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l. In attending to this subject, which exhibits the moral nature of the religion which we profess, as consist. ing essentially in self-denial, and holy love or benevolence; we are strongly impressed with the idea, that such doctrine as this is certainly from God. As the Apostle says, such doctrine as this is NOT AFTER MAN. It is most directly opposed to the views and feelings of every natural heart. From whence then could it proceed, but from the inspiration of the Almighty ?
2. The doctrine of self-denial, and true benevolence is altogether a practical doctrine. Let it be ever so well investigated, and ever so firmly believed, it can be of no advantage to us, unless it be put in daily practice. To what purpose can it be, to hold the truth in unrighteous. ness? It will but aggravate our damnation. 66 For it had been better for us not to have known the way of life, than after we have known it, to turn from the holy commandment.” “ If ye know things, therefore, happy are ye, if ye do them."....AMEN.
Submission to God.
One of the most precious fruits of self-denial is a humble and cordial submission to God. This is a duty which is generally acknowledged, and even most commonly professed by mankind, especially on their dying beds. Happy would iť be, could we discover, in all instances, good evidence, of the sincerity of this profession. But of this evidence, we have reason to fear, there is, in many in. stances, a great deficiency. For there is what is called a forced submission ? as well as one that is voluntary, and delightful. And the more excellent and important this duty appears to be; so much the inore is it liable to its counterfeits. Gold and silver have their counterfeits : but where do we discover the counterfeits of iron or lead ? Submission to God is infinitely more precious than gold and silver. But how often do mankind deceive themselves, by a pitiful resemblance. They find all resistance to the divine will unavailing; and conclude, as the last resort, to make their submission to a merciful God. Of this, they make a righteousness; and on this they place their dependence, as the condition of divine favor, and of eternal life. Since we have reason to conclude, that many delude themselves with a mistaken idea of submission to God; how important is it, that this subject be well investigated. We are therefore, in this essay, led to a discussion of two points. 1. The nature, and, 2. the obligation of submission to God.
I. With regard to the nature of submission to God, it implies, a knowledge of his real character. Without a knowledge of the divine character, how can we decide whether we submit to the true God, or to a false god ? The Athenians were reproved by the Apostle for making their submission, and paying their adorations to an unknown God. Their ignorant worship was unacceptable to the true God. Without a distinct knowledge of Him in whom we live, and move, and have our being, it is impossible to exercise that submission, which will meet the divine approbation. How can a man know whether he is submissive to the civil government, unless he understands the nature of the government, and the character of the rulers ?
Again ; The command, by the Apostle, “ Submit yourselves, therefore unto God,” implies, that in our natural state, we are unsubmissive, and rebellious. Respecting natural men, it is said, that they have " a carnal mind, which is enmity against God; not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Concerning the Saviour, they say in their hearts, “ We will not have this man to reign over us." Submission has respect to government; and we know that nothing is more abhor
rent to the natural heart, than the government of Jehovah. Mankind are unreconciled to the law of God: but, to his holy sovereignty they are as inveterate, as they are to the dominion of the most absolute and abitrary despot
We hence observe further, that there can be no submis. sion to God, without a change of heart, and a cordial return to God, by unfeigned repentance. Nothing is more absurd than to suppose, that a proud, impenitent sinner can be subunissive to the holy law and government of God.
may yield, in sullen silence, to unavoidable evils : but this is not of the nature of submission to God. To lay a foundation for true submission, he must be a humble penitent; a real christian.
We further observe, that submission to God implies, not only a penitent and humble heart; but a most joyful acquiescence in the humiliating plan of salvation by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. In other words, it implies a true and living faith. To have faith and confidence in God, is nearly the same thing as true submission : it is, at the least, absolutely essential to submission.
Furthermore ; It is no small part of submission to God, that we yield a cheerful obedience to all his commands and institutions. It is vain for people to imagine, that it belongs to them to decide respecting religious duty, what is right and what is wrong. And though many things which are required, seem mysterious; and to our scanty view, unreasonable ; yet we must submit as cheerfully to the divine requirements, as to the events of divine providence. To obey God's commands, in all their strictness, and constantly to walk in his ordinances, is extremely burdensome to sinful men. But, in order to be submissive to God, this burden must be cheerfully borne-this cross must be taken up, and accounted a great and precious privilege.
Another thing, in which submission to God is exercised, is, that, generally speaking, it implies self-denial. In other words, it implies something submitted to God ; some private good is relinquished, and very cheerfully relinquished.
It does not indeed suppose, that we are indifferent to our own interest and happiness ; and regardless of our own welfare, and that of our families and friends. But it supposes, that we hold every thing at God's disposal ; and that, be our own interests and connections ever so dear to us, we are willing to resign them all to the wise and sovereign disposal of our Almighty Father. It supposes, that our will and affections are brought into a sweet and cordial subjection to the will of God. 166 Not my will, but thine be done." True submission implies, that we have such a strong confidence in God, and in the wisdom and holiness of his government, that we choose decidedly, and at all events, that God should do his pleasure with us and ours; and with the whole universe. The submissive heart resigns up every thing, that God demands. Does he demand all our property ? It is granted, even though it go into the hands of swindlers. Does he demand a son, a daughter, a husband, a wife ? Amen,"
says the submissive heart. Submission is a resignation, a chosen, cordial resignation, of every thing that we possess; and finally a resignation of ourselves, soul and body, for time and eternity.
Another thing required, in the great duty of submis. sion to God, is, that it be unconditional. The language of the submissive heart is not, I will submit in hopes of obtaining divine favor: but I do submit, at all events ; and without condition or reserve." “ Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” I claim no favor at allo; nor is it a question, whether, by submitting to present evils, I shall escape future and greater evils. But, having confidence in the wisdom and rectitude of his government, I now submit to God. 66 Here I am, a hell-deserving creature. Do with me as seemeth thee good.” 'This is the language of humble and holy subinission. It is wholly unconditional ; and it is never, in any case to be retracted. It approves of the justice, as well as of the mercy of God.
II. We are to attend to the obligation of submission to God. Obligation, in this case, arises from several considerations. It arises from the infinite digaity and hox
liness of the divine character. To rebel against such a God, is to oppose the welfare of the universe. The absolute supremacy of God is as necessary to the welfare of the universe, as the supremacy of parents is to the welfare of their families. All can feel the force of the command addressed to children : “ Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” This is essential to the general good. It is right, because parents are superior to children, and seek their good ; and because children necessarily depend on the wisdom and direction of their parents, to guide them in the way of safety and prosperity. But men are far more dependent on God for wisdom and direction, than children can be on their parents ; and God is possessed of infinitely greater dignity and holiness, than earthly parents. Submission to God, therefore, is infinitely more important than submission to men of any rank or character. In a monarchical government, and especially under the reign of the wisest and best of kings, absolute submission is required of all the subjects. Why not under the reign of the King of kings ? Especially since it is clearly proved, that he is possessed of every divine perfection. Further,
We are under the same obligation to yield an unconditional submission to God, as we are to perform any duty whatsoever. For, in attending to the nature of submission, and what things are implied in it, we have found, that it implies 'repentance, faith, obedience to the law of God, and even the sum and substance of religion. Refusing submission to God, therefore, is rejecting the duties of religion in general. Indeed, most of the duties of practical religion are qualified by a spirit of humble submission. What is repentance and sorrow for sin ? unless it be qualified by a humble submission to God. Without submission to God, how is it possible to have faith in Jesus Christ ? Of what avail are unsubmissive prayers, confessions, or praises ? How can we adopt, with an unsubmissive heart, the form of prayer, dictated by the Saviour : “ Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven;" A humble submission to