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parents and children? Ought we not to bear a very tender affection to them? Ought we not to love them only less than God? Yea, and is there not a tender affection due to those whom God has made profitable to our souls? Are we not commanded to "esteem them very highly in love for their works' sake?" All this is unquestionably true: and this very thing makes the difficulty. Who is sufficient for this, to go far enough herein, and no farther? To love them enough, and not too much? Can we love a wife, a child, a friend, well enough, without loving the creature more than the Creator? Who is able to follow the caution which St. Paul gives to the Christians at Thessalonica ? 1 Thes. iv, 5.
14. I wish that weighty passage (so strangely disguised in our translation) were duly considered: "Let every one of you know how to possess his vessel (his wife) in sanctification and honour." So as neither to dishonour God nor himself; nor to obstruct, but farther holiness. St. Paul goes on, Mn ev tadãi etiduμias, which we render, "Not in the lust of concupiscence," (What is this? it gives the English reader no conception at all. Пabos means any violent or impetuous affection. EziDupa is desire. By the two words the apostle undoubtedly means, vehement and impetuous affections,)—" as the Gentiles who know not God;" and so may naturally seek happiness in a creature.
15. If, by the grace of God, we have avoided or forsaken all these idols, there is still one more dangerous than all the rest; that is, religion. It will easily be conceived, I mean false religion; that is, any religion which does not imply, the giving the heart to God. Such is, first, a religion of opinions; or what is commonly called, orthodoxy. Into this snare fall thousands of those, who profess to hold "salvation by faith :" indeed all of those who, by faith, mean only a system of Arminian or Calvinian opinions. Such is, secondly, a religion of forms; of barely outward worship, how constantly soever performed; yea, though we attend the church service every day, and the Lord's supper every Sunday. Such is, thirdly, a religion of works; of seeking the favour of God, by doing good to men. Such is, lastly, a religion of atheism; that is, every religion whereof God is not laid for the foundation. In a word a religion wherein "God in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself," is not the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last point.
16. True religion is right tempers towards God and man. It is, in two words, gratitude and benevolence: gratitude to our Creator and supreme Benefactor, and benevolence to our fellow creatures. In other words, it is the loving God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves.
17. It is in consequence of our knowing God loves us, that we love him, and love our neighbour as ourselves. Gratitude towards our Creator cannot but produce benevolence to our fellow creatures. The love of Christ constrains us, not only to be harmless, to do no ill to our neighbour, but to be useful, to be "zealous of good works;" as we have time, to do good unto all men ;" and to be patterns to all, of true, genuine morality; of justice, mercy, and truth. This is religion, and this is happiness; the happiness for which we were made. This begins when we begin to know God, by the teaching of his own Spirit. As soon as the Father of spirits reveals his Son in our hearts, and the Son
reveals his Father, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts; then, and not till then, we are happy. We are happy, first, in the consciousness of his favour, which indeed is better than life itself; next, in the constant communion with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ; then, in all the heavenly tempers, which he hath wrought in us by his Spirit; again, in the testimony of his Spirit, that all our works please him, and, lastly, in the testimony of our own spirits, that "in simplicity and godly sincerity we have had our conversation in the world." Standing fast in this liberty from sin and sorrow, wherewith Christ hath made them free, real Christians "rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in every thing give thanks." And their happiness still increases, as they grow up into the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."
18. But how little is this religion experienced, or even thought of, in the Christian world! On the contrary, what reason have we to take up the lamentation of a dying saint; (Mr. Haliburton, of St. Andrew's, in Scotland ;) "Oh sirs, I am afraid a kind of rational religion is more and more prevailing among us; a religion that has nothing of Christ belonging to it: nay, that has not only nothing of Christ, but nothing of God in it!" And indeed how generally does this prevail, not only among professed infidels, but also among those who call themselves Christians; who profess to believe ine Bible to be the word of God! Thus our own countryman, Mr. Wollaston, in that elaborate work, "The Religion of Nature Delineated," presents us with a complete system of religion, without any thing of God about it; without being beholden, in any degree, to either the Jewish or Christian revelation. Thus Monsieur Burlomachi, of Geneva, in his curious treatise on "The Law of Nature," does not make any more use of the Bible than if he had never seen it. And thus the late professor Hutcheson, of Glasgow, (a stranger writer than either of the other,) is so far from grounding virtue on either the fear or the love of God, that he quite shuts God out of the question; not scrupling to declare, in express terms, that "a regard to God is inconsistent with virtue: inasmuch that if in doing a beneficent action, you expect God to reward it, the virtue of the action is lost it is then not a virtuous, but a selfish action!"
