires of them, a doctrine so injurious both to our Maker and ourselves, it is said that, by his first offence, our first parent Adam, and all his posterity, lost all power of doing any thing acceptable to God for the future; that he was the representative of all his posterity; so that when he sinned we all
sinned ; sinned; and, every sin being an offence against an infinite God, we all became, from that moment, liable to an infinite punishment, even the everlasting wrath and curse of our Maker. And they say, that, on this account only, it would have been just in God to have made us all suffer the most exquisite and endless torments in hell, even though we had never sinned in our own persons.
But, my brethren, you find nothing like any part of this in your Bibles. For there you read, “ The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Ezek. xviii. 4. And long after the transgression of Adam, and to this very day, God is continually calling upon men to “ cease to do evil, and learn to do well ;” which certainly supposes that men always have had, and that we now have, a power to do
It is allowed that we suffer by the sin of Adam, as any child may suffer in consequence of the wickedness of his ancestor ; but it is not possible that we should have sinned in him. Whereever there is sin there is guilt, that is, something that may
be the foundation of remorse of conscience; something that a man may be sorry for, and repent of ; something that he may wish he had not done ; all which clearly implies, that sin is something that a man has given his consent to, and therefore must be convinced of the reasonable. ness of his being punished for. But how can an man repent of the sin of Adam, or feel any thing like remorse of conscience for it; when he cannot