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Were we less beloved by him, “ who loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, before he washed us, than afterward? The hearer will easily perceive that these queries all tend to show, that no change in man can effect any change in God.-And • Thirdly; The acknowledged unchangeability of the divine Being furnishes sufficient proof, that his love to his creatures can never increase nor decrease. Entertaining a hope, that what has been offered, designed to explain our meaning respecting the dispensation of divine grace flowing naturally from God, may be acceptable to the candid hearer, we will say a little on what we mean by saying, that this dispensation of grace flows necessarily from the nature of God; and offer some argument in its support.
What we mean by this part of our general proposition is, that if we take a careful view of the nature of the divine atributes, as they are revealed in creation, providence, and grace, even as short sighted as we are, we become convinced that all the ways of God, all his works, all his mercies, and all his judgments are unalterably established in truth and rightousness which never vary. It is not consistent with the atributes of God, to suppose, that he can design to do any thing, and afteward alter his determination. Nor is it any more consistant with the divine atributes to suppose that any of the designs of God, which in different ages of the world have been revealed to man, were less ancient than the design of creation ; which carries us as far back as is of use to our researches. When the Alınighty was pleased to reveal himself to Abraham, and call him from his people, and promise him the land of Canaan, and to multiply him, and to bless him, and to bless all the families of the earth in his seed, however new and unexpect
ed this might be to this « friend of God,” it could be no new thing with the God of Abrabam. And so we may say of any other particular manifestation of the wisdom of God. “Known unto God are all his works from the foundation of the world,” and he declares “ the end from the beginning." It is furthermore said, that he “cannot lie;" and that « he cannot deny himself.”
Having presented the hearer, in our imperfect manner, with this short account of the foundation of the doctrine of Jesus, the attention of the audience may, for a few moments, be devoted to the consideration of the following inferences, drawn from premises already proved. .
. 1. As we have seen, that the grace by which man obtains salvation and eternal life, flows naturally and necessarily from the nature of God, and is known by its peculiar characteristic of love to sinners, we infer that this salvation will eventually be as extensive as the love of God, from which it proceeds. If the love of the divine Being insures salvation to any of the sinful race of Adam, it equally favors the salvation of all men, as all are equally the objects of divine love. This inference relies on the fact, that the same cause will always produce the same effects. A parent has a number of children all needy and dependent on him, he loves them all equally, it is granted that this love will certainly favor and support some of these dependent offspring; the conclusion is, that it will grant the same favor and support to the whole. Should the speaker, this evening, inform you, that there is a parent of great respectability in this town, who has a numerous family of sons and daughters, that he is vastly rich, has all at his command that heart can wish, that he most tenderly and affectionately loves his children, and loves them impartially, that this parent has favoured your servant with a knowledge of his domestic economy and government, that he of: ten invites him to partake of his bountiful board, and of the refreshments which his generous favor constantly provides, would you not reply that all this is very probable, and that you know of many such families in the circle of your acquaintance ? But should the account proceed and state, that of this numerous family of children only a fourth part were ever indulged with the society of their parent, that the other three fourths were the most wretched beings ever seen, that they were as nearly starved the whole of the time as they could be and live, that they were excluded the society of the favorites, and that their extreme misery was for the honor and glory of the merciful parent, and to enhance the unalloyed happiness of the others, could you freely give your candid assent to the probability, the consistency and propriety of this account? Would you not say, that if one part of the story be true, the other must be false ? You certainly would contend, that if the parent were ime partial in his love to his children, he never would make the distinction reported; you would revolt with horror at the declaration, that the extreme misery of the greatest part of the family was necessary for the honor of the parent, and to enhance the felicity of the happy few. Such doctrine as this, you would say, is totally without foundation, is a superstructure having nothing for its support, and is proof positive that the mind of the reporter is deranged or corrupted. Why then will you contradict your own candid reasoning, and contend that our Father in heaven loves his offspring impartially, even his enemies, that his divine fullness is infinitely extensive, but that by some special grace which has been made known to you, you are authorised to believe and say, that but a small part of the human family will ever be made partakers of the rich bounties of salvation in Christ, and that far the most numerous part of Adam's posterity are doomed to unspeakable tortures eternally for the glory of God and to promote the happiness of a few ? It is charitably believed that your candor will lead to an impartial decision of this momentous subject, and will incline you to admit what is so fully and clearly proved by the unerring testimony of truth.
2. We infer from our general subject, that the common doctrine which teaches that our Father who is in heaven, loves those who love him, but has treasured up everlasting vengeance against his enemies, is subversive of the gospel and religion of Jesus, which he preached on the glorious foundation of the divine love to sinners; and equally subversive of our duty as disciples of Christ. The common doctrine, against which this inference is drawn, seems to adhere to the old tradition, “ Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy,". against which our Saviour labored in the place where our text is found. , “ If ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others ? do not even the publicans so ?" Those who pay no attention to religion, whose thoughts are wholly engrossed by the things of a temporal concern, who lay up their treasures upon the earth, love those who love them, do good to those who do good to them, and courteously salute their brethren. Now if God love none but such as love him, if he be kind to none but such as are friendly to him, what does he more than publicans ? What reward hath he ? Most surely Jesus never would have inculcated the duty of loving our enemies on the principle that God hated his. But he seemed to come directly to the onderstanding of the people through the medium
of the rising sun and falling rain, and presented them with the real character of our heavenly Father as a perfect pattern for our imitation. Suppose some of the disciples of Jesus, on this occasion, had asked him whether he meant to be understood, that our Father in heaven did really love the evil and the good, the just and the unjust, as impartially as he granted them the light of the sun and the rain froin heaven? What answer inay we believe the divine teacher would have returned ? Would he have said, I solemnly charge you not to be deceived by these temporal things? You see that the sun makes no distinction in bestowing its influence on the nations of the earth, it bounds not its. blessings by any distinctions in the characters of Inen, it is prodigal of its innumerable blessings on the evil and on the good ; so is the rain likewise as entirely impartial; it sheds its generous favors on all without partiality ; but you are not to suppose that these are true indications of the real mind and disposition of your heavenly Father. In temporal things God is “ good unto all, and his tender mercies are over all his works;" but in respect to the spiritual and eternal concerns of men he has made an infinite difference. Those who love him and keep his commandments, he really loves; but his enemies are the objects of his burning wrath, and on them will his vengeance be pourcd forth forever. In reply to such an answer, might not the questions which Jesus asked be returned ? If ye love them that love you what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? But the divine teacher would not have been so absurdly inconsistent with himself; he would have answered the supposed question in the affirmative. We have full liberty to believe this and ample authority to support it. The contrary is the very thing that he was dissuading the people from ; but