19. Perhaps, indeed, there are not many who carry the matter to so great a length. But how great is the number of those, who, allowing religion to consist of two branches, our duty to God, and our duty to our neighbour, entirely forget the first part, and put the second part for the whole,-for the entire duty of man. Thus almost all men of letters, both in England, France, Germany, yea, and all the civilized countries of Europe, extol humanity to the skies, as the very essence of religion. To this the great triumvirate, Rousseau, Voltaire, and David Hume, have contributed all their labours, sparing no pains to establish a religion, which should stand on its own foundation, independent of any revelation whatever; yea, not supposing even the being of a God. So leaving him, if he have any being, to himself, they have found out both a religion and a happiness, which have no relation at all to God, nor any dependance upon him.
20. It is no wonder that this religion should grow fashionable, and spread far and wide in the world. But call it humanity, virtue, morality, or what you please; it is neither better nor worse than atheism. Men Vol II 28
hereby wilfully and designedly put asunder what God has joined, the duties of the first and the second table. It is separating the love of our neighbour from the love of God. It is a plausible way of thrusting God out of the world he has made. They can do the business without him; and so either drop him entirely, not considering him at all; or suppose, that since "He gave things their beginning, And set this whirligig a spinning," he has not concerned himself with these trifles, but let every thing take its own course.
21. On the contrary, we have the fullest evidence that the eternal, omnipresent, almighty, all wise Spirit, as he created all things, so he continually superintends whatever he has created. He governs all, not only to the bounds of creation, but through the utmost extent of space; and not only through the short time that is measured by the earth and sun, but from everlasting to everlasting. We know, that as all nature, so all religion, and all happiness, depend on him; and we know that whoever teach to seek happiness without him, are monsters, and the pests of society.
22. But after all the vain attempts of learned or unlearned men, it will be found, as there is but one God, so there is but one happiness, and one religion. And both of these centre in God. Both by Scripture and by experience we know, that an unholy, and, therefore, an unhappy man, seeking rest but finding none, is sooner or later convinced, that sin is the ground of his misery, and cries out of the deep to him that is able to save, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" It is not long before he finds "redemption in the blood of Jesus, even the forgiveness of sins." Then "the Father reveals his Son" in his heart, and he" calls Jesus Lord, by the Holy Ghost." And then the love of God is "shed abroad in his heart, by the Holy Spirit which is given unto him." From this principle springs real, disinterested benevolence to all mankind; making him humble, meek, gentle to all men, easy to be entreated, to be convinced of what is right, and persuaded to what is good; inviolably patient, with a thankful acquiescence in every step of his adorable providence. This is religion, even the whole mind which was also in Christ Jesus. And has any man the insolence or the stupidity to deny, that this is happiness? Yea, that it
"Yields more of happiness below,
23. There can be no doubt but from this love to God and man, a suitable conversation will follow. His "communication," that is, discourse, will "be always in grace, seasoned with salt, and meet to minister grace to the hearers." He will always open his mouth with wisdom, and there will be in his tongue the law of kindness." Hence his affectionate words will "distil as the dew, and as the rain upon the tender herb." And men will know, "it is not he only that speaks, but the Spirit of the Father that speaketh in him." His actions will spring from the same source with his words; even from the abundance of a loving heart. And while all these aim at the glory of God, and tend to this one point, whatever he does, he may truly say,
"End of my every action thou,
24. He to whom this character belongs, and he alone, is a Christian To him the one, eternal, omnipresent, all perfect Spirit, is the " alpha and omega, the first and the last." Not his Creator only, but his sus tainer, his preserver, his governor; yea, his Father, his Saviour, Sanctifier, and Comforter. This God is his God, and his all, in time and in eternity. It is the benevolence springing from this root, which is pure and undefiled religion. But if it be built on any other foundation, as it is of no avail in the sight of God, so it brings no real, solid, permanent happiness to man, but leaves him still a poor, dry, indigent, and dissatisfied creature.
