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the gospel clearly and strongly asserts. We there hear the apostle exhorting, “ Ler us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain njercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” We there hear the blessed Jesus himself arguing in this convincing manner: “If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the holy spirit to them that ask him?"
We would not here be understood to mean, that the agency of the spirit is irresistible, and lays a necessitating bias on all the faculties and affections. Were this the case, precepts and prohibitions, promises and threatenings, would signify nothing; and duty and obligation would be words without a meaning. The spirit assisteth in a manner agreeable to the frame of human nature; not controlling the free use of reason, but by assisting the understanding, influencing the will, and moderating the affections. But though we may not be able to explain the mode of his operations, the Scriptures warrant us to assert, that when men are renewed and prepared for heaven, it is “ through sanctification of the spirit," and " belief of the truth.” How enlivening the thought!-how encouraging the motive! We are not left to struggle alone with the difficulties which attend the practice of virtue, in the present imperfect state. The merciful Father of our spirit is ever near to help our infirmities, io enlighten the understanding, 10 strengthen good resolutions, and, in concurrence with our own endeavors, to make us conquerors over all opposition. Faithful is he to his promises, and will not suffer the sincere and well disposed to be tempted above what they are able to bear. What can be desired more than this? To promote the hap piness of his people, everything is done that is requisite, his grace is all-sufficient, his spirit is able to conduct us through this vale of tears, to never-fading bliss. We should also remember, that the great doctrine of the gospel
, concerning the propitious mercy of God to all penitents, through Christ Jesus, greatly contributes to the consolation of Christians. Let it be granted, that the hope of pardon is essential to the religion of fallen creatures, and one of its first principles, yet, considering the doubts and suspicions which are apt to arise in a mind conscious of guilt, it is undoubtedly a great and inestimable favor, to be relieved in this respect, by the interposition of Divine assistance. This is our happiness. We are fully assured, that upon our true repentance, we shall, “ through the mediation of Christ,” receive the “full remission of sins," and be restored to the same state and favor with cur Maker, as if we had never transgressed his laws. Here the gospel triumphs. With these assurances it abounds. Upon this head the declaration of our blessed Saviour and his apostles are so express and full, that every one who believes them, and knows himself to be a true penitent, must banish every doubt and fear, and rejoice with joy unspeakable. “Come unto me all ye that labor, and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. xi. 28). “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men” (Matt. xii. 31). “Be it known unto you therefore men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which we could not be justified by the law of Moses.” (Acts xiii. 38, 39.) What grace and favor is this! Who can dwell upon the transporting theme too long! Now our way is plain before us, and the burden we are to bear is made comfortably easy. No sins are unpardonable, if repented and forsaken.
Consider this, all ye who have never yet regarded religion, but pursued a course of vice and sensuality all your lives long. Though your conduct has been base to the last degree, your case is not desperate. Far from it. The God whom you have so highly offended commiserates your errors, is ever ready to extend his pardoning mercy to his most degenerate creatures, upon their faith and repentance, and " is in Christ Jesus reconciling the world to himself, not imputing unto (peniteni) sinners their trespasses. Let the wicked [therefore) forsake his way, and the unrightsous man his thoughts; and let him
return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah lv. 7.)
Another particular, which renders the Christian religion delightful is, its leading us to the perfect, eternal life of heaven. It can not be denied but that we may draw from the light of nature strong presumptions of a future state. The present existence does not look like an entire scene, but rather like the infancy of human nature, which is capable of arriving at a much higher degree of maturity; but whatever solid foundation the doctrine of a future state may have had, in nature and reason, cer
tain it is, through the habitual neglect of reflection, and the force of irregular passions, this doctrine was, before the coming of our blessed Saviour, very much disfigured, and in a great measure lost, among the sons of men.
