Page images
PDF
EPUB

this. They are young; they are strong; have something else to do; or they are attached to the world; or they don't like the terms. Well, then they must put up with the other part of the alternative, punishment. How will they like that? They cannot decline pardon and punishment both. The latter will come. God will pardon, but he will by no means clear the guilty. I would like to ask you why you suppose God, in proclaiming his name, (Ex. . xxxiv. 6, 7,) after declaring himself merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, and forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, concluded the account with, “and that will by no means clear the guilty ?'' Did he not intend to put the reader on his guard? It is as if he had said, “I am well disposed to pardon, but do not infer thence impunity in impenitence.' Pardon or punishment is the alternative presented to-day. Choose ye.

SERMON V.

Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God.-Romans xi. 22.

If there is no man of us who chooses to deny that he is a subject of the great government of God, there is no man of us but will admit that it is of the

very last importance that we should know so much of the character of God and of the principles of his moral government, as will enable us to infer in what manner he will deal with such creatures as we are ; when we may calculate on his favor, if favor he will show, and under what circumstances we have every reason to fear his displeasure, if displeasure he ever feels. We are all passing rapidly through this twilight state of existence; before us hangs a cloud black and heavy, and impenetrable to the keenest vision of the mind, beyond whose shadows we all expect to come into a nearer communion with our Maker, and the spirit disembodied and disenthralled will have to do immediately with the great Father of Spirits. Yes, it is the belief of every religion, and it is the sentiment of every heart, that beyond that cloud, and in the vestibule of eternity, is the judgment seat and the revealed presence of our God.

Now, all men and all nations ascribe to the Su

swer.

preme Being infinite perfection. It is abhorrent to our nature to suppose that any thing imperfect can enter into his character or government, and we, therefore, confidently conclude that the principles according to which he will deal with us, are most just and right, and that whatever becomes of us and of our fellow creatures, he will be clear from every imputation, and we shall not have one word to say in an

But this does by no means satisfy the mind. It is only innocence that findeth refuge in that conclusion; it is no resting place for guilt. We want to know farther in what manner his infinite perfection will induce him to act, that we may know whether with fear or with hope we ought to look forward to our meeting with him, and how we shall go about to prepare ourselves for appearing before him. We know that God in dealing with us and disposing of us will do right, but in doing right how will he deal with us and dispose of us, that is the remaining question, and the only one in which difficulty is involved, and by which anxiety is created. By what means are we to arrive at the solution of it? by following the lights and leadings of our own minds? Can we reach it by our reasonings ?

There are many that think to do so; but that they attempt an impossibility is evident from this, that men who follow the leadings of the mind are found to arrive at different and even opposite results, which evinces that the mind has undertaken to teach when she needs herself to be first taught, and that the intellect. has essayed to apprehend that of which it needs to be apprehended by God. Nor is this mode of coming to

the knowledge of the character and government of God in accordance with the spirit and principles of the modern philosophy, a philosophy which deserves to preside over and direct our investigations in theology, no less than to guide us in our pursuit of the physical sciences. That tells us that there is but one way in which the human mind obtains any certain knowledge of the nature and attributes of any being or substance; and that is by observation of facts and phenomena. It is not by any course of reasoning, however profound or ingenious, that we can acquire the slightest knowledge of the qualities and powers either of mind or matter; it is not by reasoning that any advancement has ever been made in the sciences which relate to them, but only by observation, by a careful studying of nature as it is, and by giving heed to the changes that are ever going on in the material world around us, and the phenomena that are ever exhibiting themselves in the spiritual microcosm within us. We know not how it will be hereafter, but for the present this is the only way to truth, and we must not think to pursue theology by any other path. It has been sought after in a far different man

Men have reasoned when they should have read and observed, and the result has been, that upon no subject whatsoever has there existed such a diversity of opinion among them, as upon theology. For their knowledge of God, instead of taking up with what he hath declared of himself, and what his works and ways declare of him, they have entered into the dark chambers of the mind, and they have descended even to the kennel of the heart; and the testimony which

ner.

God gives of himself, and which his providence gives to him, has been set aside, because this two-fold declaration of what God is, agrees not with their opinions of what God ought to be ; and in spite of the absurdity and impiety of supposing that the God who is in heaven must answer to every idea of him in a sinner's sinful fancy, the divine testimony has in ten thousand cases been rejected, and men have clung to their own unsupported opinions, obstinately living in them, and sternly dying in them; and never undeceived until it was far too late, and they have discovered that the foundation on which the hope of the soul was raised was sand, only when it was too late to effect a substitution. Oh! I wish I could expel from your souls this most ruinous delusion, that God is, of course, just such a being as you conceive him to be, and that there is nothing more to be dreaded from him than your own prejudiced self-love suggests; and that his opinion of what is right must needs coincide with your own opinion of what is right. I am making this introduction long, but suffer me to state a case that is in point. If you were anxious to know the character and principles of any human government, with a view to ascertain what the subjects of it might expect when their actions should be scanned, what course would you pursue? Would it not be the most absurd thing imaginable to set about demonstrating it? Does not common sense dictate that you should repair first to the book containing its constitution and statutes; and if the character of the ruler was identified with the principles of his government, as is the case in the government of God, but

« PreviousContinue »