Imatges de pÓgina
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are eager in the pursuit of it for the gratification of their own vanity and selfishness, they act in direct opposition to the end of their creation, which is to glorify not themselves but God: and the consequence must be highly prejudicial to the interests of piety, as far at least as they themselves are concerned. This was, accordingly, one of the principal reasons which our Lord assigns for the unbelief of the Jews. How can ye believe, that receive honour one of another, and seek not that honour which cometh from God. The disposition which proved fatal to them, must necessarily do so to all who are of the same temper, in every age of the world. And accordingly, there is nothing which the Christian religion labours more to root out of the mind than all occasions of pride and self-conceit in man, by shewing him that he has really nothing for which he can be justly praised by himself or others; that he has neither wisdom, nor strength, nor righteousness inherent in himself, but is in truth a poor, miserable, blind, and sinful being; and as such, whatever his reputation may be among men, he is by nature, and in the estimation of God, a child of wrath, even as others.

A religion that inculcates such sentiments as these, that teaches the man who is full of himself and of his own imaginary virtues, that he must lay them down at the foot of the cross, and seek reconciliation with God on the same ground with the meanest and most worthless of mankind; a religion that inculcates such sentiments as these, and will admit of disciples on no other terms, is not likely to meet with a welcome reception, nor even to be thoroughly understood by the proud and self-conceited mind. Hence it was that the Scribes and Pharisees were not disposed to credit the divine mission of our blessed Lord, or to pay a proper attention to the doctrines which he delivered. Their reputation among men was the chief object of their solicitude; and, therefore, they were eager to receive and inculcate those opinions only which tended to promote their worldly credit, and to maintain that ascendancy which they had acquired over the minds of the people. Had the Christian religion, at its first promulgation, been embraced by the great and opulent and honourable of the day, it is more than probable that the Scribes and Pharisees would have embraced it also. But the disciples of Christ were, in general, poor and despised; and, consequently, none would join themselves to them who were actuated solely by a regard to worldly character and reputation. To embrace the cause of Christ at such a period, required a supreme desire to know and obey the will of God, and a just regard to his approbation as the only true honour. Whoever sought in the first place the honour which cometh from God, would necessarily have become a disciple of Christ: for that principle would have led him to form his opinion by scriptural rules; to compare the character of Christ with that foretold of the Messiah by Moses and the prophets; to attend to the unquestionable evidence of the miracles he wrought; and to study carefully his doctrines, with a view both to their intrinsic excellence, and to their correspondence with the previous and preparatory revelation of which the Jews were the depositaries. He, on the other hand, whose ruling principle, like that of the Pharisees, was worldly reputation and emolument, would be open to none of those sources of conviction, and would, therefore, continue to disbelieve.

Now, if worldly ambition be sufficient of itself to produce this sceptical turn of mind, much more must this. be the case, when several sinful passions and lusts act in conjunction with one another."': If Christianity presented nothing to men's minds but mysteries and abstruse speculations that had no relation to morals, they might be disposed to treat them with the same indifference as men generally do the abstract parts of any other science. But it comes home to the heart and conscience, and will make no compromise with their favourite lusts and passions; and therefore it is that it awakens their keenest resentment. They profess, indeed, to be offended at its mysteries. They find doctrines in the Bible which surpass their reason, and against these they incessantly declaim; but it is only to conceal from themselves and from the world the true ground of their enmity. It is chiefly because Christianity denounces the wrath of God against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, that it is the object of their dislike. The chastity and purity which it requires awaken the enmity of the profligate; the sobriety and temperance which it enjoins displease the sensualist ; its meekness, for

bearance, and humility, offend the haughty and resentful; and, when men study to deceive themselves, when they begin to look about for

arguments in vindication of their conduct, when they are resolved not to be convinced of its criminality, the god of this world easily blinds their minds, and leads them captive at his pleasure. For, though we are conscious that the will cannot absolutely control the understanding, so as to make it believe or disbelieve contrary to its own convictions, yet are we equally conscious that it can indispose it to the reception, or even to the consideration, of particular truths : thus diminishing the force of that intellectual application which may

be requisite for the purpose. And whatever be the influence or motive by which the will is thus prompted to blind or mislead the understanding, the effect is invariably the same. While the sinnér promises himself liberty, he is the servant of corruption, and, in the midst of light, he remains in darkness. - And, therefore, if the affections have so powerful an influence upon the human understanding ; if every predominant lust and passion be in itself an obstacle to the reception of divine truth; it follows, that he whose' affections are directed to spiritual and heavenly things, who is delivered from the slavery of tyrannical lusts and passions, which darken the understanding and betray it into error-it follows, that this man is in possession of a frame and disposition of mind better qualified to form a right judgment of moral and religious truth than a man of a contrary disposition.

This is a consideration of the utmost moment and importance, as it exhibits the gospel in a light in which we ought chiefly to contemplate it-that of a moral plan for exercising the mental powers and capacities of man, adapted to his present state and circumstances as a fallen and guilty being; a plan, which, while it provides for his recovery from the miseries of his fallen state, calls into exercise the faculties of his rational nature, and furnishes a moral test of the principles and disposition of his heart.-I proceed, as was proposed,

II. To shew, that the man who desires and endeavours to know the will of God, that he

may

do it, shall certainly attain that degree of knowledge which is essential to salvation.

The scriptures abound in declarations to this effect. In our text we are assured, that all who sincerely desire to do the will of God as far as they know, or can possibly discover it, shall obtain sufficient evidence to satisfy their minds that the doctripe which our Saviour teaches is of God. And when we consider the nature of the leading promises of scripture, what are they but so many assurances, that the merciful God and Father of all has no pleasure in the death of any of his creatures, but would have all men every where to repent, and to come to the knowledge of the truth? The spirit of the promises, as well as of the prophecies of scripture, is the testimony of Jesus. In him they

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