In the heathen world, a future state of rewards and punishments was a matter of mere speculation and uncertainty, sometimes hoped for, sometimes doubted of, and sometimes absolutely denied. The law of Moses, though of divine original, is chiefly enforced by promises of temporal blessings; and, even in the writings of the prophets, a future immortality is very sparingly mentioned, and obscurely represented, but the doctrine of our Saviour hath - brought life and immortality to light.” In the gospel we have a distinct account of another world, attended with many engaging circumstances; about which the decisions of reason were dark and confused. We have the testimony of the Author of our religion, who was raised from the dead, and who afterward, in the presence of his disciples, ascended into heaven. In the New Testament it is expressly declared, that good men, “ when absent from the body, are present with the Lord.” Here we are assured of the resurrection of the body in a glorious form, clothed with immortal vigor, suited to the active nature of the animating spirit, and assisting its most enlarged operations and incessant progress toward perfection. Here we are assured that “the righteous shall go into life everlasting,” that they shall enter into the heavenly Canaan, where no ignorance shall cloud the understanding, no vice disturb the will. In these regions of perfection, nothing but love shall possess the soul; nothing but gratitude employ the tongue; there the righteous shall be united to an innumerable company of angels, and to the general assembly and church of the first-born. There they shall see their exalted Redeemer, at the right-hand of Omnipotence, and sit down with him on his throne; there they shall be admitted into the immediate presence of the supreme Fountain of life and happiness, and, beholding his face, be changed into the same image, from glory to glory.
Here language--here imagination fails us! 'It requires the genius, the knowledge, the pen of an angel, to paint the happiness, the blissful scene of the New Jerusalem, which human eyes can not behold, till this mortal body shall be purified from its corruption, and dressed in the robes of immortality: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart to conceive, the joys which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
What is the heaven of the heathens when compared with the heaven of the Christians ? The hope, the prospect of this, is sufficient to reconcile us to all the difficulties that may attend our progress, sweeten all our labors, alleviate every grief, and silence every murmur.
But why, says the libertine in the gayety of his heart, should there be any difficulties, or restraint, at all ? God hath made nothing in vain. The appetites he hath planted in the human breast are to be gratified. To deny or restrain them, is ignominious bondage; but to give full scope to every desire and passion of the heart, without check or control, is true manly freedom.
In opposition to this loose and careless way of reasoning, let it be considered, that the liberty of a rational creature doth not consist in an entire exemption from all control, but in following the dictates of reason, as the governing principle, and in keeping the various passions in due subordination. To follow the regular notion of those affections which the wise Creator hath implanted within us, is our duty; but as our natural desires, in this state of trial, are often irregular, we are bound to restrain their excesses, and not indulge them, but in a strict subserviency to the integrity and peace of our minds, and to the order and happiness of human society established in the world. Those who allow the supreme command to be usurped by sensual and brutal appetites, may “promise themselves liberties,” but are truly and absolutely the “servants of corruption.” To be vicious, is to be enslaved. We behold with pity those miserable objects that are chained in the galleys, or confined in dark prisons and loathsome dungeons; but how much more abject and vile is the slavery of the sinner! No slavery of the body is equal to the bondage of the mind; no chains press so closely, or gall so cruelly, as the fetters of sin, which corrode the very substance of the soul, and fret every faculty.
It must, indeed, be confessed, that there are some profligates, so hardened by customs, as to be past all feeling; and, because insensible of their bondage, boast of this insensibility as a mark of their native freedom, and of their happiness. Vain men! They might extol with equal propriety the peculiar happiness of an apoplexy, or the profound tranquillity of a lethargy.
Thus have we endeavored to place, in a plain and conspicuous light, some of the peculiar excellences of the Christian religion; and hence many useful reflections will naturally arise in the mind of every attentive reader. It is the religion of Jesus that hath removed idolatry and superstition, and brought immortality to light
, when concealed under a veil of darkness almost impenetrable. This hath set the great truths of religion in a clear and conspicuous point of view, and proposed new and powerful motives to influence our minds, and to determine our conduct. Nothing is enjoined to be believed but what is worthy of God, nothing to be practised but what is friendly to man. All the doctrines of the gospel are rational and consistent; all its precepts are truly wise, just, and good. The gospel contains nothing grievous to an ingenuous mind; it debars us from nothing but doing harm to ourselves, or to our fellow-creatures; and permits us to range anywhere but in the paths of danger and destruction. It only requires us to act up to its excellent com. mands, and to prefer to the vanishing pleasure of sin, the smiles of a reconciled God, and “an eternal weight of glory."
Surely no man who is a real friend to the cause of virtue, and to the interest of mankind, can ever be an enemy to Christianity, if he truly understands it, and seriously reflects on its wise and useful tendency. It conducteih us to our journey's end, by the plainest and securest path; where the “steps are not straitened, and where he that runneth stumbleth not."
