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tality, even when they had it. It governed not their precepts ; it established not their hope. When they attempted to discuss the grounds of it, “they became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” The best arguments of Socrates are unworthy of a child, who has “learned the holy scriptures." And it is remarkable enough, that the doctrine of immortality is as perfectly detached, and as barren of moral effect, in the hands of modern infidels, as it was in the hands of the ancient pagans. They have been so unable to assign it a convenient place in their system; they have found it to be so much at variance with their habits, and so troublesome in their warfare with the scriptures, that the more resolute of the sect have discarded it altogether. With the soberer part of them it is no better than an opinion; but it never was, and never will be a source of true consolation, in any system or any bosom, but the system of Christianity and the bosom of the Christian. “ Life and immortality,” about which some have guessed, for which all have sighed, but of which none could trace the relations, or prove the existence, are not merely hinted, they “ are brought to light by the gospel.” This is the parting point with every other religion ; and yet the very point upon which our happiness hangs. That we shall survive the body, and pass from its dissolution to the bar of God, and from the bar of God to endless retribution, are truths of infinite moment, and of pure revelation. They demonstrate the incapacity of temporal things to content the soul. They explain why grandeur, and pleasure, and fame, leave the heart sad. He who pretends to be my comforter without consulting my immortality, overlooks my essential want. The gospel supplies it. Immortality is the basis of her fabric. She resolves the importance of man into its true reason—the value of his soul. She sees under every human form, however rugged or abused, a spirit unalterable by external change, unassailable by death, and endued with stupendous faculties of knowledge and action, of enjoyment and suffering ; a spirit, at the same time, depraved and guilty ; and therefore liable to irreparable ruin. These are Christian views. They elevate us to a height, at which the puny theories of the world stand and gaze. They stamp new interest on all my relations, and all my acts. They hold up before me objects vast as my wishes, terrible as my fears, and permanent as my being. They bind me to eternity.
Secondly. Having thus unfolded the general doctrine of immortality, the gospel advances further, informing us, that although a future life is sure, future blessedness is by no means a matter of course. This receives instant confirmation from a review of our character as sinners.
None but an atheist, or, which is the same thing, a madman, will deny the existence of moral obligation, and the sanction of moral law. In other words, that it is our duty to obey God, and that he has annexed penalties to disobedience. As little can it be denied, that we have actually disobeyed him. Guilt has taken up its abode in the conscience, and indicates, by signs not to be misunderstood, both its presence and power. To call this superstition, betrays only that vanity, which thinks to confute a doctrine by giving it an ill name. Depravity and its consequences meet us, at every moment, in a thousand shapes ; nor is there an individual breathing who has escaped its taint. Therefore our relations to our Creator as innocent creatures have ceased; and are succeeded by the relation of rebels against his government. In no other light can he contemplate us, because his “ judgment is according to truth.” A conviction of this begets alarm and wretchedness. And, whatever some may pretend, a guilty conscience is the secret worm, which
preys upon the vitals of human peace : the invisible spell, which turns the draught of pleasure into wormwood and gall. To laugh at it as an imaginary evil, is the mark of a fool : for what can be more rational than to tremble at the displeasure of an almighty God. If, then, I ask how I am to be delivered? or whether deliverance is possible ? human reason is dumb: or if she open her lips, it is only to tease me with conjectures, which evince that she knows nothing of the matter. Here the Christian verity interferes ; showing me, on the one hand, that my alarm is well founded; that my demerit and danger are far beyond even my own suspicions; that God, with whom I have to do, “will by no means clear the guilty ; but, on the other hand, revealing the provision of his infinite wisdom and grace, for releasing me from guilt. “ God so loved the world that he gave
his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The more I ponder this method of salvation, the more I am convinced that it displays the divine perfection, and exalts the divine government; so that “ it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Now I know where to obtain the first requisite to happiness, pardon of sin. In Christ Jesus, the Lord, is that justifying righteousness, the want of which, though I was ignorant of the cause, kept me miserable till this hour. I cling to it, and am safe. His precious blood “purges my conscience.” It “ tends peace to me as a river, and the glory of redemption like a flowing stream.” My worst fears are dispelled : “ the wrath to come” is not for me ; I can look with composure at futurity, and feel joy springing up with the thought that I am immortal.
Thirdly. In addition to deliverance from wrath, Christianity provides relief against the plague of the heart. It will not be contested, that disorder reigns among the passions
The very attempts to rectify it are a sufficient concession; and their ill success shows their authors to have been physicians of
no value. That particular ebullitions of passion have been repressed, and particular habits of vice overcome, without Christian aid, is admitted. But if any one shall conclude, that these are examples of victory over the principle of depravity, he will greatly err. For, not to insist that the experience of the world is against him, we have complete evidence, that all reformations, not evangelical, are merely an exchange of lusts; or rather, the elevation of one evil appetite by the depression of another; the strength of depravity continuing the same; its form only varied. Nor can it be otherwise. Untaught of God, the most comprehensive genius is unable either to trace the original of corruption, or to check its force. It has its fountain where he least and last believes it to be ; but where the omniscient
has searched it out; in the man heart; the heart, filled with “ enmity against God”-the heart, “ deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” But, the discovery being made, his measures, you hope, will take surer effect.' Quite the contrary. It now defies his power, as it formerly did his wisdom. How have disciples of the moral school studied and toiled! how have they resolved, and vowed, and fasted, watched, and prayed, travelling through the whole circuit of devout austeries! and setd own at last, "wearied in the greatness of their way!” But no marvel! the “Ethiopian cannot change his skin, nor the leopard his spots.” Neither can impurity purify itself. Here again, light from the footsteps of the Christian truth breaks in upon the darkness; and gospel again flows from her tongue ; the gospel of a new heart—the gospel of regenerating and sanctifying grace; as the promise, the gift, the work of God. “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you; a new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh; and I will give you an heart of flesh; and I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and shall keep my judgments and do them.” Here all our difficulties are resolved at once. The spirit of life in Christ Jesus, quickens "the dead in trespasses and sins. The Lord, our strength, works in us all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power.” That which was impossible with men, is not so with him; for “ with him all things are possible; even the subduing our iniquities;" creating us anew, after his own image, “ in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness ;” turning our polluted souls into his own “habitation through the Spirit ;" and making us "meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.” Verily this is gospel; worthy to go in company with remission of sin. And shall I conquer at last ? Shall I, indeed, be delivered from the bondage and the torment of corruption ? A new sensation passes through my breast. “I lift up mine eyes
to the hills from whence cometh my help;" and with the hope of “perfecting holiness in the fear of God," hail my immortality.
