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ON THE DUTY OF DOING GOOD TO ALL MEN. 203
brethren in Christ Jesus to whom we are bound especially to do good; and the highest good that we can do for them, is to provide for them as we have opportunity, and they have need, all the means of religious instruction and consolation provided in the word, the ministry, the ordinances, and the worship of the Gospel, as professed in apostolic and primitive purity by that branch of the Christian ehurch of which we are members.
Let me then, my brethren, at this time, illustrate this duty-the duty of extending our church among those who, destitute of its ministrations and worship, are desirous of enjoying them.
1. In extending our church, we extend a rational system of religion.
Rational, not in the sense of excluding from our belief every religious doctrine which transcends the comprehension of our feeble faculties, and defies the grasp of our finite intellect. A revelation from heaven, in its very character as a revelation, must include what the highest efforts of reason could not discover, and from the subjects of which it treats-the uncreated mind, the invisible and eternal realities of a future world-must demand belief in much that no finite understanding can comprehend. It is in the highest degree irrational 7 to expect, in the sense in which the term is in these last days used, as denoting the exclusion of every thing from our belief which we cannot comprehend, a rational system of religion.
But though reason, exercising her legitimate powers, will implicitly receive divine truths well attested, however they may transcend her comprehension, she ought not to be called on to receive
any which, on the very face of them, contradict her strong and honest dictates. And we hold it as a distinguishing excellence of our church, that she does not make this arbitrary demand of us. She avows indeed, as the cardinal truth of the Christian revelation, as the lamentable characteristic of our nature which rendered that revelation necessary, the subjection of all men, through the disobedience of their progenitor, to error and to sin; but she does not go to the irrational extreme of subjecting all men, merely on account of that transgression of the first of the race, in which they had no participation, to the awful curse of eternal damnation. In accordance with Scripture, and with the eternal and immutable rules of justice, she pronounces this tremendous sentence only on actual personal transgression-only on those who, when light has come into the world, choose darkness rather than light; and when the means of recovery from error and sin are offered to them in the mercy and grace of the Gospel, perversely neglect and reject the proffer. She adores with reverence the inscrutable determination of Him who worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will, to call successively certain portions of mankind to the knowledge of his revelation in Jesus Christ; thus predestinating them to all the means and all the blessings of salvation; but she does not, contradicting every view which revelation exhibits and reason confirms of the just and merciful character of the Ruler of the universe, make him the partial dispenser of the blessings of eternity, the irrespective awarder of its tremendous woes; believing that, signalized as are God's elect, the great body of professing Christians, in this life, with eminent and
superior means of spiritual improvement, and exalted therefore as they may be hereafter to brighter states of glory; still all those, in every nation, who seek to know and to do the will of the invisible Being who made them, will not seek him in vain, but, through the merits of him who died to purchase redemption for all men, will be accepted according to what they have, and not according to what they have not.
She hails, too, as an inestimable gift of God to man, that supernatural light which incomprehensibly, but effectually, guides our benighted faculties in the discovery and reception of divine truth; and that powerful grace of the Spirit of the Most High, which transforms and renews in righteousness our depraved affections, turning them from sin to holiness, from the world to heaven: but she does not countenance all the wild and unseemly sallies of fanaticism, nor sanction its presumptuous claims to sensible impressions of this supernatural light, and sudden and violent impulses of this all-powerful grace; these she teaches her members to seek in the diligent use of the appointed means of their conveyance-pious reading, and meditation, and prayer, and the ordinances of the church; and she impresses on them the necessity of improving this light and grace to their spiritual illumination and sanctification, by the humble, and diligent, and persevering exercise of all the powers of their minds in the search of truth and duty, and in the works of righteousness.
In extending then our church, you extend a system of doctrine which is in all respects accommodated to the spiritual wants of mankind, and accordant with the enlightened dictates of reason.
2. You extend also, in their purity and power, the distinguishing truths of the Gospel-evangelical doctrine.
None can go further than our church does in maintaining the demerit of man, the inadequacy of his brightest virtues to stand before the blaze of that glory which confounds the cherubim of his best performances to encounter that justice, the. weight of whose awful sentence could be borne but by the Son of God: none can cherish with more reverential ardour those incomprehensible but glorious truths concerning the Divine Nature, which proclaim the Persons of the Godhead as the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier of fallen and sinful man: none confounds more entirely all the vain boasting of human pride, in ascribing all our hopes of pardon here, and acceptance hereafter, solely to the merits and intercession of that divine Personage whom it has pleased God to constitute, in our nature, as the Redeemer of the world and none lays deeper the great foundation of all genuine acceptable righteousness in the operations of that Holy Spirit, by which we abolish the whole body of sin, and rising as new men in Christ Jesus, with renewed affections daily proceed in all virtue and godliness of living.
These truths of the Christian system, fraught with peace, and holiness, and celestial hope, are not only exhibited in the didactic and technical terms of articles of faith-they glow in the devotional language of a liturgy. Thus, then
3. In extending our church, you extend an unrivalled form of religious instruction and devotion. For the liturgy is as perspicuous a manual of
evangelical truth, as it is an animated formulary of evangelical devotion. All the great truths of the Christian system which constitute it the power of God unto salvation, shine forth in that liturgy with the light and the heat of the sunbeam, engaging the understanding in the cordial reception of these truths, and exciting the affections with ardour and with delight to cherish them. Dispensing this to a congregation of worshippers, you furnish them with an exhibition, in the most simple, pure, and animated language, of all those divine truths which they are to believe, of all those holy duties which they are to practise: you present to their reverential homage God the Father in all his infinite attributes and exalted relations: you call on them to offer their supplications and their praises through the intercession of the eternal Son, the one great Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ; and you direct their confidence and their hopes to that Divine Spirit, of whose only gift it cometh that they can render true and acceptable service: you engage them in all the varied acts of worship, diversifying confession with praise, supplication with intercession, the highest strains of devotion with the finest portions of inspired instruction: you carry them through all those events of redemption, as sublime in their nature as beneficent in their results, beginning with the tidings of the coming of the Son of David, and ending with his exaltation to heaven; and the first pledge of his kingly dominion, the dispensing of the Holy Ghost; and the acknowledgment, in the unity of the Godhead, of the glory of the eternal Trinity: you admit them into the Christian fold by a formulary, which states, in terms as strong and animated as they are scripVOL. II. 27