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this state of probation to a state of just retribu. tion, in which he will be rewarded, or punished, according to his works, or to his true temper and character.
Here, reader, pause Meditate on the thoughts suggested. Contemplate thyself as a creature of God, “ made a little lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honour,” fitted for rational service and enjoyment, and appointed to a future judgment, to interminable existence, in another world, with a capacity for happiness or misery. Your origin, nature, facul. ties, dignity, and destination prove you to be a moral agent, and a proper subject of moral gov. ernment. An acquaintance with your actual condition, capacity, and duty as such, is of the highest importance to yourself. Into this it is our fervent prayer that you may be led by the proper exercise of your own mind, and by the enlightening influences of the holy spirit.
That he might answer the original design of his creation, retain his primitive glory and honour, and enjoy the continued approbation and favour of his Maker; it was necessary for man to yield sinless obedience to the law under which he was placed by the wise and holy author of his existence. But is this the present
actual condition of man? If not, is he now able to regain his original standing as a subject of moral law and government? These queries, with their proper answers, will present a view, a picture of man, different from what we have been contemplating. By whatever means sin was introduced, the conscience of every person testifies, that his condition is not that of perfect innocence. We do not insist that you should examine and determine this point by any revealed law and rule. Let it be settled, if any choose, by the acknowledged and incontestable principles of natural religion. As these require of rational creatures undeviating rectitude, or obedience to the law under which they are placed, every human being will find he is not in a state of perfect innocence; but that he hath transgressed some known law of his maker, and is guilty in the view of his own conscience. He cannot, therefore, expect to stand acquitted before God on the ground of his own obedience and merit. By the light of his own mind he is convinced, and the divine word brings the conviction home to his conscience, that he is a fallen, sinful creature; or, which is the same thing, that he hath not perfectly obeyed the law of God, or followed the suggestions of his own
reason, which was given to be the director of his conduct. Apply this rule to every case, and all will be concluded under sin. Is not this, reader, your actual condition? Will you, will any one presume to say, that he never has of. fended against the law of his mind? against the light and dictates of his conscience? If not, all must plead guilty before God. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." This conceded, another serious inquiry offers itself to the mind, viz.
Has man ability to recover himself, and to answer, in his own name and person, the just demands of a holy law ?
Not to insist on that moral impotence, that want of disposition and inclination to holiness, which are said to be induced by a single act of disobedience; it is a given point, I believe, that creatures owing entire submission and obedience to their creator, can never make satisfaction, or reparation, for one transgression of his law; and, therefore, of themselves can never regain the forfeited favour of heaven. We add, if sin have subjected man to weakness, corrupted the springs of moral action, or, in any way, diminished his inclination and capacity for holy exercises and duties, his future obedience, should
his past transgressions be pardoned, would be less pure and perfect, than that which he at first owed to the author of his life, and of his facul. ties. His hope, then, as a fallen creature, or as one conscious of transgression, if he have any, must rest on the mercy of God for pardon, and on his gracious assistance in the performance of future duty
In this view of his case, what hopes may he cherish? On what foundation can such hopes be raised and supported? To these natural and interesting questions, the gospel of Christ offers the only satisfactory answer. Though the hopes of nature are destroyed, yet the christian religion brings “ life and immortality to light,” presents to the eye of faith an all-sufficient Saviour, chosen and appointed of God to recon: cile sinners to himself, reveals the purposes of divine wisdom, mercy, and grace, communicates all necessary instruction, and promises all needed assistance. By it “ the God and Fa. ther of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again into a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.” Man, therefore, in his present actual condition as a sinful creature, may cherish the hope of pardon, and of ultimate perfection and blessedness, through the abundant mercy of Goel in Jesus Christ.
From these views of him, it is evident, man sustains a relation to this and to another world, to beings and things on earth, to intelligent creatures of a higher order, and to the adorable author of his existence. Though he dwell here, and is connected with the inferiour inhabitants of this glohe, he is allied to angels, and, when his present connection with sublunary things shall be dissolved, will pass into the society of those, who surround the throne of God, or of those, who, having rebelled, are “ reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.”
From these relations correspondent obligations and duties naturally result. It is impossible to reflect upon them without perceiving that we are obliged, in the reason and fitness of things, to cultivate a disposition, and preserve a behaviour, towards those beings to whom we stand in relation, suited to their nature and just claims, and to our own rank and capacity. This