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perhaps I may say of a very unexpected, kind, in some measure hidden in the councils of the Divine nature, but still so far revealed to us as to excite two great religious sentiments, admiration and gratitude.
That a person of a nature different from all other men ; nay superior,-for so he is distinctly described to be to all created beings, whether men or angels; united with the Deity as no other person is united ; that such a person should come down from heaven, and suffer upon earth the pains of an excruciating death, and that these his submissions and sufferings should avail, and produce a great effect in the procurement of the future salvation of mankind, cannot but excite wonder. But it is by no means improbable on that account; on the contrary, it might be reasonably supposed, beforehand, that if anything was disclosed to us touching a future life, and touching the dispensations of God to men, it would be something of a nature to excite admiration. In the world in which we live we may be said to have some knowledge of its laws and constitution and nature: we have long experienced them: as also of the beings with whom we converse, or amongst whom we are conversant, we may be said to understand something; at least they are familiar to us; we are not surprised with appearances which every day occur. But of the world, and the life to which we are destined, and of the beings amongst whom we may be brought, the case is altogether different. Here is no experience to explain things: no use or familiarity to take off surprise, to reconcile us to difficulties, to assist our apprehension. In the new order of things, according to the new laws of nature, everything will be suitable to the beings who are to occupy the future world: but that suitableness cannot, as it seems to me, be possibly perceived by us, until we are acquainted with that order and with those beings : so that it arises, as it were, from the necessity of things, that what is told us by a Divine messenger of heavenly affairs, of affairs purely spiritual, that is, relating purely to another world, must be so comprehended by us as to excite admiration.
But, Secondly; partially as we may, or perhaps must, comprehend this subject, in common with all subjects which relate strictly and solely to the nature of our future life, we may comprehend it quite sufficiently for one purpose : and that is gratitude. It was only for a moral purpose that the thing was revealed at all; and that purpose is a sense of gratitude and obligation. This was the use which the apostles of our Lord, who knew the most, made of their knowledge. This was the turn they gave to their meditations upon the subject; the impression it left upon their hearts. That a great and happy Being should voluntarily enter the world in a mean and low condi. tion, and humble himself to a death upon the cross, that is, to be executed as a malefactor, in order, by whatever means it was done, to promote the attainment of salvation to mankind, and to each and every one of themselves, was a theme they dwelt upon with feelings of the warmest thankfulness; because they were feelings proportioned to the magnitude of the benefits. Earthly benefits are nothing compared with those which are heavenly. That, they felt from the bottom of their souls. That, in my opinion, we do not feel as we ought: but, feeling this, they never ceased to testify, to acknowledge, to express, the deepest obligation, the most devout consciousness of that obligation, to their Lord and Master ; to him whom, for what he had done and suffered, they regarded as the finisher of their faith, and the author of their salvation.
ALL STAND IN NEED OF A REDEEMER.
Hebrews, ix. 26. Now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to
put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. In a former discourse upon this text I have shown, first, that the Scriptures expressly state the death of Jesus Christ as having an efficacy in the procurement of human salvation, which is not attributed to, the death or sufferings of any other person, however patiently undergone or undeservedly inflicted : and, farther, it appears that this efficacy is quite consistent with our obligation to obedience; that good works still remain the condition of salvation, though not the cause ; the cause being the mercy of Almighty God through Jesus Christ. There is no man living, perhaps, who has considered seriously the state of his soul, to whom this is not a consoling doctrine, and a grateful truth. But there are some situations of mind which dispose us to feel the weight and importance of this doctrine more than others. These situations I will endeavour to describe ; and, in doing so, to point out how much more satisfactory it is to have a Saviour and Redeemer, and the mercies of our Creator, excited towards us, and communicated to us, by and through that Saviour and Redeemer, to confide in and rely upon, than any grounds of merit in ourselves.
First, then, souls which are really labouring and
endeavouring after salvation, and with sincerity ; such souls are every hour made sensible, deeply sensible, of the deficiency and imperfection of their endeavours. Had they no ground, therefore, for hope, but merit; that is to say, could they look for nothing more than what they should strictly deserve ; their prospect would be very uncomfortable. I see not how they could look for heaven at all. They may form a conception of a virtue and obedience, which might seem to be entitled to a high reward : but, when they come to review their own performances, and to compare them with that conception; when they see how short they have proved of what they ought to have been, and of what they might have been, how weak and broken were their best offices; they will be the first to confess that it is infinitely for their comfort that they have some other resource than their righteousness. One infallible effect of sincerity in our endeavours is to beget in us a knowledge of our imperfections. The careless, the heedless, the thoughtless, the nominal, Christian feels no want of a Saviour, an intercessor, a mediator, because he feels not his own defects. Try in earnest to perform the duties of religion, and you will soon learn how incomplete your best performances are. I can hardly mention a branch of our duty which is not liable to be both impure in the motive and imperfect in the execution ; or a branch of our duty in which our endeavours can found their hopes of acceptance upon anything but extended mercy, and the efficacy of those means and causes which have procured it to be so extended.
In the first place, is not this the case with our acts of piety and devotion! We may admit that pure and perfect piety has a natural title to reward at the hand of God. But is ours ever such? To be pure in its motive, it ought to proceed from a sense of God Al
mighty's goodness towards us, and from no other source or cause or motive whatsoever. Whereas even pious, comparatively pious, men will acknowledge that authority, custom, decency, imitation, have a share in most of their religious exercises, and that they cannot warrant any of their devotions to be entirely independent of these causes. I would not speak disparagingly of the considerations here recited. They are oftentimes necessary inducements, and they may be the means of bringing us to better ; but still it is true that devotion is not pure in its origin, unless it flow from a sense of God Almighty's goodness, unmixed with any other reason. But, if our worship of God be defective in its principle, and often debased by the mixture of impure motives, it is still more deficient when we come to regard it in its performances ; our devotions are broken and interrupted, or they are cold and languid. Worldly thoughts intrude themselves upon them. Our worldly heart is tied down to the earth. Our devotions are unworthy of God. We lift not up our hearts unto him. Our treasure is upon earth, and our hearts are with our treasure. That heavenly-mindedness, which ought to be inseparable from religious exercises, does not accompany ours, at least not constantly. I speak not now of the hypocrite in religion, of him who only makes a show of it. His case comes not within our present consideration. I speak of those who are sincere men. These feel the imperfection of their services; and will acknowledge that I have not stated it more strongly than what is true. Imperfection cleaves to every part of it. Our thankfulness is never what it ought to be, or anything like it, and it is only when we have some particular reason for being pleased that we are thankful at all. Formality is apt continually to steal upon us in our worship; more especially in our public wor