Fourthly. Having thus removed our guilt and cleansed our affections, the gospel proceeds to put us in possession of adequate enjoyment. An irresistible law of our being impels us to seek happiness. Nor will a million of frustrated hopes deter from new experiments ; because despair is infinitely more excruciating than the fear of fresh disappointment. But an impulse, always vehement and never successful, multiplies the materials and inlets of pain. This assertion carries with it its own proof; and the principle it assumes is verified by the history of our species. In every place, and at all times, ingenuity has been racked to meet the ravenous desires. Occupation, wealth, dignity, science, amusement, all have been tried ; are all tried at this hour; and all in vain. The heart still repines : the unappeased cry is, Give, give. There is a fatal error somewhere; and the gospel detects it. Fallen away from God, we have substituted the creature in his place. This is the grand mistake : the fraud which sin has committed upon our nature. The gospel reveals God as the satisfying good, and brings it within our reach. It proclaims him reconciled in Christ Jesus, as our father, our friend, our portion. It introduces us into his presence with liberty to ask in the Intercessor's name, and asking, to“ receive, that our joy may full.” It keeps us under his eye; surrounds us with his arm ; feeds us upon living bread which he gives from heaven : seals us up to an eternal inheritance; and even engages to reclaim our dead bodies from the grave, and fashion them in beauty, which shall vie with heaven! It is enough! My prayers and desires can go no further : I have got to the “ fountain of living waters—Return to thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee !"
This gospel of immortality, in righteousness, purity, and bliss, would be inestimable, were it even obscure, and not to be comprehended without painful scrutiny. But I observe again,
Fifthly. That, unlike the systems of men, and contrary to their anticipations, the gospel is as simple as it is glorious. Its primary doctrines, though capable of exercising the most disciplined talent, are adapted to the common understanding. Were they dark and abstruse, they might gratify a speculative mind, but would be lost upon the multitude, and be unprofitable to all, as doctrines of consolation. The mass of mankind never can be profound reasoners. To omit other difficulties, they have not leisure. Instruction, to do them good, must be interesting, solemn, repeated, and plain. This is the benign office of the gospel. Her principal topics are few; they are constantly recurring in various connexions; they come home to every man's condition; they have an interpreter in his bosom: they are enforced by motives which honesty can hardly mistake, and conscience will rarely dispute. Unlettered men, who love
their Bible, seldom quarrel about the prominent articles of faith and duty; and as seldom do they appear among the proselytes of that meager refinement which arrogates the title of Philosophical Christianity.
From its simplicity, moreover, the gospel derives advantages in consolation. Grief, whether in the learned or illiterate, is always simple. A man, bowed down under calamity, has no relish for investigation. His powers relax; he leans upon his comforter ; his support must be without toil, or his spirit faints. Conformably to these reflections, we see, on the one hand, that the unlearned compose the bulk of Christians ; the life of whose souls is in the substantial doctrines of the cross-and on the other, that in the time of affliction even the careless lend their ear to the voice of revelation. Precious, at all times, to believers, it is doubly precious in the hour of trial. These things prove, not only that the gospel, when understood, gives a peculiar relief in trouble, but that it is readily apprehended; being most acceptable when we are the least inclined to critical research.
Sixthly. The gospel, so admirable for its simplicity, has also the recommendation of truth. The wretch who dreams of transport, feels a new sting in his wretchedness when he
and the delusion is fled. No real misery can be removed, nor any real benefit conferred, by doctrines which want the seal of certainty. And were the gospel of Jesus a human invention; or were it checked by any rational suspicion, that it may turn out to be a fable ; it might retain its brilliancy, its sublimity, and even a portion of its interest ; but the charm of its consolation would be gone. Nay, it would add gall to bitterness, by fostering a hope which the next hour might laugh to scorn. But we may dismiss our anxiety ; for there is no hazard of such an issue. Not only “grace,” but “ truth," came by Jesus Christ. The gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth, were words of the Amen, the faithful and true Witness ; and those which he has written in his blessed book, are
pure words, as silver tried in the furnace, purified seven times." His promises no man can deny to be exceeding great ; yet they derive their value to us from assurances, which, by satisfying the hardest conditions of evidence, render doubt not only inexcusable, but even criminal. “ By two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we have a strong consolation who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.” Now, therefore, the promises of the gospel which are “exceeding great,” are also precious." We need not scruple to trust ourselves for this life and the life to come, upon that word which shall stand when heaven and earth pass away. Oh, it is this which makes Christianity glad tidings to the depressed and perishing! No fear of disappointment. No hope that shall make ashamed ! Under the feet of evangelical faith is a covenant