We ought daily to adore the God of nature for lighting up the sun, that glorious, though imperfect image of his own unapproachable lustre; and appointing it to gild the earth with its various rays, to cheer us with its benign influence, and to guide and direct us in our journeys and our labors. But how incomparably more valuable is that “day-spring from on high which hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace ?" Oh Christians, whose eyes are so happy to see, and your ears to hear, what abundant reason have you to give daily and hourly praise to your beneficent Creator! When, therefore, your minds are delighted with contemplating the riches of the gospel; when you reflect (as you certainly must do) with wonder and joy on the happy means of your redemption ; 'when you feel the burden of your guilt removed, the freedom of your address to the throne of grace encouraged, and see the prospect of a fair inheritance of eternal glory opening upon you; then, in the pleasing transports of your souls, borrow the joyful anthem of the psalmist, and say, with the humblest gratitude and self-resignation, “God is the Lord who showeth us light; bind the sacrifice with cords, even to the horns of the altar." Adore “God, who first commanded the light to shine out of darkness,” that by the discoveries of his word, and the operations of his spirit, he hath “shined in your hearts, to give you the knowledge of his glory, as reflected from the face of his Son."
Let us, therefore, who live under the gospel, the most gracious dispensation be stowed by God to mankind,“ count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowl edge of Christ Jesus our Lord;" and not suffer ourselves, by the slight cavils of unbelievers, to be “moved away from the hope of the gospel.” Let us demonstrate that we believe the superior excellency of the Christian dispensation, by conforming to its precepts. Let us show that we are Christians in deed and in truth; not by endless disputes about trifles, and the transports of a blind zeal, but by abounding in those “ fruits of righteousness, which are, through Christ, to the praise and glory of God."
From what has been said, we may clearly perceive how groundless all those pre judices are which some conceive against religion, as if it were a peevish, morose thing, burdensome to human nature, and inconsistent with the true enjoyment of life
. Such sentiments are too apt to prevail in the heat of youth, when the spirits are brisk and lively, and the passions warm and impetuous; but it is wholly a mistake, and a mistake of the most dangerous tendency. The truth is, there is no pleasure like that of a good conscience; no real peace but what results from a sense of the Divine favor
, This enables the mind, and can alone support it under all the various and unequal scenes of the present state of trial. This
lays a sure foundation of an easy, comfortable life, of a serene, peaceful death, and of eternal joy and happiness hereafier: whereas vice is ruinous to all our most valuable interests; spoils the native beauty,
and subverts the order of the soul; renders us the scorn of man, the rejected of God, and, without timely repentance, will rob us of a happy eternity. Religion is the health, the liberty, and the happiness of the soul ; sin is the disease, the servitude, and destruction of it.-It will perhaps be said, that the sons of vice and riot have pleasure in sensual indulgences. This we allow; but must observe, that it is altogether of the lowest kind-empty, fleeting, and transient; “like the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the mirth of the wicked.” It makes a noise and a blaze for the present, but soon vanishes away into smoke and vapor.
On the other hand, the pleasure of religion is solid and lasting, and will attend us through all, even the last stages of life. When we have passed the levity of youth, and have lost all relish for gay entertainments; when old age steals upon us, and stoops toward the grave, this will cleave fast to us, and give us relief.
clad in this immortal róbe, we need not fear the awful summons of the king of terrors, nor regret our retiring into the chambers of the dust. Our immortal part will wing its way to the arms of its Redeemer, and find rest in the heavenly mansions. And though our earthly part, this tabernacle of clay, returns to its original dust, and is dissolved, -our joy, our consolation, our confidence is, that “we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
Such will be the happy consequences attendant on all those who strictly adhere to the Christian religion, and diligently, through the course of their lives, follow the precepts laid down by their divine Master, the great Saviour and Redeemer of the world.
MIRACLES, PARABLES, AND DISCOURSES OF JESUS. Our Saviour's miracles were exceedingly numerous, various, and benevolent, in their character, but only a very small number of them are specifically mentioned. The following is, therefore, only a list of those more particularly noted of the miracles of Christ :
Parable, a comparison or similitude, ingeniously and impressively representing moral or religious truth (Matt. xiii. 3, 10, 18, 23). Jotham's parable is the most ancient on record (Judg. ix. 7-15). Our Saviour's parables are most instructive (Matt. xiii. 53, 54); and the following are the principal recorded :
SUBJECT OF PARABLE.