25. Let all, therefore, that desire to please God, condescend to be taught of God, and take care to walk in that path which God himself hath appointed. Beware of taking half of this religion for the whole, but take both parts of it together. And see that you begin where God himself begins: "Thou shalt have no other god before me." Is not this the first, our Lord himself being the Judge, as well as the great commandment? First, therefore, see that ye love God! next, your neighbour, every child of man. From this fountain let every temper, every affection, every passion flow. So shall that "mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." Let all your thoughts, words, and actions, spring from this! So shall you" inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world.”
Dublin, April 9, 1789.
SERMON CXX.-Causes of the Inefficacy of Christianity.
"Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?" Jer. viii, 22.
1. THIS question, as here proposed by the prophet, relates only to a particular people, the children of Israel. But I would here consider it in a general sense, with relation to all mankind. I would seriously inquire, Why has Christianity done so little good in the world? Is it not the balm, the outward means, which the great Physician has given to men, to restore their spiritual health? Why then is it not restored? You say, because of the deep and universal corruption of human nature. Most true. But here is the very difficulty. Was it not intended by our all wise and almighty Creator, to be the remedy for that corruption? A universal remedy, for a universal evil? But it has not answered this intention: it never did: it does not answer it at this day. The disease still remains in its full strength: wickedness of every kind; vice, inward and outward, in all its forms, still overspreads the face of the earth.
2. Oh Lord God, "righteous art thou! Yet let us plead with thee." How is this? Hast thou forgotten the world thou hast made? Which thou hast created for thy own glory? Canst thou despise the work of thy own hands, the purchase of thy Son's blood? Thou hast given medicine to heal our sickness; yet our sickness is not healed. Still darkness covers the earth, and thick darkness the people, Yea,
"Darkness such as devils feel,
3. What a mystery is this? That Christianity should have done so little good in the world! Can any account of this be given? Can any reasons be assigned for it? Does it not seem that one reason it has done so little good is this, because it is so little known? Certainly it can do no good where it is not known. But it is not known at this day to the far greater part of the inhabitants of the earth. In the last century, our ingenious and laborious countryman, Mr. Brerewood, travelled over great part of the known world, on purpose to inquire, so far as was possible, what proportion the Christians bear to the heathens and Mohammedans. And according to his computation, (probably the most accurate which has yet been made,) I suppose mankind to be divided into thirty parts, nineteen parts of these are still open heathens, having no more knowledge of Christianity than the beasts that perish. And we may add to these the numerous nations which have been discovered in the present century. Add to these such as profess the Mohammedan religion and utterly scorn Christianity; and five parts out of thirty of mankind are not so much as nominally Christians. So then five parts of mankind out of six are totally ignorant of Christianity. It is, therefore, no wonder that five in six of mankind, perhaps nine in ten, have no advantage from it.
4. But why is it that so little advantage is derived from it to the Christian world? Are Christians any better than other men? Are they better than Mohammedans or heathens? To say the truth, it is well if they are not worse: worse than either Mohamniedans or heathens. In many respects they are abundantly worse; but then they are not properly Christians. The generality of these, though they bear the Christian name, do not know what Christianity is. They no more understand it than they do Greek or Hebrew; therefore they can be no better for it. What do the Christians, so called, of the eastern church, dispersed throughout the Turkish dominions, know of genuine Christianity? Those of the Morea, of Circassia, Mongrelia, Georgia? Are they not the very dregs of mankind? And have we reason to think that those of the southern church, those inhabiting Abyssinia, have any more conception than they, of "worshipping God in spirit and in truth?" Look we nearer home. See the northern churches; those that are under the patriarch of Moscow. How exceedingly little do they know, either of outward or inward Christianity! How many thousands, yea, myriads of those poor savages, know nothing of Christianity but the name? How little more do they know than the heathen Tartars on the one hand, or the heathen Chinese on the other !
5. But is not Christianity well known, at least, to all the inhabitants of the western world? A great part of which is eminently termed Christendom, or the land of Christians. Part of these are still members of the church of Rome; part are termed Protestants. As to the former, Portuguese, Spaniards, Italians, French, Germans, what do the bulk of them know of scriptural Christianity? Having had frequent opportunity of conversing with many of these both at home and abroad, I am bold to affirm, that they are in general totally ignorant, both as to the theory and practice of Christianity; so that they are "perishing," by thousands, "for lack of knowledge," for want of knowing the very first principles of Christianity.