Imatges de pÓgina
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former by lives of holiness, or obnoxious to the latter by habits of unrighteousness. For, since God hath forewarned us what will ensue from the tenor of our conduct in the present state, it is just and equitable that he should reward or punish us according to our works. This we regard as right and expedient even in human governments, much more must this be the case under the divine administration, which is conducted with the most perfect rectitude,

That God will render to every one an exact retribution according to the nature of his actions, either in this world or the next, both reason and scripture teach us to believe. For as he knows exactly the characters of his creatures, he cannot be deceived in judging and determining their merit or demerit, and the degree of reward or punishment which each deserves: as he cannot be biassed by any im. proper motive to shew favour to one or severity to another, he must therefore decide with the most consummate impartiality; as he cannot be overawed by any power to pervert judgment, he is left to the free determination of his own convictions; and as he is incapable of the least degree of injustice, he must ever do what is right and equal. We shall therefore all receive, either here or hereafter, an exact retribution according to the deeds done in the body, whether these have been good or evil. Accordingly scripture in various passages informs us of the rectitude of the divine procedure." That be far from thee, that the righteous should be as the wicked : shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” “Righteous art thou, O Lord! and upright are thy judgments.” “For the work of a man shall he render unto him, and cause every one to receive according to his doings.” “ He

“ He will render to every one according to his works, to those who by patient continuance in well-doing, glory, honor, and immortality, even eternal life; but to those who are contentious and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil.” “ He hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that Aan whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assu

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rance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead."

The last of the divine attributes which we shall here consider, is that of faithfulness or truth. The faithfulness of God, is that eternal rectitude of his nature, by which he indicates the utmost sincerity in all his declarations, and the most exact fidelity in all his promises or threatenings, if we render ourselves proper objects of them, by our good or bad behaviour. By this quality of the divine nature, we are led to infer that every subject of revelation may be depended on as true and genuine. As God knows every thing without the possibility of error, therefore whatever he declares must be consonant to the real state of the matter represented. Whatever doctrines he may discover to us, must be true in themselves, although we may not perhaps be capable of understanding their meaning. Whatever duties he requires must be founded in equity, although we may not perceive the reasons which render their observance necessary. But though we shortsighted mortals may be at a loss to judge of the mysterious nature of many truths contained in the scriptures, yet these are all plain and obvious to the understanding of the Almighty; for all his words are true and faithful. Whatever also God hath promised will in due time be accomplished; for “ his covenant will he not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of his lips.” There is no cause which might induce the Divine Being to falsify his word, or fail in his resolutions. He has no reason to change his purposes, since they are at first formed upon the most perfect rules of rectitude: he has no motives for adopting other measures, since he perceived the whole relations connected with the subject of his determination: nor can ever he forget to prosecute the intentions of his will, since he remembers the words of his mouth to a thousand generations. Indeed he is concerned to execute the designs of his providence and his distributive dispensations, that he may carry on to its complete consummation the system of moral government which he has established among his rational creatures. Therefore we may expect sooner or later that recompense of reward which God hath promised to perse

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vering obedience, or that condign punishment which he hath threatened against transgressions. For “ the Lord is not a man that he should lie, neither the son of man that he should repent; hath he said it, and will he not do it, hath he not spoken, and will he not make it good ?” “ Heaven and earth may pass away, but his words shall not pass away." In a future state we shall experience the inviolable fidelity of the divine declarations, that the Lord hath done what he had devised; he hath fulfilled his word, that he commanded in the days of old; there hath not failed aught of any thing which the Lord hath spoken; all is come to pass.

Having thus endeavoured to explain some of the principal attributes of the Divine Being, I shall conclude by shewing, very shortly,

II. The practical application which the subject suggests.

From the spirituality of God, we should learn to conceive a right notion of his essence, by abstracting from it all corporeal appendages, and consider it as endowed only with the qualities of an immaterial being. As he is a Spirit, we should also learn to worship him in spirit and in truth, as one who knows our thoughts, and tries our reins and our hearts, and cannot be deceived by the appearance of devotion, if the reality is wanting.

From the infinity or immensity of the divine nature, we should learn to consider him as every where present, actuating, preserving, and governing the whole and every individual part of his creation. In every vicissitude either of the natural or moral world, let us reflect, that God is there, directing and arranging every event which happens. Let us also impress our minds with a deep sense of his constant presence with us wherever we are; “ that he is about our paths and about our beds, and spieth out all our ways." “ Therefore let us stand in awe and sin not," since we are constantly exposed to his observation, constantly acting in his presence.

From his eternity and immutability we should learn to fear or trust in him, according as the course of our lives is good or evil. Should we continue iinpenitent, he will exist

for ever to punish us, if we repent not and amend our lives : and if we serve and obey him, we may always rely on his protection and favour; for whom he loves he will love unto the end. He will ever bless his faithful people, he “ will guide them by his counsel while they live, and afterwards receive them to glory.” But if we throw off the restraints of religion, from the persuasion that God will not punish us so severely as he has threatened, let us know that the counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, and that with him is no variableness neither shadow of turning, that he is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.

From the consideration of the divine power, let us learn to adore the infinite strength of his almighty arm which has stretched out the heavens like a curtain, and hath hung the earth upon nothing, which sustains the system of the universe, and the lives of all his creatures; which can create or annihilate worlds by one single act, and which worketh all things after the counsel of his will. As he has our lives and fate entirely in his hands, let us dread his displeasure, which is ready to destroy all the workers of iniquity : " let us fear him who can both kill our bodies, and cast us soul and body into hell-fire: yea, let us fear him.”

From the wisdom of God, let us admire the wonderful contrivances exhibited in the works of nature, and the illustrious displays of this perfection in the dispensations of providence and grace. Let us examine the wise adaptation of means to ends in every object within the reach of our inspection, and search the scriptures which contain the wisdom of God in the mystery of redemption, and then we shall be enabled to exclaim, " great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty! in wisdom hast thou made them all.”

From the goodness of God, we should learn thankfulness for the manifestations of it exhibited both towards others and ourselves. Let us praise the divine bounty, which daily loadeth us with benefits; let us extol the loving kindness of the Lord for bestowing on us all things richly to enjoy, both pertaining to life and to godliness ;

and that he hath not only made provision for our bodies, but for the salvation and happiness of our souls. Let us therefore magnify the Lord, and let our spirits rejoice in God our Saviour, who hath thus done such great things

for us.

From the holiness, justice, and truth of God, let us learn to be holy as he is holy, as without holiness we cannot be admitted to his presence and enjoyment either here or hereafter. Let us learn that God will render to us according to our works, and confer happiness on us as the reward of our holiness, or inflict misery as the punishment of our vices. Let us consider that as God has promised to bestow the heavenly inheritance on his faithful servants, and threatened everlasting destruction to his enemies, he will assuredly accomplish his purposes; and therefore " let us fear lest a promise being made us of entering into rest, any of us should” by ungodly lives, “ at last fall short of it.”

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