RECORD. 1. Building on rock and sand
Matt. vii. 24. 2. Blind leading the blind
Galilee. Luke vi. 39. 3. Two debtors
vii. 41. 4. Evil spirit returning
Matt. xii. 43 5. Sower and the seed
xiii. 3. 6. Tares in the field
25. 7. Growth of seed
Mark iv. 26. 8. Grain of mustard-seed
Matt. xiii. 31. 9. Leaven in meal
33. 10. Treasure hid in the field
44. 11. Pearl of great price
Galilee 12. Net cast into the sea
47. 13. Good householder
52 14. Who need a physician
ix. 12 15. Bridegroom's attendants
15. 16. New cloth on an old garment
16. 17. New wine in old bottles
17. 18. Bread of life
John vi. 32. 19. What defiles a man
Matt. xv. 11. 20. Lost sheep
xviii. 12. 21. The lord and unmerciful servant
23. 22. Good Samaritan
Jerusalem Luke x. 30. 23. Rich fool
xii. 16. 24. Lord and his servants
36. 25. Barren fig-tree
xiii. 6. 26. Ambitious guests
XIV. 7. 27. Great supper
16. 28. Hating father and mother
26. 29. Building a tower
28. 30. King going to war
31. 31. Lost sheep, with additions
XV. 3. 32. Lost piece of silver
8. 33. Prodigal son
11. 34. Unjust steward
xvi. 1. 35. Rich man and Lazarus
19. 36. Master and servant
xvii. 7. 37. Unjust judge and widow
xviii. 1. 38. Pharisee and publican
9. 39. Sheepfold
Jerusalem John X. 1. 40. Good shepherd
- 11 41. Laborers in the vineyard
Beyond Jordan. Matt. xx. I 42. Ten pounds for trading
Luke xix. 11. 43. Two sons
Jerusalem Matt. xxi. 28. 44. Husbandmen and vineyard
33. 45. Haughty builders
42 46. Marriage feast
- Xii. 1. 47. Wedding garment
11. 48. Budding of trees
29. 49. Wicked servant
xxiv. 44. 50. Ten virgins
-WY. 1. 51. Talents for trading
14. 52. Sheep and goats
31. 53. True vine
Jerusalem John xv. 1. The following list of the remarkable discourses of Christ will illustrate his wisdom and his doctrine :
RECORD Conversation with Nicodemus
Jerusalem John iii. 1-21. ---the Samaritan woman
Sychar John iv. 1-42. Discourse in the synagogue
Nazareth Luke iv. 16-31. Sermon on the mount
Near Nazareth Matt. v., vi., vii. Ordination charge to the apostles
Matt. x. Denunciations against Chorazin
Matt. xi. 90-94. Discourse concerning healing the infirm man at Bethesda
Jerusalem John v. --on his disciples plucking ears of corn on the sabbath
Matt. xii. 1-S. Refutation of charge of working miracles by agency of Beelzebub Capernaum . Matt. xii. 22-37. Discourse on the bread of life
Capernaum John vi. concerning internal purity
Capernaum Matt. xv. 1-90. against giving or taking offence and forgiving of injuries Capernaum Matt. xviii. -at the feast of tabernacles .
Jerusalem John vii. -on occasion of the adulteress
Jerusalem John viii. 1-11. concerning the sheep.
Jerusalem John x. Denunciation against the scribes and Pharisees
Luke xi. 37-45. Discourse on humility and prudence
Galilee Luke xiv. 7–14. Directions how to attain heaven
Matt. xix. 16-30. Discourse on the sufferings of Christ
Jerusalem Matt. u. 17-19. Denunciations against the Pharisees
Jerusalem Matt. xiii. Predictions of the ruin of Jerusalem .
Jerusalem Matt. xiv. Discourse of consolation .
Jerusalem. John xiv-svi. on the way to Gethsemane.
Matt, wxvi. 31-86. with Peter after his resurrection
John xxi. 5-32 -with his disciples before his ascension
Mount Olivet. Luke xxiv. 50-53.